Kakahi the dolphin was not like the other dolphins. He did not enjoy swimming with the crowd, splashing in the waves, and having water fights with the other dolphins. He would much rather be exploring the ocean floor, looking for interesting rocks and shells and making new discoveries. The other dolphins thought Kakahi was quite boring because he didn’t want to play but would go on and on about silly little things he found. Kakahi thought the other dolphins were quite boring because they didn’t know anything about the creatures that lived at the bottom of the ocean but only wanted to do the same silly games day after day. Needless to say, Kakahi spent a lot of time alone.

One day, when Kakahi was swimming along the ocean floor, hunting for rare animal specimens, he saw something glowing red a little ways ahead. Curious as always, he swam forward to investigate. He noticed that the water around him was getting warmer and warmer the closer he got to the glow. It wasn’t until the water was uncomfortably hot that he noticed that the glow was slowly inching toward him. There was only one thing it could be: lava! Kakahi was terrified. He backed away as the lava slowly rose toward him. The water was getting warmer all the time. Suddenly, Kakahi realized something. Escaping lava was probably the beginning of a bigger eruption. If an underwater volcano erupted, all the animals in the area would be in danger. Kakahi had to go warn the other dolphins. They were playing up at the surface and wouldn’t have any idea of their danger until it was too late. Beginning to panic, Kakahi turned and swam upward as fast as he could.

It took him a little while to find the other dolphins. He didn’t know where all their favorite places were to play, since he never played with them. Finally, though, he saw some spraying in the distance and headed toward it. When he reached the other dolphins, he was quite tired, but he tried his best to explain quickly.

“Down, on the ocean floor, lava!” he panted. “There’s lava. It’s rising. We have to get far away. Fast.”

The other dolphins just stared. “Kakahi,” said one. “We don’t care about your ocean floor discoveries. They’re boring.”

“No!,” said Kakahi. “It’s lava. Lava! Like a volcano. We’re in danger.”

The word volcano got their attention. A few of the dolphins began to look nervous, but most of the others didn’t believe him.

“There’s no volcano around here! You probably saw some kind of glowing eel or something and thought it was lava.”

“I know what glowing eels look like!” said Kakahi. “I have eight of them in my collection. This is lava. The water is getting hot.”

They were still unconvinced.

“Come yourselves, then,” said Kakahi. “I’ll show you. But we have to be quick. There may not be much time.”

Some of the dolphins still didn’t want to come and look. They didn’t know Kakahi very well and just thought he was a weirdo doing some weirdo thing again. But most of the dolphins were concerned enough to at least check it out. They followed Kakahi down toward the bottom of the ocean. It didn’t take long before the water was noticeably warmer. The dolphins swam a little faster. Pretty soon they could see the glow of the lava. The whole group stopped and stared for a minute. Then they turned together and began to swim away.

No one laughed at Kakahi any more. They began to ask him questions about how fast he thought it was rising.

“We need to head east,” said one of the older dolphins. “There is a sheltered cove near an island that I know. It’s quite far away. It should be far enough to be safe.”

The dolphins all agreed and began to swim east. They swam very fast. They could all feel the water warming and a tremor beginning far below. The farther they went and the faster they swam, the more Kakahi began to fall behind. He was not used to swimming so quickly. Because he didn’t play games with the other dolphins, he didn’t have as much practice jumping among the waves, and he was often knocked back. He began to get very tired. The other dolphins tried to encourage him, but he was just not as quick and strong as they were.

They were just out of range when they all heard a tremendous explosion behind them. A giant wave welled up and swept across the ocean toward them. The other dolphins knew just what to do and rode to the top of the wave and back down as it rushed past, but Kakahi was so exhausted that he could barely stay afloat. The wave grabbed at him and carried him at top speed toward the island in the distance. He was sure it would slam him onto the beach, but there was nothing he could do. Just when he had about given up hope, he felt something come up underneath him. Several of the strongest dolphins had fought their way over to him and were lifting him up with their own noses. With them to guide him, Kakahi was just barely able to drift sideways and down away from the main force of the wave. The other dolphins joined them, and they all watched as the tremendous tidal wave crashed over the island. For a moment, everything was chaotic and then it was strangely quiet. Without speaking, the dolphins swam into the cove where the water was littered with tree branches but otherwise calm. They had made it. They were safe.

The dolphins stayed a long time living near that island, and things were quite different. Many of the dolphins now took time to go exploring on the ocean floor with Kakahi, learning about the things in their world and keeping watch for dangers. Kakahi, in his turn, often went and played with the other dolphins, practicing to become a strong swimmer and jumper and finding that it was much more fun than he had thought.

Gramma at the beach

There is nothing quite like smelling the salt air, seeing the seagulls soaring overhead, hearing the waves crashing on the beach and feeling the cool, wet sand squishing beneath your feet!! Add to that the adventure of hunting for special shells and rocks, digging holes or building castles in the sand, trying to jump through or ride on the waves…and you’ve just described a perfect beach afternoon!

