The Burden of Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respite to Remembrance

Thank you in advance, dear Universe, for allowing words to flow directly through my fingertips, for my mind is filled with grief and fog. There is too much importance to allow for escape. So, please… let this page hold space for me and my broken heart.

Just a little test escape… a weekend of caregiver respite, desired FOR me by my parents, and required by my body and soul, to enable my ability to continue serving with grace, ease, and joy. Three nights. It will only be three nights. I can trust that everything will be okay for three nights… in order to engage in self care. In order to pour my body into living waters, to be held in the womb of Mother Earth, in order to be reborn. Just three nights, to see how it goes, then possibly plan for longer.

For weeks, I planned and worried. A place to go that will feel healing. A selection of friends who stepped forward to serve ME. A stand-in caregiver to serve my father at each edge of the day. An extraordinary new neighbor, with an offer of support. It would only be three nights. I had an ominous feeling. My stomach didn’t feel quite right. There was a Tower in the reading, and a Four of Swords. Would it be the release and rest I needed, that would transform, or would it be… the thing I dare not speak. I worried that maybe we five wouldn’t get along. I worried that I should cancel. I worried about the loss of a large sum of non-refundable investment. I worried that we would get there, then be called home. I worried that something would happen, and I would be hours away. I worried that he would ask me to stay. I worried that he wouldn’t ask me to stay, even though he meant it.

There were signs, in the days before. Stepping out of my parents’ house on June 22, a snake greeted me atop the hedge. Then on July 8, my cats alerted me to a snake on the threshold of my own home, that I later discovered upon opening the door, was shedding its skin. I do not fear snakes, and feel that a sighting brings affirmation and reflection. I ask myself, in those rare moments, what might be the message? The assumption: Transformation is coming. Soon, that which has become limiting will be released and offer freedom.

Threshold Snakeskin

The day before departure, he wasn’t feeling well. There had been a couple of weeks of discomfort. We’d met virtually with the doctor, and followed guidance, but he didn’t feel good, and I struggled with leaving. I asked him to let me take him to the hospital. They could do tests, and he would have expert care in my absence. I could truly relax. His reply: “No, I’m not ready.” Respecting my parents’ autonomy as they age, has been a boundary I have worked not to cross… sometimes stepping on toes. My Mom calls me ‘bossy’, sometimes. I have decided to be a servant, for better or worse, and I mean to respect their every wish.

The day before departure, my brand new next door neighbor called me to say that she should meet my parents before I leave, so she could offer assistance while I was away. At some point, in recent months, I had asked the Universe to deliver the right people to enable my respite. I have come to know that my request was filled in abundance. (I hope this will inspire you to start asking for what you need, too.)

I can’t remember Friday morning. I believe I stopped by while he was still sleeping. My friends arrived for the long drive north. I texted his caregiver about my concerns, and what to look out for. Don’t forget his pills. Drinks with electrolytes in the fridge. [Even though I’m scared, I trust all shall be well.] I texted that night to be sure he got tucked in. The first full day I’d been away since Thanksgiving, when he came home from rehab after breaking his hip – now a virtual paraplegic. 11pm, and all was well.

At 5:30am on Saturday, my phone lights up with “Dad Needs You”. My brother programmed Alexa to call me at his command. I didn’t know how to program anything else, and instructed him to call me if Mom (who is hearing impaired) couldn’t hear him. I would reach out from where I was to deliver assistance. His voice: “Melissa, I’m ready to go to the hospital.”

By the time all calls had been made, all five of us were in the living room, four beloved friends holding space for me and my Pop. I called my Mom with no answer. I called my house sitter with no answer. I called my new angel-neighbor, who followed instructions to find my key and then my parents’ key, to open the door for paramedics, who would carry my father to safety. “Don’t you dare come home.”, my parents said. He is receiving the care he needs. You can rest.

My coffee was served with a shot of Kahlua. I was carried to the sacred spring where my body could receive cold healing. I made calls upon return to the log cabin in the woods. They were running tests. A UTI. Should probably see a Pulmonologist as an outpatient. Fierce daughter reply: “My father is homebound. While in the hospital, doctors come to him. He may not be discharged until we know why he can’t breathe.” He later threw up, though he’d not eaten all day. He told me by phone he didn’t feel good, but not to come home. I screamed and cried as my friends held me close. It was the hardest thing to do… to not go home.

He was admitted that night. My mom was delivered to and from the hospital by my angel-neighbor. More tests. They would care for him to enable my respite. They would call with updates (I had to call every time.) It was hard to stay, but impossible to leave. My body, my soul, my heart needed respite. I needed my friends to hold my soul together and feed me the love I had given to others. They, too, are my angels.

We built a fire, and asked the flames to cleanse and purify my sorrow, my fear, my fatigue, and that which was ailing my father. We made wishes with treated pinecones, which burned green and blue. I thanked the universe in advance for holding my father close, for making him feel safe, and for giving me the strength I needed for whatever would lie ahead. His caregiver visited him in the hospital on my behalf, bringing him his glasses and tablet. He’ll want his books and puzzles, after all… while the tests are done and doctors are seen.

On Monday morning, we packed up and drove home. I checked on Mom then went to the hospital. I told him that staying away was so hard. He didn’t want to eat. He drank from a cup I prepared for him, but just a bit.

[As I type, two Mourning Doves have perched upon the feeder outside my window. One is preening and looking at me, while the other eats from the feeder, looking up at me, too. I’ve never seen them do this before, usually gathering bits on the ground. Their symbolism from dying.lovetoknow.com reads: “The dove’s appearance to someone in mourning is often viewed as a visitation from the deceased loved one. The person in mourning senses a message of hope or encouragement from their deceased loved one. Others believe the mourning dove is a messenger sent by angels, spirit guides, or even God..” Seriously… they are still there. I see you.]

I went back to ‘tuck him in’ Monday night, and returned Tuesday for our ‘morning ritual’. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to drink. He said: “I just don’t know how I’m going to get out of here.” I watched him rest. I told him I would come back after a nap. As he did every day, he said: “I’ll wait right here.”

I was preparing to return to the hospital when the phone rang. The nurse said he was being taken to ICU. His oxygen was in the low 80s. I didn’t get to see him. I waited. Visiting hours ended. I called to say, “I’ll wait right here.”

The doctor said, he had given them permission to intubate and put him on a ventilator to work out the problem. We learned he had severe pneumonia. I told my brother to come. I informed my father’s five siblings. I went home to tell my Mom.

On Wednesday, my brother and sister-in-law drove up, as my father’s only out-of-state brother drove down with his wife. In the rest of the hospital, Covid restrictions meant that a patient could only have two visitors per day. Gratefully, ICU patients could have two visitors at a time.

We sat by his side, watching the machine do its thing. I remembered how it was reported that many Covid patients did not survive coming off of the ventilator. They assured me this wasn’t Covid, so there was hope.

My parents have gifted my brother and me with preparedness. When they moved closer to me, they updated their will, gave each of us power of attorney, established the line of healthcare advocacy, and advance directive / five wishes.[The male cardinal has just stopped by the feeder for a bite – my symbol for my love language – ‘showing up’. Thank you, love, for showing up today.]

In my father’s notes, he declared that his wish was not to prolong death. He listed what he considered to be life-support treatment to include “major surgery, blood transfusion, dialysis, antibiotics, procedures, devices, medications, (other than to keep me pain free) should not be used to prolong life. I have lived my life with love and service to others, made my own mistakes, suffered my own pains. When it is time to leave, I only wish to do so with love and dignity.” He marked the box if he was close to death that read: “I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.”

I discussed these things with the doctor. We agreed to give it some time, while the family gathered. On Thursday, as my brother and I sat with Dad, before he and his wife would return home to care for my sister’s beloved mother with Alzheimers, and their teenage granddaughter, I heard a beautiful voice from a nearby room.

Out stepped a woman with a guitar, and so I inquired. By prescription, patients in ICU could have music therapy. Lexa offered to give therapy in advance and get permission later.

[The tufted titmice are now here… more than I’ve seen before. Usually 4 at a time, but today at least 6 or 8 (“The prayers that you are speaking over your life are heard and the Tufted Titmouse is a reminder that blessings are forthcoming. It is a symbol of faith. And an encouraging message for you to keep it.”). And the female cardinal is peering down from the oak branch.]

The therapist asked for a favorite song or genre, and I told her that he prefers folk music. She found John Denver, and when I heard the first title, I knew it was right. A life-long friend of mine used to come to our house for safe haven when we were young, and she had been distressed that Dad was so ill while she was traveling for work. The song Lexa performed for Pop was Sunshine On My Shoulders. I recorded and I cried. She dedicated it not only to Pop, but to my brother and me. As hard as it was for me not to leave respite, I know it was hard for he and his wife to go back home. Seeing how music affected Pop, I set up his tablet to stream the Folk Music channel on Amazon. I told him I would see him tomorrow, but he didn’t say, “I’ll wait right here.”

On Friday, I felt a shift. I was talking to Dad as I walked about the house, pouring my morning gratitude into coffee. “Thank you in advance, dear angels, for holding my father in the light of love, and for guiding me toward right action.” I pulled a card from Alana Fairchild’s Journey of Love Oracle, and the message was, SOFT. It was number 47 and the message was on page 111. It read as follows:

“A sanctuary bathed in soft light, your heart is receptive, inviting, and gentle. It brings strength to the weary, comfort to the lonely, and healing to the wounded. It is a magnet for all that is needed – for you, your beloveds, your world. Don’t imagine you must always be the fighter, going against the part of your nature that longs for harmony and peace. This is your time to be soft. To surrender. To let the subtle waves of the heart invite love in, and to receive. In doing so, you will give so much.

This oracle brings you a message of peace. Surrender now. Be soft. Even just for this moment of quiet reflection. You have perhaps been working too hard at growing and living. Take some moments to replenish and allow the divine to help you, dear one. Be soft so you are receptive to the Divine. It is when we let go that we truly perceive the obstacles that lie between us and oneness with the divine lover. Let go and perceive that the divine lover is already awakening in your heart.

You are the softness he desires
You help light his way
You nurture all
That he holds dear
Though tempest clouds dismay

And in the quiet of the storm
His gentleness comes through
And in the shelter of his arms
His heart is there for you”

When I got to Dad’s room, his skin was red with fever, and his heartrate was more than double its norm. They were allowing him to breathe on his own with the ventilator only offering oxygen. This, they said, was the process of trying to take someone off of the ventilator… letting them strengthen, then rest, then strengthen some more.

I texted my mother, my brother, and my father’s siblings, and I told them that I felt we should let him go. Though it pained us all, we were in agreement. We chose not to betray him. We chose to honor his wishes. We are capable of hard things. This is the hardest thing I have ever done. I spoke to two doctors and his nurses. If we took him off life support, he would not survive. If we kept him on for weeks to see if medication and machines could manufacture a new beginning, we would risk bringing him back to the surface, only to suffer the continued pain of life inside a broken, 84 year old body. He would eventually be moved out of ICU, and placed where the care would not be ‘intensive’, but lacking.

