In “Is Ceremony with the Whales Divine Timing,” I wondered if Tokitae’s (Lolita/Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut) passing two days before we were to meet in ceremony with Whales and other marine wildlife was significant. My guides had chosen this particular date (August 20), a month and a half earlier, so we had our tickets well in advance (purchased as part of my pro bono work for All My Relations). As it turned out, I did receive a message about Tokitae during our time in ceremony, but her passing was not the focus.
It was a bit of a drive from West Seattle to Anacortes, and we were running late, late enough that I sent Reiki to the situation. When we arrived, the parking lot was filled by our other shipmates, and we had to search for parking on the street. To my surprise, there was a single spot open on the waterfront facing the boat slips; we were steps away from the dock and our vessel. Grateful, once again, for Reiki parking and timing!
My guides were clear that I was not to focus on a goal but show up and be in the present moment. It was a good thing I listened. I have been on a lot of whale watches over the years, but this one was quite different; we did not see a single humpback, gray whale, or minke the entire trip. We also did not cross paths with any of Tokitae’s family Southern Residents (not unusual, there are only about 79 members left, and they travel vast distances). Instead, we were showered with other powerful encounters and interactions, which included Bigg’s Killer Whales. There was smoke and haze from the Canadian wildfires, which cast some scenes in an eerie, almost apocalyptic light. I took over 600 photos, which I finally edited down to 250. (Complete photo/video documentation of our day is available to my Patreon subscribers.)
Our first encounter was probably overlooked by many of the other passengers; we saw fish leaping out of the water, and some were salmon! I was excited because salmon are a very important part of the diet of the fish-eating Southern Resident Orcas. The decrease in salmon numbers is attributed to the damming of waterways and overfishing and is believed to be a major factor in the decline in the population of Southern Residents, who are now highly endangered. Seeing the salmon, I felt hope, and we invited the fish to add their prayers to the ceremony.
Our first major sighting was a group of Stellar sea lions napping head to tail encircling a channel marker near Lawson Reef. I watched one sea lion doze off. His hind flippers would slowly slip off the pile requiring him to raise them back up again and again. He was the only one so challenged; everyone else was secure in their positions and deeply asleep.
Our next stop was Smith Island, where we met two species I had never seen in the wild (just in zoos): a sea otter and tufted puffins.
Our naturalist guide told us that seeing a sea otter is cause for celebration. Hunting had eradicated them from the area; with protections now in place, sea otters are just beginning to return. This Sea Otter was a cheerful fellow who watched us as avidly as we watched him. He had wrapped himself up in the bull kelp, which enabled him to float on his back while remaining anchored in one spot. I swear he waved at us when we turned to leave!
Tufted puffins used to be present across the Salish Sea/Puget Sound, but they have become increasingly rare. Smith Island reportedly has about 27 nesting pairs. As I watched the Tufted Puffins diving for fish alongside their relatives, the Rhinoceros Auklets, I felt hope again that their numbers would rebound.
Next, we approached Minor Island, and we were fortunate to meet up with the T69s, a family of four Bigg’s Killer Whales who were in search of a seal for dinner. That might sound horrible, but the waters here are cold year-round. As mammals, the transients need to eat one to two seals per day for enough calories to stay healthy.
Male Orca T69D (son of T69) worked the shoreline, attempting to panic a harbor seal into a hasty action.
I got great photos of harbor seals on the beach and in the shallows of Minor Island, nervously looking at the water as an Orca fin passed by. I took a sequence of shots of seals in the water hastily making their way onto shore. It was as though it were a human beach, and someone had just yelled, “Shark!” and all the people ran for the safety of land.
T69Ds search sent what looked like thousands of resting shore birds into the sky. With the smoke as a backdrop and the swirling flocks of birds (our guide described it as a tornado of birds) it looked like the end of days.
The rest of the pod found a meal in the bull kelp forest. The photos I took as they journeyed around the island look unearthly due to the effect of the smoke on the light. One of those photos is at the top of this article.
I felt peaceful and in harmony with all around me, but I checked in with my guides to be certain that I was not overlooking anyone. My guides reaffirmed that staying in the present moment was absolutely on target. They knew that I had a lingering concern about Tokitae and said, “Tokitae is at home in the heart of her family.” That brought comfort.
From whale watch host Island Adventures’ blog: “…not long after, the T60D&E brothers took our breath away. They were just west of Deception Island, milling at one spot, taking turns diving down deep in pursuit of a mystery in the depths. While they circled, we drifted, engines off, and they repeatedly took our breaths away with surprise close passes following their deep dives.”
These brother Orca are a little different; usually, sons stay with their mothers, leaving and returning to the family pod after courtship and mating. Orca males don’t reach sexual maturity until 20 years old. These brothers are 19 and 16, respectively, but are traveling and hunting together. A bachelor pod of sorts. They were interactive with us, surfacing right next to the boat (close enough to touch and too close for my lens, lol).
By now, the sun was low near the horizon, and the smoke intensified the color of the light on the water. I felt very in tune with the brothers, and when T69D (older brother) decided to head out, I followed him with my camera lens and noticed that his path would cross the golden-orange path of sunlight. Holding my breath, I prayed that he would surface in it, and he did! What a gift!
T69D then slowed down and waited for his brother T69E to join him. They headed off together in search of their next adventure, and I wished them well.
Amazing day. As we headed back, I felt full, like I had been filled up. It did not feel like I had been there to right wrongs, but to observe balance being restored to the ecosystem and to witness All My Relations as unique individuals as well as participants in the eternal cycle of life. There were so many moments where we were privy to that dance and balance rather than chasing down and ticking the next whale encounter off some kind of list.
And we were able to witness quietly. The boat was not full, possibly due to the smoky conditions. A neighbor of mine expressed surprise that I would have gone out in such poor-quality air conditions, “You are usually so careful of your health.” I laughed, and essentially said that I show up where and when Spirit and All My Relations ask me to be. I put on a mask (more for COVID than the smoke), and we showed up. Such is the nature of my work, and I am grateful that I have students and assistants who are willing to participate in that work with me.
Tired but complete, Becky and I returned to her white car. As I opened the door, my attention was drawn to something different—there was a boat tied up to the slip directly in front of our parking spot (the only one available when we arrived). A boat that was not there when we parked. As I read the boat’s name, I felt a jolt of awareness and received an intuitive message: the white color of our car combined with the boat’s name, “Spirit of Orca” was validation from Spirit. Our ceremony for the Whales was divine timing for many, not just one!
TOKITAE RETURNS HOME
Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) has returned home. Her ashes were given back to the Salish Sea in a private ceremony (some photos from Annie Marie Musselman on IG). A moment of silence in respect.
Orca Network Lolita/Tokitae/Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut held a Gathering which is available as a replay.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.