She slides off the high bank and underneath my canoe; she claws at the water as she goes. All I see is her beautiful scaly skin and hard shell against the darkening water below. I rest my paddle on the gunnels and the canoe begins to drift on the lake’s silky smooth surface. I yearn to go with her, to her place of safety. My vision blurs, my breath slows, and my body falls away.
Beside her I swim as if knowing where we are going. She gracefully turns toward me blinking, “So you chose to follow. I wondered if you’d hear my invitation to come with me. Since you first set your paddle in these waters, your thoughts have been consumed with being safe.”
How can this be? She knows my deepest fear….
“Oh, yes, this can be – you can fly, swim and dive when you shed the skin of confusion.”
Bewildered and suspended in these watery depths, now I want the support of solid ground.
“You just think you need the ground; when you are touching ground you cannot fly, swim or deep dive into the unknown waters of your heart.”
She knows I feel constrained, imprisoned in life. The arrow of her words are piercing my truth….
My mind sinks toward unconsciousness. She nods, acknowledging my decision to stay with her and to remain aware. Silence holds us in perfect buoyancy.
“You asked about my safe place? You assumed by diving I was seeking safety, somewhere away from you.”
How could you know I seek safety in a world I seem so out of sync with?
“I know in the same way you knew you would come here alone, canoe this little lake I call home, and see me – by acting on your desires. You did not startle me. I was waiting for you, ready to show you that finding safety is risky…and then again, it’s not.”
I want to refute her – and cannot.
“How did you follow? Logically, you cannot be here, but you are. Oh, your physical body is sitting in the canoe up there, but it is no more than a shell like the one on my back. You followed me because you knew that safety is not a place down here but a place inside.” I let her words soak in as the paradox of being with her and aware of my body sleepily waiting for my return swirled about me.
She appears patiently amused by my ambiguity. “To be asleep, to be awake, that is the question. Perhaps the question is, what does it take to be awake – really awake?”
This is beyond my understanding….
“Oh, I disagree. You took the invitation. You are here and we are having this conversation. Delightful, don’t you think?”
“Many of your fellow brethren are not so aware. Usually, I must scurry away from them for they are quick to chase and kill rather than appreciate another’s presence, especially one of my kind.”
Open Your Heart
My thoughts drift to the book Fools Crow Wisdom and Power in which Fools Crow, an Oglala Sioux Medicine Man, explains that when animals encounter each other the most important thing is the sound they make between each other.
“Ah, you have opened your heart. Now you can hear, listen and experience this kind of journey. Fear, on the other hand, closes the heart.
“There are many dimensions to the heart. The one that fuels you now is the desire to find true safety, that which comes from within. This is not a physical place, but one of being connected with yourself and to all that is. It is that region of the heart that knows you are as ancient as the night sky and as luminous as the stars that shine in it.
“You have always loved and revered your reptilian brethren. That’s why you were so delighted to see me. My presence awakened your joy. Remember what you called out to me as I dropped into the water?
“You are safe with me. Your heart welled with happiness being in my presence, then it filled with sadness when you thought I dove to safety.”
Tears were forming at the edges of my body’s eyes above and in my heart.
“Instead I dove, inviting you to follow.”
And I followed….
“Yes, you followed.” We looked deep into each other, suspended and supported. Free of tethering thoughts, words and emotions.
Nodding in a gentle, loving way, she slowly turns and effortlessly floats into the darkness. I hear her fading voice. “Always remember where that safe place is, just as you know now.”
My heart throbs, moving blood through my physical shell. I feel my breath stirring my body to life; the sun’s warmth confirms I am fully back into my body. I hear the sound made between us and it was good. Now, to live and be safe.
My Greatest Fear
This experience I had on my first solo canoe trip – I slowed down, began to notice more, and even called out to my fellow animal friends. The snapping turtle rewarded me with a profound and loving message; she responded to my greatest fear, Would I be safe? She invited and guided me to take the plunge into the depths of my own being. Together we transcended the boundaries of the conscious world and entered the timelessness of the collective conscious where there is a universal language we all speak.
Sharing that special moment helped me understand that the wilderness out there is safe when I am living from the safe place that resides in me. When we treat nature and its inhabitants as our friends and companions they can be guides, teachers and messengers.
Since taking this deep dive, I have passed by this same place several times. Each time I call out to my snapping turtle sister to let her know that I am visiting once again. She has yet to reveal herself. That lake, too, holds a special place in my heart. Deep personal meaning flows from the lake to replenish me with the joy of sacred connection. Just thinking about it reunites me with my sense of safety.
Nature – even when it is your back yard – can provide you with plenty of profound and powerful interactions. Listen for the invitation and be willing to dive in. See where it takes you! I can guarantee you the experience will be special and personally meaningful.