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Whales Archives

How “Clutter” comes back to me as Precious Gifts

3 May 2013 - Leave a comment

Oh my goodness! Never would I have imagined that children I taught Whale Workshops to in the 1970’s or who contributed paintings to my Save the Whale book would find me decades later and write me lovely notes of appreciation.

I am thrilled to have heard from Douglas Carrier who was 11 years old when he sent me an amazing painting of a whale funeral. I received his painting through the mail in 1974 and was stunned by his interpretation of the dying whales. I included his painting in my book: “There’s a Sound in the Sea – A Child’s-Eye View of the Whale” (Scrimshaw Press, San Francisco 1975). Scholastic Magazine published front page stories about the plight of whales and asked children to contribute to my book. Fifteen thousand children responded, and I chose about 96.



Please see Douglas Carrier’s and my correspondence under “How Whales Pop Up”.



The Art of Letter Writing

18 March 2012 - 3 Comments

Some treasures found are wistful, sad, sweet

… like love letters from a special friend. There is satisfaction that you have loved and been loved. It is time to pause and cherish this. Then all the questions crowd into your mind: “I should have… I could have…. I wish we had…. Why did we allow this relationship to be shipwrecked? What happened? Really?”

And chances are you will never know.

Life carries on in all its twists and turns. You travel your road as best you can. Choices. Decisions. They carve your character.

Yesterday I opened a thick file of old letters I received in the 1970’s. I knew I wanted to go slowly through these letters and enjoy them with a cup of hot ginger tea by the fire. People rarely write letters any more. We e-mail and text friends and family, and catch up on Facebook. But where is the written letter? I loved looking at the different hand writing of my friends. It actually would make a nifty collage, and I just might create one to hang in my new palace in Ganges, when I move.

“The lost art of letter writing….”

Here were letters from Olivia Crawford who danced with me in Vancouver BC in the 1970’s at Synergy Workshops – a wonderful dance studio run by Linda Rubin who had studied the Martha Graham technique of modern dance in NYC and was teaching us basic modern dance with improvisation. Olivia went to Papua New Guinea and founded the Papua New Guinea Dance Theatre Company. We have recently re-connected and our friendship is as alive and warm as it ever was. I will send her the letters.

Here is a letter from Jane Allison Frick – about swimming with the humpback whales and the right whales in Argentina. It is a beautiful letter of grace and appreciation for the mysterious mammals who were being hunted to near extinction. I was teaching children about whales at the time and Jane sent me slides of her diving with the whales. Her hand writing is exquisite and tiny.

I wracked my brain. Jane Frick. Who is she? How did we meet? ¬†Frick Museum in NYC…. Could she be from this family? I Googled her and discovered that she died in 1978 at the tender age of 32. I can’t describe how sad I felt. Then I Googled her family and discovered a sister lived in Maine, so I phoned and left a message saying how sad I was to learn of Jane’s death, and I have a lovely letter from her about swimming with the whales and would she like me to mail it to her?

I had no idea if I would hear from her sister. The grief could be too painful, still.

Adelaide phoned me this morning, in awe that I had a letter from her sister, whom she loved. We had an amazing conversation and I will send her Jane’s letter written 40 years ago. This is a real gift to all Jane’s siblings.

So, three cheers for Clutter!

I am grateful that I kept these letters for 40 years, and that I can return one that has poignant meaning to a family who lost a cherished sister.


photo by Deborah Glockner-Ferrari /Center for Whale Studies

Jane’s Letter… excerpts….

“You asked me what it felt like to be so close to a wild whale. There isn’t an experience I’ve had either under or above the water that comes close to the exhilaration I felt from swimming close to whales. The first time I saw wild whales was in the open ocean off Bermuda. They were migrating humpbacks. As they cruised under the boat I jumped overboard. Their tremendous grey shapes loomed beneath me (about 30 ft). I couldn’t see them very well as it was dusk, but they looked almost mystical with their big white angelic flippers hanging out. When they descended deeper I dove down to catch the last glimmer of their white flukes. It seemed incredible that they – air-breathing, warm blooded mammals knew where they were going and could communicate with each other over long distance in this vast ocean.

