How do you even begin to describe your most vivid memory? To put into words an emotion that consumes your mind and body

I’ll give it a try. I’ll start by letting you into a vulnerable time in my childhood. I was thir- teen years old and felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. While some girls are school shopping or practicing summer sports, I was worried about my Mothers terminal illness. Trying to manage growing into a young adult with the con- stant fear of doing it alone, was not how I imagined my life. I lived in a state of fear and was nervous about where I was headed. In efforts to help ease my fears, my mother, being the beautiful person that she is, decided it was best to go on a retreat up to Canada with some amazing people.

Our weekly meditation group had intro- duced us to a community that I was very grateful to know. A group of people who shared a sense of peace and who seemed to be unbothered by the struggles they were facing. I felt like I was drowning in my fears and it was a nice change to be around such strength, peace and positivity. I was excited to meet more people like that. This was a chance to explore ourselves and share our experiences with like-minded individuals. I was eager and filled with excitement for this trip.

Unfortunately, right before we were about to leave, my mom and I got into an argument. Our trip started off rocky and the silence soon progressed into a distance between us.

Once I arrived on this little Island off the coast of Canada, I was instantly at peace. I left my mother and the group, and was set on seeing every square foot of this Island. I was fascinated by its beauty and amazed by how green everything was. The water was so clean and I could just see all of this “life” around me. I got to let my hair down and swim in the sea, watch sea otters and collect shells along the beaches. I began to let my guard down which resulted in me making life-long friendships with some amazing people. At last I was starting to feel like myself again. Something about being in nature really grounded me and brought me into the present moment. I remember the smell in the air, the light coming through the clouds; the green leaves waving at me on the trees. I could taste the salt in the air and feel the sunshine warm my skin with its rays. I listened to the waves crashing along the rocks and tried to mimic the pattern with my breath. I felt a part of my surroundings, I felt like I belonged. What more does a teenager want then to belong?

I started to see the real purpose of this retreat and appreciate my Mom for her fight to have me go with her on this trip.

One morning I woke up early and was walking along the beach where I kept find- ing bald eagle feathers, I was so stoked because I had never seen a bald eagle before and I knew they were close. By the first meditation gathering of the morning, I had made my way back to the group with these eager thoughts of seeing a bald eagle. Natu- rally my mind was wondering during the meditation session and I just couldn’t keep my eyes closed. I looked up at the large window that I was facing and, right then, I saw a huge bald eagle flying directly towards me. It looked like it was aiming to hit the window. My eyes opened wide as I was sure this giant bird was going to hit the glass. Just as it came up to the glass it turned sideways and I could see its entire wing span spread across the window. It looked like it couldn’t be real, it was the biggest bird I had ever seen. I was captivated by it. I looked around me as I was sitting in a room full of adults who had their eyes closed, deep in meditation and completely oblivious that this moment had just occurred.

I immediately jumped up and ran outside. I could see it flying above the cabin that I was just in and I started to follow the direction of this magnificent bird. As I ran towards the end of the island, the peak if you will, I real- ized I couldn’t chase it forever. I sat down where I could see the edge of the cliff onto a jagged coastline facing the majestic Puget Sound. I was still in awe that this moment had happened and that I had manifested this sighting of such a beautiful creature. My curiosity was still racing from this experience and right then, as I was reflecting on the eagle and trying to analyze what it was trying to tell me, a family of orca whales appeared right in front of me. At least 12 beautiful black and white whales, playing

and splashing and breaching all right before my eyes. One of the smaller whales swam so close to me it was like I was looking him right in the face. I saw the emotion of the pod of whales and it brought me so much peace.

At that moment, Mom had come looking for me, and found me right where I was meant to be – whale watching on the edge of this stunning island with the fullest my heart had ever been. It was a spiritual experience honestly. We sat together with them and felt their playful nature. I realized at that moment that we are all connected, and these creatures that were always a bit mystical, had made themselves known to me, they shared a piece of their life with me. It was then that I felt that my internal compass pointed to the Sea and that it’s where I would come to find the answers to many questions that I had in life. I had found my intuition again and was willing to listen.

The fear that I had carried with me to the retreat was gone. The anger that I had felt towards my mother was gone. I immediately felt supported and I welcomed my mom’s presence to share this amazing moment with me. I accepted where I was and allowed myself to trust the timing – that it wasn’t her time to go just yet. We have spent countless hours at the beach and have enjoyed this bond that was formed on the edge of an island in Canada. Valuable lessons were learned and my mother is still alive and healthy today to witness what my connec- tion to the ocean has done for me. I was humbled by my experience and I cherish the memory, the connection and the gratitude for that day that I found the Sea.

By Jaqueleen Cleaver