Coordinators Kal Bowers and Caroline Zerilli are back with another chapter of their original story, Wash Your Hands, Send Your Letters. This week, Kal visits the whales of Dan Hole Pond.
Chapter 2: Whales, Sails and the Waterfront Trail
Dear Wishing Tree,
My name is Trevor and I was supposed to be a camper at Merrowvista for the second time this summer . Last year was one of the best summer’s I’ve ever had even though Merrowvista was all so new. I remember driving up with my parents on the first day and being so nervous that it would be weird, but it ended up being really cool. I met so many people and did so many cool things that I couldn’t stop thinking about it the entire school year.
I really, really liked the waterfront, especially the sailboats because I had never been on one before. I don’t live by any water, so I haven’t gotten to sail since last August. I am good at it too, the waterfront person Chloe told me that I was really close to getting my Skippers License, and I only had the Interest Group two times! I was really looking forward to trying to get it as soon as I got to camp this summer, and it stinks that I won’t be able to.
Is anybody going to be using the Waterfront this summer? Do you think that the boats are gonna get rusty without anybody using them? Has camp put the dock in yet? Do you think that I could get my Skippers License if I come next summer? I just hope I don’t forget what I learned.
Trevor from Mahoosuc
Dan Hole Pond is no ordinary New Hampshire watering hole. Sculpted by the volcano that erupted there 200 million years ago, the caves and tunnels that make up the bottom of the pond had become the home to a very peculiar family of whales. Their ancestors had been carried there by the glaciers that had shaped the valley thousands of years ago, and ever since, the Whales had lived peacefully among the nooks and crannies of the pond.
The Wishing Tree had been told by its nosy roots of their existence decades ago, but the Tree was not completely fluent in Whale-ian until recently. After receiving Trevor’s letter, the Tree knew that the Whales needed to hear it, so remembering the deep tones of Whale-ians, he shouted down the hill, towards the waterfront.
(Translated into English from Whale-ian)
Good morning down there!
Can you hear me down the hill?
I can’t believe that you live in that water
Just thinking about it gives me a chill!
It was so good to see you jump
During the Valley’s Awakening
I think you even splashed me up here!
You hit the water like an earth-a-quakening!
Here up on my stoop
A letter I want to read to you with care
Please excuse my awful accent
My Whale-ian is far less than fair.
The Whales heard the tree as their voice was far from ignorable, and they swam cautiously towards the dock. There were 19 whales in total in their pod ranging the oldest, Finson, who had just the week before turned 214 and was about the size of three school buses put together, to the smallest of them all, Blubson, who was roughly the size of a very small car.
His brothers and sisters were almost double his size and constantly poked fun at him for it. You see, where most whales prided themselves on being able to swim in a straight line, Blubson’s stunted growth and faulty fin resulted in his swimming patterns to be more…unique. Where his family and friends could travel directly to their destination propelling themselves with their huge fins, Blubson would swim in figure 8’s, zig-zags and loop-di-doos, resulting in a much longer journey.
Blubson’s aunt, Blubbles, who also was significantly smaller than the rest of the pod told him “You know, when I was a young calf, I was just as small as you were, maybe even smaller! Whales our size can fit into places others can’t, like caves and crannies that make up this pond, places that your brothers, sisters and cousins can’t go.”
Aunty Blubbles had shown Blubson the secret network of caves that only they could reach, there Blubson collected small artifacts of camp that had dropped in the water. Goggles, Buddy Tags, and Spray Painted Tennis Balls were the most notable items of his collection.
While he was thankful to have his own space, Blubson still wished that he be just as strong and fast as his peers. He lingered in the back of the pod as The Wishing Tree read Trevor’s letter from the Meadow.
After they were finished, the Tree sang out…
Now that you’ve listened
I have something to show!
There are parts of the Best Self
That only campers do know!
Watch them! Observe them!
As they swim and they paddle!
Watch them flock to the Waterfront!
Birds of a Feather, like herds of Cattle!
I challenge you to learn
from them all that you can!
The Bell has rung, get to it!
Whales of the Hole that is Dan!
The living, purple thunderbolts that had pranced around the valley before raced past the Squirrel Biff down the Waterfront Trail. Rounding the final corner of the trail, the energy started to shift and morph until it looked like hundreds of campers were running down the hill!
You see, the Wishing Tree is more than just a Tree who can talk, their memory is so sharp that they can create visions of campers in the valley, almost like a movie playing out in real time. For the Whales, the Tree had chosen to show them a lively day at the waterfront, where campers could be seen putting on sunscreen, strapping on their PFDs and, much to the Whales delight, completing distance swims!
The Whales inched closer and closer to the shore, and while they couldn’t talk to the ghost-like-campers, they swam alongside the boats and leaped over the glowing purple kayaks. Before they knew it, the Whales were playing volleyball, smacking the ball over the net with their tails as Finson kept score nearby. The younger whales immediately started planning for the distance swims, with the strongest and fastest Whale, Scrombo, bragging that he would be the first to complete the Trident.
The Whales were all very interested in the beads that hung on the camper’s buddy tags, with each distance swim earning the camper’s a different bead. For Birch, campers are given a green bead, for Outpost a blue bead, for Strawberry a red bead, for the Triangle a yellow one, swimming the Diamond gets you a Flower bead, and campers, or whales that complete the Trident proudly hang a red heart from their buddy tags.
Blubson had retreated to his personal clubhouse in the eastern side of the pond. He sighed as looked at all his treasures of campers past. He knew that he could never keep up with the rest of his friends on the distance swims, and his tail was far too short to play volleyball.
Aunt Blubbles saw that he was missing and went to check on him in the cave. There she saw Blubson fiddling with a pair of green goggles in the sand.
