Embodying the Power of the Storm
Over the last month I have been on an incredible journey investigating my personal myth. At first I dabbled in literature about the hero, and through reading Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, I discovered that currently I am in the initiation stage of the hero’s journey. But this finding did not venture deep enough into my myth and I searched for more information. Next I read The Soul’s Code by James Hillman. This book resonated with me, for I have always felt a greater force is guiding my life, leading me in surprising directions. Hillman writes that one’s “purpose does not usually appear as a clearly framed goal, but more likely as a troubling, unclear urge coupled with a sense of indubitable importance.” It’s as if he has been with me all my life. My daimon has sent me on sometimes frustrating circular paths that previously seemed to lead me nowhere. However, after thoroughly examining the various aspects of my life, I see that my daimon knows what it is doing, and I am on exactly the right path. It was not until I decided to face my issues surrounding the attachment of my name to a deadly and destructive hurricane that my myth started to take shape. Looking into Hurricane Katrina was the tip of an immense iceberg. As a result of finally confronting this storm, I discovered my personal myth is the storm, an entity that brings destruction, but also purification. The myriad connections between my life and storm energy are uncanny and amazing.
Water, Water Everywhere…
Water is abundant in my life. First, there is my astrological sign, Pisces. The symbol for Pisces is two fish swimming in a circle. According to the book Mythic Astrology by Liz Greene, Pisces symbolizes unity, imagination, intuition, the arts, redeemer energy, the cycle of death and rebirth, and compassion and empathy. All of these themes play out later on in the examination of my myth. But let’s stick with the water element for now. Pisces is ruled by Neptune, the god of the sea and another familiar and powerful symbol of water. The fact that Pisces is my sun sign, and that Pisces is ruled by Neptune, demonstrates the immense power water has in my life.
Of course, water is one of the main elements of a storm, another huge motif in my life, and water, especially salt water, is purifying. Interestingly, my first name, Katrina, means purity. And both my maiden name, Martin, and my married name, Davenport, have connections to water: in Old English, Martin means settlement by a lake, and Davenport means a port or town by the river Dan or Daven. Even an alternative name my parents considered for me has a connection to water: Greta comes from the name Margaret, which means pearl, something that grows inside a creature that lives its life in water and is also a symbol of purity.
Beyond my birth chart and names, I have had numerous connections to water throughout my life. One of my first spiritual experiences occurred next to the Cache La Poudre River in Colorado. My family and I drove high into the mountains one afternoon when I was around nine and found a picnic spot next to the river. After we ate we all spread out into the picnic site and spent some time alone. I wandered over to the river and sat on a rock. I listened to the wind through the trees and the sound of the river, and I suddenly knew there is something greater than myself operating in the world. Everything took on a mystical glow and new meaning. I never spoke of the event with my family, but it became one of my formative experiences.
I have felt drawn to the ocean from a young age. I first met the ocean when I was nine on a family trip to California. I cannot recall the exact beach, but it was near Los Angeles. From then on I was captivated by the power of the ocean. I have moved back and forth between Colorado and California three times since I turned 18, each time drawn by the ocean, and I have finally settled here so I can be near the water. My favorite town is Half Moon Bay, and I travel there as often as possible to commune with the ocean. I have also had some traumatic experiences in the ocean that I will discuss later. Finally, one of the most important events in my life, my marriage, happened on a beach in Hawaii, right next to the pounding surf.
Not surprisingly, my art has had a strong connection to water. One of my best-selling photographs is of the Big Sur coastline. Another customer favorite captures the sky’s reflection in a lake at Washington Park in Denver. I have also photographed the Merced River, the San Francisco Bay, and the ocean from Baker’s Beach in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. I never forget to bring my camera when I go on an excursion to the beach.
For me, water is restorative, mysterious, life-giving, and powerful. It connects me to nature. I have been told by two mentors to use reflective water in a lake, pond, or even a bowl to tap into my clairvoyance, something I have been a bit afraid to try. Water has involved some of my most formative moments, and it is powerfully influential for me.
You Spin Me Right Round, Baby
The next major piece of my myth puzzle is circles, cycles, and spirals. I have found them around every corner during my personal myth investigation. One obvious example is the swirling storm images of Hurricane Katrina. One evening I was sitting on my couch, staring at a photograph I took of the interior of a rose, and I saw an amazing connection to the hurricane. There are the same spirals, and, staring out from the middle, an eye. It was shocking and amazing to see. This is one of my best and most moving photographs, and it’s no wonder why: it is a white rose, a symbol of purity and love. The image beautifully captures the power and grace of the spiral, and the strength of the eye that stands calmly amid the swirling exterior.
