Tag Archives: Muse

Spiritual Awakening to Ensure Survival

Spiritual awakening is needed to ensure survival, author says in New Press Release

Ian Prattis shares personal journey, advocates about spiritual awakening, empowerment in new book: Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

OTTAWA – Climate change, ecosystem collapse and anarchy are just some of the current issues that propelled author Ian Prattis to widen his advocacy of empowerment and change. “Trailing Sky Six Feathers” (published by Xlibris) is Prattis’ way of shedding light on issues that affect and will continue to affect the generations to come. Sharing his personal challenging journey and personal transformation, Prattis illuminates a path for others to expand their consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. “The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns,” says Prattis, “We can and must transform.”

Prattis further believes that the culture needs to awaken spiritually if humanity wants to ensure survival. For him, “the world has become an unpredictable beast that people fail to work with intelligently; and humanity has to take back control of themselves for this is a spiritual matter.” Insightful and illuminating, this story follows the exciting journey of a hero which is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. “Trailing Sky Six Feathers” shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including the author’s own.

“Trailing Sky Six Feathers”

By Ian Prattis

Hardcover | 6 x 9in | 200 pages | ISBN 9781493196784

Softcover | 6 x 9in | 200 pages | ISBN 9781493196791

E-Book | 200 pages | ISBN 9781493196777

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Order Through http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html

About the Author

Ian Prattis is an author, poet, professor emeritus, founder of Friends for Peace, and spiritual warrior for planetary care, peace and social justice. Prattis is also a Zen teacher since 1997, offering public talks and retreats all over the world. He currently lives in Ottawa, Canada and encourages people to find their true nature so that humanity and the planet may be renewed. He mostly stays locally to help turn the tide in his home city for good things to begin happening spontaneously.


Our industrial growth civilization is a system devouring itself; dislocating the organic structures of Mother Earth to the point that all species – not just our own – are at risk. It has taken us to the edge of a dangerous precipice. From there we stare into the abyss of climate change, ecosystem and financial collapse, nuclear energy breakdown, resource wars, cyberbullying, terrorism and anarchy.
These issues are making civilization vulnerable to extinction. I believe that our culture needs to awaken spiritually in order to ensure survival. Our world has become an unpredictable beast that we fail to work with intelligently. We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter.” My new book “Trailing Sky Six Feathers” illuminates issues that will impact the human race for generations. The book follows my spiritual journey as I travel across the globe throughout the course of two lifetimes.

The darkness before us does offer an opportunity, a chance to remake ourselves by transforming our minds. Instead of being eaten up by the abyss we can choose to Awaken Spiritually, for that transforms the one thing we can control – our minds. It often seems that we are waiting for someone to step up for us – a Mandela, Ghandi or Martin Luther King. But they are dead and gone. So it is up to you, up to me to step up and awaken spiritually. That’s what my book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers is about – though I was indeed very slow over four centuries to accept what I have just intimated.

There are two main characters that open the book in 18th century Arizona– Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker. When the reader encounters Trailing Sky Six Feathers, my muse from the past, they encounter a powerful, relentless woman who transforms my life in reality in the 21st century, not in historical fiction. She has been described as one of the most powerful women in modern Canadian Literature. Eagle Speaker is her husband and also my transformation vehicle. He dies cradled in her arms in a medicine wheel in the year 1777. As he takes his last breath Trailing Sky whispers to him:
“I will find you my husband, I will find you.”

Light Beam at the centre of the Medicine Wheel


Ian in India

This exciting Hero’s Journey is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. The story told shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This challenging journey has me stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In this book I navigate past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century. These

We follow my journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming karma from violence and abuse to clarity and purpose. Readers will travel the pages as I learn to embrace The Muse, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, a South Western Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms I died in 1777. She vows to find me to complete my purpose despite resistance from my highly intellectual mind in this lifetime.
My severe and challenging journey includes shamanic healings of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. Trailing Sky Six Feathers initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experience stretching back in time two hundred and thirty one years. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhance my process of remembering, while Trailing Sky waits patiently from the distant past. I learn how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness and Carl Jung’s psychology. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up. Karma is reversed, the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past. This book caps my long-term fascination with consciousness.

