A myth has been following me in the way Mother Universe and Auntie Time will place a theme repeatedly before us until curiosity can’t turn away. It is the myth of the Seal Skin – a mythical creature from the sea trades her seal skin for a life on land, becomes a mother then makes hard choices and goes on a journey to reclaim her seal skin as passage to return to her origins and share that part of her with her child. Now, if that’s not a direct translation to motherhood, I’m not sure what is.
Over the past few years, I’ve been on a search for my own misplaced seal skins.
This summer, my oldest three and I drove from San Diego to Yellowstone and back. The unexpected happiness was discovering previously lost seal skins all along the way. Over two-thousand miles of KidzBop, Chexmix, loose expectations, and national parks, and each mile a reclamation of parts of me that have been missing or dormant.
Here’s what I know:
This earth is so, so beautiful. Take notice. Let it overwhelm you. Then use it up.
The land. The sky. The people. Do you ever get overwhelmed at the sheer beauty of it all and whoosh an exhale when you didn’t even realize you had been holding your breath? The canyons and clouds are poetry just be being and I receive it in awe. But as a favorite current theologian of mine, Butler Bass, says, awe in itself is not the point of spirituality. “Awe is the gateway to compassion.” I love that.
The gift really is the journey, not the destination as annoyingly trite as that truth sounds.
I love not knowing exactly what the day holds. I love having a destination point, but filling in the details as we go. I love unexpected finds along the way and being surprised by the joy of it all. Road trips birth free-form filling a day in a way the structured routine of our daily life simply cannot.
Making decisions on the fly…seal skin.
Honestly? Making authoritative decisions without checking in with another person at all…seal skin.
Taking detours to explore new experiences…seal skin.
Saying yes to the fun of hotel swims before breakfast and unlimited fruit snacks…seal skin.
Curiosity. Playfulness. Seal skin. Space for introspection and perspective. Seal skin.
So the trick is translating all the life-giving forms back into our everyday life. I don’t have all the answers yet. But I have been given the gift of remembering what it is like to reclaim parts of me that have been gone and for that I will maintain gratitude and renewed fervor to be wholly me to my family and not fade into a role, because what they don’t need is a generic mommy/wife figure. What they need is a wholly, vibrant ME swimming in my seal skin and showing them the mystical lands available to experience themselves.
I’m going to continue on this journey. I’m going to try.
Have you misplaced your seal skin? I hope you, too, will search to reclaim it and use it to dive into the deep beyond.