Even an Ant’s Prayer Reaches Heaven

Today I did one of the most important things I wanted to do before leaving Seattle. I visited the Tsubaki Grand Shrine to ask for courage, focus, and creative inspiration at the shrine of Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto. I feel a special closeness to the Fearless One, patron of the arts, among many other things. I love the story of how she brought Amaterasu out of her offended sulk with laughter and a striptease. I love her sensual earthiness, and the fact that she can be both jovial and alarming.

After making my prayer and leaving an offering, I went down to the river to admire its rushing waters and reflect for a moment in the shrine’s peace. Then I made the prayer for purification of the senses so that I might approach my new environment with a sincere spirit and open-hearted acceptance of whatever comes to me in the arctic. I also visited the shrine of Inari Okami and left a donation there, more for the kitsune because the arctic is full of beautiful foxes and I can’t help but feel having their favor will be a good thing.

The last thing I did was speak with Rev. Koichi Barrish about an omamori for my travels. He was curious (as most people are) what I was looking for, so we talked about the arctic, what I hope to achieve, and how I hope to travel onto the ice. I mentioned that I had a personal travel amulet from the mid-year purification ceremony, but that it abandoned me a week ago on Orcas Island. He laughed and said that my upcoming journey is well beyond the scope of that blessing, and no doubt the kami knew it was heading out of its depths and had found a new home. I was reassured because I felt badly about losing it, but the metal clip holding the amulet to my backpack snapped, and that was beyond my control for sure, but perhaps not the kami’s.

We considered three different omamori, and in the end, I chose the Housaiyoke Omamori, which is a powerful protective amulet, specifically defending against bad luck driven by ill-intentioned spirits and bad chi. Considering polar bears, and mud slides, and weak ice, and all the other myriad potentials for disaster, this seemed the best choice to me.

You may be wondering why Shinto. I’m certainly not Japanese. But I’ve stood in places so beautiful, so remote, so extraordinary that it was impossible for me not to have a spiritual response. I feel that there is a power and meaning in nature that requires my respect and my surrender. I believe disrespecting Great Nature is a path to complete disaster – I think it’s becoming more and more obvious that this is true. I try to follow the teachings of Sarutahiki-No-Okami: Do your utmost, and show gratitude to nature and people and all the things that support you. I have always felt the presence of the numinous in this world. Shinto gives me a way to express my appreciation and my awe, and for that I am grateful.

I have one thing left to do to clear my heart and mind for this journey, and that I’ll take care of tomorrow night. What a life this is.

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