The Journey Inward

Yesterday I visited a nearby mountain park to get an added dose of nature before I head home at the end of the week.  I hadn’t really thought it out very well, because I stepped onto the Lakeside Trail in my traditional open-toe shoes, instead of something more trail appropriate.  I could have turned back early on, but the path kept calling me forward… and so forward I went.  The ‘lake’ was more of a reservoir, and was not round like many lakes back home, but more like a wide river with end caps.  I started my journey, like most adventures in life, without expectation or awareness of what I might find or experience along the way.  At the beginning of the trail, as I traveled counter-clockwise on the map, I found a bench at water’s edge, and so I sat for a moment to contemplate the beauty before me.  The water was filled with all sorts of plant life, and there were trees that had fallen on the bank and into the lake, that were left to become a part of the landscape, creating homes for the creatures that live there.  As I sat there, I would occasionally hear a sound that informed me that something was moving in the water, but each time I heard it, I would look and see nothing more than a slight ripple.  It reminded me of how we often assume that a situation is how we perceive it, based on what we can see on the surface, but how reality is that there is often something of greater depth actually going on beneath the surface.  I took a moment to honor all that was present which I could not see, and then I continued my walk.

Next, I came to a boardwalk structure that crossed the water, and before I was half way across, I gasped to see a young deer with antlers grazing on plant life in shallow water.  This is not something we get to see where I come from, and the sight took my breath away before it brought me to tears.  A couple who were hiking in the opposite direction came upon us, and respectfully stood quietly for a few minutes before gently passing.  I thought about how magick happens throughout our lives, if we are open to it, and how special it can be to have it all to ourselves at times, and also to be blessed to share it with others.  I could have stayed all day to simply stand witness to such grace and beauty, but I decided to offer my gratitude for this moment, and asked to be WOWed again somewhere along my journey.  I was not disappointed.

As I moved forward on the path, having no idea where it would take me, or if I would regret not having turned back for better hiking gear, I couldn’t help but think about my personal life experience with the Artemis Archetype.  After all, the stag is one of her most sacred symbols, and the mountain forest is her realm.  I might turn a curve along this winding path and see her in the distance drawing back her bow.  I thought about how alone I felt on this path, as I could hear no human sound at this point.  I realized that my footwear could betray me on a path filled with tree roots and loose stones, or how I might slip and fall somewhere on this journey and that no one would be around to see me, hear me, or come to my rescue.  It made me think about how unprepared I have been throughout life for the obstacles that would appear in my life, leaving me hurt or disappointed by the actions of others.  But then I realized that my travels with Artemis have always been that way.  I may have had the support of my band of nymphs that I call my Tribe, but the work that I did to move through self-loathing to find my true self-worth and value was always a solitary journey.  It never mattered how emphatically others would assure me of how worthy they found me, I could never find it to be true until I felt it for myself.  And every betrayal and wound I’ve received has always led to learning and the positive evolution of my soul.  And so…  I chose to continue… believing that I was well protected, and that I would find more moments of magick if I simply refused to give up on myself.

As I moved further into the forest, and away from view of the lake, the feeling of solitude grew more profound.  I realized how similar this world that belongs to Artemis resembles the world that belongs to Persephone.  In the non-patriarchal version of her tale, she has chosen to go into the underworld to welcome the souls who have transitioned from the world of the living and are now seeking passage through the veil.  On this lonely mountain path, I could feel the isolation of one’s journey from human form into the mystery of what comes next.  There might be loved ones present to hold your hand for a while, but at some point… you must move forward on your own.  But then I realized through much of my hike that I would hear a recurring sound that was lacking form.  I imagined that it might be the sound of hooves on forest floor, an unseen squirrel or chipmunk, or a bird taking flight in the canopy above.  The message that I received from this awareness was that our perception of aloneness throughout our sacred journey is an illusion.  Even when we cannot see others around us, the truth is that we are never alone.  Whether it be the consciousness that we can step into to deliver strength in a moment of weakness – becoming the warrior and rescuing ourselves, or the presence of guides and loved ones that some of us may never connect with and recognize without the support of a medium, or at the end of life – as witnessed by Hospice Nurses again and again, as their patients acknowledge days or moments before death, alerting them to call the family, for departure time is near.

