25 January 2018
There was a dead seal on the beach today. A sad husk, dark and sombre against the light sand.
It was almost as if the waters wanted to deliver to me a message of death and decay. In the midst of an unprecedented drought here in the Western Cape where I live, it is no surprise if that is indeed the message, I thought to myself.
I saw a video the other day about an old Native American woman telling the story of how she’d talked to the water that started coming from the ground under her house, and how it listened to her request and flowed in ways so as not to flood her neighbours, or shed.
I took off my shoes and as I grounded myself in the energy of the earth and stepped into the ankle-deep waters of the playful waves, I remembered her story and decided to try and connect to the water.
And a curious dance quickly happened, a joyful barefoot tango between girl and ocean, an ebb and flow, give and take.
I asked the water why it has chosen to stay away, why so little rain was falling.
In answer, I only got a shrug. Water does as it pleases. It can go anywhere – en masse it can destroy or create.
It is ancient and mysterious and slightly dangerous at all times. But it is also wise and patient and playful.
It wouldn’t explain and so I remained quiet and just listened. We danced on in silence for a while.
It had missed me, it finally said.
I had missed it too, I realised.
When I was younger I used to swim and play. Water was an important joyous part of my life.
As a grownup I stopped playing in it, concentrating instead on serious and grownup things.
Even though I live close to the ocean, I don’t visit it enough.
So how could I blame the water for not coming to me and my fellow Capetonians when I had almost abandoned it myself? I couldn’t.
I apologised and vowed to do better.
Before the drought, I barely paid water any mind. It was just something that came out of the tap.
And whereas the drought taught me to be mindful, grateful and respectful of every drop, I’d begun to imbue water (or the lack thereof) with a heaviness… something to sigh about as I carried the buckets from my shower to try and keep my garden alive.
Today as I walked with the dancing, giggling waves lapping at my feet, I knew I wanted to change this. I had rediscovered a friendship, a love, almost forgotten.
Whatever the outcomes, I knew I needed to make the lightness and flow of water an important part of my life again.
Walking on the beach, sticky with the saltiness of the sea and the sand grains sticking everywhere, my tracksuit pants wet from a surprise wave, while being pummeled by the wild winds, I became a child again … a part of the wildness of nature, exhilarated, joyful…
I felt how I think the ocean feels all the time, and it was one of the more profound experiences of my life.
I was pensive as I drove home.
Later, I checked and saw that seals are often called water-dancers. The message was finally clear.
It wasn’t about death and decay. Seals teach us to put aside our fears of water and learn to enjoy it and play in it.
I finally know that despite the inconvenience and far-reaching effects of this drought, I must treat my life like water and live in a state of flowing and allowing, coming at it with love and patience, and not in resistance to what is.
I see a lot of resistance and fear around. People are blaming each other, levels of government pointing fingers at each other, citizens angry at other groups or people they believe are using water wastefully or illegally.
Going into fear is not the answer.
I’ll honour the climatic process happening here. It is bigger than I am. It is a needed wakeup call to humanity.
I’ll forgive the water for not coming, and send it love and blessings wherever it touches my life.
I’ll not be scared – the way water is not scared of anything, believing in its own power and eternal existence. It will flow where it wants to flow and I’ll do the same.
And every now and then we’ll dance together in joy, and everything will be okay.
This I know.