Approach this book with an open mind, but fasten
your seatbelt and prepare to have that mind bent. Strange Seas
chronicles the author's search through past lives, channeling, trance
states, dreams and personal soul-searching, to learn why she has
a profound and sometimes unsettling connection to the sea, and especially
to whales and dolphins.
It's a risky book. Suzy McKee Charnas is an award-winning
fiction writer, but this is not fiction, even though it reads with
the pace of a mystery novel. Doubtless there are some who will think
that Charnas has fallen overboard, but the rewards to the reader
are immense. She dares, for instance, to explore and articulate
ideas that many of us have had about cetacean souls, intelligence,
sexuality and linguistics.
To understand her disturbing and confusing dreams,
Charnas worked with a channeler who led her to discover past lives
in which she was deeply involved with the sea in many capacities
and both genders: as a sailor, a drowning passenger, a pirate, and,
to Charnas, most provocative and distressing, as a whalerman.
The mere idea that she had once killed whales
was horrifying and led to questions about cetacean souls (young
souls, like humans), including their myths, social structures, and
rites of passage. And, the themes of their stories, roughly translated
by the channeler, are "The Enormously Wise One Who Can Cross
Untasted Waters," "One Who Has Forgotten Important Things,"
"The Mother Whose Offspring Never Drowns," and "The
One Who Deliberately Taunts and Seeks Out Dangerous Companions."
This is heady stuff, whether or not you accept the premise.
The last part of the book takes us with her on
a quest to encounter a whale in the wild, and I was so eager for
Charnas to find her whale that I couldn't read fast enough. There's
a great deal more to love about Strange Seas. We get glimpses
of a writer at work, struggling with writer's block and deadlines.
There are also autobiographical sections that are touching and often
Charnas is no fuzzy bunny. She's a mature woman
fearlessly in search of wisdom; skeptical, but with an overwhelming
need to know. What she finds may or may not surprise you, but it
will definitely make you think.
Phoebe Wray is a writer and theatre director, with
two short stories in the archives of moondance.org and several others
on emags. She is primarily a non-fiction writer on topics such as
endangered species, marine mammal conservation, and environmental
ethics. She lives in Massachusetts and teaches at The Boston Conservatory.