Really Dad? Carpe Dolphin


My kids think it is a sacrilege that I have not managed to stay up late enough to wring in the New Year for at least a decade, but I think the whole idea that you need a holiday to get a clean slate once a year is contrived. The concept falsely implies that all of us will be granted another year to change our lives, but this year’s loss of several precious souls has reminded me that our sand slips through the glass more quickly than we think it will. And yet at the end of each year I dutifully jot down a catalogue of resolutions, a sort of a punch list to improve myself as a father, husband, son and boss, as though the very act of writing down these intentions will transform them into reality. Then I compare the previous year’s list to the current resolutions only to realize that many of the items are carried over from year to year, a grim confirmation of my repeated failure.

So this year, I was reluctant to double down on my fresh starts and renewed intentions. I turned in around 10:30pm and was sound asleep at midnight when Michaela burst into the bedroom of our rented home on Cudjoe Key to announce with great exuberance that the calendar had rolled over to 2015. I wish I could report that the first words I uttered in this brand new year were as cheerfully suitable as Michaela’s, but suffice it to say that if I had made my usual list of resolutions, I would have broken one already.

When I awoke in earnest about seven hours later, I stepped out onto the balcony, greeted by a bright sun shimmering across the Florida Straits, not even a whisper of wind wrinkling the glassy bay. I was about to head downstairs for a cup of coffee, then head out for my traditional New Year’s run when I saw a geyser of water about a half a mile offshore. I thought it might be a tarpon rolling until I saw the glistening dorsal fins and tails of at least two dolphins.

Since they seemed to be staying in the same general area, I hopped into a kayak to get a closer look-see, making course corrections every time I saw them break the surface. As I paddled closer, I noticed that there were three of the cetaceans swimming together, periodically thrashing wildly as they dove in the shallow water for fish. The water was only four feet deep so every time they sounded they kicked up a cloud of silt that whitened the aquamarine water. They were so close that they splashed my kayak as I videoed them furiously flipping their fluked tails while they hunted for their breakfast, as though they were doing hand stands. Two of them flashed their enormous white bellies under my kayak, within inches of my feet.

Until that moment when I saw just how fast they were moving in their frenzy to eat, I had planned to slide into the water with them. Instead, I followed them for 45 minutes mesmerized by their grace, speed, power and playfulness. When they disappeared, I would try to guess where they would surface, listening for the puff of vapor they would shoot out of their blowholes which sounded like a snorkel being cleared.

We floated into deeper water where the turquoise-colored water gave way to a darker blue making it easier to discern the shapes of the three dolphins as they zigged and zagged underwater, seemingly becoming more at ease with the 10 foot chunk of plastic tagging along with them. By now I realized that a run was not in the cards this morning, but I didn’t mind. I stowed my camera deciding that instead of trying to capture the moment, I was going to live in it.

And so for the better part of an hour, I communed with these animals, that swam playfully but purposefully, not worrying about how to make themselves better dolphins, or fretting about their shortcomings from the previous year. They were splashing, rollicking, diving, breathing and living each moment as it came. I was an intent student in their classroom learning the art of joie de vivre.

The wind picked up and was blowing me offshore, in the general direction of Cuba, an island I am eager to visit, but not via kayak. It was with the greatest reluctance that I began paddling away from my new friends, back to shore, resolving on this day of resolutions, to live more like the enlightened dolphins, knowing that with each morning we are born again.


Life is like playing the notes on a piano. Some of the notes are high and beautiful, while the flats and sharps in the lower octaves are dark and dissonant, but played together, they can be a masterpiece. Just as darkness defines light so do the minor cords give meaning to the major cords. Each day is a note of its own and each year a piece of our end song. Some years are beautiful songs and will linger forever in your ears. These are songs with notes played on the right side of the piano, the high notes. Other songs from other years will strike the black keys from the lower register, heavy with pain and sadness. And of course, within any year there is always a mixture of all of these notes that makes the song of our lives such a rich melody of experience.

As this year has come to an end, some notes will never be played again: the note of my friendship with my best friend; the note of my family living under one roof (my brother will be off to college next fall); the note of my grandfather’s life. I will always remember him teaching me to read the passage from “Twilight Land”: “There he sat and sat and sat until the sun touched the rim of the ground…” I will always remember the morning drives to school with my brother while we listened to the“shower mix” on 93.7. I will always remember the laughing and playing with my family in our warm house. These are the notes that I would love to hear forever. When I close my eyes I can see them dancing in my head. They have been played, but they will always be a part of my song.

In 2015, I want to make a beautiful song and reach for all of the high notes. I want to live life with no regrets, to love everyone with all my heart, to live each day as though I will not be blessed with another. I want these things because in 2014, I learned that each moment counts. I have realized that you do not always control what notes are played, or when your song will end. I discovered that as much as you want to play the high notes, there must be low notes in your song. However, you can make the best of the notes that are played. Each moment will be a note that contributes to your end song. In 2015 and for the rest of my years, I want my song to be a masterpiece.

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