“Swimming with right whales was different. They were not migrating but were in a protected bay for the sole purpose of mating and giving birth. … A wonderful experience I had was swimming with a little calf. The calves, unlike their mothers, are very curious. The mothers are usually wary of boats and swimmers and don’t let them get too near. However if a calf spots a swimmer before the mother, she will sometimes leave the mother and investigate the swimmer playfully for awhile. The calves seem to have a trusting playful feeling about them, much more than the adults. It is sad in a way to see how friendly and uninhibited a naive small whale is around a species which is gradually causing the extinction of whales …

“The calf who investigated me was interested and curious. He had a playful glint in his eye – as he tilted his head at all different angles, spy-hopped and splashed his flippers before slowly returning to his mother.”



How Whales Pop Up

31 January 2012 - 8 Comments

Whale Workshops in the Early 1970’s

Why have I lugged this Whale stuff around with me for nearly 40 years? It’s bogging me down, collecting dust. What can I possibly do with it? If I were ruthless and serious about “clearing clutter”, I’d toss it into the fire without a pang of remorse. But it’s my history! I taught children about whales in the forefront of the “Save the Whale” movement in the early 70’s. I designed exuberant Whale Workshops for children and collected their art and poetry that was published into a book in 1975, and made into a Smithsonian Travelling Exhibition that toured the US and Canada for 2 years. Is there any historical value to this?

I am delving into one of my successes, and also lugging around unpublished work that is perhaps hopelessly out of date. What can I do? I am determined to go through this. Making myself a cup of hot ginger tea, I sit down by the fire, take a deep breath, and open a file. I am curious. What is here? It is like Christmas and the ghosts of winter’s past.

What I find are copious notes from my Father in his distinctive handwriting, editing my manuscript for the revised Whale Curriculum I was writing in 1984. Dad, editing my manuscript? I had totally forgotten. Thank you Dad. Wherever you are, I love you and thank you.

I curl up on my Shepadoodle dog’s bed and rub her floppy black ears affectionately. I wrap myself in thoughts of my complex, handsome Father while crooning love to my dog. My Dad’s ghost spirit is tangible, too, in my memory.


Tamar and Martin

Tamar and Martin in 1976

There are more files holding Whale Workshop information from 1971 – 1975. I take another deep breath and open one. My Gosh! Up pops Martin Gerrish! We taught Whale Workshops in Elementary schools for 2 years in Vancouver, BC. funded by the National Museums of Ottawa and the Burnaby Art Gallery. He was 22 and I was 35. Those were the best teaching days of my life – working together with Martin and Carmelita Camillo. We combined science with the language arts to provide a rich learning environment for the children. Poetry, creative movement, art, myth combined with biology of the hugest creatures ever to have inhabited the earth. We spent three weeks in each classroom, teaching Kindergarten Children through Grade 7. The children were eager to learn about whales and were proud of their work.



Bamboo Bowhead Whale Grade 7

Bamboo Bowhead Whale Grade 7

And here are letters he wrote me from Anna Halprin’s dance workshops at Mt. Tamalpia, CA. I knew Martin had moved back to England, and was eager to talk to him. Google and the Internet are fantastic in tracing people.

Martin answered the phone! We haven’t spoken in nearly 35 years. What a surprise. What a treasure, catching up on each other’s lives. Memory stirs in the rich soil of my past and awakens the branch where Martin lives. I put together copies of photos from our teaching days, and all the letters he wrote me, and mailed them to him – complete with a gorgeous $10 Blue Whale Canadian stamp.


Orca by Grade 6 Children

Whale Spout Dance Grade 4

Whale Spout Dance Grade 4






Blue Whale Stamp to Martin








So, have fun. Pause, and celebrate who you were and who you’ve become along the twisting road of your life. Clear the cobwebs, clear the space, revisit your past and nourish the positive influences. Embrace yourself even in your hesitations and mistakes. You survived and are fine.