I remember sometime in my late teens, after buying my first car, a 1974 blue Volkswagon Bug, feeling a true sense of freedom. To me, it was the freedom of opportunity, the knowing of the emminant possibility that there were adventures to be had. I had friends then, who shared my sense of freedom and adventure and we made the most of out time together and our freedom in the form of cars and driver's licences. It was the sense of freedom and the fire of our imaginations that we were high on. I remember thinking "why would anyone use drugs when life itself can make you feel so high?" I think that thought came on a night that we parked one of our cars at the end of the LAX runway off Vista Del Mar, in El Segundo, and felt the roar of the jumbo jets as they ascended into the sky from right above our heads.
Now that I am a mother, and a "stay-at-home" one at that, I like to have adventures with my kids. This town, (Santa Barbara- if you don't live here) is so full of the possibility for adventure that I sometimes am forced to piggy back one adventure on top of another just to take advatage of the cornicopia of possibility. The sperm whale is one example. I got word that there was a beached sperm whale on a beach in Santa Barbara, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I am so lucky because I have a friend who is willing and able to have just about any adventure with me- and our kids adore each other, so as soon as I had the idea in my head, I called Jill and we were off! The thing is,....that was not the end of the adventure. The day after our kids communed with the corpse of the great whale by playing "chicken" with it in the surf, we again were alight with the firy spirit of adventure. We took a picnic lunch down to a beach just south of where the whale had been the evening before. Again, I trusted Jill's natural ability to connect with wildlife and encouraged her to choose the beach. I was not dissappointed. We finished eating our lunch and started walking down the beach. We were rewarded almost immediately with the sight of a giant excavator digging a whale-sized hole for the black mound next to it. There was a crowd of people around and as we got closer, we could see why. It was what whalers must have looked like, covered from chest to toe on yellow rubber pants, standing on top or inside the whale weilding huge, four-foot-long scalpels. There was a scientific team performing a gross dissection. We had to cross a stream of whale blood to get to the up-wind side of the decomposing whale. The intestines were being extracted with the help of a large hook and I think I identified the huge black liver. The team working on the whale was either affiliated with the UCSB department of marine biology or they were from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Either way, I was glad that the scientific community was taking the opportunity to learn from the magnificent creature who gifted her body to Santa Barbara.
As if the whale adventure weren't enough to keep us happy, just a few days later, we launched rokets off the blacktop at a local jr. high school, our imaginations stirring as they climbed though the low-lying clouds. A few days after that, I joined my daughter's first grade class on a field trip to the Santa Barbara Airport and we were treated to the most exciting surprize...a World War II B-17 Bomber, built in 1944. It was gleaming with it's polished chrome-riveted body, with thirteen gunnary positions to be located thoughout the plane. From the inside, we could safely imagine our young, brave soldiers, knowingly putting their lives on the line to man the war bird. We could even cross the catwalk in the belly of the plave to see where the bombs would be dropped as the huge doors opened exposing the runway below. It was a priceless experience. I returned the next day with Jill and our two young sons, to log another unforseen adventure in our book.
I feel like the luckiest woman in the world, living in a place where all things are possible and living like there's no tomorrow.
P.S. I realize that the picture of the gutted whale may be a bit much for some, but I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know that the smell was far worse than the sight. Decomposing life has a way of remaining in the olfactory lobe of the brain far longer than the image remains in the visual memory. I can still smell that whale, but I remain regret-free. A life devoured is guaranteed to be messy and smelly at times if not full-on GROSS.