Daddy’s siblings came to see him and to say goodbye. They felt the decision was the right action. Since he is the eldest of seven, they were saying farewell to a brother they had known every single day of their lives. We talked about our history of lost loves, regrets, and signs. My Uncle told me that as he and his wife read my post that morning about the oracle card I had drawn, his wife had opened her wallet to reveal their room key, partially obscured in its pocket, it read: “It’s Time To Let Me Go”.

Between visitors, I read to my father. On his first day on the ventilator, I read to him poetry by David Whyte and John O’Donahue. And then I read him my latest blog post about the tree in my neighbors yard that will soon be removed. As I read those words to him, I realized that every word of Deep Grief and the Ailing Oak, had been written for him. Seriously, EVERY. WORD.

When Mom visited Dad, it was hard. They’d lived together for 60 years, and didn’t really talk much when he was not unconscious. She wasn’t sure what to say when it seemed he wasn’t listening. But I assured her that he could hear us. That night, she sent me a message that read: “You know what Dad likes? Winnie-the-Pooh.” And so, that is how I spent the last full day with my Father… reading to him the book that he once read to me. I remember the four of us circled in the living room, taking turns reading chapters as I was learning to read.

After five chapters, I reminded Daddy that when his body was gone from us, he was instructed to haunt us. My brother and I both requested that he show up to us in ways that we could understand. Every morning when I lifted him out of bed and into his chair, he insisted on listening to his music. With a love of Folk Music, I found a station and pressed play. Here were the first three songs that played, before visiting hours ended, and I was forced to leave him behind… hearing him say: “I’ll wait right here.”: Sailing by Christopher Cross – “Just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free.” Followed by, Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel – “I said I love you, that’s forever, and this I promise from the heart. I couldn’t love you any better. I love you just the way you are” And the last song my father sent to me before they made me leave was, You Are So Beautiful by Joe Cocker – “You’re everything I hoped for. You’re everything I need. You are so wonderful to me.”

Okay Pop… music it is. You will communicate to me, in part, through music. I’m listening.

That night, I came home and asked our friends and loved ones to hold my father close. I shared the words of Phowa Practice from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and asked them if they would say this prayer, or one of their own, on his behalf. [We are wealthy in our friends.] I asked one friend to drive my mother and me to the hospital the next day, and my life-long friend flew in to stay the night and say good-bye to the father-figure that she deserved. I spoke to the owner of our local crematorium, whom I discovered during End of Life Doula studies a few years earlier. We shared deep, meaningful conversation, and more than one synchronicity. I decided to commit the sacred vessel of my father to her care, when it was time.

I probably don’t have to write down for posterity that it was impossible to sleep, or how a body holding grief and empathy for the dying feels not a single inch of comfort. Everything is clenched from scalp to toes. The grieving become the embodiment of pain and suffering.

On Saturday morning, we moved through thickness and nausea. Not a moment spent without question. Is he ready to go? Are we ready to let go? How will we survive this day? Are we making a mistake? Will he suffer? Is he suffering? Will we collapse under the weight of not knowing? Have I misread the signs? From his advance directive and five wishes, have I betrayed him by waiting this long? Have I betrayed him by not waiting long enough? Will my knees fall out from under me? Have I prepared the right words for his soul to hear? Will he follow them into the light of all that is? Will he be stubborn and choose to remain in suffering, just to be with us for a while longer… like that Thursday before my trip, when I asked him to let me take him to the hospital? He is the one on the ventilator, so why am I the one that can’t breathe? Daddy-daddy… I love you.

We arrived at the hospital and our friends and companions said their good-byes, and we all stepped out after the paperwork was signed and respiratory therapist came in to remove all of the tubing that filled my father’s mouth, throat and nose. My mother and I returned alone, and I called my brother and sister-in-law, who wanted to be with us, though they could not be physically present. The nurse would come in to ensure Dad was comfortable. There was a gurgle of moisture in his throat. His eyes were closed, but when we spoke, he would turn his head. [Should I have opened his eyes for him? Did I fail him again?]

I spoke the words of Phowa, and asked that he know he was forgiven for anything that he may have thought or done, and that we hoped he would forgive us. When my mother spoke those words [“I forgive you, and I hope you forgive me.”], he turned his head toward her and his mouth changed shape, though he could not speak. In that gesture, I know there was forgiveness between them.

Dad’s brother, who had driven down when he’d heard the news, joined us in the room. He was committed to being present for all of us. I read a poem shared by a friend, written by Byron Ballard. The words are stirring and felt just right. We looked out the window, and the puffy clouds created a blue opening in the sky. I read these words and invited my father to go through the portal… just like in Stargate. It is open and ready for your next adventure.

Words of Byron Ballard

[Beloved brother, husband, father and friend:] You have come to the end of this pathway in a journey to which we bear witness.

You have come to the end of a pathway that is barred with a gate and a door.

May this door open swiftly and silently. May this gate give you a moment’s grace in which to rest your spirit before you venture through.

We stand here with you, as your companions, as your family, for you are beloved. But, for now, we must remain here. We cannot go with you to this old land. Not yet.

For you will see the Ancestors. You will see the Beloved Dead. You will walk among the Divine Beings that guide and nurture us all. You go to dwell in the lands of summer and of apples, where we dance forever youthful, forever free. We can hear the music in the mist, the drums that echo our sad hearts. We can see your bright eyes and your smile.

And so, we open the gate. We push back the door. We hold the gate open. We glance through the doorway, and with love and grief and wonder… we watch you walk through. Hail the Traveler! All those remembered in love, in honor, live on. Farewell, o best loved, o fairest, farewell.

I re-read to him the slightly edited letter that I thought I was writing to my ailing oak tree, but found it to be truly for him.

Beloved, sacred, holy being of earth and sky,

Thank you for loving us. Thank you for extending your beautiful branches into our lives. You have long stood sentinel near our home, offering shade and shelter for myself and many. Every summer, you host the return of our screaming cicadas and I am transported to childhood with memories of freedom. As years have passed, you have lost limbs and branches, and I have feared the day when your leaves would drop in the spring, and not return. And yet, you have continued to bloom… thriving through adversity… a body dis-eased but stubborn.

Every day, you remind me to thrive. You validate my own choice to nurture and support the lives and well-being of others. My own scars, bulges, and flaws are held in the light of love, because I have learned to love myself as I have loved you, even when gravity pulls you downward.

In this moment, we cannot fathom your absence. When you are gone, we will feel empty. Many will become temporarily homeless and afraid. Cicadas will rise from slumber and discover the lack of you. The view from our window will be naked and bright, and our hearts will be curtained no longer with branches and leaves, but with sorrow and longing.

I hope you will forgive me for being powerless to save you. I forgive you for not being strong enough to ensure your safety. I love you for the roots that have broken concrete, reminding me that Mother Nature is more powerful than anything man can do to limit Her progress. I love you for the trunk and branches of holding, which have been the playground of squirrels that have long entertained the cats who live here. I love you for your leaves of change that remind me that everything is temporary – as old leaves fall away to reveal fresh new growth each February.

Everything is temporary. Everything is temporary. And so, we must also say goodbye. We have to let you go. Thank you for loving us and for inviting us to love you back. We will miss you when you are gone… every. single. day. But we will also remember you with gratitude and great pleasure, for the memories you have provided. New growth will come again, you have shown us that truth. And just as you have embraced our home and property with your kindness, love and protection… we will be open to receive.

Because of your love, we have no choice but to love again. We love you. Thank you. Hail and Farewell.

I chanted the healing chant and the river is flowing chant, that I once sang to my goddess babies in their mothers’ bellies. I played a piece of music a member of our beloved church community shared with me that morning. The nurse came in to bring him more comfort. The gurgling was still there, and she left to ask the doctor about giving him another dose of something to dry it. My uncle stepped away for a few moments.

I pushed play on the Amazon Folk Channel I’d been playing each night when I left him. It had stopped with the question, ‘are you still listening?’ Wondering how long his body would choose to hold onto his tethered soul, I hoped it would bring comfort. And here… is what had been waiting to be played all day… The Air that I Breathe by the Hollies – To my mother, my brother, to my sister-in-law, and to me… my father sent this message: “All I need is the air that I breathe and to love you.” We laughed and we cried, for the irony of a beautiful being whose lungs could not hold oxygen. We watched the number growing smaller and smaller, and we were all honored and heartbroken to bear witness to the grand departure of our beloved Traveler as he walked through the gate. It was 1:52pm at his last visible breath, and 2:02pm at his final heartbeat. My new Angel number… 2:02. When I see it, I will know he is near.

“Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak, so sleep silent angel, go to sleep.”

Thank you for walking this path with us. There is a long, long way yet to go on this journey of grief, and we know we are not alone.

I love you, daddy. Send me the songs and the signs, please. I’ll wait right here.

Deep Grief and the Ailing Oak

For nearly 25 years, I have dwelled within the shade of two oak trees that stand sentinel at the front edges of my yard. Neither are the healthiest of trees; likely accidental volunteers that were permitted to take root and reach for the sky. The one that sits mostly in my neighbor’s yard is particularly special to me. Its branches reach nearly across the entire breadth of my house.

It is a squirrel super highway leading to the neighboring oak, and a diverse bird haven. The branch I spy directly out of my living room window is a perfect perch for our local hawk, and its leaves dance with the grasp of tiny tufted titmice, who grab seeds from the feeder before returning to a loving embrace. There is so much life happening in and around this beautiful being. I celebrate it daily.

Hawk in Upper Branch

Having recently purchased the house next door, my neighbor has had a number of people over to assist with projects required for a new beginning, and each has mentioned a concern for the wellness of the tree that also stretches limbs over her roof. This is a considerable worry in the land of annual hurricane season. To be honest, this beloved tree has been dropping bits of rotted limbs for many years. The Water Oak, we were told, tends to rot out in the middle, becoming a split risk.

So, I informed her that I would grieve deeply, but that I would offer my blessing for her to do the thing I could not do… tree removal.

Yesterday, grief settled into my core. I started researching sacred ceremony for the loss of a tree. I found a beautiful offering from another wordpress blogger, Druid’s Garden (link below). I stepped into the morning air, and spoke words of adoration to this glorious being, and took photos from every angle. I cannot fathom the emptiness that will be left behind. I cried for our pending parting, for the home and shelter that will be taken from so many creatures, and for the horror of chainsaws approaching to tear into diseased and struggling flesh. The thought of it haunts me.

https://druidgarden.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/druid-tree-workings-holding-space-and-helping-tree-spirits-pass/amp/

To come to terms with this inevitable departure, I’ve been considering how we help our pets to move on, when their bodies are no longer serving their spirits. It is an act of compassion. I have regretted waiting too long, to make that impossible call to the vet. Extra hours of suffering that I might have prevented would be that thing… if I could do one thing differently… it would be releasing my selfish hold to allow the arrival of peace.

