The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

On A Personal Note

For the past year we planned. For the last two weeks, we’ve traveled across the country. Finally yesterday, we reached the Florida Keys, the location of a Dolphin encounter especially for our son. It was the highlight and purpose of our trip. We didn’t know entirely what to expect, whether he’d be overwhelmed and want to bail out, or if weather or other factors might get in the way… all sorts of possible spoilers lurked in my worrying mind. My wife and I talked as we traveled, and were prepared to just accept it, should something come up.

Beyond Dustan having a good time however, it never occurred to me there might be something deeper to experience for me. But, with my son beside me, when together our hands passed over that smooth, rubbery body and Santini the Dolphin looked up at me with that curious, expressive eye from out of her underwater world, I felt as though a master painter had added a subtle, finishing stroke to bring extraordinarily disparate experiences together to create a picture of such harmonious clarity of purpose it nearly overwhelmed me.

To explain, we have to go back to 1981.

My chosen major in College was Biology, specifically Marine Biology. Factors unrelated to the world of Science pushed and pulled me away from that goal, leading eventually to an accidental career as a submarine sonarman. My profession’s motto, as expressed in the US Navy Sonar School creed, was “Sagire, Classis, Destructum” – “Search, Classify, Destroy”. And I was a pretty good Sonarman.

But as fate would have it, a big part of my work was differentiating between enemy threats and the natural underwater world required knowing more than a little about sea creatures. And dolphins are ubiquitous in the sea. Over the years in and out of ports around the world, in remote corners of the deep, in wild storms and the tedious boredom of calm, the songs of dolphins were a near-constant companion. I’m not the first sailor to romanticize this relationship, nor will I be the last. I learned to recognize the call patterns of pods close to my home port, and when I heard them, I listened in private bliss while they seemed to welcome us home with their boisterous, untamed songs of joy at simply being.

At first I envied their dedication to “simply being”. As I learned more about them, that envy became by stages a yearning, an understanding, and eventually a deep respect for the philosophy their example described.

But that was decades ago. I settled into post- Navy terrestrial life, and left the singing of dolphins for others to hear.

Until today.

Being this close to these socialized dolphins, hearing them call and chitter, occasionally breaking out into exuberant squeals, I was transported back 30 years to my sonar shack. And then, in touching and being touched by one of them, actually being in their presence, I was drawn out through the pressure hull of my mind that always kept us apart. I was set free of the cage that had always protected me, from the weight of duties that had demanded – always demanded – a part of my attention. For a moment, all the walls were down, all the shields up, while an emissary of their world met with me, and we exchanged an understanding of gratitude in each other’s existence.

And when the moment passed, and I had a little time to reflect, I realized that the best times in human life come when we can share in equal measure gratitude for each other’s existence.


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One Response to “On A Personal Note”

  1. submarinesister1 says:

    Great writing re dolphins. Late brother CO USS SALMON 573 during the Vietnam War. Later, Tomahawk missile testing/development, successful launches submarines, “targets.”

    Thank you for YOUR service!

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