Spellbinding Monotony: Postcard from Provincetown

There are two main fishing wharves in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, and they extend more than 1,000 feet out into the harbor from the municipal parking lot. The distance between them is about 400 feet. The parking lot bulkhead links them, and together they form three sides of a rectangle open to the sea.

One day two dolphins showed up between the wharves. Whales and dolphins are common in waters off Cape Cod, but rarely are these animals seen so close to shore in the town’s harbor. The dolphins were swimming side-by-side in a counter-clockwise circle (or more precisely, a rectangular circle) between the two wharves. On each circuit they came close to the bulkhead along the edge of the parking lot.

The pace was slow, and periodically the dolphin on the outside of the circle would begin to sink. The other then dove down beneath it, and with its nose raised the sinking animal back to the surface. Clearly the outside animal was sick or wounded, and the other was keeping it from drowning. The chosen location for this medical emergency suggested we and our constructs posed less of a danger than their natural habitat.

Everyone in town made frequent visits to the harbor to monitor the spellbinding monotony. This magnificent example of non-human intelligence and compassion played out for three days and nights, and then the dolphins were gone. We all assumed it was a successful treatment and recovery.


by Richard LeBlond


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Richard LeBlond is a retired biologist living in North Carolina. His essays and photographs have appeared in numerous U.S. and international journals, including Montreal Review, Redux, Compose, New Theory, Lowestoft Chronicle, Concis, and Still Point Arts Quarterly. His work has been nominated for “Best American Travel Writing” and “Best of the Net.”


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