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

Jacques Cousteau

My Octopus Friend: Trust & Coming Out of the Cave (Part 5)

20220226-203944Mof-on-Foot-21-June-21 Trust: My Octopus Friend (MOF) comes out of her den to explore my foot

In Part 5 of this six part series, Mof (My Octopus Friend) and I have an extraordinary eleventh encounter on the morning of the summer solstice 2021. It speaks to me about the power of trust, friendship and how vital it is for humans to connect with and to see themselves as part of, and not separate from, the natural world. Mof's example of courageous trust encourages all of us to come out of our metaphoric dens in which we take shelter to protect ourselves from.... what?....ourselves? the world? or the many unquestioned fears and anxieties that live in our heads and limit our actions? As I conclude: Dare to expand your inner world by embracing the natural one!

It's a hard thing to explain, but sometimes you just get a feeling, and you know there's-- there's something
to this creature that's very unusual. There's something to learn here.

by Craig Foster, in the documentary My Octopus Teacher

Day 11 – 21 June, 9am, flooding, low tide at 7:43am, Waxing Moon – 80%

Summer Solstice 2021: Longest day of the year, a magic day of transition in the celestial cycle and one I will never forget in my life. 

The sea was quite rough and the sky cloudy, the sun trying to break through. I wanted to experience the flooding tide when there would be more water outside of the octopus's den so that I could swim (ie, float) in front of it again. Tidal surge waves periodically battered the rocks around the cave and the Womb Pool. Frothy foam filling the pool reminded me more of a winter than summer sea. Significant rain and overcast skies had been constant the last few days. Very strange late-June weather. 

Getting a good view of the cave's entrance proved difficult as the foam swept and swirled around the den rushing quickly over the barrier rocks and rocky platform that separate the cave from the big waves of the open ocean. Those rocks make it possible for me to enter the Sea in this place. The flooding tide reached my boots mid-calf and almost seeped over the top. Peering down through the water's surface, I could see movement from within her den. I hoped that at flooding tide she might be ready to emerge to go hunt and find a tasty meal. I would love to watch her out in the sea and even swim with her! A flooding tide, though, presents challenges especially with a wild, unpredictable sea as bigger sets progressively arrive carrying more water as the tide rises. 

I put my things down on an elevated rock. A big surge wave came, washing over the main rock that protects the cave. I raised my things to a higher point. If a stronger wave came, it wouldn't be the first time I'd seen my boots floating away!

Foamy, wild sea around barrier rocks. Womb Pool (center)
My gear piled high on the rocks. Taken from the Womb Pool, Mof's den is ahead to the left, platform ahead underwater
Checking the den's entrance. I see movement within.
Taken as I exited, example of a large tidal surge, like the one that swept me into the Womb Pool later.

I stripped off my clothes, put on my goggles and stepped into the water on the shelf in front of the den. I let myself float on my stomach in front of her den and I reached down with my hand to greet her. Her arms* flew out at me in the briskly flowing water, bits of kelp whizzing by. Happy to receive her now familiar greeting, fingers and delicate arms explored one another eagerly. A bigger surge of water came in and flushed me backwards towards the Womb Pool. I've had a lot of experience in this place over the last year and even though I couldn't see very well due to the foamy conditions, I knew that I was safe in that space, deeper and elongated, a sanctuary many times.

I swam back in front of the cave and we engaged with hands and arms in a difficult dance of rapidly flowing water, my ears on high alert for the sound of surge action that could push me at any minute into the rocks or Womb Pool. Nonetheless we enjoyed a bit of tug-of-war at the cave entrance as she eagerly greeted me and wanted to pull my hand, as usual, deeper into the den (see the video below with clips of the interaction). Calming, as she does, I let her hold my hand as I sang my little Ocean ditty I invented during my months of dawn immersions, letting the now familiar vibration run down my arm and into her powerfully sensing tentacles. She felt very energetic and engaging today and there was no pushing away as I'd experienced other days (I believe it must have to do with increased energy at flooding tide before she goes out to hunt versus being settled at low tide and digesting). 

 The truth is, it was not easy, to keep myself in front of the den, play with the octopus and keep safe at the same time. It was tiring. Suddenly I sensed a shift in the Ocean and a wall of water enveloped me. I knew I couldn't fight this mass of motion. I let myself be swept into the Womb Pool again. Another wave came and I dove down deep into the Womb Pool where the water is more still. I did this several times until the big set passed. 