The most memorable wisdom from studying the End of Life Doula path was Stephen Jenkinson’s chilling words about palliative care prolonging death. Much of his book, Die Wise was sometimes shocking to me, but I took to heart that I would not choose to prolong death, when that time comes for me. My neighbor and I discussed with the tree expert possible plans for making her house safer, but I realize now that anything other than complete removal would be doing what I would not choose for myself. But still… I grieve. Further, I reflect on the five statements of letting go from Ira Byok’s book, Dying Well. “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. Good bye.”

This song was playing on Pandora when I entered the house following my tear-filled reverie. Spiral Dance, my favorite Australian band, sing about The Oak and its many gifts to us. “For shelter and shade has the oak tree grown. The ship, the cradle, the hearth and home. Arms so strong they hold the sky. Stood so long that the heart can’t die.” My heart is singing a dirge, but The Druid’s Garden suggests something different… music that eases suffering, and I feel this song will be on my personal playlist. Our playlist; for the tree and me.

I don’t know how much time we have left together, but I have started tying cords, ribbons, and bells to branches within my reach. They represent adornments of my gratitude. When the time is right, I will scatter offerings of dried rose petals and white sage at the base of its trunk, sending my love into deep roots, which have kept us safe through many storms. I will scatter stone beads of Morganite, which will bring healing of trauma to the land which will have lost so much.

When I binge watched Marie Condo’s series on Tidying Up, I was inspired to write a love letter to my home, based on her tradition of greeting a home with gratitude upon entering. I would also offer this gesture to my beloved oak.
https://beethelight.blog/2019/01/04/ode-to-sanctuary/

Beloved, sacred, holy being of earth and sky,
Thank you for loving us. Thank you for extending your beautiful branches into my life. You have long stood sentinel near my home, offering shade and shelter for myself and many. Every summer, you host the return of our screaming cicadas and I am transported to childhood with memories of freedom. As years have passed, you have lost limbs and branches, and I have feared the day when your leaves would drop in the spring, and not return. And yet, you have continued to bloom… thriving through adversity… a body dis-eased but stubborn.
Every day, you remind me to thrive. You validate my own choice to nurture and support the lives and well-being of others. My own scars, bulges, and flaws are held in the light of love, because I have learned to love myself as I have loved you, even when gravity pulls you downward.
In this moment, I cannot fathom your absence. When you are gone, I will feel empty. Many will become temporarily homeless and afraid. Cicadas will rise from slumber and discover the lack of you. The view from my window will be naked and bright, and my heart will be curtained no longer with branches and leaves, but with sorrow and longing. I hope you will forgive me for being powerless to save you. I forgive you for not being strong enough to ensure your safety. I love you for the roots that have broken concrete, reminding me that Mother Nature is more powerful than anything man can do to limit Her progress. I love you for the trunk and branches of holding, which have been the playground of squirrels that have long entertained the cats who live here. I love you for your leaves of change that remind me that everything is temporary – as old leaves fall away to reveal fresh new growth each February.
Everything is temporary. Everything is temporary. And so, I must also say goodbye. I have to let go. Thank you for loving me and for inviting me to love you back. I will miss you when you are gone… every. single. day. But I will also remember you with gratitude and great pleasure, for the memories you have provided. New growth will come again, you have shown me that truth. And just as you have embraced my home and property with your kindness, love and protection… I will be open to receive.
Because of your love, I have no choice but to love again. I love you. Thank you. Hail and Farewell.

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

Love is Viral – An Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Candace Hicks’ Common Threads at BlueStar Contemporary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somewhere along the San Antonio Riverwalk, March 2020

Gratefully Exhausted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Circle Up for Love That Heals

A couple of years ago, I learned about the loved one of a dear friend who was facing an overwhelming future based on a diagnosis and prognosis she’d received. The ache I could feel with my empathic heart was extreme. I crafted a meditation to invoke healing with the help of others, and today that ache has returned.

A former colleague and respected friend has been reaching out for support from her beloved community, as her most sacred being and life-partner has been given an overwhelming diagnosis. Once again, I do not know him personally, but I know the heart of my friend, and I can feel her ache, her fear, and the weight of her burden. My intention is to send Reiki and ThetaHealing to assist with the battle our patient is facing, as well as to bolster the strength of my friend as she holds space for the one she loves.

Once again, I’d like to engage your support.  I promise that it will not cost you more than a moment of thought, and what I know for sure is that the light produced by your mindful awareness will add to the light of mine, and together… we may just permeate the darkness descending upon a sacred soul.  Now, the soul of whom I write is specific, but together – our reach may be expansive.  Each of us may be just a drop of quenching rain, but together we can be a monsoon of healing light, a tsunami of love. 

With so much suffering and loss in the world, I am often strengthened by the thought of touching the heart of one being, that they may touch the heart of another, with the ripple effect causing eternal waves of love that heals.  You can help.  We can help.  Somehow, in a place beyond our understanding… we shall gather, heal, and overcome.

The sacred being of whom I speak is a gentle, loving soul who went to the doctor about an imagined rib fracture, and came out with a diagnosis of lung cancer. His partner, my friend, has spent a good part of this year rallying around friends who either did or did not win a battle with Covid-19. She is already exhausted, and has asked for support. Darlings, this is called surrender. This is what we all must do to survive during extraordinary times. We are all living in such times, and we must understand that we are not alone, for we are all one. Please reach for the support that will nurture you through the most difficult days. I promise that your hand will be met with a circle of loving kindness.

Whether you are ready to surrender, or have empathy and energy to offer, we are all grateful for your stunning, radiant inner light.  The love from one heart is great and enveloping, but the love of many?  It is all consuming… a cloak of comfort on a cold dark night.  Please take my hand and share your light and consider opening to receive the light of others… I can see it growing brighter as you approach, and it is sweetness to behold – this love made manifest. 

Further, I hope you would not consider it greedy to ask that you share this intention with others.  Imagine the power of our light when it is passed from one sacred soul to another!  We are each torchbearers… passing our light from one to another, until the whole world is aglow with a radiance more powerful than the sun.

I value and respect privacy, so for the purposes of our focused connection, I am going to refer to our sacred vessel as B. Know that time is not linear, and your light will make a difference even if we are all focusing at different times or on different days.  Also understand that if you are in need of healing light, or wish to offer it to someone you care about, you may pull it from this cosmic gathering and place that being at the center of the circle right next to B. Love is infinite. We have access to an endless supply. Remember, when you offer your own healing energy, you are never depleted, for this is a divine force that moves through you… you cannot help but receive through the giving.

Great Spirit, Mother / Father God, Universal Force of Creation, Powers that Be, Elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth which surround us and flow through us, Light of Truth, Unconditional Love, All That Is:  Allow this sacred circle of beautiful beings to become a combined vessel of your love, filling up and spilling forth with an abundance of healing light energy.  Allow the light of love to flow freely, without obstacle, and let it drip down the healers’ hands, washing away our sorrows, our fears, our hunger and thirst, our aches and pains, self-doubt and false limitations.  As we are made of celestial matter, we contain the healing power of a thousand suns, and the distant light of a billion stars is ever present in the combustive force that warms us from within.  Let this divine energy rise up through Earth’s core and crust, through saline ocean, and forest floor, through the soles of our feet, rising up through the roots that are our legs, lighting up our energetic being as it is filled – (red) root, (orange) sacral, (yellow) solar, and into our (green) hearts contained by strong and resilient trunks, and let this molten, healing light flow through arms to hands that are our branches, through (blue) throat, (purple) mind’s eye that sees what is not visible, and (white) crown through which we connect easily with all that is… rising up and out to deliver exactly what is required, be it for the good of all.  Amen, So Be It, Blessed Be.

If it is difficult to connect with the soul of someone you do not yet know, think of someone you do know who has made you feel completely loved.  Hold that beloved being in your heart and radiate and reflect that love back to her or him.  As you feel that radiance shared between the two of you, allow that light to expand to encapsulate others in your circle – such as family and friends for whom you feel a sense of affection.  Now, expand that light even further, beyond those you know well and out to acquaintances, and then to people you don’t know in your community, in your city, in your state.  Let your light of loving compassion grow and spread beyond the boundaries of country, continent, planet.  Let your love reach and grow into the darkness of space, surrounding the galaxy, and then every galaxy – known and unknown.  Know that your light is expansive and boundless. You are one with the universe and all that is.

Now, bring your focus back into your center.  Visualize this place that is in a realm that is not limited by what we know in this world.  In this place, there is plenty of room for all of us to gather.  We are each standing in our own strength, prepared to share it freely with one another.  If you once felt alone in this space, feel the arrival of other light beings, as the palms of your hands are filled with the palms of two others.  As each of us arrive in this sacred circle, a pale blue light radiates from each being, and as hands are linked, the light begins to pulsate and grow stronger as it flows gently in a clockwise motion, from heart to heart and hand to hand. 

As the circle is made complete, you look before you and see B seated at the center, enveloped in the pale blue light of your loving presence.  Let B be represented by that being who has made you feel most loved and cherished, and let that love be reflected back to him.  He is surrounded by Universal light delivered through sacred souls from all over the planet.  You may be holding hands with someone from America, from Canada or Ireland, from India, Japan, Australia, or from Africa… your light is mingling with the light of people from countries whose names have never crossed your lips.  We are all one, and there are no barriers here.  We are all here for one purpose… to bring divine healing light to the soul of another, in whatever form is needed.  When we offer our healing energy, Reiki, Theta, our thoughts and prayers, it must be unattached to outcome, for we cannot know the destined journey of one’s soul.  We can only trust that exactly what is needed to bring healing to that sacred soul, in any form, will be delivered by our care.

As the light surrounding B grows and pulsates, it is like a magnet that is pulling from his body any residue of past harm, be it betrayal, fear-based thought, denial of personal worthiness, resentment, guilt, or environmental impurity.  As all remnants of negativity and dis-ease (mentioned and unnamed) are removed from his body, his energetic being, his DNA, and his beautiful soul, all areas of exit are filled and sealed with golden light.  The pale blue light, which has grown in strength as each new soul enters the circle, becomes a beautiful emerald green.  As B has been emptied of what no longer serves him, he has become an open vessel to receive the light that we offer, as well as the sparkly white light of creation that flows from above.  We are grateful witness to the arrival of this light, and are awed by the beauty that illuminates B’s own strength and beauty as he is filled with this light that is like the golden light from a holiday sparkler, or a downpour of luminous glitter. 

This light fills every cell of his body with divine healing energy, as it delivers strength and fortitude for the road ahead.  B is receiving through his open heart, the wisdom of the universe, the strength of earthly ancient mountains, the air to fill his lungs and speak his truth, the fire to move his muscles and accomplish every task he seeks to fulfill, the water to wash his spirit clean of fear, anger, bitterness, and regret. What remains is love, joy, and with full forgiveness of the past, complete self-acceptance and approval.  