With this element there is also a connection with my name. Katrina derives from Katherine. When I researched St. Catherine, I discovered she was a martyr who was tortured on a wheel that later got her name, the Catherine Wheel. I found myself stunned again when I saw an image of the Catherine Wheel: it looked just like a hurricane. There was the same strong eye in the center and same the spiraling motion. In addition to the connection to St. Catherine, the name Katherine also connects with the African storm goddess, Oya. This goddess dances in spirals that represent tornadoes and winds of change. Just like the Hindu goddess Kali, Oya brings destruction in order to create new beginnings and calm, peaceful times. One can see how Hurricane Katrina, though destructive, brought incredible change to the country and to New Orleans through her winds and rain. The country’s shadow was laid bare in the aftermath of the storm, and as we face this shadow and work to heal it, we will renew and strengthen ourselves as a nation.
Eyes are circles and they have played an important role in my life lately. Interestingly, I must point out that I have terrible eyesight, but I have been working on developing my third eye and it grows stronger every day. One outstanding instance of the eye’s importance in my life is a big dream I had in October. In it, I am drawing the eye of Horus on my hand. This dream awakened me to the possibility that I have psychic abilities, something I have always suspected but felt I needed outside assurance about. In my quest to strengthen these abilities, I was put in touch with a psychic in Washington named Neva. Only last week I spoke with Neva, and after our phone conversation she called me back to mention that she has the eye of Horus tattooed on her right wrist.
Another recent dream of mine connected directly to spirals, cycles, and Oya. In it, I was in a house riding out a tornado. Normally I am terrified of tornadoes. After growing up in Colorado, a state in which tornadoes are a yearly occurrence, with a mother who has a serious fear of storms (which will play out later), I normally become petrified at the thought of a tornado. However, in this dream, I strongly faced the storm, only hiding my eyes once. I had a flash of clairvoyance in the dream as well, and saw two other storms coming, in the shape of oak trees. (As an aside, oak trees are connected with my ancestry: my grandmother’s maiden name is Ekblad, which means oak leaf.) Clearly, this dream was getting me in touch with the power of the storm and my ability to face and even handle this power, and showing me that by using my storm power I can utilize my psychic abilities and possibly connect with my ancestry.
In a journey in a class this quarter, I re-entered this dream. Almost immediately I became the tornado. I felt myself swirling in rapid circles to the point where I thought I would have vertigo after the journey. I experienced the raw power and force of the storm and it was unsettling and new. I heard a voice that said I am a powerful center, I am bringing powerful changes, and I am the sacred spiral. The experience shook me and allowed me to realize how strong the storm power is within me.
The circle motif is also connected to the stones that have always been present in my life. My grandparents were rockhounds, people who go on searches for geodes and other rocks and then meet with other rockhounds to show them off or sell them. My grandfather practiced lapidary later in life, and I remember him constantly polishing rocks in the garage or creating jewelry in his downstairs studio. My grandparents’ home was a haven for rocks: they had giant amethyst geodes in their living room, an incredible collection of jade, handmade intarsia rock mosaics that they created, and a basement full of amazing stone specimens and fossils. My grandmother wore cabochon rings my grandfather had made, and my grandfather often sported belt buckles and bolo ties he had created. I was entranced by these rocks and continue to be enchanted by them today. I own many pieces of stone jewelry and I collect rocks from beaches and other locations. I recently attended a rock and gem show in Hayward and found myself transported to another world. I instantly connected with a piece of ammonite, a spiral-shaped, 80-million-year-old fossil of an ocean creature. The symbolism did not escape me: here is an ancient water-born creature in the shape of a hurricane, with a central eye and wavy, radiating lines. I immediately bought the piece. I also brought home two other significant stones: selenite, which is associated with wind energy, and hemimorphite, which is associated with storm energy.
Furthermore, I have gone through a number of rebirths in my life. I have reinvented myself from a newspaper reporter to a learning center director to an elementary school teacher to a children’s author to a nanny to a photographer and freelance writer to a tutor to a dreamworker. These reinventions all spiral together and represent new levels of my development, but I often feel like I’m going in circles, trying to find my way. Now that I have found my daimon, dreamwork and healing, I expect these cycles may not occur in such rapid succession or so dramatically; however, I know that the cycle of death and rebirth will always impact me.
