Peeking Behind the Gossamer Curtain

Three years ago on this day, on a silent clear night in northern New York, we stood quietly around the suddenly still body of our amazing Mother. She died there in the wee hours, in a gentle handoff from the physical folk to the ethereal extended family. It seemed to me then that she somehow exhaled herself into the next realm. Her arrival was planned, practiced and practical; her fragile body was beginning to deteriorate. Once she could no longer walk in the woods or kayak the edges of water, it was time to move out.

Her Spirit died into the next world while the moon was overhead. Her earthly remains left her 14th story “tree house” for the last time in the mid-afternoon of that same day. Lovingly tended by her daughters, just as our Grandmothers would have done, she appeared little changed.  It seemed she was just finding her new abilities, illuminated, but just so much happier. Dressed in her favorite gown, itself a shiny beige veteran of two grandchildren’s weddings, with warm socks, she held tightly curled fern fronds and flowers from a Spring that hadn’t yet arrived.  She had gone on: “To my next adventure.”

It was our job as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, neighbors and friends to wave good-bye, preferably smiling. If you couldn’t muster that, no worries, she was going anyway. In her last gaze I think she saw all, understood all, felt all, everything that everyone did was all- O.K. in her book. Had she been alive, she would have taken just the tiniest nibble from those ferns, …just because they were so beautiful.

Fernpainting

Fern Carol Martell 2010

“I am ready for my next adventure”

These were the words she used to explain why she was ready to die, and why she would go willingly. I believe she was still smiling when her “earth skin” was slipped into the plain pine box of her own choosing. It was Amish plain pine, freshly sanded and unfinished. By necessity it stood overnight in a funeral home surrounded by gilded guilt and the heavy décor of regretful sadness.

Her casket; if you would call it that, stood proud and simple. Had she still been there she would have remarked about the grain of the wood, caressed it with her hand, her long arthritic fingers seeking the lifeforce, reminiscent of ET’s heart touching scene. Wood grains were a passion with her! She would have found the rough place I remember seeing. That sticky knot that made me wonder if this pine box was still planks when she died?

I remember we opened the dark shades in the “room of sadness.” We opened the top of her box to tuck in bits of memory; tiny flowers and the secret missives from her favorite fans. I recall a flash of future déjà Vu that I would recall that exact moment in the future, which is today.

“My Angels Were Here”

My Mom was unusual in that she welcomed death into her life with curiosity, anticipation and a smile. While others may choose to clutch and cling to their life with the last drug and surgery, she opened the door to the next life with intention. She made her path clear of medical interventions, she asked for comfort and respect, and not much else.

She entertained the angels of transit into the next life quite regularly. She left notes to this effect, found later tucked into “must read” books and under cushions that we would move, “after.” I imagine she offered her visitors a keen interest in the subject of afterlife, and a cup of herbal tea. They seemed to stop in frequently, in her dreams, and at the edge of sleep; appearing from behind what she described as “gossamer curtains.” Those words always accompanied by a graceful arm movement that denoted her feeling the fabric and a subtle sense of the sound of bells.

They came to gently welcome her to her new existence, we mused. It was not unusual in the months before she passed to see her eyes shine in anticipation for her path, and in compassion for ours, as it was revealed. She kept it mostly to herself except when my path crossed theirs at her front door and the mystical mist still lingered about her.

Three years later I have grown skin back over the wound of loss. This is not a victim place, it is the work of grieving. Grief is love that echoes back at us when its target can’t be found. It takes a bit of time before we can scratch out the old address for our loved ones and forward our thoughts to:

Mom, Your Next Adventure, Somewhere in the Ethers, 87503

Now I can look at her transformation with appropriate joy. I can appreciate what a renegade she was; a consummate explorer in the unknown realms. Or did she know exactly where she was going because she had already been there?

Whatever the case, from my current position of safety and observation I can ask:

Where is it written that death must be faced with fear and pain, angst and anguish? At the end of a life, one could choose acceptance. I believe there is another paradigm that exists in parallel to the no hope “Grim Reaper” cheat death scenario. I want to take the Angel option; beautiful beings providing whatever you need for a sweet transition “Into your next adventure.”

Loving conductors, great music and sweet peace? Interested? Ask them.

I think my Mother works there, her name is Gloria.

