The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever

Jacques Cousteau

My Octopus Friend: An Evolving Friendship (Part 4)


Marked by missed encounters, stormy weather and frothing seas, Part 4 of my octopus series covers encounters 6-10 from 13-20 June 2021. Deeper connection simply produced more questions and curiosity within me. The octopus began to occupy my psyche in new ways and I struggled with the concern that our developing bond might endanger her. Contact with Mof was pushing me to explore more deeply friendship, illusions, impermanence and letting go. Come with me into her magical underwater world that reveals much about life on the surface.

At last, in the warm embrace of the sea, breathing underwater, surrounded by the octopus's liquid world, my breath rising in silver bubbles like a song of praise, here I am. 

by Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus

13 & 14 June - No encounters
The next day, June 13th, I swam in an 3km open water race and missed the low tide to visit Mof. As I started the race that morning, launching myself into the wide open sea, I thought of the octopus as I slid along rising and falling in the waves as my arms and legs propelled me swiftly along. I felt strong and powerful, at ease in the sea and grateful to the octopus for letting me into her world, into her embrace. Mof had entered my consciousness in a unique way and I somehow felt her support. I looked down into depths as I swam and I imagined her in her cave and then shooting out to hunt racing across the ocean floor with stealth and ingenuity. 

Mof inspired my swim as I slid along
Imagining her in her den ready to go hunt

The unseen darkness, the sea creature with abnormally long tentacles that stretch out of the sea and into your imagination, tickling your cranium with its ideas – Octopus also reminds us to work with our creativity and intuition.

by Ariel

Learning from the Octopus
As I drove home from the race I reflected on how wisdom and life lessons often come from unsuspecting sources. After posting my first Octopus Encounter Instagram story, I received numerous positive and surprised reactions. One person suggested the octopus might be my "animal totem spirit" come to guide my inner growth and soul's journey. Hhm….. What might that mean? Curious, I googled that idea and found several articles that spoke of the Octopus as a Spirit Animal and highlighting octopus qualities useful to reflect upon for living one's own life.

Key ideas included: 

  • An Octopus can multi-task yet focus and reminds us to "get a grip" before blindly launching into action. Point taken. 
  • The eight arms suggest abundance ("as 8 is the universal number of abundance and cycles…..there is no beginning and no end, just an endless cycle of energy flow".). 
  • Be flexible, fluid, shifting and flowing like an octopus when problem solving. I had employed that yesterday with The Embrace. Finding ingenious solutions is part of the octopus's incredible ability to adapt, camouflage, and squeeze itself into the smallest spots. 
  • Just as the octopus shoots its ink to evade predators, always have an escape plan when the going gets rough.
  • As a creature that goes to the depths of the ocean floor (where it finds stability and safety), employ your intuition and awareness, to move through life's depths flowing and adapting rather than resisting what is…. 

Maybe it's all speculative nonsense but nonetheless an octopus's way in the world offers useful insights. I realized this was another layer of the gift; an opportunity to reflect and hone my own intuition, strength, adaptability, observation skills and apply them to my own life. I might need them more than I realized. 

Ready to explore at door of den
First right arm ready to unfurl and reach
Left arms unfurling

13 June (continued) - No Octopus but Witness to Apocalyptic Storm
When I returned home after the open water race, I immediately went down to her den, profoundly moved by the previous day's embrace. I tried to catch the low tide again but I was too late. The tide was too high around the cave but nonetheless I jumped in and swam around the Womb Pool and in front of the cave hoping to catch sight of her. The waves came fast and furious, a sea of bubbles making visibility difficult. She eluded me again. How I would love to swim with her!

Determined to reconnect on the 13th, I waited until close to sunset when the tide was ebbing again in hopes it might be low enough to have access to the den. A huge storm now brewed, not over the ocean to the west, but instead overwhelmed and menaced the eastern skies. I got on my bike and cycled west down to the sea. As I reached the ocean, lightning and thunder crashed in the east and started to head in my direction. The water sloshed high in front of the cave with a heavy sea. It would be impossible to get in and see the octopus. The sun began to set magnificently in the west as the storm raged in the eastern sky, lightning crackling in rapid bursts over the mountains.

