When he woke up, the whale was still there.
Angélica Escoto 2021
I will change the semiotics of the dinosaur in existential thinking for the semiotics of the whale. I could appropriate Monterroso’s tale for the title of this piece: “When he woke up, the whale was still there” or more fantastically, when he woke up, the whale was a dune. I have begun to tell that I am about to write my immersion in the belly of a whale, it is not that I want to seem exotic, nor deep, but that I want to experiment with the image, the words, and my senses the immersion to the giant organs of the cetacean, and why or why not. The only one who could not believe it would be myself and now I allow myself to believe that I am inside a whale.
What will it be like to travel through the dark intestines of the whale? Will I run into other parasites that emit light? The iron stick and the copal have some branches with their own germination, they are like tiny eyes that when crushed, a seed in a watery jelly appears; but the outer parasites of the whale have an aberrant morphology. It is a type of sessile crustacean; its outer shell of calcium generates a resistance that crosses the skin and fat of the whale; they are called balanus and are the most abundant cirripeds in the oceans. They were Darwin’s passion for more than a decade. Most are hermaphrodites and their reproduction is difficult as they cannot leave their shells. By this limitation they have developed the largest copulating organ, proportionally speaking of the animal kingdom. The whale has dozens of these volcano-shaped crustaceans all over its body.
How would my body behave in the dark? How will I find myself tumbling with my antennae in the form of krill looking for a current, frightened, contracted, choked, calm, naked or dressed in my wet suit, trying to move my limbs directly to the labyrinthine bowels of the whale? Surely it is another dimension and of course indivisible, but what is indivisible? Aristotle believed that matter was continuous, that is, that a piece of matter could be divided without limit into smaller and smaller parts, so one never stumbles upon a grain of matter that cannot continue to divide. Will it be like falling into a “black hole”, where you can enter but never leave? although in it the information falls but does not disappear, then what happens to that matter including light? Is it true that it opens doors to parallel and unknown worlds? Stephen Hawkins said that it is not as dark as it is thought, and humans would not disappear when they fell but would run into a naked singularity and instead of colliding with it they could go through a wormhole to exit in another part of the universe.
Immersion is a hard body on a liquid one, although immersive experiences are not limited to the audiovisual medium but can speak of any and all senses. Memories from smell are stored in the oldest part of the brain. It has long been believed that certain memories are evoked by flavors of childhood, but it is not so because taste cells have a low capacity for renewal, so the memory falls precisely on smell, the only sense that could save your life.
I sharpen my senses and see jellyfish passing by, hundreds, thousands, no, not thousands, they are millions. To remain calm play with words and whisper the gut, whale instinct or whale gut instinct, something like that. I like the sounds of words and putting together tongue twisters, but when I repeat them, I feel copepods that brush my body, there are hundreds, thousands, no not thousands, they are millions, these crustaceans are part of zooplankton, they are the most abundant and ordinary beings that inhabit the oceans of the Earth. They have a single eye that evolved from two eyes that fused, lack a shell, and have four pairs of thoracic appendages that serve to swim with a phosphorescent body.
Inside the whale’s intestines, I could intertwine with those fibers that process pleasure, since my human cells are shared with dolphin apes and cetaceans because their neurons are also involved in cognitive processes such as learning, and remembering, recognizing, and feeling.
How long does it take for a whale to remain only bare-bones? How many years for that gelatinous matter that holds the spine to break into more than a hundred pieces? Why didn’t dinosaurs survive, and mammals are now bigger and more imposing than them?
Dinosaurs are the best thing that has happened to us, if they had not disappeared, we would still be an egg, according to Isak Asimov in “Terrible Lizards”. Asimov dismembered the dinosaurs, the reptiles that dominated Earth for millions of years, but they were not as intelligent, nor as aggressive as the imaginary of zoology portrayed them, but without a doubt, we owe our existence to their extinction. Reptile is equal to scales, mammals to hair, and birds to feathers.
