a place of arrival and departure

the author's totems

JULIA WHITE, in her wonderful section Excerpts from Animal Walk on her website Innerspace says we are all born with two totems which stay with us all of our lives. There are another seven-- for a total of nine-- which come into play at various times in our lives, she says. I don't know with any certainty that this is true, but what I show you here is simply my totem story-- listed in the order they have importance for me-- and I hope this exposition of my own totems may be a guide for you to look at what this complex world of spirit-souls has to offer to you as guides to your mission in this life. I will use links to Julia White's Animal Walk section to illustrate the totems I'll talk about. What I have to say about them, paraphrase or not, is what I know to be true about me throughout my life.

MY FIRST totem is the Otter-- a femine spirit, apparently-- in spite of the fact that in this life I am a male; a life-enhancer-- that must be why I chose to be an architect as a profession and why that type of life-enhancement still moves me, and which I feel most strongly; often unselfish and playful. A few years ago I had the privelege of meeting a channeler-- a seer into those spirit-things which stand behind you and can be seen by those with psychic vision. She told me that I had an otter standing behind my right shoulder-- a real one, and probably a female. Behind my left shoulder was a holy man wearing an otter headdress-- he was looking after my safety in this life. In numerology, I am an eleven in this life-- another strange and possibly magic number. Perhaps this explains the double-otter which (at least then) was at each shoulder at that time. The channeler didn't know that the otter was also my native-american birth-spirit since she didn't know my date of birth.
I WAS born near San Francisco Bay... one of my earliest memories of the great (and beloved) ocean was seeing the otters at play, floating on their backs and eating the abalone out of their shells off the harbor of Monterey, California. For more information on the otter, go here.
MY SECOND totem is the Raven. When I built my home on Inverness Ridge in Marin County, California (halfway up the mountain at 525 feet above sea level), I saw them every morning catching the thermals as the warm air of the increasing morning rose, and watched them almost effortlessly adjust those finger-like feathers at the tips of their wings to continue their motionless sail over the warming earth. Something in me knew how they did that, or wished I could-- a deep empathy. I had some difficulty understanding they were also scavengers, but the feeling of empathy for their way of staying effortlessly aloft and imperceptibly adjusting to each and every nuance of the shifting air was impossible to ignore, and still is. Recently, new friends have felt me as raven-- even to the point of seeing me in dreams-- so I know I have to accept that about myself also.
THE RAVEN is (according to Julia White) the symbol of changes in consciousness, levels of awareness and perception; the mark of the shape-shifter; the ability to get inside another's head and heart and to understand them from the inside-out, so to speak. This, she says, is the energy of spiritual healers and counsellors.
OKAY, THOSE are the two primary totems which have no doubt influenced my life and are with me at rock-bottom. Julia says there are at least seven others. What I've done is to list a couple which I feel a great affinity for, and then to list the others which have come into my life and feel strongly.
I HAVE always felt a strong affinity with the wolf and the coyote. White says we wolves have an unrelenting sense of adventure-- love to explore new things, have a thirst for knowledge and learning new things-- and are eager to share what we've seen and learned, which makes for a natural teacher. But I also have an unrelenting need to be alone... and it's easy for [me] to become burned out... it's critical that [I] have the time to be alone with [my] thoughts and [my] own sense of self. The coyote represents the two sides of every coin-- every situation-- and urges us to examine all the facts before we take a position or offer an opinion. Coyote is special to the Hopis-- he is the joker and the fool, the duality in everything-- the wise fool: he is here to teach us the value of living and walking life in balance.
HERE ARE the others... they have come into my life and I've felt a special affinity for them because there is a certain knowing or communication. I'll just list them with a note or two and supply a link to a little more info.
  • The Heron: I've seen them all over the world as my compatriots. Julia White says they find a balance in the "shifting sands" of life because they are able to see the opportunity where many would not look twice, and have the courage to follow their own path and can live on the "razor's edge" of life... happiest when living and exploring many new things, learning many new skills. Social life is not a necessary part of [your] existence... not impressed with status symbols or acquiring "things"....
  • Fox-- Shape shifting, cleverness, observational skills, ability to observe unseen. Foxes seems to have as much of a natural curiosity for me as I have for them.
  • The Osprey-- a "sea-eagle" which nested near my Marin County home just after I built it-- they seemed to include me as "family"-- they were solitary, intuitive hunters of the water with a very strong territorial and family sense. I felt honored that they included me and my new home in their family territory.
  • Orca-- this must be my father's spirit, still here to see me once in a while but with that strong family sense he always had-- a powerful, wonderful, guardian presence. Julia says the Orca is the "custodian of the sea"-- I feel this too about the sea-- and also about the forests of the earth. A family of orcas once looked me (and my boat) over in Glacier Bay, Alaska-- it was a very special meeting of different species-- but one of intimacy, power, and some other-worldly familiarity-- even, I think, some kind of spiritual approval.
  • The Cougar-- he/she has the ability to know the other who crosses his path-- if the affinity exists-- and this one crossed my path on Inverness Ridge a few years ago. I felt his existence behind me, turned to look, and saw him doing exactly the same with me-- just a brief meeting of the eyes, instant recognition, and not a second thought. These animals sometimes attack and kills humans, but not this time-- I think he/she truly knew my spirit.
  • Pelican-- I met these wonderful birds at the same time as I met the otters-- they were heavy birds with the eight-foot wing-spans (the brown pelican) sailing through the troughs of the large swells off the coast of Monterey and sometimes dipping their prehistoric bills for the odd herring, sardine, or flying-fish. They were always there back at the docks, and years later, there they were on an uninhabited island in the Sea of Cortez about 30 miles from La Paz in Baja California. My Mexican fisherman and I had gone there to get fresh live bait, and we cruised up to the rocks at the edge of the island where the pelicans were-- he on the bow of the small boat and I controlling the engine. I had not done this before-- he was to cast a "skirt net" to collect bait. We got into position and looked at the pelicans-- they have been with us since the prehistoric days-- and they knew what we were there for. We looked at them and they looked at us and then at the bait-- they knew. They cooperated-- even the baitfish seemed to cooperate when the net went into the water exactly where the pelicans indicated them to be-- to them, the pelicans, that was only a natural part of the cosmic life pattern out there. I will never forget it-- we came as strangers without time for them, and we just fit.
  • Deer-- I lived in the forest for a decade, and the deer were not only my friends but even the dogs and cats held them in respect. The deer themselves, along with the conifers, knew I was a friend.

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