A Pride of Warriors

Where I live, the month of June carries a great deal of weight. The most
obvious, here in the State of Florida, is the arrival of oppressive heat and
torrential rain. Many of us are grateful for those daily downpours, as they
often manage to lower the temperature from around 99 degrees to somewhere around 88 degrees, if we’re lucky.

June is also Gay Pride month (not just in Florida), and celebrations occur
at various venues throughout the month. You’ve probably heard of Gay Days at Disney, which is loads of fun in a sea of red and rainbow. Today, my former workplace raised the rainbow flag in front of the corporate office, to proudly fly a commitment to diversity, honoring the dignity of ALL. The induction of the Pride Alliance into the employee networks several years ago was monumental, even if it felt ridiculously overdue. It’s never too late to get it right.

But the other thing about June… that which makes it not just hot, but also
heavy, is a certain anniversary. A horrific, terrible, nightmare in memorial.
In the early morning hours of June 12, 2016 a domestic terrorist entered the Pulse Nightclub, right at the heart of one of our Central Florida
neighborhoods, and murdered 49 sacred members of our beloved community.

Oh, how we long for the days that our theme parks made us special. No city on the planet wants to be a member of the mass shooting club!

Pulse was a gay nightclub, where friends could gather for dancing, for
laughter, for music therapy, and stress relief. It was a place where those who walked through the entrance doors could feel safe to be their authentic selves. It was, for many, a homecoming to acceptance.

They tried to tell us that the shooter was angry about something happening across the globe, but the truth was far more disturbing. He was angry with his culture, his religion, and our society, who would have him carry his unspoken truth inside, never to be fulfilled. He wasn’t allowed to be who he wanted to be, and so he took it out on those who could.

A world of harm comes from pretending to be something you are not, while
swallowing shame placed upon you by others. It is the most bitter poison one can ingest. It can only lead to turmoil and destruction, whether it be to one’s self, or to a room filled with sacred souls.

I don’t really understand the societal repression, oppression, and
aggression that seems to come from patriarchal religions toward those who are LGBTQ. Especially, since the big three of the patriarchy claim that God is love, that God created everything and makes no mistakes, God is the only judge, etc. And don’t forget the ‘golden rule’ – do unto others as you would have done unto you. Seems like a really big disconnect, if you ask me, when they would have the rights of others limited or removed altogether.

Gratefully, I’ve not seen or heard this ridiculous cry from anyone in my
personal circle, but THIS is why there is no ‘straight pride month’, people!
Society does not force straight people to bottle up their truth inside walls of protection in lieu of living an authentic life. They get to live each day, out in the open, holding hands with the one they love. They don’t have to worry about being beaten for wearing the clothing that makes them feel confident and comfortable. Their family members are less likely to disown them for being who they really are. Some might say… they are lucky.

I grew up in the Unitarian Church, and my parents’ best friends are a
lesbian couple who have been together for decades. So, when I fell in love with a woman in my mid-twenties, I didn’t hesitate to share the news with my parents. My relationship was embraced by my family and by my friends, and I wasn’t in a situation where I had to dance around pronouns when I spoke of my partner. But I do recall feeling fearful of public displays of affection, like holding hands while walking down the street. I had been bullied and taunted for not being thin, and so I understood the mean spirit of broken people. Standing up to adversity requires courage. In public, I felt the need to be cautious in order to stay safe.

We were together for eight years, and we remain friends, to this day. My
therapist told me, back in the day, that I was the only client who had ever
expressed shame and regret for discovering that I was NOT gay. I mean,
really… if I could flip a switch, I would, because the men in my romantic
life have been a real disappointment. But that’s another story.

I have friends who have loved one another for decades, whose lives are
completely entwined, and yet they were only recently able to legally marry. And I have a friend who is transgender, who after years of this awareness and self-discovery, is beginning to step out into the world donned in garments that make her feel more at home in her skin.

Can you imagine what that is like? To have gone to work every day dressed like someone else? To look in the mirror and see an impostor? To reply to co-workers, when they ask about your weekend plans, while creating language to dance around the truth of the person that you will share it with, and whom you cherish the most in all the world? You know what? You don’t have to be an empath to know that it feels fake, false, empty, lonely, and sad. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO FEEL THAT WAY!

Let me tell you something. The beautiful LGBTQ souls everywhere are great
warriors, one and all. Whether they have found the strength and courage to be authentic and live an out and about reality within our judgmental and often hateful society, or if they are carrying their truth on the inside – longing for such freedom, they have my respect, my admiration, and my undying support. I am just aching to be asked to be a stand-in Mom at a wedding, for someone whose own parents were too broken and close-minded to love their own children for being honest and seeking happiness. I have more than enough love to go around.

This weekend, I watched the sequel series on Netflix for Tales of the
City
by Armistead Maupin. It is set in San Francisco and the nucleus of
the story is a transgender woman named Anna, and the beloved community she has created and nurtured over many years. This updated series takes us back to Anna’s courageous and heartbreaking ‘new beginning’, transitioning at a time that was even less inclusive than now. It also shows us details of the relationships of the other residents of Barbary Lane (the home Anna opened to others as a safe space to thrive), who are gay, straight, bisexual, and transgender.

As a friend and ally of the LGBTQ community, I watched every episode with a sense of deep caring for these characters. I wanted to protect them from the ignorance of others, and I wanted them to know that I have felt rejected and abandoned by love, too. I have stood in the mirror willing my body to look different than it does. I have sometimes had the courage to put myself out there again, in order to find the love that I deserve, and I have also locked my heart inside a closet in order to keep it safe.

One thing that occurred to me as I watched each episode, exploring self
discovery and actualization, affection, sexuality, and sensuality in many
forms, I could remember how strange it felt, long ago, to see two men kissing on screen for the first time. I’ll admit, that as a young person, it made me feel uncomfortable, but only because it was not something I had seen before. I love that movies and television are finally beginning to reflect the real world. Perhaps the more we see loving relationships between caring people of all genders and identities, the rest of the world will get over its fear and discomfort with what once felt unfamiliar, and get back to focusing on their own happiness, and allow others to do the same. You know… as they would have done unto themselves.

It’s hard to imagine that reality, right now, with so much bitterness and violence being nurtured and celebrated by the so called ‘President’… but I do believe we will get there. I have no choice but to believe in the probability of peace and the power of love to overcome this darkness.

I doubt that any of us imagined we would celebrate marriage equality in our lifetimes, and yet many of us have either been attendants or guests at gay weddings over the last few years. Or as I like to call them… weddings.
Someday the silliness of the distinction will be obsolete.

In the meantime, we celebrate how far we’ve come. We wave our multi-colored flags, not as a sign of defeat, but as a symbol of freedom. There
is a quality of fierce assertion required to stand up and declare one’s
authentic spirit to the world, and so I think of this remarkable community as a Pride of Lions. A fellowship that learned it must protect their own.

But to be who you are truly meant to be, when the world would have you be just like everyone else – fitting inside the limitations of smaller minds, one must stand with the sureness of a warrior.

