Spirit Guides

I certainly have those. Author Hal Zina Bennett* speaks of spirit guides in the imaginal realm of invisible reality. I referred to them as my muses or ancient ancestors in my June 12th blog, Music as Creativity. I also have guides in the present, manifested in body, that are a source of safety, wisdom, inspiration, and guidance. Let me introduce you to my turtle guide.

In October, 2005, my friends Trudy, Joan, Joan’s brother Marty and I vacationed in Maui, HI. Everything about island life suited my soul, the warmth, the moisture in the air, the trade winds, the vibrant colors. We’d wake at sunrise with the sound of tropical bird, so much brighter and louder than their mainland relatives, have fresh fruit smoothies, don our swimsuits, throw flippers and snorkel paraphernalia over our shoulders and head for the beach.

Joan, Marty, and Trudy grew up near the ocean and are strong, confident swimmers. I grew up on the Mississippi River where activities such as skiing, boating, tubing were on top of the water. It was so grungy you didn’t really want to swim in it. My friends are natural athletes, good upper body strength from years of tennis. I remember playing tennis somewhere back in junior high for a few months. They are strong hikers. I stroll.

Our first morning there, Joan showed me the snorkeling ropes in the 3 foot end of the condo pool. I’m a nose breather and not big on having my air supply blocked, and the concept of spitting on my goggles to keep them fog free unsettled my stomach. And flippers—how the heck do you stand up in the water with those on your feet? She was a very patient teacher.

The first day I stayed near the beach, wandering maybe fifty feet from the water’s edge to bend over and stick my face in the ocean, hoping to see some form of sea life as my companions romped and played in the waves, shouting and signaling to each other when a coral reef or an amazing school of fish were found.

My second day, I ventured a little farther from the beach and actually tried out those flippers. Wow. There’s a whole world under the water that I’d never seen. I curbed my natural tendency to gasp with joy and amazement after inhaling a bucket load of salt water down my tube. I hadn’t yet mastered the art of clamping off the tube to dive deeper.

By day three, I was fearless. Well, tentatively fearless. We were in a cove known for dolphin visitation at a particular time of morning. They swim in to play with the tourists for half an hour or so, then swim back out to sea—it’s an amazing display of inter-species connection. Joan, Trudy, and Marty were far enough from shore that I used our bird-watching field glasses to enjoy their cavorting about with the dolphins. The dolphins would jump high into the air, spin around, and dive back under. My friends would swim in between them, laughing, throwing their arms up in glee. They waved at me, gesturing for me to join them. It sure looked like they were having fun. They sure were a long way from shore. I had about twenty minutes left to decide. I walked to the water’s edge, donned my flippers, and awkwardly waddled out to the deeper water.

The warm water felt delicious and the sun glimmered on the ocean floor beneath me. Small schools of fish slipped around my body as I swam slowly in the direction of my friends. I skimmed over beautiful patches of coral and sea grasses. I’d mastered the art of keeping my snorkel above water and breathing regularly through the tube in my mouth. Every few moments, I’d lift my head to assure myself I was headed in the right direction and making progress. I still had an awfully long distance to swim when I got a cramp in my foot. Reflexively, I looked back to shore. Uh oh, I was farther out than I’d thought. The water was cooler here and I noticed I felt a little chill in my body. I scooted my goggles to the top of my head so I could breathe through my nose for a moment as I bobbed up and down in the water. With one flipper in my left hand I massaged my foot with my right hand. Where is a camera when you need one?

Cramp gone, flipper back on my foot, goggles in place, and tube in mouth I headed again towards the dolphins. Oh no, they seemed to have moved farther out. My friends were swimming after them. One turned and motioned me back to shore, too far for me. The bottom of the ocean was no longer visible out here, nothing to place my feet on to feel safe. My body tensed, my heart rate sped up, and I began to panic.

I thrashed about aiming for shore, convinced if I just powered through, I’d make it. I raised my head to check on my progress. I was farther out than I was a minute ago. I must be in one of those cross currents. My mind reeled—what are you supposed to do? Swim to the side? I couldn’t remember. I thrashed harder, kicking as if my life depended on it. I was tired, scared, cold, and confused. Something to the left of me caught my eye and I turned my head slightly.

It was a giant gray-green sea turtle. I know water distorts, but it look at least three feet wide across its shell. Its head turned slowly on its thick neck, and with huge eyes, it regarded me flopping around in the water. Something like a patient smile turned its lips up slightly at the corner. Mesmerizingly slowly, its eyelids closed and then opened in a knowing blink. The very presence of this turtle instilled some sort of hope in me and I stopped gasping in air. The turtle stayed right next to me, its huge arms moving in slow motion back and forth in the water. It would turn its patient blink my way as if to say, “Try it this way.” I did. I regulated my breathing, put my head face down in the water, and slowly waved my arms back and forth at my side instead of the pell-mell, over head grasping at water that had worn me out. I turned to check my progress with the turtle that nodded ever so slightly and continued by my side. Instead of flapping my legs like a crazy woman, I used the flippers as they were designed to be used, in a slow, regular motion that propelled me through the water with much less effort.

We traveled on, side by side, turning our heads and nodding at each other. At one point I risked a smile and took in some ocean water. I decided I’d just smile with my eyes from that point on. I raised my head to see how far we’d come. The beach was in sight. It was reachable. I felt a rush of energy as I put my face back down in the water and discovered that in just a few moments my feet would reach bottom. My heart pounded, but this time in joy and gratitude. I righted myself on my flippers and turned to thank the turtle. It raised its head from the water, gave one final blink, dove under the water and swam off to the left.

From that day forward, I have acknowledged turtle as another of my wonderful spirit guides.

*Reference: Bennett, Hal Zina Ph.D., Spirit Guides, Tenacity Press, CA, 1997, p. 65 Meeting Your Spirit Guide


  1. Anonymous says:

    I loved reading this! Did you know that scientists have found that when cats & dogs look at you intently like that and then consciously blink, they are acknowledging a connection to you? It's like the animal kingdom's way of saying “Namaste.”
    I'm very grateful to that turtle for bringing you safely to shore and so happy you could feel what it was telling you even when you were so scared. Nancy

  2. Sara says:

    I'm so glad I read this here…since I didn't hear this story after your trip. What an experience!