This is going to be a sad one. But that’s logical, given that I’m sitting here watching videos and reading updates from Japan that are making me cry.
I’ve been in love with the ocean since I was tiny. Little. The sound of the inhale, the exhale of the waves brings a peace that I’ve not found with anything else. I’ve been in awe in the mountains, took great delight in Paris, I loved well in Berlin, lived here, rested there, but I always find my way back home to the sea.
I decided at some point that I was going to be a marine biologist. I didn’t actually want to be a marine biologist, I wanted to be a mermaid. But school minded logic dictated I needed a career path that was more concrete than wanting to be a mermaid. So I wanted to be the mermaid version of Jacques Cousteau. I wanted to live in the ocean and swim with dolphins and whales and marvel at the worlds within worlds below the surface of the sea. I always thought Hans Christian Anderson’s little mermaid was an idiot, first trading her voice for legs that hurt to walk on and then, even after her sisters all gave their beautiful hair in exchange for a dagger to kill the guy she loved who had recently married someone else so she could get her tail back, she cast herself into the sea and turned into foam, rather than trade his life for the freedom below the waves. Though I guess on one level, she became one with the sea, but on every other, I just thought she was crazy. Seagrass is greener in the other coral reef, I suppose.
When I think of the sea, I think of the most beautiful thing the earth has to offer. When I’m in the water, I don’t think about anything. Seriously, nothing. I have moments when I tango dance, hula hoop or play the piano; thoughts go away and the only thing I’m doing is that. Those moments are brief. The thoughts creep back in, laundry, time, food, work, sleep, distractions abound. In the water, it’s gone. It’s all totally gone. There’s nowhere else to be, there’s nothing else to know. It’s joyful. Pure, unadulterated joy.
But lately, the ocean is for me a place of heartbreak and sadness.
I’ve known of the horror of the dolphin drives for some time. I knew about the Cove movie, I knew I would never be able to watch it without being plunged into a spiral of despair at the shortsighted compassionlessness of the human race. I did end up watching it one night, in a lonely hotel room in Northern Ontario during a blizzard. Curled up in a heap on the floor between the beds, all the bedding pulled down and cocooned in an attempt to shield my tortured and frayed emotional state from too much damage (there would not have been enough blankets in the world for that), trying to keep my eyes open to the horror, to bear witness to the courage of a few souls brave enough to risk persecution so that everyone would know, I determined I must be more proactive. I must do more.
I talked about doing lots. I talked about joining the Sea Shepherds, I signed petitions, I started studying books on maintaining diesel engines to augment the knowledge I already had so I could help that way. I pored over the wish lists they posted, looking for things I could easily afford to contribute if I couldn’t be out there. Because I’m not. I used to get really upset with myself, angry that I’m so easily distracted and haven’t followed through on my plans to change the world. To fix it. To make them understand that what they(the dolphin hunters) are doing (at least in my eyes) is wrong and cruel and needs to stop.
The reality is, at this point I’m kinda glad I’ve had distractions and life moving in unexpected directions that have kept me from leaving the land behind and sailing into a horizon where the sun sets on justice and like minded people working together to fix it(I have very romantic notions of every scenario that has ever been possible). I’m terrified that my heart wouldn’t be able to take it. Or that if I could, I’d be so hardened and fed up with humanity more than I already am, that my retreat from the world would be imminent. Not like I don’t want to live, just I don’t want to live with you. Any of you. I’d retire to the forest and have make friends with squirrels and wombats and have tea parties that don’t include people.
Both very extreme scenarios. But entirely possible. I don’t know that there will ever be a moment when my heart won’t break at the thought of cruelty being visited on beings. All of them. Us. But I don’t know that I’ll stop eating meat any time soon. Is there much hypocrisy there? Of course the ideal is that animal from Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy that has been created to want to be consumed. That’s not happening any time soon. But there is no sense in the slaughter of dolphins and whales for meat. We have poisoned the oceans so much that it has been proven they are toxic to eat.
I’m looking for that middle ground. I’m looking for the place where I feel like I’m doing something (is signing petitions and reposting on fb or twittering enough?) that helps. I watch, I bear witness, I share, I write letters to officials in Japan, I hope, I pray, I dream.
The little girl who wanted nothing more than to trade her pale, awkward legs for the tail and ability to breathe below the surface is still around and terrified that when the distractions abate and she can go swimming, there won’t be anyone left to swim with. Or that the sea will be so polluted and wretched with toxins we won’t be able to swim in it any more.
I’m trying to be reasonable, but my heart is filled to bursting with hate at moments. I don’t want to condemn an entire species for the actions of one small contingency. And it goes well beyond marine mammals. There are cruelties visited upon creatures the world over every day by all different people for all different reasons. But I’m speaking from the point of view of the little girl who just wants to be a mermaid and hang with the most delightful, intelligent creatures she’s ever encountered thus far. Which is not humans, not by a long shot. Though a close second to marine mammals? Definitely chimps. If I can’t work out how to grow a tail, I might just fuck off to Tanzania and go hang out in a tree with some chimpanzees and Jane Goodall.
I don’t want to hate Japan for Taiji, I don’t want to hate anyone. But right this second, I’m having a hard time feeling compassion for people who don’t seem to know what that is. Maybe that’s the point of compassion. If so, I’ve got a hell of a long way to go.
If you want to write letters, here is a page of addresses that might help. There’s even a sample letter on the page. I usually write one that’s filled with vitriol and many many swear words and then write another that gets mailed. The second much gentler, much more polite. I try to write a letter I imagine a dolphin would write, maybe with slightly fewer clicks.