I’ve returned to complete my homework assignment for tomorrow’s final Expressive Arts project… a living eulogy to the final (most recent) photo of the six selected. This picture is from last year… and it was taken by the extraordinary woman who has led this series. I can’t really say if this is a complete representation of a life well-lived, so far… for SHE is possibly more than I can yet comprehend. However, she does deserve my devotion, my reverence, and my words. May they do her justice.
Her parents almost named her Samantha, but it was MELISSA that stuck. She never imagined how she would grow into her name.
Melissa means honey bee in Greek. Thirty years would pass before she understood the significance of such a moniker. It would take even longer for her to own it.
In ancient Greece, those who were priestesses dedicated to nurturing the temples of the Goddess were called the Melissae. They tended the eternal flames, chanted the sacred words of healing and devotion, and they served their sisters with loyalty and reverence.
In her own way, our Melissa has been dedicated to service, as well. She reveled in service and sisterhood to her most beloved Tribe for twenty years. She worked in service to Maxine, Don, Dan and Daisy for what combined to equal a quarter century. Through them, she found purpose and partnership that delivered validation, until she learned to value herself. Retirement at forty-nine allowed her to be of service to her parents when it felt like the very best use of her time.
To Melissa, friendship has been such a gift and among her greatest treasure. She was blessed to meet her first true friend at the early age of five. She has important friendships from every decade of her life. Each are unique gems that she carries in her heart at all times, so that her love may never be far from those she adores and holds sacred.
Though Melissa chose not to have children, she has loved many as her own. She was even present for the birth of five. Certainly, she was present in spirit for all the rest… the legacy of her Tribe.
She once cared for a beloved 18 month old, when she was most in need. For one month, with a little help from friends, she made that sacred being her greatest priority. It was the most terrifying thing she ever did – being responsible for the well-being of a tiny human, and she considers it the most important.
Into her life, five beloved beings pounced and purred. The first one brought her liberation and independence. The second taught her how to love without condition – she was her familiar. The third was a big fluffy ball of light who taught her how to be a caregiver. The fourth showed her how it felt to be adored and how to survive traumatic loss. The fifth is showing her what pure, angelic goodness feels like. These are her children. No one else has shared her life so intimately.
First with her parents, then with friends, and even on her own, Melissa has enjoyed the pleasure of travel. She has a passion for walking with other cultures and touching ancient history. By the time she was twenty, she had been to every state on the US east coast, to California, Nevada, and Arizona, Mexico, England, France, Scotland, Turkey, and Finland. The latter trip, a second-place prize for a senior year writing contest. She holds certain parts of the world so dear that she has returned, more than once, to England, Scotland, and Wales. At the age of 39, she declared she would stop waiting for someone else to make her dreams come true, and she traveled to Ireland on her own. Living there or in Cornwall for a portion of the year is a dream she longs to manifest.
She has never been married, but has never lived without extraordinary love in her life. She has made poor choices, but has no regrets. She has learned and grown with gratitude, instead.
She has been a loyal and dedicated partner and secret keeper. She is a beloved and appreciated daughter and sister. She is a compassionate and caring friend. She is a Priestess of Artemis – a warrior woman whose weapons are words… they AIM to heal.
She is a woman who spent her life searching for someone to love her enough. Until one beautiful, miraculous, glorious day, the search was over… SHE FOUND HERSELF!
Last week’s Expressive Arts evening was amazing. We gathered in a circle and selected the next photo from our personal history, and placed her in the center. With our younger selves before us, we were invited to give her a nickname. You know… if you were able to give your inner maiden a name, rather than a name given to her by others… what would it be?
I looked at the photo of little Missy, right around the age she would be preparing to go to kindergarten, and the name that rose to mind, inspired by her tanned skin and nearly white hair, bleached by the sun… was Desert Moon Flower. We introduced our younger selves to our sacred circle, and we danced to the glory of her existence.
We then spent some time with a technique called touch drawing. I consider myself to be well-gifted in the art of writing, but not so much in other mediums, but let me tell you… this form of art was seriously fun, and gradually… liberating. It involved oil paint rolled out on a slick surface, with tissue paper gently placed on top. Then, touching the paper, however you were moved, and pealing it up to reveal your creation. I made eleven. One of which you will find below.
Our homework for this week was to finish a story. All we were given was… “Once upon a time”. So, here it is…
Once upon a time, there was a young maiden whose skin was darkened and freckled, with hair bleached nearly white by the radiance of her heart, which shone like the sun. They called her Missy, but I knew her as Desert Moon Flower.
