I have always loved dolphins; truth be told there aren’t many animals I don’t appreciate, but the fun dolphins have and the glee they exhibit is something extraordinary. They just take pleasure in being…!
Over the years I have seen dolphins behind a ferry cruising from one Greek island to another; frolicking out at sea off various beaches around Australia and even dipping and flipping behind the boat that brought me to Australia dozens of years ago.
But my best and most up close encounters came late last year, in our local river that runs through many of our city’s suburbs. A biking and walking track extends around most of the river’s banks on each side. I use it frequently. It’s a great way to exercise, meditate on writing, listen to podcasts and observe nature.
One afternoon I approached a small footbridge across a narrow part of the river close to many fancy apartments and a few cafes towards the end of my walk, before turning back to retrace my steps. I noticed a couple of people walking down to the water’s edge and pointing at something. Suddenly a fin broke through the surface of the water. It took my breath away. Because I live in Australia my first reaction was ‘shark’! We have shark patrols on all our beaches and people get mauled and eaten by sharks occasionally, but the warnings are frequent all summer, with helicopters blasting an ear splitting siren to warn swimmers whenever a fin is spotted.
Then I realised, it’s a dolphin, as its steely grey back rose shimmering and smooth above the surface and then disappeared below. I stood on the little footbridge and it swam right underneath me (about six feet below). I could not believe my luck, as I turned and watched it surface on the other side. It swam towards the concrete side that supported the river bank just there and swivelled in a half circle, almost above the water on its side. It was on its right side as it turned and its mouth and one eye, well, they might be fixed in that expression permanently, but it was definitely GRINNING at me!
I don’t know how much dolphins play to the crowd and appreciate an audience and it only had limited spectators that day, but this one was totally enjoying itself, as it swished back under the bridge and out into the middle of the river. I think there were three of them altogether but the others remained mainly in the background until they slowly swam away and disappeared.
When I got home I discovered there is a pod of dolphins living in and around the river, maybe about twenty to thirty of them. But some people have been here all their lives and never seen one so I felt very privileged.
A month or so later I was standing on the water’s edge, checking out a couple of black swans and their two cygnets when a fin again came into my line of vision, moving very slowly and just dipping below the surface, as the water was obviously quite shallow there, so no room for acrobatics.
I wondered if it was the same dolphin I’d spotted by the footbridge, the location was different, but not that far away.
In the local Khasi language, the ‘ph’ sound is pronounced as a soft ‘p’ sound, so it takes a while for students to get accustomed to the ‘f’ sound of ‘ph’. It comes up in early vocabulary in words like ‘phone’, ‘elephant’, ‘dolphin’ and ‘photo’.
This is my third year of slicing and I have so appreciated this community of writers and their encouragement and comments! Even though I live so far away from everyone, I’ve been able to feel connected through the common bonds of writing and teaching. Thanks to all involved and especially to those who organise this every year. It is so worthwhile.
I’m going to close with some more wild orchids from Western Australia (these were exhibits at a show and not in the wild like the last one) and, because Fran Haley mentioned them in her final post, a magnolia that graced our table for a few short days in all its superb finery.