During my recent trip to Colorado, my friend Chris pulled out a beautiful set of cards from New Zealand called, "Wisdom of the Four Winds" by Barry Brailsford. I eagerly shuffled the cards and pulled whale. As I read about the whale, I quickly learned that I needed to pause and learn more about the octopus.
You see whale shows up as a companion to guide one through their challenging times. The message in the octopus card speaks to a habit that I have of overthinking about my fears. Weeks before traveling to Colorado, I was anticipating this trip. My teenage son had moved out of his father's house in February and left without notice. He moved 3-1/2 hours away and made arrangements to finish his senior year online. He was afraid to see me and his Dad and allowed this fear to block communications with us. He didn't return my phone calls and e-mails. I made plans to go to Colorado for his graduation, but in the week prior, I learned from his guidance counselor that he had "lost steam" and would not be graduating. At that moment, I knew I would make the long drive to find him, to reach out to him, to let him know that I love him. I didn't know what I would find and I imagined so many possible scenarios. My mind churned and whirled over and over. I would try to distract myself, but each night for a couple of weeks leading up to the trip I found myself wrought with anxiety. My heart would begin racing and I knew it wasn't a heart attack but a heart ache. Stress was wreaking havoc on my body.
The octopus card reads,
I am octopus
I am the whirlpool
Born in the caverns of the mind
I am the challenge
Set astride the path of our kind
I am the learning the navigator sails to find
I am Te Wheke
Octopus is about resolution and making peace.
The day before I left for Colorado, I was in my basic wheel throwing class. I find those three hours to be so grounding, even with my flailing attempts to form something on the pottery wheel. When I'm working on the wheel, I can't think of anything else. I have to be present and mindful of balancing the clay on the wheel. In many ways the spinning of the wheel is a lot like the spinning of my mind. The lesson here may be to be that calm center, the potter of my own mind that recognizes the need to spin many ideas, but to not get caught up in the spinning.
That evening in the pottery studio, I found my peaceful center.
I returned home and my nightly anxiety didn't show up.
I felt a sense of relief and clarity. There was no more anticipating. Now was a time for being and discovery.
What a relief!
Each day on my trip, I pulled a Virtues Reflection Card. The card that I pulled the day before I traveled to see my son was, "love." It was a perfect message and reminder to let go of my fear and to approach this situation lovingly. My son has made some difficult choices and I have worried that he is taking a hard road. He has his own fears to work though, he doesn't need me to pile on my own fears. I recognized that what he needs is love.
Oh how we cause ourselves so much suffering!
Throughout the week, I listened to my friends' and family members' concerns. Although their challenges are different than mine, I could see reflected in their words, thoughts, and feelings, how much unneccessary suffering we cause ourselves.
I found myself saying more than once, "I am done with suffering. I've had it. No more!" I seem to always come back to love being the answer: love, kindness, gentlessness, compassion, understanding. I'm grateful that I pulled the whale card and learned about my "octopus" habits.
I spent a few days sitting on Chris' deck working in my journal. She pulled out her watercolors to give me a lesson. She demonstrated how she mixes colors on her palette and to use salt and plastic wrap to create some interesting patterns and textures.
I spent one day just experimenting before I worked on my whale page.
A small heart appeared on the page, formed from a drop of water that accidentally hit the page. I love those happy accidents. I traced the contour with a black pen.
The whale card is a reminder that we are not alone on our journeys
My journal page reads:
Tohora (whale) is here to help me to face my fears. Tohora reminds me that I journey with companions, that I am supported by others who are also trying to find their way through the maelstrom. I seek out those who understand my needs and accept their succor.
As I was riding the bus down to the airport and then flying cross country, I felt supported. So many friends who knew my situation were praying and sending lots of love for me and my son. My friend Maureen who drove me to the bus station gave me a large pink quartz, a reminder that love heals all. My husband has been so understanding and supportive and my Colorado family was so welcoming and showed such lovely hospitality.
Note the interesting heart above the whale was created later when I returned home. I was working on another journal page with a piece of paper a friend from Belgium had given to me years ago. She had created the pattern using a Japanese marbeling technique called Suminagashi. I had applied this paper on another page with modge podge and didn't like the result. When I tore it out of the journal it came out in the shape of a heart. I added the swirls and dots using a marker and glued it to the whale page. I love how the lines resemble the bottom side of the whale.
Days after I returned from my trip I saw this photo on Facebook...
...and this wonderful video footage of a mother gray whale and her calf. How sweet!
If you've read this far, you may be wondering how it turned out with my son. I drove 3-1/2 hours with my son's father to find him. My son looked so surprised when we showed up. We took him out for lunch and had a good, light conversation. We set out and accomplished what we intended: to break the ice, open up communications, and let him know that our doors are always open to him.
The very next day after returning home from Colorado I came across this quote on Facebook by Mary Haskell. I immediately tore out an image from a magazine to create a place for it in my journal. This is one quote I will refer to again and again whenever I struggle as a parent. Many thanks to Patti Digh for posting it!
"Nothing you become will dissapoint me;
I have no precoonception that I'd like to see you be
or do I have no desire to forsee you only to discover you.
You can't disappoint me." ~ Mary Haskell.
Wow! It sums up how I want to be and what I am practicing as a parent these days. I truly want to discover my son.
We are taking baby steps at reconnecting. I'm feeling much better about everything and those anxious moments are gone. I have several more weeks of the pottery class and I'm savoring each moment I get in front of that wheel.
Next week I'll share more from my journal and you'll get to see the other two cards that I pulled from the Wisdom of the Four Winds deck. It is so cool how I seem to always get the messages I need to hear.
Thanks for sharing this journey! My hope is that by telling my stories, you'll recognize something in them that inspires you to tell your story be it to a friend, on a blog, or in a work of art. There is so much healing in story telling.
Kathryn Costa, Collage Diva and Creative Dabbler