Well, of course, I DID have a hefty dose of a scientific education, what with the the MSc in Molecular Biology under my belt, as it were. But even that was a part of a set of choices that I made long ago, too long ago, when I was still too young and too ignorant of the greater spread of life and living to, perhaps, properly plan for leading that life.
I have always been partial to animals, and I do have a bunch of favourites - the wolf is my totem animal, dammit, if ever there was such a thing, and those golden yellow eyes take a part of my soul prisoner every time I look into them and never mind if it's just in a photograph; lions; bears; dolphins, for that matter domestic cats and dogs. But the beasts that stir something deeply awestruck inside of me have always been the whales.
I feel an indescribable echo in my own heart when I hear the recording of a whalesong. Up in Alaska a couple of years ago, when we went out whale-watching and met up with the pod of humpbacks, I *cried*. These animals... are so beyond us, so distant, so otherworldly, so calm, so big, so beautiful, so unlikely, so vast and so incomprehensible to us, that it is difficult not to respond to them in a manner that's almost worshipful. The sight of a humpback's great body emerging from the water - and coming and coming and still coming and dear god there's more of him and STILL coming... until the fluke comes out at last, streaming water, and dives into the ocean... oh, I gave them my heart, and they took it into the deep with them and sang to it.
And yet, it never really occurred to me when I was young and career-planning to think about a career of following the whale. And I would do it, I would do it in an instant, giving my life over to the gentle giants and studying them and protecting them and loving them.
And we have done so badly by them. Slaughtering them for the blubber and ignoring the intelligence that lived behind those small wise eyes. Filling the oceans with physical and audio junk that makes it difficult for them to exist in the manner in which they have to in order to survive. Depleting the oceans of stuff they eat, hurrying along climate change that will alter food chains to the point that the whales may not be able to survive at all - and there's nothing at all they can do about that.
I've never seen a blue whale, the largest thing to have ever lived on the Earth. I want to, so badly I can hallucinate it. Here's a glimpse:
If you go here you can go to the audio link and listen to a recording of blue whale song - which can be heard hundreds of miles away through the water. We know practically nothing about these mysterious giants which swim our oceans, and I'd love an opportunity, even now, to be part of a team which follows them and learns about them. I'd love to be a part of the team which eventually might communicate with them - although our chances of that are fading quickly as the numbers of blue whales dwindle in the wild. Somewhere, even now, there is a lonely blue whale swimming alone and singing to an empty ocean searching for a mate which might never come. The thought makes me infinitely sad. This world will be a poorer planet when we have seen the last of the whales swim off into the sunset. I don't want to live long enough to live on a planet with this much ocean that's empty of the presence of whales.
So when you think of me as something other than a writer... think of me out on the ocean's horizon, leaning over the railing of a small boat, weeping at the sight of a blue whale's flukes vanishing into the water out on the open ocean. Think of me listening, with closed eyes, to the song of a whale... trying to understand.