Under The Spell of a Dreaming Land
Under The Spell of a Dreaming Land
The first time I ever laid eyes on the bay I recognized it. The part of me comprised of water leapt out of my skin, through my pores, to join the bay. Home! Those cells shouted and whooped with glee, diving to merge like happy fish. Two magnets coming together. Some ancient soul piece found freedom here, surfing currents and channels of memory. Wait! I was sucked in like a whirlpool, into a vortex. I couldn’t leap after them. Come back! I’m not ready! Give me an otter tail, or a whale fin.
I saved for a paddle board, instead.
I was pinned, some distant starlight anchoring me in place. It was my girl child self, the part of me that remembers being free. She recognized her home, and leapt out into the waters, rejoining some mermaid past in a glacial bay, happily lapping up salt water half submerged in a tidepool. It never looks the same, not ever. From one moment to the next is a constant kaleidoscope of changing. Sky, tide, and bay; infinite variations. Thats what I love about it.
In the beginning, a giant bear walked on the land creating tracks. One paw print filled with ocean and became the bay, and the claws turned into its tributaries and fjords. The land is sleeping for the most of the year, dreaming. I guess I moved to Alaska seeking quiet. True quiet, to swim in the soundless depths. To peer into a glass-like bay, drifting on a thin board, seeing sky mirrored below me in its reflection.
There is an island in Celtic lore named Hy Brasil. It can be found in the space where sunlight hits water in a perfect circle. The magical merging creates a new place, a different kind of place. Places written into history, islands thought to exist, but are no longer there anymore upon your return. Mirages. “I’ve seen some odd things looking down on that bay. Things you cant explain”, a pilot friend said once. Whirlpools seen from the sky, appearing then disappearing behind fog.
Tides are full of mystery, every movement a new crashing, like fire. I spent a year staring at the tides for an hour, lost in another kind of now. Theres no one moment, its a constant unfolding. The ancient Celts believe tide is the liminal place. The place where three elements meet — air, earth, and water- is where magic begins.
At night, in my dreams, I’d go sailing between the constellations. As darkness settled on the bay each night, orcas sang to the cosmos, and the stars above answered with echos. Humpbacks bellowed their tones heavy through water like a woman’s hips steadily undulating, both instinctually in tune to some ancient rhythm, long ago bound to a familiar celestial song. Music etched into the calcium in our bones like grooves on a vinyl record.
The tides were my consolation, my security and belonging. When my daily life went awry, at night, in my dreams, the whales still sung their songs to the stars, and if I got too serious the otters threw clams at me, and pulled my hair like it was their bedtime kelp blanket, snuggling me until I smiled in my sleep.
But I was always out looking for my lost part.
I saw her everywhere, in waves and shells. I thought of the ways to get her back. Where had she gone? I missed her.
I cried, with frustration. The tears turned into pearls that rolled crashing into the sea. I held out my hands for Father Aurora, Sister Dawn, for comfort. How was I ever going to get my lost innocence back?
I find a spot, away from town, and walk into an enclave of spruce trees. A chieftain walks over to me, a bear beside him sniffs my forehead, and the chieftain blows tobacco smoke into my eyes. The spruce leaves twitter. I enter.
The circle of spruce are like a consort of judges looming tall and stately, hundreds of years old. The weight of my conscience in my chest feels like lead.
“You will be judged by your actions,” they murmur. “By the feather of justice, you will be judged. We can hear your thoughts, and know your intentions.” I swallow.
Spirit, so close, I could reach out and touch it. It’s right there. In my tears, on my tongue, I can taste it, in the wind.
I walk back to my truck, and snap out of it when the ignition fires up. Winter comes to the bay. Whales dream, and the aurora is born.
I went looking for her on the paddleboard. I thought I saw a glimpse of her as a seal in a wave. Come back, I said. No way! She dove off. Come get me. I go out further. Wind picks up on calm water and waves come crashing in sloshing angles. The water heaves towards me erratically. I panic.
TRUST! It breathes.
The tango with the bay becomes a struggle. Let me GO. We dance. I pull away. My hair turns into seaweed that grows tethered to the underwater floor.
No, it whispers, dive deeper, to find her.
It’s well known in Celtic fairy lore that if you walk into a mushroom ring, the fairies can steal you, maybe for even a 100 years. Time passes differently there, in their realm. One might awake to realize a 100 years has passed, or that maybe what felt like a lifetime was only a minute. They say fairies can steal people. I wonder if spirits of place can too. Water spirits.
All the spruce trees stand like sentinels around me. I can’t leave without passing through them, their judgment. You cannot leave, spruce tree spirits say. You have a duty, to love water, they say.
I don’t know how to love.
I wake up in the night. There is a full moon orb, over a violet sky. That was enough, one searing image to blind out the whole 8 months of bleak winter with its intensity. I go back to sleep overlooking the bay, milky blue in its liminal space. Go into the shadows, it said, into the places where its murky and dark.
