Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dry Whale Bones

Dry Whale Bones

I’ve always had a bone collection.  Various skulls and femurs, deer and mice and cows and seagulls and seals, found mostly in Eastern woods and wetlands and beaches, many I still have.  My mother patiently let me clean them in the kitchen sink and taught me how to identify them. 

One time she gently showed me that what I was sure was a dinosaur skull was actually a deer pelvis.  For my high school science project I strung together that pelvis with the other deer bones I had found that day in a muddy New Jersey brook and hung them, a complete body, from the bio lab ceiling.

Not unlike this whale skeleton which hangs from the Monterey Bay Aquarium ceiling, a young grey whale found dead on the beach just as the Aquarium was set to open 30 years ago.  But instead of scrubbing it in the sink as I did, they buried it in the sand for a year and let bugs and worms strip it clean.  Then a final scrubbing through a local car wash – that would have been fun to see! 

It hangs there to remind us of how similar we mammals are.  See those hands hanging down on either side?  Although huge and submerged, the grey whale is a mammal like us, with hands and fingers, formed into fins.  That long backbone, which powers it from Alaska to Mexico and back each year – has the exact same number of vertebrae as we have.  And as many as my deer skeleton had. 

Bones laid bare show how, deep inside, we all look pretty much alike.

Old timers remember climbing on the bones of this huge fin whale washed up and first displayed 100 years ago at nearby Point Lobos.  Today the bones lay scattered and strewn on the ground outside the Whaler’s Cabin and Whaling Museum, which displays harpoons and try pots to remind us of the violent deaths of millions of whales at human hands.  Sad to be hunted, sad to become a tourist attraction.  The bones now educate and remind us, we hope, that we can change our evil ways.

Bones are fun to find and reunite, but there is a sadness in bones too.

Every body is made up of such beautiful bones, carefully knit together by God, as the Psalmist says, fearfully and wondrously made. 

Ezekiel was shown dry bones in the valley.   God said to him, your nation is dead and dry, like these bones.  But the word of God could bring them back to life.

Maybe the tables are turned, and it is these bones that can preach us back into new life in harmony and care for all creation.

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