[Earlier in the week I had a great time at Dieck Elementary in Swartz Creek making presentations on Rare and Endangered Animals In Michigan. A couple new folks from Dieck are joining the list and I want to welcome them as well as thank them for a wonderful visit!]

One of the great things about travel is that you get to expand your horizons, strengthening your understanding and experience of the world. While in Hawaii every single day I was exposed to new sights, new sensations, new landscapes, new animals and even new forces on the earth that I had never come across before. Whether I was walking across a crater with steam and sulfur spewing into the sky, or hiking through a rain forest, or watching the dark of night lit up by lava pouring into the ocean or immersing myself in all the vibrant life of a corral reef, it was an incredible thrill! I learned so much and since coming back I continue to learn. I've been reading up on marine biology and some of the animals that I saw and putting much thought into the insights that I've had and how to develop them.

Without a doubt the most incredible interactions that I had were when I was with dolphins. These are amazing animals in a variety of ways. Their strength and grace has to be experienced to be understood. I'm afraid that no still image is going to do them justice, but at least it can freeze a spectacular moment that in reality passes by all to soon. Another dimension to dolphins is their wonderful spirit. This, coupled with their intelligence and an unmistakable feeling of connecting sets them aside from the vast majority of animals that I've worked with.

I'm going to split my dolphin images into two sets of field notes, one with images taken above water and one with images taken in the water. I know that the photos are a feeble glimpse into what I experienced, but I still want to share them. On the bright side I'm already looking forward to returning and doing a better job.

These are spinner dolphins. I read that they are the most acrobatic dolphins in the world. Many times when they leap out of the water they will flip doing a somersault head over tail. But where their name comes from is an incredible ability to leap clear of the water and spin like a top. It is just amazing to watch. I can imagine being able to swim fast enough to leave the water and tumble head over heals... I can do a flip off a diving board so I can at least visualize what to do. But leaving the water and spinning in mid air is so far outside of any motion that I've experienced that I can only barely conceive of it.

I don't claim in the slightest to know a lot about dolphins. I can only tell you what I felt when I was there, and that I'm getting to the point in my life where what I feel is every bit as valid as what I "know" in other ways. What I felt was that when wild dolphins jumped and performed their acrobatics that it was an expression of joy. I think it is entirely entirely possible that there was an element of showmanship or display going on, (whether for us or other dolphins I don't know) but these are not mutually exclusive. I definitely felt that joy, genuinely feeling good, was a big part of the leaping that I saw.

A couple months ago when in Bosque del Apache I felt an electric sensation when 10,000 birds rose up together and passed over me. There were about 100 wild dolphins swimming and leaping near us at one point  and when they jumped I felt my spirit leap, and I felt joy wash over me as well.

We talk, read, watch television and movies about the most horrific things without a second thought, but we hardly ever discuss the most important things in our lives. How often do we share what makes us joyful, what makes us smile uncontrollably? What was really wonderful on this trip was that everyone with me on the boat was feeling the same joy and excitement as the dolphins jumped.

As we started to leave a mother and her baby swam along side of us. The baby was little more than a third of the length of mom. There were no other dolphins near them as they pulled up maybe 20 feet from the boat. One of the charming things about dolphins is that they clearly have an interest in us, just as we are fascinated by them. One of my fondest memories of that boat trip is of that little baby, leaping again and again, flipping head over tail, right next to us. Some experiences are too fleeting and important to let a camera get in the way. I never even pulled my camera up, but the image is captured in my mind. I can also remember that as we motored on and the two dolphins peeled away I heard someone behind me thanking the dolphins.

Charles St. Charles III

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