Do Dolphins Dream?

I’ve met a human who has become important to me. He sits at the end of a long wooden dock in his metal chair on wheels. He comes every morning and waits for me. Unless something important has come up for me, such as another dolphin in distress, which I am physically incapable of ignoring, since their calls of danger penetrate my entire being, I am there too. I know it interests you very much, but I don’t know how to communicate with you my inability to ignore the distress calls from my family in a way that you can relate to your own experience.

Of course, I am talking about you, Peter, the man who can communicate to me without speaking and who can hear me without my having to utter any sound. This is rare in my experience, although not at all unusual among my dolphin family.

These conversations with you, the only human I know with whom I am able to have this kind of communication, gives me great comfort. And the fact that you are writing it down and plan to share it with other humans, gives me hope. Unlike you, living on the land, I cannot escape my life here in the ocean, where human behavior is causing great harm.

Yesterday, when I was closer to the wooden planks on which you sit looking down at me, you asked me a question. You asked me if I dream. Before I answer that let me say something else.

I wish you would come out on one of your boats or, even better, come into the water with me so that we could see eye-to-eye. You say that your power wheelchair, which you need in order to feel like a complete person, prohibits that. I accept your situation, but I hope you realize that, as the water moves down, as it will until the moon is full again, it’s harder and harder to hear you.

You are typing away on your lap tray as if a wave were carrying you toward the rocks but you pivot just in time before it crashes down. I love that–almost as much as when the ocean has risen to the level of the pier on which you sit. But I am afraid for both of us when you roll to the very edge, in order to bend towards me. Then I remember when you once hit a lever and your chair lurched forward. I would not have been able to save you. That’s why I wish you would unbuckle the strap you have across your stomach, so that if you did fall I could save you. You could then float out of your chair as it plunged into the depths, and I could carry you to shore.

I’m still thinking about your question, because I can ponder one thing while talking about something completely different. It’s the same feature that allows me to sleep while one half of my brain remains alert. Without that feature I could never sleep; I would not be able to keep rising to the surface to breath. And like you, I need to breath to remain alive.

The two halves of my brain, work together as I hunt, dive, and communicate, but when my body and mind need to rest, one half of my brain remains awake to keep me alive while the other sleeps deeply. I can dream then in that resting brain, even though I may have to wake up in an instant. In the old days the main threat was from sharks, but now there are plastic nets in which we can become entangled and prevented from rising to the surface. That has happened to some of my family; and I could feel their desperate struggles as if they were my own.

What do you mean you can’t be here for the next moon cycle? What is a hospital? Oh, I see.

It makes me very sad that you are sick. I’ll wait for that moon cycle, but not with my family.

There was a great iron ship that my family was investigating. I held back because you had warned me about them and the waves of pain that they send out across the water. When I sensed my family writhing in agony, I dove down until I reached a rocky ledge and hid behind it. I eventually had to breathe and when I rose, they were all gone. I found them on a beach. They couldn’t hear me. I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t lead them to safety and then guide them–until they awoke from the terrible dream that was exploding in their minds.

2 comments to “Do Dolphins Dream?”
  1. I like this object reversal. You allow us to see from the perspective of a thing, we the subject encounter, and automatically overlay it with our interpretive screen. In this imaginative reversal you give voice to the object as another living breathing subject… a communion of subject and object, of me and you. You allow us to penetrate our habitual surface level encounters… a new inclusive perspective is revealed. I appreciate this ‘open’ perspective.

  2. This makes me think of foster as I’m sure you intended. The facility to have a two-sided brain is fascinating. I’m trying to relate it to the human condition. I’m not quite there yet

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