Thursday, September 30, 2010

The path of blue lotus petals

We don’t need to wait for death to remember what the soul knows: how and why we came into our present bodies, and where we will go when we leave them. Dreaming, we remember. We dream, perhaps, of death as a wedding, a cause for celebration as we move towards union with the beloved of the soul. I have dreamed of birth as a funeral.

I hear the high, keening voices of the mourners achingly beautiful. I have never heard music so lovely on Earth; I have heard its melancholy matched only in a fado café on an old cobbled street in Lisbon. As I hear the voices, I see again the path of blue lotus petals. I suffer again the knife of regret as I share the last passionate embraces of those I must leave behind. I feel naked and cold when my garment is gently removed from me, leaving me skinless and fluid, glowing softly like a wandering light over the waveless sea. I look back and see a lion robe, lined with a sky full of stars.

I pass before the High Ones, on their high thrones. They approve the choice I have made, and its price. They counsel me with sweet sternness not to drink too deep from the cup of forgetfulness on this side or the other. They bring forth the envoy who will track me, and will speak to me in my dreams, to help me not to lose my memory and purpose in the miasma of the Earth plane.

She escorts me to the Pivot of the Worlds. I enter the portal and descend, quick as thought, to a place on Luna I have used many times before. The Moon priest greets me with his archaic smile, unreadable in that pale, moon-round face. There are armed guards everywhere, with the heads of jackals and the muscled bodies of armored baboons. It seems conditions have deteriorated since my last visit. Luna has always been a mixed environment, a place of illusion and swirling cross-currents. It has now become an active theatre in the contest between rival forces contending for the soul of the Earth.

The Moon priest helps me into my body suit. Part of me recoils from this limiting, this confinement to such a primitive form, with only one organ of generation. Yet this body suit is flexible and moves with my thoughts. If I want to be a lion, it will take lion form. If I want to sprout wings or extra limbs or suckers, it can do that. It pulls back into its default mode – that of a biped that cannot eat and talk safely at the same time – when my attention wavers. But this confinement is nothing to what it will be to take on a body of flesh and bones in the world below.

I relax for a while in the pool on the high terrace. I look up at the blue-white star, high above in the sky. It is eons since the experiment on Earth began, and it is constantly imperiled. We keep coming, because we helped to begin the game and must play until the final round.

I wonder how much of this I will be able to remember this time, in an Earth body. I swim down to the bottom of the pool. The water streams faster and faster, sucking me into a funnel. I am on my way.

Adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead (Destiny Books)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We must live into our own time

It's time. I'm moving Sir William Johnson and the Iroquois out of my writing Cave and up to a new library room we've created on the top level of my house. This is shifting the fulcrum of my life in an interesting way. Let me explain.

When I moved to a farm in upstate New York on the edge of Mohawk country in the mid-1980s, I started dreaming of people of an earlier time. I dreamed of a powerful white man, who sometimes appeared in the clothes of a colonial gentleman, or a redcoat general, or in the skins and feathers and fetishes of a native chief. Through the operations of a shelf elf in a used bookstore, I came to know his identity. He was Sir William Johnson (1715-1774), an Anglo-Irishman who came to the province of New York in search of fortune and adventure, and stayed on to rule a vast frontier domain in the style of a tribal king.

I not only dreamed of Johnson; I dreamed of people who were central to his life dramas. I dreamed of a "woman of power" who became Mother of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk nation, and is known to history as the grandmother of Molly Brant, the only woman who managed to tame Billy Johnson, with his raging appetite for life. I dreamed of a sorcerer who tried to raise ghosts to attack Johnson, and of a white conniver who sabotaged Johnson's efforts to set a curb to the theft of Indian land by westward-teeming settlers and speculators.