In the next blog I will draw on a recent sterling Review of this work.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Internal Discernment

My journey and resistance to the Muse over four centuries certainly had its moments. They inspired deep reflections about insight and discernment. To say that Trailing Sky Six Feathers became my inner compass misses the point. The indescribable, palpable truth is that this deep source of feminine wisdom was not only lodged in my mind, it was integrated with my total being. My conversations with Trailing Sky opened up the past for my understanding. These dialogs were very different from Carl Jung’s “Red Book,” as I chose one voice to listen to rather than a multitude of competitors in my deep unconscious.


The daily conversations with Trailing Sky took place in a mental meditation wheel. This was taught to me by my medicine woman mentor, White Eagle Woman. She had taught me how to create a mental medicine wheel early in my training with her. I was always to start by bringing into my mind the ancient shaman from the East, then the South, West and North in succession. Finally I was to bring in the ancient shaman from the Centre in. She instructed me to see this as a map in my mind, the foundation for a personal mandala. Next, I was instructed by White Eagle Woman to call forth the animal guides I had personally experienced, again starting from the East. I had experienced many animal guides and told her so. White Eagle Woman retorted with some exasperation:
“Choose the most powerful ones, dammit.”

With that cryptic encouragement, I chose mountain lion in the East, moose in the South, deer in the West and medicine bear in the North, with dolphin and whale below and the great eagles above. The space at the centre of the medicine wheel was a still-point, a safety zone and conduit for different time/space conjunctions. It became the meeting place for my later dialogs with Trailing Sky. The dialogs with Trailing Sky expanded my mind beyond its logical limitations. There were certainly times that I did not understand, but never, ever was Trailing Sky incorrect. There was something primordial about her all seeing wisdom that was now infusing me, so that I could live and love better. Major lessons in radical self-correction were received through respectful engagement with this very deep Muse. Greater wisdom, compassion and understanding emerged, so that I could engage more intelligently with the travails of life and teach that way of being to others. It made the prophecy of the Deer card, drawn at the medicine wheel with Yaqui guide Sam in Sedona (2007), come alive.
Bringer of the message of a new paradigm resting on gentleness and compassion that serves the Earth Mother and penetrates all beings – no matter how wounded they may be. With great courage the Deer clears the path for others to reach their destiny with Spirit by taking away fear.

Mountain Wedding

Mountain Wedding

Extract from Chapter 8 of Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse. It is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy as we follow one man’s journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming his karma from violence and abuse to clarity and purpose. An exciting Hero’s Journey, this special and unique adventure shines light on some of the darkest elements of the human condition, including the author’s.

 DCF 1.0

I had flown into the small airport of Castlegar in the Kootenay Mountains of BC for my son Iain’s wedding in the summer of 2009.  The short hop over the Rockies in a small Dash 8 aircraft from Calgary was spectacular – especially the flight into Castlegar airport.  The wingtips seemed to touch the valley’s mountains, as the aircraft swerved sharply into the river fringed village of Castlegar.  My son, his bride to be – Nancy – and my grandson Callun were there to meet me. The wedding ceremony was next day in the Tibetan Buddhist Gompa.  I was expected to wear my Buddhist duds as I was there not only as a Dad but also apparently as a Zen teacher. That evening I had an unforgettable dream, vivid in every detail.

“I was in a river running kayak, sitting quietly in a pool outside the swift eddies that raced to the edge of a waterfall that was huge, sheer, with a vertical drop of 1,000 feet.  The kayak was bright yellow.  The short stubby craft was an extension of my body.  My wetsuit was black and I wore a red lifejacket tightly fastened.  My helmet was also red.  The shaft of the paddle was black and the twin blades a dancing red.  I looked around at the high mountains and forest, noted the mist rising from the swift flowing river before pushing out into the racing eddies straight to the edge of the waterfall.  As I went over the edge I raised the paddle high over my head and leaned back into the kayak.  I did nothing to steer or guide it. The descent seemed forever though timeless.  Yet in a moment my craft had submerged into the river below and then I was bobbing on the surface paddling downstream. A first thought in the dream as I manoeuvred in the middle of the river was “That was a really bad run.  I didn’t do anything.”  Then moments later in the dream I stopped the thinking, realizing that it was the perfect run, precisely because I did not do anything. My lack of insight while dreaming was that I missed my surrender to the fierce current of the waterfall, to the awesome power of the stream of consciousness. Then with lucidity I managed to grasp that reality just before waking up.”

