Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Treading Water to Iona

There were times in my journey were my conscious desires seemed to be secondary to my basic instinct for survival.  Survival seemed to be foremost, and even overshadow my focus on my ultimate destination, Iona.  A good bit of the journey was spent treading water, particularly when my curragh was capsized by the horrendous monster lurking in the depths around me.

Out of my safe curragh I swam for years, often fending off sharks.  Being a tiny child, I did not yet know how to swim well.  I floated very still and discovered I did not sink.  Then, at sudden moments the monsters that tossed me from the safety of my curragh, and hid my parents and family from me, would pull me under the water, sometimes very deep into the depths of those dark cold places where I could hardly see the sun above the surface of the water.  I could not breathe.  My mind grew confused so that even survival instincts seemed to be drowning like personal friends who until then were faithful to me, always there to defend and save me and keep me afloat or treading water, even if violently at times.

Then something would swim by in the darkness of the deep sea, and I’d feel myself nudged, or at times even slammed into by what seemed to be a creature a thousand times larger and more powerful than the sharks who attacked or the monsters that deliberately tried to frighten me—as if trying to convince me to abandon all hope of being saved, or of ever seeing my beloved family again.

Each nudge or slam from this Giant of the Deep startled me into consciousness so that I again began to fight for my life, even flailing, then deliberately swimming upward back to the surface where I’d catch sight of my family in the curragh or swimming in the water, sometimes worried that they could not see me, sometimes not even aware I had nearly drowned quietly right beside them or with in reach.  Had they only known I could not yet swim well!

This part of the journey went on like this for years with the storms beginning when I was but three years old but gaining such force when I was fifteen that I think part of me actually did die in that sea storm and was consumed by a particularly crafty shark whom I did not see. What gently approached me as a dolphin—those creatures who are known for saving drowning humans—was in fact the most ferocious coy shark of all who, once it had my confidence, proceeded to consume me a piece at a time until it reached my heart and my brain which was taken in one violent bit.

I floated nearly dead beneath the surface slowly sinking toward the floor of the sea.  Vague feelings of remorse, shame and guilt that I had not yet learned to swim or that I’d been so stupid that I could not see the shark disguised as a dolphin.  For ten years I remained under sea with only tides sweeping my nearly dead body toward the distant shore of Iona.  Any thought of arriving long since gone from me.  You may wonder why it was impossible to distinguish this shark disguised as a dolphin.  I wondered that myself for many years.

As it turned out the smaller sharks that attacked in the early years did damage to my ability to see well enough to notice the dolphin costume worn by this killer shark.  There was no way I could prepare myself or protect myself.  It was that simple truth, scars from prior attacks blinded me.

As the years passed my close encounter with the Great Giant Whale became more frequent and each one seemed to leave me feeling stronger in some part of me.  Sometimes my heart—which had been consumed by the dolphin/shark seemed to be beating once again, pumping life through me.  How could that be, it was gone?  Yet gradually as if it were some ghost pain felt in a missing limb, I could feel my heart stir again and each time the fruit of that close encounter was a unique experience of love for this Great Whale, this Gentle Giant who now circled around me everyday and night keeping all sharks and monsters at an extreme distance as if they knew this giant, and had previous experience of its Power.

Quickly this became my Giant Whale—MINE, whom I grew to trust even more than my parents and family still safe in the curragh totally unaware of my years trying to survive the depths of this sea we travelled to Iona.  How far along toward Iona were they, I sometimes wondered.  I sensed my Giant was protecting them in some way, but didn’t know how because it now never left me, even for a minute.

My brain and mind, also attacked by the dolphin/shark, was also healing and I found that I allowed myself to respond when the Giant nudged me, sometimes playing now.   I’d lean into it almost sinking into this Great Creature whose power and size drew me close, comfortably and rocked me to serenity as the buoying effect did its work.
Thoughts were returning, no longer as unfocused as I had been, I could give my full attention—at least for short times to the life and beauty that I finally notice in these deep waters.  I remember a line I’d been taught that we need to be born again of water and the Spirit to be saved.  It was happening.  I knew it.  My giant was saving me on so many levels of my being.

Some look to a calm surface on the water and think of peace.  What my giant showed me was that the real peace was actually that discovered in the dark depths with my Giant.  It was the peace no longer affected by surface storms which can toss one overboard from the security of one’s curragh.   Here no storms affected me.  No monsters dared ever again to launch their foolish attacks against the Giant of the Deep for now they had to go through It to get to me.

Once strong again I played more with my Giant Whale and swam with It, or held It and was pulled for what seemed like ages.  I knew we were heading toward Iona.  Up to the surface, breaking through to jump toward the sun it would take me—back down in a happy splash and we’d swim like children together, always toward our destination.  Finally one day I caught sight of Iona rising from that same sea!  I asked my Giant “will I make it?”  The gentle eyes gazed at me and I knew we’d both make it.

Often now I dream—that we are able to somehow swim beneath that sacred place and Giant brings me right up through the center of Iona to place me on a hill from where I get an entirely different view of the deep dark sea.  From where Giant places me I can see the waters reflecting heaven.

I awake from my dream and Giant and I continue to linger around, floating, playing and splashing in the waters encircling Iona.   This is our life together now!

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