For how many years and how many times I went to count whales in the lagoon of Scamoon Melville, now Hare’s Eye. The whale sees the land, the whale sees the shore, the whale sees the people, and then she hears a whistle as if someone were calling a dog! Blow in sight! Yes, it is a blow, and every three seconds the same blow, and after hearing no more than hundreds of blows for an hour, there is a rhythm with higher blows and lower ones, it is a rite of blows or rhythm of whale blows. It is a song of blows. If I were a sound collector, I would record the sound when the whale expels its placenta, the only ephemeral organ of mammals and I would also record the flutter of fish when they devour this fetal lung. Weight is sound. I think of artist and inventor Ariel Guzik and his Plasmath Lute, a stringed instrument with electromagnetic sensors that connected to cacti to listen to the music they produce.
I am in a whale cemetery; I know this because their skeletons are everywhere. Although also these northern currents can bring even sequoia skeletons. I found some dried whale beards. Whale beards are a series of parallel plates suspended from the palate to both sides of the mouth, they allow efficient feeding in massive quantities of zooplankton. Taking the place of the teeth, whale beards endure without fracturing a lifetime of forces, generated by the flow of water and prey. During the day and night in the bay, there may be silence or noise such as the tide, wind, bees, flies, bumblebees, dragonflies, miniature butterflies of all colors, of all sizes, foxes, wildcats, dogs, many dogs, the howls of coyotes, the blows of whales, their song, or crying, seagulls, crows, diving ducks, seals, pelicans, ospreys, mouse squirrels, birds, many sea and desert birds, crystals, sheets, whistling bottles, voices of humans arriving with the air, cacti choya that rub their spines and make music, all plants have a sound, here in the desert there are so many.
Today was windy, wind from the “North” is an analogy of the noise of the sand or the sea with that of my blood that resents a consensual isolation. I cut four red lomboys to see their adaptation in Tijuana, I will take them with some dirt from here. It would be a piece about landscape. I am going to check what is making the unidentified noise in front of the house, the wind whistles. The house trembles, it is not strong enough for these winds. It has been moved so
many times, and it has had some accidents, it is from the 70’s, or even older. It is broken, I must replace some studs to withstand the wind and stop squeaking so much. I want to know about the calculation and judgment of the immobility of plants. I found in the aesthetics of the desert flora, the Koch curve, a fractal line that multiplies to infinity. When did the plants come into existence, how long they have been here on the peninsula? How old is this archipelago? Animals fertilize and oxygenate them. They also have feelings, they can feel emotions of pain and fear, neurons are their roots that depend on each other, the solar energy that comes to us is trapped by plants, without plants we would not have energy, they sleep during the night, they communicate through volatile molecules, the sounds of the roots, the infrasound with very low frequencies and that we do not hear them does not mean that it does not exist, every vibration produces sound, they have auditory sensors, different from those of animals and men. They have memory to recognize who hurt them, they are like animals only without mobility. The flora that inhabits the dunes has a white flower that measures less than a centimeter, its pistils are yellow, on each trip I observe them with fascination, they all have something exotic that moves me. I just found a nest in a dry stick that has green sticks and I discover that it is from the bush iron stick. It is made with fluff, feathers, pods, leaves and dried flowers, it does not enter neither air, nor water, nor light. I saw its guest; it was an exceedingly small yellow bird.