When I was growing up, going to Oceanside or Moonlight Beach was about my favorite place ever. We did not get to go on many trips or vacations, but on a beautiful, summer day, it was a real treat to go to the ocean for the afternoon…and then we would usually have supper there too. Now supper at the beach was part of the experience. We would take quite a bit of wood – so we could build a large fire in the cement ring on the sand. We would wrap potatoes and corn-on-the-cob in foil and put them down in the coals of the fire. Somehow my daddy always knew just how long they needed to cook. While they were baking – we’d get out some hotdogs or hamburgers and grill them as well. Yum, what a meal…and of course, it was always sprinkled with sand that blew in from somewhere…I guess it made things taste better! Then when we’d eaten our fill, out would come the marshmallows. We’d put 2 of those big white fluffy puffs on a roasting stick and get as close to the fire as we dared and roast and toast them until they were golden brown. Now here’s a funny story…I always liked to let my marshmallows catch on fire and get pretty black before I’d eat them. Well, one time, I guess I didn’t blow on it enough – and I put the marshmallow in my mouth and it still had fire in it…I sure didn’t waste anytime spitting that out…and from then on I was much more careful about how I toasted my marshmallows!!

The other thing we would do at the beach was gather sea weed (called kelp) and put it in large silver tubs to take home to put on our garden. Kelp is slippery and looks like long ropes that have leaves on them…It also has these cool bulbs that you could step on and POP!

When the moon was full, sometimes we would go to the beach at night to hunt grunion. Grunion are tiny little silver fish that wash up onto the sand to lay their eggs. They are also good to eat. We’d have our flashlights to shine on the waves, waiting to see them coming in on the high tide. You had to be fast to grab them before they would wash back out to sea on the following waves. It was great fun!! Just being at the beach in the dark was exciting…everything sounded and looked different just by firelight.

Oh – how I enjoy the ocean…It calms and soothes me and I have many happy memories of being there!!

Papa and the Shark

I learned how to swim really well when I was 7 years old…and I LOVED IT ! Sometimes in the swimming pool, sometimes at the beach, but I would spend hours and hours enjoying swimming. My favorite place to swim was at a beach called the “Army/Navy” beach, when we lived in Puerto Rico. (That’s an island in the Caribbean Sea. Look it up on a map.)

It was at that beach that I also learned how to snorkel. The is a way to swim around on top of the water with your face looking down. I would wear a mask so I could see under water just like I can in the open air every day. I could keep looking down without raising my head up to breath because I also wore a snorkel. (That’s like a long tube you put into your mouth that sticks up out of the water through which you can breath). I also wore flippers on my feet that would allow me to paddle very fast and move me through the water.

I really loved to snorkel. When swimming in shallow water I could touch the bottom with my hands where I would run them under the sand looking for sand dollars (These are round creatures in a hard shell that live just under the sand.)

Sometimes I would gather up many sand dollars, put them in a bucket back on the beach and take them home. (Until one day when the sand dollars I took home all died and they began to stink and my mom told me I couldn’t bring any more of them home.)

There are so many beautiful and exciting things to see under the water! There are all kinds of fish, each with different shapes and colors. There are many different kinds of crabs that crawl around on the bottom. Sometimes I could even see little tiny sea horses too.

One of the more interesting kind of creature looked and felt just like rocks! They are called coral and they can form hard rock-like structures under water.

And then there was different kinds of plants that grow under water with different shapes and colors.

So you can see why I liked swimming at the beach so much and snorkeling too. It was a whole different world down there. Every time I would go I would have a hard time making myself quit swimming and go back to the beach, and then home again. But there was one time I didn’t have any trouble at all getting out of the water. It was the day I came face to face with a ten foot long shark !

I was swimming and snorkeling along just like I always did, but I lost track of time and the direction in which I was going. I just kept swimming and swimming, looking down and around at all the beautiful and interesting creatures. Suddenly I noticed that the bottom was getting farther and farther away from me. That meant that I was moving away from the beach instead of toward it! About that time I looked up ahead of me and there right in front was a great big metal net with iron bars blocking my way.

But what was one the other side of the net is what really caught my attention. There, not more than twenty feet in front of me was a ten foot long hammerhead shark !

Boy, did I turn around and swim as fast as I could to the beach !

I got out of the water and told my mom and dad about the big shark, but I was so out of breath and excited I could hardly talk. But they told me not to worry because that was what they had put the net in the water for. It was to keep all the sharks and barracudas away from the people swimming.

Well, I can tell you, I still loved to swim and snorkel, and I still went to the beach and did all the fun things I always did. But it took me quite awhile before I would let myself swim out close to the shark net again. In fact, I’m not sure I ever did after that.

Through the Mist

Once upon a time there was a lonely island, shrouded in mist, and a very young girl lived there all alone. She did not know how she came to be there.  She did not know why she was alone.  She did not even know that she should wonder about these things.  She only knew that palm fronds made the most comfortable bed, that the tide pools were the easiest place to catch fish, and that the fruit from the treetops was delicious but would make you sick if you ate too much at once.  She called the water “shisha” because that was the noise it made; she called the cave where she went when it rained “emmma” because that was how she felt when she sat there; and she called herself Claire, but if there was a reason for that name she did not know what it was.