I became so immersed in these dramas of an earlier time that I found them playing out around me, in my interaction with contemporary people. I felt driven to learn everything I could about my dream character and his world. I ransacked archives in Ottawa and New York; I walked the scenes of Johnson's childhood in Ireland; I studied Mohawk - which he spoke fluently - with native speakers on native land along the Canadian border. I gathered a personal library of books including the 14 volumes of the Sir William Johnson Papers and the 73 volumes of the Jesuit Relations, the records of the blackrobe missionaries from North America's first frontier. Night after night, in visionary journeys, I traveled in Johnson's world. I saw, close up, each episode in the Battle of Lake George (1755) in which he led a ragtag force of militia and his Mohawk warriors into victory against French professionals. I saw where and how he bedded his women, an what happened at war feasts where the killing frenzy of bear or wolf and angry ghosts was called into Mohawks who were going into battle.

I knew that my fortunes and those of Johnson were linked, in a way I declined to explain according to any hand-me-down model. But enough is enough. We must live into our own times. So I began to set a boundary between my life and Johnson's by writing my way through. I wrote a narrative told in the wry voice of a fictional kinsman of Johnson's who enters his world, and that of the Mohawk, in the violent era of the Pontiac "rebellion". This was titled Fire Along the Sky, and in the second edition - now available in a handsome trade paperback edition from SUNY Press - the narrator's phallocentric assumptions are balanced by the mocking but also highly intuitive reflections of a brilliant woman, a lover from his later life.

I gave a one-man performance as Johnson and spoke for ninety minutes in front of an audience of 600 in Johnstown, the city he founded, about "my" life, loves and Indian intrigues. This was a grand evening, but a backward step in terms of effecting a separation of identities! I tried to go away and do other things, but my dreams and the play of synchronicity kept calling me back. So I wrote two more books in which my "far memory" (to borrow Joan Grant's phrase) and years of historical research were masked as fiction: The Firekeeper and The Interpreter. Later in Dreamways of the Iroquois, I offered my version of the shamanic dream practices of the First Peoples that Johnson came to know so well, and of the ancient clanmother who seemed to be calling me in my own dreams.

Why was I drawn into Johnson's life? Why (to come at it the other way) was he drawn to me? Proximity and affinity are both relevant. I moved my home to his part of the world. I also acknowledge that, for good and bad, we have some character traits in common, and perhaps even a distant blood connection in Ireland.

We are likely to learn more about the lessons and precedents of a certain "past" life experience when our current life choices and travels bring us closer to the themes of that time.

We are permitted to see more of our counterparts in our soul families as we grow in the ability to understand and integrate these connections without being swamped by them. When I had worked my way through the Johnson connection to a sufficient degree, I had a night vision in which I found myself in a hall of mirrors where I was able to look at 14 different selves - including Johnson and my present self - in 14 different mirrors, arranged around a reflecting pool where I saw what I believe to be the central self of these connected lives.

We must live into our own time and understand that both past and future are created, in a certain sense, in this moment - and can be changed.

Now I'll return to carting books up the stairs. There is room for 2,000 books on the new library shelves; already they are nearly full.

Oh-oh, and just as I gather an armful of books on the Mohawk people, an email comes in from a Mohawk woman inviting me to speak to her community on a reservation near Montreal...

Portrait of William Johnson by John Wollaston (1750) in Albany Institute of History and Art

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Minority Report on possible futures, and pronoia

"Minority Report" is one of my favorite movies, and seeds interesting thoughts about the nature of precognition and alternative futures. Like a whole raft of popular scifi movies (starting with "Bladerunner"), it was inspired by a story by Philip K. Dick, first published in a pulp magazine back in 1954.

The story plot is notably different from that of the film, and the depiction of the precogs - not drifting in a flotation tank here, simply wired up to a mass of machinery that spits out cards rather than balls - is savagely harsh; they are called "babbling idiots" and "monkeys" who suffer from brain deformations that enable them to pump out information about future events they could never begin to understand.