She loved deeply and trusted everyone. One of her strengths was to see the good in others, and that was the seed that grew into unconditional love.
She roamed the neighborhood on her yellow bicycle with training wheels (which made her feel just a little more courageous than she really was), while wearing a faded red bathing suit, in which she felt as confident as Wonder Woman, even without bracelets of submission. On her travels, she would befriend those she met. To each, she offered kindness, compassion, and friendship. To be sure, there were villains in this story, but she eventually figured out the truth… that those who could not accept her offerings simply lacked the blessing of a life experience that taught them that kindness could be genuine and worthy o f trust. They learned to bully their way through every meeting to avoid the humiliation of betrayal. They learned to hurt others in hopes of not being hurt themselves.
Unfortunately, the villains were many and persistent. But instead of teaching Desert Moon Flower that she should hurt others before they could hurt her… she learned to hurt herself, so they wouldn’t have to. She never stopped offering kindness, compassion, and friendship to others… but she did stop offering it to herself. The bullies were her best teachers. They taught her what it felt like to receive cold, prickly energy from others, and that she would refuse to allow others to receive it from her. So, she internalized it all. Better to hold it in than to let it out and wound another. It’s too bad the lesson was lost on her… if someone shows you how not to behave towards others… why on earth would you behave that way toward yourself?
As the years passed, Desert Moon Flower gradually dimmed her light, and her skin grew pale and her freckles faded… her hair darkened and dulled. She witnessed her body changing over time, and instead of being her friend, she became her bully. She put away the faded red bathing suit with bitterness and shame. She faced the mirror and chastised her body for all it was not – she had offered compassion to others, but kept none for herself.
She was a friend to many, no matter their social status, but she was never a friend to herself.
As she stood in the mirror and told herself she was fat and ugly, her body complied… for a while, only in her mind, but with persistence… her body manifested extra pounds as if to say, “Okay, I believe you!”
Over the years, Desert Moon Flower gathered friends into a sacred bouquet, nurtured by her attention and fresh water, but decades would pass before she would realize that she deserved the same care.
At age 50, Desert Moon Flower is still offering kindness, compassion, and friendship to others, but what has changed is that she now offers the same to her own reflection.
You may not see her riding through the neighborhood in a red bathing suit, but you may see her dancing with the wind as she attends nature’s nightly sermons. You can tell that her inner light has returned, as the hair at her temples has been bleached white and though her skin is still pale, it is in reflection of the moonlight in which she lovingly bathes, which caresses with adoration, every curve of her beautiful, beloved, sacred body. If you see her, trust that you will have a good friend in her, and don’t be afraid when her light grows to illuminate and reveal your own glorious truth. That you, too, are lovable, beautiful, and worthy. Desert Moon Flower is still out there, and she can’t wait to see you shine!
This is where the writing stops (for now), but it is definitely not the end. For Desert Moon Flower, as for all of us, every day brings rebirth, so…
Thank you for walking this path with me. This week’s session is dedicated to seventeen year old Missy. I can’t wait to see what healing awaits, can you?
This morning I woke to the awareness of closure. Several hours from now, we will close the door on the year 2018. I have friends who do an annual letter to summarize the year for themselves and their families each Christmas. For someone with swiss-cheese memory, where huge chunks of what happened yesterday tend to fall through the holes, the thought of reviewing the year seems like a herculean task.
So, I called to mind the metaphor with which my soul daughter gifted me in a reading this year. Each time I asked my psychic friend what I should be doing with my life, she assured me that I was already doing it. She said that my guides were showing her a long dark highway. She saw me in my car with a full tank of gas. My car was safe and my GPS was guiding me forward. On this safe but unknown journey I could only see what was illuminated in my headlights. My only need was to pay attention to what may be revealed in that glow without worry of what lies ahead. My instructions were to just keep driving.
When I consider this metaphor for the year that I leave behind, I see that road as a highway with big green signs overhead. In my mind’s eye, I am driving through 2018 from start to finish, as I drive beneath the signs of direction which I followed without hesitation, signs for rest areas where I received love and healing, signs for nourishment which came through more than food, but also through sharing art with others, and signs of arrival and departure as I made new friends and let go of people and clutter that littered my highway.
Every time I sit down to write, I start with a blank mind and blank page, and wait to see what my fingertips reveal to me. I can’t wait to see what I find at the end of this imagined ‘road trip’.