B is filled with divine light and soothed by the love that surrounds him.  Whatever is required for his peace, comfort, and transformation in the form that his soul has chosen will be provided with grace and ease.  He is one with all of us and we are all one with the Universe.  Together we transcend the limitations beholden to the confines of the human body, through the power of the mind, which is greater than our understanding.  Once again, we place our trust within this truth… that assistance is given to those who reach.  Together we reach beyond what we can see, feel, understand, and know that this mystery is received and freely given through the love that resides within each of us.

Finally, in this sacred place where we have gathered, we raise our hands toward B, and send golden light energy from heart to palm and into his being, so that he may carry the love of this circle within through all of his days upon the earth and into the mystery of what comes next, many years from now.  And when you feel that you have given what he needs, place your hands upon your own heart, and receive that same energy that flows through you and each sacred being within this circle.  Allow your own body and energetic being to be filled with this Universal Light Energy.  Feel the light and love of this vast community surround you and enter your heart.  Know that you carry this love within you, and that it seeps through every pore with a radiant light that brings healing to old wounds, and attracts an abundance of goodness to your life.

When you are ready to return to the place where you are sitting, I hope that you hold onto my gratitude and my love for the light that you have offered, and for the healing it has provided.  You are loved and valued beyond your previous imagining.  Hold onto that and let it grow in your awareness.  Your light will illuminate your path, and beauty surrounds you, every step of the way.

With so much suffering and loss in the world, I am often strengthened by the thought of touching the heart of one being, that they may touch the heart of another, with the ripple effect causing eternal waves of love that heals.  You can help.  We can help.  Somehow, in a place beyond our understanding… we shall gather, heal, and overcome.

Now allow the white light of cleansing and separation wash over you as you start to wiggle your fingers and toes, allowing the light to gently find your eyes. And finally, send your energy deep into mother earth, pull that golden, molten core energy up into your being, and when you are grounded, cut the cord of this connection and seal your energetic being like closing a zipper.

Thank you for walking this path with me!  I love you!  It is done!

An Unusual Harvest

Today is Lughnasadh, or Lammas, in the northern hemisphere. On the Celtic calendar, it is the cross quarter holiday that marks the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. When we lived in farming communities, it was considered the first harvest.

Since some of us were born with brown thumbs and outside of farming communities, as many do in the current era, we can still find value in these calendar pages through the power of metaphor. And so, once again, I ask… What’s in your harvest?

My Sacred Gardeners and I met in February for the annual workshop on intention setting. At Imbolc, we planted our figurative seeds of intention. Even with a brown thumb, intentions can grow when nurtured with mindfulness and attention.

We anticipated gathering again at the end of March, for the Spring Equinox, and even had a Beltaine retreat planned in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. It was to be a weekend dedicated to falling in love with ourselves, right down to a commitment ceremony with rings and circlets of flowers for our heads.

But sometimes, something happens in life that takes our attention away from the garden. A loved one dies, a job is lost, the path forward becomes less clear and uncertainty enters like a thick fog. 2020 has certainly been that kind of a year, ten-fold.

But every eight weeks, the wheel of the year turns to remind us to come back to the cycles of nature. Everything changes. All life is temporary. We remember that though these days are challenging, frustrating, disappointing, sad… they, too, are temporary. This pandemic will come to an end. This physical distancing from those we love will come to an end. This financial insecurity and horrific failure of leadership will come to an end. In the meantime, we are free to set our fears and worries aside, to come back to our gardens of intention.

So… this would be the time of year, the midpoint Imbolc and Winter Solstice, to assess the status of our intentions. What is ready to be harvested and stored to sustain us through the long winter? When I look back at my own lifechart completed with my gardeners, I can reflect on the key words I chose to adorn my candle of intention.

I realize that what I might have pictured to be a result of these intentions may not have manifested in the ways I had intended, but I can usually see that the Universe conspired to bring them to fruition in glorious and unexpected ways. The beauty of the garden is always found in the eyes of the beholder. One gardener may prefer something tediously manicured, while another may delight in allowing Mother Nature to do Her own thing.

What I have found is that my word for the year is RECIPROCITY. and I have found it in the ways that love is offered and returned, as friends and community respect and care for one another. We wear masks, we connect by phone, text, and Zoom. We don’t take personally the necessity of our distancing. We do what we can to deliver kindness, compassion, and togetherness in new and innovative ways.

I wanted to EMBODY TRUST. Which was not just to be the friend and daughter that those I love could depend on to hold their truth with gentle reverence, but that I would do the same for myself. That I would trust myself completely. That I would hear the sacred voice of my own intuition, and never doubt it.

I intended to continue to HEAL AND GROW this year, and I certainly have. Gratefully, much of this work can be done out in the world, but is even more succinct when done in solitude or isolation. In silence and without distractions of others, we can hear the cries of the oppressed, and ask ourselves what we don’t know. How is my silence harmful? How might I do better and be better as a trusted friend and ally? Oh, yes! I have learned so much… and I am still learning.

To CULTIVATE JOY was an intention, and I can see the many ways this has grown. Right before our world shut down, I was reunited with the boss who loved me, at the occasion of her son’s wedding. When he later wrote me, he said that it was so obvious to him how much she and I loved and cared for each other. And even though that was the last time I’ve gathered in a room with others… I have continued to find joy in the beautiful moments of each and every day… in a brief chat with a neighbor, having a giggle with my parents, witnessing the bats fly over my head as I walk home from tucking them in. So much delight can be found in living a small and simple life.

I wanted my year to be GROUNDED IN LOVE, and though there are many days when anger and outrage rise to greet the news of the day, it is always love that grounds me. Primarily, self-love. Each time I enter my home, after caring for my parents or doing the bi-weekly grocery run, I greet my kitties, and I walk through a mist of homemade balancing spray. As I do, I feel my shoulders drop, and my whole body relaxes. I can feel my roots reconnect to the earth through my sanctuary of home, and all is right with the world.

The final word on my candle of intention makes me laugh. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, always reminds me to be careful what you wish for. The word is RETREAT. Well… my intention was to host TWO retreats this year, in those sacred mountains. At first, we thought we would just lose the opportunity in May, but now… as my home state has skyrocketing Covid cases, it is clear that none of us will be traveling in October, either. But still… this intention surely did manifest. Just… not as imagined.

We have retreated into our homes, to keep our loved ones safe. I am in a daily retreat, really, as each day when I return from caring for my parents, I enter my home, and come back into myself… each day a little deeper. I can remember hearing about silent retreats or going on retreat alone, and thinking it had no appeal. And yet, I have found myself here over and over again, not just this year, but in the two years prior, as I endeavored to create a life beyond the corporate world I’d always known.

What I’ve found here, is that though I may be alone, I love the one I’m with. There is no one I’d rather be secluded with when the world is plagued with a potential plague. That’s kind of a pleasant surprise, for the girl who searched long and hard for a love she deserved… to have found it within herself.

Finally, all of these intentions manifested in the form of a new kind of togetherness. With our worlds becoming so small, during self-isolation and continued extreme caution until a vaccine can be discovered and broadly shared, some of us have chosen to see more of each other. Since March, I have been virtually meeting weekly with a Thursday night group of International friends from a course we took together, a weekly Friday night group of intuitive friends, a Saturday morning group with my Sacred Gardeners, and a Sunday night group with my goddesses.

So, I no longer meet people for lunch, but I do take an occasional masked-walk with a friend, with a hip-bump greeting instead of a hug. I write random letters and send them the old fashioned way, in the mail. My friend, who lives on the opposite corner of the country, and I have become pen pals, and last week she sent me sealing wax and a spoon for melting – so our letters are both sealed with more than just love.

I don’t know what I thought I’d find when I decided to walk through my garden of intentions, but I have to say, I’m pretty darned pleased with what I’ve found here. I allowed Mother Nature to do her thing, and as always, she has WOWed me beyond belief.

I hope that you and yours are safe and well. I hope that despite the unexpected twists and turns of an unusual and extraordinary year, it has been kinder to you than realized. I hope that your personal harvest is filled with light, love, and laughter that nourishes, nurtures, and sustains you throughout the coming seasons. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.

A Song for Summer

The cicadas have finally returned to the embrace of my sacred oak trees, which stand sentinel at the edges of my yard. Their chatter makes me giddy. They have always represented the sound of summer to me. The return of afternoon thunderstorms adds to the joy that rises through every cell of my being. I love these evenings, as I walk to and from my parents’ home for our evening tuck-in ritual.

There is a gentle breeze that brings the wind chimes into song, and I wave to neighbors who are on their porches or chatting with others in a driveway, as I go by. I left my folks watching a new series of short films on Netflix called Homemade, which were created by people around the world while in Covid Quarantine. Each episode reminds me of the importance of community. I am grateful for the art that is coming to birth during these difficult days.

Speaking of birth… one of my dearest friends is expanding his family. His beautiful wife is expecting their daughter by early August, so their precious new being won’t technically be a quarantine baby, but virus related layoffs and pregnancy-related health concerns certainly complicate this new beginning. I would give anything to be nearby in order to offer support and help boost morale, but we are distant by geography. So, I aimed to pull us closer energetically.

Because my friend lives over 800 miles away, I have not yet been blessed to meet the woman who stole his heart several years back, other than through social media. But I have been witness to their love, to the birth and growth of their children, and so she is already planted firmly in my heart as sacred.

When I sat down to write a letter to a woman whom I’ve never met and who is earlier on her life path compared to my position, further ahead… I started with an introduction, but was delighted by what rose to my fingertips, when I asked the gift of words to flow. She gave me permission to share. I’m changing their names for privacy. I googled ‘mythical good husband and father’, so that’s where I’ll start… Hector and Andromache (don’t read anything into the choice beyond that, because nobody in mythology that I’ve studied had an ideal ending… [maybe I should have gone with Harry and Ginny]. Anyhoo…

Dear Andromache :

Hello love! Mother Goddess, sacred vessel of new life, beloved of my beloved. You’ve been on my mind and in my heart. I wish geography would allow us a kinder distance. Alas, we are forced to get to know one another and care deeply, from afar.

You probably know that your Hector and I met when we were young. Our lockers were nearby in high school… and we shared a class, but our friendship grew after he graduated, a year ahead of me. Here’s what I can tell you about that younger version of the man you love: He has always been authentic. He has always been the kindest, most caring being you could ever meet. He has always been compassionate, considerate, supportive, smart, talented, and loving. Another thing? Vulnerable. He was always courageous enough to speak his truth. Yes, I know you realize that you have captured a rare jewel of a man… and I know that he treasures you, Andromache.

So far, I’ve been witness to your glowing and growing family only through social media. I know that you are a devoted partner, a loving mother, and a gifted artist through the medium of photography. I asked Hector to tell me more, and he shared that you have both been walking a spiritual path that is earth-based. So, here’s where I tell you a little about me.