She greets me with her delicate arm sensing, smelling and tasting my pinky finger with her highly sensitive suckers
Visibility was poor as bits of kelp and sea plants whizzed through the frothy water

A bit of discouragement set in. I knew the tide would continue to rise and flooding wave sets get more complicated to manage making a connection between Mof and me more difficult. How can we make further progress in our friendship, I wondered? I pulled myself out of the Womb Pool and stood on the rocky platform in front of the cave for a brief respite from my spin in the Ocean's washing machine. At this moment, the sun broke through the clouds and a group of sea birds flew above me. Peace and calm washed over me as I was brought back to the intense beauty of the moment and the gratitude I felt to be able to connect with Mof at all. 

I stood up after a spin in the Ocean's washing machine, a bit discouraged. The sun began to breakthrough....and then I looked down.....

Then, I looked down at my bare feet. Discouragement vanished. Shock and incredulity washed over my being. Mof decided to come fully out of her cave and she was slowly 'walking' through the water towards my foot with its eye-catching aqua nail polish. Awe, amazement and wonder filled my soul. When I reached down, she retreated back again. I got so excited, I ran out of the Sea and found her some mussels. I returned and turned on my camera. I couldn't believe my eyes when she came back out again to explore my left foot. She grasped and gently embraced my foot with three arms. After exploring me briefly, she gracefully retreated and returned to her den. I felt the thrill of two ocean girls connecting in the sea. As the delightful song Ocean Girl by L'Aupaire says: 

My ocean girl
I will hold you
You'll be safe here
From the violent storms
From the furious roar

Had she sensed that I had been swept away by the surge wave and knew I was having difficulty connecting? Did she decide to come out to the clumsy large, friendly creature and hold my foot to facilitate in some way? Did her curiosity get the better of her and the sight of those aqua toenails attract her attention more than usual? I don't know. All I know was that it was pure magic and I felt part of that place, not just a visitor (paraphrasing Craig Foster - see his last quote below). If I didn't have my camera running that day, I might just think it was a dream. 

By far the most powerful is when it comes out the den because that's when you know there's full trust....It's like, "I totally trust this human, and I'm coming out of the den...."

by Craig Foster, in the documentary My Octopus Teacher
Two moments as she walked the second time to my foot
Coming out to hold my foot again

Her trust overwhelmed me. The beauty of pure connection between two alien species felt like a tremendous gift, another example of our great interconnectedness as living creatures on this magnificent Earth. To form a bond of trust, with such a remarkable, beautiful creature vastly different from myself was profound. The octopus made a calculated risk. Normally her instincts would tell her not to expose and make herself vulnerable to this two-legged creature. But our bond over the last 11 days showed her I wasn't a threat. Nature reached out to me and welcomed me into its vast mystery as friend and touched me deep inside my being. As Thomas Berry wrote:

"We need the outer world to activate the inner world of the human. I have often said that the wonder and beauty of the natural world is the only way in which we can save ourselves. Just now we are losing our world of meaning through our destruction of the natural world wherein the divine speaks to us. The more we are absorbed into our own selves, the less competent we become in our patterns of communication with the outer world. So too the more shriveled we are in our inner world. " (from The Sacred Universe, p. 146)

After Mof embraced my foot, she gracefully swam back to her den. What luck to have greater clarity in the water at that moment.

Her bravery and faith in me gave me pause. I too need to work through fears, trust my intuition based on careful assessment of situations and come out of my own metaphorical caves that feel safe yet limit my engagement with the world in ways that I want to but don't (because I sometimes lack faith, faith in myself). When Mof came out to embrace my foot it was a gesture that required me to dig deep into my own relationship with trust and friendship. It was also a reconfirmation of how essential it is for all humanity to connect with, value and protect the natural world. And this is one of my central motivations for writing and sharing these experiences - to hopefully inspire others to leave their carefully constructed safe mental caves and dare to connect with the themselves and the natural world and open up to the gift of wonder, joy and awe that constantly surrounds us through nature, our greatest teacher. We need to do this, to save ourselves from ourselves. Dare to expand your inner world by embracing the natural one!

Enjoy the video I made of that magical encounter of two daughters of the Sea set to L'Aupaire's evocative song, Ocean Girl. Thank you, Mof, for holding me!


What she taught me was to feel... that you're part of this place, not a visitor. That's a huge difference.

by Craig Foster, in the documentary My Octopus Teacher
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Comments 1

Guest - king on Monday, 07 March 2022 10:42
great article about trust and beingaking fear

thank you Dawnswimmer, what a very interesting story you are sharing with us about trust. I have learned a lot but I need to practice this in real life. It's very difficult to trust human beings, let me see if I can trust animals.

We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk. --Thomas Moore

thank you Dawnswimmer, what a very interesting story you are sharing with us about trust. I have learned a lot but I need to practice this in real life. It's very difficult to trust human beings, let me see if I can trust animals. We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk. --Thomas Moore
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