Last week a dead dolphin washed ashore, and the high tide picked it up and carried it away.
For the past few days The Dog Walker had been hanging around my tag rock with his pack of dogs instead of venturing further down the beach to his usual spot. When I asked him why, he said, it was the dead dolphin, it was still there on the beach and he pointed to a dark shape in the distance.
Every day in my semi OCD that I choose to call ritualistic way I have to tag my usual rock before heading back, but today I tagged the rock and kept going. “Watch out for the dead dolphin,” he said, “I’ve been trying to get them to get it off the beach for days. It’s stinking up the place and it’s body juices seep into the sand and the dogs just want to roll all over it.” “Okay, I’ll keep Casey by me” I said and continued on my way.
I didn’t smell anything, but maybe it was the direction of the wind. I got closer and closer to the looming carcass but still I didn’t smell a thing. I called Casey to heel, just in case, as we walked past and I noticed that the dolphin seemed unusually long. But it still didn’t smell. Right about then I realized that it wasn’t a stinking carcass of canine delights at all, but a log. A plain old rolled around in the surf log. No smell, no juices, just waterlogged dead wood.
And I thought about all the days that my friend had hovered by the rocks, not going forward, frozen, by something that wasn’t there, but for him it was. The smell was real, the oozing was real, the body was real, and then I thought about how many times I hadn’t gone forward because of something I thought was there.