Dolly’s Gift

Young Dolphin courtesy Flickr Creative Commons some rights reserved, Rob Shaw

The aquarium

We went to the aquarium today
and I had all the same queasiness
I knew I would have
about those big shiny bodies
enduring the strangeness of walls
but I also couldn’t help but see
the way they kissed their trainers
their big whale mouths
so tender against the skulls of men
it wasn’t just obedience
or a ploy for food
they traded their freedom
for love.

Samantha Reynolds –


Lives ago, when I lived in Miami, my sister Becky came for a long-weekend visit. We decided to go to the Miami Seaquarium for the afternoon. I’m the scuba diver, but Becky loves the ocean even more than I do. And when we get together, we love to savor a venue such as the Seaquarium. Becky often says that I’m the only person in her life who is willing to linger before a painting or simply stand and watch fish swimming in a large tank. So this particular day was already special, as we got to spend it together.

The only display that I find difficult to enjoy is the dolphin show and exhibit. Having seen these magnificent creatures in the wild, I have a hard time enjoying their captivity. The inherent intelligence that they display and their lovely, joyous energy somehow makes me sad and happy at the same time when I see them in an enclosed space. But, nonetheless, I  love to see them. So when the announcement came for the dolphin show, we made our way into the arena along with several hundred others.

As we waited for the show to begin, I noticed one of the dolphins circling the tank. She seemed to be checking people out as they arrived. I remember thinking to myself, “She’s watching us…” I could feel her vibration, and as she passed by me I sent her a quick, telepathic “Hello.”

The show started and we watched the trainers and animals go through their routine. Enjoying the jumps, splashes, spins and dives, Becky and I applauded along with the crowd. Then, as the show neared its end, the lead trainer made an announcement: “Dolly loves to bestow gifts on our visitors. Before the show started, she picked one of you to receive a special gift.” At that moment, Dolly came swimming up to the trainer who placed a single white carnation in the dolphin’s mouth.

Dolly circled the tank and, somehow, I knew that she was going to toss that carnation towards me. And that is exactly what she did. The fragrant, white flower landed perfectly in my right hand…