The last time that I made my Full Moon pilgrimage to the coast, the temperature was cool but the sun was bright and strong; so strong in fact, that I wished I’d worn a t-shirt under the long-sleeved turtleneck top I was wearing and forgone the black jeans for lighter blue ones. The beach had once again been dramatically changed by the storms of the previous month. For a year or so, the beach had been carved into two levels; the furthest one from the surf was fifteen or so feet above the other. The recent storms had sculpted the levels away, turning the beach into a long smooth slope, much lower than before. Piles of rocks stood twenty feet high where none had shown before. The rocks upon which tourists stood to take selfies in the raging surf (as I watched in fear) over the previous months were secretly hidden under the sands. For the past year or so, I had performed my ceremonies while sitting on a ledge of well-packed sand in the alcove of a huge rock face. The changes in the beach made getting to the same place a climb of ten or so feet up soft and shifting sand. Once I was up there, I used my foot to carve out a level area where I could sit.
As usual for a weekday in the winter months, the beach was for the most part deserted, and those who were there kept themselves to the north end of the beach by the parking area. I sat looking out over the ocean and watching the waves in their dance, enjoying the high perspective and feeling very much like I was sitting on a throne high above everything else. The sun reflected off the rock behind me and the alcove protected me from what little breeze there was. I was overly warm in just a few minutes and struggled against the discomfort of as I began my ceremony.
It was a particularly beautiful one. I basically follow the same ritual every time, but sometimes things come together, the energy is just right, and I feel it more strongly. This was one of those times. I felt so much a part of the rock, the beach, the rolling waves and the sunlight dancing upon them, that I was sure that the heat was having me melt into them. I certainly melted in to the moment. I let the moments roll on in their time and sat there for quite a while before I began to pack everything up for the walk back up the beach and the climb up the cliffs to the car.
I sat in the open back of my 4Runner and enjoyed my picnic supper while I cooled off under the breezes that flowed more freely above the rock cliffs than directly in front of them. And I lingered even longer, simply allowing myself to be in that place at that time and listen to the rhythm of the waves. Soon enough, it was time to begin the three-hour journey home. The road to the beach winds along the tops of the cliffs for a couple of miles before connecting to the main coastal highway. It always gives me a chance to start shifting my energy (even as I shift out of four-wheel drive) before I enter any type of traffic. I stop along the way to see the views of the rock stacks and the different colors of the water as the tides shift. I stop on the way in greeting and seeking permission to continue, and stop on the way out as a way of saying farewell and closing my energetic door behind me.
The drive home always means some heavy traffic. For the first hour or so, I drive through the rolling hills of Sonoma County where sheep and dairy cattle dot the hillsides as they graze. These hills are always more green than the inland valleys which turn toast-colored brown in the heat of the summer, and the green deepens to a rich emerald when the winter rains bless them. The last bit of road that runs through sheep farms and horse ranches is a long two-lane road lined with the tall (blue gum) eucalyptus trees. Not native to California, the trees were planted over most of the state in the 1800’s during the gold rush. Transplanted from Australia for lumber, they did not prove to be a good source of it because it takes seventy-five or more years for a tree to mature enough to make a hard wood. Many entrepreneurs jumped on the eucalyptus bandwagon, and all failed. The state was left with the legacy though, and the trees line many a road and there are great groves of them throughout the state. The road ends at the major thoroughfare of commuter traffic. There isn’t a way to avoid the onslaught of cars as people drive back to their Sonoma and Napa Valley homes from San Francisco. My route takes me straight across the worst of it. For the late afternoon and evening hours, a drive of four miles can take as long as a half an hour. The Full Moon has risen over the eastern hills by then, though, and it moves as a beacon higher into the sky in a play of size and color.
