The real mystery does not behave mysteriously, but speaks a secret language.
–Carl Gustav Jung
Bird poop is the Prima Materia of the opus, the alpha and omega of the great work of the philosophers. Transmuted and transfigured by the alchemical fire in the sealed retort of the adepts, the excretions of our winged brethren reveal the grand pageant of creation on the microcosmic scale. I shall endeavor to elucidate the arcana of avian excrement and thereby elevate my humble office of brush bearer to that of high art; to seek amid the white glyphs that adorn the docks a sign that might illuminate secrets of a hidden world.
Bird poop is the mother of all elements, without beginning, existent from all eternity and mixed with the handful of primal earth Adam brought forth from Eden. It is found always and everywhere. It contains the Divine presence in the obdurate whiteness of its adamantine– and often goopy–reality. It is both the beginning and end of the great work, the primal ooze from which the aspirant takes flight into the rarefied spheres of heavenly gnossis.
This post is the first in a series logging my daily circumambulation, bearing the broom of my high office. The broom is the emblem of adepts, the standard of those who seek the philosopher’s stone among the crustacean beasties that reign over the intertidal zone.
Last June I had the good fortune to land a job at at the Dogfish Bay Marina. Aside from sweeping the docks, parking lot and the endless chores, I found myself cast in the role of a sort of ambassador between the human and the pinniped populations. I experienced the trauma of a seal pup, abandoned by it’s mother, slowly die from starvation.
Seals must get a firm scent at birth in order to establish contact. Immediately after birth, the mother clasps her newborn by the nape of the neck in order to get the scent. If this process is interrupted, the mother fails to establish the link which allows her to “recognize” her pup. Through the interference of a well-meaning child, this process was interrupted, and the mother let her offspring starve. After the poor pup’s demise, she haunted the dock near where her pup had hauled out on the low swim-step of a speedboat; her eyes streaming with tears.
For ages, seals have emanated an aura of magic. In the Celtic stories of the Selkies, a hunter, on a quest for worldly riches, is summoned into the depths by a shape-shifting, seal messenger of Lachlann’s undersea Kingdom. After a lengthy stay, the hero returns to terra firma transformed by his experience–a wiser, more compassionate being. His cruel, rapacious heart is softened by his ordeal and he emerges a changed man; one who has seen the depths of profound reality below the selfish preoccupations with material gain. Such a visitation by the Selkie heralds an epiphany– an awareness of our deep relatedness with all creation.
Among Northwest tribes, seal people played a role as emissary of their guardian King, Komokwa, in the winter Tseteka–shaman–dances where supernatural beings came from the spirit world to initiate the young into the dancing societies. A seal conducted the novice into the submarine world where, after a period of fasting and prayer, he returned to the tribe in a canoe laden with a wealth of copper, to found a new lineage which was then honored in the dancing houses.
By day, the lumbering hulks of seals lounge on the docks. One night, I saw a flash of green phosphorescence as the seals sped below the surface of Dogfish Bay. These mercurial denizens of the deep bridge the yawning divide between the conscious and unconscious energies, and guide the seeker into timeless mysteries where shadowy beings lie below the reflective surface of the sea. Their uncanny visitations shake up our smug assumptions of human supremacy and herald a new awareness based in feeling, compassion, and illumined by the transfiguring light of dreams.
This is my first post telling of my experience as pinniped ambassador, documenting scientific observation, and evoking the mythology of seals. I hope my blog is informative as well as therapeutic. After the traumatic death of Bobby last Summer, I wish to be better prepared to deal with all the many, tragi-comic aspects of the birthing season.
The long history of the Tot Lot demands an uncommon level of attention and patience; I hope my good readers might bear with this convoluted tale about a tiny children’s playground in the heart of Whimsical Winslow.
The Tot Lot tale extends as far back as 1997, when Randy Varga sold the property to the City with a “Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions and reciprocal Easements” which specified the property be preserved as a park. He also called for the preservation of a lovely art studio which I occupied rent-free as an artist-in-residence and caretaker–though my caretaking often fell short with all the demands of creating art.
It was a time when our last elected Mayor held a prominent position on the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council– though that detail is perhaps merely coincidental–after all, my significant other says I watch too many detective movies, and such things are only natural with all the demands of leadership and the equivocal nature of the greater good.
Despite the prohibitions clearly spelled out in the Declarations, outcry of concerned citizens, several emails citing restrictions, heated Parks Board meetings, and a front page article in the Kitsap Sun, the studio was destroyed in 2011, just two years after it was transferred to the good, art-promoting BIMPRD–or whatever they’re called.
In February of last year, a land swap was proposed where the playground would be traded for a lot half its size on the corner of the island’s busiest intersections. Well, you can imagine the outcry of local, island mothers over that scenario.
Truth is, a big money developer had bought two properties adjacent the Tot Lot and wanted to realize a tidy profit by consolidation, and create a greater Wyatt Cottages. Problem is, this is a greater good that mainly benefits said developer. .
So get this, the developer and Parks sign on as co-applicants to the Design Review Board for this swap which would grease the skids for this big money project on the homestead of Winslow’s founding father, Reilly Hoskinson, who settled it God knows when. They fill out a legal form declaring there are no impediments to this swap, though–because of the brouhaha less than 5 years before–they obviously knew of the 1997 restrictions.
So I give Val Tollefson a copy of the restrictions and the Council halts the swap, reminding Parks of their obligation to honor terms of the transfer.
George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).