Swimming the Rock Spiral (Rainbow Home #5)

IMG_5156(1)I awoke with a start on the sandy shoulder above the sea cave, hearing a noise in the night. Wide awake. A silver crescent moon hovered to the south, and a thousand sparkling eyes spread over the Great Sea like a bejeweled blanket.

Since coming to the Edge of the West, I have been a little wary of being a stranger in a strange land, not knowing the customs of the seaside people. Surely, someone had seen the dragon upon arriving. I had no idea how people might react, so tried not to bring attention to myself.

But what I heard was like no animal or person. It was coming from the sea.

Something was in the air, a steady rhythm, sounding like the beat of the cosmic heart above Written across the dark night sky. My pulse quickened. A feeling circulated within. Like love, but different than what I’ve ever felt before, seemed to be pouring into and out of me, waves after wave.

I swear I saw a constellation in the shape of a heart. Then again, I didn’t have my glasses on.

I slowly drifted back to sleep.

When dawn arrived, I was thoroughly soaked from the mist floating off the ocean. I was convinced my night-time soundscape was but a dream, as I had many images visit me in the night.

Ocean waves crashed upon the shore, sounding like a surprise guest, knocking on my door. If I had a door. I felt a bit under a spell, almost like a hangover.

The first thing I saw looking out on the water was a sea otter floating on its back, having a little breakfast. Further out, I saw a whale surface and spout water.

But even above the percussive pulse of the tide, I could still hear that sound, sometimes a melody, sometimes a murmur, soft but strong, sounding a bit like wildfire from the sea, wrapped inside a mermaid’s siren song. As if I knew what a mermaid’s siren song sounded like.

Having done the Ritual of Release last night and set the sacred fabric on fire into the tide, I felt ready to try my chances on the Great Sea, with or without the advice of the HeartSeer. I’d begun to trust my instincts. Often struggling with doubt, I nevertheless had trusted the call to search for the Fire Dragon, trusted the 7th-Born Bunny (even after its brethren led me astray), trusted my search for its cave, trusted myself to pull the dagger out and lead it into the pool, followed my intuition into the sea cave, trusted myself to continue seeking the HeartSeer. why stop now?!

Something about that spiral pattern of those rocks I had seen from the air when we first arrived was calling me. Whether it was my intuition, or a siren song or a bewitching spell, I don’t know, but I was determined to explore those rocks. In particular, the center one.

Of the many tales I heard from villagers about the HeartSeer, one was that she was a mermaid, whose siren song lured hapless men to their death. So that possibility had been percolating in me all month.

I could be one of those hapless men! I knew that, and yet I was still drawn to follow the sound I heard from the sea.

However, if there’s anything I’ve learned since I first set out on this journey many moons ago was that rarely do things unfold in the way that people say or think, myself included. From the fallen redwood trees and silver waterfalls to the puzzling conversation with the strange woman of the north who left a cryptic note in the sand about the Fire Dragon and my Rainbow Home, it has all unfurled quite unpredictably.

This was also one of those days. I had a plan. Yet the plan had its own plan.

My goal was to explore that rock archipelago in the shape of a spiral, which spanned roughly a mile in circumference. I would find my friend the Fire Dragon and he would take me out there.

Short, sweet, safe, and simple.

I went down to the sea cave. No sign of Fire Dragon. Nor was his form as the little boy playing in the waves, which is what he had been doing everyday since we arrived.

Change of plans: I would rent a boat and launch seaward. I would rent scuba gear and explore the waters around the rocks. Though the all the bunnies in the blackberry brush had said that the Obsidian Key had been thrown into Great Sea and settled to its very bottom, I thought that since the source of the sound I keep hearing seemed to coming from the rock at the center of the spiral, that would be a good place to start.

I had no other ideas on how to dive deeper into the ocean, let alone where in the ocean to explore. Based on the word of the villagers, the Great Sea was without end. That sure makes for some long odds for finding something that can fit in your hand.

