Mountain Music

I am sitting on the porch of my friends’ Tennessee home, and the breeze offers a slight chill as it plays with my hair while the lowering sun caresses my skin with warmth.  A variety of birds are singing their evening songs which speak of a beautiful day blessed by sunshine and the smell of sweet grass.  Several are dancing around the nearby feeder, reminding me that the term ‘eats like a bird’ doesn’t mean what most people assume.    My friend lost his sweet mother last year, and this space that we are blessed to enjoy was lovingly referred to by that kind and generous woman as Mockingbird Cottage.  Her gentle spirit still surrounds us in this heavenly place. and I can sense that she is near… laughing at the hungry birds at play, and recalling the way the wind once felt against her skin on a cool summer evening.  She and I close our eyes and breathe deeply of this moment of shared peace and solitude.  We anticipate the arrival of fireflies within the next hour.

I drove up on Friday, and the journey was pleasant as the companion I chose read to me his words of experience and wisdom with the voice of a philosopher.  I downloaded required reading for my end of life doula coursework through Audibles, and Stephen Jenkinson’s voice fed my mind throughout my ten hour journey with his thoughts on palliative care from his book called DIE WISE: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.   Eight hours of reading remains, and he has already given me so much to think about… mostly about the way that death, though it is the one guarantee that comes with birth, is something that most people fear and run from.  Many of his patients who chose palliative care when a diagnosis became a prognosis would later come to curse the effectiveness of their treatment, as it was keeping them alive long past their wish to continue.  In other words, it may have given them more time, but it did not necessarily give them more ‘life’… just more suffering.  That kind of took my breath away.  It made me think more clearly about the wording I would use in my advance directive, the official forms which will state my wishes for end of life care.

It also made me think about the act of dying, and the choices one makes for how to spend their final days once a deadline has been given.  And if one would choose to do things any differently, at that point, (assuming the body was able) why we would wait until we’ve been given a deadline to start living in a way that would finally feed our soul.  Should we not be spending all of our days that way?  I mean, the day we are born the one thing that is certain is that we will also die.  It seems to me that there is always a deadline, its just that the expiration date is hidden beneath the fold of awareness.

I wonder what that might look like for me… a well-fed soul, and I believe that it looks something like sitting outside on a summer evening to hear the cacophony of birds chirping, cicadas humming, and distant dogs barking.  It also looks like valuable time spent connecting with dear friends, and making new ones at a mountain art festival.  It looks like smiling at the tiny green bug that just landed on the keyboard, and resting until it is ready to take flight.  It looks like taking the time to dive into a topic that once felt overwhelming and frightening, so that I may one day be of service in a way that transcends and ascends my former level and ability of caring.  It looks like choosing to fill the rest of my days, be they long or few, with greater purpose and meaning.

Sitting here, in this sacred space outdoors, with the spirit of this sweet lady that I was blessed to know and shall always adore, I can list the messages that nature has delivered for my inability to hear her voice.  The symbolism of the mockingbird is overcoming fear.  The symbolism of the hummingbird, whose presence inspired the urge to write, is lightness of being and enjoyment of life, as well as the reminder to be more present.  The symbolism of the fireflies for whom we wait, is self-illumination, guidance and freedom.  As I glance over my shoulder to see if they have yet arrived, I see a cardinal at the feeder and smile to myself to realize that the symbolism of this particular bird is a reminder to realize the importance of your purpose in life… while for some, it informs them of the presence of a loved one lost.  She knows I’m thinking of her and that I know she is here… affirmed by a glance before me to see that cardinal making his way across the darkening yard, stopping to look back at me from a moment’s perch atop the umbrella in the yard.

I am grateful for this time that I have given myself… to explore the depths of my soul before stepping blindly into a new chapter that might be less than fulfilling, to breathe deeply with gratitude for the beauty of nature and for that which we cannot see or hear without the courage to open our hearts.  After all, love is not something visible to the eye… it can only be felt with the heart.  So, I dare you, dear ones to close your eyes and open your hearts.  There are messages flashing before you, like the fireflies who have just arrived.  I’d love for you to join me in this reverie of light and flight!  Tell me…  what do you see?