I finished 2017 having departed a beloved workplace of nearly 16 years, and then working briefly for a company that felt toxic enough to inspire me to take the rest of the year off. I entered 2018 having no real direction beyond overcoming fear and seeking a job that would bring more of the same. After all, what does one do with a 25 year resume in a single role?
So, the new year started with an updated resume and the encouragement and support of seven executives I had cared for, in one form or another, in years passed. I received daily notification of job postings, but none bore any appeal, and worse, the very review of tasks involved turned my stomach. After a few months, I was determined not to work somewhere that would feel like a betrayal to my soul, and cashed in my employee stock savings into which I had invested for a decade and a half.
While determining what I was NOT willing to do, I continued to be grateful for what I was now free and available to do… to rest, reflect, recover, revive, and to serve my beloved community. When a full-time job was in the way, it was difficult to find the time and energy to be of service to others. I was already giving nearly everything to a corporation, and for the last few years I was there, the stress consumed so much of my life source that my social life was malnourished.
In this new beginning, I was able to serve my parents with more presence, and assist friends who were dealing with serious health issues. I became an occasional driver, wheelchair maiden, medical witness and scribe, communications director, and healthcare advocate. While I wish that my parents and friends had no such need for support, I am grateful that I could be present… holding space for each challenge and celebration of overcoming.
Looking back, I wonder how I ever had time to work a full time job (kidding / not kidding). There was so much living to be done, and I was missing it. I ran into one of my retired executives earlier this month who said practically the same thing… “Melissa, I had no idea what I was missing while being so devoted to my career.”
Each day of this year, I have been thankful to the powers-that-be for expelling me from that job I thought I loved. The truth I have found is that it was always about the people, and once those people were gone, so was my reason for being there.
When I look in my rear-view mirror of 2018, I see the sign posts for things I have chosen to leave behind. I have driven beyond the need to be validated by a boss, a job, a title, or a salary. Living simply, I no longer feel the need to fill my home or my closet with objects that serve no purpose but filling an unacknowledged void.
The excursions I took as I followed the signs of synchronicity were far more important than I dreamed they might be. My friend Brian’s terminal diagnosis led me to the study of End of Life Doula, which has taught me a great deal about how to plan for the future that is certain, and to live more fully with uncertainty.
The invitations I received to travel with friends were accepted without hesitation, since I didn’t have to accrue vacation time, or ask permission to leave my desk. Each trip taken allowed me to connect deeply with friends who own real estate in my heart. The signs I followed took me to New York City on two occasions to see Broadway shows and experience the city from different perspectives… once from Astoria in Queens, and once from Harlem. We saw Kinky Boots in April, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in May. Back home, I was blessed to enjoy the theater with friends. This year we saw Lion King, Hello Dolly, and thoroughly enjoyed Aida, the Musical and Elf, the Musical at the high school where our friend runs the drama department. With each of these rest stops, I was reminded of the importance of making time for arts and culture in our lives. The energy and efforts of artists, of any medium, delivers a unique experience of joy… and they are doing it all for us! How could we possibly fail to receive the gift of such heart and soul from another?
Two trips to Georgia – first for a brief art-cation with my life-long friend, and second to visit the boss who raised me as she performed in a play with fellow retirees – were paths joyfully taken. Signs also led me to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia in the summer, and back to North Carolina in the Fall. These journeys allowed me to connect with friends rarely seen beyond social media, and to nurture my relationship with nature, which had been too long neglected. With each of these blessings, I was reminded of the importance of connectedness. Breathing deeply and sending energetic roots into the earth to feel the comfort and love from Mother Nature and from those who love us without condition, is absolutely necessary for our survival.
There were dark roads illuminated by moonlight, as I planned and led sacred ceremonies for connecting with loved ones lost, for healing through friends’ worrisome diagnoses, and for deepening connections with the Universe as one grows closer to becoming one with all that is. For me, meditation and ritual provides a space for letting go of that which no longer serves us, for mindfully gathering intentions for moving forward, and a deep healing of mind, body, and spirit. The grand finale of these events this year was writing and officiating my goddess daughter’s handfasting ceremony. The handfasting bound the souls of two lovers, and the commitment of their community to support their marriage. What an honor to behold. This brought the arrival of extended family, and the departure of a young couple at the jumping off place of their new beginning.
