(Essay 4) I Must Call Her Awe/stralia by Leslene della-Madre

I spent my last week in Awe/stralia at Watego Bay in Byron Bay with my daughter. From the autumn chill of Melbourne to the tropical warmth of sun and surf! We were there for R and R, and for me, hopefully some healing from a trauma I had experienced in my adult life with the ocean. While in Hawaii I had been swimming and snorkeling in her crystalline waters and was fairly far from shore looking for sea turtles. Rather suddenly, the wind changed and the swells in the water began to get bigger and stronger. I could see my daughters looking like tiny little dolls on the shore. Fear immediately set in as I found myself no longer feeling safe in the water. And then more fear was generated as my thoughts raced about — could I make it back to them? And then panic. Panic will cause one to drown quicker than the waves. I knew this, and was faced with the fact that my life was in my hands and that I needed to do what I needed to do to stay alive. There is a teaching that says one must want liberation as much as if one is drowning and taking her last breath. I learned the meaning of this teaching that day.  I knew I couldn’t resist the swells. I quickly saw that if I just surrendered to their power, I could ride them into shore, because that is where they were heading. Fortunately there were no crosscurrents. And I was wearing fins. So, I rode. It was like riding the waves of giving birth. And death was right there with me. I had a deep unspeakable gratitude in my heart when I could feel the sand beneath my feet and I could see the precious faces of my beautiful little girls, who had no idea of the drama I had just encountered!

The view from our apartment, Watego Bay
The view from our apartment, Watego Bay

I was not untouched by the trauma of it, however. My relationship with the ocean changed after that and I had a very difficult time getting back into her waters. It took me a number of years to be able to just go back into the waves — and thinking of snorkeling offshore was not even a possibility. While I eventually went back to Hawaii and did go into deep water to snorkel, it was not going out into the water from shore. I went out on a boat with others into calm waters. While in Watego Bay, I found a deeper courage to go back into the waves to dive and play. I felt like I was coming back to myself — to the woman who loves the ocean and is not afraid to allow her once again to embrace me. As my daughter and I were playing together, a pair of dolphins jumped from the waters near us. They were also playing in the surf. I learned that dolphin is the totem of the Aboriginal Arakwal women of that area. I felt blessed by them, by the ancestors and the spirit of the Aboriginal women of that land. It was a perfect way to say goodbye (for now) to Awe/stralia!

Wonderful painted pole, Watego Bay
Wonderful painted pole, Watego Bay

My heart is still quite full. I have received feedback that many women feel I brought something new to them, that there is a longing for more. I would love to return, and share with my beautiful new sisters! We came together for a reason, perhaps many reasons. May the unfolding continue! Let us sing and dream together, to bring forth our collective wisdom that we all know is the healing medicine for the planet.  Sacred sisterhood. Womb wisdom. Fierce and wise serpent power. Let our powers be unleashed!

Thank you, thank you, beautiful women, beautiful land, beautiful ancestors!

Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.