We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
With all this water and spiral/circular energy in my life, it is no surprise that the storm archetype has a great impact on me. After examining the events in my life up to the present moment, I have discovered that storms have been major players, perhaps in order to show me my own power. As a funny side note, my favorite book growing up was called Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It’s about a town called Chewandswallow that gets its food from the weather: storm fronts made of pancakes, orange juice rain, and split pea fog. I thought that was the coolest idea ever. It makes sense to me now that a story about people getting nourishment from storms would call to me. I have certainly been nourished by the changes the storms in my life have brought about and from the storm energy in general.
As I mentioned earlier, thunderstorms, hail storms, and tornadoes showed up in my life every summer for 22 years as a resident of Colorado. I was horrified by these immensely powerful, loud, and intense storms. In the past I attributed this fear to my mother’s acute fear of storms, but I think there is more going on. I remember clearly the afternoon that lightening struck in my backyard, making the most incredible sound I have ever heard. I was nine or 10. A few years later, lightening struck in the street in front of my house. When I was 18 and on my first road trip without my parents, I got caught in such an awful rainstorm in Idaho that I could barely see enough to pull off the road. I almost got hit by a semi. When I was 24 and had just moved back to Colorado, I saw a cloud swirling directly above my apartment that I thought for sure would turn into a tornado. When I was 26 and had moved to California for the last time, an incredible thunderstorm struck San Francisco as I was driving home to Concord. As I crossed the Bay Bridge, lightening struck the bay and I could hardly drive because waterfalls were falling from the upper to the lower deck. There were tornadoes reported later that day in Sacramento. I had never seen anything like that in California. It was like the powerful storms from Colorado had followed me to my new home. These storm experiences left me shaken and overwhelmed, and they seemed to occur whenever I experienced a big life change.
But they were nothing compared to my experience with a tropical storm in Mexico. My family was vacationing there for spring break when I was 18. We went on a three-hour tour (and there were Gilligan’s Island jokes to be sure) to snorkel in the waters off Cozumel. However, the weather took a rapid turn for the worse. Although all the other boats had gone back to shore long ago, ours remained on the water. Eventually the captain forced us to jump off the boat and swim for shore. He said he was worried the boat would capsize.
This experience was horribly traumatizing. First of all, I had a self-inflatable life preserver that wouldn’t inflate. Secondly, I didn’t know how to snorkel -- this was to have been my first lesson. I was wearing flippers and a snorkel mask because we had gotten prepared to snorkel before the storm hit. No one told me to take off the mask and flippers for swimming to shore. It all happened so fast that no one really helped anyone else. I was the last person in the water and no one was in sight. Although we had made a pact to swim in together, no one remembered that once they hit the water. I knew my mother couldn’t swim, so I was worried about her safety. I struggled to swim in the 15-foot waves, trying to breathe before water shot down the tube of my snorkel mask. All I could see was a canyon of water below me and a wall of water in front of me. I didn’t know where the shore was and I was kicking for my life. Eventually I saw the shore. As I walked onto the beach, I tripped and fell, my legs giving out under me. I called for help and the tour guide came to help me.
That storm in Mexico was not the most influential storm in my life. Rather, it was a storm that bore my name. Hurricane Katrina hit right as I was entering the underworld. I had just cancelled 15 book contracts as a result of an unscrupulous publisher taking advantage of me. I had published a children’s book in April of 2005, and had 14 other books under contract with the publisher. But the first book had been such a debacle that I decided to end my relationship with the company. This was devastating, because I had worked the previous three years to be a published author, and only four months after my dream had come true, I was right back where I started. I did not know who I was, what I wanted to do, or where to go. Seven days before the hurricane hit, I wrote this in my blog: “I feel like I'm in a box. But I no longer wish to be in it. I'm breaking out.” I had just begun psychotherapy, I had taken on two new jobs (one as a freelance writer and photographer and another as a tutor), and I was terribly lost. I wanted out of the life I was living.