13 June - Apocalyptic storm, one of the most magnificent sunsets I can remember, the photos simply don't do justice to the colors and complexity of the clouds

Surreal and apocalyptic, I debated holding tight to wait out the rain that began to lash or to return and expose myself to the violent elements across the open dunes. I tried not to think about getting hit by lightning as my neighbor's daughter had 35 years ago in the same place bringing the cows home from pasture, dying a terrible death in front of her mother. She would have been my age now. 

The rain started to fall as I cycled home and I felt grateful to witness nature's incredible display (yet feeling slightly disrespectful of my neighbor's terrible memory). I wouldn't have experienced this firsthand unless I had gone to search for my friend. A rainbow filled the sky, filling out the moment. My partner waited for me at the bottom of the hill, worried yet accepting and loving his wild Ocean girl. I posted a series of photos on IG including an incredible video of the sea and at the end the lightning crashing down! 

Circumstances also prevented me from seeing the octopus on 14 June because the low tide was at 1:15pm and 1:08am. The window was too narrow and when I got to the cave around 4pm, I jumped into the thigh-high water in front of the cave and stuck my head underwater: empty den. Foiled again!

The Octopus knows its limits and can understand obstacles from many perspectives, thereby allowing them to do the impossible – find a way out, down, or around. If you are struggling to find a solution to a problem, ask Octopus to teach you flexibility and to think outside of the box.

by Ariel

Day 6 –15 June - 1:40 pm, ebbing, close to low tide, Waxing Moon - 19%
Determined to see Mof after two days without visiting her, I finally coincided with the low tide around 2pm on a beautiful sunny day. My daughter joined me. Mof seemed a bit more hesitant to come out at first. Two days had passed and I didn't have my black boots on but went barefoot with my bright aqua nail polish on my toes and a sundress I don't normally wear. When I got down in front of the cave, she emerged again. Our interactions for several minutes were calm and peaceful. I sang my song, she gently explored my two hands. At first she grabbed the red camera but quickly lost interest. She expressed no interest in eating the mussels I offered.  

In the footage below, observe the incredible complexity of Mof's beautiful, intricately patterned skin and the horns around her eyes as she raises and lowers them at will - observing, aware, assessing, responding, flowing. Her keen intelligence radiates.

My daughter also put her hand in and Mof felt, touched and sensed her but only briefly. She clearly recognized me and wanted my hand again before I left. I could feel her beak rubbing gently and I would pull back as she sensed me with it. I found it difficult to fully surrender to the wild side of Mof, my trust had an instinctual limit. My daughter filmed amazed at what she was seeing.

Day 7 – 16 June – 1:30pm, ebbing, low at 2:44pm, Waxing Moon – 28%
Wanting to see Mof in different tidal conditions, I planned my visit to coincide with a higher water level outside of the cave. I speculated that she might choose to come out of her den further if the water covered the entrance. I waded in the heavily surging ocean water up to my calves outside the cave, sometimes getting my rear wet as I squatted. It was hard to see her and the den due to the higher water level and foamy wave action. But there she was!

Once I started to place my hand in front of the den, she interacted initially energetically but with less energy than usual. She reached out to pull me in and we touched and interacted for a few minutes. I showed her my feet with the dark aqua nails but she wasn't particularly interested. Then, I felt for the first time a distinct 'pushing away' sensation with her tentacle. Sensing a different mood, I retreated not wanting to insist on interacting. 

My dark aqua nails and feet distorted through the water
Mof: A master of illusion, perfectly camouflaged

Illusions. Are you really seeing what you think you're seeing? Octopus is great at camouflage as it can readily change its appearance through playing with the colors, spots, and textures in its environment. A creature that can truly hide in plain sight. Is all really as it seems in your world?

by Ariel

It made me reflect on moods and how we all have them and how they change from day to day, hour to hour. I also wondered what chemical information I emit through my skin that she could taste. My written notes about this day tell me I had a bout of personal doubt, anxiety and longing for things that don't exist. Did I transmit this through my skin? More likely she was simply digesting her lunch after her high-tide hunt, preparing for the low tide cave inactivity and ready for siesta! Does Mof have her own 'less social' days for her own reasons? Feeling 'pushed away' though jolted something within me, a parallel push in my own life I didn't want to see or believe….curious. How do I disillusion myself by not accepting a truth I don't want to face? Mof was giving me much food for thought. Thanks Mof. It was time to let her digest her lunch and for me to ruminate elsewhere.

