The secret of the sea

My cousin Chris took this photo of his son Carlos with Bo, a female dolphin, at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi, August 2014.

My cousin Chris took this photo of his son Carlos with Bo, a female dolphin,
at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi, August 2014.

…my soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The ocean is alluring, but it also can be quite intimidating.  So much of it is unseen, its secrets literally and figuratively unfathomable.  A great many of the creatures who live there can be unappealing or frightening.  Not so with the dolphins and porpoises, who are like friendly ambassadors presenting what looks like a smiling face to take the edge off the mystery.

As mammals who share many of our own traits– playfulness, communication, and a level of intelligence not found in most other sea creatures– dolphins and porpoises are endearing to almost everyone.  I’ve never had the privilege of swimming with one of them, though I know that those who do apparently find the experience totally delightful. Carlos certainly seems to be among them!

Many parents of children with autism and other disabilities believe that dolphin therapy is beneficial for those whose communication with humans is impaired or severely limited.  I can see how it would be therapeutic for almost anyone, as contact with any friendly or playful animal can be.  Just looking at this photo was so therapeutic for me that I simply had to post it here.

Thanks, Carlos and Chris, for sharing your dolphin encounter with us!

One year ago today:

Stimulating loneliness

And speaking of secrets of the sea, Sheila sent me this fabulous photo of her daughter Ashley posing with a local in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina.  Those of us who don’t eat seafood will be happy to know that Ashley released her fishy friend back into the sea whence it came.  Those of  you who do enjoy eating seafood may be thinking, “WHAT??”  😀 😀 😀

Ashley's catch-and-release


  1. Anon E. Moose

    The concept of the secrets of the sea being unfathomable? That’s too cool for school!
    Like the wonder of the firmament – the sky’s the limit.
    Carlos is as delightful in person as this photo suggests. Chris is blessed to have him as a son!

    • Eric, I agree! When Chris sent me this photo I immediately said “that has to be a blog feature!” Maybe one day I’ll be able to meet a dolphin close up…

  2. bobmielke

    Beautiful picture and story today!

    • Thank you, Bob! Coming from someone who has such amazing photos of wildlife, that’s quite a compliment. 🙂 Of course, I can’t take credit for today’s photo…but with such subjects, it’s a bit easier to come up with something beautiful.

  3. LB

    I’m with you … the photo alone is therapy. Friends who have been able to spend time in the water with dolphins talk of the therapeutic benefit, even for those without a medical need.

    • LB, I so hope I am able to experience it for myself one day. Also I’d love to see Matt with one of them! I can just imagine his grin that takes over his entire face.

  4. Rene

    I find the ocean thrilling & intimidating as well. I watched “Jaws” last night (it’s one of the “monster movies” my cable company has on demand for Halloween). Despite the carnage, I found myself longing to go to the beach, and comforted by memories of watching dolphins cavorting at sunset. Maybe I’ll go grade papers there tomorrow!

    • Rene, what a perfect place to grade papers! I think I would be more generous with my grades in such a setting. 😀 Can you believe I have never seen Jaws? I’m glad I didn’t watch it before we lived in Hawaii, where I spent many happy hours in the ocean despite lots of legends about how many sharks were swimming around there with us. The seashore pulls at me like a magnet, despite my anxieties about all its risks.

      • Rene

        “Jaws” came out the summer that my family lived in Cocoa Beach (step-dad worked on the 1st Viking Mission), right across the street (& it was NOT a rich part of town) from the beach. I stayed behind in California to finish 6th grade & didn’t get to see the movie until well after I returned; I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed so many hours in the ocean if I had seen the movie with the rest of the family.

        • Yes, if I ever do watch it, I will probably wait until I have finished my beach visits for the foreseeable future! Which may be now, as I enjoy lolling around and beach-combing more than getting in the water anyway. I’m afraid I would hear that background music playing in my head whenever I got waist-deep in the ocean.

  5. i am SO out of the loop, but glad to have a slice of time for catching up. i was in mississippi last month, though i wasn’t on the gulf coast. that’s a very happy photo! z

    • Z, I was thrilled and more than a little amazed to hear from you on a day when I had been thinking of you and wondering how you were doing — I resolved to go to your online sites as soon as possible and catch up, so it seemed so delightful to see your gravatar when I signed on. I totally sympathize with being out of the loop — I am SO out of touch with so many blogs and people I love — but all of you are close in heart even when we aren’t in touch. What part of Mississippi were you visiting? Jeff and I had just been talking about how we’d like to drive down the Natchez Trace all the way through Mississippi. We’ve never been to that part of the USA and would like to see it. I have a good friend in Lucedale that I hope to visit sooner or later.