At first, when the storm was a tropical depression, I joked about how I was going to teach Florida a lesson for botching the 2000 election. I felt heartsick (and guilty) later when the storm reached Category 5 and brought destruction to so many people. I tried not to listen to NPR too often or log on to the New York Times web site too many times, because I could not stand to see my name attached to such a horrible catastrophe. I tried selling some of my photography in order to raise money. I donated to three different places. I also tried starting a web site called Katrina Heals, which was going to catalog stories of hope in the aftermath of the storm. I even contacted Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor of The Nation, trying to get her support. She emailed me, promising to publicize the site in her blog, but I don’t think she ever did.
The site did not go anywhere. It had a few stories, but my enthusiasm quickly faded. I did not know what to do. A month after the storm I was interviewed by a newspaper in Mississippi that had picked up on the site. After lauding me for starting the hopeful web site, the reporter wanted to know if I was going to change my name. Other women had, he said. I said I would never change my name. Although it was a hard name to have at the time, I did not want to give it up. It meant too much to me (as is clearly evident now!).
In November that same year, my wrists began to hurt so much that I had to cut back on my work. This was the second time that year life was forcing me to stop writing. Two publishers rejected the manuscript for the book I’d already published and sold. A cat I had grown up and known for 18 years died. Then in December, I went home, a trip that would be my last visit to Colorado. I mourned the fact that my parents could not be who I wanted them to be and I realized my relationship with them would have to change. My life as I knew it was over. I felt like everything was crumbling around me. The destructive element of the storm was working on me. In February I wrote this in my blog: “I have this weird feeling in my stomach. Like I'm standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, about to fly across the Colorado River to the other side. My wings will either work or they won't. I have to trust that they will, but the drop is enormous and since I haven't used my wings that often, they're still awkward. Am I going to make it this time?
Clearly, I was beginning to see what I needed to do. I had been destroyed, but now it was time for a rebirth. It matches up with what was happening in New Orleans: by February it was glaringly apparent how badly the government had screwed up with the relief effort and people were beginning to see what really needed to be done to renew and give birth to a revitalized New Orleans.
By April I had made some big changes. I was seeing a physical therapist for my wrists, and I was awakening to spiritual practices and delving into spiritual books and movies. It felt like a glorious wind was coming in and clearing out all the old junk. It was clear that 2006 had become the year of taking care of myself and finding my direction. In May I decided to quit my jobs and start my own tutoring business. This was a big success. In June I found an acupuncturist, I radically changed my diet, I began meditating, I bought a new car, and I began making new friends. In August I bought my first house. In October I moved into that new house, had my first photography show, and felt like things were finally getting back on track.
Although I was making progress, I was still not completely reborn. Neither was New Orleans. A year after the storm, complete recovery eluded us both, reminding me that rebirth on this scale is a long process. Many more changes in infrastructure needed to happen and shadowy elements dealt with. The storm had purified us by bringing to light the things that needed to be changed. In the case of New Orleans, racism, classism, government neglect, and the destruction done by the oil industry; in my case, ignoring my inner guidance, my health, my choices of friends, my boundaries, and how I treated myself.
Before I move on from the storm archetype, I also wanted to mention that I have a connection to two other hurricanes as well. The first is Hurricane Greta, a storm that hit Central American in 1978. My parents also considered naming me Greta. The second is Hurricane Dennis, which hit Cuba and Florida a month before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. What is the connection to Dennis? My parents named me after a waitress at Denny’s. Denny is a name derived from Dennis. Furthermore, my mother’s name is Denise, another name derived from Dennis.
Using the Power of the Storm in My Life
Through working on this archetype, I have learned that the power of the storm allows us to heal, to purify, to transform, to experience death and rebirth, to tap into the unconscious, to go with the flow, to trust in our power, to listen to our intuition, and to revere nature. I hope to combine all of these elements into a future practice that will heal myself, others, and the earth.
I am already embarking on a journey with dreamwork, something that is healing and transformative. I began a business this month called Katrina Dreamer which will allow me to work with others on their dreams. I have decided to investigate becoming a healer, particularly a healer who works with stones. This involves using nature’s gifts to transform, purify, and heal. I hope to use my intuition and the storm energy to find the right stones and the right teachers to help me bring this path to fruition.
Lastly, I hope to continue to evolve my writing and art in order to service healing, transformation, and nature. I now believe that my previous writing and art came from a place of ego more than from a place of communicating with others. I feel that when I combine my writing and artistic talents with my capacity to heal others, something magical will arise. I am trying to patiently wait for that alchemy to manifest in my life.
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Images copyright Katrina Martin Davenport.