“Let me not hear facts, figures and logic; fain would I hear lore, legends and magic.”
(From “Roots of Oak” by Donovan)
What is magical thinking? I first encountered this phrase in an article about grief. A man had died of cancer and his 11-year old daughter thought she was responsible for her father’s death because in the past she had wished he was dead. That’s one example. Some people seem to have an affinity for this type of thinking, others not. For instance, my parents are stone cold atheists. For them nothing exists except what we can see and touch. On the other hand, I have been a magical thinker all my life. Eric Soares was also a magical thinker and it enriched his life and helped him be the great sea kayaker he was.
For the girl whose father died, magical thinking trapped her in guilt. But this type of thinking can have a positive influence too. Eric thought of himself as a Sea King. It sounds grandiose, but if you check out his photos and videos you’ll see it’s not inappropriate. His image of himself as a Sea King gave him power on the water. Here is a poem he wrote that expresses his vision:
The Sea King Returns
My people sailed the oceans of the water planet.
We used the earth’s magnetism for energy…
Developed the planet’s civilizations…
Communicated with this world and others…
We planted seeds before we departed.
The seeds sprouted, flourished, flowered.
Now they bear fruit.
The ocean people return to the water planet.
The time is now. The magmatic magnetism
Is back. The volcanoes erupt, the earth shakes.
The sea king has returned.
He searches for his sea queen.
She will come back to the sea.
Like a latter day Pied Piper Eric’s magnetic personality gathered like-minded people around him to share his vision. This concept developed into a tribal culture, an alternative lifestyle Eric and his best friend Jim Kakuk called HELL (see “Sea Kayaking is HELL”). The greater part of this lifestyle involves seeking freedom and transformation through sea kayaking. One of the Tsunami Rangers’ goals is to find places no one else goes in order to get away from Herberts, a nickname they picked up from an episode of the original Star Trek. (According to Spock, Herbert was a minor official notorious for his rigid and limited patterns of thinking.)
The Tsunami Rangers favor small groups, alter egos, secret place names, and pirate or gypsy costume. Their annual Sea Gypsy Race embodied this alternative concept, with no insurance, no commercial sponsors, and no official recognition other than that of the participants. Anyone who paddles in this race or in its more recent manifestation Reef Madness pretty much does it for the hell of it (drum roll please). First prize could turn out to be a mutant lemon the size of a cantaloupe. And you might break your boat.
Slots and punchbowls, caves and arches, reefs and sea stacks, the jubilant abundance of marine life, all these things create a world that calls the adventurer to explore deeper and deeper. The deeper we travel into this wild world, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, the further behind we leave the mundane and tame. As with all magical places, there is darkness, confusion and fear. But these are things to overcome – the knight slays the dragon, the frog turns into a prince, Cinderella rises from the ashes. And we return from our adventure stronger, more alive, with joy in our hearts, a sparkle in our eyes, and a tale to tell.
Just as the veil between the Seen and Unseen is thinnest at dawn and dusk, the veil is also thin at the places where earth and water meet. Anywhere there is an edge, a seam as it were in the world or in our selves, that’s where transformation occurs. Eric was all about transformation at the edge. He actively sought and found transcendence there, and those of us who followed him to that edge were transformed as well. Eric loved the ocean and he believed that it loved him in return. That attitude allowed him to engage the ocean on an intimate level.
Then there are omens. Propitiating the sea gods is an ancient practice. After all, sailors are among the most superstitious of people. Before they venture out, the Tsunami Rangers perform a salutation to the sea. The first time I kayaked after Eric died I went out with Tsunami Rangers Jim Kakuk and Scott Becklund. As we prepared to launch, I asked Jim what about a salutation. He said, “You do it”. I’m not a Ranger and I always salute the water in my own way, so I did Surya Namaskar, the yoga sun salutation. Just as we assumed plank position, our hands in the sand as we faced the sea, an energetic little wave swept in and swirled around our wrists as though the ocean was inviting us to play. We took that as an auspicious omen and we had an amazing day.
And let’s not forget the Balrog. Anyone familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings knows about the Balrog. For the Tsunami Rangers, the Balrog dwells at the back of sea caves. You can hear him roar from time to time. When you do, you don’t go in there. Eric loved this idea so much he had a friend create this picture:
On another note, Tsunami Ranger Michael Powers practices rune reading. On February 1, the day Eric died, Michael drew the rune for Breakthrough Transformation Day. He sent me the reading. Here are a few choice bits: “Drawing Dagaz marks a major shift or breakthrough in the process of self-change, a complete transformation…For some the transition is so radical that they no longer continue to live the ordinary life in the ordinary way…the magnitude of the transformation might be so total as to portend a death…” There are over 50 of these runes and each can be read two ways so the likelihood of drawing such a relevant reading on that particular day would seem to be slim. But there it is.
Whether or not they are magical thinkers most sea kayakers are answering the call of the sea and what is that but magical? How can the sea call to us? What do we hear? Yet off we go on our adventures, whether on a major expedition or a short estuarine paddle. And each time we come back with a story, and we are transformed, however slightly, by our experience. If Eric had not been a magical thinker the Tsunami Rangers would never have come to be. I believe the more we open to magic the more it enters and supports our lives. But it only comes to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. As Jon Turk would say, every moment of our lives we have the choice whether or not to engage the magic. For my part, I choose to engage. A world without magic would be dull indeed.
Do you believe in magic? Can it affect our lives? Our kayaking? Share your thoughts by clicking below.