I searched for a boat to rent. I was informed that as this was Quarter Moon Day, no one took to the sea. It wasn’t exactly forbidden, but at the very least bad luck. I was willing to take my chances, as I didn’t really have an alternative. Walking further to the north, I eyed a fisherman loading gear into his vessel from the dock. He must have been either ignorant of or unconcerned about the Quarter Moon taboo.

I waved towards him. He didn’t see me.

“Hey!” I yelled, waving frantically.

He promptly ignored me and launched his vessel in the opposite direction.

I had missed the boat. Once again, I updated my itinerary: I would swim.

The distances between rocks was significant, especially for a lake-swimmer like me, not used to the strength and rhythms of the sea. I would have to swim to each rock, rest and catch my breathe, and continue.

I continued to hear the murmur, floating on the sea-blown wind. It now sounded like a drum, or a humming thrum, like it was calling mountains to the sea. Like it was preparing for dancers to emerge and twirl on the waves.

Well, here goes nothing, either I’m finally been drawn by a mystic song to my death, I’m imagining things, or else I will meet the person or creature who will help me dive deeper in the Great Sea. If it’s the former, I hope I at least get a good look at the source of my demise. If it’s second, then I’ve got worse problems than death. If it’s the latter, which is my hope, then my problems may just be starting, not ending.

I fashioned myself a staff from drift wood. Finding a bottle on the beach, I cut it in half, and tied it on one end. The other end I sharpened to a point. Around the stick I wrapped my inflatable sleeping pad. The stick would serve as spear, paddle, flotation device. I called it my Sea Staff.

I launched myself into the waves, with my Sea Staff ahead of me, kicking doggy-style in earnest toward the first rock. Not a glorified way of entering the Great sea, but so far effective.

Within twenty minutes, I arrived at the first rock, a dark chiseled block covered sporadically with bright green moss. It was sharply cut from the sides, there was no way for me to find purchase on it.

I was forced to continue paddling without rest to the second rock, a distance of a few hundred yards, cutting a wide arc. Then the third and fourth and fifth, similarly spaced, neither of which presented anything out of the ordinary.

The sixth, which formed the outer limit of the spiral, was approximately two miles from shore. No source of a song found. No creatures other than the occasional black cormorant and empty shells glued to the surface that had been picked clean by birds.

I was getting tired. My body was tempted to cut across horizontally, but for some reason my mind prohibited the idea. I felt an overwhelming need to trace this spiral. No shortcuts. Even above the steady drone of the waves, I could still hear that same enchanting murmur. My heart swelled with a love unlike any I’ve felt before. My muscles strained, and so cold, it was this sound that kept pulling me forward.

The wind picked up and the waves began to swell. I feared I was getting in over my head. That I jumped in feet first to something way bigger than me, something I didn’t understand and didn’t have the capacity for, that would swallow me whole. That I had made one colossal mistake after another, doubting I going to find anything out here. That I should have just stayed in the redwoods, better yet, stay in the House of Willows. I could have just as easily done the Ritual of Release anywhere else but the Edge of the West, could have just as easily built a fine home in the forest. Could have easily not set out to find this HeartSeer. Could have easily ignored this sound from the sea.

Why did I leave the safety and comfort of the village?

I swallowed a mouthful of seawater. I held tight to my Sea Staff to stay afloat.

Suddenly, something brushed my feet. Seaweed, I hoped.

Then, I realized, it WAS seaweed. I was in the midst of a seaweed forest, its flowing leaves wrapping around my legs like tentacles.

And entangled among the sea plants was a stray fishing net with hooks.

I tried to fight the instinct to thrash about, but it was dragging me beneath the surface. with every kick I became more entangled. One of the many barbed hooks on the net caught me in the heel of my left foot.

I attempted to use my Sea Staff to pry it loose, and managed to tear it loose, leaving a bloody gash where the hook was.

Then one of the hooks punctured the sleeping pad around my Sea Staff. What buoyancy I had was immediately lost, and I struggled to keep my head above the waves.