I shared this dream with Iain and Nancy next morning, so they could perhaps see for themselves the surrender to the other necessary for their marriage to work well.  I believe they understood.  Their dharma and mountain friends enjoyed an incredible wedding in the Tibetan Gompa.  Although there was a mountain of alcohol at the reception and dance afterwards, hardly anyone drank it, as the “high” was the quality of celebration and surrender in the wedding ceremony. I thought about this dream a great deal and the reflections were intensely revealing. The guidance in the dream was about surrendering to the stream of consciousness – provided by going over the waterfall without resistance. My long internal journey had obviously done its job, bringing me to the point where transformation and awakening are now internalized and owned. I was no longer a wave in life washing up on some seashore or riverbank and dying without anyone noticing. I had pushed out from the safety of the shore into the middle of the river heading for the waterfall and letting go of all that I grasped onto and liberated myself by choosing to stay in the middle of the river and never return to the safety of the bank, where I would no doubt cling and attach. Instead I chose freedom. The deep water of universal consciousness now carried me through thanks to the changes wrought through my trust in Trailing Sky’s guidance and presence within me.


Reflecting back on these adventures made me aware that the daily, intense dialogues with Trailing Sky were creating far reaching effects on my consciousness. They were changing me radically in the direction of transformation. This is not a matter of belief but my experiencing the pragmatic implementation of compassion, mindfulness and wisdom in everyday life. The noise and traffic jams in my mind receded. The self-correcting navigation compass provided by Trailing Sky continued to astonish me. To say that Trailing Sky Six Feathers became my internal discernment misses the point. The indescribable, palpable truth is that this deep source of feminine wisdom was not only lodged in my mind, it was integrated with my total being. My conversations with Trailing Sky opened up the past for my understanding.

The daily sessions with Trailing Sky expanded my mind beyond its logical limitations. There were certainly times that I did not understand, but never, ever was Trailing Sky incorrect. There was something primordial about her all seeing wisdom that was now infusing me, so that I could live and love better. A radical reminder for me was provided in 2013 when I took part in a medicine wheel ceremony in Sedona with a group of writer friends. Our group had a day on the land with a gifted guide, Clint Frakes, visiting ancient rock dwellings and vortexes before he guided us through a medicine wheel experience. I had been to this particular wheel before with my wife Carolyn in 2007, when we both drew the Deer Card. I recognized the scrubland where it was located, marked by a white domed building nearby with the canyon edifices looming in the background, shadowed by the evening sun.

Clint asked me to lead my writer friends into the medicine wheel through the East door. I smudged myself with the burning sage, took off my shoes to walk barefoot, feeling the earth and small stones throbbing into every step. I walked slowly clockwise round the interior of this graceful architecture of universal power. I could smell the burning sage as other friends smudged themselves and followed to find their place within the four quadrants of the medicine wheel. I was slowly pulled to the North cardinal rock, holding in my hand the sacred tobacco. Then did something I had never before contemplated in medicine wheel ceremonies. I walked slowly to the centre ring of stones and stepped into it, turning to face the West. The centre was already occupied by the energy of Trailing Sky Six Feathers and the resonance of her presence pulled me into the mystery and fusion at the centre. I stood there, very still, bringing my hands up to my heart. My new friends were finding their place – two of the women stepped into the centre to share it with me, which was perfectly OK. Pauline from Boston and EagleSpirit from New Brunswick were also drawn to the centre – though both graciously stepped out to give me my space. Our guide on the land, Clint, passed a rattle so each one of us could state our heart intention while inside the medicine wheel. With great dignity and reverence my family of writers created a mosaic of prayer. When the rattle passed to me in the centre circle of stones, the tears poured down my face. I had experienced deep fusion with the living mystery of all things and sang the most sacred chant I knew – the Gayatri Mantra from my guru training in India. I was overwhelmed by the softness, clarity and steely discernment imparted.