So, at the occasion of a month dedicated to the celebration of individuality and fabulousness, and at an anniversary of a horrific moment that my beloved community will never forget, I salute this Pride of Warriors!
I pay tribute to their courage to be who they want to be. I honor their divine perfection, because though I am not religious, I know that who they are is not a mistake. And I bow my head in sorrow for our fallen warriors, and our beloved survivors whose dreams are surely haunted.

As for those who are struggling with the concept of acceptance, respect, and loving kindness for ALL beings (yourself included), consume these wise words from one of our favorite New Yorkers (Ms. Cyndi Lauper):
YOU’LL CHANGE THE WORLD WHEN YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND!
Thank you for walking this path with me.

 

An Early Harvest

My favorite tomboy sent me a text yesterday, “I wanted you to know, before you see it on facebook…” I held my breath and read on. Her nephew, the eldest son of her little brother, is dead.

You know… she and I have been friends since she was four, and every interaction we share takes me back to that moment in kindergarten, when I made a life-long friend. At the time, her brother was only three. I see him at that age, in my mind’s eye, moving toy cars around an imaginary track on the floor, making sound effects through vibrating lips – and then jump ahead 45 years to realize he will soon bury his 28 year old son. We were preparing to comfort one another through lost parents – as each gathering brings news of obstacles or decline, but never… this.

I’ve been thinking about how I will add the topic of death into my workshops this year, but it is not slated until the end of summer, when symbolically, we prepare for the first harvest and the dance of the sacrificial king. This year, our harvest has come early. The sun is barely at its height. The fruit is on the limb, but far from ripe. We are not ready. We are never really ready.

I did not know him, this young man – gone too soon, but I understand that for many years of his youth, he walked in shadow and wore the cloak of addiction, which kept him shrouded from his family’s love, until recently. He dropped the cloak through rehabilitation and recovery and walked into the arms of his family, and I know they will each hold this reunion in their hearts with gratitude, as they grieve…. the loss of a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a grandson… and the death of hope. Hope was something they held onto for a really long time. The hope of peace and happiness for this beloved being. It may not have been a surprise a few years ago, but THIS was unexpected. Things had been going so well.

I studied death for a year, and I still struggle with knowing how to help. I am remaining connected to my favorite tomboy, ready to be of service to this family in which, I too, grew up – in a way. I am listening for her words of heartbreak (or rather – reading them via text, because speaking is just too difficult for her right now), and holding space for her sorrow. I know that I cannot make it better, but I can be present… and that is good enough.

I have pulled a few books from my little death library, and thumb through the pages for the comfort I seek to provide. My life-long friend is spiritual but not religious, and my resources are eclectic. From Starhawk’s Pagan Book of Living and Dying, my favorite words of comfort are:

BLESSING OF THE ELEMENTS
May the air carry his spirit gently.
May the fire release his soul.
May the water wash him clean of pain and suffering.
May the earth receive him.
May the wheel turn again and bring him to rebirth.

The second book for which I reach is The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. There is so much wisdom here, but what draws me the most is The Essential Phowa Practice. The practice is meant for those of us on a path of enlightenment to be prepared at the time of our death to be received beyond the veil. I am adapting the words provided in Practice One to symbolize our prayer on his behalf.

  • Through the blessing, grace, and guidance, through the power of the light that streams from the embodiment of truth:
  • May all of his negative karma, destructive emotions, obscurations, and blockages be purified and removed,
  • May he know himself forgiven for all the harm he may have thought and done,
  • May he accomplish this profound practice of phowa, and die a good and peaceful death,
  • And through the triumph of his death, may he be able to benefit all other beings, living or dead.

May all who love this sacred being see him being illuminated and encased in this radiant light, as he is received with loving kindness by the embodiment of that which receives us and renews us. May all stand witness to the cleansing and purification of his negative karma, destructive emotions, and all that may have caused his suffering or suffering to others. May all see the light of his heart rise in rays of emerald green toward the golden light of compassion above him. As his soul feels the absence of all suffering with the gift of forgiveness, no longer held to the realm of regret, his being melts into light, and merges with the blissful presence. May all find peace as he becomes one with all that is.

Finally, I love this piece from Megory Anderson’s book Sacred Dying. It is attributed to an anonymous writer, found in Life Prayers from Around the World. I’ve seen it elsewhere in a reference to Saying Kaddish – a Jewish tradition for the dead.

When I die give what’s left of me away
to children and old men who wait to die.

And if you need to weep
Cry for your brother or sister

Walking the street beside you

And when you need me, put your arms around anyone
And give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something
Something better than words or sounds.

Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved
And if you cannot give me away
At least let me live in your eyes and not on your mind.

You can love me best by letting hands touch hands
by letting bodies touch bodies
And by letting go of children that need to be free.

Love doesn’t die – people do
So when all that’s left of me is love,
Give me away.

For this sacred family, and for that matter – for all who are suffering a loss that has come too soon, I hope that the good memories remain firmly rooted in the garden of their hearts, and that all sorrows, betrayals, regrets, and concerns unspoken are easily liberated from fertile soil, to be acknowledged, honored, and released – then tossed onto the burn pile to be transmuted and transformed into fertile new growth.

Sometimes, we can forge a stronger relationship with a soul that was too damaged to be reached in the mortal realm. May healing come to one and all, and in time… may sorrow give way to the gentle coming of peace.

I wish this story had a happier ending, and yet like all of us, the ending was the only guarantee from the beginning. I honor the story of this sacred soul – every difficult page and chapter, the triumph over addiction, and the final liberation. I rejoice in the freedom from oppression that now is his, especially that of his own mind. I stand witness to the melting of his body into the light of compassion, and know that he has found peace there. Amen. May it be so. Blessed be.

Dancing at Beltaine

Sacred Gardeners, is how I refer to the beautiful souls joining me this year for a journey of intention. As I embrace the role of priestess in service and devotion to the divine beings who are my parents, I also require a creative and spiritual outlet which fills me up. These beloved beings have generously signed on to explore the Celtic calendar and cycle of seasons as it manifests within themselves.

We are a part of nature, and so we, too, are in a state of constant change. We are connected to the earth and effected by the sun. Just as the planet goes through a transformation from winter to spring, and summer to fall as the earth orbits the sun (though less pronounced in places like Florida), we are subject to the coming of sorrows that cause us to go within (like a bear to her den) and to the great joy of new beginnings (like the emergence of the first daffodils when all else is grey and covered in snow – also not in Florida).

By the end of December, I will have created a full curriculum for this journey around the sun, as I am allowing it to develop intuitively, one high holy day at a time. If we are living in the now, how can we be caught up in what the future may hold? Nature cannot be rushed, so why should we? We plant our seeds, offer them water and sunlight, and stand witness to their unfolding.

The spring equinox inspired finding balance. We worked with techniques to feel more grounded, and creating and connecting with the joy and treasure in our lives to bring equilibrium to responsibility.

As I looked ahead to Beltaine, which is the cross-quarter holiday that falls between the spring equinox and summer solstice, I considered the state of nature in the northern hemisphere and the mythology that was written to offer symbolism for understanding. This time of year is all about sensuality and fertility. We are witness to the Sun’s love warming the earth below as flowers rise and open to His touch. I could have developed a workshop around our relationship with others, but I felt more strongly served by diving into the necessity of loving ourselves.

