Saturday, December 18, 2010

Life Changing

I was a Cove Guardian for a few days in December. After watching The Cove, I had to go. I really can’t describe the feeling. I’ve never had it before. I’m glad I followed it. I met some amazing people, was introduced to a new culture and saw some horrible things.

(Photo by Rupert Imhoff)
It was an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with these people. Many countries were represented: USA, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Australia, and France. The dolphins have no nationality but so many think the dolphins belong to them. Even those of us that think they should swim free feel an ownership or duty that we need to protect them from others claiming ownership.

After a beautiful train ride, I joined the four guardians already at the cove. Photos

On my second day at the cove, we visited the fish market and watched a banger boat race to rescue a capsized skiff. It was a good day for the dolphins and a bad day for the fishermen. Photos

Day three brought a large pod of nearly 100 dolphins to the fishermen. The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming as I watched the well orchestrated maneuvers of the banger boats. Occasionally, a puff of black smoke is released and you know that the pod is on the run. But, the boats are too fast and the technique of the fishermen is too well practiced. The day is pretty well explained in these photos. That night, Martyn and I returned to the cove to sit with the surviving dolphins. I was hoping just to meditate while listening to them breath. It was then I realized how important these beings are to these fishermen. Security was tight and noisy. Not a place for a quiet vigil.

The next day, we arrived at the cove before sunrise. Floodlights replaced the feeble flashlights from the night before. I’m sure they thought a black ops team was going to release the captive dolphins. There is so much potential for this to be a beautiful place but then, before sunrise, the killers returned to the cove and the ugliness returned. Once the gutting barge was in place, we moved to the hill above it. Watching the blood poor into the pacific, I wondered how this was different from beef or chicken processing. I wonder if those places will let me take photos of their process. Photos

On my fifth day in Taiji, we passed the gutting barge docked near the road and stopped for some close-up photos. The boats were out and it looked like they might have something on the horizon but after awhile, they all raced in. We learned that some dolphins were transferred to a truck while we were watching the boats on the horizon. I can’t help but think the fishing boats were a decoy. If I go back, on days that the boats are out, I’ll stay in town to keep an eye on the evil that happens there. When we got down the hill, they were working on the gutting barge. We moved in without a plan other than to get some photos.

My last day at the cove, was a quiet one, a dolphin free one. We went to the Dolphin Hotel so Andy could see the pens. I saw these on my first day but the pain I felt seeing them this day was intense. I know how they get here and what happens to the ones that don’t make it this far. Photos

I left Kii-Katsuura for the Buddhist mountain village of Koyasan. I put my iPod on shuffle and the first song that came on, as the train passed Taiji Town Station, was One Wing by Wilco.

We once belonged to a bird
We cast a shadow on this world
You were a blessing, and I was a curse
I did my best not to make things worse
For you

One wing will never ever fly, dear
Neither yours nor mine, I fear
We can only wave goodbye

To me, this song now represents our relation to the planet, to our relationship with dolphins specifically. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to hear it again without tearing up.

It took four trains and a bus to get me to Koyasan. I was a little concerned about the train connections until I realized that I just needed to get off at the time my on itinerary. The Japanese are that precise. At the Koyasan information center, I was able to find a room in a temple. I drug my suitcase down the street and turned into the temple 15 minutes later. I got goose bumps over my whole body. It was nice to feel that kind of energy after the week I’d had. I was given the tour and shown my room in half understood Japanglish. At precisely 5:30 pm two men came to my room and escorted me to dinner. I was taken to a private rice paper walled room. There were four trays of food laid out in front of a cushion on the floor. I asked and was reassured that it was all for me. The care and compassion I felt as I ate, was overwhelming. The next morning I went to the meditation. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The room was ornate and freezing. A monk motioned to the mat. I sat. After about five minutes of chanting one of the five monks moved in front of the room and was talking in Japanese as the rest kept chanting. Next to the monk in front was a box of scrolls and a sign, 3000 yen. The monk approached me and placed a knotted string on my wrist, tapped in three times and said happiness. FINALLY! I found happiness. I was shown 3 little places to pray and how to add incense to the hot sand. Each had a place for money. My 15 minute meditation was over and my two men were waiting outside to escort me to breakfast. Breakfast was in a bigger room with only three trays of food. I was joined by a young German family and a monk. After touring the graves in the snow, I checked out of my room and started my journey home. Photos

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