I grew up Unitarian Agnostic, but discovered an earth-based spiritual path when I was 23. I attended a women’s conference hosted by Margot Adler (one of the movement’s American foremothers) and then took a 6-month class on feminine spirituality. In 1993, I called together a group of beloved beings, and together we birthed a goddess group. We met weekly for 20 years, in varying numbers- as loved ones moved away.

Those early years, though, were blessed with focused intention, as young women transitioned from maiden to mother and older women from mother to crone. We celebrated rites of passage as Tribe sisters married, got pregnant, gave birth, as tribe legacy reached the one-year mark there were blessings for our babies, and when blood stopped flowing and wisdom kept growing, we celebrated the transformation of our sacred crone.

During those years, I often wished that every woman could have what we had. We were learning about ourselves and the goddess archetypes that we embodied, and we were honored and celebrated by other women for all of our similarities and all of our differences. It was glorious!

I know that you have been facing some complications with your current pregnancy, and I wish that I could call upon a circle of sacred souls to surround you and to hold you close. And since my spiritual understanding has grown through these many years, formerly a skeptic in all things until proven, I realize that I actually can.

When my Tribe sisters were full-bellied, we had a birth blessing ritual that included an art project. We would follow the guidance found by our Crone, words would be spoken, and then our sacred vessel would get naked and we would slather her with Vaseline and plaster. Once well-dried, we would have another gathering to paint and decorate the belly-cast. When our last local tribe-legacy was born, I actually arrived at the hospital before Mom & Dad, and the staff let me enter the birthing room to wait. I was able to cast a circle and invite the elements and Artemis to guide and support this final journey, as my friend had decided this would be her last daughter.

Artemis had come into our lives in 1999, in a really big way, and She is the goddess of childbirth – protector of women and children. If you welcome it, I would call upon Her to do the same for you.

I thought I would also share the words of The Blessingway Ritual that we would do before each birth. I’m afraid I cannot tell you from where the original guidance came {I will add here when I find it!}, or even which words are ours and which words were found in another source, for we have made them our own. In the time of pandemic, your health and safety is paramount. I wish you could have a circle of friends gathered for this rite. Perhaps Hector can read these words to you, as you sit with eyes closed, envisioning the circle I am calling to surround you.

Andromache’s Blessingway

The Beginning

The most holy one created the world like an embryo, as an embryo grows from the navel, so she began to create the world by the navel, and from there it spread, grew, multiplied in all directions… she was both seed and flower, both primordial and final. The first vibrations of the egg of the world, which unfold to the edges of the universe, are both expanding and contracting, emerging from the source and pulsing outward to disappear into a spherical vortex. The still center (the heart) is the axis of creation – universal continuum perpetually unfolds, pulses outward, contracts – perpetually spinning through its own center.

The Meditation

Three cleansing breaths, release and relax.
See the egg divide, become the fetus, and grow inside the womb.
The fetus develops and becomes a child.
She is born, grows into yourself, grown up.
The cycle starts again with a child in the womb of Andromache.
Ask the child for a message.
Send her blessings and love.
Wish her well in her beginnings and come back to now.

Take time to share and write the messages you receive from your daughter.

The Blessing

We are here to honor Andromache, who will become mother to a new being. She is the Mother Goddess, and we kneel before her in reverence. We are here at the edge of the waxing moon to invoke the gifts of Artemis with Her blessings of protection for a safe birth, guidance for a strong, healthy child, strength and wisdom for happiness and fulfillment in motherhood.

The maiden lays a green cord across Andromache’s womb and says:  I am Maiden. I was the secret you carried inside you in the beginning, when you belonged only to yourself. Long before you could feel life inside your womb, and long before others would look upon you and know, it was I who danced lightly in your heart. When you dreamed your dreams of youth and renewal, it was I who was there to dream with you. Though I have changed, I have never left you.

The mother lays the red cord across Andromache’s womb and says: I am Mother. When the life inside you was growing, and you began to feel it stir, I was there. As all the world watched and tried to feel with you the mystery of new life, I whispered in your ears and helped to comfort your deepest fears. My kiss placed a gentle blush on your cheeks, and my hand held yours when the child within cried out. Time has passed, and now you know me in yet another form. I have never left you.

The crone lays the gold cord across Andromache’s womb and says: I am Crone. As your time approached, it was I who helped to prepare you. My strength sustained you as the wheel turned on. In order for you to understand the beginning, I taught you about the ending. As your grandmothers before have always been midwives to their daughters and granddaughters, I stood by you. Slowly you came to understand that for your child to be born, a child inside of you must give way. I allowed you to cut your own cords to your past, as your inner child’s cord was cut when new life began. Though I have done my job, I wait for you in dreams. I have never left you.

The Tribe (maiden, mother, crone) places their hands upon Andromache’s womb and speak words of commitment: “We have never left you. We have been with you from the beginning, and will be within you always.

A symbol of gentle birth is charged with healing, protective energy and placed upon the altar. (I’ve enclosed a malachite rubbing stone that is already charged with my energy. Consider having the girls and Hector add theirs, as well.) And loving symbols are painted on the belly in essential oils or henna. Then celebrate with milk and cookies.

The Closing

We offer our gratitude to the element of air, which will deliver our daughter’s first breath upon the light of new beginnings; to the element of fire, which will warm her perfect body and rise through cries of the announcement – “I am here!”; to the element of water, which has enveloped her and kept her safe from the very beginning; to the element of earth, which aches to feel her feet and hold her close for all of her days. We are grateful to Artemis, who guides and protects mother and child as they transform from one being who holds a sacred seed, to two beautiful beings, each Her own unique magnificence. Ever be with us on our spiritual journey. WE bid thee Hail and Farewell.

So, now you’ve been initiated as an honorary member of my Tribe. You can call upon this sacred circle, which resides in the ether, whenever you are seeking warrior strength and support through overcoming any obstacle. Oh! And here’s my favorite factoid, learned while my people were having babies… when your milk comes in and your breasts feel engorged, you can place a cabbage leaf in your bra to reduce the pressure. I’ve never been pregnant, but I’ve heard it works. I love to share that sweet morsel of wisdom. [Seriously, this fascinates me!] I hope you don’t need it, for the flow that your daughter calls shall always come with grace and ease.

Andromache, I know you don’t know me, but I hope you feel cherished and loved. I am grateful for the joy and unconditional love you have delivered (figuratively and literally) into the life of my sweet friend. He deserves this kind of love, and I’m so glad he gets to share his remarkable goodness with you.

I am also enclosing a book from my own library. Our babies are all grown now, and it would only remain as a resource to offer others, so I’d like you to have it. I hope you can get good use of it with your own tribe of little women. Circle Round by Starhawk offers music, activities, sacred ceremony, and wisdom for raising children on an earth-based path. There is also a poem that we would read to our babies upon arrival and at a one-year ceremony, which would offer our dedication to their emotional wellness for this lifetime.

Know that you are always surrounded by the energy of those we cannot see with our eyes, but feel with our hearts. I look forward to watching the evolution of your family from afar, and I hope that we will one day be able to safely gather for a celebration of rites of passage, either for you and Hector, or for your girls.

Love and brightest blessings…

And the poem…

Thank you for walking this path with me. If you are feeling isolated or alone during this challenging time, may you find yourself surrounded by loving community that holds you close… even from a distance. You are so loved.

Mother Goddess Belly Cast and Emu Egg

Solar Salutations

Today is the Summer Solstice. Opposite that which marks midwinter in the southern hemisphere… it is the longest day.  It is also referred to as midsummer – think Shakespeare and a playful band of faeries.  When we look at the wheel of the year from a symbolic perspective, from where we started to where we are headed… this is the halfway point of our manifestation.  We planted our seeds at Imbolc in February, saw the early sprouting of our desires in March at the Spring Equinox, consecrated our passion in May at Beltaine, and now we are seeing our intentions beginning to bear fruit.

Well… this is a rather unusual year, as you know. My Sacred Gardeners and I gathered to plant our seeds of intention in February. We would have met again to nurture those intentions in March, but alas… the world went into quarantine. So, we adjusted the light and shade to nurture our seeds in a virtual setting, instead.

The sun is at its height on this day, so it is a great time for healing.  Be sure to take a walk in nature and soak up some vitamin D.  Goodness knows that the road ahead is long and bumpy, and our best defense against this virus is to build our immune systems for better health and if infected, a better chance of full recovery.

From this day forward, the days will begin to grow shorter, as we slowly turn toward the Autumn Equinox.  The energy of the sun is expansive, so consider in what areas of your life you’d like to shed a bit more light.  Does your soul require a bit of rest while reading a good book at the edge of the ocean, or would it be best served by playfully flying a kite in a grassy, green field of freedom and delight? The sun reminds us to shine brightly!  If you’ve been taking care of everyone else throughout the first half of the year, remember to care for the caregiver, and practice extreme self-care.  You deserve your own love more than anyone! 

Speaking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream… I am reminded of the year that my Tribe (goddess group) decided to celebrate the day with the faeries in a local park we call the ravine.  It is a lovely surprise near downtown that you can walk down into, and find yourself surrounded by azalea bushes and oak trees.  We figured that we would gather there at twilight to leave offerings, and see if anyone would come out to play with us.  Alas, it was only the local police that showed up, but they were not playful AT ALL!  Ha!  So… we left behind our offerings of flowers and berries, and had to wait for the faeries to find us in our dreams.

The following is a meditation that came through me when I put my fingers to the keyboard and asked for a vision of Midsummer to go with an image that crossed my screen from an art page on social media. The words just flowed through me and onto the page without much thought or direction. At one point, when the purpose of the journey was revealed to me, I literally gasped aloud. It was a moment of pure magick I hope I will never forget.

It is printed below, and you can also listen to it by clicking on the YouTube link. Keep in mind that I am self taught in all things technical.
https://youtu.be/Jf9z1xL6hgs

MIDSUMMER MEDITATION

Close your eyes, adjust to your comfort, and breathe deeply. 

Find yourself in an open field of the softest green grass on the edge of twilight.  The air is warm, and filled with the scent of sweet grass, and fireflies hover and dance.  It’s as if the stars that will later shine in the night sky, are temporarily twinkling upon the earth.  A gentle breeze caresses your skin and plays with your hair.  In the distance, you can see a stand of old trees, and you feel called to seek their shelter.  

As you leisurely stroll through field and green, take notice of what you see here.  Someone may appear to join you on your stroll… maybe a spirit animal, or guide.  Each step brings you closer to the wooded edge of the field.  As you come into close proximity, an opening or archway created by the bend and limbs of trees informs you of the entrance, and dancing in the middle of that arch is a glowing light. 

You assume it is a firefly, though its glow has a slightly different hue. It beckons you to follow, and you comply.  You step into the woods, and find the light here to be dim, but plenty for navigating safely.  The tiny ball of light is ahead of you, dancing and bobbing, guiding you forward.  There is nothing to fear here, as you feel guided and protected on this mysterious journey.