My gardeners were given an assignment of mindfulness. Pay attention to the words you use with your own reflection. What does your internal dialogue sound like? Would you say these things to someone you love? If not, why would you ever say them to yourself?

For our creative project, we would take a canvas and write down all of the negative things we spoke to ourselves (my hope being that my gardeners would have nothing to write), and then we would do acrylic pour and stir our positive thoughts into the paint before releasing it to cover and transmute what once was there.

We discussed Dr. Emoto’s water study, and how it has been proven that our thoughts effect water, and since our bodies are mostly water, how our thoughts effect our mental and physical health. (What are our words manifesting?)

And since we were clearly dedicating this sensual holy day to the element of water, our physical activity was a lesson in veil belly dance. Our silk veils, shipped all the way from Virginia by my Tribe Sister, flowed like water on wind, as we shimmied and twirled – connecting with our own sensuality.

Inspired by “The Shakti and The Shiva at the Center of the Human Heart” from The Storyteller’s Goddess, reminded of the love that resides within, we wrote love letters to ourselves, as if we were writing to our most beloved being. I collected the sealed and addressed envelopes to be mailed in the future, and received with surprise.

What I love the most about these gatherings is the deep, authentic, sharing of our individual truths. I always go first, because I believe that one should be willing to be vulnerable before expecting others to do the same. I believe, and have been witness to, the way that burdens are lifted when a story is shared, honored, and validated. Especially when a dozen people speak their truth and you hear your own truth in the words of many. It is enormously liberating to know that we are not alone.

There is more to the story, but what happens in sacred space stays in sacred space. I can share that though I have been practicing a mindful reprogramming of harmful thoughts and words toward myself for several years, I did find through this process that there is far more compassion in the tone that I carry. I’ve gained a bit of weight in the last two years (body shame being a core wound I’ve carried since childhood), and now when shame rises it is met with loving kindness, rather than harsh self-hatred. I feel this is huge progress which requires constant vigilance. I also feel that I am worth it. Life is short, and I have wasted far too much time in self-loathing. Joyfully, I move forward holding my inner child, rather than shunning her.

What loving words do you have for your most sacred being? Consider writing a love letter to yourself. “My favorite thing about you is… I love the way you… Thank you for… I love you most!”

I love these Sacred Gardeners, I love that you took the time to read my words and story, and I love myself for taking the time to connect with the great lover that resides within. Thank you for walking this path with me.

Writes of Passage

That’s not a typo, by the way. Eleven days from now, this blog will be one year old. It was birthed at the suggestion of a publisher insisting that their authors come with a following. And so it began.

The funny thing is, I do believe my writing has improved in the process of blogging. So, I guess it was a gift, to be rejected. (Isn’t it always?) I’ve learned that my particular style is essay, like David Sedaris, but less neurotic. (That’s not an insult. He owns his authentic chaos.)

There have been weeks when I felt moved to write almost daily, but over the last couple of weeks, I have been out of sorts, and sitting down to write just didn’t happen. Quite frankly, I’ve been moving through some severe back pain, and although movement and activity would surely have been helpful, I found myself binge watching documentaries and napping a lot.

Deep thoughts have been flowing through my mind, but they don’t seem to stick. I am more and more aware of that memory issue I’ve written about – a blessing and a curse. I still maintain that my swiss cheese memory (some things fall through the holes) allows me to be more present and fully in the moment… as I am not holding onto any thoughts that might have come before. But it is seriously annoying to realize how many projects have been started and forgotten, not out of reluctance, but through distraction.

The other day I was at my parents’ house, doing my usual daily set-up for Dad’s comfort. Rinsing his cup, filling it with ice and ginger ale, being sure he’s taken his morning meds, etc. I asked Mom if I could have some dishwasher pellets, and she told me where to find them, then started telling me that Dad was complaining about how I had forgotten to clip his nails. I looked at him and said that I had just clipped his nails (Seriously, all three of us are a mental mess.) and he agreed that I had, but that it took me a few days. He wasn’t wrong, but in my defense, I really wanted to have my glasses on so not to clip his skin. I don’t always have them with me… so it did take a while to remember to arrive with them in hand. Thirty minutes later, I was in my own living room, sending Mom a note: “To Dad’s point, I came home without any dishwasher pellets.” Her reply: “I’ll bring some right over.” And she did.

Some of the thoughts that are not fleeting are those filled with gratitude. Every single day, my recurring thought is how grateful I am to have this time of dedication to my parents. My ability to access a small portion of my retirement savings has enabled me to be available for their support. I wrote about how happy this makes me in Mom’s Mother’s Day card. All three of us take pleasure and comfort in our daily interaction. Everything has fallen into place so nicely. They chose to move closer to me five years ago (which I happen to recall because the company I worked for was in the midst of a hostile takeover in 2014), and two years ago a change in management urged my departure from the job I once loved. Well, this job doesn’t pay anything, but I love it far more. (hold that thought while I run up the street to help Dad get ready for physical therapy)

I must confess that I have been feeling a little disconnected lately. Not just from people, but from myself, as well. I spend a great deal of time alone these days, and I’m a people person.

I revel in the days leading up to one of my workshops. I have a group of 12 to 15 people who are allowing me to lead them through a year of connecting deeply with themselves and the cycle of the seasons. The curriculum is inspired by the Celtic calendar of solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter markers, and one session writes itself only after the last one is complete.

I find that creating these events and sharing them with others utilizes my top five strengths of Empathy, Connectedness, Responsibility, Developer, and Input. I can confirm what Marcus Buckingham and Tom Rath assert, which is that the happiest people are those who are utilizing their top five strengths in their work. I feel most alive when I am blessed to dive deeply with other courageous souls into vulnerability and personal development. Now that I think about it… my writing fits that moniker, as well. Assuming anyone reads it. (Thank you for reading this – it makes me feel connected.)

I’m trying to come back to myself this week, after a week of accomplishing very little. Perhaps my body and brain needed a complete shutdown and reboot. Actually, I believe that we should all take the time to do just that. I am choosing not to chastise myself for a week of do-nothing-ness. I choose to honor myself, instead, for retreating to the underworld to refill and recharge…even if all I did was nap and watch documentaries. One of the benefits of living alone is that no one cares if the dishes pile up (not a big problem for someone who doesn’t cook) or if you wait until you run out of clean underwear to do the laundry. (I have a lot of underwear.)

Yesterday, I decided to make my way back into the world of the living. I went to tai chi class in the morning, and I returned to ‘church’ aka my evening walk around the neighborhood. As I was nearing the end of my two-mile circuit, I was blessed to be joined by an owl who landed on a power line just before I turned onto my own street. I stopped a while to stand witness to her grace.

The owl can be known to be a harbinger of death, but not necessarily the literal kind. They can fly into your life to make you aware that life is about to change. Okay, mother-owl… I am rested and ready!

Just as I was preparing to finish this piece – when the system froze and didn’t save the last four paragraphs I’d written (heaven knows what I’ve forgotten) – I looked up to see a white butterfly dancing past my living room window. Also a symbol of spiritual change and protection, I can’t wait to see what the universe has in store. Hopefully there will be time for another nap. Care to join me?

