Pop’s Pilgrimage

Two big things happened in my life a year ago. My soul-sister fell in love, and my father died. That time in my life was proof that we humans can hold space for every emotion, all at once. I was simultaneously heart-filled and heartbroken.

I held space for my dear friend through her darkest depths, and was blessed to bear witness to the moment she found her person. I had never seen her so happy, and knowing that her darkness had finally found illumination brought me enormous joy and peace. Meanwhile, I was holding space for my father’s physical decline, his struggles with body betrayal, and finally… an end to that struggle. Death is always bittersweet when the ache of a loved one’s suffering is replaced by their absence.

Since my friend also cared for my father, she was painfully aware of the limits of time with those we love, and she did not hesitate to take action, once she had found the soul who brought her spirit back to life. She sold everything and moved north. So, for nearly as long as I have been missing my father’s physical presence, I have also been missing hers.

From afar, she held space for all of the ‘firsts’ without my Pop, and as the anniversary of his death and her birthday grew near, she invited me to come up for a weekend adventure. They had plans to RV over to Provincetown (MA) to see friends, and it wasn’t long before everything fell into place as magick was revealed.

This journey would allow me to be in the state where my father grew up on the anniversary of his death. Further, a stop in a place he had written about in his #MemoirsForMelissa would be easily on our path, either to or from. I knew I was being led to carry some of his cremated remains back to a place he cherished in his youth. For me, it felt like a pilgrimage.

Once again, my lifelong friends supported my journey with inspiration, enthusiasm and great care. When you find the people who are genuinely happy and supportive of your own happiness, and will do everything possible to see you through every opportunity to attain it – you know that you are truly blessed. One asked me if there would be a ceremony to honor Pop on the trip, and that’s when that seed was planted. One generously booked my flights with her buddy pass. And one was my driver to and from the airport (actually, she sent her hubby on the homebound trip, which was a nice surprise). Also, my brother came up to care for Mom, and they both delighted in having each other to themselves for a few days. And of course, my friend and her wife graciously made room for me on their previously scheduled journey. The Universe clearly conspired to make it happen.

It is not every friend who chooses a partner to whom I feel immediately connected. But finally meeting in person the love of my friend’s life, felt like a homecoming. We are family, and it was written in the stars. These two were blessed to find each other, and I feel blessed to bear witness. They carried me with them on an adventure and held space for the surprising emotions that would rise and the magick that would be revealed. I am grateful.

I flew into their hometown and we loaded up the RV (christened The Honey Pot) with provisions and two golden retrievers, then drove eastbound toward the Cape (Cod, that is). In North Truro and PTown, we met up with several of their friends, many of whom were meeting in person for the first time. Each were warm, welcoming beings who made me feel included despite this being my first introduction. They have built a caring, mindful, loving community through social media, and this technology reminds me of the harm it has caused, but also the beauty of connection it has delivered. Like we humans, the internet holds both darkness and light.

Provincetown, to me, was a mixed bag. I seem to have lost interest in shopping since having chosen to live more simply. Mostly, I was delighted by the people watching. In this beautiful place, people feel safe to be authentic. Nothing fills my soul more than seeing individuals express their true nature with confidence and acceptance. Our society’s insistence on conformity is confounding. I would rather die than be subjected to a world filled with sameness. When you find yourself surrounded by a community that has left behind the places that punished them for their truth, you cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the joy of their expressive realness.

We were in PTown for Dad’s death anniversary (July 17), and found a delightful outdoor spot for lunch. As I was looking into the eyes of my dear friend with gratitude to be sharing her birthday with her, I suddenly burst into tears. I’d been told how grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it, and there it was. As she comforted me, my friend glanced at her phone and said aloud, “It’s 2:02. Pop is here.” And we knew it was true. It was the exact moment, one year ago, that his heart stopped. My angel number. When I see it, I know he is near.

Later that afternoon, one of the kind and generous souls in their group swung by the campground to pick us up. As we drove to the beach where we would gather and bounce upon salty waves, the radio did that thing it does. The night before we let Dad go, I set up his tablet to play music he enjoyed. I had asked him to find a way to communicate with me in ways I could understand. As I questioned whether he was ready to go and if I was being true to his wishes, he played three songs for me. The first one was the same as what came over the car radio… Sailing by Christopher Cross. The line that stood out to me on that difficult night at his bedside was, “Soon I will be free.”

The next day, we packed up the RV and made our way to the place I had most anticipated. Twenty years before his death, my father showed up for me. I had asked him to write down stories from his life that I could have when he was gone. Mom had reported that he had been honoring my request, and though I knew they were out there somewhere, I waited until he was gone to find them and read them. My brother found them last Thanksgiving (our first without Pop), and I shared one story per day with my friends and family on FB.

This is the story he left, that inspired this sojourn… from Bill Baker’s Memoirs for Melissa

From the Family Archive – Bakers by the Shore

“One of Dad’s customers owed him a couple of hundred dollars during the war years and signed over the deed to a “summer cottage” in Humarock, close to Scituate near Cape Cod.  It was a little box of a place on an island between a river and the Atlantic with a bedroom, kitchen, half-bathroom, living/dining room, and a little porch.  No electricity.  No bath or shower. Icebox. Gas stove. No heat, no A/C. Loft above the bedroom and bathroom space for 2 kids to sleep. Ladder to pull down and climb up to go to bed. Comic books for color entertainment. (Dad had a customer who did PR for a bunch of Buster Brown shoe stores and he would bring Dad all the comics as he replaced them each month). We would go there when school was out (The House in East Milton, and later the big house on Elliot St would boil in the summer (No A/C remember), and stay until the weekend before Labor Day when school started in the fall.

     I remember one night at the beach, the air raid marshal knocked on the door to tell us our lights were showing through the black curtains every window had. He was afraid the light could be seen by a submarine out in the ocean. Beth and I turned out the light in our upstairs bedroom and went to sleep. The next day, I was running along the sand dunes on the ocean side, and when I jumped over the top, down into a little depression, I was surprised by a huge German shepherd and a coast guardsman watching over a big machine gun.  He was there to keep Germans from coming ashore from submarines. I stayed away from the dunes after dark for the rest of the war.”

I had reached out to one of Dad’s cousins who still lives up north, and her eldest sister reflected warmly on those years, visiting her cousins on the beach. She was able to give me a better idea of where they spent their summers. The cottage was to the right after crossing the bridge, and on the river side, rather than the ocean side.

My friends and I left the RV in a parking spot at the bridge’s edge and walked past where my Dad and his brothers fished when they were kids, and out to the oceanside beach. I read Pop’s words above and offered a cup of his ashes to the waves in which he once played. A gentle rain began to fall. Then, we walked over to the riverside. I didn’t have an address for their cottage and imagined it would have been replaced by something more modern. We turned at the fire station and walked by the first house from the bridge to a public area with access to the river. My friend and I each offered what was left of Pop’s cremains to the water, rock, and mud of another area I was sure had carried his small feet, once upon a time.

I didn’t take many pictures but captured videos to share with family. The three of us then popped into the Irish Pub on the corner, between the ocean and river for a late lunch. I met a man named Don sitting at the bar as I passed to wash my hands. I told him the story my father had shared and he assured me that my grandparents’ cottage was still there. He’d been living there for 65 years and knew that if a house had changed, it was never torn down, but added to. Maybe someday I’ll learn the address and visit once more. Don also let me know that the restaurant we were in would have been the post office and a small general store during World War II, so my father would surely have been there, as well. When I sat down at the table with my friends, I looked at my phone. It was 2:02.

After lunch, my friend wanted to stop in the gift shop across the street. To be honest, I’m not really a shopper anymore. But I was happy to pop in with my sweet friend who helped manifest this moment for me. The first row to the left offered shirts and sweatshirts branded for this beach. As I stepped around to the next aisle, I found a carousel of jewelry. There were two necklaces at the top that faced me, one was an arrow (a significant symbol in my life), and the other was a name… Melissa. You can poo-poo synchronicity all you want, but I know for sure that magick was afoot. Pop was present, as always.

My friend purchased a souvenir for each of us, and as she checked out I told my Dad’s story to the clerk. She said there was a local historian I would love to talk to, and said he had even written a book about the history of Humarock. I felt compelled to purchase a copy to take home to Mom and share with Dad’s siblings. I later handed it to Mom, and she said that Dad would have loved it. I said, “I know! He made me buy it!”

We would have loved to linger in that sacred place, but we had a long journey home and I had a flight to catch the next morning. I felt so blessed to have walked in my father’s footsteps with my darling friend and her beloved. It was a moment filled with a history, a present, and a future of the manifestation of true love. My grandparents’ love for each other brought into this world my father and his siblings who spent their summers in this place of beauty. My parents’ love for each other brought my brother and me into this world, and the love that my friend found by divine providence brought us three together on this pilgrimage. And though my father is no longer physically in this world, his love and our love will continue to resonate and grow for all time. Like the restaurant that once was a post office, it may change but it never goes away.

View from the Honey Pot (RV) – Long and Thankful Journey Home

Thanks for showing up, Pop. You know that’s my love language, and you never let me down. Keep sending me the signs. I’ll wait right here.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

Rage to Page ~ Our Right to Light

The book I published in April was dedicated to the archetypal feminine in Her form of Goddess of the Underworld. Persephone is both goddess of death and springtime – dark and light. As women (also true of men), we carry this duality within us. We carry light and darkness, joy and sorrow, happiness and rage (just to name a few) which find expression through life experience as we learn and grow.

When my Tribe was birthed at Imbolc of 1994, we each brought into the circle the energy of a specific goddess. I remember moving around the circle to greet and honor each altar, and being astonished by the number of dark goddesses represented. I had to check my notes to see which maiden goddess I identified with at the time. Any guesses? It was Persephone, sacred daughter whose arrival delivers the beauty of blossoms. I’d forgotten that historic morsel of goodness, and it filled me with delight to realize how She has been with me and within me through a 27-year evolution of my soul’s purpose.

I remember feeling a sense of mystery around the dark goddesses. Not quite fearful, but somewhat trepidatious. It was an energy that felt unfamiliar to me at that time in my life. I was 25, and just at the precipice of my becoming – ready to dive into a spiritual journey that would make my life so full, it was beyond my imagining.

I’ve certainly come to understand the dark goddess in an intimate way in the last three decades. She is Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads; Kali, the destroyer who clears away what no longer serves us; Cerridwen, into whose cauldron we are received and renewed. She is the Crone. She is the wise one who knows all. She is the bringer of death who initiates us all into the mystery of what comes next. I have come to love Her in ways my 25-year old self could not. I had so much to live and learn. She has been the innocent maiden who was violated, and the young mother who was fiercely protective of her young, and now she is a survivor who has seen it all and fears nothing.

Last week’s news from the Supreme Court about the horrific overturn of the ruling that has protected the reproductive rights and health safety of women for most of my life, brought that day of rebirth immediately to mind. I will share the truth of my thoughts and emotions to paint a picture of how the dark goddess archetype rises in the soul of a woman who has been betrayed and brutalized by her own countrymen.