Listen Deeply and You Will See the Feeling

three_flags

Three Flags by Jasper Johns, 1958, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

One day last week, my email received delivery of a random real estate listing. Trulia, the real estate website, resurrected my email from the basket on the shelf called “unsubscribe.” For this listing, and only this listing, I became “active” once again.  What is true for internet is true for the ethers: We can hide, but we never really disappear. Just for a moment, I hesitated to tweak my dormant real estate perusal habit but the copy was tantalizing:

“Mid-century home, custom built in 1955 for “Famous Scientist,” (not his real name) who worked on the Manhattan Project. A remarkable, one of a kind home, tucked away on a circular drive on 4 acres wooded lot.”

I could have deleted it.  I’m not looking for a house, but where is the fun in going only where you’ve planned? Peering into the few unfocused images of the listing I saw an “impression” of the backyard from the sun porch on a summer day. Purple Coneflowers shown in full bloom with just the hint of two square bee hives tucked under the trees. Another photo taken at oblique angle offered a taste of a warm welcoming kitchen; handmade wood cabinets, shining cottage hardware next to the bright window over the sink.

standinginpool-copy

Yes, there is nothing more intriguing than a house with history, with the clear stamp of the sensibilities and soul of the previous owners.  How previous, is sometimes the most interesting part.

No need to buy a house in order to interact with its history. Sometimes it is enough to walk through, just a “meet and greet” for whatever reason. My predilection for homes in flux is not unlike my Mother’s affection for walking through Garden centers long after her own herbs and flowers were a sweet memory. We come to enjoy, we come to support, we come to give love, because we can.

I googled the original owner and found a respected career of science and leadership. Amidst the curt, contained Academic language, I sensed there was more. What it was like to come home, to pick up life and career, after helping to create the first Atom bomb? What does changing the world feel like on a personal level? How does a man with such a big history come to live in such a small house, surrounded by nature as it must have been in 1955? Was the world different then? Were the rules clearer? The enemies more distinct? Or was that the only perspective at the time, to fight darkness with darkness, destruction with destruction.  We will never know.

“Open House” Saturday, no showings before Saturday morning.”

We were headed out of town for the weekend. I would drive by soon, “just out of curiosity.” Thinking that was the end of it, I returned to my conscious task of moving all the digital history I chose to keep, from limping old computer, to the new sleek model. Along the way, my last decade flashed by; pictures, music, my own written reflections streaked through my day. It was a day of memory and ghosts and happy sad thoughts.

Well of course our plans changed, one door closed, another opened, invisible walls slid to the side and Saturday afternoon was available after all.  Thankfully there is more to our lives than only ourselves.“We will stop there between the chowder festival, and a walk with the dogs, just for fun.”

carolsingkids-copy

Rounding the curve, there were a dozen cars pulled off into the greasy snowbanks of this mismatched early 1960’s neighborhood. Unmatched pairs of curiosity seekers stepped carefully across the ice coating the narrow gravel ellipse that was “the circular drive.” The scene was unexpectedly eerie. A moving shadow of a wildly overgrown Rhododendron played on the front bricks. Ambitious White Pines of all ages pushed up everywhere; through rock walls and driveway edges. Their sweeping branches leaned in; precariously close to the bedroom windows, creating soft snare drum rhythms on the single panes.  Years of shed needles shut out groundcover, dampening new life as efficiently as algae chokes a pond. No doubt, there was deep sadness here.

As a gardener, I knew there hadn’t been one here in quite some time. The robust had prevailed, the diminutive had faltered.

The memory of ivy and vinca maintained their presence guardedly in the cracks of the brick face and between the rock walls.  Two of the largest of the sticky White Pines had been hurriedly chopped in the handful of days between advertisement and open house. Their hacked-up stumps still oozed golden sap on this chilly winter day. The small branches and woodchips that were their remains, splayed out across the dirt driveway as if a wily wizard had “shazamed” them in the moment before we pulled up. Always be wary of quick fixes and fresh paint, they tell the problem, if not the story.

Passing through the multi-paned front door there was a sense of desperate confusion. The ecstatic realtor was holding court, beaming her pleasure at the bewildering excitement of this bargain crazed crowd. Handing out cards and cookies she seemed completely unaware of the storm forming around her. Small knots of people huddled in the huge great room. Windows filled an entire wall to the southwest, and yet it was dark and dank.

drinkfromhose-copy

I heard snippets of wistful conversations about the patina of the floors, the built-in book shelves, the brick fireplace. A luxurious and graceful mature Spider plant squatted casually at the end of the long pine mantel holding the sole bit of life in this cold room.  I wondered where it had come from, and how soon it would get to go home. Scented candles burned on windowsills, an attempt to discount the heavy, throat closing aura of mold, damp, and viscous stillness. I stepped back into the wordless part of my brain, seeking direction.