17 June – No contact but Foamy Sea Swim
Heavy dark clouds filled with rain lashed the landscape all day long. I reached the beach around 5pm coming into a flooding tide from its low at 3:45pm. The rough, stormy sea was agitated, an out of control washing machine spewing bubbles and foam onto the rocks and into the Womb Pool.

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Enjoy the video of this wild June sea. It looked like winter but was not as cold. Frothy sea foam mounded and jiggled in the wind. Delightfully delicate, soft and airy, its marvelous to sink into. I jumped in the Womb Pool and swam around in front of the cave. Diving down I looked inside her den but it was already empty. I assumed she went out hunting. I hadn't had a fun frothy bath in the Womb Pool for a while and I stayed and played without my friend hoping I might catch a glimpse of her flashing by hunting her prey. But no luck.

Day 8 – 18 June, 5:30pm, ebbing, low at 4:50pm, Waxing Moon – 48%
The later I go to the sea, the more people I usually see especially in summer. It worried me that someone might observe me interacting with the octopus, learn about the den and come back after I left to hunt her. I always carefully observe the beach and who is there when I want to interact with the octopus and avoid making an obvious bee-line for the den.

18 June - Rain threatens a still battered Sea. The 'foamberg' floating over the Womb Pool heading towards the collection spot made me laugh

Also, my partner planted a seed of doubt within me after seeing us engage, "What if you are endangering the octopus by teaching it that humans don't mean harm?" That weighed on me heavily. Obviously, I didn't want to endanger Mof but I didn't want to discontinue interacting with her as it was evident she wanted to engage with me as well. I rationalized, "You would have to be exceedingly observant to notice the cave, already know about it or simply have dumb luck because it is not an area people usually visit at low tide." It felt safe and the potential danger to the octopus minimal.

The experiment: What if I was endangering Mof?

Nonetheless, I decided with my daughter to conduct a small experiment to test how the octopus would react to a stranger after having engaged with me. My daughter would go first and have a stick like a furtive hunter. Observing from a rock where the octopus would not catch sight of me, my daughter approached and gently placed the stick at the entrance, the octopus reached out for the stick with her curious first left arm rather than hiding in the back of the den. I thought that was a bit worrisome. She took the stick but then let go and returned inside. 

My daughter then left and a few minutes later I appeared on the windy, cloudy, rainy day with my black boots. Instead of her usual eager greeting when I placed my hand in the water in front of the den, she came out more cautiously but once she realized who it was, we began to interact with one another with knowing and trust. Her first left and right arms furled and unfurled along my hand and forearm, she pulled me in and then reached to me with her tentacle as my backside got wet with the tide rising around me! It started to rain harder and we took our leave.

Small Digression: Learning from the Furtive Hunter
Soon thereafter I had a chance encounter with a furtive octopus hunter at the beach. A lonely older man, he approached me when I was contentedly absorbed writing in my journal and started a conversation by saying that I didn't look very happy and did I want to talk. I smiled internally. He obviously wanted to talk and so I put my pen down and decided to see where this odd encounter might go.

Our conversation turned to what he liked to do at the beach which included hunting octopus, furtively (ie, no license, just a habitual summer visitor and hunter). I told him about Mof and that I don't hunt octopuses. He didn't really understand what I was talking about. I turned the conversation to his hunting to learn more. He usually employed two techniques: 1) a barbed hook he randomly shoved into promising cracks, ie, potential dens, and 2) putting a bait fish on the end of a stick in front of known or promising laños (dens, little caves). In the latter case, the octopus sees the fish, emerges with natural curiosity and then, Boom!, the hunter grabs it with his hand and kills it. 

Discernment: Who to Trust and When
Listening to him I realized that Mof's reaching out with curiosity for the stick or fish was normal behavior whether I engaged with her or not. Ironically, I felt relief after speaking with the furtive hunter. Mof's natural curiosity made her vulnerable (and that probably leads to the death of many, many octopuses - that's why traps work!). How could she discern friend from foe from food? Mof would always reach out whether or not I engaged with her. I realized the challenge for Mof (and all of us) was discernment. How do any of us make these distinctions when we get mixed messages from the world, when what one day is a tasty fish and the next day is a death trap? Keen observation, trusting intuition, reading the signs, observing actions that speak louder than words.... Trust comes from trust and experience and discernment, not just blind faith. Be careful, Mof!

