We are lost, driving along through spacious cattle estates, the grass and widely scattered trees lying flat as a rug. Estelle is driving and is sure the Lion Park Safari is somewhere nearby. It's not on her map. She drives slowly, trying to remember the turn off to take from the main highway running west from Sydney. Other cars sizzle past us as we loaf along in confusion.
Freddy is in the back seat and I sit on the passenger side holding the map, my arm resting on the edge of the window.
I can feel the absence of Sea in the dry terrestrial air and the musty green smell of the interior. I worry the feeling in my mind, sense Sea's absence as something more than the smell and dryness. I can feel Sea like a massive being 40 kilometers east of us. It's been years and years since either Freddy or I have been so far from Sea. I remember the year I spent at Grinnell College in Iowa. That was the first time I felt this feeling, this absence of Sea.
"Can you feel how far away Sea is?" I turn my head to ask Freddy. She nods but doesn't say anything. She does not like Estelle, who bubbles and shakes with constant enthusiasm. Estelle has on her authentic "We are One" T-shirts and the rainbow painted on it jiggles as she talks and talks and talks and talks. She is short and plump with black hair and a pixy face.
Estelle, in a 1000 word per minute monologue, is giving us her life history. She used to be a Public Relations Woman for a large firm here in Sydney before she saw the light of Peace and Love. She had a Simply Wonderful experience one day when, sitting alone atop an overlook, filled with sorrow, she looked out to sea and saw a school of dolphins. The dolphins were so carefree and so beautiful that all at once she longed to be like them. Like a miracle they entered her heart and took her spirit to them, freeing her of hate and fear, filling her with joy and freedom and love. She quit her job and became "the Rainbow Lady." Her logo is the dolphin and the rainbow. Hence her interest in the Simply Living Dolphin Cult, and Stewart's concerns.
"This is a damn funny place to look for dolphins," Freddy grumbles into a brief lull in Estelle's revelations. Her voice is unfriendly but her observation is quite correct. These cow pastures, so far from Sea, are indeed a very odd place to come to look for dolphins. Estelle arranged for us to come out to see the dolphins kept at the Lion Park Safari. They should not be busy today and will allow me to take some underwater close-up photos of dolphins in a dolphinarium for the book.
We drove out of Sydney, heading west through downtown, into the industrial area, out through miles of used car lots, out into the suburbs, out into the pasture land, farther and farther away from the sea.....
"There! Look at that car," Freddy exclaims. I shake myself out of the trance induced by the slow driving, fast talking and the deficiency of Sea. A Jeep, painted with black and white stripes like a zebra, pelts past us and, as it passes, we see the Lion Park Safari logo on its door. Estelle follows it, a bit close, like a shark following a black and white pilot fish. The Jeep turns off the highway onto a small farming road and Estelle is hot on its tail, giggling and jiggling and talking twice as fast, her mouth linked to her foot on the accelerator.
Our pilot fish turns into a wooded area, down a dirt and gravel path and emerges into a large dusty parking lot. We have arrived. Thankfully, I climb out of the car and stretch my legs.
This is the Lion Park Safari: an office, gift shop, small restaurant, all looking a bit shabby in the sharp Australian sun. Adjacent to the big dirt parking lot is a circular area enclosed by a 10 foot high cyclone fence. It has blue-painted plywood wired to it, preventing anyone from seeing what is inside. A billboard rises above the Mystery Fence with a crudely painted cartoon dolphin on it, the words FLIPPY in yellow and red carnival font, and a basketball hoop.
Estelle chipmunks towards the narrow gate in the compound fence while Freddy and I stand side by side just looking at the place, a sense of shock and wrongness fills both of us. We follow Estelle; numbly pass through the unattended gate. A sign says we should pay $4.50 each for the privilege of entering but there is nobody to collect the money.
Just inside I stop, rooted to the spot.
Senses note: a round swimming pool, 12 meters in diameter, blue flecked peeling paint, concrete apron glaring white in the mid-day sun. Four dark grey forms hovering motionless in the artificial sea water.
