I will be returning soon, and so will the sun!
We Are Not Visitors Here
On one of my recent trips to Michigan, I was listening to Wait, Wait. . . Don’t Tell Me! on NPR. I didn’t know this before, but female octopuses throw things at those who annoy them! On the show, they jokingly mentioned that this lot included people who try to “My Octopus Teacher” them, and I wondered if this was something people were actually doing after watching that film?
Then I remembered seeing this article where people had passed around a baby dolphin for selfies, and the baby died–so I guess anything is possible, not that a cephalopod would be as easy a target. Honestly, I don’t know why we are still having this conversation. You would be horrified if a group of people walked into your home and stole your baby, ignoring his/her/their needs to death just for a cute photo op. And this issue is not at all limited to a handful of species. It may not always result in an untimely death for the creature, but it does cause damage.
As for My Octopus Teacher, I have seen a lot of criticism about it on the wider internet, some even sexualizing the bond (which is gross, and I think says far more about the thought processes of those people than does about Foster’s relationship to this creature). One opinion I read even refers to the cephalopod as his mistress, simply because of the way he spoke about her beauty. They questioned where his wife was the whole time he was falling in love with this creature. I shouldn’t need to specify this, but the film wasn’t an autobiography about him or his marriage. We can’t know the ways in which his burnout affected their relationship, and and frankly, it’s none of our damned business. Secondly, have we really become such fucking literalists? Are we really this shallow and reductive that we can’t see the beauty in what took place? Clearly some of us are–a fact which saddens me.
Many other criticisms aren’t quite so nasty but seem to take quotes out of context and appear just as reductive. In Pippa Bailey’s thoughtfully articulated piece in The New Statesman on May 12, 2021, she writes, “Foster imagines the octopus as being like “a human friend”, waving to say, “Hi, I’m excited to see you”; he can feel her trust for him, he says, her invitation into her world. He wonders what she’s thinking, what she dreams about. In places, their “relationship” feels fetishised, held up as spiritual and sacred.”
I disagree with this on a couple of levels. First of all, I never felt like Craig Foster had a lack of understanding that the octopus was a wild animal. He knew very well that she was wild. Not once did I feel like he approached her without a deep respect for her. When connections like this happen, I think it’s really a difficult thing to articulate accurately. There is so much that goes beyond what words can express. The relationship–the part that happened to him, that he experienced–was spiritual and sacred. It may not have been so for her, and that’s okay.
“I fell in love with her but also that amazing wildness that she represented and how that changed me.”
Secondly, I didn’t feel as though he assigned her human attributes. He did wonder what she dreamed about, true. But prior to that, he wondered if she dreamed at all. He had full acknowledgement of the fact that there are differences between us, even as there may be some similarities. He spoke of feeling like he himself had been dismembered when she lost an arm to a pajama shark. To me, this felt like something akin to a shamanic experience brought about by a deep compassion for this creature. Sorry, not sorry–that’s a spiritual experience. He was going through something within himself, and it’s natural to identify with others during those times. Her purpose in life was not about him, and yet she gave him a sincere gift, even if she did so unknowingly.
In another sense, I agreed with Pippa:
“Animals are not there for us, to be treated as commodities or companions as we see fit; to be reduced to their usefulness to us. Nature does not exist to alleviate our restless emptiness, much as it may do so.”
The natural world is not ours to commoditize, but we do. We do it with animals, plants, water, land. We do it at the detriment of all beings, ourselves included–and it’s wrong–but I don’t feel this was what Craig Foster did at all. During the course of filming, he ‘discovered’ several never before seen species of shrimp. He recognized the necessity of every part of the ecosystem, including all of the creatures therein. From his experience, he founded the Sea Change Project, which seeks to use storytelling methods to “protect South Africa’s marine environment by making the Great African Seaforest a global icon.”
What Foster engaged in was immersion.
Perhaps it seems like he just jumped in the water and started playing with the octopus, but the relationship Craig Foster forged with that magnificent being was cultivated over a significant period of time. And he recognized just how special it was. It couldn’t have happened if he hadn’t allowed himself to become part of that environment.
I have talked about immersion before, and I will refer to again and again. Joe Hutto understood this with his turkey family. Craig Foster understood this, too. He understood it from his first longings echoed with the San Bushmen in the Kalahari years before. He understood it when he chose to dive without a wetsuit in order to be fully present in the water–to become part of the water. I believe the despair he felt before came from the disconnect between himself and the natural world, and I think this is something many of us can find resonance in–I know I can. In our modern world filled with walls and towers, it is easy to think of ourselves as apart from Nature, when really we are a part of Nature.
