Thursday, 30 July 2015

Scouting for Dolphins

A heron beak-feeds its paltry catch of fish to a dolphin stranded in shallow waters.
I know what you will think; you will think that sentence must be wrong. I've got my wires crossed or that I suffer from some form of dyslexic size-ism, for surely everyone knows a dolphin's mass is considerably larger than that of a heron, and that a heron would never consent to such a belittling task. It's unimaginable! Unthinkable! Well, apparently not for I conceived of it and I've seen evidence of it too with my very own bespectacled eyes!
It came to me first in a dream – the idea and the image - whereby I paid it no heed other than thinking I had a most unusual imagination of Lewis Carroll proportions. In other planes of existence, I often dream the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely: English-speaking British Blue cats whom I hold regular conversations with on London buses; boarding pirate ships that traverse the night sky like rockets; and finding washed-up chests of bottled imps, all of whom stubbornly refuse to grant either good or evil. So you see, it wasn't extraordinary for me to dream of such a thing as recurring reveries of this nature are quite common.
Except this time the picture stuck in my inner mind as it reeked of deja vu, stank to high heaven of repeated familiarity, which oddly made me feel like the white stick that candy floss is wrapped around: numb to all sensations, dead to irrelevant sensory information. The outer world muffled, and my head, apart from that probed spot, packed with cotton wool; the one functioning blob switched on like a Christmas tree light or as if it had been struck with a lit match, the sugar its soaked in set aflame. Neutrality is never an option at this combustible point.
My attempts to remain impartial were in vain, and believe me, I tried to forget, but the huge heron of my dream was haunting...I even tried to dream of it again, but could not, and yet its image loomed large in my wakeful mind, hovered over everything like how a Phoenix might rise from ashes. I could not grasp from whence it had come from as I did not believe my mind could own such a vision – it must have been planted- and therefore I must discover the reason it had chosen me.
But where to start?
The heron was not like any I had ever seen. No natural history book contained the likes of its image nor did the museum. Its feathers were a dazzling multitude of ocean blues and seaweed greens and its scale was in-between an emu and a pterodactyl; appearing peacock-like, but with extra height and far less plumage. Yet none of my research quite matched what I'd beheld and I found no archived reports of any herons – average-sized or super-sized - feeding dolphins, in fact quite the reverse, but then dolphins are known to have a generous spirit, whereas it's rare for birds to feel duty-bound to a water-based mammal.
Having made little progress in the ordinary book-learning, fact-finding way, I decided that my next course of action would be to head to the coast, and as luck would have it I had already planned a trip to Bournemouth some months ago which seemed as good a starting place as any, especially as any decision on my part would have only resulted in further delay.
So off I set like a modern day Dick Whittington only travelling in the opposite direction and not on foot, but by train with more luggage than was necessary: an overfilled beige handbag and a half-empty, yet surprisingly heavy dark grey holdall.
On arrival, my first port of call was the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum who I'd heard were exhibiting a William de Morgan collection; this chap I was very much interested in and it was there among his artefacts housed on the lower ground that I found exactly what I'd seen: a tile design that precisely captured my dream and which I took as further proof of the heron's existence for how could two unrelated persons with many years in-between share the same vision? Held before my eyes I comprehended its symbolism as an enlightened Freud might have done: the dolphin is I and the towering heron is a guide.

Picture Credit: Heron and Dolphin, William de Morgan, 19th-20th Century