Katherine Fontaine on Free Baby Dolphins


Describe your dolphin experiences.

In February 2011 I was epically heartbroken and wasn't breathing much. I went to visit a person who is one of the soul-mate-baby dolphin-loves-of-my-life. She took me paddle boarding out in the ocean in Malibu. We were in bathing suits in February because that is life in LA. The water was smooth, we were far enough from shore to feel remote, and a group of dolphins started swimming near us. Some baby dolphins were present. They were diving under our boards and on all sides of us. It was one of the few moments I could breathe that year.

Until a month ago, that was the place I went to in my mind to remind myself to breathe.

A month ago I was in the cold ocean a few blocks from my house. It was a magical day where the waves were tiny and the water was smooth. Not many people were out and it was sunny enough to stay warm. I could sit on a board and not even try. I was by myself and eight dolphins came up to me. There were three babies who appeared to be learning to jump out of the water. The big dolphins would leap out of the water so gracefully and the babies would jump straight up and fall back down onto the water. Then the big dolphins would just float for a bit until the baby ones caught up to them and then they would swim together right next to each other touching. One dolphin came out of the water and breathed/snorted water on to my board. That's how close. I was weeping.

When you say the phrase 'free baby dolphins', what do you mean?

I am picturing the scenes I described above when I say that. And dolphins just existing out there as their magical selves. In my mind they are always strong and warm and cozy and exploring. Dolphins are unique in that they choose to breathe. It is a choice for them. They can choose to stop breathing at any time and stop living. (That's what happened to Flipper because he was depressed. See the movie The Cove from 2009.) This is miraculous to me. I wonder if I would have chosen to stop breathing if I could have that easily. The point is dolphins are still breathing. And living in the ocean. And learning to jump. And surfing alongside humans on big floaty boards. Baby dolphins are obviously cute too, because they are so tiny, so that's part of it. But mostly it is about choosing to breathe and knowing I don't know very much and remembering that there are oceans to jump around in. These things feel important to remember because I also remember that prisons exist and corporations and capitalism and drones and people making money off of people being sick. If we don't also remember baby dolphins exist would we all choose to stop breathing? Remembering baby dolphins or being a baby dolphin is the same as staying resilient enough and creative enough to make/be the opposite of prisons.

Describe what you imagine it would feel like to be a free baby dolphin.

I imagine baby dolphins see the ocean in all its magic. They still have faith in and inherently are all the possibility in the world. Which is what I am trying to remember/reclaim: hope and possibility.

Free baby dolphins are the opposite of a coworker telling me ‘oriental languages’ are ugly, they are the opposite of solitary confinement cells, they are the opposite of sending our trash to India, they are the opposite of Michigan's new "rape insurance" law, they are the opposite of FOX news commentator Megyn Kelly clarifying to kids that Santa is white. Those little dolphins just keep on choosing to breathe out there.

P.S. Also, sometimes they make friends with Sperm Whales.


Posted on September 30, 2014 .