Saturday, September 22, 2007

Being and Doing

I've just returned from a few days in the Gaspe Peninsula at the eastern end of Canada's Quebec Province. "What did you DO there?" my friend, Tova, wanted to know.

What a New York question. We're always busy doing something here. In the Gaspe, although there were things to do, I realized that sometimes it's enough just to BE somewhere.

In Perce, a fishing village famous for its distinctive, pierced rock, which apparently migrated to its present position millions of years ago as the Earth's tectonic plates shifted and carried it north from the equator, I couldn't stop taking pictures. I walked out into a heavy rain to photograph the rock swathed in mist and the next morning I got up at 5:30 to photograph the rock at sunrise.

I also went on a whale-watching cruise in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. "I saw blue whales," I told Tova, "the largest animals on Earth."

"I'm jealous," she said. "I love whales."

Gloating only slightly, I laid on her that I also saw fin whales and a minke whale.

There were Italians, French, Swiss, Germans, Americans and Canadians in our little boat. After a blue whale swam close to us and then gracefully turned away, we all sat in complete, motionless silence. The sun was warm, the air was cool and the only sound was the lapping of the waves. For a few moments, all of us just WERE — human beings on a small boat in a grand and mysterious universe, midway between the leviathans and the stars.