Excited, Manaaki swims fast, flips her strong tail, digs hard into the water, and accelerates The humming noisemaker is coming! She and little sister Anahera tear through the brown water toward the thrumming, pulsating buzz. They surface, blow and inhale, draw a bead on the tubby white boat making its way up the river ahead of them. Laughing, they race to catch its wave.
In its passage, the boat pulls water from below and curls it forward in splashy foam at the bow. Manaaki and Anahera dive below the boat, roll over and rush under the big white hull. Their bodies ripple and they position themselves precisely in the barrel of the wave. A powerful flip of their tails and they shoot forward, zoom ahead of the boat. Laughter peals from above. People line the rail of the boat, point, and gesture at them.
Anahera rolls to one side, her white belly flashes under the brown water and her deep brown eyes lock on mine.
Me: Why do you swim with us dolphin, what are you doing down there? Catching a free ride?
Anahera: What are you doing up there old man – on that buzzing steel boat – out here where you don’t belong? Catching a free ride?
Manaaki arches her back, surfaces inches ahead of the bow, exhales a rainbow of air and water, gulps a fresh breath. Her back is grey-blue, mottled red, pink and green reflecting the bright sunshine. Her blowhole is black, her skin smooth, her motion fluid. She glitters; athletic, and magnificent.
She lives under a ceiling – capped by the surface, her infinity lies below. She doesn’t know what it is to be land bound and surrounded by infinite sky. She has no sense of smell, cannot know the perfume of a flower, the dusky smell of dirt. She never sleeps or stops; shuts down one half of her brain to nap, while the other half keeps her moving, swimming, alert. She sees sound. Her echolocation creates a visual map of sound in her mind. What does her image of sound look like? Are there colors? Does red have a sound?
She must think to breathe. To come to the surface, expel air and water and inhale is not automatic for her. She is always mindful of her breath. Pranayama is her natural breathing.
The two dolphins zoom at the front of the boat – zig-zagging in close formation, bumping and pushing – playing with the bow wave thrown by the boat. They surface and breath, dive and carve a perfect path mere inches from the boat. They contort their bodies in fantastic curves, go airborne, dive deep. Sometimes, just the tip of their dorsal fin extends above the water, trailing a small, feathery wake of its own.
They rise to the surface once more and are gone.
I turn from the rail, smile – fill my lungs with salty fresh air. The marsh grass is golden, the water royal blue, the wind warm, the sky immense. An eagle and osprey wheel together far overhead. The passengers disburse about the boat, chatting quietly, happy.
There is much to learn from dolphins. Business, politics, religion, and war mean nothing to them. Time, money and work mean nothing to them. Boldly, without hubbub or ruckus, they surf energy waves in a soul-fix dance that lures us into the future, one beautiful moment at a time.