A glistening domed head at my feet rises from the water, tilts and reveals a dolphin eye, looking directly into my soul.
My mind screams. The eye is clouded and red with sores around it. I sense disease and despair. A depth of misery lightnings down the synapses of my mind and crushes my heart.
All else fades away but the eye and the despair. A direct, powerful, unequivocal interspecies telepathic communication washes through me. The dolphins plead:
"Oh Man! Hear Me! We are Sea. Hear Me, Hear Me, We are Sea. We long to feel/see/taste/hear Sea around and within our soul. We long to be free within our greater self, to move with joy and abandon and power, to soar from the Womb of Life and burst through the silvered breast of Sea high into the air and fall back into ourselves wreathed in silver bubbles.
"We are contrails of Sea's life, threads of awareness in Sea's vast being, We long to be with our own kind singing, calling, laughing, leaping....."
"Hear Me! We Are SEA! We are SEA!" says the soul through the eye slashing my spirit.
I surface to find myself on the cement skirt standing next to Freddy, looking at a pathetically ill dolphin in a square pool about 2 meters on a side. An iron grate separates the small pool from the 12 meter swimming pool. Three more dolphins hover motionless in the larger pool. They are also watching us.
Estelle bounds over to where we are standing with a tall, very well built girl in tow. In the stunned silence of my soul I look into the woman's eyes and see tensions and stresses covered by a veneer of professional friendliness. Estelle, ever in euphoria, wonderfuls, "Genene is the dolphin trainer, she says it's perfectly OK for you to get into the water with your camera gear but to move slowly and not bother the dolphins because they can get excited with someone they don't know if you move too fast but it should be ok," and on and on.
"What's wrong with this dolphin?" I ask Genene, pointing to the dolphin at our feet.
"Oh, nothing," she shrugs. "Once and awhile its necessary to separate them. This one bit one of the other dolphins on the tail. We punish them by putting them in this holding area and not letting them join the show. They love to perform, you see."
Putting the camera gear together gets my mind back in working order. I strip to a bathing suit and enter the water. It's warm and sticky feeling. The dolphins swim round and round the small pool, moving lethargically. Underwater, the contrast between the dolphins in this cement pool and the wild dolphins who visited Freddy and I in Nothing Atoll, makes me want to cry.
My mind sees the wild dolphins in their complex social array swimming with vigor and life through the coral escarpments while my eyes see the dolphins hovering lethargically in the cement habitat of Man so far from Sea. The sickness and wrongness transforms the happy circus atmosphere into a shabby, gruesome, horrible perversion.
I take some shots and climb out of the pool, dry off and dress. We find Genene preparing dead fish in a hot, filthy little side building, popping pills into the cold fish mouths. She explains the pills are vitamins to pep up the dolphins. She shows us the rest of the `dolphinarium' compound protected by the cyclone fence and plywood. It contains a small pond with cement ledges for some sea lions - also performers. The sea lions cavort back and forth in their compound. I don't get the same message of acute distress from them.
But the Penguins renew the sickness in my heart. They are in a tiny area fenced with chicken wire and topped with a corrugated iron roof. The heat radiates from the pen. It reeks with fishy guano. The penguins stand moribund, their feathers molting and ugly, the heat killing them. Freddy is also smoldering but says simply, "That's mean."
A group of people straggles in through the gate and sits on the bleachers. They look at the dolphins, drink sodas and eat potato chips from the snack-bar, and talk with each other.
Genene starts the show. The sea lions and dolphins do their horn blowing and ball tossing. Genene moves on to the dolphin show. She is picturesque bending over to shake hands with a dolphin. The men of the audience have their eyes glued on her skin tight white short-shorts while the women and children watch the star.
Skippy circles down to the bottom of the 3 meter deep pool and then snaps high into the air to soar through a hoop held in Genene's hand. I look at the faces in the audience and listen to the easy, professional circus patter about how happy the dolphins are. How the Genene loves them and how the trainer/dolphin association is one of love and compassion. I've heard this before, in San Diego's Sea World, in the Miami Dolphinarium, in the Florida Keys.
