Story is the song line of a person’s life. We need to sing it and we need someone to hear the singing. Story told, story heard, story written, story read, create the web of life in words.

Christina Baldwin

Storycatcher, 2005


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Breaking The Shell

Summer 2015 has come and gone, a child’s kiss on my cheek, soft, sweet and fleeting. I loved this summer. It was one of my favourites. It was also my summer of “letting go.”
On August third, I put my kayak and assorted gear for sale online: paddles, flotation device, booties, gloves and car-racks. The entire package sold within twenty-four hours. Gone. All of it. I was in shock at the sudden loss of my boat, and also felt surprisingly free. The kayak had been a huge part of my life for over twenty-five years.
I bought The Green Otter (The G.O.) second-hand, in Toronto in 1988.  Made by Natural Design in Seattle, she was seventeen feet of green fiberglass, with a large comfortable cockpit. She had no rudder, no bulkheads, and was beautifully stable. The G.O. was solid and proudly moved through any water. I loved that boat. And every time I moved, The G.O. came with me. She lived in barns, garages, and carports. At one time, I seriously considered storing her on my living room wall.  When I first bought her, I knew very little about kayaks and even less about kayaking. In the summer of 1988, I took a wonderful introductory workshop on kayaking with White Squall, in southern Georgian Bay. That was the very first time I sat in a solo kayak. I gently slipped into the boat and paddled out into the bay. Immediately, I was filled with a quiet feeling of coming home. The kayak felt like an extension of me, as if I had grown a great fin or mermaid’s tail! “You paddle a canoe,” said Noel, “ but you wear a kayak.” Yes, and I couldn’t wait to get my own boat. Within two weeks, I found her. Minutes after buying The G.O., we loaded her onto the roof of my car. The young woman who sold it to me wept and waved goodbye to her baby as we drove away. This past August, I came full circle with The G.O. A young family bought my boat and, as they rounded our corner, The G.O. strapped snuggly to the roof of their car, I wept and waved goodbye. The torch was passed. This was no small doing. For years, I stoutly refused to part with that boat. This fin had guided me through Georgian Bay waters in Ontario, up the Indian Arm near Vancouver, through sunset paddles and moon rise trips in Departure Bay, Nanaimo. Year after year, I refused to let go of the boat. Although paddling excursions had become few and far between, I clung to that boat like a shield. She was my past, my life in Ontario, and the symbol of all the joys of being in and on the water. And then she was gone. Letting go of The Green Otter was swift, clean and good. A shift occurred. I started to let go of so much more: books, CD’s, clothes, puppets and storytelling gear, the “stuff” I had accumulated over the years. A lightness came over me. “You’re making way for something new,” said Valentina. ‘And to do that, you have to let go of the old.”
In his marvelous collection: The Book of Awakening, poet Mark Nepo shares a Polynesian creation story. Taaora wakes to find himself in a shell. He stretches and breaks the shell and the Earth is created.  He continues to grow and finds himself in a new shell. Once again, Taaora stretches and breaks the shell and the Moon is created. Again, Taaora keeps growing and is contained by yet another shell. This time as he stretches, he breaks the shell and the Stars are born. And so on, each new shell is broken only to reveal a new creation, a new beginning, a new world. Mark Nepo says that this ancient story helps us see “ that we each grow in this life by breaking successive shells…In this way, life becomes a living of who we are until that form of self can no longer hold us, and, like Taaora in his shell, we must break the forms that contain us in order to birth our way into the next self.” Beautiful.
I have new work now: to open to this beginning and not tighten and seize in the face of possibility.
I wish you a gentle season of discovery.

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