I felt the past of 1777 and Trailing Sky’s fusion with me on Rainbow Bridge in 2007 rushing in. She had travelled through dimensions, time and space to become one unified being with me. On this day the dimensions did not have to move or open – everything was already in place. In occupying the centre of the wheel, I felt the deepest stillness and silence, remaining quiet about what was happening within me. The connection in my heart grew ever deeper. There are no words to express the gratitude about bringing alive the Muse patiently waiting for me at the centre of the medicine wheel. This was why I had come to Sedona.  The fusion from the central circle of rocks unleashed from the depths of the earth, energy of a limitless upwards trajectory. This became a foundation point for everything I may say, do or create from this moment on. Awakening, I realized, is a mere road sign for the way forward. It is how such states are applied and used in the world that matters for our times. New levels of deep knowing, essential for survival arose. Not mine – everyone’s, the planet and just perhaps the entire cosmos.

The eruption of energy where I stood at the centre of the wheel was met by the cooling shafts of energy from the divine realms. The two way traffic enveloped me in the forceful energy. To keep me going forward with courage, discernment and fearlessness on behalf of the Earth Mother and to acknowledge this marker for further transition. All that I am describing was captured by the camera of EagleSpirit, an intuitive shaman from New Brunswick in Canada. After we had all moved out of the medicine wheel she took photographs of this stone architecture, now empty of everything except a column of light stretching from the centre circle of stones right up into the sky. The column of light was right where I had been standing at the centre of the medicine wheel.

Light Beam at the centre of the Medicine Wheel


Four Arrows

One morning Trailing Sky rose from the bed she shared with her husband in the cave set in the high canyon. She saw that Eagle Speaker had left before dawn to hunt. They had not eaten fresh meat for over a month, as the larger game had a tendency to migrate towards the east during the day while resting at night in the canyon valleys nearby. So he changed his pattern of hunting to track the mule deer as they grazed before sunrise. She dressed slowly, watching and becoming very aware of the shamanic energies arising within her. She stood very still at the lip of the cave, observing the first rays of daylight caressing the valley below. She swayed back and forth, rooted in one spot, and concentrated on her husband. She could clearly foresee the danger.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Without waking her friend Long Willow, she took down her powerful long bow from the cave wall, selecting Eagle Speaker’s four best arrows. She knew that this day she would need every one of them. Though Eagle Speaker had left carefully so his tracks were scarcely visible, she drew on the experience shaped by her mountain home, where she knew the trace of every creature wherever she went. Quickly she found Eagle Speaker’s footprints and followed them eastwards. She noticed a rock cache with small animals that Eagle Speaker had hunted along with four broken arrows. Not the game he was looking for, but nevertheless vital to keep them alive. She carefully replaced the rocks exactly as they had been built. The tracks then led her to a dried up gulch where she saw the heavier print of his forward foot.

She stilled herself again sensing the shamanic energies. This was the place he had stood to shoot a larger game animal from his bow. Eagle Speaker had stood in that exact spot at dawn, drawing a steady bead on a large mule deer with his last arrow. His previous arrows had shattered on impact and he noted in his mind the tree he had fashioned these arrows from. His final arrow was made from stronger wood and he knew it would deeply penetrate the unaware mule deer in his view, starkly outlined by the early morning sun. As he released the arrow from his bow, his prey moved in the same instant. The strong, swift arrow did not provide a clean kill. It went deeply into the mule deer, high in the muscles of the left foreleg. Eagle Speaker whispered a prayer to the mule deer for causing unnecessary suffering. He proceeded to follow the wounded creature to end its misery. The erratic and painful trail left by the dying mule deer strayed into Tonto Apache territory. Eventually he caught up with the mule deer, exhausted and on its knees, close to a sandstone butte reaching up into the morning sky. He dispatched it with his hunting knife and enacted a simple ceremony of gratitude by cutting out part of the heart and liver, placing it on a natural rock altar. He put tobacco by the stone as an offering to the animal, then became acutely aware that he was no longer alone. He had been spotted earlier by a scout who called in two other warriors to corner this stranger hunting in their territory. One of them – the smallest – started to climb the sandstone butte, while the other two approached in a pincer movement that provided no escape. Eagle Speaker saw all three of them and knew they would kill him. He had only his hunting knife and a bow without arrows. A spontaneous shout echoed in his mind as he silently called out to Trailing Sky for help.