  6. Such a lovely post, Julia. Well written with beautiful reflections. I just LOVE the pix. Will be sharing them with my boy in the morning. I hope you and hubby are keeping afloat (pun intended). No obligation to tap in. Take care of yourself first. =)


    • Thanks so much, Diana – I love thinking of Tennyson looking at the photo of Carlos. Something tells me the two of them would get along well. I so appreciate your patience, understanding and connection. In my fantasy life I would be reading your blog for hours each day! Always so much food for thought there. I’m always so glad to see you here!

      • HA ha ha. Don’t know where that patience came from (meaning, why you even thought of the word). There’s been no need of it. =)

        • Thanks, I just feel so SLOW and far behind on everything, with everybody. I appreciate the reassurance.

          • I know the feeling all too well. I am back in January on the likes to visit.

  7. MaryAnn

    What a delightful pair! It would be precious for me to swim w/ dolphins, since they are way up on the list of my favorites! While in Hawai’i, we had the delightful privilege to go on a snorkel tour. Aaron & Amanda were 7 & 6. While we were swimming near the tour boat, a large turtle was playing w/ Amanda’s hair. It swam up, gently tugged her very long, blond locks several times. It is a treasured memory. You know my LOVE of the ocean!
    Matt has been on my mind more lately, praying for him often. Love to “My” Dentons!
    (Missed being here: hope to catch up, soon. Been busy getting Christmas Shoeboxes ready.)

    • Mary Ann, your mention of the Christmas Shoeboxes brought back wonderful memories. I think that first Magi Project was where you and I really connected for life! I love turtles, and what a cute image to hold in mind, of a sea turtle playing with Amanda’s hair. It must have looked fascinating to him, maybe unlike anything he had ever seen before. (“Is this a MERMAID?” he might have been thinking, at least in my fantasy. 😀 ) Thanks for your prayers for Matt. He always needs them, and I feel quite sure, they always bear fruit in his life. Love to you from all of us!

      • MaryAnn

        Julia, I feel exactly the same joy about our life-long connection that started in serving children around the world! You were so excited & animated. It was a fun time for us!
        We motivated lots of ladies.

        • 🙂 I hope so!

  8. “WHAT??!”

    • Hee-hee, I knew there would be some reader thinking that very thing. That is quite an impressive catch to release!

  9. raynard

    Julia that fish story reminds me of the old movie The incredible Mr Limpet lol. Whle I wanted a dolphin when I was 8 years old and the closest I came was being splashed at Baltimore Aquarium years ago..As The Bobby Darin song Somewhere beyond the sea plays in the background. Followed by the theme song from the TV show Flipper lol

    • Raynard, I love that movie! I am a big fan of Don Knotts. Incidentally I’ve had that Flipper song playing in my head off and on since I saw the photo of Carlos with Bo! It’s funny how much stuff stays with us. It’s like a giant attic or garage inside my brain. Some of it needs to go… 😀

  10. Well Ashley’s a good sport to go fishing and to hoist up the slippery beast for the photo op. All with a lovely manicure I must say. Really cute, and I bet more than a few men would be envious. Like my brother, he’s crazy about fishing. I’m very happy to hear she put it back in it’s home 😀

    A good number of years ago, I did swim with a dolphin. We were on a holiday in Mexico. I actually was very apprehensive and still feel guilty to have been talked into it. I really don’t like the idea of capturing an animal and keeping it in captivity for the entertainment of people. I never go to Sea Worlds or Circus’s either. I think they are very ‘last century’ and we could do well to study them in their natural homes. That’s just me though and I realize many enjoy that activity, so I don’t make judgements. It’s just not for me. I really do love to be on or in the ocean or any body of water. Even a small, crisp creek fills me with calm. I can easily just sit and stare out at water. Watch the birds or watch their reflection on the water as they go by. I always use to worry if I saw a butterfly out on the lake, but I suppose they know what they’re doing. I’d say, “oh hello, please stop for a bit of a rest. The shore’s a ways away”. Silly things. xok

