Chasing Dolphins - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

Semper discentes—always learning together.
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Chasing Dolphins

Hello and happy Sunday! We hope you are having a lovely summer. How is it already the last week of July??? Today we are excited to announce that we will be bringing on a new blog curator for the 2021/2022 school year. You will get to officially meet her when she introduces herself in an upcoming post. So be on the lookout.

Today, I (Sharon) wanted to write one final, personal post. First, I want to say thank you to all who have been faithful readers, generous providers of content, and supportive commenters. It has been a blast! 

Two years ago when I began as the blog curator, I shared a story from a vacation about an aquatic animal and it seemed only fitting that my last personal post should be another story about an aquatic animal and our family vacation. (You can read that first post here if you so desire.) Enjoy!

A few weeks ago we packed our SUV to the gills and headed south for a week of beach camping at Refugio State Park. We met up with my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece. Not sure how, but my brother, the camping master, managed to snag us the best spots in the camp. Our sites were feet away from the beach and we had an unobstructed view of the ocean. It was rather epic. On the morning of our first full day, we dragged our new kayaks down to the beach, and my husband, 12-year-old son, 15-year-old niece, and I went out on the beautiful ocean. It was our first ocean entry, so we carefully watched the pattern of the waves before heading in and managed to make it past the swell on our first try into a fairly calm sea. On that first trip out we saw a lot of kelp and one lone sea lion that we named Cecil. 

We then spent most of that day chilling on the beach. Late in the afternoon, we saw in the distance the telltale signs of dolphins; fins popping up, sprays of mist, and even a few jumping out of the water. There seemed to be a decent size pod and they weren’t just swimming quickly by, they were playing. Ian, our son asked if he thought we could kayak out to them, and so I nudged my husband to take him out, thinking it was worth a try, but also thinking that they probably wouldn’t get out in time. My brother, who hadn’t been out yet, asked to take the other kayak with his daughter since his kayak was still up at the campsite. 

In their hurry to get out to the dolphins, Dave and Ian didn’t watch the waves as long last time and Ian was tumbled out of the kayak two times before they successfully made it past the swell. But his determination paid off. As I watched from the shore, I felt a pang of envy as I saw them not only make it to where the dolphins were but the dolphins seemed to be playing around them, only a few feet away from their kayaks. No one had a camera, but I can imagine it was pretty incredible. Poor Ian was dunked one more time as a wave knocked the kayak over on their way back in, but I guarantee he’d tell you it was worth it. 

When they returned to shore and told us how close they got to the dolphins, I expressed my disappointment at not having gone out with them. (We did have one more kayak, but it was up at the campsite and I’m not sure there was another willing adult that would have gone out with me.) So I resigned myself to hoping that since it was early in the week, I may have the opportunity to see them up close another day. I could tell that both my husband and son really wanted me to get to experience what they did.

And so my quest to see the dolphins up-close began.

We could watch the shore from our campsite and shortly after my second bowl of oatmeal (camping makes you ravenous) on our second morning, we spotted them. The kayaks were still at our site, so we grabbed all the gear and headed to the shore as quickly as we could. (If I ever need to make a quick escape via kayak, I think I could.) But alas, despite “Motivated Sharon” as Dave called me, they were long gone by the time we made it out and I was really regretting that second bowl of oatmeal. We kept the kayaks ready all day, but those dolphins did not return until after dinner when all the gear was put away and I was freshly showered. We politely asked them to visit the next day between 10:00 & 2:00. However, it was closer to 8:00 when they came the following morning, and Dave and I were not yet dressed for beach activities, but he willingly went with me fully dressed into the water to chase those dolphins who continued to remain elusive. That night, we decided to get out on the water to be ready for them when they came by, but they never showed.

The next day I was dressed and ready for their morning arrival, however, despite being thoroughly prepared, we still didn’t catch them when they came by. We even left the kayak down at the beach until way past sunset that day just in case they made an evening appearance. By Sunday, our last day, I’d pretty much given up and I was focused on packing up our gear when I heard my dad say, “Dave, do those look like dolphins?” Sure enough, they were out there and right in front of our site, which from experience meant that by the time we got out there they’d be long gone. But we had to try. And so I left our stuff strewn outside of our tent and lugged the 80lb kayak down to the beach one last time.

I really wanted to be able to tell you that we made it to them in time, that I took the picture at the start of this post, but no. We got the closest yet as one dolphin seemed to swim just about 30-50 feet in front of us, but his fin was all we saw. 

So why do I share this story with you? Well, aside from it just being fun to tell the story, the experience taught me/reminded me of some life lessons that I thought were worth sharing with you.

What I learned from chasing dolphins:

  1. Dolphins are fast: You can not paddle a kayak as fast as a dolphin can swim, they will win that race every time.
  2. A supportive family is a true gift: My family is quite wonderful as they all supported my endeavor to see the dolphins up-close, especially my husband.
  3. Waves are unpredictable: In the ocean and in life, even when you are cautious and watch the “waves”, you never know when another might surprise you. Although, as my son learned, it is worth it to persevere even when those waves tip you out a few times. 
  4. Carpe Diem: If you know one Latin phrase, it is probably this one. And it kept echoing in my head the entire week – “Seize the day”. I missed the opportunity to see the dolphins up-close because I wasn’t willing to get that 3rd kayak on that first day. (I just might have made it out in time.) And even though I seized the moments that came after, I couldn’t get that one back.
  5. Make the best of it: Despite never making it close to the dolphins, I enjoyed some lovely kayaking dates with my husband, learned a lot about kayaking in the ocean, and got some excellent exercise.

Whatever you are chasing, remember to look around you, watch the waves, and plan, but know that no plans are perfect, unexpected waves will come and knock you down, but get back up. Enjoy the journey and carpe diem

Semper Discentes,

Sharon Cumberland


6 thoughts on “Chasing Dolphins”

  1. I love it all, Sharon. What a neat story and great lessons. Thank you for all you’ve done these last two years to keep us in the know, educated, and entertained. I bet it was a LOT of work. We appreciate you so much!

  2. Pamela R Bleisch

    Sequere delphinos! (Pursue the dolphins!) Thank you for sharing this beautiful vignette. We are all so grateful for all your hard work on the beautiful and imaginative blog posts over the past years.

  3. Sharon! Thank you for the wonderful story. I love that we never fully know how life will end up and taking away these lessons is what is important. Great story.

    Thank you for bringing this blog to life with such great bonus material to enhance our community. You are really great at it.

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