And there she was. Standing with her bow fully drawn, Trailing Sky commanded the edge of a clearing close to the sandstone butte. She was well shielded from sight by small ash trees. Her first arrow sent death to the scout climbing the butte and he fell with a heavy thud on the rocky floor below. This surprise pre-emptive attack made the tallest warrior move towards her at the edge of the clearing, but an arrow was already coming his way from her bow. It went right through his throat. As he turned, dropping his weapons while clutching at his throat, her third arrow went directly through his heart killing him instantly. The third warrior was in fierce hand to hand battle with Eagle Speaker and had gained the upper hand, throwing Eagle Speaker against the rock wall of the red sandstone butte. As he raised his battle axe to strike a death blow, Trailing Sky’s fourth arrow, shot with great accuracy, entered below his armpit, through his chest into the heart. The warrior fell forward and Eagle Speaker tore the battle axe from his hands and finished the death process with a swift smash to the skull. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

Eagle Speaker stood there with the battle axe in his hand, breathing heavily as Trailing Sky, with the stealth of a mountain lion, approached the two other scouts, now motionless on the ground. Her hunting knife was drawn, but there was no need. They were both dead. She walked slowly towards Eagle Speaker and he fell to his knees in front of her and wept. Trailing Sky lifted him up and gently wiped his tears away. Eagle Speaker’s voice came out as a sob. “You heard me..”
“My husband, I heard your scream long before you uttered it in your mind. I have been tracking you since dawn, knowing the danger that would befall you.”

He knew he would never understand her gifts of seeing and felt humbled by her presence in his life. Trailing Sky was filled with gratitude that his life was still with her, as she feared the dislocation that a different outcome that day would have created.
Eagle Speaker’s strategic sense quickly re-asserted itself. “We must take the arrows out of the slain Apache scouts and from the mule deer. Leave the bodies right here, just where they have fallen. The animals and vultures will come and scatter their remains and cover some of our tracks.” Trailing Sky nodded her consent. The sun had begun to rise and they knew they had to be meticulous. They created a false trail to a pass in the canyon wall that led to the southern plateaus. Retracing their steps to the killing ground by the clearing next to the sandstone rock, they began the painstakingly slow removal of all trace of their passage westwards. Eagle Speaker took care to relocate the rock cache he had built for the small animals he had killed – two rabbits and two small grouse. He retrieved his shattered arrows and scattered the rocks in the pinyon forest, leaving one dead grouse for vultures to find and scatter their unmistakable presence over their tracks.

It was nightfall before they got close to the safe haven of their cave. Trailing Sky stopped and gave the small grouse call. Long Willow loomed out of the darkness, with her long gun leveled at them and her battle axe slung over one shoulder. She had stationed herself at a hidden juncture of the trail leading to their cave, ready for the worst. She had sensed the same foreboding that drew Trailing Sky out at dawn, but did not have her gifts of seeing. Trailing Sky whispered to her briefly what had happened. Long Willow nodded silently and beckoned them to go on to the cave while she checked that they had not been followed. She returned several hours later in the dark. They did not light a fire, wrapping themselves in blankets and animal skins for warmth. They humbly offered prayers for the three slain Apache scouts. They did not leave the cave for a week, surviving on dried berries, water and their scant supply of dried meat. Long Willow maintained a sharp vigilance during this time, her long gun trained on the trail far below. No-one came their way.

 DCF 1.0

Insanity on the Sea

Insanity on the Sea

This excerpt is from the last chapter of “Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey With  His Muse.” This memoir is a bit like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha in a Celestine Prophecy adventure across four centuries of my consciousness. This blog brings up memories of insane voyages in the North Atlantic from thirty years ago.

