The Storyteller has just danced for us the ancient tale of the Seal Woman, her son, and their journey to the deep homeplace. She has invited us to take time to reflect on what the story awakens in our own lives.
Now, after a time of quiet, I ask her, “Why did you say that this story is about the deep homeplace, the place where the Beloved dwells within?”
The Storyteller answers: Think about the Seal Woman, about her longing for her sealskin. She needed it for her return to the homeplace. She knew that if she did not return there, she would die. It is so with you as well.
There is a deep homeplace hidden in the depths of your own soul where all that you are is held in love by the Beloved. You need to return there often, but most of all when your sight darkens, when you limp rather than dance. Recognize these signs as calls to home. Then go. At whatever cost, leave, for you must leave, even those who insist that you stay. Find your own true centre and allow yourself to rest in the embrace of love. Know that this is a matter of life or death to you.
Her words surprise, even shock, me. Do you also feel that?
“Since I’ve been a small child,” I tell the Storyteller now, “I’ve been taught that I must care for others. When people need me, call out to me, rage at me because of their need, how am I to leave them?”
That is above all when you must leave. Love and need are irreconcilable. The husband raged, broke his promise. He showed himself to be one who did not love. But the boy, who loved his mother truly, returned her sealskin to her, even though he knew what must follow.
“The Seal Woman never returned from the deep homeplace, “I say to her. “Could I go to the homeplace for rest, for the healing of love, then return to those who need me?”
Understand the mystery of story. The child whom the woman returned to the shore was her own spirit. Did you not hear her say, “I will breathe into your lungs a wind for the singing of your songs”? A woman’s spirit is the part of herself she sends to the outer world as drummer, as dancer, as storyteller, as poet, as singer, as healer, as soul friend. But to do this, she must keep her own soul nourished by love in the inner homeplace. It requires of her a balance, a sacred dance, between the topside and underside worlds of her life.
She smiles at us, asks the question that I want to ask….
So, who am I in this story? Not the fisherman who, within a woman’s psyche, always lurks, waiting for a chance to steal her Soulskin, driving her to overwork, demanding that she give until her soul and spirit are raw. But I am the Old One who calls her home when it is time. I am the Child within her who hears that call and answers, giving her what she needs to return home, if she will listen and receive. And I am the Woman who cries out inside you, “I must have what belongs to me”.
I am in the story in another way also. Can you guess where?
This is difficult, for she has already named each character. Then suddenly I know.
“You are the homeplace. You are the One who waits to receive us, body, soul, mind and spirit, into your heart of love when we feel the call to return home.”
She does not reply, but I know from her eyes that I have discovered another of her identities. She looks now at you.
Where is the deep homeplace where you go when your soul cries out for nurturing?
Do you recognise the child within you who is often the first to notice your need to return home? The child within hears the call of the Old Wise One, for a child’s ears are quick to hear the Holy. Do you follow the child’s promptings or do you tell that child to go away because you are too busy to listen?
When have you known the call to the homeplace?
After you have been restored and nourished there, what is the gift your spirit brings to the shore?
I watch as you ponder these questions. Though I hear no words, I can tell that you and the Storyteller are deep in conversation. I wait until I can see by your expression that you’ve said all you need to say for now. Then I ask her another question that rises in me.
“What is the meaning of the Seal Woman’s words, ‘Only touch what I have touched, my firesticks, my knife, my carvings of sea creatures’?”
The Seal Woman is instructing her son in wisdom. His work, which is really the work of her deep spirit, will require the firesticks of passionate engagement, the wisdom of knowing when it is time to cut away excess, to cut free of entanglements. The carvings hold the memory of the deep sea, true homeplace of his mother, of his own soul.
“Is there anything more you have to teach us today?” I ask her.
Only the need to remember the Seal Mother’s words, for they are my words to you, beloved ones: I am always with you. Call out to me, and I shall breathe into your soul a wind for the singing of your songs.
She looks now directly at you. I know she is asking if you have understood, though she speaks no word that I can hear. I see you smile. And she is gone.
We must make our way back to the topside world now, you and I. She will not return today.