I recommend reading the original version of "The Minority Report" for a provocative introduction to the nature of multiple or probable futures. As Dick writes: "If only one time-path existed, precognitive information would be of no importance, since no possibility would exist, in possessing this information, of altering the future." Exactly. To see something is already to change it, though we should not leap to the conclusion (expressed by a villain in the story) that "as soon as precognitive information is obtained, it cancels itself out."

In the story collection in which "The Minority Report" is included, the editor has included a welcome quote from a 1974 interview with Dick:

I used to believe the universe was basically hostile...I had a lot of fears that the universe would discover just how different I was from it...that it would find out the truth about me, and its reaction would be perfectly normal: it would get me. I didn't feel that it was malevolent, just perceptive...But this year I realized that that's not true. That the universe is perceptive, but it's friendly.

I'm so glad that Philip K. Dick rose to this view of things. If we are going to harbor a conspiracy theory about the universe, let's infuse it with pronoia (the wild belief that the universe is benign and things will work out for the best, regardless of evidence) rather than paranoia.

A universe of traveling images

Lucretius thought that images penetrate people through the pores of the skin, producing dreams. In Book IV of De rerum natura ("On the Nature of Things") the Roman poet-philosopher describes a universe of traveling images (eidola) that influence humans as they enter the body.

The eidolon of the beloved, traveling from a far, can drive the lover into frenzy.

All people and all things, including the gods, constantly emit eidola, which fly through space in all directions. They include doubles identical in shape and color to their originals, but more delicate and subtle. They stimulate the senses, which release their own images, which enter the mind.

The word and the concept fascinated Walt Whitman, who wrote a poem called "Eidolons" that contains these verses:

Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,
Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
The entities of entities, eidolons.

Unfix'd yet fix'd,
Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Death of an oracle, and the oracle that never dies

The Sibylline Books were the oldest and most respected oracle of the Romans. According to legend, the original set – in Greek hexameter – were sold to an ancient king of Rome by a wise woman, or sibyl, from the region of Troy. They were replaced several times. Under the Empire, they were moved from the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill in Rome to a vault under the temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill. An august college of secular priests, whose members had typically held high state office, were entrusted with pulling verses from the collection –as you might pull Tarot cards from a deck – to perform a reading.
    They were not books as we understand them. They were a collection of loose leaves written on various materials, possibly including thin strips of wood.
    The Sibylline Books were most often consulted to get a second opinion on an anomalous event, like the flooding of the Tiber or the birth of a two-headed ram, but also to elicit the will of the gods on important undertakings and to receive guidance on what measures the state might need to take to propitiate the powers above.
     In 405, the master of Rome was a half-barbarian general named Stilicho who had been fighting a series of savage battles against Alaric and the Goths; Stilicho usually won, but at ruinous price, and without clear resolution. He did not like his ratings from the Sibylline Books, which hinted that he was out of favor with the gods. He did what other men of power have done when they disliked the opinions of diviners and dreamers; he tried to shut them down, in this case by ordering the destruction of the Sybilline Books. Though the Empire was now officially Christian, the culture of Rome was still deeply pagan, and this was widely viewed as an outrageous act of blasphemy that would bring punishment from the old gods.
     Soon news reached Rome that barbarian hordes had crossed the Rhine, heading for Italy. A cabal of disgruntled officers overthrew Stilicho; in 408, he was beheaded.. Two years later the Goths sacked Rome. There were many pagans who muttered, I told you so.
     Around the same time that Stilicho was destroying the great oracle at Rome, across the Mediterranean in the city of Cyrene a philosopher of noble blood named Synesius – soon to be made a bishop of the Church – completed a treatise On Dreams that argues, elegantly and persuasively, that dreams are our personal oracle and we should never allow anyone to interfere with it. This oracle is the birthright of every human, regardless of class or condition, and it travels with every dreamer. All that is required to consult it is to lay your head on a pillow – though the results you get will have a lot to do with how you live your life and how you cleanse (or fail to cleanse) your perception.