The longest, darkest road this year has been the bumpy, unpaved path of my father’s declining health. He was in and out of the hospital, each time for over a week, and then in rehab for an entire month. Though he is now at home, it is obvious that he grows more weary and frustrated with the betrayal of his body and loss of strength, each day. I have learned that I can only care for him to the best of my ability and hold space for his suffering… I cannot bring him happiness that he could not find for himself. I have also learned that my empathy for him is very physical. I often feel his pain in my body, and realize this is a skill I will need to explore further in an effort to either use it to benefit others, or shield myself better with stronger boundaries.
Darkness was always sprinkled with light. Time with friends in summer alerted me to the awareness of a financial planner who would remove the road block of having to figure out what I would do for a living. He revealed to me the ability to collect a monthly income from my retirement fund, without penalty. In October, I collected my first check! Also, I am assisting three strong women with their private businesses, utilizing my intuitive wordsmith ability and administrative experience. I yearn to create healing retreats for women in the future. Beyond that, I continue to see only what falls within sight of my headlights, and know not where my GPS ultimately leads.
Throughout this year, the highway that has transported me without incident has been my writing. I wrote a book of seasonal guided visualizations (I even recorded one for sale on cdbaby.com). I wrote a book about my journey through self-loathing to wholeness alongside the archetypal feminine, and started working on a book about thoughts that rise in the study of end of life doula work. And of course… since writers need a following in order to be published… I started a blog. Aside from the healing and self-discovery I’ve witnessed in my headlights, I have loved seeing the tiny flags that represent readers from around the world who have offered their valuable time to sit in my passenger seat for a while. I’m so grateful for your company!
As for the road ahead, the year 2019… is surely paved with magick. When I turn 50 at the end of January, I will move into a ‘twelve’ year (in tarot numerology). In the graph of my life chart, wonderful, amazing, life altering things have occurred in these years. In my first twelve-year I found My People and planted the seeds that would become a Tribe. In my second twelve-year, I went to work for a man who needed my light and saw my value (this partnership ultimately enabled my early retirement). In my third twelve-year, I traveled back to Avalon on a healing retreat to Glastonbury and Cornwall, where I got to reconnect with the land of my ancestors and check ancient goddess sites off of my bucket list.
2019 will be my fourth twelve year. I have no idea where that road may lead or what signs will be posted along the way, but I have the faith and wisdom to know it will be extraordinary! My plan is to keep on driving, enjoy the grace that is illuminated in my headlights, and anticipate with patience the moment that my GPS informs me that I have arrived.
My passenger seat is open. Would you care to join me for a stretch?
Wishing you an abundance of joy and everything your heart and soul may require to thrive in the year ahead. HAPPY NEW YEAR, DEAR ONES! I love you more.
Last weekend, I drove nearly four hours each way to see a girl about a wedding. Some may feel this would be too great a burden and wonder why a phone call wouldn’t suffice, especially for someone who is not a blood relation. Those people probably don’t have a Tribe. We made a commitment to one another beneath a full moon in February 1994, and that contract maintains our connectedness regardless of time and distance. We are bound by more than love.
While I chose not to have children of my own, I have been blessed to have several extraordinary children in my life. They are the daughters and sons of members of my Tribe, and I am referred to, by some, as their faery goddess mother. My eldest goddess baby is currently a music education major in college and is now busy planning her wedding, to be held at the Winter Solstice this year. Before she was born, I dubbed her Starlet… and I would sing to her through the mystical cocoon of her mother’s belly. The chant that I found most soothing, at that time, went like this: “The river is flowing, flowing and growing. The river is flowing out to the sea. Mother, carry me – your child I will always be. Mother, carry me out to the sea.” Think about it… she was encased in a saline ocean of her mother’s love and care… a sacred being on her way into the light of the world that would be made more sacred with her arrival. This weekend, I wondered aloud what that tune might sound like on the cello, her instrument of passion and choice. My heart did a little dance when she dashed upstairs to grab her cello and a blank page. I sang to her that old familiar tune, and her pitch-perfect ear deciphered the language of the voice into the music of soulful strings. (I recorded the outcome, and you can hear it here: https://youtu.be/N4Mpa1YLfko )
Unfortunately, due to geography I had to miss much of our Starlet’s growth and becoming. She and her mom moved to be near her grandparents when she was about four years old. I was sad to lose them from my weekly life, but I am grateful that they made that move. She was blessed to have her grandparents in her daily life until they each departed the living realm within recent years. I can count the times I got to see her in person on my fingers, over those years… but there’s a certain kind of magick wrapped around this sacred Tribe of mine, and somehow it is woven around our ‘legacy’, as well. Our Tribe first met at the end of 1993, and we were committed to meeting weekly. Each week we were devoted to mutual spiritual growth and diving deep into the mysteries of womanhood and our own becoming. Pregnancy never really interested me, but I have to say that I learned quite a lot during the ‘baby years’ of our connectedness. Here’s my favorite and most quoted tip for nursing mothers: When you are painfully engorged with breast milk, you can place cabbage leaves in your bra, and find relief as the milk recedes. Is that not amazing?!