fireflies

The Beauty of Pilgrimage

Ten years ago this summer, I took a trip abroad that was quite life altering and life affirming.  I was finishing up my third decade with an epiphany; I am no longer going to wait for someone else to make my dreams come true.  I realized that I was missing opportunities to follow my bliss, because I was waiting for a companion to come into my life or for a friend to have the funds and vacation time available to join me for adventure.  I decided that year that I would wait no longer.  I booked a trip in February to be taken in August.  I thought about returning to England or Scotland, places I had been before and loved, but realized that I really needed to go to Ireland.  Through an online search I found a few groups that did tours that were geared toward Celtic spirituality.  I was not interested in wasting a single day doing something that did not resonate with me.  I didn’t want to be in this sacred country of my ancestors, and have to spend a day in the Waterford Crystal factory, when I could be spending that time among ancient sites that predate the pyramids.  The company was selected by the travel date that didn’t interfere with a corporate board meeting, and I was set for a solitary adventure.  I had nearly 6 months to plan, and I set about learning more about the sites I would see.  At the time, I knew very little about the country, beyond my love for their native traveling hit, Riverdance.  I was so glad to have the time to know more before landing on sacred ground.  I was given an alumni guide to the history of the island, that went back to the actual land formation around the ice age.  Here’s a little morsel of wisdom:  There were never snakes in Ireland.  They did not cross over the land bridge before the ice melted and turned it into an island.

The difference in being a tourist and a pilgrim is profound.  A tourist travels with a mission that carries a bit of expectation and stress, while a pilgrim is on a spiritual journey with the intention of experiencing wonder and being open to the magick of synchronicity and ‘allowing’.  Rather than scrambling to make things happen, one may simply allow the unfolding of the beauty and mystery that surrounds.

There are so many wonderful and amazing things that I was blessed to experience on that sacred journey, but I woke up this morning thinking of one particular moment that I’d like to share.  I call it my Monica moment.

We were about half-way through our two week tour when we made our way down to the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.  It was on the itinerary that we would see, among other things in this beautiful area, the Gallarus Oratory.  In my initial reading, prior to arrival, it was written to be a 12th century church of stone on stone (no mortar) construction that appeared in the shape of an upturned boat.  If you look it up online now, it has a few interpretations for its use by different archaeologists over the years.  One speculation I admire is that it might have been a shelter for foreigners, or another possibility of being a funerary space for the family that owned the property.  I rarely spend much time worrying about the truth of an ancient structure, and tend to simply be grateful that it remains standing for my witness centuries after its construction.

When we arrived at the Oratory, our entire group of 13 entered, and with hands clasped, we could stretch our circle to be touching the walls that encapsulated us.  There was no more than a doorway on one side of the structure and a window on the other.  This was a spiritual tour, therefore, everyone traveling with us had some level of interest in Celtic history, mythology, or were otherwise energetic healers of some sort.  At the time, I was struggling with my identity, and the best I believed I could offer was a passion for singing chants that I had learned over the previous 16 years.  So, I was asked to lead the group in a healing chant, and that I did.  I closed my eyes, and twelve voices joined mine to sing the first chant I had learned, which moved me enough to choose this path of feminine spirituality for my soul’s enrichment.  Raising your voice in an ancient place with fellow pilgrims is a powerful thing.  I can’t tell you how many times we moved through those words, but it was possibly five rounds.  When I opened my eyes, I looked up and found a face in the window looking in at us.  I said, “Oh, look!  We’ve attracted an Angel!”, and I snapped her picture.

I lingered inside the small structure for a few minutes, and when I stepped back into the light, I found my anam cara, a new soul-friend that I met on the tour, talking with the woman from the window.  I heard her say, “You should talk to Melissa, she’s our chantress!”  I walked over and smiled, as the Angel from the window spoke with a foreign accent.  “Hello.  My name is Monica.  I was so moved by your song.”  I replied, “Hi there.  My name is Melissa.  That song really moves me, too.  Would you like me to share it with you?”  And she nodded her head, and she and I clasped each others hands.  We looked into each other’s eyes as I sang: “I am a circle, I am healing you.  You are a circle, you are healing me.  Unite us, be one.  Unite us, be as one.”  As I sang to this sweet stranger whose spiritual path had just crossed over my own, tears poured from her eyes.  When the chant ended, she thanked me and we hugged.  It was quite possibly one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced.  A decade has passed, and it is still crisp in my mind’s eye, that moment of shared magick.  I am so grateful that I was mindful enough to snap that photo.  Monica still peers through to me from that ancient window whose image is perched in my library.  Sitting at my computer now, I wonder if she ever thinks of me… or if she tells a similar story to her friends and family about this amazingly wonderful thing that happened on her way to the Oratory.

When I reflect on that memory, I wonder why it is we rarely have these magickal moments at home or at the grocery store.  It seems such a shame to have to travel to a foreign land to allow the open heart and open mind to attract such an interaction with people we don’t know.  I think I will set my intention to attract more of this brand of magick wherever I roam, be it ancestral homeland or Trader Joe’s.

If you are blessed with the opportunity to travel beyond your home base, whether it be foreign or domestic, I hope that you will go forth with a pilgrim’s heart.  Be open to receive whatever blessings the Universe has in store for you, and if you ever have the chance, I hope you’ll take the hands of a perfect stranger and sing to her with genuine caring and love.  It will leave a permanent stamp on your soul that will bring you hope and healing even as it becomes a distant memory.  I promise.

monicamoment