Being careful not to touch anything inside the house seemed paramount. Unclear on why we were here, I stepped outside, to get a breath, to get some perspective. There were several couples out in the trees, one man looked back at the house, gesturing his amazing ideas, imagining an HGTV dream of reclamation and redemption. “The roots of this loss are everywhere,” I wanted to shout to them, “The pain is too much, let the trees take care of it, they know how.”

Standing outside on the pieces of slate that had been a patio, I regained my senses and noted the floating rungs of a wooden staircase leading precariously up to the nearly flat roof of the living room.  It had no supports, nothing linked it to ground. “He must have visited Loretto Chapel,” I thought, remembering the church in Santa Fe with Ripley’s credentials and a spiral staircase that curls to the balcony totally without support.  The story goes; it was built for the nuns to sing in the balcony by none other than who else: an itinerant carpenter.

This lesser accomplishment had been marked off limits by an insignificant strip of yellow Caution tape.  It had been tied there and pulled off by some light-footed optimist.  All at once I realized, “This is a New Mexico house.” The large open rooms, a kitchen only as big as it has to be, windows that look out on open space, and a stairway to the roof for star viewing. Is this some of what he brought back from Los Alamos?  Having lived in New Mexico and its opposite, New York, it seemed obvious.

“Yes,” I thought. “I miss that too.”

Wanting to complete the journey ASAP, we galloped through the empty rooms, newly painted and unoccupied.  The biggest bedroom had a beautiful window, seemed a nice place to watch the snow fall from bed. The closet held nothing except a week’s worth of professionally ironed dress shirts. The office was murky; the presence of briefcase and folders was unexpected and confusing. I barely crossed the threshold, and didn’t linger. I imagined the unconscious occupant moving quickly between the three necessary rooms, office, bedroom and kitchen. He would keep close to the wall, avoiding a look into the living room, and then, with a quick sprint, out the door. I wondered where they had stashed the furniture and how anyone could stay here, even temporarily.

It was a quick tour, it was just too much to stand in for very long. I had renewed gratitude for my cozy home, and my physical ability to stand in the sun. Back in the car, we returned to our reality and decided upon our dog walk trail “de Jour.”  We would walk on the track bed turned bicycle path, starting from the Lock 7 on the Mohawk and going south along the river. It was a bit farther than we needed to drive, but walking by water is always a good idea. I hadn’t been on this part of the trail for many years.

Down the hill and across the Mohawk, the dogs in the back seat were ecstatic.

Our old Toyota, still sporting New Mexico tags turned left to River Road skirting the vast riverfront property that is Knolls Atomic Laboratory. I remembered then, the short biography about the scientist who came home from Los Alamos after the war and settled here to work the rest of his life at Knolls. As we entered the roundabout by KAPL I realized our mission.

rauschenburg

Buffalo II, 1964 Rauschenburg, Robert

We parked the car, the dogs sprinted up the incline. Once reached, the path was straight flat and continued endlessly out of view.  We walked past ice covered ponds, water roaring through rusty culverts, and  frosted vegetable fields, harvested this time of year by the hungry wild things.  We walked 2 miles south heading towards Vischer Ferry, where just around the corner, water from upstate New York hills flowed into the Mohawk River, and onto the deep moving currents of the sea-bound Hudson.

I had just read a book about the old Celtic thoughts on the specific attributes of trees.  They are all unique in their attributes and abilities to be used for medicine and hold the integrity of the land. As we walked they waved, the birches, the alders and especially the water soaked Willows.  We were walking with the current, “in the flow.” We reached a small building at a beautiful curve of the river and took stock of our place and time. It was after 4 when we decided to turn back to the car. The going back was harder, the day was colder and even the pup was dragging when we finally saw the poles that marked the parking lot. It was a full day.

I am reminded this day in February that research and inquiry go in both directions. I watched a TED talk this week from an impassioned Astro Archeologist.  She finds the relics of human past from satellite images worked with algorithms.  Her contention is that we have awareness of only a 1/1000 of a single percentage of human experience that rests hidden from view under our feet. “It is time to turn the pyramids upside down…” she said. From the heavens, they look for the very subtle impressions in the earth that indicate the map of human history (https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_parcak_help_discover_ancient_ruins_before_it_s_too_late?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread)

I took this as a personal AHA! Moment.  There was something about that image of looking at our planet, our lives, our past, from an “other side of the atmosphere” point of view. It cleared my myopia and I laughed out loud. No need to wonder if those folks we choose to “research” or remember aren’t peering right back at us with equal interest. Do relationships and interactions transcend physicality?  Of course they do. I write these words and I hear the deep chuckle, “If only you knew, if only you know.”

