Fear. The taste of fear, not quite the tinny taste of blood, not the salty taste of snot either. Fear mixes in the memorable taste of pain with unimagined and exaggerated tastes of the terrible unknown. Fear has a taste you will never forget.
I was sitting on a Zodiac no bigger than a coffee table. Our ship, the Orlova was out of sight and we were chasing three hump-backed whales into an icy fjord. We heard them blowing, and were watching the ripple as they made their way into this cove. The water beneath us was like crystal and you could see to unplumbed depths. There was another Zodiac close by. We waited. In silence we waited.
“Woooshhhhh” Behind me the largest male broke the surface. His mouth, his eye towering over me. I turned and looked. There are few really defining moments in a person’s life – they don’t happen every day. As I looked into that ancient eye, I knew my life would be changed. I watched with a primal dread as the beast dived under the boat and swam to the other side. As wide as an elephant’s body and three or four times as long, we sat five of us wondering what would happen next. Bubbles formed around his head and lazily rose to the surface. What a thing of beauty, what a wild thing of terror.
Here I changed in subtle ways still yet to be understood, for what is the enquiry of the spirit in a place such as this? And under these circumstances? What do you make of yourself when the silence is so deafening? Enter here into unfamiliar and unfathomed quietness – where your heartbeat and your breathing are the only sounds.
The rhythmic tide- the corporeal rise and fall of your being as you gulp down the crystal cold air that sustains life. When all you hear is the irregular sound of your body’s engine’s beat in your chest. A thudding drum at your temples and in your ears. Then what are you going to say, and who will rescue you from yourself?
In this place I faced myself, and I was cold and alone. In that blue and white vastness there was no place to hide. However you choose to live know this – Nature is the host and you are but a visitor. Ah yes, fear has a taste you will never forget.