Today I was blessed.
Expectations can mould you more than you mould them. All you can do is be open to possibilities. Arriving at Slaidin beach, a daily event, how could I have expected that this day would stand apart from, free itself from the mingle of countless others? What is in a day?
Today I was to swim out to the dolphin alone. A new angle presented itself. Yet it was a prospect that I neither relished, nor which daunted me – it was simply different. Take it or leave it, it seemed that kind of a day. Faltering momentarily, I took the opportunity. Keep yourself open. Despite the neutrality of my mood, I nonetheless found myself steadily kicking out into the swell. I was interested to see what would happen – if anything. I wasn’t expecting anything. Expectations and aspirations are different things, however. Ever since I began swimming with the dolphin, I’ve harboured hopes.
On entering the watery arena, our traditional field of play, I found the image of an eagerly advancing dolphin breaking through my fog of doubt. This was a dolphin in a playful mood. So I met him – there was only me for him to meet – and a standard spinning session ensued. All predictable enough, yet lovely enough. Then, as his circles grew larger he broke away. We had interacted and in itself it was enough. However, would he return?
The dolphin headed in to the shore, perhaps checking for more potential players, then away, out to the mouth of the harbour, surfing a wave. He breached, allowing the length of his body to hang over the surface, rather than shooting upwards into the air. Then he twisted in mid-air, slapping the water with his weight in a sideways landing. The sight instilled a sense of excitement. I responded, slapping with my fin. Was this a dolphin who wanted more action? On the shore, Nick began unpacking his own fins, maybe he would join me after all. I now watched as the dolphin cruised along the headland, his stealthy outline dark against the pale sunlight. He blew forcefully, purposefully, perhaps signaling once more, then slipped beneath the surface. The mist he left suspended in the air shimmered. The invitation lost appeal, however, as the heavens opened and the dolphin had vanished.
I was left alone. Still, it was no matter to be left in my moment of serenity. The rain cascaded down and I lifted my face up towards it, welcoming it. Rain on sea, element meeting like element, scattering glassy shapes across the surface. It was neither blue, nor green, nor grey, yet somehow all of them.
Then Nick’s holler rang out, loaded. I knew this sound, its meaning indicated the presence of the dolphin and now this time it suggested more than his mere presence. What was going through the dolphin’s mind at this stage? Was he feeling that just because there was no-one else out there, he would tackle me? Or had he chosen to wrench me from my ordinary day because he wanted to? He had the control.
He was storming in to me, bounding over the water as he approached. I turned and swam directly into his path, urging myself on. Head on. Looking him in the face like that has only happened rarely to me. One on one, you and me, Fungie.
I was over him and plunged my board into his wake. Then he launched himself , soaring into the air. I must have been a sight, astonished eyes, mouth falling open in disbelief. Without seeing him, sensing the presence of him, suspended in mid-air over me. Sublime. I don’t know how many times he leapt. All I could see was white dolphin, white water. Sharing a simple celebration of being alive. I dreamt that. Then he was back for another skirmish, playing out scenes I had so often watched him enact with others. Chaotic frenzy, salt spray flying. His lithe body streaking by, fluid lines, perfect aquatic design. I was drawn along by his motion in the water, feeling the sheer power of him. The dark shape of him was shadowy in the water beneath me. Rearing, we exchanged glances.
Nothing else mattered. Leaning back onto the water, a blissful sigh, staring up at the sky, now a reassuring powder blue. Yes, there really was a rainbow, its full arc stretching over the beach, cloaked by slate-grey cloud.
There was to be no more swimming, I made for the shore. In the surf, a wave picked me up and flung me sprawling onto the beach, only to break over me, full of sand. Laughing and gasping, I was inwardly glowing. It wasn’t quite the same person that the water delivered back to the land as left it. Fungie, you enchanting creature, you great mad fish…thankyou.
What is in a day? A lifetime is formed from so many of them, yet every life is punctuated by the memories of certain days, etched into the very essence of whoever carries them.
Some days are blessed.