Arrien, Angeles, 2007, The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom, audio

Parcak, Sarah, https://www.globalxplorer.org)/

Three Flags by Jasper Johns, 1958, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Buffalo II Rauschenberg, Robert, 1964

Thank You My Friend

For as long as I sit at this desk, I will see the place where we put your body back into the earth just this morning. This is the longest day.

Time has stretched out like shiny taffy, pulled until it came to an end and “snap” you were gone. I need to remember on this loneliest of days, how many times we celebrated your exquisite integrity and your command of the language of unconditional love. I need to remember your companionship as a gift, your faithful heart as an example.

Eleven years ago we found you, my mystical guru of devotion and discernment. You were waiting there, at a City of Albuquerque annual adoption event, calculated to propel hundreds of stray dogs and puppies out of shelters, and into adoptive homes. The plan is simple: every adoptable shelter resident in the city is transported to the Fairgrounds, add  radio stations and sponsors, and see what happens.

On that day, we wandered through the cages. We past Pits and Rotties, through the “toys”, too tender and tiny for rural New Mexico, and away from the baying Hounds. There was discernible desperation in these long nose faces. The dogs had a handle on what was at stake, they seemed to know their clock was ticking.BearBWright

Our daughter spotted him; black muzzle, tiny ears, almost past a puppy with matted fur reminiscent of an old used bath mat. His card said “Stray-found downtown.” He was an “inner city” dog. Where he was headed in the breed pool was anyone’s guess. She saw his magic and skipped to the head of the “Do we really want a dog?” line by presenting him to her Dad, with leash, and the casual suggestion that he take him outside for a “get to know you walk.” Then and only then, did she find me pondering a Pomeranian once owned by an infamous animal hoarder, a single Pom, from a Pom family of 50. I was taking “rescue” too literally.

By the time we reached them Bear was calm, and Dad was smitten.

Of course he also had a touch of Parvo, but we didn’t know that yet. Dad looked as if he had reclaimed a soul part named, “My Dog Loves Me,” approximately age 10; his face was dazzling. The pup, soon to be named Bear, due to his uncanny resemblance to a Grizzly cub, offered me a ”heart to heart” communiqué. It translated into an intention somewhere between Star Trek’s salt monster, “I am for you..!” and “We need to do this Mom.”

And so we did, we made an interspecies partnership for the promotion of higher consciousness through living in the present with as much unconditional love as he could model. The timing was perfect. Our children had embarked on their own adventures and we were Midlife adults carrying substantial backpacks of leftover Nuture.

Bear’s gloriously inclusive heart developed over time and ripened with maturity. Mac, an unexpected and initially unwelcome addition developed into an unflagging devotee of the infallible Alpha-ness of Bear. Mac’s selfless love of his fearless leader has no human counterpart. It is an egoless canine adaptation that strengthens everyone in the pack. Bear recognized one ultimate Alpha-Dad and his alternate-Mom.

A particularly notable aspect of Bear’s prodigious relationship skills was his ability to discern the potential for discord or danger. His signature move was to come between any newcomer and his “family”, of which he used a very loose and comprehensive definition. All children, everyone’s children are family, as are people attached to, or smiling at “His People.”

Bear’s creed of Serve and Protect was elegantly simple based on his awareness of his own great power.

There was no need for scary growling, no show of force. He did nothing overt to raise the awareness of the detainee. Most never recognized, that the Bear Block was essentially a character analysis. His wagging tail would erroneously signal friendly canine acceptance.  He would stand as an impenetrable roadblock across any incoming legs, when he found their owners lacking.

For those of us under his protection, we looked for his opinion; we respected his opinion. If he went back for the second pet, all was well. Occasionally there was a over the shoulder look, a wide mouth pant and uneasy eyes that asked, “This guy is lying, deceitful, dangerous or inebriated, what do you want me to do with him Mom?”

For eleven years I have had the privilege of being in Bear’s family as he is in mine. We buried him today, in a hole we dug ourselves, in a gentle green yard that we call home, in a blanket that smelled like us.