When I get home, I carefully return all my sacred items that I have taken with me for the ceremony to their appropriate places. That night, it was at that point I realized that the Precious Totem that Kyle had given me so many years ago was damaged. I don’t know how it happened, for I did everything the same way that I had been doing it for years. But there it was. First came the wave of the realization that I had had an intuitive thought about it, and I didn’t listen…didn’t follow through on it. Then the waves of realization came that I was responsible for it. I hadn’t listened, and I had paid the price. Sadly, I wrapped it up as I normally would have and placed it in its proper place.
I was able to talk with Rutury on the phone the next day. We marveled at the mystery of what had happened. Why would it happen now, after all the years? Was there a message to be received by it having happened? His advice was to wait a while and see if a way to fix the Precious Totem would present itself. Care needed to be taken in trying to fix it, not only because of its fragile nature, but because it is a ceremonial item. For the next two weeks, I did not sleep well; I woke up every hour or so throughout the night. I did not feel like I was stressing over the situation, but in retrospect I can see that my energetic connection with it was uneven and disrupted. I waited until the New Moon to try the remedy that I had decided was the best one. It didn’t work; in fact it made it worse. My heart sank into my stomach.
I sat in complete shock and broken heartedness. I waited with complete quiet in my mind for some insight, some understanding…some message about what this situation meant. This wonderful sacred item that had been a part of my life for twenty-five years was suddenly not going to be able to be used any more. I was in grief. There is no other way to describe it. As I considered the situation and how things came about, I could not help but wonder if I was being given a message. Had my time with this ceremonial object come to an end, and the energy of it was telling me so?
I often throw the three coins for the I Ching. I find that reading about the significance of whichever one of the sixty-four gua that I throw helps to shed light on a current situation. The I Ching (The Book of Changes) is based upon the teachings of Confucius and Taoist philosophy. The oldest of the Chinese Classics, it has been used for nearly three thousand years as a tool for understanding the ebb and flow between yin and yang, and the cycles of the cosmos and of life. The perspective that I read in it always gives me a fuller viewpoint than the one that I currently have. After sitting in stillness for a while, I threw the coins to see what perspective I could get on the situation with the Precious Totem. Was it truly the end of its time, of my time with it?
The sixty-four gua, or hexagrams, show the progression of change in the Universe (“Heaven”). Humans (as the microcosm of the Universe) can understand the Universal progression as it applies to living a life that mirrors the natural patterns, and not be caught up in the moment. Looking beyond the moment, one sees the greater pattern and can understand the flow between excess and deficiency.
I found a lot of emotional relief in the fact that the gua that I threw was the first one, Qian. In the translation that I use*, Qian is translated as “Initiating”. Qian represents the nature and the function of the Universe. To quote from the commentary: “ …humans should follow the way of Heaven, understanding the nature of change and adjusting to the situation, knowing when to advance and when to retreat. When it’s not favorable to advance, it’s time to gather one’s strength, hold one’s faith and stand steadfast waiting for the right time and proper situation. When it’s time to progress, move with careful thought and know that things to the extreme alternate to their opposite.”
A few days later, I threw the I Ching again and I threw the second gua, Kun “Responding”. While Qian is complete yang, Kun is complete yin. It is only together that they can create and bring anything forth. I don’t remember ever having thrown them in sequence before. It substantiates for me that I have taken the correct path, the correct attitude in dealing with the loss of such a precious part of my life.
This signifies to me both an end and a beginning. It is the end of the Precious Totem as I have used it over these many years, and it is also a beginning of finding a new way to conduct ceremony. One of the basic laws of energy is that something has to move out in order for something else to come in. The space that was held in my spiritual life by this precious thing now is open for something else to come and take its place. As Rutury said, someone can travel only so far in a pair of shoes before they will wear out and then need to get new ones. This is a time of change and accepting that things will not continue as they have been. It is also a time to embrace the way that things will continue and pay attention to the new lessons to come. What this new beginning will look like can only be discovered as it unfolds and presents itself. There have been a few more major storms these past days, and I look forward to going to the ocean in a couple of weeks to see what changes there have been in the landscape.
*The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang (ISBN 0-89281-656-2),