She is rising with fierce rage for hard-won freedoms that were stolen in an instant. She is the hunter with her bow, sending arrows flying to take down her oppressors. She is riding on the back of a tiger, with scythe and spear to protect those who will surely come to harm for their careless action.

To be clear, I do not advocate violence. You could say that I am Christ-like, in the way that I believe that all beings are worthy of love and should be treated as such. The way fundamentalist Christians these days fight harder for their right to carry a gun than for the safety and protection of our school children, I wonder what kind of gun they think Jesus would carry. I’m not Christian, but it is my impression that he would rather die than bring harm to another sacred soul. That is how I feel. If it is my time to die, I will go. I will not dim my light through fear and violence.

However, when I heard that on the same day this despised court (currently at a 25% approval rating) removed the federal protection of our right to not give birth, they affirmed the right for us to carry concealed firearms, I thought… GOOD! With this news and the ludicrous ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that freed the murderer of Trayvon Martin, now, women can carry a pistol, and when a Republican man comes anywhere near her, she can shoot him in the testicles because she feels unsafe and threatened by his presence in her personal space. After all, any pregnancy has the potential to kill a woman. That is the bottom line. How dare anyone force that possible outcome on any sacred being! She must only go there by CHOICE!

As they removed our right to privacy (still confused why HIPPA laws don’t protect the privacy of patients and doctors for ALL healthcare and medical procedures), I thought, COOL! No more privacy. Now women can learn a man has issues getting it up, and decide not to swipe right! Better yet, she can choose only men who have verifiably been snipped. Vasectomies prevent abortion nearly 100% – it’s better than birth control!

When the news broke, I received a text from a friend who could not stop crying. She was angry, sad, scared, and she wondered if I also wanted to burn the patriarchy to the ground. Well… yes. Always. I do.

With the news of what we have lost, I immediately thought of the many times I have held space for the darkness of others. Were it not for Roe V Wade, someone I love would have been forced to give birth at the age of 11. So courageous was she, to survive and continue to thrive after a horrific beginning of sexual abuse… how different it might have been had there been no other option but for this child to give birth to a child. She called me, as well. She saw the news while in a meeting, and later puked up black bile. We cried together as she drove home. She gave me permission to speak her truth. It must be known what has been stolen. Republicans must know what horrors to which they have condemned our girls.

My favorite tomboy and I already had plans to meet after work. When she entered my home, we hugged each other longer than usual. We met in kindergarten, and share a similar world view. We both felt the horror of what was to come in 2016, when the US election became an abomination. Any intuitive being on the planet could see what was to come. We felt it. We marched for it. We cried about the probable future. That future is now. We are still crying. But not for long. The dark goddess is rising.

The next morning I prepared for my weekly call with my Sacred Gardeners. I pulled two oracle cards as a kind of meditation to begin our call and end it. The cards are inevitably perfect for setting the stage for deep conversation and holding space. They were exactly what we needed to hear in this moment. The first from Alana Fairchild’s Sacred Rebels Oracle and the other from her Rumi Oracle.

From Sacred Rebels we drew, RELAX THE HOLD OF DARKNESS AND BE AT CAUSE. An excerpt: “If the sacred rebel is not awakened, we will continue to live in a culture drenched in fear and distrust of nature. Those without awakened hearts don’t yet understand what nature knows – she knows timing, she knows life and death, she knows the creative process, she just knows – and can be trusted to support us, her own creations, in becoming all that we can become.”

From Rumi we drew, SACRED SOUL SISTER. An excerpt: “No matter how out of control life may seem, she’s letting you know all is proceeding just as it should and that her will shall manifest. Her will is your wholeness, your completion. Her will must manifest and shall, because her will is nature. It is growth. It is God. She is God, in you, now. Remember that and you’ll realize (f you don’t mind the ending being told before the last chapter) that everything’s going to be okay….”

As we each checked-in, after grounding and centering in sacred space, we shared in brave space how we were experiencing the heartbreaking news of the day before. Those present were no longer threatened by the possibility of unwanted pregnancy, and yet, we all carried the same weight of sorrow and rage.

I was profoundly affected by the testimony of one of my sacred gardeners, who at 86 with severe vascular dementia, has long been my personal hero. She and her wife, long before I met them, were extremely active in the National Organization for Women (NOW). She reminded us that when she was born, women had gained the right to vote, but were still living limited lives. She can’t remember what she has spoken moments ago, but she remembers growing up during World War II, and how women stepped up to fill the needs of a country at war, as men left to serve overseas. She witnessed women stepping into their power and then the expectation they should simply give it back when the war came to an end.

It took my breath away to acknowledge that she was among those who fought for my right to choose my personal autonomy over the expectations of others, and that she may not live to see that right returned to her daughter and great-granddaughters, and all other girls and women for whom she marched, and fought, and served in her lifetime.

When I served in clinic defense with other warrior women (and a few men) in the 1990s, I met a woman who had three children on three different forms of birth control. She was there to protect and serve the girls and women who were choosing a different path than the alternative outcome of unwanted pregnancy. I was reminded that I was an IUD baby. What I know for sure is that if my mother had chosen to end that pregnancy that she and my father had not planned, it would have been the right choice. Every argument against a woman’s right to choose her own autonomy is wrong. Period. The End.

The US has been on this trajectory of destroying women’s freedom since the Reagan era. If you listen to the words he used to manipulate the masses, they were filled with false rhetoric to build on the fears of those who carry a lack-mentality. They bought the lies that would take us further from caring for one another because they were certain there was not enough for them.

In recent years, I found myself stepping carefully through the field of terminology. When a former roommate became defensive when I posted a meme of gratitude for having not become more conservative, he wanted me to understand he had not voted for tRump, but that he voted against Hillary Clinton on a third party candidate. I decided I would refer to the ‘GOP’, instead of ‘Republicans’ to differentiate those who were elected and those who were supportive of enabling an admitted sexual predator, domestic bully and terrorist from those who were decidedly not liberal Democrats.

From this point forward, I no longer care to be cautious with my words. The truth, in my lifetime, has always been that the Republican party stands on a platform that is solely committed to destroying the protection of women’s reproductive healthcare, removing affordable healthcare from those who need it most, enabling domestic terrorism through unrestricted rights to carry weapons of mass violence, murder, and destruction, removing the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ American citizens, and filling their pockets while stepping over those who lack the privilege they possess and ensure.

If you are reading this and are offended by the way that others see you, I challenge you to take a good long look at the truth of the party to which you have sold your soul. If you say that you don’t agree with what I’ve written, but that you are fiscally conservative, and therefore a Republican… you are lying to yourself… and you deserve better. Every Republican administration in my lifetime has blown the national debt to oblivion, while the Democrat administrations have reduced or even completely resolved them (Clinton left us with a surplus – immediately destroyed by Bush).

Any vote for a Republican, from this point forward (as ever), is a vote for the murder of women and children (either by forced pregnancy, life-threatening despair, or gun violence). One must come to terms with the internalized patriarchy and misogyny that leads one to be able to sleep at night knowing what horrors you have enabled.

Women and girls will die from ectopic pregnancies or naturally failed pregnancies that become septic. You will say that you are protecting the souls of the unborn, but that is a lie, too. The soul arrives with the first breath, not with the dividing of cells (affirmed in your Bible, as well as by psychic mediums and channels). More children will be born into poverty, a burden, and unwanted. These will be the ones who carry their ‘God-given’ guns you protected into school rooms to murder the children who were wanted, cherished, and chosen. You will not support these burdened women and girls, nor the children they were forced to bear. You will vote against their welfare, their living wages, and their physical and mental healthcare. You will not choose to become a foster or adoptive parent. You will blame the women and girls for the rising crime rates, too. Your religious beliefs will never be valid as long as you are voting Republican, for there is nothing Christ-like about that party. Please, prove me wrong.

If you are of the mind that minorities are becoming a majority, and that feels frightening to you, I hope you have figured out that white women of privilege will have the ability to travel for the requirement of their autonomy (paid for by married politicians, no doubt). You are, therefore, celebrating at the loss of Roe, a future that ensures you will be in the minority sooner rather than later. Personally, I can’t wait. The reason you fear being a minority is that you might be treated the way you have treated others. May your karmic reward be made manifest!

Sooo…. that was an example of channeling the dark goddess. I won’t take it back. I will, however, find my own balance that mingles with light. I will honor the rage and horror while nurturing the love and light that harkens the arrival of a new age.

The eyes of the world are watching what happens next. Mid-term elections have been fortified by this SCOTUS decision. The intuitive way-showers I follow assure us that this moment in our history is a catalyst. Fundamentalism and Fascism have partnered for American destruction of democracy and fundamental freedom. This moment has revealed the shadows hidden by darkness and all is illuminated. Women in the US have been living in the illusion of equality, when it was far from reality. That is going to change! We became complacent, taking for granted the hard-won right to vote has brought us to the brink of losing it, along with others. For now, we still have a right to light.

You brought the darkness. We have lit our torches. The light is returning.
Prepare to Burn!

There is Magick All Around You

I wonder how often the dreams of others actually come true. I don’t mean the random kind, like a young girl dreams of her distant future wedding day, but the kind that was so specific that it seemed impossible. I am not referring to the kind of dream that one manifests through hard work, like saving money to take a trip or buy a car. I mean the kind of thing imagined in youth, but never even contemplating placing on a manifestation board because it seems so unlikely that you’ve decided to dream of things more feasible.

Last week, it happened to me! I’m still processing it all, and my gratitude to those involved is impossible to express.

The dream was planted in 1986. I was in my final year of high school. I discovered the second recording of a concert. The first Stevie Nicks concert I saw was in 1982 on HBO. I was 14 and immediately fell in love. The next big event was Stevie Nicks – Live at Red Rocks four years later. I can’t recall if it aired on television or if we rented it from our local Video Village on VHS (pre-Blockbuster). What I can tell you is that I eventually owned it on VHS and later on DVD. It was THAT important.

I’m really not a crazy fan girl (well… maybe I am. I’ve seen her with and without Fleetwood Mac several times). But this woman does play a significant role in the spiritual journey of my life. I had heard the rumor in high school that Stevie was a witch. When I asked my brother about it, he said that she was a witch to Wicca as a Catholic is to Christianity. At the time, the only thing I could find in the library on the subject was in an encyclopedia. I made a copy of the pages and tucked it away. What I found in those pages didn’t draw me in, but I remained curious and open. My mom was paying attention (as always).

