At four years old or so, I was badly bitten by a dog and left terrified of them for years. A bit older than that, I was badly pounded into a beach - sand shoved nigh to my brain up my nose, into my ears and wherever else - by powerful ocean waves, and left similarly terrified by the ocean. For years and years, I couldn't be near dogs, or enter the ocean past waist deep.
I was attacked by a dog (I blame the casually onlooking owner, not the dog itself) out in the desert less than a week ago, and it has catalyzed many reflections in my heart and mind. The days since have been pretty dramatic, not unlike the last months, with seemingly a much higher number of both tragedies and blessings being encountered on my journey than in "normal times" ... so tough to now be thinking of COVID as pretty darn normal as we enter into its second year of impact on our lives.
Most sadly and notably, two majestically wonderful young women friends of mine unexpectedly passed, not from COVID but from an accident and cancer ... things that can strike any of us at any moment. I feel like I'm drowning in life's transience, fragility, unfairness and trauma, sometimes.
On the other hand, truly hoped-, worked- and prayed-for personal/professional opportunities have presented themselves amidst these tragedies. It is a time of many polarities of many kinds, from personal and emotional, to societal and political.
It’s also a time of seemingly thin margins, where only direct application of the hardest, surest work seems to make sense. Anyone else exhausted? Who else among out there might feel like we barely have the time to keep our head above water, let alone take new risks, or even tend to any even slightly unnecessary self care? Yes, stresses, fears and traumas abound in this risky world.
But, in the name of working through our fears and traumas, in my younger years I took the courage to play with dogs ... and much more, pursue the dream of a life of surfing. Though I’ve mostly left surfing behind, it and dog playing (which I still do at every opportunity!) are seemingly non-productive recreational activities that led me to indirectly, but truly, process my wounds.
I’ve seen therapists in my life, but it was *not* Western, clinical therapy on a couch at $100+ per hour with a licensed professional that brought me healing in these areas. It was nature, it was water, it was the people I met along the way. In this time of AAPI support and examination of white terrorism, I will add that many of these peoples whose lands and waters supported my healing were Asian and Pacific Islander. To them, in their nations and here in the USA, I am grateful. I wish to show up for them, here and elsewhere.
There was clarity and truth found in the water for me. Apply a bit of imagination and allegory, and there is a beautiful irony in contrasting this clarity and truth with the archetypal watery illusion of the mirage, a harbinger of death in desert storytelling. The First Nations often say “Water is life”, while J. Wallace Nicholls reminds us in “Blue Mind” shares “the remarkable truth about the benefits of being in, on, under, or simply near water.”
For now, I share just a gratitude for what healing I’ve experienced in water, and deliverance from fears and illusions. Any worthy road of life will lead us into rugged places and to these things, but if we commit to the journey, so too will we be led past them. We’ll also be led beyond the things that once were our healing - for the first time since being 17, I no longer own a surfboard - into other wounds and salves. With the next painfully long stretch of road always around the bend, let us drink deeply when a well of true refreshment is at hand.