Day(s) of the Dolphin(s)

I haven’t posted in a while mostly because I have been busy working and also because the only things I feel like saying lately are things which would probably get me a visit from Homeland Security. Maybe I’ll spend some time and write up my thoughts about “The God Delusion” by Dawkins but the more I think about that book the less I seem to have to say about so I had better hurry.

Instead I’m going to try something different. For the last few years we have been going on some pretty fun trips as a family and another one will begin in a few days. I have never really done a good job of keeping a travel journal but maybe Its time to start. So for practice, I’m going to write a story about a recent trip.

A few months ago was our first trip to Hawaii. Having never been before, I expected a tropical paradise pockmarked with tourism and I was not disappointed. I wonder if people stay in a Big Hotel in Kona so they won’t miss the traffic and noise from home. Our normal site selection process works like this: Choose the nicest place you can find but where you think most people won’t go or at least they won’t stay long. In this instance, it worked perfectly. We ended up in Kealakekua Bay renting a house down by the water. The place is hardly unknown and is listed in all the guidebooks for snorkeling, dolphin sightings, and kayaking, as well as the spot where Admiral James Cook met an untimely end, but there are no large hotels and its a steep curvy ride in and out of the bay by car.

I suffer from travel insomnia, which is to say I rarely sleep much when I’m not at home. In a practical sense this means each vacation I take with the family ends up being in two parts. There is my solo vacation which takes places for a few hours every morning and then the family vacation begins again as people start to wake up. This pattern works well for me and for the rest of the crew as I like to scout out things and explore and they like to sleep.

For all of the wonders that Hawaii has to offer, for me it came down to one simple one. The water. An infinity of clear blue warmth that wrapped the island and called you out to play. With some fins you could easily swim out a few hundred yards without getting tired. We kayaked or snorkled or both on most days and I never got enough. If I go back it will be for the water, not the beach, or the sun, or the green, just the water.

I decided one morning at sunrise to bike down to the nearest beach, actually a somewhat treacherous pile of bolders, for a swim and to see if I could see dolphins. When none appeared, I swam out to the little reef to see what fish were awake this early. After I got into the water, I noticed some splashes in the water maybe 50 yards aways and starting swimming towards them but I never seemed to get any closer.

After a few minutes, I noticed another swimmer in the water who was calling out to me. When I got closer to him he explained the obvious absurdity of my actions. The only way I was going to get closer to the dolphins was if it was thier idea. He gave me a quick course in dolphin etiquette along with the requiste New Age Philosophy and we just sat there hanging in the water waiting to see if the “energy” was right. We watched the school of them circle around the bay eventually coming over to say hello.

You only see maybe 5 or 6 at a time on the surface so its hard to get a good idea of how many there are until they are right upon you and then they are everywhere. I would guess it was 80-100. They were in groups and in layers and they moved with confident grace.

We dropped an offering of large leaves into the water. The colored morning sun lit up the leaves making them into little lanterns floating beneath us. The dolphins would swim by catching the leaves on thier fins as they passed. They seemed to trade these toys with each other and with us.

The clicky whistling sounds they make leave you with a feeling which is similar to being at a dinner party where you don’t speak the language. You can’t help but wonder what they are saying. In this case though its like a dinner party of aliens from another planet. At the same time you feel welcome and completely out of place.

The human numbers were increasing. A few more of the local new agers showed up although a few were more ager than new. I normally have trouble talking with people who say things like “we need to radiate the right kind of energy” in order to keep the dolphins nearby, but it came pretty easy that morning. Still, I’m not quite ready to get a grouping of star tattoos on my face.

There was something about the dolphins though. Something that affected time such that when you watched them you realized they were there before the WalMart, before Admiral Cook, and before the Natives. All of that time somehow existed right there in that moment while they glided and we dove under the water to see more deeply.

The next day I went back with my wife to show her but there were no dolphins to be found. A large research ship had pulled into the bay and possibly disrupted the energy or maybe they simply found the people at the next beach down more accepting that day. We had a good swim anyway and headed back to the house before the kids woke up.

A few days later we tried again and were not disappointed. After the school made a pass by us at one point a lone straggler stayed back with us. It made probably 5-6 slow circles around the two of us just a few feet away. We watched it watching us and wondered what might it be thinking or trying to say.

I have no real opinion on how intelligent dolphins are but I will say that you can’t escape the feeling that they know the answers to some questions which you aren’t even sure how to ask.






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