Apayo translates to, "where does it hurt?" in Korean. It can also be used to ask someone if they are sick.
I did not know this until this morning. The word came to me in a dream, the Cliffnotes version of which is that I am at a retreat, led by an outdoor adventure guide who leads spiritual retreats based in nature. I see that among his many program brochures is one on white water rafting; another involves a trek through the Nepalese mountains, or something on that order. His wife offers me a sip of her drink, called "apayo". It's an odd looking concoction: A straw is plunged into something like a bump-less pickle or small gourd-like food that is immersed in liquid, and contained within a clear glass bottle.
The night before, I realized I'd left my current dream journal downstairs. Too tired to get out of bed and fetch it, I grabbed an older one. I found an empty page, and on the page opposite, scribbled in the upper left corner, was a note from July 12 of this year: "Salmon = determination. Know where you are going and you will get there."
Upon waking, at around 4:30 a.m., I scrawl key notes from the dream, including the word "apayo." Unable to go back to sleep, I get up little before 5:00, to record as many details of the dream as I can remember. This odd word, apayo, means nothing to me, so, as any good dream sleuth would do, I consult Google.
Up comes a website: apayoart.com. Hmm. Never heard of it. I click.
The site belongs to a Yupik artist, Apayo, who lives in Alaska. The first image to greet me is her beautiful painting of a bare, pregnant woman in water. Her unborn child is visible and sleeping in her womb. Rising up from the water to meet her is a... salmon. It is titled: "Our Agreement: I Will Nourish Your Future Generations as Long as You Protect Mine."
Beneath this image is a slide show of other paintings. The next one is a reindeer. I've detailed in earlier blog posts how reindeer and deer have been featuring prominently in my dreams of late. I know immediately that this is not a coincidence; I have been led to this site.
Many other of her paintings are of salmon, including salmon in the rapids (white water rafting, anyone?) and a jazz-singing salmon in a red dress (red dresses are another prominent dream theme). She states on her site that she's trying to raise awareness of the Pebble Mine Prospect. Wait, PEBBLE mine? My dream imagery has been rife with rocks and stone of all sizes for months. I click for more information. As it turns out, the Pebble Mine Prospect may be the most controversial development prospect in Alaska's history. If it proceeds, nearly 87 miles of rivers, creeks and wetlands that support king salmon, red salmon and other fish, wildlife and people, could be damaged or destroyed.
In a blog for the Huffington Post, Jeanne Devon writes of the Pebble Mine Prospect, "Anglo American Mining (whose track record is less than stellar) wants to put one of the world's largest open pit gold and copper mines at the headwaters of the largest remaining wild salmon fishery on earth -- a fishery that feeds the nation, employs more than 14,000 people, and has sustained human beings in the Bristol Bay area for thousands of years. If you're anyone except a gigantic mining conglomerate, it's a no-brainer. But the mineral wealth at the proposed site is vast, and The Pebble Partnership will do whatever it takes to get it.... Cyanide and pools of other toxic mining waste will have to be held back from leaching into the rivers that feed Bristol Bay by a series of earthen dams 700 feet tall -- that's 100 feet taller than the Space Needle. And they would sit smack atop the most seismically active region on the planet."
I read with dismay and heartbreak.
Researching further, I learn that in Korean, apayo means, "where does it hurt?"
It seems clear that there are important stories that want and need to be told. And they are coming to us in dreams.
Through my dreams, I have learned about the Reindeer peoples of Mongolia and Siberia. They are at risk of losing their cultures, and the reindeer they herd are in perilous decline. I have come to know the snow leopard, who is also in grave danger of eventual extinction, with only 3,000-6,000 remaining on earth, due to poaching and over development of their territory. I have learned that one third of Britain's dragonfly species are endangered, or nearly so. I have dreamt of the buffalo, whose haunted fate here in America remains tenuous, and of a breed of sheep with a reddish, deer-like coat that is on the "watch" list for endangerment.
Where does it hurt? It hurts everywhere. Everywhere that we ignorantly, callously, carelessly and selfishly plunder the Earth and her resources. These are significant stories that we don't hear on the news and that generally don't spur us to action, because they are happening somewhere other than in our own back yards. But we've forgotten that our back yards don't really belong to us, regardless of what the bank note says. We all share one back yard, and it is only ours to borrow, to share, and to pass on to future generations. And the ripple effects of years of greed and erosion, pollution and over-development will end up at our doorsteps eventually, wherever we live.
Something bigger than my imagination connected me to Apayo's art and its message today. Something that knows there is vital spiritual nourishment and life in the white water rapids, the cool mountain air, the salmon and the reindeer that give themselves to us for sustenance. Something that wants us to know that our future generations will be preserved and cared for only if we protect and care for that legacy today. And tomorrow. And every day thereafter.
The earth. The water. The air. The animals. My heart.