Owl at Dusk: Harbinger of Change

WILL WORK FOR ART!

What a blessing to have good friends with similar passions and interests. Recently, my lifelong friend (read: my favorite tomboy) and I drove north for our annual Artcation adventure. The destination – Savannah, Georgia.

We started this tradition about five years ago (we both struggle with the memory thing – so, that’s just a guesstimate). When we have more time to escape, Savannah is just a stop on our journey, but with my father’s various appointments during the week, a weekend trip felt more feasible. So, this time our focus was singular.

We love this whimsical walking city that is filled with history. We appreciate the architecture, the series of squares that offer parks and monuments surrounded by luscious canopies of oak trees throughout the thoughtful grid of cobblestone streets. But what we love the most… is the art. More so, we love the artists. Unlike many of the extreme-art cities we visit, Savannah has a good number of local artists who are working in the community, either in their own studio galleries or in a co-op setting.

Each year upon arrival, we check into our hotel and park the car. We then walk directly to one of three destinations to see what’s new by the artists we adore, and to see if a new (to us) artist can be found.

Our most joyful visits to Savannah are those that allow us the opportunity to spend a little time getting to know the artists that we have come to value. This year, we were blessed to have some time with three! Just one more favorite would have been like hitting the jackpot, but alas… our timing was off.

Our hotel this year was ideally located (for us), and it was just a two minute walk to get to City Market. This is a part of the historic downtown area that is always hopping. There is live music in the square, several restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating, shops and boutiques, and of course… oodles of art galleries.

As always, we asked our hotel manager for a lunch recommendation. We like to try something new (to us) in the culinary department each visit, as well. So, this time, we enjoyed our lunch at Belford’s Seafood and reveled in the glorious art of people-watching from the patio.

People come from all over to enjoy the culture of this historic downtown. We were witness to at least three bachelorette parties, and dozens of children dancing with ice cream, while their parents snacked on fresh made pralines. Oh! The pralines… sigh.

After lunch, we made our way upstairs to one of the artist centers. We were delighted to find Sabree in her gallery, which was in a different spot from our last visit. We were most drawn to a few large paintings and were introduced to the Gullah representations of Yemaya and Oshun. We adore the style and vibrant color of Gullah art, and even more lovely was the inspiration for each piece as channeled through this beautiful artist. I think she was a little shocked to learn that I was not only familiar with the Orishas, but had recorded a song dedicated to them, back in the nineties with a pagan choir. I had the song saved on my phone and was able to share it with her. It was one of those moments of sharing that felt as if it were made of pure magick.

Next, we made our way over to see what Brian MacGregor was up to. In the past we’ve stopped by to find him working on something grand and powerful, and this time we were thrilled to discover a plethora of new creations and offerings. He has been rather busy over the past year.

I especially enjoy Brian’s art for the intention and symbolism behind each piece. He keeps a journal hanging outside of his gallery / studio and invites visitors to write down their dreams upon the pages within. Not the dreams that one considers hopes for the future, but the nocturnal kind. Inspired by Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, Brian takes ‘our’ dreams and places them upon canvas to become one with the dreams of others and his own. These dreams are written in the handwriting of hundreds and in at least a dozen different languages. He then mingles these sacred notes with images from nature or from imagination, infused with celtic knotwork and oil paint. Each piece is unique and stunning in passion and purpose.

We spent some time learning about his current focus and endeavors, and when I told him which new piece was calling to me, he shared the story of its becoming. The piece is called The Four Seasons, and it spoke to me for obvious reasons. I shared that I am creating a year-long series of workshops that focus on the changing seasons and how our lives mirror the cycle of nature. Originally four separate works of art, he has mingled them into one for a print on canvas. My art budget took a huge cut when I retired, but when I was offered the powerful symbolism, my friend and I knew it would be coming home with us.

In this piece, there are four women and four seasons. In the Spring, a woman with short golden hair and arms raised overhead to cup the returning sun, wears a yellow sundress and is framed by a circle of spring flowers which sits at the top of the frame. In the Summer, a woman with shoulder length red hair holds her arms up and open with flames in her palms with the sun at its peak, her dress is strapless and slightly lower in the frame sits a circle of green leaves. In Autumn, a woman with longer brown hair stands with her arms down and away from her body, she wears a dress with short sleeves, while the sun above her is growing further away, the circle of falling, colorful leaves is further down in the frame. In the Winter, a woman with long, curly, dark hair stands in a long-sleeved dress with her arms down at her sides and touching her hip and thigh, while the sun is barely seen above and the circle of bare branches sits at the bottom of the frame. There is so much mindful symbolism within these images, which includes the different phases of the moon drawn at the top of the dream pages that Brian has chosen for each season.

I shared with him my current incarnation, learning to live more simply so that retirement allows my presence for my parents. A few years ago, I wouldn’t think twice about purchasing any piece of artwork to which I was drawn, along with a few others as gifts. But my budget just isn’t what it once was, and my freedoms are different. I have the freedom of time and availability, but less-so the freedom of financial whimsy and generosity. My friend and I left the gallery that afternoon with a plan to figure out how this artwork would find its way home with us.

We next made our way down to the River Walk, and to our other favorite gallery in town… 209. We have a favorite artist there, whose work we seek at each visit. We love to see what new creatures have come to live in her section of the cooperative space. We fell in love with her style and whimsy on our first visit to Savannah, when we learned she was creating a book of children’s stories. Olivia Beaumont is a fine artist who dresses woodland creatures in renaissance themes, creating characters that stir the art lover’s imagination.

The book was available on our last visit, and to our great joy… the artist herself was available on this visit. The local artists represented within this gallery also work for this gallery. Olivia is a ray of sunshine, and we spent a good hour talking with her and exploring her available offerings. Sadly, the piece that needs to come live with me was not available in print that day. I am certain that the Owl posed with a quiver of arrows on his back and his talon placed upon a wooden longbow will be waiting for me to fetch him on our next journey north. My friend added two new creatures to her collection.

Seriously… I don’t miss eating out frequently, or shopping for clothing I don’t need… but being art-limited is really, really hard! TRUE CONFESSION: My name is Melissa, and I am an art-a-holic.

The next morning, I was talking myself out of The Four Seasons, just because it didn’t seem prudent. My friend and I took off on foot to various events around town that Saturday. There was a Maker’s Festival on one side of town, and the SCAD (the local art college) sidewalk art festival in one of the park squares. College and high school students were given their own squares on the sidewalk to decorate, and the art was vibrant and creative. The college mascot is a BEE, so you can imagine how delighted I was by many of the original creations of chalk on concrete.

We made our way from one side of town to another by foot, as we walked over to the famous Pirate House restaurant. By then, we had walked way more than the recommended 10,000 steps, and I contemplated whether to drink the cold cider or pour it on my aching feet. As we made our way back down to the River Walk area to see a favorite jewelry vendor, I had pretty much convinced myself that I couldn’t afford to purchase that coveted piece of art. But then my phone alerted me to a text message, and Brian was just checking in to be sure he hadn’t missed us – having arrived later than intended. Always one to listen to signs from the Universe, I replied that we were on our way.

