Embracing the Pelican
A few nights ago I had the following dream:
I'm standing at the edge of a marsh or wetland. I see a bald eagle flying toward me. It lands in the water, wings out. It comes right toward me. Then it changes into a golden eagle with a strange, long, duck-like bill. It has red-brown eyes that hold sadness. It walks right up to me. I back away slightly and so does the bird. We hesitate. But I realize it wants me to pet it. I begin petting its head and it turns into a pelican. Soon it is right up against my body and it is the same size as me. It rests its head on my shoulder. I feel so much love for the pelican and I want to protect it. As I pet it, its feathers dry off and become incredibly soft. As I pet the pelican, I talk to it, trying to soothe it.
My heart is absolutely breaking at the situation in the Gulf. So many animals are dying: pelicans, sea turtles, dolphins, marlin, shrimp...the list is enormous. The tragic results of our greed and over-consumption are nearly more than I can bear. I wish I were able to save every single bird languishing in the oily Gulf waters.
The collapse of the Deepwater Horizon platform came just 10 days before a major collapse in my own life. At the end of April, my husband and I decided to divorce. I felt everything crash in around me. We were already losing our physical home to foreclosure, and now we are losing our metaphorical home as well. I have to rebuild everything from scratch.
Although my husband and I will remain good friends and the separation has been as amiable as possible, the grief runs deeper than I could ever imagine. As a result of my personal upheaval, I have had a limited capacity to work with the grief I feel over the death in the Gulf of Mexico.
But this dream provided a doorway into that grief. As my mentor Karen Jaenke said when we worked this dream, if I can inhabit my personal grief then I can better hold the collective grief over the oil spill. I am creating a bridge to the collective grief in the dream when I hold the pelican despite my own suffering and attempt to relieve its suffering. We meet halfway, each coming from our own tragedy, in order to heal each other. As I soothed the pelican, I also soothed myself and it soothed me.
I feel stronger now. It's been more than a month since Lance and I made the decision to split. With each day that passes I feel more capable of holding the Gulf tragedy in tandem with my own crises. The next step is to transform this grief into healing, a step I imagine will take many, many months.
Both images courtesy of the International Bird Rescue Research Center