“Blubson, my dear boy, what are you doing down here! You have to see what they’re doing with the chocolate pudding on the shore! They’re eating it without hands and making an awful mess!”
“I don’t know Aunt Blubs, I don’t think that I can do anything that the campers are doing. I can’t keep up on the distance swims because of my fin, and I’m worried that they’re going to think I’m the volleyball if I try to play. Scrombo told me that I should try Diving for Treasure. I think he was joking. I mean, I’m a whale. Diving for Treasure really wouldn’t be that hard.”
“Oh come Blubson, there has to be something that you can do. Let’s go out there and join the others. You heard the Tree. Maybe you can learn something from t.he campers. It’s better than sitting in here all alone.”
Aunt B led Blubson out of the clubhouse and back towards shore by his fin. He lagged behind as he usually did. The rest of the whales were busy doing their first distance swims, racing and darting between the rocks near Birch.
“See, all of my friends are out there getting their first bead, and I don’t think I’ll ever get any,” said Blubson to his aunt.
“Just wait, Blubson. There has to be something out here for you.”
Out of the corner of his eye, a sailboat gracefully glided by. The camper on the boat was smiling and laughing as he used the wind to steer the boat. It seemed like magic to Blubson. His whole life he never imagined ever going outside the water.
He swam towards the right side of the shore as fast as he could, and it just so happened that one boat was left tied up on the edge of the shore. Scooting up the bank, Blubson grabbed the rope in his mouth and struggled to pull the boat into the water. Eventually when the boat was floating, Blubson jumped out of the water with all his might and hoisted himself onto the bow. The surface of the boat was slippery leading Blubson to slide right back into the water.
Scrombo and the rest of the whales chuckled in the distance as they admired their shiny green beads. “There’s no way he’ll ever get that thing to work,” scoffed Scrombo. “Besides, Whales aren’t supposed to sail.”
Two weeks later, the entire pod of whales gathered to watch Scrombo attempt the Trident, as he had flown through all the other distance swims. Hanging off his tail was a multicolored bracelet with all the beads, glinting in the sunlight. The Wishing Tree watched from up the hill, eager to see progress that the Whales had made.
When it was finally time, Finson blew out an enormous geyser of water from his blowhole as the signal for Scrombo to start his attempt. While he started out very strong, an hour in, Scrombo was struggling to keep up his stamina by the time he reached Strawberry Point. The Wishing Tree realized that Scrombo was not going to make it, and worried that he would be stuck out there.
Just as Scrombo was about to throw in the towel and call it quits, a certain whale on a sailboat came flying across the pond. Blubson masterfully worked the sail with a series of ropes and pulleys he had found in deep reaches of the pond. Tying the various ropes to his fins, Blubson had learned to captain the ship! With speed and grace Blubson careened the boat towards the struggling Scrombo. Blubson threw a rope to Scrombo, who took it in his mouth and caught his breath.
“But … but how Blubson? Aren’t Whales supposed to stay in the water? How can you possibly be sailing? You don’t even have hands!” Scrombo sputtered out.
Blubson looked towards the ropes and knots he had looped around his fins, “Ya know, you can learn a lot by just watching. And it really looks like you could use a spotter right about now. Are you ready to finish this thing?”
Scrombo smiled a huge Whale smile and nodded his head sheepishly. Blubson pulled on the sail from the bow steering the boat towards camp. Taking a much slower pace and making sure to take rest breaks, Scrombo and Blubson worked together to complete the rest of the Trident.
The Wishing Tree took note of the sailing skills that Blubson had developed in the past weeks! Almost as if it was floating on top of the waves, the boat easily maneuvered along side the steadily swimming Scrombo, working the sails like a breadmaker would craft a perfect loaf of pumpernickel, the little whale sailed in figure 8’s, zig zags and loop-di-doos around the pond. The nautical patterns that he had come to know so well from years of lopsided swimming became the perfect way to show off his new sailing prowess, and the rest of the whales noticed as they splashed and cheered.
After another hour of tireless work, Scrombo finally made it back to dock with the sailing whale following close behind. The entire pod rushed to crowd around the boat, the old and ancient Finson was the first in line to say “Oh dear boy, I in my entire life have never seen anything quite like that! You’ve shown that there is truly nothing a Whale can’t learn! Hear Hear Young Blubson, to the Whale who Sails, to the first of his kind! And to Scrombo the Strong, the first Whale to earn this coveted Heart bead for completing the Trident, yet another remarkable feat!”
With that, Finson carefully placed the bead on the bracelet hanging off Scrombo’s tail. The Tree had teared up a little bit watching the whole event take place, and as soon as the heart shaped bead was in place, he sent the roots to drop something in the water. As the laminated card hit the surface of the pond, the exhausted Scrombo swam away from the bead ceremony to retrieve it. He swam back to the bow of the boat where Blubson sat and handed him the very first Skippers License earned by a Whale. Blubson blushed as Scrombo sent a huge burst and water into the air in celebration and gratitude. The Wishing Tree bellowed:
You! Young Blubson!
Congratulations on your certification!
The way you carve and shape the waves,
It fills me with deep elation!
You’ve learned more from the campers
Than anyone else in your pod,
And for that, we the trees salute you,
If we had necks, we’d be sure to nod!
The Wishing Tree chuckled as he spoke, so pleased to see the Whales take so well to the ways of the camper. When the Tree conjured up Blubson’s Skippers License, he made sure to make a copy for himself. He instructed the roots to take it to the (Circle Circle) and to place it on the far left side of the first row of benches. Glowing with purple energy, the laminated paper sat near the unlit fire, waiting for the other artifacts to arrive.