I have nothing better to give you then my love and gratitude. Wait for us there, we will come after a while.

For my Family, you know who you are

In Search of…..What? In Search of Who..? Revisited

redonwoodsThe Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I am accustomed to tending my own garden of Psyche daily. I work each morning as a medieval monk tending the medicinal herb garden. It’s solitary work. Strong medicines need quiet voices and patient hands. In this garden of “Know thyself,” and it’s corollary “Know Everyone Else”, the Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I seek the smallest of keys, the softest of voices whose demands create heaven or hell here on earth. I am a devotee of the siren called Relationship. Without relationship, love is lost, if love is lost; all is lost. The answers to the “good life” quest are all right there, floating in the rich soup of interrelatedness. It is appropriate then, to find myself here.  Queries of life should be answered in the field, library research is far too easy, far too clean.  It is a shock to witness the deep clouds of aged aloneness that are all around me.  Their solitary presence as palpable as the gnat that floats in my coffee, right under my nose.

Why do so many fragile elders live out such lonely endings to their “Well-lived” Lives?

These are the superfluous thoughts that I ponder in my garden. In Florida, the hearing is hard and time runs short-endlessly. Thoughts are cheap; connection requires deep attention and careful listening. If I wish to hear them, I will. Once heard, I will have to listen, and I already know the sound is deafening.

Deva

MysticalconversationredonIndo-European, Sanskrit word for God, originally thought of as feminine. The modern word Goddess has changed connotations to represent a lesser form of divinity. Deva had the meaning we typically think of as the word God today, however God was thought to be the Great Mother.

In Buddhism Devas are highly evolved beings who inhabit different levels of existence. Devas are commonly associated with great beauty and bliss.

Modern New Age versions of Deva’s are thought of similarly to angels, nature spirits, or fairies.
Pronounced Day-va.

 

Is there anybody there?

In the heat of August, our 1960’s era Florida ‘hood seemed nearly abandoned. Air conditioning and cicadas hummed in unison, shades pulled against the relentless sun; we are all hunkered down in our separate oasis. In gentler October, I came to discern the fainter life force: there are many more people here than meet the eye. Empty carport and weekly mowing does not necessarily denote a Michigan snowbird’s empty winter escape. Is it a clever vacation timer changing channels in the late night TV glow across the street? Or is there a gnarled hand on a sticky remobecomingRedonte picking endlessly at the arm of a single recliner in that darkened room?  When I look at the blank face of that picture window, I wonder what looks back at me.

By November, my own lack of critical agenda mixed with the timeless energies and endless ebbing of those in 30-year retirements. Only then did I begin to hear them. I accepted the possibility that hearts too fragile to be “out and about” lived amongst us; close by and yet unseen. Yes, some of our neighbors have been here a very, very long time. Current wisdom calls this “Aging in place.” With enough resources one can stay home until you die, sometimes alone, sometimes leaving another alone for the first time in many years.  Sadness and fear are the concrete reinforcement of loneliness, once hardened, it must be hard to get free.

How can I help and why don’t I want to?

An opportunity to interact with a silent neighbor arrived via Postal indiscretion. West became East and switched mail brought an impromptu visit from a frail neighbor. I didn’t recognize the Deva in the background right away. She stood no taller than my chin.  Her razor sharp blue eyes shimmered above the optimistic swash of pink cheeks. Our visitor knocked on the door with authority belying her tiny stature. I was surprised by the friendly face; she took that in stride; she needed to sit down. Lowering herself into the nearest chair, she announced herself and her mission. Panting a bit, she noted my painting of wings on the wall nearby and identified herself as a fellow painter and designer.

Had I not been wearing my Florida Fairy foiling earmuffs, I would have identified her immediately as one of the “nature folk” or “faerie people.” Diminutive in size but powerful in Spirit, these beings are part of mythology worldwide.  Mythology means “replaced by a different idea,” it doesn’t mean “extinct.” It has been my experience that occasionally one of these Folk will drop into our amplitude to whisper in our ear

oldangelRedonor whack us up the back of the knees while screeching “WAKE UP!” directly into our hearts. She had appeared at our doorstep having trekked down a half block on slippered feet to deliver a bulk rate package gone amiss.

“He” was just out of the hospital that very afternoon from a hernia operation. The timing of this sortie was just so untimely. I was so taken by this elf in my living room and the stream of wordless language flowing out of her that I forgot myself and offered her whatever help I could.