For each of these life altering events, we would celebrate with a rite of passage… a blessing before the birth to protect mother and child, to grant gentle passage from the womb and into the light, and a special blessing of each child as s/he reached a year of age. After a while, my beloved Tribe scattered to the winds, due to marriage or career opportunities. None have managed to find what we had before. But no matter how much time passes between meeting – together or one-on-one – that magick remains deeply intact. When we meet, it is as if no time has passed at all, even though many have been gone a decade or two. I sometimes wonder if our souls have continued to meet weekly in a sacred circle in another realm. That would certainly explain how time has managed to stand still. Of course, to see our babies today… well, you’d know that time hasn’t stood still at all. They are ALL so remarkable, amazing, talented, brilliant, compassionate, caring, and kind. I always knew they would be special, being born from my most sacred personal goddesses, but seriously… it can’t be that I am just biased… I know they are spectacular beings of light.
Last weekend, we explored a whole new rite of passage, as far as our ‘legacy’ is concerned… a handfasting (a traditional Celtic ceremony of union from which we gained the term, tying the knot). How is it possible that one of our babies is even old enough to be getting married? Sheesh! How time has flown. Our sweet girl met her beloved in high school. She was a senior when he was a junior. Since I am so far away, I have only met him once. It was at the memorial service for her grandmother a few years ago, that I first learned that she was smitten. I won’t lie. It totally tickled me that she introduced me to him as her faery goddess mother. Of all of the titles I have held in my lifetime, this is certainly one of my favorites. I have to admit that I am astonished that she could feel such a bond with me when I have been so far away for most of her life… even if I have loved her every single day of her existence. Technically, since I loved her Momma before she was conceived, I have loved her even longer than that. Even more amazing, and a great honor to me was that she wanted me to perform her handfasting and ring ceremony… this is actually a ritual that falls just short of a wedding, as when we gather, they will already have been wed.
You see, this young man who has stolen Starlet’s heart was raised Mormon. In order to move forward into a future with him, she has chosen to convert. On one hand, it feels impossible to relate to this decision, as I cannot fathom making the faith of another my own. On the other hand, I can recall that moment in 1992, when I experienced energy rising through the soles of my feet and into my heart, and was offered an introduction to how uplifting and soul-filling it can be to find a spiritual path that fits my own deep truth. What I know for sure is that my truth will not be the same as your truth… and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Starlet was raised to be a free-thinker, like her Unitarian Mom. When I asked her if the study involved to be adopted into this religion made her feel anything that might be considered a spiritual experience her reply was affirmative. Coupled with the fact that this young man seems worthy of her love and devotion, as they’ve had the two years of his distant mission trip to get to know each other through verbal and written communication alone, this goddess mother feels pretty good about her choice. In other words, due to a geographical divide, chemistry and hormones have not been able to get in the way of really getting to know one another. This feels like a lovely alternative to the instant gratification culture to which we’ve all become accustomed.
Since only Mormons can attend the actual wedding ceremony of this young couple, Starlet’s family and friends will be invited to attend the ring ceremony on the day that follows their union. I learned a great deal about this unfamiliar faith as we discussed creating an outline for this joyous event. Together, we created a general plan for the ceremony, and when her beloved is home from his mission, they will help me to fill in explanations of symbolism that might be different from our own customs.
I’ve begun building the words that will convey the deep meaning and purpose of our Solstice gathering. My ultimate hope is that my darling goddess daughter and her new husband will feel unconditionally loved and supported by their new families and the community that surrounds them. A difference of religion should not be a factor that divides a community. If love is at the core, it can only be made stronger by the rich diversity and mutual respect for the choices we have each made for ourselves.
If I can manage to do right by these two young darlings, I may just find further illumination on my own path forward. Perhaps I am not becoming an end of life doula, but a transition doula. If needed, I may accompany souls from one path to another… from single to married, from old life to new life, from endings to beginnings, from loathing to loving… from healing to thriving… the way is only limited by the boundaries of the mind. May we all be unlimited!