The other day I was chatting with a loan officer (for undisclosed purposes, please) and he passed on his wife’s delight at encountering whales “right up close to the boat” on a birthday outing.
This happens a lot. When I let people know of my fascination with whales, those who’ve actually seen one live cannot resist telling me about their encounters. Sometimes, it’s even their friend’s encounter and the sense of awe is so contagious that the story needs retelling.
Nature’s Big Scale
It got me thinking about how the very size of whales gets our attention. Once you’re out on the water, you’ve already shifted your sense of scale. Especially if you spend time looking at screens in your life, simply focusing your eyes miles away changes your visual and physical sense of nature’s scope. So even before any whales appear we’re feeling how the small we humans are in the larger picture of nature and her creatures.
If you can’t go whale-watching, artists know well how to help us experience being small in comparison to others. A recent local exhibition included a life size Orca. When you walk into the gallery, it meets you head-on among a host of other smaller very tasty artwork. My first response was to stop cold with a - “Whoa!”.
Big things are visually awesome in themselves. But when I’m close up against anything really big, I get that bodily feel of its size compared to mine. It’s a shiver of delight in the implicit comparison of whales = big; humans = little.
Along with fine art, creative products like this huge kite of a blue whale can spark that moment of awe. For only $4620 you can have one of your own from Peter Lynn Kites.
Young creatures of all kinds are experts in feeling curiosity rather than awe with big size differences. This kitten’s spirit is undaunted by the need to crane its neck to look way up there.
Both kittens and kids can remind us to play with our differences.
Shifting Matters of Scale
Coming up against the really big, in nature or in art, invites us to both awe and curiosity. And sometimes that contrast carries over into other areas of our life. To the good, or not so good.
After coming up against the loan officer’s really big money numbers, I found it quite easy (if not rational) to add more flavors and whipped cream to my already overpriced coffee. On the other hand, after being around whales, I’m likely to glide more easily over my computer glitches and other human-sized problems.
* Photo shared with gallery permission.