swimming for altheda

Swimming for Altheda

She had wanted to come on the trip again this year, signed up as soon as the ad went to print, but something needful had come up for someone she loved and she had had to withdraw with regret. She promised herself to find a place to swim though. The swimming had been life-giving for her, like re-entering the waters of the womb then climbing back onto land, a new being. I admired her wisdom and grace, her fearlessness, her integrity, her intact sense of herself.  I wanted to honor that in some way and perhaps glimpse something of Herself in myself the way I suspected she had……..

As we entered the week this year, on the eve of our journey, I imagined Turtle again. I saw her climbing over the edge of the bank and into the water the way she had appeared to me on retreat back in May. I’ve so wanted to know what that feels like, following that instinctual call to return to the water. I’ve wanted to trust the homing instinct that calls me from what is familiar to some distant shore, faintly recalled, the place where I’ll lay my eggs.

I have been challenged this week to re-member myself.  I’ve so often heard from Turtle that this was her lesson to me…. to always take my ‘home’ along with me, inside of me, to never leave parts of myself behind.  And this has been my spiritual practice, sometimes successful, often not, throughout these years, to re-member myself, but I’ve struggled mightily this week with it.

I do want to trust myself. I want to taste something of that fearless grace in me, which I project onto others. I want to get into the water.

Last evening, on a paddle across the lake to stash our food barrels away from camp, I dipped my fingers into water, surprisingly warm.  Relative to the blustery air and rain temperatures, the lake beckoned like a bath. Still, I was afraid to get chilled and be unable then to warm myself once back on ‘dry’ land. It was too late.

Much later, as clouds disappeared and stars re-appeared, and temperatures plunged even further, we gathered next to the water’s edge to howl for the wolves.  Perhaps it was the howling that stirred something in me then, something wild and free, inspired by the unconstrained and exuberant expiration of breath, the great release that carried our howling to some distant shore.  Indeed, once upon a time, a wise woman, hearing my story and my deep desire to get into the flow, to follow the unseen currents that I felt summoning me, noted that the word ‘flow’ spelled backwards is ‘wolf’.  Inspiration-expiration both are required for breathing- and for thriving. Nourishment and elimination.  Fierceness and peace.

Perhaps then this was the meaning of the howl of my dream last night, the one that awakened me and everyone else in camp. Perhaps it was both a finding my voice and pushing fiercely away  that which desires to control and silence me, to keep me out of my life’s natural flow.

Today has been a delightful day, a day which began along the shore of the lake, watching the mists hover over the waters like the breath of the Divine, a day which began with our prayerful intention to invite and allow the vast and deep waters of our bodies to be hovered o’er and breathed upon in such a way, to be blessed as good, to be aroused into giving birth.

Fall afresh on me.

I returned to camp this afternoon following a beauty-filled day of paddling and communing, full of energy and desire. It is time to swim. I strip down in my tent, the first time I’ve been comfortable enough to be fully naked since arriving, pull on the swimsuit I had stuffed in the bottom of my pack, and walk some distance away from the others to a secluded spot down the shoreline, to the lagoon beyond the downed tree. The spot seems to invite me in some way, as if teeming with life itself. Nearing the water’s edge, I frighten several frogs into the lake, before wading in myself.

I utter a brief prayer, dedicating my swim to Altheda. ‘This is for you’, I whisper. But I know it’s for me too.  There is something  here I want to claim. There is something here I want to know. Something I want to enter into, be a part of – Life itself seems to be beckoning.  I feel grace-full in a way that is rare for me as I take long strides through the shallows, my feet sinking in with each footfall. I imagine the seasons of life that have formed the soft, yielding layers of nourishment for the reeds that grow here.  I envision the walls of wombs and placentas….

It is a gradual descent and I am far from shore when my thighs first touch the cold wetness. ‘I wonder if you’ll turn back now’ my doubt teases me. But I simply carry it along, ‘We can do this’, and I sink to my knees in the silt.  Being on my knees has not been a place of healing for me in the past, to say the least, but  there is something organic about being on my knees in the water, as if I am rooting myself –rooting myself in the rich, decayed, nutrient rich matter of my life. My arms float out from my body, buoyant and willowy, like lillypad fronds; my fingers  like so many tendrils.

I lie back, turn my face toward the Great Hovering overhead, as my hair billows beneath me, and my arms, seemingly of their accord, continue their sinuous dance. Closing my eyes, I hear the whooshing sound of ancient waters, the thrum of my heartbeat, womblike-reverberations, and  I cannot tell which sounds come from inside of me. I am the water. The water is me.

The song rises in me, ‘Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on me’.  I hear my voice rich, sonorous, resonant in the water, though I am singing, humming quite softly. I am perhaps intoning an invitation, for I am truly beseeching blessing. But much more than that, this is, in truth, a song of seduction for I am deeply desiring to be inseminated. Impregnated.  I want to give birth.

I bask in the closeness of the clouds overhead, ancient grays upon gray, waters that have encircled and penetrated this beautiful earth, been contained and released by animal and plant and soil. Wise waters -in which I also swim and which also swim in me.  Waters that give bathe and give birth.

I recall Altheda, how she said the waters for her were like reentering the womb to be born again. I imagine the turtle bearing her eggs through oceans of time, to emerge on some distant shore in new life.  I pray that these waters bless me.

I return to my knees, regain my feet, stride back to the water’s edge, but I am not cold. I am not cold at all.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Anna Pruett
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 11:41:45

    So beautiful!



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