The Sea Turtle: Coming Full Circle

turtle-863336__340

The other day en route to work I listened to an NPR interview with a Chinese man about his experience as a “Sea Turtle.”  In China this metaphor refers to someone who leaves their country and family to travel overseas and then eventually returns. Compatriots who never left will test the returned ‘sea turtle’ to see how s/he has been changed by their exposure to foreign ways ‘across the waters’.  Will they still be loyal and faithful to their own kith and kin?

I like this metaphor, which can have other layers as well as the Chinese associations. The initial journey of the infant sea turtle is fraught with danger and hazards, as only one percent of a group of up to 600 or so hatchlings will even survive the crossing of the beach to reach the Ocean. When the mother sea turtle does return to build her nest and deposit her eggs, it is after from 20-50 years living alone, depending on the species, before reaching sexual maturity and mating.

stock-photo-little-baby-turtles-on-their-way-to-the-sea-139124582

The mother sea turtle’s voyage brings her full circle, back to her exact beach of origin. One internet author remarks that the home beach of the sea turtle is “where the magnetic heart is.” Does she return to where she was a rare survivor in evolutionary hopes that her hatchlings might fare as well as she did?

stock-photo-newly-hatched-baby-turtle-toward-the-ocean-91039295

The Sea Turtle is a  metaphor that applies to my own coming ordeals and adventure as I am set to retire in seven months and I will be returning ‘Back East’ to the conditions I was born to, after nearly forty years ‘Out West.’  I return to bring back lessons and insights from all that I have learned, and will spawn services connected to my book about Life Path Mapping that comes out in March (Your Life Path, see right panel), and to complete additional books in the Life Paths series.

fantasy-2925250__340

Are you a SEA TURTLE?  What do you aim to spawn on your Return from your Oceanic journey of experience and maturation? Where is your home beach where you may build your new nest? How can you best provide for your own hatchlings?

woman-2888122__340

images are from pixabay.com

I welcome YOUR comments and stories!

Surviving the Storms of Winter

 

All: I was going to just put in a quote today (will in a few days, that of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem). But today is a snow day in Colorado Springs, and it has called forth a memory for me to share:

sunset-681174__180

As I sit at home on a snow day from teaching, I am reminded of the many storms I have encountered and survived in this life.  I realize there is a principle here of survival that we develop every time we successfully negotiate “stormy weather,” whether that be of the climatology type of storm or situational storms in our work or relationship life, or even the stormy nature of world affairs.

So as a metaphorical story of confronting the stormy weather of life, allow me to recount one experience, from many years ago. This happened around 1978 during a road trip with my fencing team. We fenced several teams at an intercollegiate tournament in New Jersey at Fairleigh Dickenson University and then our coach, Roxanne, gathered the team and our equipment into our university van to begin the 8-10 hour journey home to Buffalo, New York; but we knew from the beginning we would be facing the onslaught of a major blizzard along the way.

stock-photo-st-petersburg-russia-may-final-match-russia-vs-china-during-th-international-fencing-275410847

There were six of us fencers plus Roxanne, our coach; she was the designated driver of our van. We had a hearty breakfast in New Jersey then set out to travel interstate highways for the bulk of our trip. The storm started early in our voyage, such a blizzard that we were in “white out” conditions by the first two hours of our adventure. Around four hours along, we still could not see as far ahead as the vehicle whose tailgates we were trying to follow in order to stay on the highway. Then, we heard a pop and felt the uneven lurch forward of the van; we had a flat tire!

snow-2742__180

Coach Roxy pulled over as far as she could off the highway to avoid being hit by snow blinded drivers. We found a red tee-shirt and tied it to our radio antennae on the car and another red piece of scarf we tied to the rear to signal our state of distress. Coach tried to get us to a next service station, first by letting the van limp forward very slowly, but after about 45 minutes of this we realized we were only incurring more damage to the vehicle, so she pulled over further again and we stopped.

