Festival Without Tickets
Yesterday, the whales! And all the people happy, after work, in the long, calm, bright, warm summer evening, all walking or driving, following the rumour of the whales and then, looking at them with small cries of joy when they saw them.
Everyone talks to strangers, asks the one question: "Have you seen them?" and everyone answers kindly. Either they have just arrived themselves, like us only having heard the news of the whales being somewhere around the harbour; or they have heard that they have been seen elsewhere, not so far away, and there is a ferry to get there. Some others have seen them and point to where we too might see them, spouting perhaps, maybe even breaching.
Dapper and shabby, young and old, travellers and country people mingle contentedly. People come and go, leave the places from which the whales are seen, with a wonderful, peaceful smile, animated, refreshed by this event, this adventure, the searching and finding, the marvelling, and then the letting go of the whales, storing their memory, linked to that of the sky, clouds, sun, sea, waves, gulls, cormorants, boats, oarsmen, fields, trees, cattle, island, and of the crowd itself.
Because this gathering, both dynamic and tranquil, has turned festival, one without ticket or invitation. It has no purpose but to contemplate these visiting creatures, totally other, totally wild, as we would be if only we could, and total mystery. We cannot communicate with them. We would so much love to be able to tell them how to find their way out to the safety, for them, of the open sea.
It is a situation neither of work nor of play, but of pure, sheer, cliff-like being. There is only desire, desire to see glory, mystery, form, otherness, life different, and joy at welcoming their astonishing gift of vulnerable, unselfconscious presence.
Is not this what many call Heaven? It happens many times in June 2001 in Cork Harbour. In the town park at Passage West, on the the verge of the motorway between Mahon and the tunnel, hundreds of cars merrily stopped; even further upriver by Jury’s in Cork city, throngs pressing onto the parapets of quays and bridge. I cannot return this gracious visit, only sharpen my resolve for more strength, attention, passion, more care, vigilance, tenderness, more wonder at the ever present blessing!