    • Yes, I too thought Ashley looked great to be out on a boat. I can’t remember the last time my nails were painted. I keep meaning to get to it, but it’s a low priority. I can see where it might be a bit sad to see dolphins as a tourist attraction. If I swim with one, I want to go someplace such as where Carlos was, a nonprofit that exists mainly for research and education. I’ve never been to a circus in my life, and have no desire to go to one. Having said that, though, I think there is MUCH more going on at zoos and aquariums and such places than just entertainment. I imagine that most people who become veterinarians, zoologists and marine biologists, not to mention conservationists and other scientist who study animals, probably had some early encounters with one or more animals, that offer a closer look than a child could possibly get in a natural habitat, at least for most animals. I think back on all the so-called “beasts of burden” (horses, donkeys, oxen, camels and so on) who have been basically WORKING for humans through the centuries, enabling progress in various areas (and sometimes even going to war) and compared to them, it seems even the animals at tourist attractions have it easy by comparison. But I am grateful that these animals have been useful to humans, because as crazy as I am about animals, I will always think humans more important. Of course, with a new bovine bioprosthetic valve beating in Matt’s heart for the second time, I would naturally think so. 😀 But now that you come to mention it, the whole bit about being uncomfortable with captive creatures being used for entertainment made me think of all the child performers (whether in sports, movies, TV or whatever) that basically have no choice in what they do, having been strongly encouraged (or even pushed?) by ambitious parents. So many of the child stars went on to have horrible lives! One reason I avoid TV is that reality TV strikes me as just another version of Freak Shows, only in 21st century format…OK Raynard, I REALLY digress here!!! 😀 😀 😀

      • Julia and Boomdee, a friend made the comment to Ashley,”Y’all went to the Outer Banks looking like the Kardashians and returned home looking like the Beverly Hillbillies.” 🙂 Ashley enjoyed your blog and sends a special “thank you” Julia.

        • Sheila, I just love that — if it were my family, we would have gone looking like the Beverly Hillbillies and come back looking like the Three Stooges. I thought Ashley’s photo was great, and I appreciated being able to post it. It brought a note of cheer to what turned out to be a fairly devastating day.

  11. Michael

    Sorry about your day. I can’t imagine.
    Is that fish Ashely is holding a East Coast striper? My son has caught a few of those in the past. I really like fish-especially the barbecued species. Here the hyped up Copper River salmon is going for like 30 dollars a pound which is ridiculous. Emphasis on hyped. The fish has a little higher fat content as it is built for a longer river journey.
    I am not sure if you are watching the world series but Frank Deford today was complaining about the East coast -time differential. He says all games should start no later than 4p.m. East coast time- so One p.m. on the West coast. I guess some people have to work for a living.

    • Hi Michael, I have no idea what kind of fish that is – maybe Sheila will know. I would describe it as “a great big fish.” 😀 I know wild salmon is very popular now and supposedly quite healthy, so I imagine that a lower-fat version would be all the rage. Except, come to think of it, fish fats are supposed to be quite healthy in themselves. In fact, we actually take Omega 3 capsules made of fish oils. I’m not watching the series, though Jeff is, and I’m following it. I am rooting for the Royals since Megan is from Kansas City, and also because it’s been such a long time since they were in the series. I was never a Giants fan, and particularly not when Barry Bonds was playing for them. I’m an Angels fan and behind them, an Oakland A’s fan. My NL team is, of course, the Braves.

      • Sheila

        Julia and Michael, we refer to those fish as red drum, although I often hear them called spottail bass. Call them “good” fried, served with slaw and hush puppies! 🍴☺️

        • I know bass are supposed to be hard to catch. I used to work with a guy who was a member of B.A.S.S. and it was a real point of pride with him. As mentioned, I never cared for the taste it or most other seafood, but I was in the minority growing up! When I was a baby we lived in Hialeah, Florida, and Mama says I loved to eat “shishy” (what I called fish). I must have gotten my fill of it in those days. Although I do love the hush puppies! I could make a meal on them while the rest of you eat the fish and slaw. Iced tea for all!

  12. Michael

    Good point about reality T.V.

    • Of course, I’m not sure how much “reality” there really is in “reality” TV anyway – just look at the “Jon and Kate happy family” fiasco. I know people who know the Duck Dynasty clan, and they are supposedly for real, in terms of how they are portrayed. Not sure about some of the others, though.

  13. Michael

    Actually the Copper River salmon have the higher fat content. They need the added fat for their very long journey up the river- it is a fair ways up- very faarr.

    • That makes sense. No wonder they are trendy as a food source. Speaking of needing fat for the journey, I need to get walking…

  14. Michael

    OK-. A little joke for the beginning of fall.
    Q. What do you call two straight days of rain in SEattle?
    A. A weekend.

    • Hee-hee, 😀 – I suggest a Texas and/or California version: a miracle.

      • Sheila

        Good ones, Michael and Julia. ☺️👏 See what I’d miss if I didn’t read the comments, Eric! 👍

        • Sheila, we are just full of it here, hee-hee. Take that any way you want. 😉

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