Each new moon I ask my guides for a story to help me navigate the month ahead. Often it’s an attitude that’s called for, a positioning of awareness within the larger context, as is the case with the message for the New Moon on January 13th (scroll down below). In that story, small sailboats were skimming about in the bay on a bright summer’s day. Then the wind dropped and completely disappeared. We visited a few of the boats to see how each crew’s reaction to the same circumstances affected the sense of the situation.
This month’s message opens among those same boats, having been stuck for a long while in the doldrums with no way to reach shore. The people aboard are parched and sunburned, and most of them deeply anxious. The boats are far enough apart to be visible but beyond earshot.
The surface of the sea, lavender in the heat and flat and still, is suddenly sliced up by the delicate wakes of a number of large fins moving purposefully back and forth around the hulls. Earnest prowling, it looks like to the people, and panic erupts. Helpless in their flimsy vessels, they shake with hatred of the apex predator, and sheer terror.
But let’s stay with boat number three of the January story, the one containing the curious passengers who, instead of chafing at their lack of motion, had made the most of the opportunity to observe their surroundings, and to look back at the distant mainland and see it all in a fresh light. At the sight of the sharks, they, too, are gripped with fear, and also awe and fascination. What has brought this number—as many sharks as boats! What are the sharks doing, moving back and forth? The sailors of boat 3 have been watching and waiting for something to happen, and here—something is happening!
Snouts rise and fall, sending spray. An attack? No, it’s plain to see that the sharks are not taking aim; they are not rocking the boats, they are drawing attention.
Close by boat 3, a huge head rises, showing the fearsome teeth, the otherworldly eyes that look over the side at the humans.
Is it possible to see a connection here?
What motivates the shark in this moment? It swims away from the prow and then back, again and again. The young girl onboard has the curious impulse to throw the shark a line. Her parents shout in fright and rush to pull it back, but the shark has already grabbed it, turns and swims away, towing the boat. The parents are frantically hunting for a knife to cut the rope, expecting the shark to suddenly drag them under. But it keeps on going. Distant shouts of alarm from the other boats, unable to assist. The passengers on boat 3 huddle together, gripped by a new and particular awe as they absorb the feeling of their lives held in the balance by a shark.
Suddenly they encounter a breeze on their faces, yanking at the sail. The shark immediately sinks under, leaving the line dangling in the water. The sailors leap to catch the wind and suddenly they are flying towards shore.
Glancing over their shoulders, they see receding in the distance, another boat slowly dragged in the same direction, the people aboard screaming and clutching themselves in terror.
Before they can turn the boat to attempt a rescue, the same sequence of events repeats. Dragged by a shark into the path of the breeze, that little vessel similarly catches the wind and starts skimming towards them, towards the shore. One by one, other sailboats are towed from the doldrums into the wind, and carried home.
The passengers of boat 3 arrive wobbly-legged to land and summon help for the cluster of boats remaining in the flaccid part of the sea, the ones that refuse to accept the help that came their way, in a guise they cannot embrace.
Then they wait to welcome the boat behind them, and the one after that. From each of these shark-saved boats, the passengers step on shore as if haloed in gold, weeping and exhilarated with awe and relief. For days they will float in the wonder of it, shaking their heads in amazement.
Why did the sharks assist the humans? Compassion, empathy, or altruism are considered human characteristics and certainly not attributed by humans to sharks.
The unexpected behavior on the part of the other is what makes the people feel so small, like they belong, and that arouses the desire to expand the sense of connection.
They keep in touch to reaffirm for each other the marvel that happened. The impact of the sharks’ behavior on these people is impossible to fathom. It changes how they view the ocean, sharks, and other creatures. It floods them with immense humility and gratitude that life has assisted them. In return, they each vow to pay it forward in all directions. They campaign for shark protection and for humans to respect all life. A deeper dimensionality has opened up in them, a sense of kinship that revises their notions of identity, transforms the old narratives that pit humans against nature, and causes them to commit to reciprocation.