The audience is limply absorbed in the jumping dolphins. A small boy and his sister sit just in front of me. He is trying to get a can of soda from her. The can catches my eye. It's a popular lemon/lime drink called "Solo": the name I chose for the dolphin in my book. The two children pay no attention as Skippy leaps into the air again. The can of solo has their full attention. The boy hits out at the girl and the can goes rolling down the steps spilling its fizzy sugar water onto the cement. Spinning Solo....Solo....Solo into my eyes.
The whole scene rolls over and over in my mind. How many times have I sat and watched dolphins in dolphinaria? How many dolphins are held captive in places like this: leaping into their circus acts three times a day for the pleasure of hominid audiences?
People love to see and be close to dolphins because they are so beautiful, because they emit an aura of freedom and joy. Yet to be close to them, to enjoy their beauty, people capture them, place them in little containers, and force them to leap and tail walk and nod their heads and cackle for their daily food.
The audience, the show, the "trainer" who "adores" her dolphins, becomes - in my mind - a grotesque Hominid perversion. My mind begins to catalogue and ask questions.
How many dolphins die when people try to collect them for dolphinaria?
What is the average life expectancy of dolphins in places like this?
What sorts of diseases do they get from being put into little pools like this: creatures evolved to swim and swim and swim for miles each day?
Hominids are fooled by permanently fixed dolphin smiles, by dolphin grace and beauty, into seeing happy animals. This foolishness is fostered by their keepers.
"The dolphins love to perform," Genene loud speakers in time to my thoughts. She's probably right, the performances are the only diversion from an otherwise uneventful, boring, limited existence.
We can not imagine how rich and varied dolphin lives are in Sea: the wealth of life and the banquet of sensations their minds feast upon each second of every day. Sea's depth and majesty echo all around them. Imagine the sensory deprivation of being removed from the fullness of Sea and placed in a tiny little cement hole where the only echoes are their own voices reflected from the blue peeling paint.
The show is over and people get up to go see the lions out in the fields, leaving candy wrappers and drink cans scattered about the bleachers like human guano.
The show is over for me forever. Dolphinaria are gross and terrible. They are a blasphemy of Sea. The dolphin's plea echoes around my skull as I follow the Rainbow Lady's bouncing-ball-like form down the stairs and out into the dusty parking lot.
Peter the Dolphin Prophet featured in Simply Living, the one with a regular telepathic contact with the mind of the dolphins, lives near Waragamba Dam. Estelle drives us over to his house to meet him. As we drive, I begin to talk about my feelings. I talk about the dolphin's plea for freedom. Estelle and Freddy take an immediate interest.
"Let's get them out of there," Freddy leans forward, "Let's set them free!"
"Let's do it," agrees Estelle, happily. "Are we going to steal them?"
"Maybe we don't have to. The guy who started the Lion Park Safari was obviously aware that circus lions should not be kept in cages all the time. Surely he can see the same concept is true for the dolphins." I suggest.
Estelle rounds a curve in the road. We are now climbing into the hilly area far to the west of Sydney. "The owner grew up in his family's circus, he felt sorry for the lions and started the lion parks. They've made him a lot of money over the years. I think he owns two or three of them."
"We should approach him with the idea of a huge publicity project," I suggest. "He sees the light and decides to free the dolphins or maybe release them into a dolphin park in a sea-side bay where they are free to come and entertain or leave if they want to."
Estelle, sees her role as PR Lady coming to full dolphinesque stature with the scheme.
We arrive at Peter's place, a woodsy-style house set in the hilly forests. Peter is not home but we talk to his wife and children and I leave a copy of the manuscript of Dolphin for Peter to read. Their home is a page out of Mother Earth News or Simply Living. His wife is charming.
As we drive off, headed back to Sydney, Estelle begins a monologue on Peter. "He was an executive in an advertising agency in Sydney and did very well, indeed, on a number of big projects." (Another PR person, I think, curious how so many PR people are into this dolphin cult business here in Sydney) "He got fired because he helped a dope smuggler escape from the police and decided to lead a more simplistic life in the woods. Well, once the hurried, mad rat race of the fast lane in advertising was gone he began to receive telepathic messages from the dolphins. They revealed a global plan to turn mankind from his savage ways and lead us towards peace, harmony, and oneness."
