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Dana the walrus

28 Apr 2024

Dana grew up believing she was a walrus.

Born into the cold arctic, she survived the cold nights huddled up with the other walrus who accepted her as family. She spent her days catching fish and foraging for mollusks.

One afternoon, some humans on a research trip stumbled across Dana. They asked her why she lived out in the inhospitable arctic with the walrus. Somehow, recalling her language she managed to reply and tell them that she is a walrus, where else would she live. They ask, “What makes you think that? You look like a human to us”. Feeling caught off guard and irritated by the humans, she replies that she doesn’t have time for this conversation, she has fish to catch and it’s getting dark.

The researchers leave, and Dana jumps into the icy cold water.

Yet somehow this interaction leaves a mark that Dana cannot shake. Something has always felt not quite right. Dana could never swim as fast as the other walrus, but could move more quickly on land. Each time this doubt makes a visit, she dismisses it all as idle thought, not useful to think about and distracting her from living her fullest walrus life.

Then one very still and silent day, she looks into a hole in the ice and sees her reflection in the crystal clear water. Vastly different to the other walrus. In fact, she looks far more like the humans that came to visit. The realisation hits Dana like an iceberg. How could she never have questioned this? Everything she knew about her life was built upon this one belief, and now it’s clear that it was never true. Dana knew she could never go back to her old life. She can’t unsee this. She could act like it’s not true, but she would always know that she’s lying to herself.

With a heavy heart, Dana knew that she must say goodbye to her walrus family and move on. There was a whole world out there to explore.

She made the arduous trek across the arctic, and eventually reached Alaska. She was overwhelmed by civilisation, but thrilled to discover a whole world that she didn’t even know existed. A world that she didn’t know she could thrive in. Yet somehow, it still didn’t feel right. Nature called her back.

Exploring the wilderness one day, Dana encountered a strange man, sitting quietly in the woods outside a temple of some sort. She asked him what he’s doing, he tells her he’s meditating and asks her if she has come to join him. Dana explains that she was just on a walk, and begins to tell him about her life and she got here.

The man doesn’t seem at all surprised by her story. Without hesitation he replies, “What makes you think you’re just a human being?”

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Jordan West

Sydney, Australia

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