Claire was not sad or afraid all alone on the island, but every evening as the sun was sinking into the mist, she would walk along the shore and feel the waves lapping at her toes and the mist softly touching her face and the heaviness in her heart that she did not understand.  It was at just this time of day that she found the first dream.   Floating up out of the mist, it bumped to a stop on the sand at her feet.  It was about the size of her two hands put together, half filled with water, hard like a rock, but she could see right through it.  Something about the curvy shape and the perfect circle at the top fascinated her.  When the last rays of the sun caught it and made it sparkle, she could not look away.  She had never seen anything like it before, but she knew it was a dream because it felt just like the things she saw when she was asleep.

After that first time, Claire found many more dreams.  Some were large, like the heavy box that she could not lift, and some were very small, like the tiny pink circle she found buried in the sand.   (That one was no bigger than her baby finger and had two tiny holes in the center.)  Some were colorful, like the flat picture of the setting sun, and some were dull, like the floppy gray tube.  Some were useful, like the long strands knotted together to form a perfect web for catching fish, and some had no use that she could see, like the soft brown hollow hand.  (What use was a hand without an arm to move it?)  But all of the dreams were fascinating and wonderful.  Claire gathered them all in the cave she called emmma and each had its own special place.  Even if she took one out to use it for carrying water or catching fish, she would always lovingly return it each evening.  Claire spent many happy hours sitting in her cave and looking with wonder at all her dreams.  Her favorite was one of the smallest.  It was a circle about the size of her hand.  One side was a dull green color, but the other side…the other side was magic.  It showed a tiny reflection of her face, just like her face in the creek but perfectly clear and still.  Claire never got tired of holding that dream in her hand and studying the girl who looked out of it.

From the day that Claire found that very first sparkling dream, the pattern of her days was changed.  She still walked the misty shores each evening and watched the sun slowly dissolve into darkness, but now instead of a heaviness in her chest, she felt a faint thrill, never knowing when a new dream might come floating up to meet her.  And each night she spread her palm fronds in the shelter of the cave and fell asleep surrounded by a world of treasures.

And then one day the ship came.

Claire did not see it, anchored among the waves and shrouded in clouds, but for the first time ever, she heard the voices of men on the shore.  Drawn by a curiosity that knew no reason for fear, she left her breakfast and went to investigate the sound.  On the beach, she saw a small boat and two men securing it on the sand.  By this time, Claire was so used to magical gifts appearing through the mist that she did not even feel the shock you would imagine.

The men, on the other hand, were quite surprised.  Their ship had been damaged in a storm and they had wandered some time in the mist and clouds before hearing the waves breaking on this island.  These two had come to shore only to find fresh water for the crew and some trees for repairs to the ship.  The last thing they expected to find was a girl, all alone and apparently unable to speak.

They were good men, the Captain and his first mate, but they did not know what to do.  At first they offered her some of the bread from their food bag, but she just smiled and did not eat.  The Captain tried to ask her who she was and how she got there, but she just smiled and said nothing.  Then the first mate took out a coil of rope, and the girl’s face lit up.  Pointing first to the rope and then toward the cliffs behind her, she danced around, laughing.  The Captain and his first mate couldn’t help but smile to see her.  But she clearly wanted something more than just to dance.  When nothing else worked, she grabbed the Captain’s hand and tugged him toward the cliffs.  Finally understanding, the men followed her.

When the Captain and the first mate saw Claire’s cave of treasures, they did not know what to say.  Bits of cast off trash sat everywhere.  An empty bottle held small pieces of broken glass.  A child’s button rested in the palm of a worn leather glove.  A ragged fishing net was draped over some rocks.  Each piece was nothing more than rubbish, but somehow the whole was something beautiful.  And most beautiful of all was the face of the girl who had created it, glowing with pride to show her collection of dreams to her new friends.

Using her hands to show her meaning, Claire asked the men if they had come from the same magical land as her dreams.  They showed her their boat and said that they had come from the other side of the water.  Claire’s face showed the Captain plainly that she imagined the world outside her walls of mist as a place of beautiful enchantment.  That night, he sat up all through the darkest hours and thought about what he should do.  He had intended, of course, to take her back to the civilized world.  But that was before he had seen her dream cave.  He thought of her in a place where the beauty of dreams was lost in a dull reality, where wonderful things were thrown away as worthless.

And so it was that when Claire woke up the next morning and left her cave, she found the beach empty and the boat gone.  No traces were left of her friends from the day before except for a coil of rope lying on the beach.  Claire picked up the rope and smiled as she felt it slide through her fingers.  She did not feel disappointed that her friends were gone.  She accepted that some things come and go with the tides.  If the magic on the other side of the mist had sent her friends once, it might do so again.  And if not, there would be other dreams.  Claire carried the rope back to her cave and added it to her collection.

And it may have been, though this story does not tell, that some time later in the fall of the year a small boat parted the clouds and a young captain landed alone on the island alone with nothing but a chest full of dreams to start a new life.