“Oh no, we’re fine. He just isn’t feeling very well.” She said. Another sign of the Wee Folk; reverse hyperbole.

Then I heard the Deva, “She wants you to come with her…”

I walked her home, offering first to drive the span of four driveways and a street. She reminded too much of the gentle gray doves we see splayed out on the road because they just won’t hurry. She told me of his stomach pains and his surgery, her cancer and her painting, “He” was installed on the couch when we got back. There would have been surprise on his face as we walked in together, but it would have taken too much strength. He was saving what he had to speak gently to his partner.

Haunted

He told me he came here for the small airport; he was a pilot then. She said they bought the house for the pool; so much fun for his grandchildren. He said, “They are grown now, haven’t been here in such a long time, but they used to like to come.”

There were ghosts of good times watching them; the reapers of regret piling their sheaves high. I sat and listened.  I learned about life and longing and love. I called on every angel I knew to help them, and to help me know how to leave this house without bundles of baggage that I didn’t pack.

She showed me the pool; vacuum bubbling away on its appointed rounds. When had someone had last jumped into that clear water? Was there ever sand on the floor and food in the fridge? When was there last a child sleeping in the three empty guest rooms with sheets on the beds? My silent questions were sucked into flocked walls and thick carpet and left unanswered. The density in the room dared me to stay longer.

“No food, no wine, no fun!”

She waved at the artwork layered on bookshelves and the cases of small cans of liquid diet stacked in the Formica kitchen. Paints were laid out on a card table in the sun. “Do you paint now?” I asked. She said smiling, “Not inDeathRedon a long time, my back hurts too much.”

I asked if it was hard to not eat food anymore, cancer had taken that too. “No food, no wine, no fun!” she said.

I sat for a while in their living room taking in the dire straits in this home. Health completely gone, mobility quickly disappearing, they were collectively a ship with ravaged sails facing an oncoming storm. I looked for despair but couldn’t find it, neither could I feel anger. It did seem that sadness took up the best part of the couch. The professional part of me asked, “How long could these two support each other and their own disabilities?”

The partner part of me knew the real answer: until “Death do they part”, and probably beyond.

I walked home with my bundle of information in a language I didn’t understand. It was heavy and bulky, it smelled a bit rancid. I resented carrying it home, but I did. I put it in my studio room under an unfinished painting. I hoped they would talk between themselves and get back to me on its meaning.

twoinboat

Well they did. It came to me in the form of a recommended article from a dear old friend from my ancient past. A fellow sojourner in the early days of our “We can do more.” The basic theme was: ideas in the Ether, stay in the ether, unless they are processed via focus and form into concretized products. She wrapped love around that article and sent it out. This my friend, is the product of that bundle. Thank you

To our silent neighbors all around

I know you are there, I hear you and I send you love

Addendum

January 20,2016

I revisited this story written when we lived in Venice Florida

Our tiny sweet lady’s husband died shortly after this was written, she followed, just a bit later.  One of the children moved into all those empty bedrooms with a shiny clean pool.

Our “across the street” invisible TV watching gentleman also died that winter while we were away for a weekend. Turns out he did have family. Shortly after, I was holding the hose on some parched Gardenias when I saw a young man move away from the foul voices of the “house emptying crew. ” He moved behind the dumpster to sit on the back bumper of an old van.  Out of sight of the the others, he bent over and sobbed a river of tears into his hands, shoulders heaving; it was a heartbreaking scene.

All that sadness, anger, depression, whatever the emotions that existed in that living room must have been still there. There’s always someone in each family who chooses, or is chosen to hold that basket. The house had been foreclosed upon, those that went in didn’t stay long inside. The living conditions inside were just that bad.

I said a prayer for this sad boy and I thought our tiny neighbor from the wee folk was right there next to me. When we were done, she looked up at me with a look that told me, “You don’t understand now…but you will.” She patted my arm, gave a little wink and walked back up the street to her old house.  I was happy to see a bit of Spring in her step now.

The younger 60’s hippie neighbors to the left of him also left quickly, they did it with a rented truck and a friend’s pickup.  We followed a bit later, selling most everything we had gathered there to a “picker” with a turkey vulture mentality.  On Ground Hog day we will set off to revisit old territory. Thank you Florida for the good lessons well learned.

All paintings by Odilon Redon

http://www.odilon-redon.org

http://terrainwalker.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/native-american-little-people/

The Journey

sunset

The Journey

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,

 though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,

 though the whole house began to tremble

and you felt the old tug at your ankles.

“Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,

though their melancholy was terrible.

 It was already late enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

 But little by little, as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,

 and there was a new voice

which you slowly recognized as your own,

 that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do,

determined to save the only life you could save. 

                                                Mary Oliver

 

I found this poem again today amidst the flotsam that is my cache of Resource Files. Under that name, I save bits of sacredness according to me, in image and words. Usually relevant to a specific time or place; some feel like lifeboats in a rough sea.

I looked into these files today looking for a landmark or lighthouse to find a path through these foggy times.

We have said goodbye to three parents, one per year and just when it seemed we were done, my Stepmother has died quietly this week. She exited this life unexpectedly and without witness of any of those whose lives were so altered with her entrance.

I was a sophomore in High School when my parent’s expectation of “until death do you part” fell to more modern moirés.  The explosion of divorces that rolled in with the 1970’s took most by surprise; our family was no exception.

It took a decade or so, but I did eventually recognize there was no “wicked stepmother” here.  She was pleasant and pretty, and anxious to please… please our father anyway. Theirs was a loving relationship steeped in a small town world and strict Baptist beliefs. It was a relationship that didn’t have enough space for everyone.wreath

Had another searcher gathered them, my Resource Files would have a physical dimension. This poem might be hand copied, lay in a file folder, held with a paper clip, topped with a post-it note inscribed with the date and source. The precise lines of the yellow legal pad would be ignored completely by the scrawling familiar hand.  The words would turn to cover even the vertical margin spaces.

In another time, these unfermented ideas and inspirations might be shoved into a thick book; tactile and heavy, holding faint odors of dark closets and seldom used hats. The words on the page tightly pressed to their brethren, waiting to be read again someday, by those who would find them, at just the right time.

But this is my life. It is 2014 and my inspirations are stored in a tidy, imagined file box named Apollo who lives in the upper right corner of my sleek silver MAC, a hand me down from the professional computer cowboy in the next room.

The thoughts on paper pages and the emotions expressed there no longer exist except in the liminal space between generations. The space, which right now, feels like the tiny breadth between the living and the dead. It is the map-less uncharted space that prompts this search through my files from the past. I am looking for reminders from my elders-like this poem, to understand how long “limbo” lasts.

For the uninitiated:

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.

During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt.[4] The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.[5] The term has also passed into popular usage, where it is applied much more broadly, undermining its significance to some extent.[6]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality)

 oceanrainbow

And we thought our sense of threshold was unique and personal?

As student of ritual, I am in the whirlpool, the paradox.  I am in the stillness, at the threshold, transitioning to my new status.

I will not be bringing the deep pains of the past with me.  Neither will the old fears fit in our new space.

We do however thank you all for the inspiration, the support and the love.

We will keep that in a safe place.  Blessings and Safe Journeys to all that travel.

 

 

Vision Quest

It’s been a week to value life. Death walks along our path closer than we think.  Early in the week I heard a local man of my age speak to a crowded room about his life rocking experience of life during death. In our limited understanding of the borderlands of being alive, he died and “came back.” His heart, challenged by an evolving heart attack, ceased to beat and was restarted four times over several days. In our limited definition of physical death, he died four times.

He did not come to speak about fear or sadness. There was no hooded terror with bony hand extended.  There was only peace, warm comfort, a sense of oneness, and a compelling choice given- to go back or to remain. In current vernacular this is a NDE, a near death experience as defined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, http://www.neardeath.com/experiences/experts02.html

or Raymond Moody, http://www.lifeafterlife.cHieom/

He stood slowly, and sought the leading thread of his story through half closed eyes. He found his place in the faces around his, speaking seriously, humbly, of his unexpected journey into frontiers of consciousness. He led us carefully, with well-chosen words, through uncharted waters, and on into the space between life and death. He took this choir of willing participants to the edges of self, the land of less Me, and more Us.

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It was apparent that we were witnesses at the denouement of an ancient ritual.  The Vision Quester returns to tell his dream at the fire circle of his community. Countless eons of humans have increased their collective wisdom hearing the big Dreams of those that venture beyond the edges of collective experience.

And this is the community that will live this knowledge.   This was a room full of death midwives; psychopomps in the old words. These were Hospice folks, PhD’s, MSWs, Therapists for the grieving, bereaved family members and even some other members of this elite NDE club. These are people who have sat at the bed, witnessed the passage, and continue to seek the beauty of the whole of human experience.  Some are willing participants, others drawn by life experiences so painful; they seek and search relentlessly for relief from the pain of separation from their beloved.