Now, you begin to see a brighter glow ahead.  The light is drawing you to a giant, ancient tree in the center of the wood.  It is illuminated from within, as if there are windows along every level of its height, emanating a blue-white luminescence.  You are led to the base of this magickal tree, and onto the staircase that spirals upward around its trunk. 

Following the orb, with grace and ease, you move up one flight of stairs, turning clockwise around the trunk… you move up a second flight of stairs, around the luscious curve of sparkly bark… you move up a third flight of stairs, catching hints of lavender and jasmine on your breath… you move up a fourth flight of stairs, feeling a sense of longing in your solar plexus… you move up a fifth flight of stairs. 

Though there is still more tree above and steps to climb, this is where the guiding light has stopped.  From here, you have an incredible vantage for viewing the mystical wood that surrounds, and you can see all sorts of woodland creatures.  On the ground there are deer and 7-tined stags, rabbits and hedgehogs.  In the branches of the surrounding trees there are raccoons, birds of many colors and songs, and squirrels. 

As you turn back to face your glowing guide, you gasp in wonder to see that the tiny ball of light has transformed into a stunningly beautiful woman with wings.  Take a moment to gather her features, for the Queen of the Faeries looks different to each of us.  Breathe in the radiance of her skin, the shimmering colors of her dress, the shape and sheen of her wings, and the warmth of love on her face… as she gazes adoringly into your eyes.

She brought you here to offer you words you’ve been longing to hear, a message of comfort, reassurance, healing, and hope.  Listen for the words she is gifting you, as she leans in to whisper, like a lullaby, into your ears and open mind.  (long pause)

Message received, you look up into her eyes, and find that her words were so loving, so sincere, that a single tear is sliding down her cheek.  It sparkles with the same luminescence that surrounds, and she plucks it from her cheek… the crystalline gem the size of a seed. 

Reaching out to you, she takes this faery seed, now glowing green, and plants it inside your heart chakra.  The glow radiates from your chest, and slowly turns from a deep shade of emerald green to a lighter shade, and then… into a pale pink, the color of rose quartz.  The glow of this gift, now deeply planted inside your being, expands to light and warm your entire body.  You are filled and overflowing with a sense of love that you once knew, but had forgotten.  This is divine love, complete love, unconditional love… and it is ALL yours.  It is ALL YOU! 

You ARE divine love.  You were never separate from it, the mundane world just got in the way and disconnected it from your knowing.  But now it is back, and no one can take it from you.  You did this work, you followed your intuition and your guides, you climbed the steps with focus and determination, and you stood with reverence and awe as your own light was reflected back at you. 

Yes, that’s right… the light you followed was your own north star.  The image that looked back at you was the embodiment of your own heart.  The wisdom you received was from your own higher self.  You were never alone, and you have never… not for one moment… been unworthy of love.  YOU. ARE. LOVE! 

Knowing that your purpose here in this magickal place has been fulfilled, you hug your heart… your own true faery queen, and turn to descend.  Though the sky above is now only lit by stars, you have no need for a guiding light, for you are illuminated by the pink glow of your own self-love. 

It is so radiant and infectious that the woodland creatures that witness your journey downward watch with fascination and awe.  Slowly you make your way down the fifth flight of stairs… counter-clockwise you spiral – down the fourth flight of stairs… extending your own light as a glowing egg of protection – down the third flight of stairs… remembering the message you received – down the second flight of stairs… knowing that this sacred light you carry will heal and lighten the hearts of those you love – you descend the first flight of stairs to forest floor. 

Feeling joyful and lighter than ever, you practically float out of the ancient wood… glancing back at the iridescent faery tree, you carry forth gratitude – knowing that anytime your light feels dim, you can return to this sacred place to be refilled.  Feeling clarity like never before, you step into the open field and bathe in milky white light of the moon and one last time, breathe in the sparkly white light of the stars.  Every cell of your body is filled with this sparkly white light, and you feel amazing… as you… open your eyes.

Thank you for walking this path with me.
I am grateful for your warmth and light.

Weaving Dreams of Summer

In the northern hemisphere, on May 1 (and throughout the month of May), we celebrate the fertility of Mother Earth. With gratitude, we dance… for the flowers that bloom, for the wheat that stretches toward the sky that later becomes our bread, for all that sustains us and heals us.

In this merry month of May, which begins with the Celtic holy day known as Beltaine, may your life be woven with that which comforts you, heals you, sustains you, brings you peace, and prosperity. May love and light ever bloom within your personal world and the vibrant, beautiful world that surrounds you.  We are rapidly nearing summer, and the earth is alive and bursting with glory.  Can you feel it?

Beltaine was the holy day that later became what many of us know as May Day, when the May Queen was crowned and flowers were gathered and delivered in reverence by the children of the village.  And of course, there was that sacred dance.  I remember dancing the May Pole in kindergarten, donned in a lovely hat made from a paper plate and decorated with flowers and ribbon. 

In case you are not familiar with the symbolism of the May Pole… a wooden pole is carefully erected in a freshly dug hole in the earth, ribbons are tied to the top, with a wreath of flowers placed carefully atop the colorful strands.  Dancers are staged in a circle, half facing clockwise, and half facing counter-clockwise, each with a ribbon in hand.  As they move in their given directions, they weave their ribbons over and under each dancer that passes, weaving their desires into a colorful braid that wraps tightly around the pole.  As the dance progresses, and the braid moves down the shaft, the wreath slides downward, gently penetrated by the woven pole.  If you haven’t guessed it… it is a symbol of the sacred marriage of the divine feminine and masculine. (A rude awakening to learn such detail related to a childhood memory. Ha!) Dancing the Maypole is a group effort to energetically ask for abundance and fertility for the earth that sustains us, in the lives of those who dance, and the communities they represent. 

I wrote this meditation while visiting a friend in Amelia Island, located in northeast Florida.  He has a beautiful home on Fernandina Beach.  I took an early morning walk to greet the sun, and was filled with delightful memories of a few summers prior when my Tribe gathered there for reunion.  Sisters flew in from Virginia, North Carolina, and Colorado.  It’s difficult to express that feeling when we gather… 16 years or more have passed since some have moved away, and yet togetherness brings tears, joy, laughter, and a sense of relief that can only be found with people who know your soul.  Ah… there you are! 

In this sacred space by the Sea, we got caught up on each other’s lives, cried together, cooked and dined together, gathered seashells, and when night fell, we danced at the edge of the ocean, and played with bioluminescence in the waves.  Some of us rose at 3am to sit on the beach to behold the host of shooting stars that moved across the sky with the Perseids Meteor Shower.  It was pure magick! 

The following words flowed from sweetest memories of deep devotion. From the Greek Pantheon, Aphrodite embodies the sensual dance of love, and Dionysus delivers wine-soaked reverie to match Her passion.  More than anything I’ve written… this meditation is dedicated to my beloved Tribe.

Beltaine Meditation ~ Honoring Our Beloved Community

With your eyes closed, make yourself comfortable.  Breathe deeply, expanding your belly with the color of the ocean.  Exhale the blues and greens, feeling tension washed away.  Inhale the color of sunrise and let it fill your being.  Breathe out yellow and orange as your shoulders release all tension.  Breathe in the color of twilight and let it expand your mind.  Exhale deepest purple as you open to receive all the universe has to offer. 

Imagine the feel of sand beneath your feet, and gentle waves licking your toes.  The night is warm, and the breeze that skims the surface of the ocean dances across your skin, leaving you with a sense of being gently caressed.  The cool, salty water, which reminds us of our very beginnings on the earth – mother’s womb, rises up from the waves, in celebratory effort for the sheer possibility of landing on your lips to be licked away by your tongue.  The ocean ebbs and flows, thrusts and retreats, yearning and longing for you to step gently into her waters, so that she may envelope your tender toes in a sensuous tango of step and sink, step and sink… urging you toward temperance and release.

On the horizon, you can see that light is dawning, as the sun is rising slowly, where water meets the sky.  As you stand with your feet in the water, you can see the light in the distance glowing orange, and illuminating the surface of the ocean.  You ask Aphrodite to fill you with Her light, and she eagerly replies by sending the light on the undulating surface, across vast water and wave, washing onto the shore and over your toes… effectively delivering a glow of healing light to wash over you.

You close your eyes, as if to find focus on your endeavor, and you see the images of your hopes and dreams materialize within your mind’s eye.  As you consider the steps required to bring these dreams to fruition, you feel a gentle touch upon your shoulder, and another upon your arm, then another reaches for your hand… and you realize that you are surrounded by a loving, supportive community… each adding all of their energy, good wishes, positive thoughts, and affirming guidance to the healthy gestation of your desires to be realized and brought to birth.

Stand here, for a moment, and listen to the sound of the ocean’s song.  Release….  Receive….  Release…  Receive…  Consider what you’ve been working to manifest in your life, and listen to those who have arrived to take your hands, support your steps, and urge you forward on your journey.  What messages do they have to share?  Release…  Receive… Release…  Receive…  Feel the coming of a deep, genuine knowing.  For what we seek, we need only to affirm it – as if it is already reality.  When a woman is pregnant with a child, she is not focused on doubt or fear, she is focused on the beauty that awaits.  This is how we create our reality, focusing on beauty that awaits… with a deep knowing that it is already here, just on the verge of being born into our lives.  Release…  Receive… Release… Receive…  Gasp…  Sigh…

Aphrodite and Dionysus are here, too, at the edge of the ocean, to offer their love and fertile abundance to bring life to your passion and desire.  All acts of love are the rituals of Aphrodite, and that includes self-love.  She gently caresses the soft skin of your cheek and smiles warmly, gazing into your eyes.  As she sets a circlett of roses at your crown, she offers you a message.  What does she say? 

As she turns away, Dionysus steps toward you with a passionate gaze.  You feel his body heat as he moves closer, and raises a bundle of red, bulging, sun-ripened grapes to your lips, and as you consume his offering the succulent fruit bursts in your mouth, spilling the juice of a generous and gracious god for your sustenance and great pleasure.  He leans forward, and as you close your eyes, he whispers into your ear.  What does he say?

As you open your eyes, you find our divine beings have vanished, leaving behind the sweet scent of wine and rose.  You know that the blessings they each offered have blessed your hopes and dreams with a seed of light and life.  And all that is left to do… is to offer gratitude for the divine energy that resides within you and around you, and for those in your life who support and celebrate your beauty and presence in their lives with unconditional love… and finally, to bring your desire to birth, celebrating your manifestation with joy and jubilation.  LOOK WHAT I’VE DONE!  I love it with all of my heart, and shall cherish it, as I nourish and care for myself.

Feel that smile radiating upon your face, and the glow that fills your body…  and when you are ready…  return to this sacred circle, and open your eyes.

Thanks for walking this path with me.

Decade in Reflection

So much can change in a year. New Year’s Eve is often the prompt for such a review. Considering what we were doing this time last year, for our family, it seems we have a decent year to celebrate. After seeing a movie with the entire family, I rushed my father to the emergency room on the eve of 2019. It was then that a problem we’d dealt with since October was finally diagnosed and in the months that followed a urethral stricture would find repair.

