I’d like to share the story of my beach walk yesterday. It was a lovely day, in the mid-70s and not windy, and even before I checked the weather, I had a feeling I should go to the beach in the afternoon. There was no particular agenda, but I always bring a collecting bag and like to take a long walk, well past the folks who have settled near the beach entrance. (I am blessed to live by the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, near a sandy key (cay) where one can walk unimpeded for about 20 miles. My end of the key is generally quiet, and not too crowded. There are a few county-run access places with free parking lots, bathrooms, and picnic tables, but even past the park boundaries there are only private homes back beyond the dunes; happily, there are no high rises, restaurants or resort hotels anywhere nearby.)
As I set out walking south, I reminded myself to stay open to surprises, to try to pick up on synchronicities and see what gifts were offered, both in tangible form and as metaphor or inspiration. This is a practice that some people refer to as following everyday oracles. Dreamwork leader and shaman Robert Moss invented the world "kairomancy" to describe the practice of navigating by synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence. I love playing with this kind of navigation and find it can be quite profound.
The first thing I encountered was a fisherman engaged in a mighty battle with something on the end of his line. It was obviously a powerful creature, as he had to grip very tightly and stand his ground with great force. There were about five other men gathered around, and one woman. Even as he was pulling, the men were going on about different kinds of fishing exploits. I asked the man with the rod what it was he was trying to land, and he said it was a sting ray. I watched as the creature thrashed about, pulling itself further out even as he worked mightily to pull it in. I was uncomfortable and began to walk away, but found I couldn’t; I needed to see the animal that was so forcefully resisting him. It was exquisite—more than two feet across, noble-looking, though wounded, with gaping red spots in several places. The line was hooked into its belly (actually it looked to be under its mouth), and I literally winced, sensing the pain of the tugging line. One of the onlookers identified it as a cownose ray, which, as I learned when I looked it up later, can live in these waters for as many as 18 years. These rays eat crustaceans, and have few predators, other than humans.
The video that shows them in action underlines their grace and beauty.
Was this my sign or gift? The sight of that beautiful animal, glistening in the sun, its eyes wide and its “wings” flapping? Or was it the awareness that these men, like all of us, are, as those who follow the Course in Miracles would say, children of God? In one of the Sufi dances I love we greet each person as “the face of God,” and say, “I hold you in my heart; you are a part of me.” I grumbled a bit, but kept sending that out to the fishermen, and told myself: “no exceptions. They are a part of me too, we are one.” I sent out the love I could to the wounded animal and to the people of the fishing party, praying that everyone would wake up to the pain of others to the point where they couldn’t continue to inflict it.
I was not too happy with that gift, although I accepted it as an important reminder—both of the fact that we still have not arrived at a time when the divine feminine principle/consciousness is shared by all (i.e., that I must be patient), and that I don’t only get to pick feel-good gifts. But as I kept walking, I realized there was an unusual accumulation of well-smoothed stones on the beach. Some were the expected (for this beach) black fossil bones, but others appeared to be made of a range of other minerals. I rarely see stones there, and quickly accepted them as messengers too. There were many small fossilized shark’s teeth scattered among them (that’s the “treasure” that so many hunt for on this beach), so I realized part of the message was, “just pay attention. It will be given.” But it went beyond that. I thought back to my musings on rock consciousness that I posted last month, and to my ongoing hyper-awareness of stones. These stones I was encountering are ancient; the fossilized ones date back to the Ice Age, maybe 50 million years ago. All of them have old, old, old awareness. The message came through: “Take the long view. Be patient. Consciousness is shifting.”
Still further down the beach, in addition to the abundant piles of shells (the usual clams, whelk, scallops, pen shells, jingle shells, and more), I spotted something I had never seen before that reminded me of an angel’s wing. It was vaguely shell-like, but looked more like a plant pod than animal material, and when I found an example that was falling apart, I felt this hypothesis reinforced, since it seemed to have vegetal fibers and pattern growth. Some of the pods had clearly traveled the Gulf waters for some time, however, for they had barnacles attached. There was no tree nearby with pods like these, so they had probably been swept up (in) from somewhere else. I kept spotting more. I will try to determine what they are,*** but since my first reaction was “angel wing,” I knew to recognize the sign: "there are angels present, or phrased differently, there are helpful spirits here." There are so many gifts, when you start to receive. I looked up just then and saw angel wing formations in the clouds as well. There were many different types of clouds, actually: the etheric-looking angel wings; some well-formed cumulus puffs that looked like they belonged in a Grant Wood painting; some low-lying cloud blankets; and some wispy, fast-moving ones in another part of the sky. The message was not too subtle: "abundance, so many different forms and manifestations, and everything always changing."
****UPDATE (June 2019): I learned from a helpful visitor to my studio that this wing-shaped bit of detritus is in fact a part of a mollusk, it is not a shell, per se. This is a like the protective covering of a whelk's "foot." It is separate hard, horny plate, called an operculum, which acts like a trap door when the living animal withdraws into the shell. It is sometimes called a “shoe.”
Yes, a day in the blessed life. There were the always-present other gifts, too: the flock of terns gathered together and taking off in a cloud of white; the line of pelicans gliding overhead; the lapping of the soft waves and the sun creating diamonds on the water as far as the eye could see. No dolphins appeared, but I knew they were out there somewhere, just as I knew there were more rays and so much other life. I am gifted, gifted, and I appreciate, and I am watching the signs so I can learn to be more appreciative, more in wonder, more in harmony. I thank this amazing mother planet and all that lives on it, including, yes including, those parts that create pain and disharmony from a lack of awareness of our interbeing. May we all rise to be counted as part of the one, to know our oneness and to claim it.