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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter


The thin cold air of December is leaning into the new year, I have returned from one journey only to begin another. A journey of intent; winding, bending, learning to balance in the in between and pay attention to it all.

Yesterday I read my 3 year old grandson Mika the story of Humphrey the Whale. I read from the same book that was his mother’s, the same one I brought into the pre-school class where I taught when my children were very young. Remember, the humpback whale that swam up the Sacramento River?

It was in the mid eighties – just about the time we moved from San Francisco to Bloomington Indiana.  I remember the nightly news tracing his story and that of the people who tried to turn him around as he swam into waters that spindled narrower at each turn of the river.  And when he squeezed though a bridge and became trapped it looked doubtful that there would be anyway out. Then people banged pipes and sent songs underwater until finally he turned around, they widened the underpinnings of the bridge and he swam back to the depths of the bay , spent a day swimming his farewell and then back to the ocean.

I will never know what sent Humphrey in that near fatal direction – if it was an accident, or a deficit, or a message of desperation- but I do know that stubborn belief turned him around. Reading the story after 25 years still choked me up, and brought my grandson into full rapturous attention. Remembering those people shouting themselves hoarse along the shore and in little boats alongside this giant thing of grace struggling to turn himself around and never harming anyone,  a tale of wonder as any for Christmas day.

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