While we were stopped along the shoulder, a vehicle pulled up from behind. Two helpful African American men offered to help us. Two of my teammates decided they would ride with these men to the next service area and send back help. They departed.  After about another hour, another vehicle pulled up and a middle-aged man and his wife offered their assistance. Two more of our team members went off with them; it was too much of a blizzard to try to change the tire ourselves so we needed one of these two groups to send back help. Worried about both separated parties, the one other remaining teammate, myself and Coach Roxy waited nervously in the gusting, snowy dark with the van.  We used the van’s heater only sparingly, as we were also low on fuel.

Eventually, the first two teammates returned in the company of a tow truck driver!

stock-photo-loading-broken-car-on-a-tow-truck-on-a-roadside-277327427

All five of us (still with two teammates missing) packed into the tow truck cabin after the driver chained the van to haul, and still in slow, white out conditions, we lumbered along in the frigid van uncomfortably to the next toll booth station, where the driver let us out and went to work on repairing our flat tire. This was before the days of cell phone convenience; we stood out near the road by the toll booth, hoping we would see our missing members going back to find us where we had been!

boston-732533__180

It was very late at night (early AM the next day actually) by this point; our 8-10 hour journey had become a nightmarish 18 hours or more already. Police officers at the toll station sent out an alert to try to locate our two separated members. We waited and fretted for another couple of hours; cold, bedraggled, and worried. FINALLY, the whole ordeal shifted, as if miraculously!

high-mountains-958__180

Suddenly, it was as if the test or challenge of the gods had been passed. Within about 15 minutes, our separated pair was returned to us in a police car from where they had been left off at a town up ahead. Our tire repaired and back on the van, we were back on the highway; it was by now about 5 AM. As if to honor our ordeals, in a beautiful relief, suddenly the snow stopped, the dark cloud cover passed, and overhead was a beautiful, sunstruck morning with a full, glorious rainbow to herald the final hour or two of our trip Home!

rainbow-918861__180

So much could have gone “more wrong” even than it did. What if we had been too trusting of either of the two cars of helpful strangers?  What if in the blizzard we would have been hit from the rear by a driver blinded by the snow?

The success of our survival through this Blizzard came partly from our Coach, partly from our individual resolve to see this through, but mostly through the team effort we relied on. Using the buddy system of two at a time departing and the rest staying together, each sub-team had decisions to make and risks to take that would contribute to the survival of the whole.

What I will always remember most about this experience is that team camaraderie, but also the symbolic layering of THE ORDEAL itself. This was a challenge or a not so subtle Test of the highest order, as it felt. If we could get through this intact, without compromising the safety and well-being of any of our members, we could survive anything! And then, after gradually negotiating every step of the way through the ordeal, solving new problems as they arose, the rainbow that blessed our successful emergence from Darkness was palpable. I remember almost crying or maybe I even did to know that we were going to be okay and Spirit was gracefully blessing our trials with nourishing sunlight.

rainbow-952533__180

images from pixabay.com

This story represents a Descent and Re-emergence; a Dark Night of the Soul ordeal. Though it may seem a light travail in comparison to the harsh journeys of refugees today or the fighting of warriors in battles of their own and their nations—or the bitter travails of the injured and the aggrieved who have lost family and loved ones in battles or to incomprehensible, inhuman terrorist attacks!—the story of travail and survival is universal, Archetypal, even potentially Alchemical, regardless even of the ultimate results.

It is in being challenged that we reach deeply, together and alone, into the deep recesses of Universal Spirit, to manage solutions, to band together and resolve the difficulties that confront us. This is the beauty of life, for any species even. We strive to overcome and to transcend our survival challenges; we attain to greater spiritual strength and harmony along the Way!

I welcome YOUR comments and Stories!

Around the Bend? Life Is… a Winding Road

coaster-road_MyIQYUYu

The most common metaphor for Life is that it is in some form a Journey, and in that regard, we are all travelers. We think of ourselves as having originated at birth and as having an exit, at death, with a “long and winding Road” from start to finish. J.R.R. Tolkien expressed this metaphor beautifully in a song from The Fellowship of the Ring:

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the Door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger Way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then?