The journey back across the Sound of Barra, the stretch of sea separating Eriskay from Barra, was uneventful. As I started to navigate down the east coast of Barra, the storm and fog took on a mind of its own. It very quickly blew up to gale force winds and the rolling black fog made visibility difficult. It was impossible to return to Eriskay and there was no place to shelter on the east coast of the island. Then I noticed houses bordering the coastline with every light on – and that gave me navigation marks to get back to Castlebay. I knew only too well the fierce sea conditions in The Minch, the stretch of water that separated the islands from the mainland of Scotland. I stayed inshore to the east coast of the island as much as possible. That had its own dangers as the force of the storm was much more powerful than my twenty-five horsepower engine. Gale force winds swept the ocean swells to break over the prow of my boat, sending sharp spray into my face. Striking like pellets from a shotgun. I shielded my face with one arm to better see the wave upon wave of huge swells coming right at the boat. I manoeuvred An Dhoran so she was at an angle to the waves and could crest over the swells rather than be battered to pieces from the storm. My son used the boat hook to fend off the dinghy from smashing into the stern of the boat as the following swells would throw An Dhoran down into the trough of the swell and up over the next menacing wave.

Disaster loomed from every option that was available to my mind. Then I felt myself entering into a terrible, cold silence. That territory became fully occupied, as I stood braced at the wheel of this small craft. There was no mind there, nothing that was calculating and measuring. Just instinct was there – an intuitive awareness of danger in this moment, then danger in the next moment. Navigation was from house light to the next house light on the shoreline. The instinctive reactions sheltered the boat from the fury of the gale force driven sea. The navigation was just far enough away from the inshore spurs of rock that jutted out like razors from the eastern side of Barra. The no mind mariner at the wheel stood quietly humming the 23rd Psalm, allowing a powerful intuitive knowledge to take over.

I took An Dhoran through a narrow gap in an offshore rock spur, catching a swell as it crested through the gap; spinning the wheel hard to port to avoid the ragged edge of another rock ledge; swiftly spinning the wheel to starboard to find a more sheltered stretch of sea to get this boat home. Yet I did not have that knowledge. I certainly did not have that skill. This was not something I had learned from Master Mariner Callum McAuley. It was way beyond my capabilities – until that moment when my mind did not operate, simply resting in a terrible silence. There was no fear, no elation – just a seamless connection to a furious sea that could destroy us all, as it relentlessly pounded the wooden frame of An Dhoran. The passengers were very alarmed by these conditions and huddled inside the cabin to avoid the crashing waves. I had the tourists sit inside for weight at the front end of the boat as the sea smashed the creaking clinker boards. The extra ballast saved the timbers of our vessel from being split open. Our slow progress down the east coastline of Barra continued under a mantle of desperate prayer. The brightly lit houses on the shoreline held my attention, while something else took over the wheel. Later, as we limped slowly into the sheltered harbour of Castlebay after dark, Gaisma, the mother of my children and then wife, was there to gather Iain and take him home.  She had monitored the progress of the voyage through phone calls from households that had spotted our small vessel. The last call that we were rounding the tip of Barra brought her to the dock at Castlebay harbour with blankets for my son and a fierce glare at me. We were not on good terms. The passengers disembarked with great relief.

I moored An Dhoran at her berth in the bay next to the Castle. The wind was dropping and the fog began to clear. Callum and I rowed to shore in the dinghy and then with ropes pulled it back to its mooring place. It sat there gently bobbing across from the Post Office and the small boat pier. Callum had been totally silent throughout the journey from Eriskay, which was most unlike him. He had been watching me. And praying. Callum McAuley, Master Mariner, said to me in a shaky voice:

“Ian boy, I don’t know how the hell you did that. In all my years I have never seen anything like it.”

“Callum, I don’t know about that either,” I replied in a hoarse, bewildered whisper.

“THAT” became even more penetrating, as next day the news reported that the storm had taken down a sixty foot trawler in the middle of The Minch.  It had spared my small boat. With the money from the passengers in my pocket, I beckoned to Callum to come with me.

“Callum, you’re coming with me to the Castlebay Bar.”

Callum shook his head and reminded me that he had been banned from the bar for twenty years now.

“Not tonight,” I grimly said.

I remember that he looked at me with a touch of both fear and amazement. We walked up the hill to the Castlebay Bar. Callum was reluctant to step inside. As soon as he did, Roddy the bartender came over to throw him out.