Don Francisco told me that the red roots of the succulent matacoras were used to paint the cave paintings of San Francisquito. Algae and corals are analogies of the circular system. The iron stick is a bush that is born from a dried tree, I had already said it, I think. A green branch sprouts from a dried tree. The two of them live together. It is difficult to see where the living trees start and where the dried one ends. I have seen it bloom only once in 20 years, its flowers are lilac, and it is a phoenix. I am fascinated by the succulent red Lomboy because of its neuron shape. I do not know what I discovered first whether the drawings of neurons by the scientist and artist Santiago Ramón y Cajal or the lomboy plant. The copal is exciting, I want to have one in the garden in Tijuana. The choya is extravagant for its thorns that resemble golden pins, it looks like a lamp. The stems of the matacoras, are black corals, I have learned which are more resistant to being near the sea. The cactus cirio has responded wonderfully but grows slowly, I am excited by the shapes of the copal with its red flowers that sprout from thin branches that are held by a thick one. There are corals of assorted colors, yellow, black, green, ash smoke, lemon, and olive green. The bush bull where I took more than three self-portraits dried up. The seeds are tiny, dormant, waiting for an event to germinate, to adapt to the place and cling to life, space, a stone, the help of friction, the rain of a hurricane, I think of Tolkien and his speaking, walking or threatening trees. I saw a little bird looking for food or material for its nest on the dried algae, it keeps flying without moving from the place and sharpens its gaze towards the sand and drops to emerge victorious, also a hummingbird comes every day to look for ashes in the campfire. Algae is seen only when it is the lowest tide of the month and come to the surface hanging from the bottom upwards, they are lianas that keep many fish and plankton larvae. They are so long and strong that they can drown a seal, I know because Tony and I rescued one seal; we went to it in the kayak, and it made eye contact with us and celebrated by coming out of the water repeatedly to thank us. The symbiosis of dunes and plants intrigues me with the time and space in the body plant, although a plant is not considered to have a body.
Imaginary time was born to unite gravity and quantum mechanics. In Guerrero Negro, the reference of time, it is also its dunes that are born and die transforming the geography. Here I play measuring baby dunes with dogs, isn’t it wonderful? I spend several hours a day. It is an exceedingly difficult task to measure nascent dunes, I must be careful not to destroy them. I once saw a baby heart-shaped dune. Erosion also has a sound, I just read that during sandstorms on Mars, due to their low gravity, their grains jump on each other one hundred times higher and ten times faster than on Earth. The house looks like it is going to fly away. I also sat and watched as an eagle skinned a fish on top of a cardon. Next to me was a tree iron stick and I noticed it was home to a hare, I had it decorated with dandelion seeds, dried leaves, and thorns. The smell of the plant gobernadora is exciting, it guides you through the desert, but the queen is the choya, it is untouchable, sculpturally dangerous with yellow-reddish buds, and from her flower another extension is born. How does a giant plant die, from thirst, cold sickness, from a hurricane? I think of the scenes that existed and that I do not want to detail as the painful image of my father dying on the edge of his bed in a pool of blood and entering the air through the window that overlooks a garden that forks. He loved plants and planted them to taste and admire them. We repent, hope, fear, and love with images, says Berger, and these emotions, guided by our capacity for reasoning, provide the energy to convert images and use them for creative, moral, and political purposes.
I am not going after the morality of Charles Scamoon Melville, the biologist that kills whales, but I look for his traces, he was a contemporary of Herman Melville, the creator of Moby Dick. I found out that the two carry the same surname and that somehow the two had something to do with the pain of cetaceans. I had already asked this question, but I will ask it again: Would the two of them get to know each other? Scamoon Melville left a book with drawings of whale organs, there is even a whale fetus, and this is where I feel the need to creatively seize the image of the Norwegian genius and artist Lenart Nilsson to create a whale fetus with the project “Born Life”.
“Blow in sight”! A phrase of jubilation for whale hunters. Scammon Melville, the biologist, and Hernan Melville the writer, both hunted whales, one for adventure and one for money and power.
Blow in sight! Charles Scammon Melville, the biologist, would shout many times; the analogy of an Ahab, created by Hernan Melville the writer, the two hunted whales, you must understand my discovery.
Charles Scamoon Melville is Ahab observing, drawing, writing, killing whales, quartering them, part by part with a large saw grabbed by two men on each side and cuts the meat in a circle and separates the fat.