I cannot say.

Now then, where have you come from? Where are you going? How are you going to get there? Tolkien’s song reminds us that a life traveler, like you or me, is on a Quest to achieve unique potentials.

fall-pathway_fk8P28Ou

Of course, not everyone is in a set of conditions that appears to allow them to “Follow their Bliss,” as Joseph Campbell exhorted.  A student recently reminded me of this fact after watching Campbell and Moyers’ dialogue in volume 1 of The Power of Myth series, The Hero’s Adventure. Life certainly can appear as a deep, dark pit rather than as a happily winding road to those caught up in apparently immovable or intractable conditions. Can someone beset with a genetic illness or chronic mental disorder, or can someone suffering in poverty anywhere in the world, benefit from the lofty thought that “Life is a Winding Road” leading to a positive destination? Or is that a merely privileged, Polyannish fantasy?

NX_hobo_house_foreclosedsign

I’ve been pondering this question since my student raised such a sobering perspective. I must for myself yet answer, Yes! I do believe that ANYONE, even in the most critical and painful of circumstances, not only can benefit from imaging Life as a Winding Road leading toward an ultimately positive destination, but that in fact they are likely to do so.

Why? Because I believe it is a human imperative, part of our basic survival instinct no doubt, to strive to transcend negative circumstances so as to—in some fashion, either for ourselves or those we love—prevail.  At very least, in the worst of times we at least usually aim to survive; albeit survival might come in various forms, including spiritual survival.

muslim-women_110001840-012814-int

I don’t mean to make little of human suffering and pain by any means; certainly it is a fundamental and crucial aspect of the human condition.  It is just what it is. But it seems also very human to aim to transcend suffering in any possible way or to any possible degree. I guess since I do see Life as a long and winding pathway, in fact through potentially MANY lifetimes and states of consciousness, there seems to be a plus factor, all in all.

It feels anyway to me as if we are all of us tending toward Home in the most ultimate sense, no matter how long it may take for any of us to get Here.

Road to nowhere

So this month I invite you to contemplate Life as a Winding Road. I welcome your insights, stories, or any artistic representations.

The Audacity of Youth: A Wild Night ‘Sneaking Out’

Snow Cover

As a teen in the early 1970’s, my sense of adventure and love of freedom led me to often “sneak out” to meet with my friends. In retrospect this was actually amazing, because I had a father who would have punished me very severely had I been caught! My activities were innocent; my friends and I just met each other, walked, talked, and enjoyed the freedom of being out on our own in the starry night. One night in particular, though, pushed my very survival skills to the max! I share this as a testament to the brave audacity and the resourcefulness of youth.

It was winter in Lewiston, NY.  My two friends Daniel and Barbara and I had planned to meet after all our parents had gone to bed. I slept on a cot in the basement—as I often did—and after I heard my father go upstairs to my parents’ bedroom, I stealthily climbed the basement stairs, opened the inner garage door and then the outer one, and I was off. I made my way down the street to Danny’s house. Lights were off but for a candle in his window: the sign that his parents were also to bed. So I threw a pebble up to Danny’s window; his cue. He unfurled a rope of sheets tied together and climbed down into the bushes. Now we greeted each other and headed off for our big adventure. Our goal that night was to walk about a mile and a half down from the escarpment neighborhood we lived in, down to our friend Barb’s house, and she would join us for a visit ‘out’.

Dan and I had to cross a major, 4-lane highway before we could begin our descent down the escarpment to visit our friend. We had done this before without incident, but this night was not to be such a lark. Almost as soon as we reached the highway to cross, a police car coming up the highway stopped. The officer called us over and asked us for our names. I knew the last thing I wanted was for my father to be called from a police station to be told his daughter had been arrested. No time to think, Dan and I looked at each other and we knew what we had to do. We bolted! We ran and leapt down a little indentation we knew because of a secret fort we had cultivated for years right near where we had been stopped by the policeman. We ducked into a railroad tunnel and across the highway from underneath, then we fled down the snowy escarpment on the other side from where the officer probably thought we had gone. We thought we were free then but that was only the start of our adventure!

