Updated: Jun 24, 2022
"Not all shadow is wounded. Not all shadow is fractured self. Not all shadow is in need of healing."
In shadow, we can pause to experience our wholeness. In shadow we have the ability to see from other senses less relied on, yet vastly intelligent. In shadow, we have the space to be obscure, to turn inward, to sit in an expanse of silence and gaze out into the unnamed. In shadow there can be rest, replenishment, nourishment. In the dark we can re form. In the dark we can hold our natures as seeds. Breathing in a new dream.
Once I was in love with a Pearl, who came to a place of beauty through the alchemical process of harsh irritants rubbing against the softest of places.
We were driving through the breath of a full blue moon, up the 101 towards Sequim. It was a cold August night and the body of the Salish was ebbing against the land. Strands of her touch, raking over the slow breath of oysters. Souls of stars gazing down on a black dragon body rippling through midnight’s clouds.
We were half in this world, mostly in the otherworld and soon we would part ways. Splitting up was always jarring for me, a tear in the fabric of my joy. There was a certain protection that came together when we were with each other. I leaned into that protection, watching night fly past us, gathering up memories that would sustain me in the coming months.
Pearl’s foot was heavy on the gas, 6lack was bouncing on the stereo. In a slash of moonlight shining through the cedars, we saw the body of a large deer.
We didn’t converse about it. Pearl whipped the ride round and parked her on the side of the road. We got out and walked over to the Deer’s body. The neck broken, belly extended, slightly steaming even in the cooler night. A day of laying dead on black tarmac.
I remember the moon had red flecks in her eyes. I remember Pearl’s dark gaze. I remember laying our hands on her coat, prayers that went in through the thick hair follicles and then bubbled up in the blood. I remember the prayers pooling out into the land.
We had that instinct, to bring her to a place of passage. There was no leaving her there on the road, so we hefted her body up from the ground.
Pearl held the head and heart area and I carried the back legs and the womb area. In a procession-like pace, we started walking her down a small road, where only moonlight lit the way.
She was very heavy and her belly, slightly swinging, began to tear as we walked. Perfumed carrion guts spilling on the black pavement. I asked Pearl to pause so I could scoop them up. I held the scent and sense of them, closed them in a fist and re gripped her legs in a lock of my forearms. I didn’t want to leave any of her behind.
We kept on walking but she was too heavy for me and she began to slip from my grasp. Pearl hefted her up over his shoulders, taking on her full weight. I walked behind them gathering up what was dropping off. The road stopped at a locked gate, there was just a slice to move through. I slipped between and Pearl gently heaved her over so I could glide her best I could to the otherside. Pearl slipped through and took her back into his forearms.
The Otherside was a night field of Golden Queen Anne’s lace burnt umber by the August sun. Deep night slanting in the eyesight of the swaying stalks. Patterns of the Blue moon splattered over the field. Pearl walked her through the seeds, to the edge of land where he was met by the Sea. Her body obscured his body.
The night was getting cold, the sea was even colder and I nestled into a place where the Queen Anne was sparse, giving Pearl and the Deer some distance. This was their journey now. Their ceremony. I shivered as I watched them through the wind dancing stalks.
Light split open the dark waters. An undulating moon road. On that road, the path,
never a straight line, is always dancing with the currents. Coming in and out of focus.
Pearl wades into the water’s of the Moon path carrying the deer in his arms. He is straining against the weight until he comes to a place in the water where he is submerged to his waist. The currents of light sway with their wide hips of water in soft song singing all around this passageway. They pool out in patterns I have never encountered.
There is a dance between him and the sea, it is graceful, mesmerizing, full of ache, an old howl and then he staggers, almost slips beneath, and the finds his balance. The deer still cradled, Pearl begins to pass her into the arms of the Sea.
As I watch all of this, I see his little one howling inside of him, I see him not wanting to return to the harsher world we live in sometimes. I see his divinity pour blessings into those that live beyond this body. I see the waters lift up like a murmuration and become a dark shroud with open arms. I see what he wants to hold on to but what cannot be held. I see him struggle and then there is a transference, a bouquet of contradictions and he releases her.
When the arms of the Sea fully embrace the Deer, She bobs there in the dark waters. Becoming a ribcage cradle. There is a sliver of Pearl. A wild note of innocence that slides out from his form and dives into the slice of Belly wound.
“No!”My shout is silent and concentrated from that focal place within the will. “You need that. That is an essential part of you.” This request shoots out like a night bird and lands right on the wings of his shoulder blades. I see Him feel it but he shakes it off and the warning falls into mouths of open oysters.
I press my palm to my heart and I begin to blend more into the tall Queens, witnessing that sliver of him curl deep into the wound. A cradle floating through the tidelands. Growing farther and farther away from me.
Some experiences cannot be gathered into words. Some can only be expressed felt- sensed. When Pearl came back from the sea, I’m not sure he recognized me. He walked past me.A part of him still bobbing in the sea cradled in the deer belly.
I widened my palm under the Blue moon and broke up the dried flecks of blood from my hands letting them fall like red pollen to the ground, feeding the place where the stalks of Queen Anne meet the sky.
We walked back together and alone.
Where the mouth of the Creek meets the Salish sea, there are deer that swim from one island to another. For years, I would see their prints in the sand, but was never present for the landing. These images lived only in stories that I would gather in my mind to hear the song of their swim. The sounds would enchant me.
Sometimes in the summer there are those nights where there is no moon, or barely a moon, a sliver of a moon. Those are the nights where you can see the phosphorescent sparkle the brightest. Sometimes we would slip out in a canoe through the gentle dark and paddle out beyond into that crossroads, where the fresh water meets the salt water.