I wandered with the ghost of my child self on the beach, collecting seashells. I went into the shadows lurking in the tide pools, into the maelstrom inside. Don’t mind me, I’m just lashing out, looking for a lost childhood captured in a conch song.
Emotions flow through me like a tap.
Yesssss, the bay seems to sigh. Let them flow, for in the flowing you release, and please fearless water.
Things I hadn’t felt in years, old hurts, came roaring back. I saw how beautiful my lost part had been, and wished she wasn’t hiding. I realized how much I hadn’t loved her enough, all the ways I’d let her down, and wept.
What should I DO?! I called out to bay in November, the only one in that chilly Alaskan inlet.
The spell will be broken soon, the bay says.
It’s November and freezing. I’m the only one on the beach. I had to sneak down a steep icy path. “4WD Only” the posted sign says, “Proceed at Your Own Risk”. I go out to the tide, wind whipping, and get on the paddle board. It spins, the tides are crazy, swirly around rocks. It’s cold. I paddle, out further into Cook Inlet. It’s cold, so windy. The purples and oranges in the sky are an aphrodisiac on my soul, alighting it. The wind whips my ears red, my toes go barefoot and cold. I’m so happy for a moment.
The sounds are so comforting; all the sloshes from slight undulations of waves. It’s what the inside of our body sounds like, too. Blood pounds through veins like a rainstorm deluge through a slot canyon, creeks murmur over gurgling brooks, like coughs and sniffles. Our hearts fill up tight, clenched with some mysterious chemical force, mineral and electric, then release. Pound, release. The same as tides, pounding onto shores rhythmically by the force of the magnetic moon.
Sitting in her salt, turning pruny, a big moon ahead and glaciers in the distance- I am ok here, in this moment, floating on a moonlit liquid.
I peered onto the surface, leaning towards the vortex again. I felt a belonging. The river inside my chest of constantly flowing awareness mirrored the water seamlessly, for one moment.
Coasting along with the elementals, they fit fluidly into the cosmic tapestry. No worries of how to live, they just are, in perfect harmony, their nature fluidly accepted into the web. I was too; my lungs filling with the same recycled air the bears and whales have been breathing all along.
I saw her in the water, the salt, the kelp, the otters, in the dance of recycled atoms. Ever spinning, ever cycling, ever dancing, she exists, uncontainable, unrestrainable. Unfolding, flowering open to love.
I surrendered to the emotion until it flowed steadily, until nothing was left but the stillness inside, mirroring the bay, calmly reflecting the transience of clouds above.
The bay sighed heavily, do you see now?
I opened my eyes and suddenly the current of life was there to leap into. Flowing, deep and fearless. I resisted. No, no, no. It’s too fast, I can’t see where it’s going. I didn’t see behind the bend was a small eddy, a calm pool, and in it leaves were swirling gently. She was there, I knew.
I found her curled up in a white pearl, hiding from some rushing water ahead.
Come with me, I said.
I’m scared. The pearl wouldn’t budge.
It’s ok, I said. Theres a calm pool on the other side of those rapids.
A salmon swimming nearby came and nudged the pearl from its burrowing place. Go on, salmon said, encouragingly.
It hesitated, then the pearl rolled towards me. I picked it up and swallowed it. It melted, and filled my heart with its luminescence.
If I could fly I would have, I felt so free. I looked out at the horizon, brilliant. The journey towards the otherworld began here, on the glinting surface of moonlit water, I knew. It’s a sacred horizon, but its not my time yet. I looked back towards the land, where my people were, where the work is not yet done. The tides pushed me gently with a plop towards the place where the white crested into sand. I crawled my earth bound body back to the beach.
And I left Kachemak Bay.
But months later I only found myself wandering the coasts of another land, picking up sea shells. I drew baths and filled them with seaweed, remembering the bay’s sweet scent. I put the slimy seaweed on my face in the tub, nibbling it, breathing in as deep as I could. Exhaling, and knowing I would return.
The magnetic call of the bay was too strong; an electric longing. Getting back into the water again, inhaling the salt and the spirit, free this time, was like gripping a long anticipated lover. Otters in the water, they threw clams at me in my dreams, so that I’d come play again.
There is a magical place between force and resistance; the mighty Presence. The self love that flows through like twinkling light out of shimmering eyes. A knowing friend’s wise green eyes sparkle like a snake. She knew all along. When you love yourself, love for creation flows out of you, and you are always creating, creating, creating.
Thats what the bay kept saying, gracious enough as it was through the years to accept all my tears. Be courageous enough to go deep into the flow of life. Love all of it; its serenity, and its shadows and storms. Feel it, don’t resist. You’re forever divine, with an innocence that can never be lost, nor diminished.
I give in, I surrender to the flow. Love, I lend you my bones; use them in your service. What is written to be borne from me, I am listening; my body is encapsulated ocean, my breath is your stars.
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