In 2019, unlike the year before, Pop has been at home, rather than in the hospital or rehab (save for the stricture recovery). He also had a procedure to repair the entropion in his left eye, which started while in rehab the year before. This was my first full year as a parental caregiver. It pays very little (I’m living on a tiny fraction of my retirement savings), but offers great reward. I know that my parents are safe, cared for, and that they both feel loved.

There’s much more to review for the year, but I’ve been reminded that we are not just at year’s end, but at decade’s end, so I’ll take a moment to journey through time. This time, ten years ago, I packed up the office of the boss who needed me, and watched him drive away from the office for the last time. 8.5 years earlier, he hired me to be his assistant, and that partnership changed both of our lives for the better. That’s really a story for the previous decade, but I can reflect on how different my life would be now, had the universe failed to align in our favor for a fruitful partnership. This early retirement to care for my parents would have been impossible, had he NOT chosen me in the early part of the decade that came before. I am eternally grateful for the way my life fell apart and came back together.

In my personal life, the beginning of this decade saw the end of an important friendship and a crack in the foundation of my Tribe. Trust was lost and never rediscovered. I’m certain that this soulmate life lesson was about learning why we don’t put people on pedestals, about the destructive nature of shame, and understanding how betrayal can make one feel like they have lost their mind (very useful experience for learning to hold space for others without judgment). Also affirmed, when someone leaves our lives, though it feels catastrophic for the loss of a future we once imagined, in time, our hearts do heal, and we fill that void with different experiences. Not better, not worse, just… different.

In 2012, I made a decision that brought a new group of people into my life, whom I adore. Having struggled with self-loathing and metabolic disorder since my early 20’s, I chose to have weight loss surgery. A woman I met in the support group I joined, became one of my best friends. We have held space for one another through difficult days, which is an important chapter in each of our healing journeys (read my blogpost “Witness to Healing”). The surgery may have been a temporary fix, since my metabolism remains broken, but the purpose of that path was clearly to bring us together. I wouldn’t change a thing.

2013 was a difficult year. It marked the first layoff in the corporate history of the workplace many of us loved. I witnessed so much heartbreak as people who would have chosen to stay forever had to leave. Then 2014 came along and I had a front row seat for the hostile takeover of the board of directors. I do not recommend any of this level of drama for an empathic soul. At the core of these two years was the heavy emotion of feeling helpless and unsafe. This was a period when I felt lost in darkness and could not find my inner light.

In 2015, I realized that sometimes things don’t go the way we planned, but it doesn’t mean they won’t go well. It was up to me to plan and execute more executive retirement events that year than I care to count. There are two positives to note with these changes delivered by so called ‘activist investors’. One is that every executive that I’ve run into since saying farewell at the event I organized on their behalf has reported that they are enormously happy. One I ran into last year said to me, “Melissa, I had no idea what I was missing!” And of course, my greatest loss in 2015 was the boss who loved me. I texted her on her birthday ten days ago, and she replied with photos from the travel adventure she and her husband were returning from with news of the one they were about to leave for with their adult children. Her migraines, a weekly if not daily occurrence while working, are a thing of the past. The other positive is that the company stock performance exceeded the lofty expectations of the guy who felt more like a terrorist in those early days of the takeover. (Again… a boon to my early retirement.)

The next two years swim with memories of tolerance, really. The place I once loved to work felt foreign in energy and culture… but still I couldn’t imagine that life could be better elsewhere. Then, in 2017… a new boss delivered liberation. Her former assistant who now sits at my desk of 16 years, told another she was told just to wait 90 days. I nearly danced out of the building that day, walked out by one of the leaders I supported, the way so many others departed in 2013. I did not feel unsafe, though. I was a little surprised by the sense of relief I felt. Instead of my world collapsing, it was falling into place.

The next year confirmed the sense that I could never return to that corporate world. I started writing and learning and growing, and have not stopped. I spent a year studying death and dying – and learned how live more mindfully. I spent time learning to write and edit for a popular online journal, and decided I prefer to write in my own style, for myself, knowing that comfort or inspiration may be found for those who bless my words with their valuable time and attention. I no longer wish to bend myself to fit the expectations of others.

This year, I planted metaphoric seeds which have grown into a glorious garden of lush connectedness, colorful healing, and bountiful beauty for myself and the sacred gardeners who have traveled this path with me. Eight seasonally evolving workshops and one mountain retreat brought together a new community of remarkable beings who care deeply for the wellness of one another, as they cultivate greater authenticity and joy in their own lives. To me, it feels like the birth of a new Tribe.

In this decade, I have lost friends to cancer, I have celebrated with some the news of remission, and with others, who continue the path of metastasis, facing challenges and overcoming them, I am committed to holding space, either bearing light or sitting in the darkness, with hope they will at least not feel alone. They are great warriors who continue to teach me about surrendering to grace, resting when the body commands, and opening to receive the kindness of others.

As I’ve focused on recreating myself and my world, I have walked with others whose lives have also changed through the death of a loved one or a former career, through aging – either of self, partners, children, or parents, and a host of other types of transformation induced by the unavoidable and unexpected. What has been fortified on this pilgrimage is that we are stronger together, and that we are never alone. Though we are nurturing different dreams for ourselves, we still glory in the manifestation of peace and comfort in the lives of those we love.

I’ve reflected on a decade of loss, but there has also been great adventure. Since 2010, I have been blessed to travel. Many adventures were with my life-long friend, and best travel companion (see my blogpost: “My Favorite Tomboy”). We started the decade with a trip to England, and birthed an annual Art-Cation tradition. Wherever we go, be it in driving distance or via flight, to see family or friends, or to touch the mysteries of history, we seek and find the local artists whose gifts reach through canvas to touch the hearts of others. In 2011, a trip to Scotland with anther friend delivered more magick and new friends. (European travel, for me, was a luxury that a few years without a car payment allowed.) I cannot fathom a life firmly planted. I am grateful for the wanderlust my mother seeded in me.

A decade of reflection could probably go on for just as long. So I’ll come back home to current gratitudes. My parents and I are closer than we have ever been, and not just because they bought a house up the street five years ago. My involvement in my father’s daily care since the last quarter of 2018 has nurtured an intimacy we never had before. And my mother and I have talked through old wounds and healing has been found. I laughed on my way home from setting Dad up with breakfast, to realize that instead of commenting on my weight, my mother complemented my butt. This feels like a good omen for the future. Ha!

Finally, in this decade I have welcomed four cats into my life. One died two years after his arrival, a freak tragedy that he probably thought might be a small adventure, and the other died in my arms in September. It was difficult to give words to the love and affection each of these magickal beings offered me (see my blogposts: “The Love of a Good Cat, Parts 2 and 3”). And last month, the other two beings of fluff and light came into my life and home. We are all still getting to know each other, but I predict a grand love affair in the decade to come.

To bring this reflection to conclusion, acknowledging a million other important things that occurred which I’ve failed to list, I would be remiss not to mention this blog. For many years, I was told by others that I had a gift for writing, and that I should do something with it. I once could not imagine how that might manifest. What on earth would I write about, and who would want to read it? But here we are.

A year and a half of writing about life has taught me a great deal about the power of introspection and sharing – about vulnerability and authenticity. I have been blessed to receive from others the acknowledgment that they found resonance in my words, they have sometimes been introduced to a new way of looking at things, and best of all, they have at times seen themselves on these pages, and found comfort in the reminder that we are all one.

As this decade comes to a close and you move through your own review, I hope that you have found balance. If there has been great change and loss, I hope there has also been great discovery and joy. If your health has been a primary focus, I hope that you have received the love and resources that support your path to acceptance, healing and wellness. I hope that the hardships can be seen as lessons, and that you can see clearly the beauty of your own evolution. I hope that you have found compassion and kindness for nurturing yourself, as well as others. I hope you have found forgiveness… for those who have harmed you, if possible, but more importantly, for yourself, be it for poor choices or for never having made a choice.

With this old decade, I am choosing to leave behind the ‘tradition’ of measuring my worth by how much weight I’ve lost, and my value by the size of my income. Three decades of not-enough-ness is quite enough, thank you!

Into this new decade, I shall only measure my goodness by the love that I give, and my fortune by the love that I receive.

Happy New Year, dear ones. Thank you for walking this path with me. Wishing you an abundance of blessings in the decade to come. May you have all you need and want all you have. You are so loved!

Winter Solstice & The Becoming

In October, I committed to an 8-month course on Holding Space Leadership. The first module was on the basics of Holding Space, and yesterday marked its conclusion.

As I reflect on this introduction and the pending Celtic Holy Day, which marks another turn of the wheel of the year in the ever changing cycle of seasons, I can’t help but contemplate Heather Plett’s notes on Liminal Space. It feels like the Winter Solstice (now happening in the northern hemisphere) is a perfect example of this concept.

She uses the caterpillar to butterfly metaphor in great detail, which makes it so easy to understand the middle ground of a transition cycle. I hadn’t realized the process of transformation of these magickal creatures until I read Martha Beck’s Steering by Starlight in 2018, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, since my past life felt finished. That’s where I learned that the caterpillar doesn’t just sprout longer legs and wings while cloaked in mystery… it actually ceases to exist in its previous form. It becomes a liquid before becoming solid again, in a brand new way.

From this course, I have learned that when we are in the process of un-becoming – casting off a former self, while not yet stepping into a new, final form… we are in liminal space. There is no time limit on transformation. We can be in this space for a year or a decade. It takes however long it takes. No pressure. No judgment. No shame.

What I took from Martha’s notes on this transition, is that if someone were to try to help (or force) the butterfly out of its safe place, it would ooze out and cease to exist… never to emerge in that glorious form. So, we come to understand that when we are in liminal space, it is our gift and responsibility to do the work of transformation. No one can do it for us. And from Heather’s notes on this process, I realized that as one who is holding space for someone in transition, it is not our responsibility to force their becoming, but to provide the safe place for this transformation to occur in their own time and on their own terms.

Now that I’ve been given language for it, I realize that this time of year, between one holiday and another, and another, and another… is like being in liminal space.

When I was in the corporate world, everything shifted the week before Thanksgiving. There was a sense of limbo to living, as everyone moved into some kind of chaotic survival mode. Either coming alive with anticipation of time with family, vacation, decorations, gifts, etc… or conversely, killing themselves to get it all done, or wanting to – for the stress of it all, with the enormous discomfort and despair it might bring for a host of reasons. This feeling of clouded disconnection would take root and hold on until the second week of the new year.

This is my third holiday season without co-workers, so I’m no longer witness to the excitement or tension. My family and I have moved away from the stress and chaos of holidays dictated by expectations. I didn’t put up a tree or purchase presents this year. It’s funny how simplifying one’s life can feel so liberating.

Even without all of the trappings of the holiday season, this time of year still feels like liminal space… a time of reflection and transformation.