In February 1992, my mom signed us up for a women’s workshop at the Unitarian Church for a weekend emersion in neo-paganism with Margot Adler. A few weeks later, she signed us up for a 6-month class on Wicca (mom moved on when she knew I was not getting involved with a cult). Whether or not this was indeed her spiritual path, Stevie had influenced my life in a significant way. In that workshop and in the class that followed, I found my people. My life was forever changed for the better. There’s more synchronicity to unveil, but I think I’ll keep my visions to myself. (wink)

At the end of 1993, I called together a group of new friends, and we birthed our goddess group. Each of us at the beginning of a new path, we dedicated ourselves to exploring devotion, mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual growth, and to nurturing and celebrating the rites of passage through which we would each pass. Over time, my goddesses moved away or moved on, but we have never lost the deep connection that we chose to weave with one another. There is a deep, abiding love between this Tribe of beautiful beings. The magick circles we cast in our youth remain in the ether, and when anyone is in need – we simply step in and place them at center.

On April 29, I woke up before being ready to climb out of bed. I scrolled through Facebook and was reminded of my Tribe Sister’s birthday. Moments later, the phone rang to reveal her voice. “Happy birthday, birthday girl!”, I said. She laughed, the way she does which ignites my heart. She then proceeded to tell me that her husband gave her a birthday gift that she wanted to share with me. Can you guess what it was? Here’s a hint. My Tribe Sister lives in Colorado.

Prior to this call, I had been working on a plan with my favorite tomboy (my buddy since kindergarten) to take a road trip. It was slightly complicated by the difficulty of leaving my mom on her own for several days. But everything had finally fallen into place with our plan for escape. We would drive up to Georgia for a surprise birthday party for her mother-in-law, then stay a couple of nights with the boss who raised me, spend a day in our favorite art city, Savannah, spend one night on the beach with a friend and former colleague, then head home.

The problem was that the gracious invitation I had just received fell into that timeline. Now, I have responsibility in my top five strengths, so when I make a commitment, I keep it! My favorite tomboy knows this. So, I texted her to tell her about the call I’d received, and I was working through my mind a way to do both. When I told her that I was being given the once in a lifetime, dream-come-true opportunity to see Stevie Nicks, Live at Red Rocks, her reply was… that I must go.

At this point, my heart was already overwhelmed. My immediate thought about receiving this much goodness all at once was to wonder if I had done enough to deserve it. Could this really be happening? One dear friend had offered me a gift, and another dear friend offered me forgiveness, encouragement, and support. Meanwhile, as I began to figure out how to get there, a third dear friend arrived to make it happen. She is a flight attendant who just so happened to be flying to Denver two days before the big event (only 12 days away, at this point). She booked my flights and would hold my hand (figuratively) there and back again.

Now, the reason my lifelong friend and I were planning that road trip was that her husband was too stubborn to go (one of them would need to stay home to care for their pets and he tends to feel he is the better choice). When she told him she would be going alone, he changed his mind. He didn’t want her to drive that far, so he would go instead. This, my friends, was the big arrival of another gift. We knew that the Universe had conspired to, not only make my dream come true but to do the same for one momma whose only birthday wish was to see both of her sons. Don’t you just love the way magick happens?

I don’t think I immediately realized the power of this moment. It slowly dawned on me as I was processing the overwhelming sense of being loved and held by those who were rising up to make it possible for me, that I had held onto this impossible dream for 36 years. I was afraid to share it with others, because so much could go wrong, and loved ones would be forced to witness my disappointment. But those with whom I did share, each celebrated with me. There’s nothing like that feeling of genuine joy expressed by others as they witness your own dreams coming to fruition. Even my mom, who had seemed a little hesitant about my absence for our planned road trip, was delighted by seeing me get to have time with a Tribe Sister I rarely see and for the two of us to share this experience. This time, she worried that I wasn’t going to stay longer.

I had this strange sense of what that love coming at me felt like. I pictured a door. It was open, but there was a brick – not propping it open, but keeping it from flying all the way open. You know, intending to keep too much from entering. I’ve had this sense recently that when we protect ourselves from being disappointed or betrayed, we are not only keeping harm out, but also love.

When I experienced that sense of love flowing toward me, I wondered what it might feel like if I tossed that brick away and threw the door wide open. I still don’t know what receiving that much love all at once would feel like, but I’m open to the possibility. I challenged myself and my Sacred Gardeners to experiment with that visualization – and I hope you’ll join us!

Each morning, picture a door that is pleasing to your senses. Is it a wooden garden gate, or a door similar to your own front door? Feel the skeleton key in your hand and see yourself place that key into the keyhole of that door. Then turn the key, the knob, and finally throw that door wide open. Don’t be hesitant with worry about what may be found on the other side. Just push it with all of your strength and stand with your arms wide open to say, “Here I am love! Come and get me! I am open to receive.”

This was the first time I would travel by air since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of people lined up for the TSA security check at the airport was kind of terrifying. There were so many unmasked people, I hoped that being quadruple vaxxed and double-masked would keep me safe. After all, my body looks like those who end up on ventilators. I thought about calling my brother with instructions on caring for mom, should I not make it back.

But all went well. I was reminded of the way I chose to travel overseas many years ago, not as a tourist but as a pilgrim. When on pilgrimage, it is about the journey and what magick is allowed to happen along the way. It is never about hurried timelines or holding onto rigid plans. So, when my dear one informed me the flight was oversold and I may not have a seat, I repeated my little prayer, “Thank you in advance, dear angels, for getting me there and back again with grace and ease.” When I was handed my seat assignment, I said three ‘thank yous’, to the gate attendant, to my sweet friend, and to that unseen force that always wants the very best for us.

It was so cool to witness my lifelong friend on the job and to experience a moment in the life of a flight attendant. I stayed the night in her hotel room, where my Tribe Sister fetched me the next morning. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about these deep soul connections, is how easily we fall back into one another’s lives as if no time has passed at all. We may go years without being together in person, and yet, here we are in this moment feeling as if we have never been apart. I’m certain that is because the distance in geography is nothing compared to the closeness of the heart. When you hold a piece of someone’s soul inside of you, you are always together.

A major bonus of our three days together was getting to have a little time with her two kids, my goddess babies, now grown. As the women in my Tribe brought their children into the world, I always felt it a blessing to bear witness in one way or another. Being childless and single for most of my life with a soul-purpose of being of service, has left me feeling more like an observer in life. I have watched friends fall in love, get married, have children, and live fully committed lives while holding space from a distance. When the legacy of my loved ones seem to hold me close, I guess it makes me feel included. It surprises me every time. I will never take it for granted.

On May 11, we woke with anticipation of the day ahead. We headed through the mountains to Golden, where we had lunch and enjoyed popping in and out of shops (something I’ve not done for as long as I’ve not flown). Before we got back into the car to drive to Red Rocks, we stopped for a couple of iced beverages to keep us refreshed for the three hours we would wait in the parking lot. Being a Florida girl, I grabbed napkins for the inevitable condensation and was shocked when my Tribe Sister declined. She said that condensation doesn’t exist in Colorado. Nope! Unbelievable. I could not comprehend this idea. I kept my napkins close. I did not need them! I’m still a little WOWed by that discovery. I never imagined it to be a thing – no condensation on an icy cup! I wonder what other wonders await.

I’d been to Red Rocks Amphitheater as a tourist many years before. It was in the afternoon and there were no events happening at the time. I had imagined at that point what it might feel like to experience a musical performance while seated within this glorious lap of Mother Nature. As I ascended and descended the earthy red structure, I heard in my mind and spoke aloud the words from that well-watched video from 1986 – “Thank you, Red Rocks, Colorado!” This danced through my memories as we sat in camp chairs within the shade of the car to watch people lining up to ascend a long and winding ramp to the entry point. I sipped from my amazingly dry cup of iced chai, and enjoyed the view.

When the invitation first arrived, the weather forecast was cold and rainy. By the time my flights were reserved, things had changed and 90 degree weather was expected. On the day of the event, however, everything was perfect. It was a cool and sunny day with a delightful breeze. I carried a sweater for when the sun went down, but it was never needed. It turned out to be a perfect day.

We decided to take the shuttle up to the entry point. I would call it the top, but it was actually the stage level with 38 rows to climb, for us. That may not sound like a grand challenge, but when you live at sea level, already being a mile high means that your lungs are extra challenged by even a few steps upward. I could feel the lack of oxygen in my lungs for a while after we settled into our seats.

I recognized immediately our good fortune. The 38th row may not sound like a big win at a concert of someone you adore, but in the case of this venue, a great deal would be lost to be closer to the stage. From our center of the row location, we could see the stage clearly, but also everything that surrounds it and that which lay beyond it. As darkness fell, the lights of the city on the horizon danced above the stage like an intentional light show. It was stunning.

Stevie had asked her friend and mentee, Vanessa Carlton, to open for her. They had both been in serious lockdown throughout the pandemic, and this was the beginning of stepping back into the world they each loved after the extended exile. As Vanessa performed “A Thousand Miles” at the close of her set, we could see her facial expression change as she searched for the words of a forgotten verse. Later, as Stevie twirled into her third or fourth song, she paused. She said that the next song was a surprise… even to her… as her team sorted out the setlist. I had not previously considered the consequence of a performer’s return to the world they were forced to leave behind. It was a joy to see them find their way back to this sacred space.

When Stevie’s opening tune began, my Tribe Sister and I looked at each other through tears. We hugged one another with gratitude for all of it. That we were in this sacred space, on this perfect evening, manifesting-dreams formerly believed impossible, and most of all, that we were together. As overwhelmed as I was by the invitation, she felt the same about my willingness and ability to be there on such short notice. I think that may be one of the most beautiful things in life. To feel so deeply a sense of love and connection with a sacred soul, and to be met with reciprocity – to know without a doubt that someone else holds you in the same beautiful light. Stevie Nicks was amazing, but the light in the eyes of my beloved friend was what made this whole adventure priceless.

Getting to behold an evening of live music with my favorite, favorite of all favorite artists, while being held by the elements of earth, wind, and sky, next to one of my most sacred beings was enormously soul-filling. I hope my swiss-cheese memory never lets a single moment fall through the holes.

Stevie closed the evening with an apology to her audience that her set may not have been as long as it once was, acknowledging she is nearly 74, after all. She also wanted us to know there was nowhere else she’d rather be.

As I sit here in my living room, I imagine myself at 74. I definitely won’t be dancing on a stage in front of nearly 10,000 people. However, if I manage to live that long, I know that I will be deliriously happy to find myself sitting next to any and all of the beings in my life who either helped to make my dream come true or who loved me enough to celebrate this moment in my life as if it were their own triumphant glory. I hope you have friends like mine.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here. I hope that you are considering the position of the door to your heart and are inspired to throw it wide, while opening to receive the flood of love that is coming for you. May your wildest dreams, even those previously thought impossible, be made manifest with grace, ease, and delightful surprise. What I wish for you most of all, is that you are blessed to have friends who show up for you in that moment to assure you that you deserve this.

Welcome to the Light – A Rebirth

To me, today is a holy day. Not because of something that may have happened thousands of years ago, but because it marks an important, life altering anniversary. Nine months ago today (April 17), this small family gathered around a white haired and bearded sacred being of earth and sky, and witnessed his final breath and heartbeat. None of us got to see him come into this world, but we were so honored to hold space for his grand departure.

