The Painted Smile

I have a forty-year love affair with dolphins.  I am not sure how it started — I became enamored when I was about 12, long before they were as hip as they are now.  I had dreams about swimming with them; many of the same dreams over and over; their undulating shapes moving around me, silhouetted in the spangled light from above.

In 1986, National Geographic magazine published an article about dolphins which included a graphic aerial shot of a bloodied cove in Japan, where fishermen where murdering hundreds of them.  This was long before the film, “The Cove” exposed the practice.

I’ve never seen, “The Cove” and I probably won’t.  I’m afraid the images would stay with me, like my dreams have.  I’ve seen a few photos and that’s bad enough.  I don’t understand this need to murder, even through tradition.  The killing of dolphins is such a bloody, wet, messy business.  Even if I weren’t in love, I think if that were my occupation, I would be looking for some other line of work.
It’s time now for the annual roundup in Taiji, Japan, and every day, families of dolphins are being herded into the cove where they are trapped and slaughtered.  Their bodies are taken away for meat; and a few remaining ones are kept alive to be sold to marine parks.  The captive dolphins are starved and taught to perform tricks in order to earn the nourishment: Dead fish, which is not natural to them.  They have to learn to eat it.  Many of these dolphins do not survive long in captivity.
We are surrounded by greed and the disregard for what should be considered sacred.  I have trouble understanding how anyone can bulldoze an ancient forest or stick a knife into the throat of a dolphin — or a person, for that matter.  Today a video surfaced of a group of terrorists, all wearing masks, marching 21 Egyptians along a shoreline and cutting their heads off.  The sea runs red again today, in various parts of the world.
I think of some lyrics to a John Denver song.
“There are those who would deal in the darkness of life,
There are those who would tear down the sun.
And most men are ruthless, but some will still weep
When the gifts we were given are gone.”
It’s true — I believe there really exist “those who would tear down the sun”.  People destroy themselves as well as those around them.   And those who, “deal in the darkness of life” are best handled by shedding light on them.  The Taiji fishermen don’t want to be found out.  They have been practicing their tradition of butchery for generations.  But now that there’s a film, things will change for them.  Dolphins are a vastly sympathetic cause and the protests are rampant.  The marine parks will suffer attendance now that the sad source of the public entertainment is known.
The crazies in the Middle East — well, that’s another story.  They share videos so they have an audience, but they wear masks.  Their cowardice is blatant.  But they are making so many worldwide enemies now with their indiscriminate hatred and murder that they are becoming a universal target.
Sometimes the sadness in the world can be overwhelming.  I have been resurrecting dolphins with my art, celebrating them as they should be; colorful, surrounded by family members, and always smiling.  I think, to that end, each of us can make a difference.  Concentrate on what is beautiful and right.  Shun all those who are greedy, toxic and hurtful.  Put forth positive energy.  We must keep our minds on what is good.  Even one small gesture of beauty, generosity, or gratitude can help to change a life.  Then the rest can follow.

About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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