My friend and I worked out a plan for a responsible purchase, and as I gaze up at where The Four Seasons are perched in my sacred space, I have absolutely zero regrets. Art makes me so happy. I was not blessed with the ability to create art that is pleasing to my own eye, though I am grateful for my gift for words. I sit surrounded by the creations of many, for whom I am grateful. Each artist, known and not yet met, living and dead, brings a sense of emotion and whimsy to my sanctuary. Their energy flows from their work and envelopes my beloved home with the light of love and inspiration. I cannot fathom choosing a minimalist style with barren walls, void of color and passion. This is the air that I breathe!

Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could offer my words in exchange for art? My love is far more valuable than any currency, and words can bring abundance.

I sometimes wonder, when I am sitting in silence and contemplating my current situation, if I should be more actively seeking employment or income. The workshops I do bring in a little extra cash, but mostly it pays for the things I want to share with those who attend. I love the connectedness I find there, and that is the intention I manifest more than anything else.

When I walk out of my parents’ house, just seven doors west of my own, I know that my choice to be present and available for their comfort is far more important to me than the former income I left behind.

For now… I’m just going to plant the seed in the magickal soil of the universe that I “WILL WORK FOR ART”… in whatever form that may take. I no longer hold a specific vision of how anything in life should look. I am open to the probability of being WOWed by the manifestation of wonder beyond my ability to imagine.

Thank you for walking this path with me. If you are interested, I am placing links below to a few of our favorite artists whose work can be found in Savannah.

Patricia Sabree at http://www.sabreesgallery.com/

Brian MacGregor at https://brianmacgregor.net/

Olivia Beaumont at https://oliviabeaumont.com/

David “G-Sleeve” Gildersleeve at http://www.gsleeve.com/
http://www.athun.com/david-gildersleeve.html

Melissa Moss at http://www.melissamossart.com/

Samantha Claar at http://finefolkgalleries.com/

Melissa with Sabree on the left and Melissa with Brian MacGregor on the right.

Expressive Art-Magick

Thursday was our final session in our expressive arts journey with our friend who was completing her certification. Let me tell you that each of us entered free from expectation, and parted ways transformed.

As someone who grew up with some level of art-trauma and a real sense of being completely incapable of artistic creation, this realization is no small wonder. No, really. My elementary school art teacher intimidated me like you wouldn’t believe. Looking back, I don’t think he was actually mean to me, but he had a big voice, and I just felt inadequate. I think I judged myself compared to others, rather than feeling judged by him… but alas, that is a memory that rises when I consider my art-disability.

Through every step of this journey, we were faced with photographic evidence of our former selves. We were asked to consider that being and where she was, who she was, how she felt about herself and then move into some random art form, most of which were completely new to us. Actually, I’m not sure that we were even prompted to be that thoughtful about the image looking back at us. I suspect it was the way that our minds simply got out of the way when we moved into the flow of each art form. In many cases, the conversations we had with our former selves took place on a different level after the physical artwork was done.

I’ve written about EMDR (eye movement desensitization rhythm) being like magick, too. It uses an alternating buzz, tone, tap while considering a trauma to help rewire the connections in the mind, touching on the different hemispheres of the brain. It feels so simple, and impossible to have effected change, and yet… you suddenly realize that you no longer burst into tears over a memory or cry yourself to sleep with fear and sorrow.

Expressive Arts Therapy offers a similar kind of magick. (By the way, when I write magick with a ‘k’, it is to differentiate that which is an art of illusion from that which is a kind of miracle that presents itself for your notice.)

For our final session, we gathered to read the Living Eulogies we’d written for ourselves. We discussed whether or not they were difficult to write, and how we felt about the words that rose for our individual celebrations of life. Most were really uncomfortable with the process, as it felt so unfamiliar and inappropriate to speak so kindly of one’s self. You know… the way we are taught not to be proud, because we should be humble. Otherwise, we may be considered by others to be stuck-up or a snob.

What a travesty! To be forced to go through life dimming our own light. I spoke of how easy this process felt for me, which was an indicator of my own evolution. I lived with self-loathing for so much of my life, this process should have been a Herculean task. And yet… the reprogramming that I started in 2005, when a medium repeated a message I’d received once before seems to have finally taken hold. She was telling me that “all I had to do [to move forward with my spiritual growth] was to fall in love with myself, and it would all fall away”. “Well”, I said, “how does one love someone she loathes?”

What I shared in our sacred circle was how I worked to overcome that ridiculous need to keep myself small. I decided that I would consider whether or not I would say to a friend the things I spoke to myself in internal dialogue. If not, I would have to wonder how I could possible say something to myself, so unkind, mean, belittling? Shouldn’t I offer my own being the same kindness, respect, compassion and love that I would offer another? Of course. Yes. More than anyone… I deserve my own loving kindness.

So, possibly the process of writing my own living eulogy offered me that gift. Though I still struggle with my own inner-bully… that bitch is finally starting to lose her voice inside my head. Ha! I’m kidding. I would never call anyone names… even her. She is receiving the loving embrace that she deserves, and the result is healing her wounded heart, as well.

For our final art project, we were presented with three pieces of paper, a white crayon, a pencil, a set of watercolor paint, a candle, and a mirror. We were shown three ways to create our own self-portrait, and instructed to create, then write words to go with each art piece. Talk about intimidated! I could feel Mr. Veblin (my elementary art teacher) over my shoulder ready to judge. But you know what? He wasn’t mean at all. He was there to support me. He didn’t say a word, so not to frighten me with his booming voice. He simply held space for me. And guess what else! I didn’t hate the results. I mean… I am not growing into an artist of any skill… but I do believe I am growing into a woman of greater courage.

The words that I wrote at the bottom of each creation were: “Radiant with the Light of Hope”, “Grateful for the beautiful way she is seen by others”, and “Every curve and curl a delight to behold”.

We were then instructed to take a post-it note to add our thoughts to the art of others, including our own. These are the words my artwork received: “Melissa, Love is far more freeing than loathing. So glad you found your way.”, “I see happiness in each of these self portraits.”, “I see creative flow, divine light, and freedom.”, “I see happiness. You are shining so BRIGHT!”, “Beauty radiates from the depth of your soul, and it shows in your portraits.”, “So joyful and full of hope. Shine on!”, “You inspire. You inhabit light. You are a leader.”

Going back to our conversation about how hard it was to write and speak positive things about ourselves, I am reminded of when a good friend said to me many years ago, “Oh, Missy… I wish you could see yourself the way others see you.” At the time, I thought that would be a wonderful gift, indeed. For I could not see the light and beauty she claimed to witness in my company. But with the words that flowed from my pencil, and the words added by these remarkable women who joined me in this work, I could feel the fruition of my friend’s blessing. It makes me realize that the good wishes from others don’t go away, even when we think we don’t deserve them. They remain vigilant, standing firmly planted at the edge of those walls we built around ourselves, just waiting to squeeze in through a tiny crack in the mortar. We thought we were protecting ourselves from harm, but while we were busy blocking out the possibility of being hurt by others, we were hurting ourselves… for love also requires an entrance.