Symbolism is powerful in my life. You could say it is my second language. In the metaphysical world of intuitive gifts, I fall somewhere in the range of empath and claircognizant. I’m a feeler and a knower. Since I have asked the Universe to speak to me in ways that I can understand, I have found that if I pay attention, that line of communication is always open.

Four years ago, I saw the signs and followed the synchronicities. It was nine months after I danced out of the role that had long sustained me in the corporate world. The symbolism of that timeframe is obvious. It is a gestation period for human birth. In February of 2018, a courageous friend shared in brave space his diagnosis and prognosis. Brian opened a portal for me at that moment, and I picked up my torch and mindfully stepped through the door.

On new years eve, at the portal between 2021 and 2022, I shared on Facebook the final words that my father left for me in his “Memoirs for Melissa”. It felt like closure of some sort, to come to the end of his written page in the year that he died. I said to the Universe and my father’s energetic being, “Daddy, thank you for these stories. Thank you for showing up and for bringing other sacred beings to join you. Thank you for taking those painful lessons and difficult challenges of your youth and becoming a kind, compassionate, patient, loving, beautiful being. Now that I have heard your story through your words, I wish to tell our story through my words. It will be a book about making friends with death, about eldercare and self care, about the power of sacred ceremony to transform sorrow, about respecting the autonomy of those we love as they journey toward transition, and about giving the love that heals.”

Since I had been writing for the last four years, it didn’t take long to build my manuscript. I found the very best publisher with whom to partner by following the signs and synchronicities. A doula assists with transition and transformation. I had been my father’s end-of-life doula, and Sharon Lund at Sacred Life Publishers became my book doula. She helped bring my book to birth. I had already reached out to her because she had published another book on this topic, but I knew she was the one when she called me and the first three digits of her phone number were also one of my angel numbers, 808. I see these numbers frequently. They are in the email address of the Boss Who Loved Me, and I associate a sighting as a strong reminder that I am loved.

Sharon and I discussed the process and determined this project would take about three months to complete. An astrologer I follow (Annie Botticelli) had stated that the days between March 3 and April 27 would be ideal for the launch or birth of creative endeavors, as all planets are direct for this brief period of time. I may be a skeptical believer, but when messages arrive in actual words that don’t require symbolic interpretation, it seems prudent to follow. As we completed multiple edits and my dear friend crafted the cover from a beloved artwork gifted from my Tribe-brother, I considered the timing. April 17 would be the nine month anniversary of my father’s death. What are the chances that this exact date, with this symbolic meaning, would be remotely possible? According to Sharon, the chance was slim.

The final version went to the printer on April 14. Experience informed my book doula that it could be three weeks before it appeared for sale on Amazon. I knew it was going to be impossible to have my book officially published and available at Dad’s anniversary, but hoped it would at least occur before the planetary deadline on the 27th.

Because the seasons are shifting in Florida with the arrival of higher temperatures, I went ahead and secured the memorial tree I wanted to plant in my front yard. It would be dedicated to filling, somehow, the absence of my father and of my beloved ailing oak. So on the morning of April 15, the landscape professionals arrived, and were so patient and kind that they allowed me to read aloud my words and intentions, while also sprinkling some of my father’s ashes into the open womb of earth that would receive the tree I’d chosen.

“Hail to thee, sacred Traveler:

Nearly nine months have passed since your beautiful soul crossed through the veil of starlight. Your physical presence is terribly missed. Your spiritual presence is deeply felt with enormous gratitude.

When you left, our sacred oak, too, fell. The loss of you both has left a punishing light and sorrowful emptiness to fill the chasm of your absence.

May this tree be a symbol of rebirth. May these branches hold space to nurture and nourish the birds that bear your loving messages in a language I can understand. And may she grow taller, fuller, and more colorful throughout the years, providing shade and serenity for all to behold.

May the flowers that surround this keeper of your memory be a blessing to all you’ve cherished in life. May they blossom and bloom for your delight, with sweet memories of your grandfather’s garden.

May the sacred earth of my father’s former vessel bless these roots and hold them close, feeding beloved tendrils with the healing light of love.

Blessed be beloved beings. Your presence upon this sacred land will be a blessing for all my days that remain. Thank you for being healers, protectors, nurturers, and sentinels of peace, love, hope, and rebirth. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

As I poured the ash into the earth, I looked to find they had fallen first into the shape of a crescent moon, and with the final toss to empty the vessel, a straight line. My father’s remains had fallen perfectly into my own personal sigil (a magickal symbol I may use instead of my name) and also in the form of a handheld crossbow. This was something Pop had said to me after he broke his hip. He thought I should have one, and I figured it was the pain medication. But maybe . . . just maybe it was a portent.

Pop’s ashes form my sigil

Later that evening, I was having dinner with a friend inside a restaurant (a rare thing since the start of the pandemic), and I heard someone say my name. It was the Boss Who Needed Me and his wife. I can’t tell you how mushy I get when I see them, it is so rare. But he is such a significant part of my story, that my heart just melts in his presence. Though he was addressing my friend, I took what he said to heart. “I want you to be sure that when Melissa’s book is available, I will be informed. I want to be the first to buy it!”

So, last night (April 16) while hanging out with my Mom, I popped over to Amazon and typed the words that had only been mine for the past nine months. Mommy’s little secret until her arrival. And much to my surprise . . . she was there! Sharon says that Pop made magick happen for me, and I know without a doubt that this is true. I texted the Boss Who Needed Me to let him know that if he really meant it, this was his chance. He texted me back and said, “Melissa, we ordered it this evening.” So now… I am free to share the news with you.

Exactly nine months from the day my sweet Pop became one with the light of truth, he is being symbolically reborn in the form of a book that shall ever be his memorial. That this date also falls on the Christian celebration of rebirth could be a coincidence, but who would ever believe that? Dad sent the signs and I followed his guidance. He has always shown up for me when I needed him most.

Dear Universe, thank you in advance for allowing this work of love and light to be a blessing to others. The journey itself has already been a great blessing to me.

Welcome to the light, Persephone’s Passage! I’m so glad you are here.

PREFACE
“I once asked myself why I write and discovered that as much as I wish for my words to offer light and healing, I write for myself. I’ve determined that what I call a Swiss cheese memory allows me to live in the now. Accessing memories for me is a challenge, so when I read what I’ve written, it gives me the access I crave. Seriously, I have Googled things I’ve written to be sure they are mine.

The reason I’ve published these words is to give birth to something of myself that will remain when I am gone. It is a memorial to my father, and a tribute to the same care I intend to offer my mother, as I walk with her into the underworld (may it be a long, long journey).

Though I have loved and cherished many children and goddess babies, I have no children of my own. As I offer Persephone’s Passage to the light, I do so with reverence for its perfection. When I think of what ideal parenting might look like, it is to keep it safe, feed it well, and provide a firm and balanced foundation from which it may launch itself into the world. Once it is out in the world, my only expectation is that it exists in authentic truth and joy. I will not judge it by its number of pages, by its popularity and how many people call it friend, or by its income. I will not weigh it down with expectations of any kind. I will simply be grateful that I was blessed to have this creation of pure love move through me. I love it without condition.

May those who find it feel the depth of the love that resides within, and know that they, too, are cherished, valued, and sacred. Namaste. Blessed be. Amen. So mote it be. Aho. It is done.”

Thank you for walking this path with me, dear ones. Many have been extremely supportive of this endeavor over the last few months. Some have been more than supportive, and I am overwhelmed to the point of lacking words to describe how completely loved they have made me feel.

A mantra that I have engaged to help with feeling worthy of receiving, is this: “May I be a blessing to others; I am open to receive.” I am open and grateful!

When Dad died, I realized I would once again have to shift my self-identity. I am no longer his full-time caregiver. I am forever his daughter and also . . .
I am Melissa Baker, Author of Persephone’s Passage: Walking My Father into the Underworld – The Spiritual Journey of an End-of-Life Doula.

Persephone’s Passage may be found on Amazon, and soon will be available through other online sellers and even possibly in bookstores as Ingram distributors update their catalog.

Floating in the Light of Love

It has been quite a while since I’ve written in this sacred space. One reason is that I’ve been nurturing a project that will soon come to birth. Another reason is that in a world of chaos it is difficult to find clarity through which words may rise. My writing moves through me, and begins with fingers on the keyboard with a request to the Universe for the gift of words that might bring light. Today, the image and words that arrived were related to the familiar phrase–sink or swim. My logical mind immediately chimed in with the awareness of another option. . . to float. It’s my favorite!

At Imbolc this year, I planted my seeds of intention. One seed which has already taken root is the intention of togetherness. Physical togetherness has been a rare joy since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Though I have maintained connectedness with phone calls, zoom meetings, and letter writing during this time, seeing loved ones in person has been at a minimum. Since planting that seed, however, I have been blessed to have face-to-face time with many of my loved ones. It feels like such a blessing! To be clear, I never took these opportunities for granted. My soul sings with gratitude for each greeting.

Many of these gatherings have revealed a similar sentiment. We are all feeling overwhelmed by world news and local awareness of discouraging trends. It seems that the schoolyard bully archetype is looming large over the entire world these days. They are rising up to conquer a peaceful nation, to squash the hard-won rights and freedom to be authentic and safe for those who have had to spend their lives pretending, and to ensure that the promise of autonomy, equity, and equality for all beings gets ripped out of their walled gardens of self-servitude.

Feeling and witnessing this oppressive energy daily is soul-crushing. It is difficult to find the light in such darkness, let alone knowing how to BEE the light. (See what I did there?) For me, the best way to cope with looking forward is to reach into the past.

In the early 90s, a friend shared her understanding of our astrological move from the Age of Pisces into the Age of Aquarius. I know, we’ve been singing about it since the 60s, but if Mercury Retrograde lasts three weeks and has a two week shadow period. . . imagine how long the shadow period is for an approximate 2,000 year cycle. Feels like forever! The wisdom shared was that we are moving out of the patriarchal, war-mongering, money-obsessed era into one that feels more nurturing and inclusive. In this time, those who feel their perceived power slipping away are doing everything they can to prevent the arrival of such peace and balance. They are like rats in a toilet bowl, trying to lift the closing lid. They are terrified and THEIR fear is what we are feeling.

There were two big moments in my life that I identify as important lessons for my soul’s journey. I’ve written about them before. The first was in 2001 when a new boss arrived to end my 10-year career in a company where I’d been valued, appreciated, and fiercely loyal. The day I chose to leave was after a period of feeling unsafe, paranoid, and downright miserable. My Tribe and I had just celebrated Ganesha’s birthday and asked him to remove our obstacles. I never would have dreamed that my job was what held me back. But it was all of that discomfort that pushed me forward and into that next place, that better space for the growth of my soul, my income, and my future.