At the base of the escarpment we started toward our friend Barb’s house, along a two-lane road, Creek Drive. No sooner had we begun that trek on the open road but a police car came up from behind! We dashed behind a house; the cop parked in that driveway and got out with a flashlight to chase after us. We bolted through back yards, losing him.

What we did not know until hearing it on the news the next day was that a pair of teens—a boy and a girl–had broken into a drugstore in town that night; the policemen thought we were them! So, we were in for quite a chase.

Dan and I wended our way through dark yards from house to house and tree to tree. (I get an image of Peanuts’ Snoopy as a WWII ace here, behind enemy lines in France.) We finally arrived at Barb’s house. We tapped on her basement window, and she snuck out from her kitchen’s sliding back door to join us. Dan and I were pretty agitated, of course. We told Barb what was up and agreed that Dan and I had better head for home. Barb went back inside then, and Dan and I started our return trip.

We made it about half way up the escarpment, walking parallel to the highway in the brush. But then, guess what? We saw lights, alot of bright lights, moving slowly down the highway in our direction and on the side of the highway we were on. It was—can you believe it?—a search truck, coming down the highway at about 5 mph, casting searchlights into the escarpment brush while several police officers accompanied the search truck on foot, walking before and behind it!

Dan said, “Let’s meet at the railroad tracks!” and we both started to run as fast as we could to get up to the trees and climb to the tracks. But I slipped on the icy ground almost immediately and fell.  Instinctively I knew that if I would stand up and run, the truck was now close enough that there was no way for me not to be seen.

So, I huddled. I drew my brown winter coat around my full body and balled up into as small a lump as I could muster. I said to myself, “I am a Rock!” A rock does not think, or move. I kept repeating this phrase over and over, the only thought I allowed myself at all: “I am a Rock; I AM a rock; I AM A ROCK!”

The truck and police pedestrians advanced, nearer and nearer. I could hear their quiet conversation as the lights of the searchtruck were upon my very form (“I’m a rock; I’m a rock; I’m a rock”). They were past me then, moving slowly away, maybe 15 yards or so  down the highway. Then all of a sudden I heard one of the officers say, “Hey, do you see that funny looking Rock?”

I bolted! Immediately I was up and running for the cover of trees and the tracks! And, of course, they were after me.  But Dan and I knew these parts better than they did. I reached the tracks where Dan was waiting breathlessly. Without a word we were off, clambering along the tracks, across the highway from underneath, then we climbed a rocky trail up to the top of the escarpment, right into our hidden, secret fort!

We huddled in the fort for what must have been two hours, at least. The police released dogs! Fortunately, if they had some fabric or property from the teens who really had broken into a store that night, their scent did not match with ours, so the dogs did not find us!

After a while, the voices near the tracks and in the woods just below our precarious hiding place faded. We had evaded capture. Around 4:30 AM, we gathered enough courage to emerge from our hideaway. We parted company at my parents’ house; I snuck back down into the basement and Dan climbed back up to his bedroom. We were safe.

That was a Sunday night. The next day, Dan and I went to school as usual. During the school day, Dan was asked to write an essay for English class about a true adventure. He wrote about exactly what had just transpired the night before. When he received his paper back on Tuesday it was graded a C- with the teacher’s comment:  “This is not true; it is not believable at all. Nothing like this would never happen!”

Such an adventure. It galvanizes me even today to remember how Dan and I survived that night what could have been a life changing, disastrous capture.  I found then I can rely on my deepest instincts–and perhaps spiritual inner guidance and protection–to accomplish whatever worthy goal must be accomplished. I have needed to call on this inner resourcefulness and protection a few times since this adventure; facing even more life-challenging threats.

Remember you are the same person now that you were as an Innocent Child and an audacious youth. They are still within you!

************

Coming this next week: Better Endings with Dreams! Please feel free to send your own stories, insights and comments!