I was visiting my children on the Garden Island of Kauai, Hawaii on my birthday. Watching the sun set on Kalihiwai Beach someone spots a whale’s tail slapping the surface. Word got around quickly, but by the time most of us focused on the spot it was gone. Within 30 seconds it appeared again, and by then everyone was riveted to the spot. Over and over again it slapped its tail and each time the crowd cheered.

After the first dozen, I began looking at the whale as if it was waving at me. Over the next 20 minutes the whale slapped its tail 36 times, and nobody who lives on the island had ever seen it happen so many times.

It was the eve of my 72nd birthday, as Moby Dick waved at me 36 times these are all significant numbers. The Hebrew word for life is Chai, which has the numeric equivalent 18, and is considered a lucky number. On the 18th of April a whale waved 36 times, a double life blessing on my quadruple chai birthday. I chose to take this as a blessing for the future.

The following day I came down with a serious upper respiratory infection that left me congested and coughing until I ached. Over the last years these sinus and breathing problems happen more frequently whenever I fly for more than 7 hours. Whether it’s recirculated air, pressure changes, or other pathogens that trigger my susceptibility, the precautionary measures I’ve taken (nasal sprays, Vitamin C, allergy medications) haven’t helped. Of course I haven’t changed my diet, gained 20 pounds over these years (all in the belly), and get short of breath more easily.
My father had a belly too, which disguised an abdominal aortic aneurysm that ruptured and killed him at the age of 72. I’ve always looked like him and suddenly in my gasping and hacking I think it was my father waving at me last night, and the blessing to take better care of myself while I’m still able.

I’m cleansing (cleanses are big in Kauai), getting rid of the coffee that aggravates my reflux, cutting the carbs and sugars (but only after the last Lappert’s coconut fudge macadamia nut ice cream).

I don’t want to stop traveling, teaching, and dancing on my life’s stage. I want to camp with my Oregon Country Fair family in July and let the Truth Fairy emerge at her home (www.oregoncountryfair.org). In August I want to go to the Amazon with my clown friends from all the world to be with Patch Adams MD at the annual Belen Festival in Iquitos, Peru (www.patchadams.org), where I will don pink tights and a tutu and dance as a flamingo ballerina in the streets.

You can’t heal if you don’t dance. And I want to keep on dancing on my vaudeville stage without feeling like someone’s giving me the hook before the final curtain comes down.