For years I dreamed of sharks and didn’t know why. Were sharks merely symbols of my neuroses? Poetic of my “Jaws” obsession? Was I supposed to channel the ancient wisdom of predatory fish in order to swim fearlessly through the seas of my own life?
In Deena Metzger‘s revelatory book, Entering-the Ghost-River she exposes and transcends our typically narcissistic readings of animal dreams:
“When the animals come to us in dreams or visions, they are not, as the common jargon would have it, our power animals. They do not bring us power. They come to us so we can serve them. So we can carry their intelligence and vision into the world. They come to bring us back through service to all living things.”
In an hour that I spend traveling the circular, well-worn paths of my solipsism trying to understand sharks as personal metaphors, roughly 11,000 of them die–suffocating in nets, struggling on the decks of “sport” fishing boats or drowning after their fins are cut off–to add not flavor but thickness to shark fin soup, the food of status, of emperors.
People kill about 100 million sharks a year. Many species teeter on the brink of extinction.
What can I do in order not to forget?
Recently, I read about a woman named Sara Bayles who picked up trash from the Santa Monica Beach for 365 (non-consecutive) days. She ended up collecting about 1300 pounds of garbage. This feat feels both simple and monumental. I liked the idea of doing something for a year. Next June, I will be traveling to South Africa to go cage diving with great whites. It seems like a perfect end to this experience, this Year of the Shark.
To keep the sharks at the forefront of my consciousness, I decided to try to help them every day for the next 365 days. Whether I take direct action (fundraising for a shark charity) or do something indirect (picking up trash that could end up in storm drain on its way to the ocean), I am going to keep a record of it here. But I want this blog to be more than just a list. I want it to reveal fun, strange, beautiful, essential things about sharks,and about what happens to us when we extend our awareness past the boundaries, past the dream of ourselves.
I like that animals in dreams come so that we can serve them. What about my dream last night of a big blobby monster species of some kind from outer space, who appeared on earth for no reason at all and vaporized those it came in contact with including my daughter.
Well, Robin clearly this dream is telling you that you must devote your life to serving supernatural creatures that come to you, unless they don’t vaporize first in which case you are not at all obligated.
Jocelyn, I just wrote you a quick note that….disappeared!! I am tired, so please, for brevity’s sake, this Reply will be short! First, amazing area to be intrigued by; it will become a kind of addiction soon if it hasn’t already. (I know; one of my roommates last year focused herself on studying and analyzing killer whales. That’s what she loved and talked about.) Anyway, if you don’t already know Stuart Cody, I would suggest that you speak w/him if you have the interest to know how the film “White Water, While Death” came about–Peter Gimble’s documentary and Stuart did all the under sound/audio for the doc. It was amazing!!! The search for the Great White Shark!!!! He still is asked to give talks about it all these years later at places like Wood’s Hole, etc. Isn’t it GREAT to know and to do your PASSION??!! Go for it all!! Specializing in one area (and, of course, I know NOTHING about you(!) haha…but I do get that you are on your way–or in the middle of–what one might call a beautiful addiction!…..specializing in something like that would, I imagine, would make you in demand and well, sounds like a fun, but also compassionate enterprise. Blessings,
Linda Merrill (now, LSM, do NOT lose this again!!) P.S. for a few months I had an English housemate who studied/analyzed killer sharks–and she LOVED it; nothing was as exciting for her, despite that her tasks were repetitive and a step forward and upward. I am always intrigued by people (I include myself here, btw; its not a bad thing, but today, who find some esoteric or narrow–but important, of course–area that they love more than anything else. I guess mountain climbers and surgeons would be in)cluded in that group. It seems like a cult; it’s really partly an obsession(not a pejorative one, however!!) that seems never to be satisfied and they know they are breaking new ground, making precise that which is anything but. Ok. Thanks for reading this! and will look forward to hearing about Mr. Cody, perhaps, one day. (&yes, I know this is all circa 70s) Blessings and may God shine on your important work. (hope this has enough coherence to be worth reading!! time for Sweet Dreams (hopefully dreams not of scary blobs who can vaporize whatever is in their way to get something they want–maybe it’s you(!)
I know what you mean about obsessions–there is something beautiful, grand and satisfying about them. I feel a real sense of gratitude towards sharks because they have given something important and sort of indefinable. Stuart Cody does sound interesting! I really enjoyed Blue Water, White Death. I also have Ralph Collier, a shark attack expert, speak at the school where I teach, so that’s a start in making contacts in the “shark community.” I am also doing a benefit in February for Sharksavers, and I’m trying to educate my students about conservation. I hope all of these little steps will make some small difference for sharks.
Thanks so much for your enthusiasm! It means a lot.
All the best to you on your journey with the sharks. … And thanks for following my blog “Musings of a Horse Mom.” 🙂
Thanks Dorothy! Until the day I get a horse of my own, I will live vicariously through your blog!
Cage diving? There is a whole brouhaha surrounding that. To actually get the sharks to the tourists who paid to see them, the tour operators toss raw and bloody meat into the water – chumming. What it does is condition sharks to associate chumming with the presence of humans and then, who gets it? The poor surfers on the other side of False Bay.
That said – great blog!
Yes, I know cage diving is problematic in a lot of ways. I’ve considered the very things you mention but I chose to go with Apex Predators because I trust and respect Chris Fallows and his work. He’s not a sort of chum-happy yahoo, but someone who has studied and written about white sharks for a very long time. I am supporting eco-tourism by going on this trip and by extension shark conservation, but I could see how someone might make the opposite argument as well. I don’t know how much Apex affects the safety of surfers. I’d have to research a bit more about how far out the expeditions are and if those beaches use (very problematic) shark nets or not. Thanks so much for reading my blog and talking about this!! Jocelyn
This is a great idea! As a fellow-shark lover I am glad to see that someone else is dedicated to education and conservation!
I am captivated by your blog and your idea! I have a healthy fascination with sharks, as does my 6-year-old daughter. I hope they last so that she can study them as she grows up and older—if she so chooses—and so our oceans can continue function as the should, or as best as they can. Thanks for helping.
Thank you so much. I really do hope I can make some small difference with the blog, teaching and other stuff!
Hi Jocelyn, we met last night at the BookPod mixer. What a lovely blog and concept! I wish I had known about the JAWS reading earlier, but now I’m following your blog so hopefully I’ll find out about the next event. My blog is http://www.ridingbitchblog.com and my email is my full name at gmail.com. Looking forward to being in touch and reading more about your sharks. All the best, Niva
Hey Shark Dreamer..
I just wanted to let you know thanks for the lovely words about my painting at the Jaws show last year at Hero Complex. The painting is now available as a print via this link. http://1xrun.com/runs/The_Harbormaster
Thanks Aaron! I’m so glad that that prints are available. I love that painting! Jocelyn