Whales, penguins and diving deep

There’s an irony about the fact that on the day I talked about depth and moments of stillness, I was too busy to post a link to my Thought for the Day. So busy, in fact, that the Thought has now disappeared into the depths of the radio ocean, never to be heard again. However, if you’d like to take a moment read about whales and penguins, and reflect on the need for depth, the text is below:

Good morning.

Like many of us, I’ve been fascinated and concerned by the progress of the beluga whale spotted this week in the River Thames. There is something deeply unsettling about watching this enormous white mammal surfacing and diving into the choppy estuary waters. It’s incongruous. It doesn’t belong there. 

A few years ago, while at drama school, I spent more hours than I care to remember at Edinburgh Zoo watching the penguins in order to replicate their movement and sounds as part of a movement class. Like the beluga whale, penguins are fascinating to observe. Ungainly, clumsy and with no sense of personal space they lumber around on the ground until the moment when they dive elegantly into the water. There they swim speedily and efficiently, before popping onto dry land in a vertical movement. Clumsy and out of place on the surface, but elegant and transcendent when in their natural habitat, and allowed to do what they were designed to do. 

Taking a moment to observe a whale out of place or penguin skidding around a rock can perhaps bring a moment of clarity for human beings in the middle of life’s busyness. Each of us is uniquely made, with personality, ability and purpose, but so many of us spend our time and energy on activity that is not purposeful. 

Watching the beluga in the Thames reminded me of a children’s poem about whales  that I love by broadcaster, Stewart Henderson. It describes the surface of the water as being full of oil slicks and ships, and goes on to say:

We don’t tarry long there, we breach then we dive
deep to the depths, where our souls are alive

It’s a poem about whales, but that’s just on a surface reading. We all need to find depth in our life, moments to dive down into stillness, away from the clutter. Whether that moment comes from observing a moment in nature, listening to piece of music or reading a psalm or even a poem about a whale, it’s worth plumbing the depths every now and again lest we end up out of place, splashing around in the busyness, stress and noise.

If you’d like to read the whole of Stewart Henderson’s lovely poem When You’re A Whale from his book, Who Left Grandad at the Chip Shop? you can buy it here:

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