The mind does funny things when it is panicking. Time slows down and all sorts of thoughts race through, an odd combination of pure survival instinct and the mundane.

This was it, I was going to drown here, just miles from shore, I thought. Did I remember to send that letter? Perhaps I could survive on just seaweed. Would anybody find my body? And if so, what would they think I had been doing out here?

Either way, surely my bloody wound in my foot would attract a shark or an orca. Or just get nibbled to death by smaller fish. I think I’d rather my body go to feed larger numbers of creatures than just one big creature. I’m undecided. I’m just grateful its not by squirrels.

“Wilson, I’m going to kill you tell you’re dead, I’m going to punch you in the eye!”

For some reason those Phish lyrics and three pelicans gliding not far above me were the last things in my consciousness before blackness.

Inside the Sea Cave (Rainbow Home #4)

IMG_4993When we first arrived at the Edge of the West, the Fire Dragon had soared out over the Great Sea. Seemingly endless cliffs

stretched in one direction, countless beaches in the other, punctuated only by outlets of various rivers and solitary trees that appeared like sentinels keeping watch over the land.

The entire time, I was still in the grip of the Fire Dragon’s talons (contrary to what you might expect, there was no “riding the dragon”. In fact, I think it would be exceedingly difficult, given the nature of its “skin” or plates, which are very slick.)

Below us in the bay was a series of small islands, or rather, big rocks of various shapes and sizes, jutting out of the water. Each carried a different hue, some were white with red striations, some green and white, others dark brown, and some completely covered in black mollusks. But what struck me about this archipelago, was that it seemed to form a pattern: the
shape of a giant spiral, like a golden ratio. Something about it fascinated me.

Later, when I was on shore, it was impossible to see this pattern. I only knew of it from that higher perspective.

The other early discovery was a sea cave, cut into the crevice between two cliff faces. Apparently the Fire Dragon is a natural at finding caves, its go-to resting place, so that is where we first landed. With a wide opening, the cave narrowed quickly. How far into the land it went I didn’t know. The tide was rapidly approaching, making a full exploration of the sea cave impossible that first day.

But I noticed images and runes of various sorts carved into the walls. Above the mouth of the cave, in enchanted yellow letters, it read: Follow Your Intuition.

My intuition said, “Get the hell out of there before the tide comes in and drowns you.”

Meanwhile, the Fire Dragon has been making a home of it by night. During the day, the Dragon as little boy mostly just swims. Meanwhile, I have made my home just above the sea cave on a little flat embankment along the cliffs.
_____

It’s week four at the Edge of the West: still no sign of the HeartSeer. Only tall tales and misguided attempts on the part of the villagers to be helpful. Depending on who you ask, the HeartSeer was either: a pirate on the bay, a handsome prince, a flying sorceress on the edge of the forest, or a mermaid at the point of the spiral.

I have begun to think that HeartSeer is perhaps like the Rohrsach test, people fill it in with whatever they see.

While I have not found the HeartSeer, I have seen three hearts scattered across this landscape.

First there was a heart drawn in the sand on the beach, declaring intent of matrimony. Then, a heart etched by a human hand into the sandstone cliff, declaring affection for genitalia. Then, most marvelous of all, a heart impression in the sandstone rocks, formed by the power of the tide. It seems that even the sea and the shore write love letters to each other.

The three hearts convinced me to finally conduct a Ritual of Mourning and Releasing.

Yes, I’ve taken to conducting rituals. Primarily grounding rituals or ceremonies to move or transform energy. Since I witnessed with the Fire Dragon turning into the boy and back again, I have found it increasingly easier to feel and channel energy.

I was determined to the ritual in nature, and from the first day here I knew exactly where: the Sea Cave.

You see, several things have recently fallen away from me, some dropped like autumn leaves, some swallowed like a building in an earthquake.

