A Conversation with the Seal

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Henri Cartier-Bresson was a photographer from the early twentieth century. He had no interest in staging or prearranging photographs and pioneered what came to be known as the decisive moment photograph. He became well-known for capturing human interactions with an eye for telling a story. I had my own metaphorical decisive moment when I was brainstorming the overarching theme for this business. I was employed in a job I knew I would leave. I knew that I wanted to start my own business. However, I didn’t know what that would look like. At that time I returned to a cherished book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.  After I reread a favorite story, a contemporary take on the myth of the seal woman, I had my own decisive a-ha moment. The seal’s movement into and out of the water and her need for both—along with the restorative properties of the water—inspired my business’ mission to help busy, giving women nourish themselves first.

If this story is new to you, Inuit, Celtic, and Scandinavian myths are ripe with stories about seal women: part seal, part human. These women are called selkies and transform by shedding or putting on their sealskins. One ancient story begins with a lonely fisherman who discovers a group of nude women dancing joyfully in the moonlight. The selkie women are startled by his presence and run over to a pile of furs, slipping on their sealskins, and quickly disappearing into sea. Before they all dive into the water, the fisherman steals one of the sealskins. The lone unclothed selkie begs the fisherman to return her skin. The fisherman refuses to immediately give the sealskin back, but promises he will return it after a number of years. He hides the seal skin away and, in order to stay near her skin, the selkie woman reluctantly agrees to be his wife.

After some years passed, the selkie woman gives the man a child. The child grows older, and the woman tells stories and sings songs of the creatures and the sea she knew and loved. She never stops longing for her life among the seals. Time passes and the lustrous, beautiful selkie begins to dry out and she becomes increasingly lifeless.

The child eventually discovers the mother’s sealskin and runs to his mother with it. She tells the child that she was indeed of the selkie race: part seal, part woman. Although she loves him dearly, she must return to the sea. Tales vary whether the child swims with her a bit or remains on land. But the myths do agree that the seal woman’s return to the water always restores her dry skin and hair, failing eyesight, and her vitality. With her skin on and the water surrounding her, she is sleek and beautiful once more.

This story of the seal woman has been so meaningful to me in my creative life. Seals and seal women have captured my imagination and have inspired years of writing and artwork and, now, the myth of the seal woman has inspired this business. The seal woman cannot stay overlong out of the sea, for she dries up and loses her vitality. The seal woman must return to the sea where her sight and skin and vitality can be restored.

For you, dear readers, a bit of poetry inspired by the seal’s travel between worlds.

I Return To My Own Skin 11/09The Call

Hallowed light and painted sky

we greet you.

Hello from above

carry it below.

Take the stories in the sky

and the star pictures

down with you.

Catch them,

carry them under your flipper.

Down you go,

carry the light with you into the dark.

We need not speak

for words would be too much.

Words would be

that sharpening but it’s now dull,

waiting but now it’s now overripe.

Words aren’t necessary.

Sometimes music is an instrumental

with no words, no story.

A hug doesn’t have to be explained.

Simply:

There is, there always was

skin,

swimming skin, basking skin,

skin that calls from home.

Do not pack it away.

Do not agree

to walk around above

with it locked away

as if you are a lady

full of afternoon walks.

If you lock away your skin

and walk upon the earth

pretending and forgetting

and plugging your ears

to the call

then the sparkle

and the sea creatures of your dreams

and your own peaceful contented smile

will fade.

Your skin is as important as

blood and bone,

heart and lung.

It is both your roadmap

and your call home.

The water is deep and dark.

You can’t see underneath.

We are grounded

in the deep dark soul home.

That’s the reason we

can turn toward the sun

and lean toward the light.

Our flippers sink and swim

and hold us up here from there.

The light touches our faces,

yet the water is cold.

When we go home

we do not bluster and shout,

“Isn’t it great to be home?”

We hug our dear ones

and look for food

in the same familiar places.

We exhale. We relax.

Breathe. Smile.

Go home

and feel, bounty, worth,

enough, abundance.

All the purple and brown

and the deep blue stories

hold you up and together.

Pull on your skin,

jump in and out.

In this moment

open to what you are meant to be.

This story, this poem, this business—HeartSplash—is for you, dear reader. I invite you to share your thoughts about what restores your vitality.

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