July 18th, 2015

Jumping Dolphin

‘What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously.’ ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

While motoring into Booker Lagoon, a serene clover-leafed cove surrounded by pine-covered hills, Bill, my husband, and I carefully navigated through a narrow s-shaped passageway that opened into a delightful bay. Entering the wide expanse we were immediately greeted by a lone dolphin playfully darting through the water. He edged up to our boat at a safe distance, curious what we were up to as we maneuvered to drop our anchor. One other vessel shared the lagoon with us, the owners puttering around in their dingy near a rock outcropping close to shore trolling for fish. Our exuberant friend moved in their direction and appeared swimming behind their dingy, his sleek, shiny back arcing through the water as he took a breath of air then disappearing beneath the surface with a splash. His presence was a nuisance to the fisherman and his wife, chasing the potential catch away.

Out of the blue, the dolphin did something spectacular. He jumped completely out of the water and did a flip, not just once but ten times, skipping across the lagoon as if needing to celebrate the shear delight of being alive. As I watched our “flipper” frolic in the water I found my own joy and delight bubble to the surface, a huge grin plastered across my face. I was completely immersed in the moment. It reminded me of an insight the artist and writer, Christine Painter, had while on a retreat at Die Quelle in Austria, “Drink freely of the life you have been given…don’t hold back, surrender to the one, brilliant, beautiful, and unique experience of being who you are in this moment of time.”

The dolphin embodied this idea of wild abandon with an ease and grace I envied. Watching him have fun, or at least that’s what it appeared like to me, I was reminded of how good it feels to laugh and smile. Apparently, when a person smiles the parasympathetic gland is triggered which is a natural relaxant for the body, so if nothing else, play has physiological benefits. In my experience, there is something delightful about allowing space for serendipity and play – it feeds my soul in a way nothing else can. From this lighter place I am more creative, my mind opens to unexplored possibilities, and like my dolphin friend, I experience the joy of simply being alive where nothing is required of me other than to drink freely of the life I’ve been given. No wonder Thomas Merton thought play was something God took so seriously.

Questions: What does “play” mean to you? Did you have a playroom when you were a child? What would your playroom be like now?

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