This year, we are not only facing the end of another year, but the end of a decade. In reflection, we may review this time to see where we’ve been and what has changed. In 2010, the boss who needed me had just retired, and the boss who loved me was growing nicely into her new role. I loved my job, I loved my workplace, and I loved the people. I was still learning how to love myself. I hoped I would always get to be there, in that job. But the universe had other plans. Thank goodness.

I think I moved into liminal space when the boss who loved me retired in 2015, and the rest of the decade has been spent in peeling away all of the layers that had turned into something ‘unbecoming’ to me. My soul took flight when I realized that I didn’t have to stay in that form that always felt a little false. I looked and felt completely out of place in the corporate world, where making money for shareholders was more important than nurturing and stoking the light of love in every individual. Yet, I don’t regret the work of the caterpillar that delivered the abundance of savings that became the chrysalis of transformation. In fact, I am grateful for that former self in that past life.

I remember when I started writing in 2018, how I would refer to that former life, wondering where I might go next and what I might do with the time remaining. I simply decided to follow inspiration and my IGS (internal guidance system) to see where it would lead. In the last two years, I have studied End of Life wisdom, writing and editing, and have started on the path of Holding Space Leadership (something I already do, but don’t know what I don’t know). My favorite exploration has been crafting and facilitating workshops and retreats focused on mindfulness, creative expression, sacred ceremony, and joy manifestation in the form of self-awareness and intentional living.

I am not the same person I was before the universe wrapped me in a cloak of transformation. I am no longer the caterpillar, but I am not yet the butterfly, either. I’m somewhere in the goo, tossing out what doesn’t belong, picking out colors and textures that will suit my new wings, when I am ready to take flight.

I challenge you, dear reader, to determine where you are in your own sacred cycle. If you feel as if you are in liminal space, even if it feels like years have passed while you’ve been here, embrace your beautiful gooey self and keep doing the work of transformation. Don’t be afraid to let go of what no longer serves you. Just chuck it! You’re going to need that extra space to build your wings.

I wrote a meditation for my goddess group Solstice gathering that was inspired by this work, and I recorded it for sharing. Keep in mind that I’m not a professional – I am exploring tools that I’m figuring out as I go, and it is far from perfect. I guess it is liminal, too. Also, it was written for a specific gathering, so please forgive the gender reference at the end.

A Meditation Inspired by Rebirth at Winter Solstice, Liminal Space, and Chakra Alignment

So, tomorrow the sun will set and we will experience the longest night of the year. It is the perfect time for reflection and introspection. Move into that glorious darkness and give your gooey self a good swirl. Glory in your blessed opportunity to recreate yourself as the days begin to grow longer, when your divine spirit is reborn along with the radiant sun.

For those who find this time of year to be difficult or painful, know that I am holding space for you in my heart. Wishing you sweet memories to be cherished of the past and new memories to be made and revered in the future.

HAPPY SOLSTICE!

Centering Our Souls at Samhain

Part Four of a Manifestation Story

At the heart of this retreat was the myth of Persephone. When I started studying death last year, as a part of the End of Life Doula studies, I dedicated my learning to Her in the role of Goddess of the Underworld. But here’s the thing… I have chosen a version of the myth which is not tied to patriarchal brutality. I am not interested in perpetuating or celebrating a relationship based on abduction, rape, and entrapment. There is another telling that I prefer. It was one I learned from another, so I cannot verify the source – but I suspect it comes from Dr. Pinkola Estes or another goddess-mother of feminine spirituality. The version that my swiss-cheese memory recalls goes something like this…

Persephone was in a field collecting flowers to make a circlet for her mother’s hair, when she came upon a lost soul who could not find the doorway to the underworld. She returned to her mother, the Goddess Demeter, and told her that she must go into the underworld to guide these lost souls and offer them initiation. Though She did not want to let her go (the plight of most mothers), Demeter watched Persephone’s descent and immediately longed for her return. As she mourned the absence of her daughter, the world fell into a stark, quiet version of itself as a blanket of snow fell and the flowers receded into the earth.

Meanwhile, Persephone took Her place at the crystal doorway to offer seeds of transformation to those who no longer walked upon the earth. Initiation involved consumption of a pomegranate seed, and these garnet seeds would light the inner flame of those moving into a new way of being. When Persephone returned from the underworld to visit her mother, Demeter felt such joy that the earth burst forth in blossoms of celebration, as life and color bloomed once more.

Here we have a story of creation and of changing seasons, mothers and daughters, of love and loss, of passion and responsibility, of transformation, death and renewal. This is a version of an ancient tale I can relate to.

My current belief (current – because I am ever evolving based on my own life experience) about the transformation that death brings is that we are all energetic beings, and in human incarnation we are able to learn and grow through emotions that are not experienced beyond the confines of the body. So, once we have gathered these lessons and intentions, we are free to leave the body behind, as we return to energetic form. Those we love and have lost in body to death, remain ever present in energetic form. My intention for connecting with our lost loves at Samhain, was to use the tool of creative visualization or meditation to sit with them once more.

And so it was Persephone who manifested within the cave of sacred memory to offer us initiation and safe passage. When we reached the central chamber, which was warmed by firelight, with walls donned with portraits of our ancestors and dear ones lost, we sat upon a crimson couch and welcomed whomever chose to step through the doorway veiled in magickal moonlight.

The results of meditation differ, based on experience. Someone who is well-practiced may have honed the ability to get out of their own way to let vision come and judgment or expectation fall away. But one should never negate the vision or experience they find in the sacred space of the powerful mind.

JK Rowling, I feel, captured it perfectly in The Deathly Hallows, when Harry asks the ghostly image of Professor Dumbledore:

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Some of us had very clear, even life-altering conversations with one or more people on that comfy couch. Some of us saw ourselves surrounded by smiling loved ones who were present, without words. As for me, I found an opportunity to seek forgiveness and receive acceptance at the edge of the underworld.

I had no expectation of my own personal journey, since I had written the meditation, led the visualization, and was ultimately holding space for the experience of others. However, as I provided the silent pause for those on this journey to find connection, someone came through the veil for me.

In January of 1993, I volunteered in the buddy program for Hope & Help, a local resource for people living with HIV. I was introduced to my first and only buddy somewhere around my 24th birthday. I was the first ‘stranger’ his parents left him with, so that they could go to church together. When they left, he told me that he was being punished by God. This broke my heart and made me angry, all at once. I am not a fan of religions that lead people to believe they are worthy of abandonment and abuse from a supposed all-powerful being. He was a young and passionate choir leader for his gospel church. He had a blood transfusion during a surgery after his appendix burst. He died in November of that same year, a week before his 28th birthday.

It was Kirby who came through the veil for me. He was smiling and happy to see me, and the feeling was mutual. A part of my guidance was to consider the conversations we never got to have… the ones where we have the opportunity to say to our loved ones: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. 26 years have passed since Kirby left this earthly realm, and he came through so that I could tell him something I needed to say.

When I was 24, I had not yet learned about life, let alone death. I had minimal access to my gift for words. When I sat with him, whether in his home or in the hospital, I felt a complete lack. I did not know what to say or how to say it. I sat and held his hand and looked into his eyes, but I always felt that I provided little comfort. But here’s the thing I’ve carried… shame. When I held his hand as he lay in his hospital bed, lung capacity too weak to push out words, I was not fully present. As I held his hand, I thought about the fear I carried for a disease on which I had been well-educated. I knew that holding his hand was zero risk for my wellness, and yet I can recall leaving the room and washing my hands with urgency. The only real threat was to him… my germs could compromise his health, and not the other way around. I would give anything to be able to sit with him again with the presence, compassion, and understanding I now possess.

I asked Kirby for his forgiveness, and even now, I can almost hear his voice. “Oh, Melissa. There is nothing to forgive!” As he tilts his head, glances at me with compassion, and offers me that gorgeous grin… tears flow, and I know that this is happening inside my head, and also that this is real.

When I lead a meditation, my main worry is whether the silence I offer is long enough for a message to be received, or so long that I lose the mindful attention of those I’m hoping to lead. When Kirby faded into the veil, I ended the silence with these words…

We know that time moves differently in the Underworld, and that though we long to be with our loved ones, we know that now is not that time. Tonight is a moment when time stands still, and here we were blessed to connect between the worlds.

But time will move on and we shall go with it. Much like when we connect in the realm of the living, it feels as if no time has passed… so will be the day when they come to greet us and take us from the temporary realm to the eternal.

Until then… we honor them by choosing to live in joy and happiness. It would be an insult to their sacrifice not to.

We made our way out of sacred space the same way we came in, and we shared the stories of our experience. We cried together, and we amazed one another with knowledge of healing offered and received between the worlds.

The next day, a meditation informed everyone of a gift from Persephone. We were all given a garnet pomegranate seed, in the form of a teardrop bead attached to a small silver ring. The symbolism was that we would be offered safe passage any time we wished to connect with our loved ones, and when our time comes, we, too, will be received and initiated by Her love.

We then took the gift we were given, and selected a series of other beads to encircle our wrists in the form of a bracelet that would forever remind us of this time we’ve shared at the edge of the underworld.

The final piece of the remembrance portion of the retreat was to write the names of those we had invoked onto gathered autumn leaves. We drove to a nearby river, walked to the center of the bridge, and blew kisses into the wind, as our leaves floated down and around, returning our beloveds to the eternal flow of the river that separates us.

When we returned to the mountain house we now recognized as home, some of us stepped into the kitchen, and continued the preparation of a true Thanks-Giving meal. When my hosts suggested a full turkey dinner with all the sides, I thought it sounded great, but I hadn’t really considered the symbolism.

We were at the end of our time together. We twelve had chosen to be vulnerable and authentic. We supported and celebrated transition and transformation. We cried together, and we built a bond that transcends time and space. We agreed that we wanted to do this again. And we gave thanks for all of it.

The day before these gorgeous beings gathered, I started a seven month course on Holding Space Leadership, and our course creator and guide, Heather Plett, shared with us a poem. As she read these words, I understood that I would share them, too. They are perfection. So, before we sat down to our final full-togetherness, I read these words to my courageous and wonderful guests, and now… I offer them to you.

Blessing for a New Beginning by John O’Donohue

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Each farewell the next morning took away a little piece of my heart, in the form of longing and protection. And by noon, we were three again. We set to the task of breaking the set, and packing it up. Our journey down the mountain would come the next morning, and there was much to do.

Gratefully, the universe rewarded me with a little more time with my dear hosts, who drove over from their daughter’s home. I was pleased to share my gratitude for the remarkable journey we had all shared in this beautiful space that held us all in warmth and love. And because it is what sacred gardeners do, I planted seeds of intention for two retreats in 2020. My life-long friend took notes during our eleven hour drive home, on our ideas for how to manifest more self-love at Beltaine next May. I can’t wait to light that candle and dedicate that hearth to bless, once again, the journey we will share.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I’m so happy to be here with you for this brief moment in time. May the season of light bring you an abundance of blessings.