If we stay at home, the dream oracle stays with us; if we go abroad she accompanies us; she is with us on the field of battle, she is at our side in the city; she labors with us in the fields and barters with us in the market place. The laws of a malicious government cannot stop her. A tyrant cannot prevent us from dreaming, unless he banishes sleep from his kingdom. [The dream oracle] repudiates neither race, nor age, nor condition, nor calling. This zealous prophetess, this wise counselor, is present to everyone, everywhere. [adapted from the 1930 Augustine Fitzgerald translation]

This is an oracle we can ignore (at our cost) but thankfully it can never be destroyed.

Detail from Michelangelo's Sybil; fresco in the Sistine Chapel

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ghost at the Savoy, Far Memory & our many lives

"Should you find yourself sitting in a ghost's lap in a crowded restaurant, as I once did in the grill room of the Savoy Hotel in London, it is better to have a companion who can warn you if you talk to it too loudly, otherwise you are liable to startle the waiters." The speaker is Joan Grant, the author of a series of wonderful historical novels, starting with Winged Pharaoh (first published in 1937) that were based on her "far memory" of what she believed to be her previous life experiences.

In the incident at the Savoy, she felt that the ghost was lonely so she signaled for his ghostly friends to come and join him. Half a dozen turned up and "seemed so solid that I was surprised no one else saw them." When she left the restaurant, she noticed a little brass plaque behind her chair, stating that the American impresario Charles Frohman had regularly dined at this table before he was drowned on the Lusitania. "I suppose [the table at the Savoy] was a kind of heaven for a fragment of his personality."

This is a sample of the marvelous personal anecdotes that enliven the pages of Speaking from the Heart, a collection of previously unpublished writings of Joan Grant edited by her granddaughter Nicola Bennett, together with Jane Lahr and Sophia Rosoff. The book was published by Overlook Press in 2007, but - though I am generally on the alert for anything new by or about Joan Grant (who died in 1989) I had somehow managed to miss this treasure until Jane Lahr contacted me recently.

We learn a good deal here about Joan's full experience of "far memory", about how she and her last husband "K" (psychiatrist Denys Kelsey) practiced past-life therapy, and Joan's theories about the survival of multiple aspects of an individual after physical death. She was quite Egyptian in her insistence on the survival of a "supra-physical" body as well as the soul, and the possibility that a living individual can have more than one of these vehicles. A true pharaoh of Egypt, as I recall, was credited with having as many as 14 kas. It is "fun" to change your energy template, Grant informs us.

"Another advantage of having more than one active, current supra-physical [body] is that it makes it easier to appear in two places at once." She gives a personal example. She was worried about a woman who was scheduled to undergo a caesarean, an operation considered highly dangerous at the time. Although she could not be with her, she thought of her intently just before the procedure. Later the woman's husband thanked Joan profusely for the visit his wife said she had made, slipping in through the french doors from the hospital garden so as to be unobserved by the nurses, comforting her to the point that her fears dissolved and she slipped gently into a state of natural sedation. Joan waited some time after the birth before telling the mother that her visit was not an ordinary physical event. The woman responded, "Thank goodness I didn't know you weren't solid! I should have been simply terrified if I'd known I was seeing a ghost."

Joan's was a way of personal experience that fueled both creative and healing work. She changed her mind about a number of things. Once a firm believer in the lost continent of Atlantis, for example, she came to believe that this was a myth that gave structure to impressions of many different past-life situations. "The cuckoo has no nest of its own; it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. Atlantis has no past of its own; so it lays the burden of its mythical doom on the the future."

She noted that ignorance of history leads to a clustering of "past-life memories" around well-known cultures and periods. I find this very frequently, when people try to sort out when and where in time events in a dream or journey are unfolding. I am forever encouraging people to do the detailed research required to nail down the facts of "past-life" impressions. Such research can provide very useful confirmation of the objective validity of a sighting or "far memory".

