The whales have lifted up and broken off their stems, fully inflated in the warm December air, here on the Isle of Carol. As they drift in the breeze, they gently nudge everyone as they seek out shady places to take root.
We love the whales so much that when they take flight all business comes to a stop, and the school children are organized into teams to hunt for strays that get stuck between buildings and in the branches of trees. Then the collected whales are released in a clearing so that they have another chance to find good places to grow. It seems like no whale goes without some guidance, a careful touch, or at least a smile as it sails by on Flight Day.
One year, we erected ridiculously high nets to catch the ‘wanderers’ as they flew off the island. Then we planted them in our communal gardens because we loved them so much. To our bewilderment, they failed to grow, and we mourned them for one entire year. With their hearts still aching, our botanists followed the next year’s wanderers to see where they were trying to go.
We were chastened to find that the wanderers, or ‘high-flyers’ as we call them now, really did want to leave the isle, and that they have a completely different life-cycle than our low-drifting whales. They are made of stringer stuff than the low-drifters, and need a time of rest in the salty sea to soften their outer membrane.
When they reach a new island, they’re pushed ashore by waves, pulled farther inland and torn apart by birds and small animals, and then eaten. The seeds are promptly deposited in piles of natural fertilizer, and new plants spout soon after. So, now we let the high-flyers go.
I hope the description of being eaten didn’t ruin your vision of the whale’s normally gentle life, because they cast off their old bodies and spring up in new ones without a hint of worry or sorrow. Here on the isle, we like to think of it as reincarnation-with-friends, since they always sprout in multiples.
Tonight is the night of the High-Flyer Farewell Bonfire Celebration, and the entire population of the island, persons and otherwise, will be on the north beach roasting marshmallows, eating harvest treats, sending up hot air bags with good luck symbols painted on them, and making toasts to the high-flyers as they leave.
At the end of the night, when the bonfires are low, and all are quiet and ready, we will raise a special toast to all wandering high flying whales of the world, If you are one, may your journey be good and your new island be fertile.