This past weekend our whole family (seven of us) flew to Tortola (BVI) to swim with dolphins.
The island of Tortola was a real flashback to the days Paul, our infant daughter, and I lived in Montserrat (BWI) for nearly a year, forty years ago. Montserrat was, and still is, a British colony of 34 square miles, with 12,000 people in those days, long before the eruption of the Soufrière in 1997 when most people had to leave.
Our life was remarkably minimalist. We were entitled to 88 lb of luggage, most of which were Pampers which lasted just a few weeks. We rented a small house on a hill overlooking a big deserted field. There was staked a big black bull belonging to the island Obea man (witch doctor) and, in a small wooden shack in the middle of the field, a small group of young men created a steel band in a matter of weeks, hammering away their oil drums till they were each tuned and could play together in harmony. In the distance, the Caribbean sea, where we caught a green flash at sunset on the horizon a couple of times.
Our place was sparsely furnished, with no telephone, radio, or TV. No internet, of course. We had a car which only Paul could drive (I had no driver’s license). So I carried our daughter everywhere, first on my stomach and later on my back. I was “D lady wid D baba”…
These were solitary days. I was alone with a small baby for most of the day. I pretty much went through every Charles Dickens book found on the Plymouth library shelves. I read them on our bed, the baby sitting against my stomach. I was saved by a bookstore ran by a couple of German Jews who had emigrated to Boston and then had moved to Montserrat. I discovered Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth there; it changed me forever. Every Tuesday, I could buy the New York Times Sunday edition and follow the development of the Watergate scandal. The Hermans also sold lovely German wines. On the other side of Plymouth, I discovered a store run by a Canadian man who imported Danish cheese. All was well in my world.
Life improved even more after we made friends with young US Peace Corps and British VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteers. Through them, we made local friends and discovered the joys of spending weekends at the beach, drinking rum punch and eating goat water.
All these memories came back on Tortola. The colorful West Indian wooden homes; the lilt in the voices; the expansive sky; the puffy white clouds; the turquoise ocean; the balmy air; the steep small volcanic hills…
Time came to swim with the dolphins. I had been afraid of hurting my back. My son-in-law, however, promised me that nothing bad would happen. The people in charge of the dolphins were prepared to receive each one of us, as we were — with ages ranging from 10 to 70 years old.
I did not do the dorsal swim, where you grab the fin of a dolphin on each side of you. I did not let them push me out of the water with their nose either. But everything else I did, like getting nose to nose with a dolphin or rubbing a baby dolphin on her forehead and listening to her ‘speak to me.’ As we watched the baby dolphins make loops over the water, each one of us looked like a young kid at Christmastime.
I had taken two books and my kindle along. I only used the kindle and read Megs Blackie’s book, Rooted in Love: Integrating Ignatian Spirituality into Daily Life. This was the right book for me, at the right time. Megs recommends to read it slowly, reflect, and write many notes. I am following her suggestion and cannot say a lot about it yet, except that every page brings wonderful concepts and thoughts to go over. At one point, she talks about the image that each one of us carries of Godde, an image which does not always correspond with the infinitely loving Godde we say we believe in. And she asks, “Who is the God that you relate to?”
As I let my mind ponder her question, I came to the conclusion that the love Godde has for me is pretty much as unconditional as I say it is and I hope Godde’s and my relationship is as authentic [Margaret would say ‘honest’] as I think it is. Imagining the Godde I relate to, the image which came to me Saturday was that of a dolphin, gentle, playful, trusting, with very kind eyes, and a presence filling me with wonder and awe.
How much better can this get?