Eva Saulitis’s Life With Whales
I have to say, what kept me there was not the science but the place. I wanted to be there in a way that had purpose. I didn’t want to visit or go on long kayak trips. I wanted to spend my life in Prince William Sound. For five years I lived at a field camp for three or four months at a time. The work gave me a purpose for being there: a part to play in protecting the ecosystem.
The wide sweep of the northern Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachee Bay is in perpetual motion, reshaping, and at times reclaiming, my front yard. Alligator Harbor, with its clear shallows and deceptive currents — pulled by the moon, the sun, the trickster we call weather — defines and sculpts my backyard, revising boundaries and property lines, confounding appraisers and owners alike.
There are many ways of not knowing, not seeing, and there are equally many ways of knowing, of coming to know deep in your body, embodying knowledge the way my ancestors embodied culture, the way the earth embodies language and spiritual belief and insult. Or maybe what I want to say is that it takes many ways of knowing to overcome your brain’s many refusals. To admit you know a thing like cancer resides — is seizing control — inside your body.
The story begins with a message on Facebook: “I’m looking for Wayne Scott from the Baltimore area. A Navy veteran, about seventy-two or seventy-three. A relative of yours by any chance?” A phone call to my mother confirms that my father, whose name I inherited and who was close-lipped about his past, had dropped out of high school and joined the Navy when he was seventeen.