What a great long summer we’ve had, say the California grey whales. Hanging out in Alaska’s Bering Sea, sun hardly sets, all that time to eat. We can gulp a ton of yummy amphipods every day from the muddy bottom – we put on ten tons every summer!
But now comes fall. We can sense the days getting shorter, the water colder. As the ice pack forms, soon there will be less to eat.
So it’s time to hit the road and head south on our annual 12,000 mile round trip to the lagoons of Baja. We’ll swim on down the coast, occasionally spyhopping to check our location. Come November we’ll flip our tales to the folks in Monterey. And then right after the New Year we’ll cruise on into the Baja lagoons just in time to have our babies in those safe warm waters. A couple of winter months in Mexico - pretty nice. Gives those babies time to put on some insulating blubber and then off we’ll head north again, back to those teeming Alaskan seas. Not much eating while we swim, so we drop those ten tons on the trip, but next summer - bring on the amphipods!
For us humans it may still feel like summer, but all kinds of migrators – whales, birds, bugs, fish - are getting ready to move. Scientists call it “zugunruhe,” in German, the urge to move, a restlessness that even caged birds show in spring and fall. Triggered by changing light, need for food or safe breeding grounds, or just some old zugunruhe, animals are beginning to hit the road.
This animal is preparing for departure too. In ten days I leave on my every other year pilgrimage to Romanesque churches in France. I don’t feel especially restless - I am actually a little torn to leave my home so recently saved from fire. But I do feel the urge to move back to my familiar nesting grounds in Vezelay, Burgundy - it’s my 6th visit there, retreating and singing with the nuns and monks. I’ll also visit some new feeding grounds in the Limagne and Brionnais regions. (Mixed metaphor – I made a general list of Romanesque churches, like a life list for birders – I’ll be adding 13 very fine specimens to my total.)
Like the whales I will be travelling 12,000 miles round trip, SFO to Paris. And as with them, it’s a clear call – the time is right to set out on this new yet familiar route. (Unlike them, I won’t be losing any weight on this long journey!) And though I’m not returning with a baby, I know my spirit will be born anew, as it is on every pilgrimage, as I walk with fellow pilgrims, pray in deep crypts, listen amid the beauty. My theme this time: history, mystery, simplicity.
I’ll be posting periodically from the road. Bon Voyage et bonne route, aux baleines et au moi.