The next big moment was spectacularly similar to the first. In 2017, with the arrival of a new boss, darkness returned. I felt every portent of dread that I had felt before. It was a gift from an intuitive guide that informed me that as an empath, one can read the way our bodies feel to interpret messages from the Universe. I was feeling anxious, uncomfortable, paranoid, and miserable. There were moments when I feared I might suffer a stroke as I felt my blood pressure rise with shock and disbelief in what was happening.

When those words of wisdom were shared with me, it was a revelation! My whole body shifted out of fear and into peace. I understood in that moment that the Universe was telling me it was time to go. Something better is on the way. . .just like before. I instantly let go of the fear that was harming my mind, body and soul, and when that departure opportunity arrived, I joyfully danced out of the building.

Of course, something better did arrive with the unexpected discovery of the ability to retire from the corporate world. I never would have dreamed of it or sought it, because I was stuck in that old belief of what living (and surviving) looks like. Both of those life lessons taught me that when I feel uncomfortable, change is coming–and it will be for the better.

In these places of panic, when it feels like our world is falling apart, we often move into that sink or swim mentality. Either we violently scrape at the edges of a slippery slope with the hope of climbing out so that we can remain in that place where we’ve always been or we can let go and sink to the bottom because life is not worth living if it can’t be the same as it was. I say, screw that!

I don’t know about you, but I am quite buoyant and I intend to float through this current chaos. Surrounded by atrocities throughout the world, and right here at home with hateful and harmful legislation and rampant gun violence, I feel extremely uncomfortable. It feels impossible to find comfort and peace within when there are so many sacred beings who suffer at the arrogant and hateful hands of others.

If we are to understand that everything is made of energy (including us), then it feels far more helpful to reach out with love instead of fear. The Buddhist Art of Tonglen would have us breathe in their suffering and breathe out deep peace. Let me take in your fear and give you my comfort.

I am choosing to believe that what we are experiencing right now is the discomfort that informs us that change is coming. . . and it is going to be good. We are about to be liberated from working for an ungrateful boss so that we can learn to better serve ourselves and those we love.

The aftermath of the rise and fall of historical monsters was a renaissance of accountability and peace for the generations that followed the tyrannical downfall. The hard part is reconciling the devastating loss and destruction that came first. It is especially difficult when we are watching it unfold on every screen within our view.

So we focus on what we can do to nurture the source of light. We exercise our freedom to vote. We honor courage and heroism. We lift up the sweet songs of children finding safe harbor. And we float down this river of light with the vision of the stories of peaceful endings, joyful liberation, grateful celebration, and mindful rebuilding. We see this for countries at war and in our own country at war with itself.

We ignite that radiant green heart light from within and allow it to expand beyond the reach of our physical bodies, to encompass our neighborhoods, our communities, our cities and states, our countries and continents, our planet, our galaxy, and our universe. Everything is illuminated by the light of our love. See the face of the one who has made you feel most treasured, safe, valued and loved in this lifetime reflected in the faces of every being you meet. Know that you are safe and loved in this moment and that all is well and all shall be well.

Wherever you are in the world, and however you are feeling in this moment. . .if you are struggling to swim and feeling like you are about to sink, I hope you will choose to lean back and float, instead. May you feel yourself filled with and surrounded by the healing light of love. Everything will be okay. I promise.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

Stories from Beyond the Veil

Nearly 20 years ago, my parents and I attended a journaling workshop at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando (1U). I can’t recall exactly what I loved about it, but it involved a binder with tabs, and a specific suggestion for how to mindfully access memories in order to write them down.

We shared things we’d written, as we felt comfortable, with the class, and though I cannot recall (read: swiss cheese memory – things fall through the holes) exactly what my father read, I can tell you that it had impact. I asked my Dad, at the time in his early 60s and recently retired, to consider continuing the journaling project. I told him that I would love to have stories that he would share, even if a little tough to tell, that I could hold onto when he was gone.

I can remember my Mom telling me how enthusiastic he was about the project. She said that he was really into it. When he started having issues with neuropathy in his fingers (he typed with two forefingers on a good day), he acquired Dragon Software, so that he could speak his words onto the page.

My parents moved closer to me in 2014, and it was divinely timed. My father’s health gradually deteriorated, and I became his full-time care giver in 2018, until he died in July of 2021. During that time, I would often think of that project, and ask if he could tell me how to find it. He couldn’t.

When he was gone, it was foremost on my mind, to find the pages he had crafted. When cleaning out his office to turn it into a hospital room at home, so that we could bring him home as a virtual paraplegic after he broke his hip, I was mindful not to misplace or throw out any CDs that might have contained sacred data.

My brother came home for Thanksgiving. It was the first time we’d been together since he said goodbye to Daddy in the ICU. Mom and I had a few tasks for him, and my personal priority was finding Dad’s pages. He had to do some updates, but we were finally able to open and forward three documents to be reviewed. The first one is titled, “Memoirs for Melissa”.

When I started to read the opening of the first document, I glanced at the bottom left of the page to see how few pages were there. Only 6. There were only 6 pages in that first of three documents. That’s when I knew I couldn’t read right through them. I had to savor each paragraph. For once those pages were complete… the pages of each document… it felt as if my father’s story would also be complete.

I decided to share one story per day with my loved ones through facebook. I tag his five siblings, my mother and brother, and one of his cousins who still lives up north. I even initiated a hashtag, my first, as I’m really not a social media conformist. But I did realize how handy it might be to find the series of posts, once they were separated by anything else I may share on my timeline (mostly art that speaks to my soul) on any given day. So… #memoirsformelissa was brought to birth, by and for my father.

When I finished the first document of six pages, I opened the next. Only 9 pages, but some of the stories were simply cleaner versions of those in the first document. So, I opened the third and final document my brother and I found on Dad’s hard drive. There are 12 pages in that version. It is obviously the same document as the second, but waxes on a bit longer. I’m still not reading ahead, though. I can’t. I cannot bear the thought of an ending.

These pages, are delivering more magick than one might imagine. My first thought is about the priceless nature of these simple words on paper. My love language is ‘showing up’. I show my love by committing to be present, and by being reliable, trustworthy, patient, and kind. I ask for nothing more in return, and realize that this is not something everyone can offer. When I asked my Dad to consider dedicating his journal to his own stories he might leave for his daughter… he could have loved the idea, but failed to make the time to bring it to fruition. But that’s not what happened. My father showed up for me. He always did. Even months after his body was left behind, his spirit is rising from the pages he blessed long ago. This is my most valuable inheritance.

My next thought on the magick of Pop’s pages is the way his words, and mine combined, are inspiring and touching the hearts of others. I’ve received several private messages from friends who tell me how much they are enjoying Pop’s stories. One friend is even inspired to do the same for his daughters, realizing that we are now in our 50s and access to our memories is fleeting. He’s not wrong… my Dad started writing things down in his 60s. When I asked him to tell me stories in his 80s (after he’d broken his hip, and I feared our time might grow short), he could talk for a good hour, but the stories were less cohesive and not quite as full.

I love that people who knew my father, and people who are just now getting to know him through his words and mine shared on facebook, might just choose to leave behind their own magick to be unveiled by sacred beings who are hungry for their presence, long after they are gone.

I don’t really have anyone to whom my stories will have meaning, but I’m glad for my ability to write things down these last few years. My father’s stories from childhood are revealing to me the many hardships in his youth that paved the foundation of his becoming. His early childhood illness and disability (with asthma and epilepsy) carved out the future of a compassionate, patient, and kind husband, father, social worker, scout leader, dungeon master, and Santa representative. I can almost see each of his stories as the crafting of a single flagstone that is laid onto solid ground, and as my father steps forward, he crafts another and sets it down. Each of these stories, however far they may come from his past into his future, bring the man he was, upfront and center, into the life of his two children.

Speaking of his children, we have not made it into Dad’s storytelling, as of yet, and there are so few pages left. I am guessing that my brother and I will have to write the chapters that follow. I suspect our parents see so much of what they wish they’d done differently, they sometimes overlook the many things they did so well. For example, I know that Dad’s parents had personal challenges that made things difficult for their children. But those are not the stories that held the mind of my aging father… it was the goodness on which he focused. What a gift it is to hold space for every truth, not just the ones that hurt.

There you go again, Dad… still teaching me, even when you feel so far away. You just keep showing up! I’m so grateful for every little thing. I love you most.

Thanks for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

The Burden of Light

This week has been so heavy. It has been filled with monumental loss. Not unexpected, like the loss of my father just ten days earlier, but horrifyingly painful, nonetheless.

The ailing oak in my neighbor’s yard, which has blessed my property with glorious shade, beautiful wildlife, and extraordinary character for decades, was suddenly scheduled to come down.

My angel-neighbor, who had been fully present for the care of my parents during my (supposed) respite weekend, felt the stress of it all. She was warned of the insecurity of a tree with wounds that would not heal. There was risk to both of our homes. She was aware of how deeply connected her new neighbor was to the tree for which she had the responsibility to secure.

I knew it would be hard. I struggled with whether I could be fully present for the dismantling. It felt like the honorable thing to do… not to let a sacred being pass from the world without holding space and bearing witness. So, I stayed.

I missed the beginning of the work, due to a doctor appointment. I had one request for keeping a section intact, a branch that extended like a fork, where the hawk would perch, and the tufted titmice would gather to fly back and forth to the feeder. I would trim the leaves and create an art installation, so that it would remain in my life, in a new form. When I got home, that sacred limb was already in pieces on the ground.

The tree guy tried to comfort me. There will be more light. You’ll be able to grow grass. It is of no comfort to me, though. I don’t believe in grass. I find it to be a waste of valuable resources. My tree had been cultivated over decades to block out the light and the crowded lawn of the car-lover across the street. Its arms gave me the illusion of being in the middle of a woodland, with dappled daylight. The sun hurts my eyes, and I am struggling not to pull the curtains.

I sobbed uncontrollably the day Her trunk came down. Her branches showed no signs of decay. They were strong, and could have seemingly gone on for years. But the trunk did eventually reveal that deep wound. It was deep, dark, and smelled of rot. It revealed the threat, the risk, the reason for my suffering.

My sweet angel-neighbor felt every ounce of my suffering. I didn’t mean to make her hurt, too. I kept saying, “this isn’t logic, this is love.” I had given her my blessing for the removal, but I warned that I would grieve deeply. I was not wrong. I felt with my soul the teeth of the chainsaw chewing my flesh, and the descent of my broken body with each thud of falling wood.

The tree removal crew tore up my yard with machinery and severed limbs. It was a nightmare in every sense of a nature lover’s world view. Now that the work is nearly done, there is so much light that it hurts my eyes. It feels hot and unkind. I feel tired and defeated.

But I am also held and loved. Friends came on day one to say farewell to our tree, with a bottle of wine. Another friend came on day two to select bits of sacred wood, to later craft into a vessel of holding for my father’s cremains. He sat with me for a few hours, as I told stories of my family’s history on this land, near this tree. He held space for the loss of my father and the loss of my oak.