Universalis Cosmographia 1507 http://www.learnnc.org/lp/multimedia/6969

Universalis Cosmographia 1507
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/multimedia/6969

Despite the imagined scenario for his family, he described no hair-raising escape from the jaws of death on his side of the experience. He remembered only absolute peace, serenity, limitless concepts of soul, and life on a continuum. I am reminded of the explorers that first crossed the abyss now known as the Atlantic Ocean. Some came back, some didn’t, but the “New World” existed anyways, beyond the horizon and beyond the fears of the perilous journey. Maybe it is finally time to throw out Hieronymus Bosch’s creepy mental constructs of afterlife, and reach for the unknown with joy and expectation beyond our wildest dreams.

Musings from New Mexico

Minetvastatue

Minerva is my antenna to the ethers of creative flow and collective connection. She or her owl are a flagellum of sorts; flowing forward and aft of our physical travels, looking for the common link between actions, circumstances, people and locations. Jungians might call this synchronicity. I think the pond we all swim in, is smaller than we think.

Recently I have become disconnected from my muse; my own right brain connection to the creative collective. I have been stationary and focused on deconstruction in it’s most constructive form; making space for something new.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Joseph Campbell

Minerva is presently operating incognito in Thonotosassa Florida in a place of waiting and indecision we call Storage. This place of many doors is named Zephyr; as in wind from the west, representing an intercessor, or a place of passage between this life and the next. Funny how these ancients keep showing up in my modern story. I think there is some kind of Mythological gang that lingers just above our radar and they like to see their names in print.

For the last weeks and for a few to come, Minerva has been quietly lurking, modestly languishing in the shade of her two behemoth Class A neighbors. Class A being the Motor home designation for-

“I have a lot of stuff,

I need a lot of stuff

And I’m not leaving home without my stuff!”

We have been smugly operating under the delusion that we are not those folks. We come from a different tribe; the too late to be Hippies and too early for Yuppies, let’s try out this lifestyle via “RV lite.” The mythic names of these city buses in drag are unknown, but their sad stories were relied by the manager of the storage facility. 

“This one (pointing to the 15 Foot square face with the high forehead on Minerva’s left), it goes out once in a while, they go on short trips. But the other one…….Never goes……it hasn’t been out in years.”

Wow, how does one forget something this large? And the monthly storage bill? This forgetting must take great effort and great toll on the psyches of those who can remember its journeys. It would not be sitting here moldering under the Live Oaks if it didn’t hold significant emotional charge for those on the title. Or is it their survivors or their heirs that hold this door closed with both hands, a shoulder, and a lock. If it didn’t hold meaning, or memories, or unprocessed grief, it would have gone the way of last year’s pants when they no longer fit or flatter. 

This process of removing the “me, her, them, us,” from the physical stuff of life has been my quest since we asked Minerva to wait here. What is the human compulsion to imbue our belongings with pieces of our soul? Or worse yet, our loved one’s soul? Or even,… hang on and breathe for this one,… echoes of the souls of our precious ones who are gone and are not ever coming back in our lifetime.
It may not be Class A in size but I am not without “stuff.”
“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Joseph Campbell

owlpic

We returned to New Mexico via Rapido air transportation to diminish a house full of belongings down to a container the size of a 10’x15″ cube. It looks really big when it’s empty. My attention these past weeks has been firmly rooted on my own oft ignored lily pad here in the gentle pond known as Santa Fe. It has been my focus to separate the meaningful from the meaningless, to weigh and examine our non-essential possessions. I set forth on this solitary journey to extract the soul parts wrapped around bits of glass and wood taped together with sticky human grief.
sunset
This has been my process these weeks. This passage has been stormy, there has been weather; heavy weather. Typhoons of emotions spinning in the physical while in the ethers, my Spirit demands my soul pieces back from parts unknown. I imagined bits of my identity being held hostage by those who will wait entire lifetimes for one small girl, one woman, to demand wholeness and forgive mortality. The work of active grief is returning and releasing and allowing them to be free; keep the love, give the soul back. And it goes both ways. Grieving is too passive a word for this process.
The synchronicity of this tale is that on the dawn between Halloween and All Saint’s Day, a time celebrated for the thinness of the veil between the living and the dead we will end this chapter, close the door on this home for the last time and head into…the East!
“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” –Joseph Campbell