Vermont’s state fossil is the Charlotte Whale, a whale skeleton unearthed in a farmer’s field over 150 years ago. The skeleton is not Moby Dick-sized, a detail I should have researched before visiting with my 11-year-old daughter. Almost immediately, I realized I was in for Act 2 of the Hope Diamond. (That little thing is the largest diamond on the planet?)
The reality is, the whale skeleton is about as cool as cool can be, hand-wired together and displayed in UVM’s Perkins Museum; admission free. My children and I walked in, took a self-tour, and left without seeing a living soul. 11,00o years ago, these beauties were swimming right where we ate ice cream on a sunny June afternoon.
To an 11-year-old, five years spans an eternity; 11,000 years is imaginary. The number may mean little, but the whale – enamored of or not – this child is unlikely to forget.
Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee!
Herman Melville, Moby Dick