“What she taught me was to feel that you’re part of this place, not a visitor. That’s a huge difference.”
Relationships must be cultivated. They aren’t formed in a split second, no matter how short a film may make them seem. What can happen in a short time is a soul recognition of bonding potential. I don’t think Foster’s relationship would have occurred with a different cephalopod. This was a chance meeting between two curious beings. She had to have the willingness to interact, and she definitely seemed to. He reached out–not in an attempt to “tame” her, or make her submissive to his will, but to connect. . . and she reached back. Unlike the people with the baby dolphin, he wasn’t there for spectacle; he was there for the spectacular. That’s the difference.
What I saw in this film was a man diving not just into the ocean, but into a remembrance of his own connection with the wild. He was changed because he allowed himself to be changed–moved in accordance with his own soul’s longing. He answered that call, and offered it as poetry to the world. That little cephalopod was the catalyst for change, and though her life had meaning before her encounter with Foster, the impact she has had on those of us who allowed ourselves to be moved by their interaction cannot be understated.
A while back, I was sitting outside at night listening to the frogs singing to one another across the reservoir. The wind was picking up pace, and creating a song of its own through the branches of the giant oak trees in our yard. I had been feeling on edge all day as it was, but sitting there by myself with only night sounds and my own undercurrent of thought to keep me company, I started feeling really angry. I couldn’t seem to name the source of it although I knew there had to be one — emotions don’t happen for no reason. I didn’t want to spend too much time trying to analyze it though, I just wanted to move through it which, for me, meant finding a way to express it without causing damage to myself or anyone else.
There was a time when I’d have just let it fly. I’d storm around, yell over seemingly nothing. If there was no direction to point in specifically, it got pointed in all directions — including at the people I love. It wasn’t simply that things annoyed me — those were merely the surface I was able to see. And yet, I would lose my shit on the regular over these little things, unwilling or unable at the time to look at what was happening underneath. Anger wants a reason — a harbor for blame — and if we can’t find one that fits, it will happily take up residence in places it doesn’t belong, causing us to misfire and do harm. Don’t get me wrong, anger has purpose and can be wonderful and powerful fuel for change. I don’t think negative emotions have to be “bad” unless they’re left to fester. It’s what we do with them that matters.
This tendency to pop my cork really bothered me. I didn’t want to be known as someone with a short fuse anymore, or someone who just seemed to always be angry. Through a lot of reflection, I began to notice a pattern in myself. When I am hurting, I am not always able to express it in the beginning. Actually, sometimes there’s quite a lengthy delay. I spent a long time dumbing down my feelings for palatability, because I tend to scale toward people pleaser. The trouble is, without expression, our pain can turn malignant. Suppressed, misdirected anger is one of those malignancies, and I think for me, a lot of that came with the lowering of my boundaries or the failure to assert them at all. On some level, knowing my own wounding, I think I thought it would lead to more love, more acceptance if I allowed more bullshit. It didn’t.
That night, sitting with my anger, I thought about how it might feel to just scream it out and have a full on tantrum, but since I live in a neighborhood with neighbors and stuff, I figured it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to try. As my thoughts carried on, I accidentally pictured myself on top of a mountain, completely isolated. This could work, I thought. I started remembering the smell of cold, and how it feels entering my nose and lungs. I remembered the way snow sounds as it crunches beneath my boots. I remembered the feeling of fine powder turning to mist as it touches the warmth of my face. I remembered how it feels when cold settles into my skin, making it difficult to flex my fingers. And I started thinking about avalanches.
Avalanches aren’t caused by screaming (not in real life anyway), although I suppose they could be caused by a toddler-style, throw-yourself-on-the-floor tantrum. 90% of them are triggered by human activity, but they do occur naturally too. The conditions have to be just right — the right angle of slope, the right snow pack, the right temperature, and a sudden change in the environment. The mountain, bearing all that weight, would have to be ready to let go… so to speak… unless, for safety reasons, a “controlled” avalanche were triggered. I actually started to really worry about this, because some of these avalanches can wipe out forests… or villages. I ran with the thought before I reminded myself that this landscape, while based in reality, is of my own creation and I can do whatever I want. There doesn’t have to be a village or a forest at the bottom if I don’t want there to be, and I can cause an avalanche with my screaming however impossible it is in the physical world — it’s my fucking landscape.