There are indications here that Joan Grant experimented at least a little with what I find to be two of the most rewarding lines of exploration of our relations with a family of counterpart personalities, living in different times and dimensions. "Two personalities in the same series communicate with each other through their Integral - the Spirit." This suggests that at the hub of many lives, playing out in different worlds, is a higher self that may operate outside time and may facilitate contact between personalities living in different times. We want to try to ascend to the perspective of that higher self, with its view over many times. And we want not only to understand how the legacy of past lives may work in our present lives - and may be healed, when seen for what it is - but how we can reach back across time to heal something in the life of a previous self.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Industrial sleep and building dry stone walls

A dry stone wall is built without mortar. It settles and gives with the weather and the seasons, and may stand for centuries, long after bricks and cement have crumbled. This art of walling is ancient - the Lion Gate of Mycenae is dry stone and there are remains of dry stone walls 4,000 years old in Ireland- and you can see its products all over Europe and New England. There aren't many full-stone dry wallers left, but Steven Allen, a Yorkshireman, is determined to keep the art alive. He's been fitting stones together since his teens, often seven days a week, and holds the title of the world's champion dry stone waller.

Michale Finkel watched him compete with other dry stone wallers on the Yorkshire moors, and in a wonderful article for The Atlantic ("Someone there is who loves a wall", May, 2000) Finkel noted what seemed to give Allen the edge over the competition. While others got themselves into a lather of sweat, willing themselves to win, Allen seemed to work with a sense of emerging pattern.

He'd stand stock-still for a moment and stare at his wall with a calculating look on his face. Then he would swiftly turn around and bend down and select a stone. He'd twist it and jiggle it and flip it over and back, as if fiddling with prayer beads. Then he'd pick up his hammer, hold the stone to his thigh, and chip off pieces with a few sharp taps.

A quality that set Allen apart from wallers, Finkel noticed, was "his feel for the hidden seems snaking along the rock." When he hammered a rock, "it invariably fractured along a plane as smooth as a sail." When he picked a stone to fill the gap between others, the chosen rock "would literally click into place, wedged between its neighbors as tightly and neatly as if Allen were building with Lego bricks."

In Crossing the Unknown Sea David Whyte seizes on this, correctly and elegantly, as an exemplary case of how good work gets done. The key is “a felt perception of the larger pattern” combined with “a restful yet attentive presence in the midst of our work” and the ability to draw on “some source of energy other than our constant applications of effort and will.” “If we attempt to engage the will continually, it exhausts us and prevents us from creating something with a pattern that endures.”

I've been working in this mode, day and night, since I returned from teaching on Cortes Island in a seven-stage journey on Labor Day (September 6th). Fitting together drafts for my new book, on Active Dreaming for conscious living and community, I've felt like a dry stone waller judging the shape and heft of the next rock, seeking the right smaller stone to plug a gap, feeling out the hidden seam that will cause a rock to split exactly right under the fall of the hammer, deciding where to leave a small hole - which my Scots ancestors called a smoot - to let sheep pass. I've been at this literally all the time, around quick naps (never more than 2 hours) that I have come to call industrial sleeps. I had promised my editor to deliver the new book today, and though the deadline was fierce, I never felt rushed or pressured. I hit the SEND button at 7AM today, East Coast time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Poets of consciousness

Poets, it’s said, are shamans of words. True shamans are poets of consciousness. Journeying into a deeper reality with the aid of sung and spoken poetry, they bring back energy and healing through poetic acts, shapeshifting physical systems. When we dream, we tap directly into the same creative source from which poets and shamans derive their gifts. When we create from our dreams, and enter dreamlike flow, we become poets and artists. When we act to bring the energy and imagery of dreams into physical reality, we become poets of consciousness and infuse our world with magic.