19 June - Mof gently reaches out
19 June she unfurls her arm along my hand and wrist

Day 9 – 19 June, 6:50pm, flooding, low tide at 6:02pm, Waxing Moon – 59%
I went to search out Mof. The tidal waters slowly flooded around the den during our interactions. I squatted in my boots today and we had a calmer encounter. She clearly recognizes me. And, again, I felt the sensation of pushing me away again but then she would reach out for my hand and pull me back in. Maybe she's a morning person like I am and is more perky when the sun is rising, her belly empty and she's ready to take off into the wild blue sea? Maybe an octopus feels more energetic during different tidal cycles in the day and is impacted by whether it's flooding or ebbing? Do octopuses give mixed messages like humans? Probably not, but it crossed my mind nonetheless. Octopuses studied in aquariums clearly show preferences for some people over others as well as have distinct personalities and engagement/interaction styles.

Our evolving encounter made me reflect on the nature of how we connect with one another, form friendships and flow in and out of each other's lives. Engaging with the octopus seemed to be a metaphor for my own experience of flow and connection. It can be challenging when worlds, languages, backgrounds, experiences, desires, points of view….differ greatly. How to flow with another person? Connect and to live and let live? Sometimes we need to let go, withdraw, employ patience and wait until the other is ready to engage or simply let them go (....foreshadowing). 

I again retreated and felt grateful for the contact that we shared and her continued interest and recognition of me. Sometimes we also have to cut loose, let go of that which no longer serves us. The Ocean teaches ruthlessness as it rips up the beautiful kelp forests, dumping them onto the sand in a healthy process of rejuvenation and regeneration. Just as an octopus's arm can regenerate after the terrible loss of a limb, as humans we can internally regenerate after deep, seemingly insurmountable, loss perhaps even feeling greater strength as a result.

 Better still, Octopus can re-grow their arms, so when one door closes, it's easy to "regenerate" and try something else. This ability, combined with being able to detach limbs, means that Octopus can avoid problems and dangers, leaving the past behind. This physical aptitude and structure give Octopus additional meanings that include renewal, life's cycles and evolution of the soul.

by What is My Spirit Animal?
20 June - The Sea has calmed significantly. Womb Pool visible on right, the rocky platform on left houses the den

Day 10 – 20 June, 8:45am, flooding, low tide at 6:44am, Waxing Moon – 70%

Cloudy and cool again, I walked down to the beach about two hours into the flooding tide. Perfect timing. With the tidal fluctuations, I'd become used to going in the afternoon but felt drawn to the beach in the morning, my favorite hour. I hadn't planned on going to see Mof but when I got there I realized the tide was still low. I thought, 'Maybe I can catch Mof even though the tide is flooding?' It was a gentle neap tide, entering slowly. I approached from the right walking with my black boots, the water lapping at calf level. I could sense Mof observing me as I put my things down on a nearby high rock.

When I turned back I was surprised to see that she'd almost come all the way out of her den, showing me nearly 100% of her. In her eagerness to connect, she came far out of the cave, extending four arms and her head, but always maintained her back arms holding tight to the edges of the cave to be able to pull herself quickly back in in case a quick retreat became necessary. Quite extraordinary! Wow! Perhaps, she was prepped and eager for her daily hunt, waiting for the tidal waters to flood higher. I put down my things and began to film while to sing my ocean song to her that I invented during this incredible year:

I went over and said hello with my hand. She'd gone back in when I approached but came out to greet me. Then I took off my clothes to interact and swim in the nearby Womb Pool. I also went to get her three mussels for later. We interacted a bit with me swimming in front of her cave back and forth, my long naked body, probably a curious sight for her. But the water was still shallow and it wasn't easy because the rocks are rough with encrusted creatures. She would extend her arms out and I would reach my hand and she could pull me in towards her as I floated, she was so strong. But she never came out again with me swimming in front of the cave. It felt special and lovely, two daughters of the Sea interacting with another.

For those of us who pushed down our words and emotions, Octopus sees them and challenges us to look at those honestly. It is time to purge that which doesn't celebrate your life and Spirit as it exists now. Clinging to the past with all 8 arms will only keep you stuck there. Release and go with the flow. That which seemed impossible will suddenly take on a new light.

by What is My Animal Spirit?

Little did I know this was a foreshadowing of the extremely special encounter we would have the next day, 21 June 2021. See Part 5.......

15 June - Accessing the den sometimes I could lie down in front on the rocky platform, other times I squatted and sometimes I could even float in front depending on the tidal action.
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