Maybe it sounds silly, but it didn’t feel silly. The idea of expressing myself loudly, and drawing attention to my person is very uncomfortable for me, even when no one is around — even in this format. It felt like something truly powerful to visit this place. I have never physically been to mountain peaks like Mt. Everest, but there I was staring at ancient earth formations, high above the altitude I am accustomed to. I did wonder how effective this visualization could be if no one were there to witness me. I think having our emotions witnessed is really important. Being seen is important. I wondered, could an experience be a true catharsis without someone there to see it? In other words — If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around, does it make a sound?? After considering this for some time, I think the answer is yes. This mountain range is a place inside myself, and I exist. Whether I choose to exist loudly or softly, every cell in my body bears witness and reacts accordingly.
I imagined the weight of the snow on the peaks as my own unexpressed emotions waiting to be released. I recognized myself as of the Earth. I let out my scream, I stomped my feet, I jumped up and down, running the gamut of tantrum having. The mountains seemed to rumble as the snow galloped wildly down the slope in a holy celebration of release, knowing the exact path to take from start to finish. The rocks, the trees, the very air itself — bore witness. The Earth, in all her ancient wisdom, took the anger — knowing exactly what it was even though I did not. She took it, diffused it, and turned it into something useful, as is her nature.
I took in a final deep breath of frigid air, and opened my eyes. I was back beneath the trees, the frogs still singing, the wind still dancing through the branches. I felt better — lighter, like a great weight had been taken from me. The sounds around me felt different, too. Whereas before they had been filtered through my own angst, I could now hear their joy.
I still get angry sometimes without fully understanding the source. It doesn’t happen terribly often anymore, but when it does, I know I can visit this place within me and tend to my need. It is not a place of blame, but of reclamation. Here, I stand fully within my own power. I can create and destroy at will. I can take back the power I have given away, I can take back all the places where stakes were driven in, and the gifts of my being exploited. Each time I do, I feel closer to the truth of me, and the truth is — I can move mountains.
I Suppose I Should Introduce Myself
This is me — Self-Portrait Me, Hangry Me, and Regular Me. I am about to present you with some facts about myself: a random earthling with a face, opinions, and internet access.
My name is Kali Adriantje. I grew up in Southwest Michigan, and lived there for the majority of my life until recently. I was raised by really interesting, complex, creative, and wonderful people who instilled in me a deep sense of compassion, a love of animals and nature, a love of music and the arts, a connection to the divine, a genuine interest in other people, a strong belief in equality and justice, and a fierce loyalty to those I love. I also cuss a lot. (thanks, Dad!)
I am one of two siblings from my parents marriage together, and the middle of seven siblings in total. I have the great fortune of having some of the coolest family members on the planet. Nearly all of us have some kind of musical or artistic ability, and those who don’t, express their brilliance in other equally magical ways. We don’t always agree, but we do really love each other, and I think we (usually) really like each other too. I know not everyone has that, so I am extremely grateful for each of them being the badass people they all are.
I have a love of animals on the whole, but a particular affinity for black cats. I have rescued/raised 6 total, but two are currently in my care, whom you shall now meet, as they are the source of some of my greatest joy in life…
Henry, aka Henny Penny
Age: 12 1/2
Smells Like: Sunshine & Morning Dew
Profession: Handsome Little Wittle Man, Conspiracy String Theorist
Loves: Blueberries, bananas, burrowing, unleashing entire balls of yarn upon the house at night
Dislikes: Having paws and tummy touched unless he is in the mood.
Warnings: Will steal a straw, even if it means taking the whole drink along with it.
Fun Fact: Has a beautiful singing voice
Lumienne, aka Lumi
Smells Like: Moonbeams & Fresh Spring Rain
Profession: Baby Fluffins
Loves: Asking questions, turkey, creating toy stashes under furniture
Dislikes: Loud things, an empty bowl
Warnings: Will steal food from your fork if she thinks it’s yummy enough, steals candy and hides it with her toys, will jump into the refrigerator
Fun Fact: Told me her name in a dream
I am an animist, an eclectic pagan, and a healer. I started reading tarot cards when I was 14, but for more than a decade now, I have also practiced foot reflexology. I have added many other tools along the way — foot reading, energy work, past life regression, herbalism, and aromatherapy, to name a few. From 2016 through 2020, I co-owned a holistic healing center where I assisted my clients in their health and healing work. I taught classes on intuitive tarot and meditation, and I created a monthly group, called Flourish, intended to help people (myself included) connect with their creativity and move through blockages.
I love making things — drawing, painting, making candles, bookbinding, and tons more… Where I currently live, I have a wonderful workshop, which I sometimes like to call my Hag Room, in the basement that I don’t use nearly enough. I wanted to meet my 9-1 deadline for launching Muse & Metaphor, and every waking moment lately has gone into writing and editing, scheduling posts, then deciding I don’t like them enough to share them yet, unscheduling, editing some more, etc. Eventually, I will be selling some of my wares on my Ko-Fi page, and whenever possible, I will be using my own art and photos in my posts regardless of my skill level.
