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what does it mean to follow your dreams?

it started about two decades ago.  night after night, I was visited by incredibly vivid dreams of swimming with river otters.  in them, I got to be an otter myself, clever paws and strong tail propelling me with effortless grace and delight through the water.  I cavorted and frolicked with river otters in throes of purest joy and homecoming.  these visions were so powerful that I’d wake up day after day totally confused, wondering where my tail and whiskers were!

it felt clear that these visions were important, that otter had placed his paw on me in some deep and special way.  why was otter showing up for me?  what was happening here?  these questions began a quest that changed my entire life.  at that point, I knew otters were wonderful, but my understanding stopped there.  I set myself to learning everything I could about otters, and as I learned, otter began to show up in the most enchanting ways…

I became otterly obsessed!  the biology major in me devoured book after book about how otters thrive in the wild, their lifestyle, habitat, and behaviors.  I nibbled on otter myths, and supped on otter legends.  I looked at hundreds of otter images, I drew otters, I babbled about otters, and they began showing in my waking life with grace and good cheer.  otters in podcasts.  otters in movies.  otters overheard in conversations.  otters on bumper stickers.  otters on mugs.  otters, otters, otters!  it felt like magic was afoot.

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I was being offered a sacred gift, if I could but tend the gentle and playful paw knocking at the door.  a favorite otter story happened when I was managing a wonderful bookshop in san francisco.   I was merrily ordering otter books (of course) one day, when a fellow bookseller joked, ‘are you still doing the otter thing?’  ‘yep!’ I replied with a big grin, picking up a stack of books and heading outside, when…a yellow cab pulled up at the curb not three feet from me, proudly sporting a huge river otter, ‘for hire!’  (that’s the actual pic).

I wish to name…all of this story unfolded because of paying attention to dreams.

a week after the otter atop a cab, awash in the momentum and mystery of it all, I was trying my hand at placing the very first retreat I’d ever created.  I was feeling pretty lost as to where to hold such a sacred event, and checked out green gulch zen center.  I was following the retreat operator on a small trail by a creek and wondering ‘is this the place?’ when she chose that very moment to turn and say, seemingly out of nowhere, ‘did you know we have a family of river otter and her cubs here?’  ah.  I rented the space.  otter had spoken, and wondrous things happened at that retreat, which turned out to be the first of many.

I knew how to journey in the spirit realms, and I began to connect regularly with otter there.  that initial connection, and me getting curious and following my heart about them, began one of the deepest and most cherished friendships in my life.  otter and I speak daily, and show up for each other all the time.  he is my best friend, and I love and trust him with all my heart.  he’s given me tremendous gifts, like how to bring brightest light to darkest places, and shows me every day in our friendship what love without condition looks like.

years later I engaged with ancestor work, and learned how to connect with those who came before me.  my ancestors from the region of the british isles shared with me that they call otters ‘the sleek ones,’ and that our lineage has a sacred bond with otter that goes back through the mists of time.  here I was, thinking my connection with river otters was new, in my little human life…and I was touching ancient gifts seeded long before my time here planetside.

I could go on…there’s a large otter tattoo swimming cheerfully from my wrist to elbow, I donate as I can to the superb international otter survival fund (all my love to those magical people and their superb work), I make sacred art with otters and celebrate them in ceremonies…simply, I love otters.  they are my friends, and my heart.

today, my life is filled with friendship, purpose, and joy.  if I hadn’t paid attention to dreams, signs, omens, and the mystery, I’d have missed out on my best friend, who has taught me how to live, and whose medicine has rippled out to thousands through my teachings.  river otter helps me swim easily between waking and dreaming, making my life rich with portent, poetry, guidance, and meaning.

this is how I honor my dreams – I get curious, I bring something into the waking world, and magic happens as a result.  the mystical and mysterious (and decidedly playful) paw of otter has guided you here, and I’m so happy to welcome you.  to you for reading, and to otter for all the joy and wonder, I give thanks.


ps – do you know one or two folks who would benefit from receiving the dreaming otter articles and tips on living a magical life?  if yes, please encourage them to subscribe to the email list here.  I would be so grateful – thanks!