In fact, not too long before my journey to the North River and the Redwood Forest of the East, I had been served up a delicious platter of organic and locally-sourced change, marinated in a savory sauce of raw energy and dead beliefs, with generous sides of spicy sauteed shadows and trickster love, all washed down with a complex brandy distilled into sweet ambrosia.

One loss was a lover. She was a Firenado, streaking across a strawberry lovescape with no horizons and I was a mere Oak
Tree, sending roots deep into the earth – different ways of being in the world. Something was bound to go awry. We were mixing genres from the first note.

But by the time we discovered that, we had already seen rainbows with each other. That’s not something you can just pretend you don’t see, believe me. And so we had quite the series of adventures together, melodically meandering on rivers and roads, creating redwood fairy lullabies under hot full moon skies, and building secret things under a mama creek sunrise.

Of course, there’s all the woulda, coulda, shouldas. But how do you stop the growing corn? We had already pressed play on a

trickster soundtrack: I was a walker, she was a dancer. She was a singer, I was a writer. My feet and words were in motion, while her heart and body were in motion.

In time, my walking slowed down while her fire burned dimmer. We were both musicians, but I couldn’t find the bass line, and she couldn’t sing all her notes, and they were well out of my range. Not sure we could ever settle on a key. The sound of our sacred wounds interlocked too well.

When the bards of the future sing the tale of this romance of two star-crossed genres, they will do doubt sing that she had caught me first. In fact, pinned me down on a beach up on the Peninsula of Love I don’t think I could ever return the favor and pin her back. Not for lack of trying–a sunset, storm, or subtle mood are much easier to catch. I’m a pretty good boulder-hopper, but she jumped from one rock to the other like a breakdancer on an archipelago of desire.

Sometimes you just lose the melody, by accident or by design, like the part of the song where all the instruments solo.

Even the best musicians lose the rhythm from time to time. With good luck, a great song can resolve the discord and rediscover a major chord. But we weren’t able. Sometimes the music’s over or it’s a different song than you thought or hoped for all along. Perhaps we’re all still learning to write a song right. Freedom and form form the song.

Ultimately, I don’t know what happened to Firenado–probably spun off into the horizon, fire a’blazing, as is her way in the world.

And now here I am conducting a ritual in a sea cave at the Edge of the West. I took a sacred purple fabric in with me and a match and sat in the solid darkness of the cave. Nothing to do but feel into grieving, commemorating love, forgiving, apologizing, thanking, and letting go. With a handful of wishes for those who are hooked and everybody in need of healing.

No magic wands. Only a few sacred words and the barest of elemental magic–I lit the purple fabric on fire.

“Goodbye, sweet love,” I said, as it flared in the night.

A beautiful red-orange glow danced on the walls of the cave.

With that I let the fire fall into the rising tide.

A heart appeared among the flames, just before extinguishing. I took it as a sign: tomorrow I would enter the Great Sea.

Rose and Rising

IMG_4542Bright heat
has me drifting
into dark cool spaces
hiding

but this delicate rose breath
riding
evening’s cool breeze
lifting
relentless heat
stirring
something in me
still breathing

touching me there
I begin a blossom affair

ascending with solstice
your sweet peach scent
sending shivers

lighting me up

lingering
admiring
your unfolding layers
conspiring
to pull me in

I see you there
shining

sweet
light
delectable

edible?
I take a nibble

ouch
hurt a little

impressive thorns
perhaps born
of many wounds

yet you dare to share
so much of yourself

I see you

drawing me in
until the sun sets
once again

As I ride the waves
of your aromatic aerial offering
over the horizon

Rilke-Soaked Dreams and a Vulnerable Mountain Heart

IMG_4512A year ago this week I was trekking for 10 days in the Olympic Mountains.

I was struggling over several long, hard days climbing up the side of the mountain, the trail often obscured. Though it was June, winter was still up there.

I was struggling with heartache: my partner and I were estranged. I was struggling with trust and jealousy. I was struggling with my inability to fully receive love. I was struggling with ancient wounds of abandonment. I didn’t understand different kinds of love and connection. I was struggling with meaningful livelihood.