“Roddy, he’s with me tonight.” I said. There was something steely in my voice that immediately caught Roddy’s attention. He paused for a moment as he had already heard about our journey from Eriskay. News travels fast on the island. He looked from Callum to me and then reluctantly nodded his consent. Callum was quickly surrounded by some of his seafaring friends eager to hear him tell the story. I greeted his pals, who delighted in this rare occasion, then walked over to the bar and placed two ten pound notes on the counter. They were the sum total of my earnings from a day of insanity on the sea.

“Roddy, this will cover Callum and me tonight.”

Roddy was now grinning from ear to ear:

“We’ll not be taking your money, Ian. Everyone is relieved you made it back safely from Eriskay. There’s already a line of whisky shots for you and Callum from your friends here – and that includes two from me.”

Indeed there was – a long row of full whisky glasses.

Callum told and retold the story of the day’s journey on An Dhoran – over and over again, each time more elaborate than the previous telling. I did not listen, still reverberating from the terrible cold silence and desperate intensity of the experience. My hands shook as I picked up the first glass of whisky, yet my mind was very still and cold. I scarcely heard the tales Callum spun that night, the cold silence told me it was not I who brought the boat home safely. At closing time, I thanked Roddy for allowing Callum his night of storytelling and walked over to the table where he was taking the voyage into the mythological realm, which perhaps is where it belongs. Callum still had a full glass of whisky in front of him.

“Time to go Callum, maybe you don’t need that final shot.”

“Indeed I do” he replied with as much dignity as he could muster:     “I could be dead tomorrow, so there’s no point in leaving it sitting here – is there now.” He downed it and I helped him out of his chair and walked him home to the small cottage in Leidag he shared with his sister Morag. He was singing and fell over a few times, stopping to tell me the story of the voyage as though I did not know the details of it. I eventually delivered him to his cottage and coaxed him into his comfortable armchair where he promptly fell asleep.

I walked home to Dunard, my home in Barra, overlooking the bay and the Sound of Vatersay.  I sat on the steps awhile and could see the Castle and the islands to the south – shrouded by a soft light from the quarter moon in a clear sky.  It was calm and peaceful. Nothing like the day encountered on the sea. I had thawed a little from the dreadful cold silence. Sitting on the steps of my house, I went over in my mind this day on the sea that could have ended up in disaster and loss of life. The reflections yielded ugly truths I had buried.

I thought of the long line of whiskies on the bar – two of them from Roddy the bartender. An acknowledgement and celebration of our returning home from the furious sea in one piece. The truth was that there was nothing to celebrate. A rebuke was needed for my recklessness in endangering the lives of others, including my first born son. I could take no credit for bringing An Dhoran home to rest safely in Castlebay harbour. I thought of the sea we had encountered as a piercing, dirty grey – the color of dying. It was the hue of an angry sea that could make corpses of us all. I also saw very clearly that I was not in the right place internally, or location wise or in the right relationship. I had obscured this true confession to myself with blind recklessness. But the shrouds fell away that evening and for an instant I could see clearly just what I had allowed myself to become.

I was no heroic captain at the wheel, just stupid, reckless and displaced. On board I did not have radar or radio and knew instinctively that I must put an end to my madness on the sea and sell this beautiful boat. This was not my domain in life. This island was not where I was to be. The stressful drain on time and energy to travel back and forth between Canada and the Isle of Barra was debilitating. It robbed me of my life purpose and left me with zero life force energy to be available for the work I was destined to touch. I paid little attention to global events, merely surviving ‘midst the misery and suffering of being so totally misplaced. Pretending to know the culture and be an advocate of all things Highland in Scotland. But this was not me – it was just a front that could not even save a failing marriage. So down I went into a graceless oblivion of alcohol and depression, as I neglected global, spiritual and ecological issues. The latter was the domain where I belonged. As I thought about this day of insanity on the sea, I could still hear the screech of the gale force wind and feel the sea and dark fog parading their multiple dangers. There seemed to be nothing moving in my heart or mind while I stood braced at the wheel of An Dhoran, wincing from the harsh ocean spray impacting my face. The eerie sound of everything being a dirty grey color stayed with me as a toll from the sea, announcing my death if I did not change course. Though I was numbed, a window opened in my mind for a singular insight to face me. I fully realized that something much deeper than the furious storm had suddenly taken over my being.