He listened as I worked through all of my own hard-earned wisdom. About how history has taught me that the worst things that have ever happened to me have mostly turned out to lead to the best things ever. That if I had not been catapulted out of one space, I wouldn’t have been open to receive when something wonderful came along. He understood the struggle of comparison between taking my father off of life support, and taking down a tree before it has fallen in a storm.

And my angel-neighbor… she got it all, too. She would never have chosen to do something that would cause me pain. She was being responsible to the safety of us both at the beginning of hurricane season. The tree guy seemed unavailable, and then he was suddenly onsite. We both knew it would be hard.

She came over with pizza and vodka the night before. 18 days apart in age, with a shared love of campy movies, we sang together every song in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The next morning, she held my hand as I said goodbye. We scattered rose petals for love, white sage for cleansing, and chips of morganite to heal trauma. We burned sage and three kings incense as an offering. We shared our gratitude and asked for forgiveness. I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor.

In fact, she is the neighbor I never knew I longed for. She is kindred. She is another soulmate (I have a few). So, after a day of distress and uncontrollable sobbing… I walked out to greet her. I hugged her and told her that she is my soulmate, and that we will create something new together. She was already working on a plan, a friendship tree that we would select and plant between our two homes. We will create a path from her front door to mine. I will plant a tree for my father’s memory at the center of my yard to block out some of the offending light, and new life will blossom on this holy land. And the soul of our tree will live on in new ways.

I have kept many branches and bits, for I could not completely let go. A large segment of trunk will become an altar, and at the Winter Solstice or at Imbolc, the element of fire will be nourished in memorium. Everything will be okay.

It may seem like melodrama, to display such dismay over the loss of a tree, but I hope you’ll see it as an extension of my love. One who loves deeply must also grieve deeply. So much has been lost these last two weeks. And yet… so much has yet to be brought to birth, and I cannot wait to bear witness to what the universe has in store. Everything will be okay.

Today, there is a great big hole between our two homes. There is a flattened stump where a sacred being once stood. Like photos of my father, there are only scattered logs and sawdust. The absence of them both leaves me with the burden of light. Maybe I should close the curtains, and forget for a moment that they are gone. It feels like too much empty space. It is sometimes hard to breathe. Everything will be okay.

The tears arrive unexpected and unbidden these days. Not long ago, I could not cry, for it seemed I might appear to the universe to be ungrateful. I was always grateful! And now… tears flow freely. Because… I am grateful. I am grateful to have known such love and to have felt such love so deeply. I am grateful for the shadows these two larger than life beings cast upon my path.

Today, I hate the light. Today, the light is too heavy. Today, bright light illuminates terrible emptiness. I am grieving. I am heartbroken and filled with sorrow. But I am also loved deeply, and held compassionately. I am grateful. I am tired. I am at peace. Everything will be okay.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

Boxing Up The Former Self

Mercury Retrograde is a good time for reflection and release. So, this weekend I started clearing out my closet. I left the corporate world in 2017, and I’ve spent the last four years, it seems, metaphorically unpacking. I started by figuring out what I DON’T want to do. I determined that I didn’t want to return to the corporate world, and I didn’t want to continue doing what I’d done for the previous 25 years. I spent a couple of years writing out where I’d been and who I was; curious about where I’m going and who I might become.

In the last year and a half, I have found purpose and direction. I have chosen to take what I learned managing the lives of executives – transforming those skills into eldercare management for my aging parents. Being of service is my joy, and I can think of no better way to serve in the foreseeable years to come, than to the endeavor of helping them each feel safe, nurtured, and loved for their remaining days. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to do so. Not only because I want to, but because my retirement savings and the 72T loophole allowing access to it, provides such freedom.

For quite some time, I have been aware that the clothing I actually wear is a tiny portion of what fills an entire closet (or two) and dresser in my home. My style never was corporate, especially since the last phase of my career was spent where business casual and jeans were permitted. But between no longer identifying with anything ‘business’, binding denim, or the maxi dress, bohemian goddess style that once resonated, there is quite a bit of letting go to be done in my dressing room.

What surprised me, as I started flipping through clothes hangers, was the hesitancy I felt. A lifetime has passed since I last donned any of these items, and yet… there was momentary uncertainty in pulling down each piece, folding it, and placing it in the box of surrender. Contemplating how much money was spent on each piece. Pondering a number of items never worn – as if I tried on someone else’s style, then failed to claim it as my own. Can I do this? Can I say farewell to that woman who abandoned her wardrobe? Will she return with regret for all she’s lost? Am I leaving her naked and vulnerable?

This culling feels like an act of severance. The woman who purchased these garments and wore them, doesn’t live here anymore. The current resident is different. Her once long hair, no longer dyed blonde, as all falseness and pretense has been cut away. Shorter, white and silver curls now frame her full and make-up free face.

This woman no longer tries to fit in where she doesn’t belong. She is finally exactly where she is meant to be. She is valued, appreciated and loved for exactly who she is, exactly as she is. Consequently, clothing once sought to make her feel pretty, professional, or desirable is being replaced with that which makes her feel nurtured, comfortable, unhindered, and unburdened. No more binding required, she is abundantly at home in her own skin. The opinions of others are not more important than her own comfort.

There is glorious freedom in this second half of life. Discovering that one can live a simple and joyful life with less (less income, less expectation, less judgment, less time given away to those who don’t matter) is liberating.

Perhaps I once bought clothing to fill a hole. I guess they call it ‘retail therapy’. It all seems silly and wasteful now, but I won’t belittle the woman I was. I will simply sit in gratitude for the woman I have become. I am now hole-less. I am becoming more whole.

As I pack up the remaining items that have caused me to pause, I will bless each piece with love for the new body it will embrace. As for each new owner of my former closet couture… May she feel nurtured, protected, comforted, and held in the light of love. May she know that she is already goddess incarnate, not because of what she wears on the outside, but for who she is on the inside. May she walk through the rest of her days in belonging, feeling valued and treasured exactly as she is, for exactly who she is. May she know that she is sacred and whole. May she feel safe, secure, and free to speak her truth and may she walk in beauty, having all she needs and plenty to share.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

This former wardrobe will be joyfully donated to a local charity called Adriana’s Attic, Inc. Their mission is: “To help adults and children in need of clothing, hygiene items, food, and medical supplies. We believe that spending a few hours volunteering your time to help the working poor and homeless in our community and around the world is critical.”

If you are in Central Florida and wish to support this endeavor, please visit their site to learn more: https://adrianasatticinc.org/

Read This To Me When I’ve Forgotten Who I Am

Every Saturday, since the Spring Equinox of 2020, I have hosted a weekly online gathering of my Sacred Gardeners. These beloved beings joined me for mindful workshops every eight weeks in 2019, and when we couldn’t continue the tradition due to Covid-19, we adjusted. During uncertain times, we found comfort in our togetherness, as we virtually gathered to find reassurance that those we loved were safe and well. We reminded each other that everything would be okay.

When we reached our one year anniversary of weekly meetings, and as we began to celebrate each vaccination, we affirmed how meaningful this connection has become in each of our lives, and how we wish to continue checking-in weekly, even when we are free to safely return to the former gathering schedule.

Following the Holding Space format of checking-in, which I learned from Heather Plett (in the nick of time – finishing up the 6 month course about the time that the world went into lockdown), we would take turns sharing what we’d been doing and how we were feeling over the past week, and then we’d check-out by sharing the plans we have for the week ahead, inviting support and encouragement, as needed.

A recurring theme, as I asked my sacred gardeners to hold space for me over the past year, has been about what I call my swiss-cheese memory… the way that things fall through the holes. I have mostly found comfort in my concern by realizing that I am forced to live more fully in the present, because I am not holding onto whatever may have occurred in the past. Though forgetting something important, like giving my Dad his morning pills, or locking their back door before heading home for the night, especially worries me.

Swiss-cheese memory isn’t new for me. Even as a teenager, my Mom would ask about what might be happening in the life of a friend, with whom I’d spent the day, and I could recall that we had deep conversation, but very little specifics (i.e., she got a new job, but I can’t remember where or doing what). I’ve joked that your secrets are safe with me, because I may not even remember that we ever chatted at all. I will sometimes start telling a story about a memory, only to be reminded that the person I am telling was with me at the time.

I was referred to a Neurologist a couple of years ago, and his assessment was that my memory wasn’t bad, but that I had trouble accessing it. He prescribed Topamax to see if it would help, but after a week of a constant headache and other discomfort (that I can’t quite recall), I let go of the dream of finding resolution.

This week, I actually forgot it was Saturday. Seriously. I failed to set the reminder for the call, and forgot to head to my parents’ place a little early to get Dad out of bed and fed to get home before the start time of my call. I forgot all about this event that I’ve hosted for 58 Saturdays in a row, until the alarm on my phone reminded me that I had 15 minutes before my Sacred Gardeners would arrive in our virtual circle.

Many of us speak of lapses in memory, and fears of being unable to learn and retain new things, but my biggest fear is that someone I care about will feel that something I’ve forgotten might mean that I do not care, that I was not listening when they were speaking, or that I have failed them in our friendship. I have only ever wanted to be remembered as a good friend, and someone who cared about the well-being of others. I hope that translates, somehow… even when I’ve forgotten your name.

I have often been inspired to sit down and write, but by the time I’ve gotten from the point of inspiration to my laptop, the reason has been lost. So, when I finish a piece and post it, there is a level of gratitude and celebration for the act of completion. When I started writing a couple of years ago, if someone asked me what I’d been up to, I would read them my latest blog post, because frankly, my answer would have been quite brief, unless I could also look at my calendar to be reminded that I did something fun last weekend. I thought that I was writing to touch the hearts of others, to inspire, to deliver hope, or to connect with my higher self to nurture self-healing. I figured this was my way of feeling seen and heard, after a lifetime of feeling invisible, in my own self-limiting belief.

But what I know now, is that I am writing for myself. I am writing to capture the memories I’ve been able to access. I am writing to share parts of myself that are faulty and vulnerable. And more than anything, I am writing so that one day, when I’ve forgotten who I am, you might read this to me, revealing the enormous love, bountiful blessings, and glorious magick that has manifested throughout my lifetime. You will remind me that I have been grateful for every little thing in my life, for the way that they turned out to be the important things, not so little at all.

So… in case I forget to say it later… Thank you for walking this path with me. I’m so happy you are here.

The Awareness of Joy

Last week, one of my Thursday circle-mates posed a question for our weekly conversation. It was based on a graphic she had shared earlier in the week, which found resonance. It was based on the idea of how we tend to be painfully aware of what triggers our anger, our fear, our trauma-based emotional and bodily responses to something in any given moment… and asking us to ponder what might be our HAPPINESS triggers.