One of my oldest and greatest loves is writing. Though this is by no means my first run around the block as a blogger, I am a bit rusty, so please bear with me as I retune my instruments! I created Muse & Metaphor as a way to rekindle my old flame and keep the hearth fires hot.
I am quite nervous to be doing this, but after many years of sealing myself off and all the resulting damage, I feel called to really put myself forward. So, I thank you for being here with me today. I hope to see you again soon!
In Gratitude and Love,
The Velveteen Rabbit Hole
In 1932, Douglas Herrick went hunting with his brother, hoping to snare a jackrabbit. When they returned, the jackrabbit carcass was laid next to some antlers, and thus the jackalope was born. And Douglas, Wyoming was forever changed.
This story, although just a snapshot, inspired the creation of Anthony, pictured here.
So why am I talking about and painting jackalopes?
Recently, during a visioning/energy healing session, a jackalope showed up. I laughed at first, a little thrown off by the appearance of an American made myth, but I now think he came in to talk about how stories shape us and how we see the world.
Stories are important. They are carriers of culture, identity, and metaphorical truths. Every country, community, family, and individual has their own that convey to those looking in exactly who they are. Stories can do great things — offering beautiful perspectives and guidelines for living, and they can also do greatly damaging things — like when we spread untruths about others, or when we hang on to tales about ourselves that aren’t true.
Stories can empower, and they can disempower.
We can get stuck inside old family tales (as in “that’s the way I was raised”), and we can get stuck inside our own heads (as in “everyone is judging me,” “no one likes me,” “this always happens to me,” etc.). It is vital that we be willing to look deeply at those we tell ourselves and shift them where necessary. We absolutely can control the narratives we ingest and those we project to the world.
Look at little Douglas, Wyoming, population 6,120. What started as a gag has become a huge tourist attraction for the little town, now known as “Home of the Jackalope,” where they hold an annual jackalope festival and issue thousands of jackalope hunting licenses every year during jackalope hunting season. The season lasts only one day — June 31. (Yes, you read that correctly!)
Great for Douglas, not so great for jackrabbits and deer, but the point is, they literally changed their story, and created a claim to fame in the process, not to mention an entire mythology. This is actually really powerful!
*Note: It is preferable you create a story that doesn’t needlessly harm other beings in the process.
By creating the jackalope (which arguably already existed in some form beforehand), they gave life and personification to a concept. Children are great at this. Watch the way they personify the world around them. They give a soul to just about everything they touch! The way they interact with their environments is pure poetry.
This got me thinking about The Velveteen Rabbit. Actually, I thought about that story a while ago during a discussion with one of my teachers, Cyrene. I had been trying to figure out a way to tie it in with another blog I was working on, and it didn’t work. Tonight, as I showed Anthony to a friend, she said he reminded her of The Velveteen Rabbit, and lo, there was the connector!!
Earlier in the year, I was reading a text about animism which drew a correlation between animist thought and the thought patterns of young children. I had a bit of a “chicken vs. egg” question: is it that animism is merely “primitive thought,” or; is it that our natural proclivity is toward animism, and children are just absolute naturals? I remembered myself as a child, assigning spirit to everything around me — including my stuffed animals. This made them very difficult to part with when the time came, even into adulthood. I really feel it’s just inherently within us to desire connection with our surrounding world, even the objects we use. Animism is a natural answer.
The Velveteen Rabbit was a toy so beloved, he was made real. Of course, since the book is kind of from the rabbit’s perspective, he had already achieved personhood by simply having been created. But he didn’t know this. How could he? His purpose had already been assigned to him — he was a toy, nothing more. That was the story he told himself, and that was the story he was told.
I want to be clear — I am not saying that if he had only believed in himself he would have been hopping around with other bunnies sooner… (wait, am I?) I am saying that, simply by the act of having consciousness (I think therefore I am-ish), he was already real.
I think this is where we come back to just how important stories are. The Velveteen Rabbit didn’t think himself enough until he was out chewing real clover, but the truth is that he provided great joy and comfort to the boy long before he had hoppity legs. His purpose was far greater than “just a toy.”
And the jackalope — a story created in silliness brought to life by all who participate in the gag, and a very present visitor in a healing session.
You may very well have isms assigned to you by birth, but only you get to decide who you are. If your internal stories are harmful to you or to others, you get to change them, and I highly recommend it.