Dolphin and Whale Magazine :  January issue 2011
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Ann DiBerardinis

The Power of One  by  Ann DiBerardinis
Encountering a Humpback Transforms a Woman's Life

Ann DiBerardinis
has studied and worked with whales and dolphins since 1985. She is co-founder of the Talamanca Dolphin Foundation (TDF) in Costa Rica. TDF is a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to education, protection, research and responsible eco-tourism with the dolphins of the Talamanca Coast, and the first dolphin program in the country.


How could I have dreamed that a Humpback whale could so deeply change my life? It happened like this.

My family and I were on vacation in Hawaii and all
wanted to see the legendary Humpback whales. Out of several options at the pier we saw a tour that was sponsored by a local non-profit foundation.  We chose that one as it seemed to offer the most educational experience.

One of our sons got seasick as we churned through the sea looking for whales. The naturalist on board warned us that we may or may not see whales that day-- that nothing is predictable on the sea.  She explained that whales are wild animals, and very intelligent. They choose where they go and if they want to be around boats and humans or not. We are in their world.

After about 45 minutes our tense anticipation was broken by the cry, “Whale!" I jumped to attention and spun to follow the pointing fingers and eyes as the naturalist’s voice jumped an octave. "Two o’clock! Starboard side!" she shouted. I strained
my eyes, scanning in the general direction. Moments later a huge, dark shape gracefully emerged from the depths about thirty feet from the boat, and slowly sank again as if in slow motion. My chest clenched and my eyes widened in awe as I watched a magnificent creature surface a second, and a third time. Then it disappeared.

All I could think was, "It’s SO huge . . . and yet SO graceful!" I had never known those two things could exist in the same space. My mind struggled to process this new, profound relationship with the awe and pure joy of a child discovering the world for the first time.

That night, in my hotel cabin with the rest of my family asleep, I was sitting on the floor staring at Humpback whale images, reliving the memory of the whale sighting that day. The only way I can explain what happened next is the following.  Without warning I felt my heart and chest melt into the image and then "expand" into a seemingly limitless space - a space that included a world above the sea, under the sea, with the limitless sky above and beyond.  And the whales were there, striding the thin membrane between water and air.
The feeling was indescribable! I could see all of the vision as one continuous whole world—one awe-inspiring whole reality. And the whales and I were a part of it.

As I become aware of what I was experiencing I felt a little frightened, but at the same time did not want to lose the euphoria I was feeling. I wanted to
tell someone about what was happening. Should I wake my husband from his sleep? What would I
say? What would he say? No, that wouldn’t help.
I stayed in the vision for maybe an hour, trying to understand what was happening to me and
why. There was nothing really to do, but just flow with it. I can’t remember exactly how I came out of that space, only that I was aware I couldn’t stay
there for long. Afterwards, I puzzled over the meaning of it, unable to put it into any known context.

The next day I tried to explain to Jim what had happened to me the night before. Words seemed
insipid and totally inadequate. I resumed my outer activities but knew I wanted to find and take home an image that would help me remember my amazing vision. I found it in one of the first paintings of many that Robert Lyn Nelson would create of the "glass eye view" whereby he would so creatively depict the above water/under water world of Hawaii. The Humpbacks were there too. That was it—my key!

I carried my precious cargo home to Montana and gave it prominent place in the house. Just looking at it helped bring back some of the vision. At the same time I knew that I absolutely had to learn more about these magnificent creatures. I began
reading everything I could get my hands on about humpback whales. I listened to recordings of their songs, posted photos of whales on my refrigerator, talked to anyone who had knowledge of whales and the sea, painted pictures of whales, incorporated them into my spirituality and dreamed about them. I felt a new inner sense of inspiration and joy in my heart that helped me to be my best self.

So began my life-long path with whales and dolphins as my inspiration and guides. They have led me to places I never imagined I could go. And my journey of joy, understanding, knowledge, sharing, teaching and serving with them is still
continuing. I am compelled to share all they have taught me with others, and work to protect them in the human world as best I can. Dolphins and whales continue to inspire and guide my heart and spirit of life in a way that I still cannot understand. For all of this I am very grateful.


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