We finished our time together by dancing with our shadows upon the wall, and of course… a group photo. I wish we had taken a before-photo, as well. Without a doubt, the transformation of this group of courageous souls would be visible to the eye. I can see it, not only in our smiles, but in the energetic aura that surrounds us… as if in the process of becoming more fully ourselves, we have also become ONE with each other. What a gift!

Thank you so much for walking this path with me. It has been a glorious garden of discovery. If you ever have the opportunity to venture into the Expressive Arts, I hope you will love yourself enough to know that you are worth it. Courage is the act of moving forward, even when you are afraid. Take that step, dear ones. You won’t regret it. I promise!

Expressive Arts Session Six / Final Project – Self Portrait

Living Eulogy to Her Becoming

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!

Expressive Arts ~ Week Six / Finale

Inconvenience of Self-Care

On my 49th birthday, my friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. At the conclusion of the longest and most difficult year of her life, somewhere around my 50th birthday, she said to me, “Mel… I put off having a colonoscopy because I thought it would be inconvenient. Well, I’ll tell you that colon cancer is fucking inconvenient.” Aside from the typical trauma of surgery and chemotherapy, she dealt with other complications which were pretty horrifying. Her ureter was severed on her left kidney during the initial surgery, which for her meant going through chemo with the burden of a nephrostomy. When it was all over, she lost the cancer, but she also lost a kidney. This warrior woman – she faced every challenge with grace and humor… and a knitted viking helmet. She insisted on keeping the staff who would care for her in good spirits, even through her own great discomfort.

I remember a segment on Oprah, back in the day, where Dr. Oz stated that if you have polyps today, in ten years it WILL be cancer. I have never forgotten this. I have been waiting for the arrival of 50 with great anticipation. The urgency was expanded a few years ago when a 36 year old co-worker had the procedure due to symptoms she was suffering. She called me on her way home that day and said, “Mel… they found polyps!”

I couldn’t help but consider that if she had not had these troubling symptoms, which turned out to be nothing to worry about, she might not have had her first colonoscopy until those polyps had already created dis-ease within her body. So… I have been eager for this time to come. The week I turned 50, I asked my doctor for the referral. That was in January, and finally in mid-April, tomorrow is prep day. (woohoo!)

Seriously, folks. This is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. If you can lower your odds with a day of fasting and cleansing, followed by a lovely nap on the date-rape drug… I mean, why the heck would you skip this? Ha!

So, tomorrow we fast. But today… today we pre-fast. In other words, I baked cookies, and had coffee with half and half (before breakfast and before dinner), and enjoyed brunch with friends, and shared some rotisserie chicken with my cat. I’m currently eyeing a banana across the room.

In case you have been avoiding this, and are seeking some courage, I’ll share the super secret ritual of letting go that proceeds this particular rite of passage. The day before the procedure, one will consume liquids only. They will not be of dairy, nor the colors red or purple. Then, around 7pm, a six ounce bottle of magic elixir is consumed, along with two or three bottles of water. Then, at 8am the next morning, a second bottle of magic elixir is consumed with another couple of bottles of water. At noon (for me), we show up with our driver (who will stay for the duration – 3 hours), and we wake up from a short nap to hear that all is well. (That’s my plan, anyway.)

So, you see… it’s not that scary. It just takes a little time and dedication. But really, aren’t we worth it? Preventive health care is self-care. Self-care is a kindness in which we engage for those who love us. Of course, shit happens (no pun intended)… but for those things that are preventable… we hold all accountability.

Cancer screenings aside, if I failed to treat my sleep apnea, I could have a stroke. Then, someone in my life might feel the burden of my care. Certainly, everyone who loves me would feel the sorrow of empathy for my struggle. So, I choose to go the unglamorous route of sleeping with a mask that forces my airway open, so I don’t suffocate when I sleep. I used to dread what that might do to any romantic future, but now I realize that anyone worth sleeping with will love me enough to prefer my comfort and good health over the alternative.

So, as my friend prepares for an adventure she could not have dreamed of last year, throughout her recovery from colon cancer, and I prepare for my own cleansing adventure over the next two days… we wish for you the joyful inconvenience of self-care. Here’s to our health. CHEERS!

Life’s Tapestry

Week four of our Expressive Arts program was centered on the beliefs upon which we are each built. These foundations are created by life experiences, messages from others, and how we (or our subconscious mind) choose to interpret and integrate them (or not). They are not necessarily the truth… but they do become ‘our truth’, at least for some time.

The photo that I am working with this week is one from the early days of my spiritual journey. I was twenty-three years old. Life was finally getting good.

Our work began with creating a timeline of life events that felt life altering. This was easier than it sounds for me, since my Tribe had dedicated some time several years ago to a workbook on numerology based on the tarot (Tarot for Your Self by Mary K Greer). Starting with the year you are born, you map out the numerology of that year (based on your birth date) and determine which major arcana tarot card represented the lessons of that year. As you review each year going forward in time, you can see how certain years may bring a particular kind of energy. The patterns are fascinating!

So, I already had an idea of my big event timeline, and it goes something like this:

  • When I was three, my mother warned me not to swing on the pool ladder railing. I lost my two front teeth when I fell.
  • When I was five, I met the little tomboy around the block. 45 years of continued friendship, shared trauma and growth are significant.
  • When I was nine, the little tomboy’s dad accused me of lying to him, and forbid his daughter to play with me. A trauma with lasting effect.
  • When I was thirteen, my brother broke his back in a car accident. He was only 20. We were all very lucky it was not worse.
  • When I was fourteen, my school was rezoned, and I was transferred to a school I feared for its reputation. It was a good place to grow.
  • When I was fifteen, I met my first and only teenage boyfriend. We were together six months. Unaware of lies he told his parents (boys lie), in their eyes – I was to blame. They withdrew him from school to get him away from me. When he returned, his friends began taunting and bullying me. This lasted throughout high school. I felt unsafe and dreaded going to school.
  • Throughout puberty, as my weight fluctuated, I was warned that ‘no man wants to marry a fat woman’. I believed I was fat when I was a size 10.
  • When I was twenty, I met my second boyfriend. We were together one year. In month eight, he came home with hickeys on his neck. (boys lie)
  • When I was twenty-three, I attended a conference on women’s spirituality, I took a six month class on the same, and I joined the young adult group at the Unitarian Church. I had finally found my people… and a sense of belonging.
  • When I was twenty-five, convinced no man could love me or be trusted, I fell in love with a woman. She remains a trusted friend to this day.
  • When I was thirty-two, and again when I was forty-eight, long-time jobs became so uncomfortable that I had to leave. Each time, life improved.
  • When I was thirty-seven and again when I was forty-seven, I tried dating again. Each man pretended to be something he was not. The stories they told did not match the facts. (boys lie)
  • When I was forty-nine, I thought I would have to get a job doing what I no longer loved. Instead, I learned I could retire and help my parents through difficult times.

From these life experiences, we were asked to determine the beliefs that we have carried. To be clear, I have been aware of some of these false beliefs, and was already committed to their reprogramming. But in truth, these are the pillars of my early foundation. Some have been tremendously limiting, but they have also contributed to who I am today.