Graphic that sparked our conversation / from mombrain.therapist, shared by
Women Veteran Social Justice Network

When I saw this, I immediately thought of a recent sensation I had while standing in my kitchen, after a friend had left for home, following our first visit in more than a year… now that we are both fully vaccinated. So… here’s the funny thing about this thought (see my post about my swiss-cheese memory: https://beethelight.blog/2018/08/14/a-blessing-or-a-curse/), I couldn’t remember exactly what it was. Ha!

I swear, it was profound… that thought and that sensation in that moment! I should have written it down. Sigh… What I decided to do, was to write down whatever came to mind on a list of Happiness Triggers. I am now keeping this running list open on my desktop, so that I can add to it when things come up.

(What that feeling might have been, I decided, was this: Not only the one-on-one time I get to share with someone I love, but the time that follows when I can reflect on our togetherness with equal gratitude for the time I now have to spend with myself.)

Walking home from morning ritual at my parents’ house up the street today, I was being triggered left and right, literally (magick happening in neighbors’ yards, as I passed). So, I came home to write it all down.

*Asterisk marks a happiness trigger

It all started when I *woke up in my own bed, *in my own home of 25 years, with *plenty of time for my morning coffee ritual before it was time to be responsible to others. I shook off sleep with *the sound of a favorite book being read to me through Audible. Making my morning pour over coffee has become a form of prayer. As I pour hot water over the grounds of my *favorite coffee, I start with a counter clockwise drizzle to release the oils, and I offer gratitude for the aches and pains I feel, which remind me I am human, and I ask for the release and resolution of it, too. Then, in a clockwise motion, I pour hot water over the grounds with my daily gratitudes to the elements. *I am grateful for the eastern element of air which fills my lungs with the breath of life. *I am grateful for the southern fire which inspires me to action. *I am grateful for the western water that cleanses and heals as waves of loving emotion flow over me. *I am grateful for the northern earth that holds and sustains me, keeping me grounded.

I continue the coffee ritual as I pour cream into my cup, using techniques inspired by Kyle Grey and Jennifer Weigel suggestions for manifesting magick throughout the day. *Thank you in advance, dear Universe, for revealing your magick to me today in ways that I can understand. Thank you for inviting me to be mindful and aware of the messages you are sending, and may I receive them with clarity.

I enjoyed the time I had to myself, with coffee, and reading updates from friends on social media, and then got dressed to start the ‘responsible to others’ part of my day. I stepped out into the beauty of the day, *warm sun and a cool breeze, under a blue sky with puffy white clouds, surrounded by lush greenery on lawns and treetops. As I ventured up the street, a *large dragonfly floated far above me, as I crossed paths with *a flock of young Ibis. I delight in their presence on my block, and always eagerly greet them with, “HI-bis!” They went about their business of bug plucking, and scooted around the *squirrels at play. A *butterfly fluttered by as I turned up my parents’ driveway (*just 7 doors up from my own).

Though I do quite a lot during morning ritual with my folks, there are more days than not, when happiness is triggered for the sheer fact that *all I do is in service to their love and care, which enables a flow that comes with grace and ease. These days, *when I come to the end and tuck them in for the night, and return to my home at the end of the street, I feel enormous gratitude and peace for the blessings we have to be able to live this lifestyle, and for my strength and ability to manage all three of our lives relatively well. I am grateful that on most days… *this feels pretty easy, even though it is quite a lot.

After getting Pop changed and out of bed and into his chair, giving him and one of the dogs their meds, cooking breakfast, cleaning the kitchen, and ensuring everyone had what they needed for a peaceful day, I headed back out into this glorious Florida day. I passed by the flock of Ibis (HI-bis! Say hello to Isis for me!), still doing their part to aerate our lawns, remembering that it was this yard through which I *witnessed an opossum crossing last night (Hi Possum!). Then, in the next yard down, I stopped to *watch a black snake slithering its way through green grass (Oh! Hello!)

As I watched the snake and waved fare-the-well, my neighbor drove up in his little red Moke, I remembered the *bunch of bananas he left on my porch last week, and hoped he enjoyed the Hummingbird cupcakes I baked and shared thanks to his gift of inspiration. Then *another neighbor passed, as I stood in my own yard, *chatting with a blue jay who was singing in my oak tree, and we spoke of the blessing of this beautiful day.

I entered my sanctuary with a mind to *love on my kitties, and to *write all of this down. Next on my agenda is to *indulge in a good nap, and maybe even *a hot bath with epsom salt and essential oil. The bright red *cardinal in the tree outside my window shows up to remind me that my love language is ‘showing up’. So, thank you for showing up, dear ones. I love you more.

By the way, my eyes roll back in my head at *the smell of sweetgrass when I drive through the mountains of North Carolina, and pretty much the sound of *anything performed by Stevie Nicks or Fleetwood Mac starts a bonfire of joy for me. I would love to know what you have noticed triggers happiness for you!


Thank you for walking this path with me, and thank you in advance, dear Universe for making this a magickal day.

*Messages from the Universe
Dragonfly
: self realization; emotional maturity and understanding the deeper meaning of life
Ibis: great wisdom and the ability to work magic
Squirrel: preparedness, abundance, multi-tasking, new-life, rest, better days, and laying groundwork
Snake: fertility or a creative life force, transformation
Butterfly: change, renewal, hope, endurance, and courage to embrace the transformation to make life better
Opossum: expect the unexpected
Blue Jay: truth, faithfulness, and solidarity because they are vigilant in their tasks
Cardinal: devotion, loving relationships, good fortune (for me – love is here)

Love is Viral – An Anniversary

One year ago today, I flew to Texas for a wedding. It was right at the beginning of the transition, from our former reality to the current (sur)reality of life in pandemic. This special occasion had been on my radar for quite some time. I did not know the couple well, at all, but I was invited by one of the great loves of my life… the boss who loved me.

Travel plans had been arranged in January, at which time, I was certain the concerns being raised about Covid-19 were overstated. Surely our leadership would make every effort to keep us safe. But days before departure, with an indication that our world would be shutting down after that weekend, the decision NOT to cancel overpowered the anxiety that affected my breathing. That empathetic symptom would rise, but not stay, over the next few months, as I questioned: Is this Covid, or is this anxiety? Is this Covid, or is this my annual allergy to oak pollen? Is this Covid, or am I just afraid that I will be responsible for infecting and killing my parents?

I flew in on Thursday night, and no one was wearing masks, but some were wiping down seats with disinfectant wipes. By my return on Sunday, there were several people in surgical masks for the flight home. The stress of travel in numbers was palpable. Gratefully, I had become conscious of touching my face twenty years ago, when I had lasik surgery and was warned about rubbing my eyes. So, I knew to be mindful of the transfer of germs from hands to eyes and nose, as a culprit for illness. Many trips through the subways in New York, holding onto poles and railings for support, helped nurture hyper-vigilance.

I arrived in darkness, and drove my rental Prius to the AirB&B. This was my first adventure with renting a room inside a house, as opposed to renting a whole house. I pulled up to the house, and received instructions via text message with a code for entrance, and how to find my room. There was no one around, but motion lights activated as I progressed through the foyer and up the stairway. I was quite pleased with my room with en suite bathroom. Though I never did meet my hosts, I felt safe and kind of appreciated the solitary nature of my stay. It felt like pilgrimage to me.

Because I was in a different time zone, I woke before the sun. I did some writing, googled nearby restaurants, and walked through darkness a few blocks to reach the one I chose. I was taken by the overwhelming cacophony of birdsong. I’d never heard anything like it. My friend told me later that they were migrating north from Mexico. I guess we don’t get that in Florida on the same scale. It was a glorious noise. There was one bird call that sounded to me like a slide whistle. It was dark, and they were in the trees, so I couldn’t see them. Later in the weekend, I figured out that they were Great Tailed Grackles… my new favorite.

Pre-Dawn Breakfast at
La Gardenia Restaurant, San Antonio, TX

I wasn’t going to meet up with the family until the traditional Chinese rehearsal dinner, so I had a full day for exploring the area. I’d heard a great deal about the Riverwalk area of San Antonio, and I’d hoped to find some good art galleries to devour. So, I started toward one end of the walk, thinking I would meander for a while and hit several along the way. Since I had such an early start to my day, I was apparently out too early for the art community, so I grabbed a latte at Halcyon Southtown, then walked along the river until Blue Star Contemporary opened. It was a beautiful day. I passed a few people on the trail, but it was clear that the world was starting to grow quiet.

My favorite exhibit was called Common Threads by Candace Hicks. She hand stitched 18 journals on canvas, each filled with synchronicities from stories she’d read and conversations she’d had. I read every single one, wearing white gloves and laughing or gasping at the brilliance of each piece. By the time I was done, I was ready for a nap… and then I would be off to start the family celebration. As I slipped into my private suite in a stranger’s house, my thoughts were on the words and letters that are stitched into the sturdy, canvas pages of my life with the boss who loved me, and how her beloved son’s marriage would be the beginning of a new journal for them.

From Candace Hicks’ Common Threads at BlueStar Contemporary

When I arrived at the restaurant, my heart was already reaching. The last time I had seen her, we dialed up the boss who needed me (who hired us both), and as we got caught up on each other’s lives, I shared that I was considering not returning to the corporate world. I remember worrying about what they might think of me, for considering such a choice, when they had both worked so hard and given up so much of their personal lives until they each retired near age 60. I don’t know why I would be surprised, there was no judgment, only love. As I am for them, they will always be delighted for my authentic happiness.

You will probably think this sounds goofy, but when I walked into the restaurant, and saw my tiny sacred being for the first time in two years, my whole body lit up. It was much like the moment in a movie, when two loved ones are reunited after multiple obstacles have kept them apart. My spirit released a heavy sigh, and said: “Finally… it’s you.” There might have been an orchestra playing, I can’t really say. It may have only been heard inside my head.

Sadly, the boss who needed me was advised not to travel, so upon arrival, I only knew two people gathered for the wedding weekend, having met the groom and the sister of the groom only once or twice over the years. The parents of the groom, I knew well. I was seated at a large round table with other loved ones… and despite my difference (the only white girl at the table), I felt accepted and embraced by the people who had gone to college with the boss who loved me, or who had been treasured neighbors where she lived before she started the last phase of her career.

The neat thing about a destination wedding, is that there are multiple gatherings over the weekend, which allows one time to get to know the other important people in the lives of those for whom you are standing witness. The weekend included a traditional Chinese rehearsal dinner with 12 courses on the first night, including a roasted suckling pig – a symbol of the purity of the relationship being honored. The second day brought the blessings of not only a wedding, but also, a traditional Tea Ceremony honoring both sets of parents and the newlywed couple, before the reception. The final event was a brunch at the same Chinese restaurant, to send-off the guests departing for home.

