There’s an overtly masculine, hunky god outside my bedroom window.
Here at my little writer’s studio in the Carmel Highlands, when I open the curtains in the morning, he is there gazing in at me. Most of the day he’s causally standing about, and when I draw the curtains at night, my little cottage aglow with candles, he’s still there, trident in hand.
Poseidon, Greek god of the depths, is enshrined along the driveway to the neighbor’s palatial villa, part of the drive being just outside the bedroom of this little poet’s cottage.
A couple of weeks ago, when I first landed here, in my post “Tea and Sea Otters,” I wrote:
“When my landlady bought this property twenty years ago, only a couple of modest houses stood here on the cove, but in the years since then they have all been torn down and replaced by massive, soulless homes behind gates, most of which seem to sit empty. Thankfully my little cottage—a miniature Swiss chalet—is pleasantly soulful, full of artistic details, slightly down-at-heel, and very Old World. And gazing out the window, all I see are gracefully windswept cypress trees, a garden of native succulents that thrive in this cove, a rocky inlet of the Pacific, a floating patchwork quilt of kelp and waves… and sea otters.”
I didn’t mention Poseidon.
He’s a life-sized, white marble statue with a chiseled torso and sinewy forearms, sculpted thighs, a somewhat scowling bearded countenance, and wielding a hefty trident with a blue green patina. (Given his Romanesque rather than Greek style, perhaps he prefers to go by his Roman name, Neptune, but I haven’t asked.) A dolphin’s tail wraps discretely around his pelvis from behind, hiding his deified genitals… though surely as a god he could have no reason for shame.
In some ways, the Old World lord of the deeps seems distinctly out of place here on this New World coastline (though if you could see the palazzo he presides over, he’s right at home in an absurdly nouveau riche way). And yet, on a rocky point that juts out into the sea, surrounded on three sides by crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, what or who could be more appropriate as a overlighting, protective energy?
Still, sometimes when I open the drapes in the morning, or even simply gaze out the bedroom windows any time during the day, seeing the life-sized, smoothly hewn, brooding Olympian standing there, I can only chuckle out loud.
My friend Cristin, visiting the cottage for the first time, laughed aloud. “Of course some hunky Greek god would be right outside your bedroom window. Check out those forearms… and those thighs! But it’s too bad the fish tail is covering up his goods.”
As a child, I was deeply immersed in the Greek myths, and I read every book of them that I could get my hands on (which was rather a good number). Fair Apollo, as the god of the music and arts, was always my favorite (and the sacred site of Delphi continues to call me), but there was something deeply alluring about Poseidon—living in his coral palace at the bottom of the sea, and his association with depths, ocean storms, sailing adventures, and dolphins.
His chariot was pulled by hippocampus, the fishtailed horses who rode the sea—and curiously these mythic creatures, rusting in the salt air, sit atop the old gates to the property where my little studio nests beneath the Monterey cypress trees. (Very convenient for Poseidon next door should he desire to ride forth from his shrine and go into town, or cruise around Point Lobos.)
So in a curious return to childhood dreams and mythic stories, Poseidon is outside my bedroom window. And it seems oddly appropriate that given my work these past years with the soul and its unconscious, unfathomable depths, that the god of the deeps now stands near. That said, in light of my communion with nature and the wild sensuality of the soul, it would probably be most appropriate for hooved Pan (or perhaps even Dionysus) to be dancing about… but it seems that he is, given an odd trick of the light and reflection going on.
Poseidon stands north of the cottage in the neighbor’s drive. Yet where I sit in the little alcove of window seats that holds the round dining table (that doubles as my desk for most of the day), when I gaze through the living room windows towards the south cove, Poseidon’s torso is somehow reflected between the two windows—placing him in one of the windraked trees in the Circle of Dancers (as I call that group of Standing Ones). So at certain moments of the day, when I am indoors writing and editing, whenever I look up, a somewhat ghostly but godly torso hovers amid the tangled boughs. The trident has disappeared, and the visage could almost be Pan, albeit lacking horns.
I have tried to capture this phenomenon on camera but the image doesn’t really show up well. Not surprising, really, the gods are frequently elusive.
I’ve got the lord of the deeps to the north, and in the south a wild god of the grove, so I chuckled the other day, remembering a mentor who laughingly once accused me of “trafficking in archetypes.” Here at the poet’s cottage, on the threshold of earth, sea and sky, it seems I’m guilty of that once again. So be it.
When in my nakedness I open the drapes in the morning and face Poseidon in (nearly) all of his glory, I nod to him and bow slightly.
“Good morning. Here I am again. All of me. My body isn’t as nicely sculpted as yours, but at least I’m not covering up my manroot with a dolphin tail.”
In the Introduction to The Bones and Breath, I wrote that we all must go naked before the gods. I didn’t mean literally nude but “vulnerable, willing to be exposed to all of our perceived flaws as we walk towards a shimmering, elusive dream. We must be willing to face our shame, wrestle with our fears and doubts, and risk following our deepest longing on a mysterious journey. There is a much larger purpose to life that reveals itself only when we leave our comfort zone, expanding and crossing the open field of possibility.”
We all have our wounds and our shame, our limiting beliefs, those habits and contractions that keep us snug in familiar grooves and well-worn ruts, but which mostly tend to carry us to the same old destinations that we already know far too well. We do not emerge from the cramped safety of our protective shell without some degree of risk and vulnerability. Whether that is being seen for who we really are, risking the disapproval of others, or letting go of something which has aided us but which we have long ago outgrown—a habit or role, a job or career, a relationship, a limited worldview—there is always an element of jeopardy. Will we shrink back, or step tremblingly forward?
In attempting to censor, repress, or simply hide the parts of ourselves that we perceive as less than perfect or undesirable, we also sacrifice our very ‘life force’ and lusciousness.
Sitting at the vintage, rusting bistro table in front of this little cottage, a cup of tea beside me as I scrawl in my notebook with my old, cracked fountain pen, sea breezes tousling my unruly hair, I gaze at the windswept, tangled and crooked branches of the elegant cypresses. Not so unlike us, I think—rooted down into soil (or soul) while simultaneously reaching upward and outwards toward the light. Each of us grows in our own way, sculpted by the forces of life that have acted upon us, and we are no less beautiful for it. Those gnarled ‘deformities’ and twisted limbs are often the very place we carry our hidden gift, or where the small bird alights to build a nest and offer its song.
Soul Artists know that we do not lessen our shame by refusing to look in the mirror or hiding. We only shift a pattern or limiting belief by finding the true gift of it, the way(s) it has aided us—there is always a hidden grace to be found. In considering the ways we limit ourselves in the world, or curtail our creative authenticity, Soul Artists know that the process of self-enlargement and evolution is seldom painless. It is only with vulnerability (and sometimes determination) that we emerge from the calcified shell to then discover that we are something much more than what we previously held possible or dreamed… and that we have feathered wings for flight.
Few of us have a sculpted Greek deity outside our bedroom window to remind us, but here’s hoping that you’ll find your own ways to stand in a quiet moment of vulnerability, stripped to who you are and what you bring, and be willing to be seen and valued for that. You are the intelligent Universe embodied. How might your day be different if you remembered that Source expresses and celebrates the grandeur of its imagination through each and every being? I have said it before, gentle reader: we live in a fully conscious and reciprocating cosmos. If you open your senses wide, if you greet beauty wherever you find it (and it is everywhere) with gratitude and attention, you will discover your own beauty reflected back to you.
Go naked to the gods, my friend.