Our stories are marked by rhythms of life and death—or to put it simply: everything changes. Connecting to the rhythms of nature grounds us in a larger, collective story and empowers us to honor the more personal patterns of our individual lives. This post is the second of a four-part series in which Mandy reflects upon the pattern of nature and its relevance to our personal development. (You can read part one here.)

“Anyone or anything that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”
David Whyte, “Sweet Darkness”


It’s summer, and I’m swimming in the sea.

I see no shoreline—just a wall of rock in front of me, a cliff face that reaches up to eternity. I float here, enjoying the calm of this cove filled with salt water. Then I see her: a giant humpback whale approaching to my right, swimming just below the surface of the water. While I sense no danger, I feel afraid; I am so small beside her. She moves directly under me. I’m lifted by her bulk, and for a moment I know she means to carry me. She wants to play.

Then I wake up.

My heart aches with longing. I wish my dream were real—but why?

What am I longing for?

There are stories I’ve read about selkies—sea creatures of Celtic and Nordic folklore, who look like seals in the water but can shed their sealskins on land, shifting to human form. In some of these stories, a lonely man hides a selkie’s coat in order to keep her with him, to keep her for his own. But the selkie longs for the sea; without her sealskin coat—without the freedom to return to the wild—she grows weary, and weakens, and fades. Her eyes become dull, and her skin becomes dry; she even loses her vision and voice. In order to come alive again, the selkie must recover her coat and return to the water.

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Image Credit: Cartoon Saloon, “Song Of the Sea”

In a way, we’re all like selkies. When we fear the power of our animal nature, we make ourselves too small. When we suppress our wildness too long, we drift into sleep; we forget how to play. Our lives become parched and shadowy versions of the fullness and wonder they’re meant to be.

When was the last time you put on your sealskin and took to the sea? Your coat is not meant to be kept hidden; your life is not meant to be made small.

You are made for delight and wonder—to be fully alive, not tame.

Like a seal in the sea, you are wondrously wild.

It’s summer, but now I’m not sleeping.

All around me life is blooming, sensual and wild. I’ve watched the world journey from rebirth to abundance, growing warmer like the sun does as it joins the southern sky.

I wonder at the audacity of summer: she floods the earth with color and light, insisting I notice her beauty. She sings, “Wake up! Wake up! Let’s play!”

I wonder, is she singing to me?

My family is walking on the beach. As we dip our toes in sea foam, my niece breaks into a run. She kicks her legs up high and brings them down hard in the water. She dances and splashes wildly, not minding how wet or sandy she gets. I see her play, and I wonder:

Why should any of us wish to be tame?

I remember the whale in my dream, and now I understand: I long to play with abandon, to be fully alive and audaciously wild. Then it hits me:

I am the whale—and you are, too—wild, and wondrous, and free.

The following clip from Tomm Moore’s Song Of the Sea shows how Saoirse, the daughter of a selkie, discovers her own sealskin coat (you can watch the entire film here):


To read part three of this series, click here.

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Mandy Hughes

Mandy Hughes

Mandy is a licensed professional counselor. She counsels adults, adolescents, and groups and has a particular interest in helping survivors of trauma and abuse navigate their stories of harm with self-compassion instead of shame. Mandy is passionate about empowering her clients to live more integrated, vibrant and hope-filled lives.

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Mandy Hughes

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