"Not much different from my vision, really," Estelle muses, "Except Peter is in direct mental contact with the dolphins every day. How good is that? Huh? The dolphins dictated plans and Peter has written them down and drawn up visuals of the dolphin's concept. This includes a dolphin park, complete with a giant golden dolphin building, museum of whaling, library, and all kinds of things. You'll have to ask him to look at the drawings but they are really something to see, a place to honor the dolphin mind and come to meditate and commune with them but only in an abstract way as the dolphins, themselves would not be kept there."
"Why don't I drive for awhile, Estelle," I offer as she miraculously stays on the road around a mountain bend.
We zoom past the exit to the Lion Park Safari. Freddy is in the passenger seat. Estelle is "renewing her energies" in the back seat. "You know," I say to Freddy, "It's odd Peter, who lives so close to those dolphins, has never received the really shocking mental projection I got today. If there was ever a dolphin mind sending messages to the hominids its those four dolphins in that swimming pool so far from Sea."
"Maybe that's what he has been listening to but not what he's been hearing." Freddy wisely suggests.
My mind's eye forms a graphic satelite view of the coast of New South Wales with Sydney on the intricate shoreline of Port Jackson and the plains to the west rising into the tablelands. At the foot of the rise I see a tiny blue dot. Concentric rings representing mind waves from the imprisoned dolphins move outward like waves from a stone dropped into still waters. They pass over the human population centers. Peter's house is, in the graphic image, close to the epicenter and must be getting a powerful blast of mental energy.
Suppose he really was getting an urgent mental plea from the dolphins at the lion park. His public relations mind would filter the plea and the result would be whatever his training and experience lead him to: a grand public relations campaign complete with little golden dolphin lapel pins, architect plans for a monster dolphin building and park, and a new religious cult centered on delphinia love of freedom.
Estelle also got the dolphin message and formed the "We are One" movement: another group dedicated towards rainbowed freedom from fear, joy and oneness. And all the while the dolphins in the lion park scream into the mind of man, sending messages of their desire for their actual freedom and their desperate need to be one with Sea again.
The hominids receive the message and twist it to fit their own data-display system. They distort the real plea into symbolic drives of "freedom and oneness."
My more rational self joins this mental conversation with the realization that the whole population of Sydney gets regular nightly doses of actual (not imagined) communications from the dolphins at the Lion Park Safari. Their TV advertisement shows images of the dolphins in the little pool. Maybe the hominids see the Lion Park Safari Advertisement and, in their deeper minds, know there is something wrong with the picture of clown-dolphins in a swimming pool. The Circus Patter fools their conscious minds, but larger minds see the TV adds as perverse. The deeper mind feels the need to have dolphins wild in the sea. People in the advertising business, like Estelle and Peter, would be more likely to view the advertisement professionally and thus see the underlying perversion of the images.
My mental graphic image now is much more reasonable with TV waves, not mental energy waves, saturating the minds of the hominids of Sydney. Yes, that explains the whole fantastic dolphin cult business here in Sydney. Very neat and tidy. I grin to myself, the phychic detective solves another mystery. Grotty TV adds of a disgusting hominid perversion unhinges borderline PR gurus.
Ahead, the fields of cow pastures turn into fields of used cars with colored flags and brilliantly lit signs. I drive mechanically. Abruptly, my mind is startled awake with a shocking revelation. What about me?
I, too, felt drawn here to Sydney. Pulled by some unknown delphinic force. But I had never heard of the dolphins at the Lion Park Safari or seen any of their TV advertisements. In the Daintree River, aboard Moira, guided by the I Ching, I felt compelled to write a book about....A dolphin called Solo who is freed from a dolphinarium to return to Sea and discover its oneness with all life. What about that, huh? How does that fit in? And didn't the I Ching say something about my getting involved with a war?