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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Eighteen: The Message of the Whales

12 May

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Eighteen: The Message of the Whales.

Gowland Point Facing States

The Message of the Whales

He handed me several beads, and sat quietly and knowingly on one knee in front of me, as if he were not a complete stranger: “You have several strengths.” Each sea shell or rock bead that he slid into the palm of my hand had something very unique about it. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so he placed his hands one on top and beneath my hand protecting them. “Each bead represents a separate strength that you know you possess, but have not brought to life yet”. His beauty and energy were hypnotic. “You wrap it in this small cloth and I will come around later with some red wool for you to cherish it safely. You can keep these beads with you, or you can keep them somewhere else near you for safe keeping once we are done”. He looked directly into my eyes. His intensity was powerful and I had to look away. I hadn’t been able to hold eye contact with anyone recently, except at work where it was professional, safe, and expected. He continued to sit in front of me. “Do you understand?” He sat quietly in my discomfort. I nodded. “Good. I’ll come back later.” He walked over to sit next to the elders or “siem”. There was no “chief” here. Chief is a government-applied term, although it was apparent that some of them held a greater position of respect than others.

It occurred to me as I sat at the hearth of the largest fire that I had ever seen at this First Nations Big House, that I was spiritually depleted. One of the men continued to put large pieces of Douglas fir into the fire, feeding its hypnotic inferno. My eyes followed the plumes of smoke escaping upward into the open-air ceiling. I marveled at the magic of this place made up of polished cedar poles all standing tall and grouted one beside the next. After a long trip back from a conference for work in San Francisco, I considered how much I had changed in the past seven months of being on the island in “the valley”. The male elder sang his prayer to us to the beat of his drum. His plaintive, jagged aboriginal inflections filled the space around us. Until now, I had been reciting what Robert Bly had advised his readers“…to suck out all of the marrow of life’…” as I pursued my lifetime dream to move West. Fate finally pushed me out of my Alberta nest as another bout of pneumonia and a job as a school principal exceeded my capacity. I took a leap of faith and left the cold prairies to be in a place with a kinder climate and a chance for a fresh start, on my own.

What I noticed right from the beginning was that it smelled right here. The pungent earthy smells of forest and ocean welcomed me. I had found my new relationship, and it was one with the setting around me. I had chosen the earth as my new love. Island life, both on Pender Island and Vancouver Island, took my breath away from the phosphorescent night time stars to the violent winds that assailed the trees and forced me to seek sanctuary by real fires that I had learned to light. I had found the right fit for me in what K’omoks referred to the valley as the “land of plenty”. I felt a sense of joy every time I found a new path, and experienced a new flower growing somewhere that I had not known flowers to grow before. It was a healing place, and I would grow here.

Food tasted good in the Big House. Sockeyed wild salmon cooked on cedar planks over a real fire was not only powerfully delicious, but exciting to my psyche because it had been so recently alive and swimming in the Puntledge River next to us. The faces around me were masked by the smoke and flickering shadows of the big fire. The strange prayers chanted in this other language by the descendants of the Northern Georgia Strait Coast Salish held my mind captive until I let go and fell asleep.

I opened my sleepy eyes to the face of the young Salish man who had given me the beads earlier. “You are tired.” He had come back to hear my strengths that he has assigned me to attach to each bead. Embarrassed, but too dizzy with the fire and the food to care, I shared a list of ideas with him in a quiet whisper, and ended with the last one: “relationship”. He smiled, and bowed his head a bit so that I could see the top of it as he kneeled in front of me. I was warm with the fire and a blanket over my lap, but I was also warm with our connection. “You have travelled a lot and seen the world,” he surmised. I nodded. “Now it is time to travel inwardly so that you can be in relationship.” How many people had he said this same message to in this special ceremony, I wondered. He smiled, guessing at my cynicism. “You are very strong minded.” Yes. I agreed with this young-elder. “Hang on to those beads.” He put his hand in his pocket and took out a stone with the image of whale on it and handed it to me.

“You know the power of the whale.” He assumed a knowledge that I did not have. It occurred to me just then that throughout my life, I had either bought, or been given pictures, ornaments and jewelry with the images of whales on them. It truly just dawned on me then that they were everywhere in my home. Until now, I had never really made the connection to my fascination of them. In my young adult life, I had sought them out, but they had never appeared. It was a joke I had that I would never see one, even though I had sat on several West Coast beaches for hours with binoculars waiting for them. However, later in my life, on a trip to Pender Island, I had witnessed my first Orcas at Thieves Bay. I never forgot the magic of seeing the pod as they swam by spouting plumes of water out at us. Later in life, when I was in Newfoundland, my almost adult son and I marveled at the grey and ming whales that seemed to be in every harbor we encountered. The whales had finally found me.

“Whales take away illness,” he explained. “They represent family.” In retrospect, whales had been a symbol for me of the mysteries of the ocean that were always a world away from my cold prairie life. They represented my dream of a different life style. Now the whales were part of my new ocean world. Did they really have the power to heal me? Perhaps the whales had brought me to Pender Island where I now lived just above where they travelled either alone or in pods in the spring and summer months. I had not known until I moved in that I was so close to them. Again, he held my hand and I focused on the earing he wore sparkling in the firelight along with his silent charisma. “Listen to the whales,” he explained, as if I knew what he meant. I finally looked into his eyes, and I knew that this message was intended just for me. The whales had been speaking to me all of these years, and it was only now that I had finally paid attention. Unconsciously, I had sought out places where they lived, and also, how interesting to note that I now lived in the “valley of the whale” as the glacier called Queneesh has much First Nation significance as the powerful whale that saved the people (http://beyondnootka.com/articles/queneesh.html)