BELIEFS I AM BUILT ON – Strong and Tattered Threads

  • I am fiercely independent. Mother’s advice is intended to keep me safe.
  • I am a good friend. I attract good friends.
  • I cannot trust my own memory. I doubt myself.
  • Life is uncertain – tell them you love them.
  • I may not belong everywhere, but I do belong somewhere.
  • I cannot trust men. I cannot trust myself to choose well.
  • In a circle of women, I feel safe, seen, heard, and healed.
  • The Universe helps us move forward when fear keeps us immobile.
  • Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.
  • The shape of my body makes me unworthy of love. I am unlovable.
  • Life gets better if you keep moving forward.
  • Being of service and feeling needed makes me feel worthy of love.

When we finished our event timeline, we listed these beliefs, and since this is an expressive arts course… we sat down to create. Onto watercolor paper, we painted one pre-cut strip for each event, and on the opposite side, we wrote the belief. Each strip was then lifted over and under another strip, until the original page was once again whole… and yet, forever changed. Perhaps we are the same. We feel as if traumas and hardships take away parts of ourselves, but in reality… the fabric of our being is just made more interesting by the changes in color and texture.

I do wonder how my life might have been different, had I taken any of those life experiences and decided differently on what belief to carry. What if when my friend’s father had accused me of lying to him, instead of wondering if he was right, and searching my mind for what I must have done wrong (after all he was the grown up, and I the child)… I had the courage to stand up to him and insist that I had not lied, and asked my mother to come inside to support my truth? What if I carried forward the belief that I can trust myself, that I am honest, a good friend, and worthy of being loved? I wonder if my memory issues would have been so prolific, or just age induced like everyone else. (Ha!)

I don’t even know how to re-frame the belief on men. I certainly don’t believe that all men lie. I am blessed with a number of remarkable friends of the masculine gender. I have just been unfortunate enough to have had the few men in my romantic life back-up that belief again and again. (Imago therapy would say that my subconscious mind was attracted to them for the purpose of healing a childhood wound.) The gift in that has been that I also carry a belief that I do not need a man in my life to feel happy and whole.

Perhaps I can simply move forward with a new belief…

I trust the men in my life, and attract friends and lovers of great integrity who are honest, authentic, trustworthy, responsible, caring, and kind.

How’s that?

From my current perspective… when I look at this photo, of the young woman I was who is seeking her own truth and just beginning to make her way in the world, this is what I see:

She is a good friend, worthy of the love she has and so much more.
She is a gift to the community that claimed her.
She reflects the light of those she meets, showing them their own greatness.
She knows that the darkness through which she walks is
an important part of her becoming.
She is perfect exactly as she is.
She is courageous, beautiful, and wise.
She is a light in this world!
She is the glue that binds us all.
She is LOVE incarnate.

She is lovable.
She is loved.

My goodness… these six weeks are stripping us bare. We are revealing to ourselves every fiber of sorrow and regret, joy and wonder. We are blessed beyond belief to have the courage to go deep and face the shadows. We are lifting the veil of our former limitations, and revealing the clarity and truth of our divine and glorious selves.

Thank you for walking this path with me. Together, we have nothing to fear.

Week Four of Expressive Arts – the beliefs upon which we are built

Once Upon a Time…

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…

The beginning…

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?

Desert Moon Flower, Age 5, on touch drawing titled, “The Lap of the Goddess”

Conversations with Trees

One of the seeds that I planted in my Seeds of Intention Workshop last month was to move more. Since my words come through my fingertips, rather than through spoken word, I tend to spend a great deal of time at the keyboard, and though I have not had to report to a 9 to 5 kind of job in the last year, I have been terribly sedentary for the tasks of writing, reading, editing, and re-reading.

I thought I would commit to going to a yoga class with one of my workshop attendees, but with my father’s appointments and my own standing commitments, I found it difficult to make that happen in the right timing.

Last weekend, I drove up to Tallahassee to spend the weekend with one of my Tribe Sisters to celebrate her birthday. It was there that I found inspiration. Her significant other has taken up walking each morning and evening. Despite having the wrong shoes, I joined him for ‘church’ as he calls it.

One of the symbolic tasks of planting our seeds in the garden of manifestation is to come back to the garden to see what needs more care. When I thought to commit to something that failed to manifest, it was up to me to pull some weeds and decide what else I could plant in its place.

So, with my friend’s encouragement, I started my own church… a congregation of one. I have committed to walking morning and night, and delight in checking in with him to discuss the beauty of our ‘sermons’. You see, for him… walking has become a form of devotion. Each day he exits his home into the predawn darkness and he walks into the light. At the end of the day, he walks the setting sun down the aisle and welcomes back the night. It is his own form of prayer and extreme self care. He glows with the joy of salted holy water that rises through his pores.

This morning, as I walked the streets of my neighborhood, I found myself in conversation with every tree that lined my path. Here in Florida, we experience a dance with the seasons on any given day. Lately, we have been waltzing with spring and summer with temperatures moving through the seventies and into the nineties, and I’ve heard we will have a day or two of winter this week, with temps falling into the forties at night. You never know what you might wake up to around here this time of year.

Consequently, the variety of trees that offer us their beauty are in varying states of annual evolution. Most noticeable are the oak trees, which thrive in nearly every yard. I have two in my front yard that stand sentinel and feel like great protectors of my property. As one appears to be at death’s door nearly bone bare for the loss of leaves, the other is expressing joyous rebirth in the green freshness of new life emerging from every branch.

There are also the flowering trees and shrubs like the Azaleas, which are currently screaming pink and purple at everyone who passes, and the Tabebuia trees have already passed their prime and have littered flowers of lemon yellow in yards and onto streets that surround. And we simply cannot forget the oak pollen, the film of powdered yellow-green that is painted onto every surface, as if to insist we look up to from whence it came and witness the fertility and abundance of the sacred sanctuary of our squirrels and the joyful birds that sing our welcome into each new day.

As I walk through this church of life and rebirth, it is not lost on me the way that nature and humanity mirror one another. When we witness the blossoming of new beginnings in the lives of our loved ones and feel that we have lost all of our leaves, it is not ours to grieve – but to celebrate. There is joy to be shared in the abundance of others, just as hope springs forth in our own lives. That blanket of pollen we are sprinkling onto our hopes and dreams for the manifestation of bright green new growth is only moments from being pulled back to reveal extraordinary expansion.

Just when it seems all is lost, with leaves scattered and browning upon the earth, we look up from that perceived devastation to find the glory of our own new beginnings. So, pay attention dear ones. You may think that your garden is going nowhere, but I’m willing to bet that those sprouts are rising and are about to burst forth into the sunlight of your own self-care, delivering an abundance of color and new life to fill your days with a kind of peace and happiness you have not previously imagined. I can feel it! Can’t you?

Thank you for walking this path with me. I don’t even mind the pollen when you are here. Love, love, love…

[Mucha’s Four Seasons Personified]

Mindfully Human

I am told that the reason we move out of energetic form into the human realm is so that we can have a ‘sensual’ experience. In other words, we are here to learn and grow through the art of feeling.

Through my study of death, I have learned not to fear what comes next, as we will shift back into a different, less tangible form. This is a far cry from my childhood belief that we live, then die and simply cease to be.

Despite this shift in perspective, I still don’t have a relationship with the concept of heaven and hell, as I am certain those are human constructs of manipulation (no offense). I tend to believe that those are possible realities right here on earth, depending on your circumstances.