In Birth of a Poet, William Everson raised a clamorous appeal for poets to reawaken to their shamanic calling: "O Poets! Shamans of the word! When will you recover the trance-like rhythms, the subliminal imagery, the haunting sense of possession, the powerful inflection and enunciation to effect the vision? Shamanize! Shamanize!" Across the centuries, many of our greatest poets have recognized their kinship with the shaman’s way of shifting awareness and shapeshifting reality. As his name in a spiritual order, Goethe chose the name of a legendary shaman of antiquity, Abaris, who came flying out of the Northern mists on an arrow from Apollo’s bow.

Our earliest poets were shamans. Today as in the earliest times, true shamans are poets of consciousness who know the power of song and story to teach and to heal. They understand that through the play of words, sung or spoken, the magic of the Real World comes dancing into the surface world. The right words open pathways between the worlds. The poetry of consciousness delights the spirits. It draws the gods and goddesses who wish to live through us closer.
Shamans use poetry, sung or spoken, to achieve ends that go deeper than our consensual world. They create poetic songs of power to invoke spiritual help; to journey into nonordinary reality; to open and maintain a space between the worlds where interaction between humans and multidimensional beings can take place and to bring energy and healing through to the body and the physical world.

The South American paye takes flight with the help of "wing songs". These flight songs help him to borrow the wings of the kumalak bird [a kind of kite] that is a main ally of shamans.
Among the Inuit, the strongest shamans are also the most gifted poets. One of the reasons their spirit helpers flock around them is that they are charmed and exhilarated by the angakok’s poetic improvisations. Inuit shamans have a language of their own, which is often impenetrable to other Eskimos. It is a language that is never still. It bubbles and eddies, opening a whirlpool way to the deep bosom of the Sea-goddess, or a cavernous passage into the hidden fires of Earth.

My favorite Inuit shaman-word is the one for "dream". It looks like this: kubsaitigisak. It is pronounced "koov-sigh-teegee-shakk", with a little click at the back of the throat when you come to the final consonant. It means "what makes me dive in headfirst." Savor that for a moment, and all that flows with it. A dream, in Eskimo shaman-speech, is something that makes you dive in headfirst. Doesn’t this wondrously evoke the kinesthetic energy of dreaming, the sense of plunging into a deeper world? Doesn’t it also invite us to take the plunge, in the dream of life, and burst through the glass ceilings and paper barriers constructed by the daily trivial self?

Shamans know further uses for dream poetry. They call the soul back home, into the bodies of those who have lost vital energy through pain or trauma or heartbreak. And from their journeys, they bring back poetic imagery that can help to shapeshift the body’s energy template in the direction of health.

Mainstream Western physicians agree that the body believes in images and responds to them as if they are physical events. By bringing the right images through from the dreaming, the poets of consciousness explain dis-ease in ways that help the patient get well, and interact with the body and its immune system on multiple levels without invasive surgery.

As dreamers, we tap into the same deep wells as poets and shamans. Poetry sometimes comes dancing out of dreams, in full-formed verses. When we turn our dreams into poems, we free our creative spirit, and our spirits come dancing.

Photo by Karolyn McKinley

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dream Gatekeeper and Antlered Blessings

Hollyhock, Cortes Island, British Columbia

"What is the purpose of your visit to Canada?" asked the immigration officer at Toronto's Pearson airport when I arrived very early on Tuesday morning, from a noisy puddlejumper that seemed to be part of the early history of aviation.

"I'm leading a seminar on Cortes Island."

"What's the subject of the seminar."

I take a risk and say "Dreamwork," preparing to explain of asked what this means.

The face of the lady immigration officer is illuminated. She is positively beaming pleasure.

I can't resist asking, "Do you remember your dreams?"

"YES!" she exclaims. "I dreamed of an earthquake."

"If that were my dream, I'd wonder whether the dream is literal or symbolic. Maybe I'll find myself in a place where an earthquake could happened. Or maybe the dream is about a future event that will shake up my life in some way."

