In 2010, eighteen months after my husband died, I longed for relief from constant sorrow, so joined three friends for an adventure to Gasparilla Island, Florida. Instead of sunshine and warmth, we faced unusually cold, cloudy weather, a little too much like home in Western New York. The wind off the Gulf pierced my winter coat and deflated hope.
I tried to hide my despair. I tried not to cry so I wouldn’t ruin the vacation for my friends. Everything felt wrong, especially me. I was the worst of travel companions.
At my lowest point, one woman suggested we ignore the weather and drive to the end of the island to the state shore. The parking lot was empty and so was the beach. I pulled my hood over my face, eyes squinted, looking down to avoid blowing sand. My friend walked ahead, so I followed, turned in on myself, sunk in despair.
And then she shrieked.
I lifted my eyes and saw her jumping and pointing to the churning sea.
Dolphins by the hundreds, breaching, leaping, entering the bay.
Arched glimpses of bliss before disappearing under the gray sea.
Then more and more, reaching for light and diving deep again.
We squealed and jumped and hugged.
Together in a waking dream.
Tears rolled down my cheeks.
The cold wind didn’t matter now.
We watched for 15 minutes, or was it an hour?
Then the dolphins vanished like a fading vision.
The sea was cold and gray again.
But I’d seen them. I’d felt hope.
Watch life, those dolphins said.
Joy can surface any time.
Unexpected beauty or delight. A loving hug. A flash of glimmering light.
The delight of play was possible. Even close.
Ecstasy breaching wild rough waves.
My friends loved me patiently until my armor melted. I tested them, even though I hadn’t wanted to, but we made it through, closer than ever and still close and trusting ten years later. What a gift it is to have friends who stay during the hardest times. Have you had experiences like this and has the joy remained and the friendship survived?
Thanks to Lisa Baechtle for offering use of her dolphin painting for this blog. You can see and purchase Lisa’s inspiring paints and cards at her website. You can also find a wide variety of products from clothing to home decor using her images at Fine Art America. I recommend an article by Robert Moss called “I Can’t Remember My Dreams.” He reminds us that we can have dream-like, symbolically important experiences like mine in waking life, too. For other blogs about our need for friendship, see A Healing Ritual in a Sweetgrass Bowl: Self Care for Surgery or Remember What You Love: Deep Friendship and Thriving Plants.