I arrived atop in a lake basin and pitched my tent above Heart Lake. I became stuck there for several days – it was cold and rainy and snowy. I was getting increasingly wet. In the clouds. No sun all day. Fully soaked. Boots undryable. Spending the day in the tent. The only warmth was from a little backpacking stove.

The clouds from every direction merged, climbed, surrounded, hugged the crevices everywhere. I couldn’t see anything. I was aware that I could soon be in danger of hypothermia, so knew I had to descend as soon as possible, if conditions didn’t change.

But I had a deep feeling that I didn’t want to leave the mountain top and the lake until all was revealed. Something was coming.

Finally the sun appeared on the 4th day. Joy! My first real moment of excitement! I was able to get dry. When the clouds opened up, I could get perspective. I could finally see Mt. Olympus. More importantly, the image of Vulnerable Mountain Heart kept appearing inside me. It had appeared a few days before at the beginning of my journey – it was now deepening and speaking.

Vulnerable Mountain Heart. What is it? Deep cosmic heart of vulnerability, source of love and strength. It’s the heart that stays open, that feels what it feels, that rests easy with what is, that doesn’t need to react to save itself, has no fear, that knows its strength in vulnerability, and therefore its wholeness and power.

Vulnerable Mountain Heart is unearthing and resurrecting our archaic connection with the natural world. That connection critical to healing ourselves, our communities, and the planet. It’s about meeting ourselves authentically, with nature not just as context, but as collaborator. A mountain doesn’t care what storms present themselves. It merely accepts and receives them, unphased. Mountain Heart is about embodying our strength and power, overcoming fear, and accepting what is.

Yet at the same time, by being willing to connect with our vulnerability, we allow healing and growth and remain compassionate. It’s about recognizing and feeling our old sacred wounds and finding love and power in that place. And it’s about liberation from unhealthy patterns inherited from our family and culture. Finally, it’s about listening, opening, and resting in uncertainty and change, and unfolding our authenticity layer by layer.

After a week and a half up there, I walked out of the rich, green Hoh Valley a changed person—richer, stronger, and more clear. I knew it was an unfolding story. The day after I hitchhiked out of the forest, I found myself in the city lying on my side getting a needle stuck repeatedly in my arm—I was getting a mountain heart tattoo in Olympia.

It did change me, but since then I have often strayed from that wisdom, sometimes so far off that it’s like I’m in the clouds again. Fear causes pain to ourselves and others. Can’t see anything.

It’s not a one time opening.

It’s choosing love over fear, moment by moment.

Murmur

IMG_4300I hear a steady melody,
a murmur, soft and strong
sounds a bit like wildfire
inside a mermaid’s siren song

I hear it like the heartbeat
of the cosmic heart above
Written across the dark night sky
a different kind of love

Perhaps it’s a comet
come to destroy the earth
making way for something better
something giving birth

Sounds like the ocean waves
crashing upon the shore
Sounds like a surprise guest
knocking on the door

Sounds like a couple drums
that sets the dancers free
Sounds like a humming thrum
Calling mountains to the sea

Sounds a bit like wagon wheels
Rolling across the hills
heading straight in my direction
At least that’s how it feels

I hear a steady melody,
a murmur, soft and strong
sounds a bit like wildfire
inside a mermaid’s siren song

Apricot Circle

wren3

Today we had a tree-planting and poem reading ceremony for the new baby boy of my friends, which inspired this poem.

Wren begins his life to be
around a tree in community

what’s planted here will blossom forth
when cultivated with love and warmth

what’s watered here will surely grow
strong and full with much to show

by many hearts he’ll be taught
by mariposas and apricots
by many hands and many hearts
by garden harvests and plum tarts

from roots to fruit, sugar’s shared
just like love and joy and care

one day he’ll see an impossible bloom
from the window of his room
and know that long ago in May
a tree was planted out of love that day

 

Photo Credit: Diane Dew Photography