Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Cove

I was encouraged to see the connection between my feature in issue 263 on the Oscar winning documentary ‘The Cove’ and the blog posts of Leah Lemieux. It seems the plight of the Dolphins are once again on the local and global media radar. I remember the first time round. I lived in Ireland for a year in 1997. Part of the journey to the Ring of Kerry was to discover for myself the local folklore of the famous Dingle Bay Dolphin, Funghi. Dolphin mania seemed to be everywhere. This incredible sea creature brought a huge boost in local eco tourism as well as a connection to the natural world that has literally changed the lives of thousands.
As a result of indiscriminate tuna fishing uncovered in the eighties, the general public realised that Dolphins were in need of urgent protection. Public sympathy was sparked. My close friend and producer Tor Cotton made the acclaimed documentary, ‘The Dolphin’s Gift’, about Funghi. The film was a success with a suitably earnest narration by John Hurt.
I worked in the press office of the Environmental Investigation Agency in the early nineties and was honoured to work with the man who got the camera on board the ship where dolphins, inadvertently caught in the tuna fishing nets, were routinely having their fins cut off and thrown back into the sea to die. Gruesomely caught on his undercover camera, the fate of the Dolphin was given massive global media profile and the senseless killings, for the most part, were stopped in their tracks. Dolphin friendly tuna logos on supermarket cans worldwide soon followed.
And so, the cycle has begun again. We find ourselves in a new urgent, dolphin saving time with, among many others, the horrific issues raised in ‘The Cove’.

My experiences swimming with Funghi were not life changing but they had a powerful, lasting effect; as do the stories of those who have looked into his all seeing eye and found themselves changed forever. Swimming In his watery world I was deeply humbled, and a little scared; reminded of my natural place on land and the respect I have, and must have, for the sea. The dolphins power and place in the ocean is without question. So we must protect and respect their right to live fully and freely; as they did for millennia; long before we entered their sacred world and changed it forever.

Caspar Walsh is Film Editor for Resurgence magazine and a wilderness and writing teacher. His new novel, Blood Road is available from Headline.

Friday, 22 October 2010


As we walk through the forest and feel the old year dying around us we can look down and see the seeds of the year to come nestling among the fallen leaves. All must die, but in the heart of death we find life waiting.
A tree that the Celts associated with this time was the elder and the honouring of the elder within ourselves is a beautiful ritual that we share at this time. Working outdoors in a group we decorate a chair with elder. Then we find or make gifts for the others, to represent qualities that we wish to honour in each of them. One by one, we sit in the chair and the robe of the elder is placed upon our shoulders. The others in the group honour us with their gifts and then we are asked to own the qualities that we respect in ourselves.
Regardless of our age we are all elders of our own lives and of the cycle that is closing now. Our elder hood comes not from what we have done but from what we have felt, from the lessons that life has taught us and continues to teach us. In this respect even a child can honour the elder within themselves.
Others too. Honouring is a gift that we can give to even the most dishonoured. In a world that respects only achievement there are many that live with a perpetual sense of shame, disempowerment and failure. But regardless of whether we live in prison, in a mental hospital, in a night shelter or in a care home, we too are eating from the Tree of life and can honour the lessons that we have learned. We too can be honoured by others for the feeling qualities that they see in us. We too can accept the robe of the elder.
Ian Siddons Heginworth is an environmental arts therapist, founder of the Devon-based Wild Things community programme and author of Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life, Spirit’s Rest Books.