"We had an earthquake here in Toronto," she told me. "People were surprised. I had the dream before that, so I guess it could have been a preview. But it seemed that I was in Los Angeles in the dream."

"Have you been to Los Angeles?"

"No, but I've been to Mexico."

"Then if it were my dream I'd wonder if it contains something about the future that has not yet been revealed, maybe involving a trip to L.A. I don't know about yet, or something that could shake my world involving someone with an L.A. connection."

The line behind me was growing, so the passport control officer and I bid each other a pleasant good-day, and I moved on towards Baggage Claim. I was in celebratory mood. An immigration officer seems like the ultimate archetype of Gatekeeper, and this morning the Gatekeeper was not only in friendly mood; she was eager to explore dreams.

Outside the airport, the city of Toronto was being turned into a swimming pool by the heaviest rains on record. Later I sloshed through three inches of water on the sidewalk to get on the Canada Line to my interview on a CBS afternoon show. The rain stopped right after I chatted with the host, on live radio, about the significance of her dreams of finding herself in bed with various colleagues she would never think of sleeping with under regular circumstances. I observed that, while for Freud nearly everything in dreams was about sex, sex in dreams is very often a metaphor - in this case (if it were my dream) for getting closer to someone in other ways.

200 people turned out for my talk at the Vancouver Public Library that night, and I was moved by the depth of passionate engagement in that audience as I explained why we need to rebirth a dreaming society now and how dreamwork, for me, is all soul - helping each other to identify, through dreams, what the soul (as opposed to the ego) wants of our lives, and to locate where vital soul energy we may have lost through life's pain and disappointment can be found and brought home to our bodies.

On Wednesday morning, I embarked at Vancouver's South Terminal on the new journey that brought me to Hollyhock, a beautiful retreat center on Cortes Island. A 40-minute plane ride, then a joincing ride on a shuttle bus to a fast water taxi, where I sat in the back in the fierce blow off the Sound, and finally a van from Manson's Landing to Hollyhock. I met a participant in my "Way of the Dreamer" retreat at the shuttle bus. Her lovely name was "Celeste", which got me talking about the significance of names and the need to be sure that we claim the name we want.

When we arrived at the landing for the water taxi, the shuttle driver said, "I was listening to your talk about names and I'd like to tell you about my granddaughter's name. Her paernts naled her Ocean. She loves the sea and can tell you things about it that old salts don't know, though she's only seventeen. Last week she fell off a boat and there was an orca in the water right next to her. They swam together like they were best buddies." We agreed Ocean had been given the right name.

The naturalist who drove us from Manson's Landing to Hollyhock told me that, while there are gray wolves and cougars on Cortes Island, there are no bears. I informed him, "That has just changed."

I walked the stony beach in the afternoon, and a doe walked before me, slowing to look back at me, with no sign of fear. At the dinner table that night, we got into talk about indigenous ways of dreaming and Celeste - who was traveling with a copy of Dreamways of the Iroquois - asked me about how I had met an ancient Mohawk woman shaman in my dreaming, and that had changed my life. As I spoke about the Iroquoian practice of honoring secret wishes of the soul, as revealed in dreams, some young women were spinning hula hoops near an old apple tree, in my line of sight. A young buck stepped across the grass behind them. This inspired me to speak about the spiritual significance of antlers - the "living bones" - to the Iroquois. A second buck stepped into my field of vision, then a third, an older stag with a serious rack. He looked at the hula girls, then at me. I felt the tingle of confirmation that good things were afoot. I spoke of how the antlers, for the Iroquois and many other ancient and indigenous people, represent spiritual connection because they rise above the physical head into the spirit world. And they represent the power of regeneration, because they die and fall and grow back.

That night, in a meeting house deep in the woods, I offered tobacco to the ancestors of the land, and we sang and danced the Bear back to Cortes Island.

Photo by Steve Case, my neighbor at dinner on the night of the deer and the hula girls