Conversations on Dolphins

I remember the thrill of standing on the fresh prow of a ferry boat crossing the Ionian Sea to Ithaca watching dolphins play in the wake of the boat. I think we only went to Ithaca twice, once to see Uncle Steve and Aunty Helene, and the second time when Uncle Lambros married Aunty Kiki. Both men were Ithacacian.

I don’t remember much about Ithaca.  I remember the family holing up in a fishing hotel that was so dirty we got linen from one of the Aunt’s houses to set clean beds. We survived. Since the departure from Ithaca which in a small way is our own, the journey has been splendid. We may never return there, but the dolphins accompany us safely wherever we travel.

I was walking on the beach yesterday on the East Coast of Africa. It was a still spring morning with mist pushing the waves down to still them. Ships far out to sea were not visible for the sun was above them and the mist. Clean waves rose and broke and then I saw a pod of dolphins swimming south in the ward water. I watched and walked, then stopped.

A wave of water rose with the white layer of mist magnified behind it. The translucent blue was like a blue tanzanite lying on a white skin. In that moment I counted twenty two dolphins, surfing the wave, darting left and right, some cresting. As the barrel broke they peeped above the white foam and regrouped behind the broken wave, to continue swimming south.

Different dolphins connecting a forty year journey.

I wanted to write about the Flying Dolphins in Greece, the hydrofoils that speed between ports not allowing the dolphins to keep up. The word hydrofoil sticks, a mixture of two ancient languages. Hydro for water in Greek and foil for leaf in Latin. A water boat that rises at speed on leaves that act as wings. But there is nothing romantic of Greek about these boats. There were given as gifts by the Russians in the era of great communism, when the PASOK party took power in Greece.

For our wedding from my father’s cousin Panayiotis we received a tapestry of the Dolphins of Knossos, a mosaic dating back 3500 years. Across the sea from our village a French bridge, the Rion-Antirion, takes you to Delphi. The place of the oracle is named after Apollo, who first appeared there in the form of a dolphin. So it has been a long journey.

The socialists were never accepted by my father. He did not ever use a flying dolphin and he never visited the PASOK cafe in the village.

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