Each event offered a series of traditions that were honored. Always the teacher, the boss who loved me and her husband explained every step… in English and in Cantonese. I wish I had taken notes. After the extensive meal, there was a comb ceremony, where the bride’s hair and the groom’s hair was combed by their parents. Again, the traditional blessings were spoken in two languages by the Groom’s parents:

May your marriage last a lifetime
May you be blessed with a happy and harmonious marriage until old age
May you be blessed with an abundance of children and grandchildren
May you be blessed with longevity

The wedding ceremony was a ‘marriage’ of Western and Eastern traditions. The happy couple walked down the aisle in tuxedo and white dress, then changed briefly into traditional dress for the tea ceremony, then reappeared as before. The symbolism of the tea ceremony was of the children honoring the parents and their elders, while the parents and elders / ancestors offered blessings to the children. And then… there was food, wine, and dancing.

It was a pleasure to get to know the couple through their own eyes, as they spoke of their own love story, and to see in the groom the influence of his loving parents, whom I know so well.

Gathering for Sunday brunch before heading home was bitter sweet. These were now my people… those who threw the party and those who joined me in attendance. I felt accepted and embraced in this sacred collection of souls, and I was painfully aware that this kind of gathering would be the last, for a while.

I could have floated home, after a bookend afternoon alone on the Riverwalk, but for the heaviness in my heart. With a racist in the White House, xenophobia was already on the rise. I knew that my privilege was to travel while pasty white, while the person in the highest position in government was referring to Covid-19 as the China Virus.

I would be enormously cautious on my way home, and I would wear a mask for two weeks afterwards to ensure my parents’ safety (seems silly now that I didn’t do it the other way around, and wear a mask while traveling… the world was different in that moment). But I knew there was a very real concern for the safety of those from whom I had just parted. I worried for them, and I still do, as xenophobic attacks on Asians continue to rise. Those who enflamed, enacted, and enabled these actions are unforgivable and complicit in the harm that has come to our Asian American community, either physically or emotionally.

I would like to declare to the universe that LOVE, not hate, is viral. Let it be known throughout the world and for all time that we are all the same. We are all worthy of respect and caring, love and devotion, equity and fairness. We have all we need and plenty to share, so lets spread that love around. No one can be a threat to the love you have when you are inviting love to grow within and sharing it freely.

Finally, at this one year mark, many of us have or will soon receive a vaccine for our individual and communal protection. May the lessons we’ve learned stay with us long after the world has reopened. May we take not for granted the sheer joy of gathering in celebrations of love – new love, long love, family love, community love, earth love, lost love (especially poignant, as funerals and memorials have been delayed for so many), and every incarnation of love made manifest. May we hold onto what has been found in silence and solitude, as we have gathered up the beauty of our true selves formerly hidden in perpetual activity and distraction. May we find more ways to live fully, as we are no longer defined by the work we do, but by the love we give. And may all of the inequities and disparities revealed by this pandemic be permanently brought to light and find healing and grace for the change that is long overdue.

Happy Anniversary to the Happy Couple, and to those of us who made it safely through an extraordinary year. There is hope on the horizon and love lights our way. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.
MAY YOU BE BLESSED WITH LONGEVITY.

Somewhere along the San Antonio Riverwalk, March 2020

Gratefully Exhausted

I cried… first thing this morning as I saw images of his departure. My whole being relieved with a sigh, a shudder, a sob. I was bullied as a child, and the last four years have felt like being on high alert, awaiting the final, fatal blow from an abuser.

That 73 Million countrymen and neighbors would have brought such a beast back into my home, after witnessing the bruises and scars of the last four years, gleefully handing him a bat to finish the job, remains something to be dealt with. Forgiveness must come, for we know it will only ooze beneath the surface – and look what happens when disrespect and loathing is left to fester – January 6, 2021 – another day of infamy. But still… accountability is necessary for forgiveness, and healing comes as words meet action. Trust has been diminished, but hope has been rekindled.

A woman who was once a boss, recently died. She remains an important part of my life’s story, despite having been one of those bullies and abusers. Her behavior and actions led to my departure from a workplace I thrived in for a decade. As time passed, I could see the beauty of that blessing. Her tyranny pushed me forward. What started as defiance to make a point to her, became the open door through which I walked into a new and better life. So, I have said a prayer of gratitude to her departed soul. Thank you for revealing to me that life can be so much better.

I feel that these last four years have been that sort of lesson for this beloved nation of ours. Pulling back the veil of denial and darkness. No longer willing to sit idle in apathy while our fellow Americans are brutalized, bullied, and abandoned – we are invited to ‘rise by lifting others’ [R. Ingersoll]. As we witnessed in our pandemic stillness that which we could not turn away from, it was up to those of us in privileged (if unintentional) ignorance to educate ourselves, to be vulnerable with our truth, to seek the forgiveness of those whom our lack of consciousness may have harmed, and to do everything in our power to make it right.

Those first tears of the morning were a release and a relief. My body informed me of the tension she has held these four long years. The abuser has left the building. Thank you for revealing to us that we can be so much better.

Millions will surely write of today’s Inauguration. I feel that my words could never do it justice. I felt a sense of pride and gratitude to see that though it was far from normal, sacred ceremony continues to be a balm for healing… even when masked and physically distanced.

Every choice was made with intention and purpose, and every element delivered hope and glory. I cried… a lot.

Our country should have celebrated our first female president in January 2017. I am certain it will be revealed that the popular vote would not have been her only win, as more and more truths are revealed in the years ahead. But without the chaos of the last four years, I’m not sure that we would have progressed as much as we are about to. So many of us would have missed the opportunity for enlightenment. Gotta love that pendulum swing!

There’s so much more to say and to consider. We now have a President who is responsible and compassionate, and our first (but not our last) female Vice President, who is brilliant and strong. I will not pretend that they will always be the perfect leaders, but I am certain they will lead with mindful compassion for people and the planet, with truth and integrity at the core of each decision.

I believe the world is slayed by the poetic perfection of Ms. Amanda Gorman, whose words carry the weight and the hope for where we’ve been and where we wish to be. I am physically and emotionally spent from four years of fight or flight survival. We all deserve a hot bath and a nap today!

So, here’s to the end of an error, and to the light of new beginnings. May there be accountability and justice, woven with healing and growth. May we continue the hard work of creating a more perfect union bolstered by equality AND equity. Let this new decade finally begin, and let respect and caring help bring this pandemic to a close, as we grieve those we’ve lost, and lift those who continue to fight for the lives of those they took an oath to serve and save.

Thank you for walking this path with me. Please stay safe and well, for you are sacred. I love you!

The Empty Calendar

Today, I pulled down the 2020 calendar to be replaced.

It was a gift from my financial advisor, featuring paintings from The Saturday Evening Post. Once upon a time, I would have passed on such a gift, seeking something more me… with artwork from a Pre-Raphaelite artist or Mary Engelbreit, but since I owe my current lifestyle, in part, to the compassionate insight of my financial advisor, I liked the idea of holding him close. (Thanks Tony!)

What a strange thing… to flip through the pages of a bygone calendar year like the one we’ve just narrowly escaped. To be honest, the world I manage resides mostly on google, but the big things would usually go on the wall calendar. Like a visit from my brother and his family, a trip that might take me out of town, or a workshop I designed to share with others.

In this case, January reminded me of a friend’s knee surgery, Second Sunday Supper, Book Group, and my 51st birthday. February boasted my second annual Seeds of Intention Workshop (where we would assess the different areas of our lives to determine where we wanted to focus our intentions for… the year ahead), filing my taxes, and what would be the last time we would get to see my brother and his wife, who had come up from South Florida.

Then, I flip to March. It’s kind of eerie to look at. There’s a trip to San Antonio for a wedding, followed by a countdown. 14 days to wear a mask each time I entered my parents’ home. Somewhere in this wordpress account, is an unfinished post about the beautiful wedding I attended. It remains unfinished… much like the calendar.

Page after page of 2020 is blank. Void of significant pronouncements. Right up until October 20, which reads: “Dad Broke Hip”. Then, “Pop to Rehab”. In November… there was one weekend marked with something completely different – a two-day escape with a friend to Merritt Island. Then the day before Thanksgiving, “Dad Discharge”. December, again, is blank.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I did nothing with my days. They were filled with enormous care, and loads of love. I have no regrets for the extreme caution we have chosen, in order to keep ourselves and those we love safe and well (not to mention those we don’t know, but care for just the same). Many of those days were filled with learning and growing, with spiritual deepening, with virtual connectedness, and the acquisition of new tools and new skills in the art of eldercare. We miss our people, but so far… though physically distant, we are still all present and accounted for.

But so many are not as lucky as we. Those blank calendar pages remind me of all the lives that were brimming with to-dos and check marks of accomplishment, with no more pages to be flipped. My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones this year, whether to this virus, to dis-ease, despair, or the horrors of brutality. I grieve not only for those who were unable to have the hand of a loved one holding theirs at departure, but for those they have left behind, without the opportunity to be surrounded and held by those who love them, each longing to ease suffering in the smallest, but most meaningful way.

I remember feeling so lucky that Dad had remained relatively well all year, because I couldn’t imagine him being in a hospital or rehab facility, should there be covid restrictions prohibiting visitors. When that fifth fall in a week broke his upper femur, I was relieved to know that he could at least have one visitor each day.

My parents and I have stopped doing the whole gift thing for Christmas. So, this year I bought us the box-set of the 90’s TV series, Northern Exposure. We’ve been watching two episodes each evening. It is a delightful way to end each day. A gift that keeps on giving.

One of the episodes we watched tonight was an old favorite. I think of it each year around the solstice, as the town gathers to celebrate the birth of the Sun, through the indigenous tale of the Raven. The episode takes us through the lives of our beloved community, each unique and fantastic… valued for their individuality and authenticity. Each honors the season of light in their own way, and their community holds space for all of it.

I could weep to remember that this world my parents and I are diving into, with intense longing, is fictional… but frankly, it reminds me of what it means to be Unitarian. I was blessed to grow up, not in a dogmatic religion that excludes the ideas of others, but in a loving community that honors all traditions, and has space at the table for everyone, including Mother Earth, herself.

In a year that has made consumerism feel rather foolish, I was struck by a quote from the town DJ and philosopher, Chris in the Morning: “Happiness doesn’t come from having things… it comes from being a part of things.”

Being a part of several sacred circles this year has delivered great light and joy, in the darkest of times. The big events on the 2020 calendar were few, but commitments to weekly or monthly gatherings on Zoom were consistent and sustaining. We all long to gather again, in safe spaces that are free from shields and obstacles, but what I know for sure is that we can do hard things. We can love others enough to keep them safe for a few more months… or several, if necessary.

As I hung the new calendar where the old one used to be, I opened it to a blank January. So far, it is marked for Inauguration Day and my 52nd Birthday. These pages are holding space for hope. One day, I will get to mark a square with ‘Vaccines’ for the three of us. And then, maybe… at some point… my brother and his family will get a few squares. That will be something to celebrate, indeed.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I am grateful for your presence in my life. Please know that if you are walking through your own darkness, or living with the ache of longing due to a loss that cannot be whispered or spoken, you are held firmly in the light of love. May the Raven soon carry the light of the Sun to brighten your heart and sky. I love you.