There, about 20 –30 feet from the shore, was an orange kayak with two passengers, male and female, in yellow life vests. That outrage of color with two long, dark paddles bobbed on the water like a strange, tropical fruit having come to us from some even warmer clime.
What really caught the eye, however, was the pod of plain brown and gray-black Bottlenose Dolphins which surrounded the kayak, difficult to see, at first in the steel gray water.
What an amazing site!
It’s not an unusual occurrence, mind you. The Delmarva Peninsula is one of the primary East Coast breeding grounds of the Bottlenose Dolphins. The TV show “Flipper” made them popular, assigning them mystical, magical powers of cognition and communication.
Oh, they are smart and they are entertaining – it has been said that only the dolphin and the human, of all God’s creatures, enjoy a sex life, so we share a sense of the delight which comes from the absurd – but they are, first and foremost (and also unlike many of their human counterparts), predators.
They mostly eat small fish, but they have also been known to attack porpoise – quite viciously, I might add. We’ve been out on a canoe at the Delmarva State Park, one of their primary breeding grounds, and I can attest to the fact that they can be quite nasty in temperament, especially when they are not up to entertaining tourists who come to gawk as they mate or care for their young. Then again, who can blame them, really.
Having said that, there are reports of seeming altruism and heroism. It wasn’t long ago, I remember, that a newscast gave an account of a dramatic rescue of four lifeguards swimming off the coast in New Zealand who had been approached by a Great White Shark. A group of Bottlenose Dolphins, apparently sensing danger to the swimmers, reportedly herded them together and surrounded them for forty minutes, preventing an attack from the shark.
There was no such drama yesterday. It was just pure entertainment as the dolphins circled the kayak, making squeaking and squealing noises through their blowhole. They did seem to be trying to communicate something to the humans in the kayak. Perhaps it was merely ‘hello’. Perhaps they were bidding them to come into the water to play on the surf as the tide began to shift into low. They slapped their fins and tails on the water, like an invitation to ‘Come’.
It didn’t take too long before their antics began to draw the attention of a small crowd on the beach.
We all watched in rapt enchantment as the dolphins circled the small kayak, playing with the man and woman who seemed extraordinarily still, their paddles in their hands, suspended at the same perfect horizontal point above their craft.
The tide started to heave suddenly, making its shift to low, and the waves picked up. The dolphins saw this as an opportunity for fun and several began to breach the water, jumping over the crests of the waves. Other dolphins stayed near the craft and squeaked and squealed and slapped the water in seeming appreciation.
Someone asked, “Are they being trained to do that?” Someone else responded, “No way! They do that naturally.” A little kid was heard asking, “Daddy, are we at Sea World?”
The sea gulls laughed as answer to his question.
Yeah. It was that magnificent.
The entire scene must have lasted ten, maybe twelve minutes, but time seem to have been suspended in one magical moment which possessed no beginning or end . It just was. And, in my memory and I suspect the memories of all who witnessed it, it still is.
I believe such moments come into our lives as a gift to lift us out of the ordinary and turn our vision toward something greater than ourselves. We find our fragmented lives like two beings in a small boat out on a vast ocean not far from the safety of shore.
Joy, uninvited and unexpected, comes and surrounds us. Like a balm sent from heaven, our grief and sorrows are instantly salved. The tide shifts suddenly to low and our worries and anxieties are inhibited from entering into deeper waters of dread or fear.
In the breaching of the ocean, heaven has come near.
For one glorious moment we understand. We know. And, it is enough.
Glorify God, O springs of water, seas, and streams,*
praise and highly exalt God forever.
O whales and all that move in the waters.
All birds of the air, glorify God,*
Praise and highly exalt God forever.
Glorify God, all you works of God*
praise and highly exalt God forever.
In the firmament of the Almighty, let God be glorified,*
praised and highly exalted forever.