I was with Ira in his canoe. This boat that once held Pearl’s birthday in its belly, now held a basket. The basket was full of rose petals and underneath those petals was the body of an unattended death I met at the side of the road. A very special barn owl.
This Owl stayed with me a summer long, touring with me and singing with Serpentine, but it was time to let that physical holding go. It was also time to let go of certain howls, flakes of pain and lingering sorrows.
Ira and I row out to that place where the freshwaters meet the salt waters. As we row it gets darker and darker and as it gets darker the light in the water gets brighter. Soon enough it is like we are shoveling starlight everytime we dip our oars into the water and churn. We pause to take it in slow, to float in a mysterious world.
Our Eyes adjust to the blue gray black hues of an ever shifting oceanic landscape.
We bob like driftwood in the little boat which gives us space to acclimate, to witness, to be in the patterns. I peer under the water just in time to see a family of otters zig zag beneath us, playing a wild game of shooting stars.
They were all extra that night. Deep velvet bodies covered in phosphorescent riding silky waves, ribbons of kelp waving their long arms. There was this expression flowing through everything, a song of shapeshifting. Like a human who sprouted wings for the first time and learned to fly.
Not wanting to break from the mystery, I speak very quietly. “Ira, What do you think they experience seeing each other like that?” Do you think they recognize each other all covered in stars? He looks out across the waters holding a deep silence. A rocking chair kind of pondering. Not knowing if he will answer, I turn from him and watch them move, flip and fly. I ask more to the sea than to anyone else. “What kind of wonder glimmers in their mind seeing each other all lit up like that?”
The lull between those questions continues on, mirroring the way our boat glides in the water. When Ira speaks it’s with an old heave from the rocking chair of a young heart.
“They are like us,” he said. “We get all lit up by beautiful moments and we glow like ecstasy. Then it settles back down into our skin so we can live again here.” He stretches his hand out across the boat and he brings it to mine. We clasp hands, I feel parts of my cosy self being brought into his energetic body like a blanket all wrapped around me. I look down and see our tatoos, flora and fauna, sacred patterns,hands intertwined.
I know this place I said. "It’s the potent mundane."
“The pain of life is bearable with moments like these” He says..
We grow back into a silent place and paddle into the mouth of the creek. Ira steers us towards the left edge. He knows how much I love to curve that edge, where huge cedar boughs bend over the water. He knows how much I love to put the paddles down, to lay back flat as we can go and let the canoe slip under. Leaning back we receive those big graceful arms. They brush against our skin, cheeks, heart, the momentum slows down to a Stone's heartbeat. There is a quality of wonder that lives differently in those shadowed places than in the light. Breathing with cedars in the dark. Feeling our wholeness. We live in this stretched out moment together for a long time. How could I know then that it would be our last time?
The night kept on breathing, we kept gliding, shoveling starlight, gliding, shoveling starlight. The chill of the wind, the long legged Madrone sitting in, the stories of the North ahead of us. I brought the basket to the center of the throat. In the throat of the creek, I poured honey over the owl body and the petals. I sang a song as I placed it in the water. The basket bobbed around our canoe until I put the heavy stone down in the center. It sank down into the patterns of otters, red blooded underwater comets. Where fire meets water.
Cold wind pulled our memory to the hearth and we paddled towards shore. Like always, I hesitated, not wanting to return to land. In that moment, there was a sound. A sound that I had imagined many times. The sound of deer crossing the waters. Swimming from the island.
The little one inside of me got all big eyes and breathy grin. “It's them!" I hissed in wind's holy hush. Ira looked at me like he was ten. We turned towards a gauzy fog of night who barely disguised the herd of deer making their way through the starry water.
There was a song when hooves met sand. When bodies alive and full of rushing blood pull themselves from the strands of sea and find themselves alive in the wind. The deer run off through the tall grass Their song echoes in the wind. We wait a moment. Scoop up a little more starlight in our hands and then we come to shore just like those deer do. Alive and full of rushing blood.
The Summer winds away and Ira places a deer heart in my hands. “To make an elixir that will bring us under.” he said. Do you remember that time? I ask him. He laughs that duck quack laugh he has. Tousles my hair and turns away from me. I work with the medicine in two ceremonies. One of water, the other of honey, moon bloom, tears and roses. I stir everything in a clay pot and I make commitments to seven generations that were before and the seven that pour forward. From the heart I hold in my hands.
I leave as I always do, seasonally turning towards other directions to tend the wild grounds of my gardens. Those seasons they plow, churn, hoe, lay fallow, sow, seed. They move the old mind inside of me then they circle me back to the Salish Sea.
Time stretches out in unfathomable ways for those who go through the experience of searching for a beloved as a missing person. I run my fingers through the cascade of texts we sent back and forth to one another. There are suggestions of certain mountain ranges, whole bioregions he may have gone, how he would survive in the mountains, maps charting out old logging roads, texts contemplate his motives, access bank information, form scout teams, speak with ex cia intelligence and missing person psychics.
We tend to every strand with an exquisite hypervigilance born from both deep trauma and radical experience.
I return to the sand, to that edge, to the place where freshwater meets the salt water. This time I am in a different canoe. I am gripping a long rope, it is extending out in the waters, connected to a beacon that bobs in the water. The beacon is a bright bright fire, lit with tears, prayers and sorrow. Songs echo on the shore from everyone who has collectively gathered to love and mourn.
The beacon, a bright flame in the dark night, calls to our beloved one Ira Nelson Bokum. The beacon calls his spirit to weave back together. Calls his spirit to reform and join the arms of those who love beyond all reason, his ancestors.
The boat is rowed by a creature, strong and beautiful, who knows where to go and even though the wind is against us, we stay the course. Where the freshwater meets the salt water. The phosphorescent are dim shades of that former light but the beacon seems to go on burning forever.