Monday, August 25, 2008

Vacation Chronicles : Dolphin Love

I swam with the dolphins last week. We were at a state beach north of Santa Barbara when we saw them. From the beach we could see schools of mackerel in the water shining like Christmas lights . To the dolphins it must have seemed like the all you can eat buffet at Ponderosa Steak House.

A 10 year old girl was the first one to go in the water. She dove through the waves without hesitation and began to swim out. The dolphins were fast and hard to track and her parents kept trying to point her in the right direction. She gave up and headed to shore.

I am turning 40 next week and so I was the next one in. I am not a particularly good swimmer but wanted to see if I could get close to the dolphins.

I swam and swam and did not seem to be making any progress. The girl came back in the water and we tried to direct each other to where we thought they were. And then they were almost on top of us. Three of them together. The girl and I both let out the same sound. It was like a cross between a gasp and a laugh and a shout. We saw them again a few more times just for a second as they came up to breathe and look at us.

Earlier in the week a couple Hispanic housecleaners stopped in front of our cabin and looked in. I asked them in Spanish if everything was ok. They said yes and then assuming I spoke Spanish, they asked me what seemed like a multipart question delivered at an accelerated pace. Instead of admitting I had no idea what they were saying I just nodded and smiled. I chose to believe the question they were asking wasn't something like, "Do you know there is a gas leak in the cabin and it is about to explode?", But rather a benevolent inquiry into our over all comfort.

And so it was with the dolphins. I got the feeling they were trying to tell me something in the water. I got the feeling they were saying it was going to be ok. That the long night was going to end and we would all be alright.

(I am no tree hugger. I would water board every last spotted owl on the planet without regret or remorse if it meant protecting one of my children. That does not make me father of the year or particularly human. Every slug parent would do the same for his slug offspring.)

Then out of nowhere the lifeguard was next to us on his board trailing a life buoy. He looked like a younger more sober version of David Hasselhoff. The first thing I asked him was if my wife sent him out here. He said the dolphins might get territorial and we should come in. I was dead tired and that buoy looked like a giant floating Lazy Boy.

Honestly I was not sure which was worse. To die by drowning or embarrassment. I was not going to be towed in so I slogged all the way back dizzy and crashed on our towel while the 10 year old ran off to play Frisbee.


Jonathan Canlas said...

i too would resort to waterboarding...

man i love your blog.

Eating Dust said...

I grew up just north of that state park and i miss the dolphins.

Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

The crew at the State Park is still talking about the incident ... Dolphins are common occurrance but the manatee from Oakland was a rare siting.


Eboni said...

Wow.... vacation trip with dolphins, how exciting.

Laura said...

Excellent story, excellent writing, and barely any typos or misspellings! I'm impressed. I have never swam (swum?) with dolphins but would love to have the chance, although I'm a terrible swimmer too so it might be hard to do.