“Swimming with a Dolphin is a Life-altering Experience.”
A few years ago I regularly gave talks to Rotary, Probus and similar clubs about my varied life to date and the philosophic ideas that had come from this. The title of these talks was ‘Dolphins in my Bath’ which was intended to intrigue the prospective audiences. I took this title from an amusing quatrain (which I would quote – to groans from the listeners) by John Bilsborough, a fellow poet from South Wales.
‘Lucky is the man who hath
A pair of dolphins in his bath
It’s pleasant in these times of strife
To have some porpoise in your life.’
The essence of my talk was how I had drifted through life unsure of where I was going and why – and how this had changed after I swam with a wild dolphin off the coast of Pembrokeshire.
The actual event I recorded in my book , The Ferry Boat – Finding a Credible God, which I repeat here:-
Whilst getting myself back together, [after a traumatic business experience] another deeply significant event occurred. I went to stay with my sister and her husband in Pembrokeshire, painting their house to earn money to pay some bills. My brother-in-law ran a diving school and had a fast boat with an outboard motor. One afternoon my sister asked me, ‘Would you like to come and swim with our dolphin?’
It seemed that a wild dolphin had decided to live in a nearby bay and loved to swim and play in the water with humans and was known locally as ‘Simo’. I was kitted out with a wetsuit and we motored out in the boat from the village of Solva to find him. We had gone less than a mile before Simo was sporting in our wake and when we anchored he swam around, obviously inviting us to join him. Bottle-nosed dolphins are big – Simo was about fourteen feet long and more than twice the girth of a human. In my experience up to that time, one always had to move carefully in the presence of large creatures in case you startled them and they kicked out or otherwise hurt you.
It was not like that with Simo. There seemed to be an invisible signal coming from him which was saying, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. Come in and play – I won’t hurt you.’ There was also a feeling that I can only describe as ‘dolphin-love’ radiating from him. I dropped over the side and he swam all around, diving down and leaping over my sister and me for about half an hour until I was tiring and swam to a nearby rock where I sat, half-submerged, to rest. Simo came and laid his head in my lap whilst my brain crackled with his attempts to communicate with me. Without a common language, all I could do was try and reciprocate the waves of love flowing around me. It was a day that has influenced my thoughts and beliefs ever since. I would wholeheartedly agree with the statement, ‘Swimming with a dolphin is a life-altering experience’.
Yes, I know a dolphin is not a porpoise, but I definitely found a purpose in my life following that encounter. Several things happened. The experience of unrestrained love coming from that dolphin made me much more aware of the power of this force and I was much more ready to give Love to other people and receive it back, often magnified in some mysterious way. I quote again from The Ferry Boat’ –
When we think deeply about Love we realise that it has a unique property – unlike chocolate cake, Love multiplies when shared; e.g, a returned smile or a shared hug does not deplete the stock of Love of either party but seems to increase it for both. The more you think about it and relate this to one’s own experiences, the truer it seems.
I found that I wanted to write poetry and stories in such a way that other people could share my experiences and imaginings and enjoy these through my writing.
I realised that the search for ‘security’ in life is unlikely to be achieved and composed the following Haiku (a concise Japanese verse form, that I call a Kernel of Truth.)
True security ~ Comes from the acceptance of ~ Insecurity.
My sense that Simo was trying to communicate with me as I sat on that rock with his head on my lap led me to write dolphins into my first three novels (making up The Dorset Squirrel trilogy) where an important part of the story is the ability of some of the squirrel characters to communicate telepathically with the dolphin characters.
These fictional dolphins became so popular that I planned a book where there were both human and dolphin characters and the theme was ‘interspecies communication.’
During the research for this book (published in 2000 as Dolphinsong) I went on a whale and dolphin watching trip to the Azores where – not only did I swim with a bottle-nosed dolphin mother and her calf but watched in awe as huge sperm whales surfaced and dived not far from the boat. Perhaps the most memorable experience on that trip was when hundreds of dolphins were spotted heading towards us, leaping and diving in the sparkling sun-path, obviously joyful at finding us and relishing the opportunity to take turns at riding our bow-wave. Their joy was infectious and I lay on the foredeck, my head over the side, only a few feet from the nearest and looking directly into its huge eye. Somehow it drew me into its joyousness and projected what I can only describe as intense Love in my direction. This magical experience lasted for several minutes, then at some signal, unseen or unheard by me, they were gone. All dolphin experiences leave one with a sense of privilege and after that encounter, a strange spiritual glow stayed with me for hours.
Yes – swimming with a dolphin is a life-altering experience but a word of concern from The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. If you swim with a dolphin in the wild as I have done, the dolphin has complete freedom to swim away if it wishes. Fewer dolphins are kept in captivity now but many are and people are charged significant sums of money to swim with them. These captive dolphins still seem to project their love to the swimmers even though they have been imprisoned in small pools just for this purpose. This must be a very forgiving love!
In Dolphinsong, the captive dolphins learn to sing ‘Songs of Truth’ which embody their most intense thoughts. One of the characters, Grace of FairIsle sings this song:-
I, FairIsle, call to Thinking Men –
See us for what we are.
Not competition for your fish
Not fools to entertain your young
Not handy hulks of oil and flesh
But creatures of intelligence
Deserving something better from our land-based friends
Who occupy dry portions of this planet, humans will call Earth
But which is mostly Sea.
We know that you have eyes to see
And ears to hear.
We know that you have brains to think.
We know imagination flourishes in men.
We hope that you have souls to feel compassion too.
Please, use your hands to signal
And let us live.
See us for what we are
A peaceful, gentle, cultured people of the Sea.
In my recent Blog, The Sapients of Earth, I suggest that dolphins, whales and elephants are granted the status of ‘honorary persons’ and accorded similar rights as humans by the United Nations. Now I am inclined to go further. If we accept that these intelligent and loving creatures are worth granting such a status should we not also accept that they should also be represented at the United Nations Assembly?
We humans could establish three new nations – The Whale Nation, The Dolphin Nation and The Elephant Nation. Of course, until we crack the communication problem between these creatures and humans, we would have to appoint wise and respected humans to speak on their behalf, much as humans can appoint advocates to speak for them when necessary.
I would love to still be alive when we had learned to speak with dolphins as the humans do in Dolphinsong, possibly through music as they do in my book.
To learn more about Dolphinsong, click here.