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Eighteen: The Message of the Whales

12 May

Gowland Point Facing States

The Message of the Whales

He handed me several beads, and sat quietly and knowingly on one knee in front of me, as if he were not a complete stranger: “You have several strengths.” Each sea shell or rock bead that he slid into the palm of my hand had something very unique about it. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so he placed his hands one on top and beneath my hand protecting them. “Each bead represents a separate strength that you know you possess, but have not brought to life yet”. His beauty and energy were hypnotic. “You wrap it in this small cloth and I will come around later with some red wool for you to cherish it safely. You can keep these beads with you, or you can keep them somewhere else near you for safe keeping once we are done”. He looked directly into my eyes. His intensity was powerful and I had to look away. I hadn’t been able to hold eye contact with anyone recently, except at work where it was professional, safe, and expected. He continued to sit in front of me. “Do you understand?” He sat quietly in my discomfort. I nodded. “Good. I’ll come back later.” He walked over to sit next to the elders or “siem”. There was no “chief” here. Chief is a government-applied term, although it was apparent that some of them held a greater position of respect than others.

It occurred to me as I sat at the hearth of the largest fire that I had ever seen at this First Nations Big House, that I was spiritually depleted. One of the men continued to put large pieces of Douglas fir into the fire, feeding its hypnotic inferno. My eyes followed the plumes of smoke escaping upward into the open-air ceiling. I marveled at the magic of this place made up of polished cedar poles all standing tall and grouted one beside the next. After a long trip back from a conference for work in San Francisco, I considered how much I had changed in the past seven months of being on the island in “the valley”. The male elder sang his prayer to us to the beat of his drum. His plaintive, jagged aboriginal inflections filled the space around us. Until now, I had been reciting what Robert Bly had advised his readers“…to suck out all of the marrow of life’…” as I pursued my lifetime dream to move West. Fate finally pushed me out of my Alberta nest as another bout of pneumonia and a job as a school principal exceeded my capacity. I took a leap of faith and left the cold prairies to be in a place with a kinder climate and a chance for a fresh start, on my own.

What I noticed right from the beginning was that it smelled right here. The pungent earthy smells of forest and ocean welcomed me. I had found my new relationship, and it was one with the setting around me. I had chosen the earth as my new love. Island life, both on Pender Island and Vancouver Island, took my breath away from the phosphorescent night time stars to the violent winds that assailed the trees and forced me to seek sanctuary by real fires that I had learned to light. I had found the right fit for me in what K’omoks referred to the valley as the “land of plenty”. I felt a sense of joy every time I found a new path, and experienced a new flower growing somewhere that I had not known flowers to grow before. It was a healing place, and I would grow here.

Food tasted good in the Big House. Sockeyed wild salmon cooked on cedar planks over a real fire was not only powerfully delicious, but exciting to my psyche because it had been so recently alive and swimming in the Puntledge River next to us. The faces around me were masked by the smoke and flickering shadows of the big fire. The strange prayers chanted in this other language by the descendants of the Northern Georgia Strait Coast Salish held my mind captive until I let go and fell asleep.

I opened my sleepy eyes to the face of the young Salish man who had given me the beads earlier. “You are tired.” He had come back to hear my strengths that he has assigned me to attach to each bead. Embarrassed, but too dizzy with the fire and the food to care, I shared a list of ideas with him in a quiet whisper, and ended with the last one: “relationship”. He smiled, and bowed his head a bit so that I could see the top of it as he kneeled in front of me. I was warm with the fire and a blanket over my lap, but I was also warm with our connection. “You have travelled a lot and seen the world,” he surmised. I nodded. “Now it is time to travel inwardly so that you can be in relationship.” How many people had he said this same message to in this special ceremony, I wondered. He smiled, guessing at my cynicism. “You are very strong minded.” Yes. I agreed with this young-elder. “Hang on to those beads.” He put his hand in his pocket and took out a stone with the image of whale on it and handed it to me.

“You know the power of the whale.” He assumed a knowledge that I did not have. It occurred to me just then that throughout my life, I had either bought, or been given pictures, ornaments and jewelry with the images of whales on them. It truly just dawned on me then that they were everywhere in my home. Until now, I had never really made the connection to my fascination of them. In my young adult life, I had sought them out, but they had never appeared. It was a joke I had that I would never see one, even though I had sat on several West Coast beaches for hours with binoculars waiting for them. However, later in my life, on a trip to Pender Island, I had witnessed my first Orcas at Thieves Bay. I never forgot the magic of seeing the pod as they swam by spouting plumes of water out at us. Later in life, when I was in Newfoundland, my almost adult son and I marveled at the grey and ming whales that seemed to be in every harbor we encountered. The whales had finally found me.

“Whales take away illness,” he explained. “They represent family.” In retrospect, whales had been a symbol for me of the mysteries of the ocean that were always a world away from my cold prairie life. They represented my dream of a different life style. Now the whales were part of my new ocean world. Did they really have the power to heal me? Perhaps the whales had brought me to Pender Island where I now lived just above where they travelled either alone or in pods in the spring and summer months. I had not known until I moved in that I was so close to them. Again, he held my hand and I focused on the earing he wore sparkling in the firelight along with his silent charisma. “Listen to the whales,” he explained, as if I knew what he meant. I finally looked into his eyes, and I knew that this message was intended just for me. The whales had been speaking to me all of these years, and it was only now that I had finally paid attention. Unconsciously, I had sought out places where they lived, and also, how interesting to note that I now lived in the “valley of the whale” as the glacier called Queneesh has much First Nation significance as the powerful whale that saved the people (http://beyondnootka.com/articles/queneesh.html)