As I walked home from my parents’ house last evening, feeling a mist of rain and wind upon my skin, with the sensation of my heart filling at the sight of the Tabebuia tree in my neighbor’s yard, which is in stunning full bloom the color of sunshine, I was overcome by the urgency of this experience.

It was as if the Universe was reminding me to drink it all in… every sensation and emotion, so that I will be able to carry them with me when my body ceases to house my soul.

As we leave the womb of our mother, we emerge into the light. As we grow we are exposed to so many experiences that offer learning and growth to the consciousness of the soul, and every lesson is deepened by touch, by sound, by taste, by sight, by smell, and by the words we are able to share with one another.

On the other side of the veil, we continue to learn and grow, but it is very different in the absence of corporeal form. Imagine being educated about love without the tenderness of a caring caress. Imagine learning more about courage without feeling fear for the temporary nature of the body. Imagine trying to understand passion and desire without all of the elements that go into the experience of attainment. Imagine wrapping your love around someone without ever feeling their embrace.

There is so much here for us to learn, and it has nothing to do with marketable skills. If we are not placing value on the way the wind makes us feel as it runs wispy fingers through our hair, or how the gentle rain consecrates our sacred bodies with holy water from the sky above, or how the fire warms our skin and brings illumination to our camp songs and ghost stories, or how every inch of earth supports and nurtures our every footfall, we are horribly missing the point of this human experience.

Offering our love to others in the form of words or physical hugs is something that we can only do in human incarnation. When we flow back into the infinite energetic force of all that is, we will be nowhere and everywhere, all at once. But our loved ones may not know it. Doesn’t that make being here now of greater importance? Doesn’t that make you want to go out and dance in the rain with anyone whose touch you will one day long to feel along the surface of your skin?

Textures, emotions, colors, the physical sensation of the elements of nature, tangible expressions of love, affection, and adoration… we cannot take these things with us. Allow your mind, body and soul to drink in every sensual encounter as if it might be a hundred years before you have the chance to feel it again.

If we are mindful and present in every moment, there will be nothing to regret when we finally shed this mortal skin and rise into the freedom of what comes next. What a glorious thought! To know that we get to carry forth such luscious gratitude for every little thing.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I am enormously happy that you are here.

What Is Your Joy?

My friend Brian called from Oregon this morning. He wanted to thank me for the Valentine card I mailed last week. As we were catching up on the details of the lives and loves of one another, he made a suggestion.

We talked about the toxic workplace in which we met, and about those who are choosing to leave for their own mental health… and of course, celebrating our own choices to leave. For each of us, leaving was one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves.

As I shared with him the workshops that I am creating to share a sense of mindful manifestation with others, he exclaimed, “You make such a difference in the lives of those who know you. You should share my story! I’ll never forget what you asked me that night that we had dinner together, while my organs were literally shutting down. You said, “Brian, What is your joy?” That one question changed everything!”

I have told this story before, in an article that I wrote for Elephant Journal, and in another blog post called More than Grateful. Frankly, Brian has no idea how significant his story is and how often I share it, but I’ll share a brief version here, as well.

Brian was one of the first people I met in the company I went to work for after being liberated from my long-time workplace in 2017. It was love at first sight – you know, the way you meet someone and you instantly feel you’d like to know them better? Well, we had little opportunity to do so, since he would be working remotely and only coming to town periodically. But as fate would have it, we managed to find time to make a connection.

Of the many executives I worked with, he was the only one who seemed to be heart-centered. Sharing a meal with him during his visits was the one thing work related to which I looked forward. We loved our time so much that we continued meeting for dinner even after I left the company that October.

It was at dinner in February that he shared with me his diagnosis and prognosis. He had prostate cancer that had metastasized in his bones. That was when I looked deep into his eyes, refusing to react with tears or pity, and asked, “Brian, what is your joy?”

It was not lost on me that this sweet man had been given a deadline, and here he was risking his health by getting on an airplane each month to come into a workplace who obviously didn’t care for his well being. Exposing an immunosuppressed sacred being to the hazards of viral and bacterial boxes of in-flight holding is criminal.

His immediate reply to my query was, “Melissa, no one has ever asked me that before.” He promised to go home and think about it. It turned out that he flew home early, and went right into the hospital. An experimental medication his oncologist was giving him had begun to shut down his organs.

I almost lost my dear friend before he was able to answer this all important question. If that alternate reality had come to pass, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I never would have understood the magnitude of my great loss. In as many ways as I have blessed his life and brought about a more mindful existence… he has done the same for me.

Brian’s courage to share his truth with me that day brought forth that morsel of wisdom that came through me. Ask the question, to help someone find their own solution.

His reply came to me on Valentine’s Day, ten days after I posed the question. He wrote to me: ” My joy: spending as much time with Derek as possible.” It was then that he told me he had been in the hospital for a week after returning home, but I was not yet aware of the close call he survived.

It has been a year since Brian made this declaration, and it has been three months since he began pursuing his JOY full time. When the cancer started spreading again in September, I convinced him to start working on an exit strategy, so that every moment of the time he has left can be dedicated to soul fulfillment.

He shared today that his last check up was pretty good. He feels good, and he is filling his days with more joy and less stress. This makes my heart so happy.

As for me, my joy is getting to connect deeply with others. That kind of surface connection just won’t do. I want to know what makes your heart happy. I want to know what makes your soul sing. I want to know… if you were to be given a terminal diagnosis tomorrow (heaven forbid), how you would choose to spend the rest of your days.

I was blessed to be able to take an early retirement of sorts, so that I can be present with the extra care that my parents need at this time in their lives. But as all caregivers should, I feel it necessary to find more balance in my life. Knowing that they are safe and well is gratifying, but there are days that are more difficult than others, and I need to have something that fills my needs while I am filling theirs.

The workshops that I am facilitating is a part of that plan. In fact, my next workshop is dedicated to finding just that. As the wheel of the year turns, and we greet the growing daylight in the northern hemisphere, we will celebrate the Spring Equinox. Twice a year, day and night are equal, and we are reminded that our needs are not unlike those of Mother Earth.

At my second workshop on March 30, Persephone Rises – and we will be Finding Balance at the Equinox. Just the thought of it makes my heart push through dark, moist soil toward the expansion of the sun. We shall throw off our cloaks of winter and don the brilliance of springtime.

The intentions that we developed in February should be starting to take root, and it is up to us to ensure their freedom to grow.

I know that for me, finding balance means ensuring that I am creating ample opportunity to refill and recharge. Spending time with those I care about brings me joy, as does listening to live music – so I’ll be having more of that. Also, I’ve dedicated to doing one of these workshops every 8 weeks or so for the year, and even the planning brings me joy. Honoring Persephone as she emerges from the underworld makes me squeal with delight! But then… there will be the time spent with others who are willing and eager to seek something deeper for themselves and to become the joyful gardeners of their own lives. More than anything, I love to be witness to the growing glow of others.

So, tell me dear ones… What is your joy? I really want to know.

May the words in this graphic that I designed be a blessing upon all of your days. Thank you for walking this path with me. Your presence is also my joy.