Once upon a time there was a penguin by the name of Vivian.
Fairytale? Children's story? Not so much.
There really was a penguin named Vivian. He was a male Adelie, rescued from an oil slick. Once he was healthy and whole, he was released back into the ocean along with five other rescued male Adelies. Each of them was equipped with a tracker so they could be followed on their expected journey south to the mating grounds.
An enterprising group of researchers posted their daily progress on a website map, and my friend Jamie and I took great delight in checking in on their progress every day. Especially since the penguin named Vivian refused to comply with expectations.
Initially, he swam in circles. We made jokes about ADHD Penguin and shiny fish. And we loved him because he was special.
Then, one day, Vivian struck out north. He continued swimming north until the day his tracker expired.
And he became, for me and Jamie, a symbol for those of us who choose to go our own way in life. Swimming North means, for me, going where my creativity takes me instead of where society, or publishers, or my family and friends, or even my agent says it should take me. It means listening to my intuition. It means writing the stories that want to be written, even when they turn out to be misfit tales that don't make bestseller lists because they don't appeal to the mainstream.
To honor Vivian's memory, I named my female protagonist after him in my book Between, and also included a dream penguin as her animal guide. To my great surprise, when I randomly searched "Penguin as spirit animal" one day, it turns out penguins are the totem for those who live intuitively, who are open to both the obvious reality of the senses, and the mysteries that are hidden. Add this mystical element to the truth that penguins are cute and fun, and you can see why there are penguins at play all over Swimming North.