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“The Coral Sings of Hope” by Katie Rose Gurkin

Administrator’s note: “Katie Rose” Gurkin (full name: Katherine Rose Maurine Victoria Gurkin) is our god child.  She and her parents recently traveled with us to Misool Eco Resort (Feb. 2020).  Katie lives life to the fullest.  The following is her unique interpretation of that trip.

“Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act. We belong to this world.”
Joanna Macy, Ph.D, Author and Teacher, Respected Voice for peace

The Coral Sings of Hope

“I believe there is no greater journey than the one we dare to live in the present… to bask under open skies and admire what has already been done.”
Katie Rose Gurkin, Visual Artist, Storyteller, Student, Teacher, Explorer

I was one of the lucky ones, where I was raised knowing the water was part of who I am. I grew up on Lakehurst Road, an eclectic home at the end of a cedar lined lane that rolled into the dammed belly of the Colorado River. It was there my family made peace over long boat rides to nowhere. It’s where I learned I could steer my life in the direction I desire, wild banshee blonde mane blowing in the wind from the captain’s seat. When I wasn’t ushering the wheel, I’d take the momentum’s breeze in from the bow of the boat, tear all the clothes off my 3-year-old body and joyfully wrap my arms around our standard poodle. Both of us with big wind-swept smiles, squinting into the horizon, naked as we came.

Early Bow Ridin Days featured with float swimsuit

THE ‘VERY’ LITTLE MERMAID

Two decades later, clothed, but still delightfully as tickled, I’d take in that same cool breeze from the other side of the world. Floating on the surface of one of the most biodiverse and naturally sanctioned oceanic pockets on the planet. Most nights at Misool I’d paddle away from the warm glow and laughter of the dinner table to our end of the island. Sending ripples through a black hallway of night, with just the starlight peeking through keyholes to other worlds. My board would sway with the gushing winds of the ocean’s breath lapping me. I’d ride like I was atop a brave gull soaring above the water with dozens of shades of dashing carnivores, curiously trafficking beneath me. An entire island dedicated solely to keeping these living shadows below as constant as the stars above. As I’d paddle around the bend, a group of Indonesian men would smile ‘good night’, with just their grinning string of pearls visible from the dock lookout. The dedicated guardians of a great and naturally prepared gift.

Full Moon Rising above Misool Eco Resort’s bridge walkway

Toe Dips

“Manta Ray Runway” Photo by Sabine Templeton, Artwork by Katie Rose Gurkin

Eye to Eye in jellyfish lake

These living treasures beneath have always been the commerce of this island. Before Misool was dreamed into reality it was a shark finning camp. Boat loads of flesh laden triangles shuttled the illusion of an eternal gap from Misool’s reef to the mainland, swapping wildlife, and eventually entire ecosystems to fund the food on the fisherman’s family table. Marit and Andy (Miners) breathed life into this foundation as a fresh start for the islanders of Indonesia’s Raja Ampat and created a beacon of hope for a more synergistic future. They showed the fisherman, who were merely trying to survive themselves, that by protecting what they once killed they could make tenfold their poaching profits as eco-tourism marine life guides. The irony is poignant, and these are the kind of role reversals we’re seeing create major change around the world. “Just do the next right thing,” a best friend once told me. Sometimes that’s a leap no one else is taking and you have to trust the net to appear, and when it does, it’s there for others to take their leap of faith. We are on a societal collision course towards the curtain falling on our species, but thanks to heart centered trimtabs like Misool and all of those who show us how to love the ocean by example like my Aunt Maurine and Uncle Burt who introduced me to Misool and Eco Activism, our collective ship is turning towards a “Greater Perhaps”. Akin to my grammy Pat’s sentiment, “Good things happen to those who waiteth, if you worketh like high heaven while you waiteth.” A high hope we just might see in our lifetime, where we listen to the better angels of our nature and help redirect the good intentions behind evil acts into allies of the greater good for our planet and people. When we become citizens of Active Hope, we create a better way of growing the pie, where everything and everyone wins.

Shark nursery frenzy in Misool Eco Resort’s Bay

Fisherman outside the no take zone

The best I’ve seen in humankind is in its stewards. Souls that tend to a nurturing mission with their whole heart, whether it be a small café filled with so much love and intentionality it becomes a womb for your creative thoughts over tea, or a homeless ministry that shows how fun it is to let full cups runneth over. Misool is one of these jewels in the crown of life. I have never met individuals as foolish, selfless and incredibly brave in their visionary action as the team behind Misool. One of the greatest leaders of this foundation, is a seven-year-old with blonde hair down to his hips named Sahul (Andy and Marit’s son), who is totally running the show. “How many people are in your family?” his teacher asked him, “135” Sahul smiled assuredly. He’s grown up alongside a band of brothers and sisters that look nothing like him. The western child of two dreamers, who bloomed where he was planted— smack in the exotic middle of the Indian and Pacific Ocean. And bloom he does, joyfully alongside all that is around him. If you’ve ever observed the way staff can be treated when people arrive with deep pockets and high expectations, you can’t help but wonder if everyone from the bottom up is getting the encouragement we all need. Sahul’s love for his team reminds me that it’s in our nature to see us all as family. I have faith in Marit and Andy and Sahul’s leadership to shine a way for business to do good for all of life on earth while doing well.

Sahul, the wonder child

The ‘Nut Puzzle’

The Misool Foundation’s mission is self-evident through the continuous spring of their humanitarian gifts to those who lived in the land before them and in the unprecedented resurgence of biomass encompassing their resort funded coral restoration and no-take-zone. The gravitational pull of their impact has scholars and leaders in science and conservation around the world leaning in. In 2017 the foundation became a Mission Blue Hope Spot, which means that the benefit of their 300,000 acres of salty sanctioned marine preservation was so positive that it dramatically improved the fate of our oceans and all crawling critters, aka, us. “Misool represents one of the most pristine reef systems left on earth — one of only a handful of places in the universe where biodiversity is improving rather than declining.” – Dr. Mark Erdmann, marine biologist, coral reef ecologist, and Vice President of Conservation International’s Asia-Pacific marine programs”.

On Top of Misool’s World

Scuba Tree

Irvan is a Happy Misool Dive Guide

An even Happier Irvan, if that is possible.  Of course he’s about to have lunch!

 They say we know less about the oceans on this planet than we do about the infinite sky. Perhaps it’s because despite varying degrees we all share the same stars, but we don’t all draw the curtains back to the wonder of Big Blue. During my time at Misool I never paddled out with my camera on those twilight adventures with the sharks and stars, but they were the most marvelous moments of all. To be alone with nature, without an agenda, fully present. The beauty of storytelling is that a human can find themselves so completely immersed in a precious moment, never again to be experienced quite the same, and yet it can live on in soulful recollection later. Perhaps it can even live as a glimmer of hope in others, drawing us nearer our love for the depths of life on earth.

Looking for Hope

You can learn more about the Misool Foundation here to allow yourself in on this alchemizing eco experience. May it be booking a mind, body, soul retreat or setting your horizons on a creative research project that tickles the far corners of your wildest reverie. The staff on the resort’s island of Batbitim and all the hands that have helped open up the way for a shining relationship with natural beauty are there to welcome you in as a fellow steward, dreamer and Citizen of Active Hope.
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