Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stories that wait like spirits in the waters

Green turtle surfacing - photo by Jeff Seminoff, NOAA
I have heard Aboriginal elders say that spirits that are getting ready to come into a body lie in wait in certain waters, waiting for the right opportunity. I think stories can be like that. Even when you think you have left a certain story behind, it may be waiting for you, seeking an opportunity to enter you and come alive in you again.
     I hope to confirm this over the next week, when I will be leading an adventure in shamanic dreaming and creating in Hawaii. A certain story has been after me since my first visit to Hawaii, back in 1998, and I'll be glad if it comes after me again.
     During my first days in Hawaii, I found myself in a waking dream. The whole landscape was so vividly alive. Early on the morning of my birthday, I swam at Waimea Beach, on the wild north shore of Oahu, under gentle rain. Leaning towers of cloud and mist rose from the gorge behind the beach. A woman in a wetsuit was going down to the water; her hair was golden seaweed. From the water’s edge, the ocean floor slanted down sudden and deep. I slid into warm, gentle surf.
     I was delighted by a rainbow that appeared to be anchored half a mile away, to my left, by a rocky headland. The rainbow curved over the sea, opening a gateway – bluegreen to begin with, brightening as the sun burst through into the full, vivid spectrum.
     I wanted to swim under the rainbow. It looked like a gate to another dimension. I struck out strongly, beating my legs, towards the rainbow gate. When I raised my chin above the water to check on my progress, I found the rainbow was steadily receding into the distance. Everyone knows you can’t ever catch up with a rainbow, right?
     But now the sea turtles came. First a baby, then a whole pod. I swam among them, kicking hard to keep up. Sea turtles can be fast. 
We swam together to the place of the rainbow. Its brightness had gone, yet something of it seemed to hang in the air. I saw a beautiful soft bluegreen arch above me.
I wrote sloppy haiku on the beach. The woman with seaweed hair approached me.
    "I saw you swimming with the sea turtles."
    "I am a caller of sea turtles," she announced, quite matter-of-factly. I did not doubt her. "Are you a poet?" she asked me.
     She asked me to read what I had written. How do you refuse a caller of sea turtles with golden seaweed for hair?

I want to go under
The rainbow’s ocean gate
Sea turtle takes me through

I returned to Hawaii the following year, and on another early morning, when I was alone on a white beach in early sunlight farther along the coast, a shark came out of the gentle surf and became a woman.
    Years passed, and I began to write a novel-length story involving a man whose idea of paradise is a lot like Hawaii; not surprising, since the word Hawaii, I am told, is a contraction of Hawaiiki, a Polynesian term for paradise. So when he dies, my character finds himself traveling to a place like one of the Hawaiian islands where life after life is good until things start to fall apart because it's time for him to move on. I did not complete this book. It lies in a great pile of other unfinished manuscripts.
    As I prepare to return to the islands, I am thinking of how stories may lie in wait in certain waters, like those spirits waiting to be born. I'll be happy if my Hawaiian story chooses to find me again.


Jeni Hogenson said...

You are a caller of stories, so I would imagine that they will be lining up at the beach for you...because who else could give them their entrée into the world in a way that opens the door to the bigger stories.
I really enjoyed playing some part or other of that tropical love story when we acted out part of it at "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming" several years ago. It must've been fun to see the characters come alive in that dream theatre experience. Looking forward to more of that come April at Mosswood Hollow!

Robert Moss said...

Thanks so much, Jeni. I love the vision of the stories lining up at the beach. May it be so!

Theater is always one of the most fun elements in our playshops. We have shared the greatest fun in helping each other to develop our stories and scripts by acting out the unwritten scenes, with everyone donating their spontaneous creativity. I am looking forward to our fresh adventures in "Dreaming as a State of Conscious Dreaming" at Mosswood in April.