As I walked the Lakeside Trail, wondering if it would ever come to an end, I walked through fear and kept going.  I walked through solitude, and realized I wasn’t really alone.  I walked through self-doubt and negative self-talk about the foolishness of being ill-prepared, and I kept moving forward.  I walked for three hours straight, and never grew weary.  I acknowledged that my twice-weekly time in the gym had been time well spent, as my legs were strong enough to carry me up hill and down again without complaint.  I passed an occasional human, and while I was glad to see them and smiled as they passed, I was also grateful to continue on my own.  I realized that walking with Artemis brought me to this place… where being alone with myself is a wonderful place to be.  Once filled with self-loathing, I now feel that I make for really great company, and I was so happy to be walking with my own best friend… ME.  As I began to hear the sound of traffic on the mountain road upon which I entered the park, I was pleased to be coming full circle.  I had hoped to be shown the blessings of nature, and I was rewarded with three different deer sightings, each bringing me to tears.  For three hours, I was honored to walk beside two Goddesses who are ever present in my life, and I bowed my head to Persephone in reverence for the guidance and comfort she provides as I explore the path to the underworld, hoping to be one of her torchbearers in the future… holding the hands of those transitioning from human form, until they are finally able to see those who shall greet them on the other side.

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Light Up and Be Happy!

I’m in Tennessee for a couple of weeks visiting friends who have a summer home here.  Tonight, after we took the dogs for their evening stroll, as we returned to the house a firefly landed on my hand.  My friend took the dogs inside so that I could ‘have a moment’ without disturbing my new friend at rest.  It wasn’t even close to twilight, so he wasn’t ready to light up, so as he rested on the back of my hand, I sang to him a little song about the evening to which we both looked forward.  You know… that old favorite from Styx…  “Light up everybody!  Join us in this celebration.  Light up and be happy!  Sweet, sweet sound will fill the air.”  I bet you didn’t know that was a song about fireflies on a summer night, did you?  Ha!

I just love these moments, getting to connect with nature.  It’s not something I often do back home.  From where I sit now, I can hear traffic and neighbors coming and going, but there is also the sound of wind in the trees, crickets chirping, birds singing, and cicadas humming.  I find myself, at times, resenting the obnoxious sound of vehicles passing on the highway nearby, as it feels like such an insult to the orchestra that is playing a temporary tune.  Did I mention that we are also near an airport?  Sigh…  but eventually I am able to refocus on the sounds of nature, and the volume of wind chimes and insect instrumentals rises to the forefront.  Encore!, I say.

As I glance into the yard, I can see the fireflies finally at play.  They lift from grass and tree branch with a spark of light that reminds me of the sparks that pop forth from a blazing fire… rising upward and fading away.  It makes me wonder if they are playing a game of ‘ghost in the graveyard’ together.  “Over here!”  “No, over here!”, they say as their light teases one to follow.  But then they are gone, and another flash of light appears in the periphery, and you turn your head… but…  gone again.  It looks like enormous fun, and yet we are both excluded from the game, and delighted to bear witness.

I alternately enjoy these moments of solitude and wish to be sharing them with others.  So, here I am… inviting you into my solitary moment, so grateful you could join me.  I imagine that car in the distance is yours, winding up the hill and onto our street.  That you walk through the grass and open the gate, then pull out a chair and join me for this exclusive performance of the most beautiful concerto to be heard by human ears.  We reach across the table and hold hands for a moment, breathing deeply of the gratitude for this sacred moment upon the earth… together.  From this view, we can see that everything really will be okay.  I promise.

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Mountain Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stream of Consciousness on Carbs

Tonight I gave into a longing for crunch, which I’ve not entertained for nearly two months.  Already feeling some regret, I started plummeting into an old familiar place of despair.  Instead of sitting inside of my Aquarian mind while beating myself up, I decided to open a page in Word, and type.  I’m not sure if this is fiction or prediction, or if this message is for me or for you.  But since I am on a foreign path of openness and exploration, following my guides who tell me to write and then write some more… I’m putting this out here for the Universe to see, since I’m not really sure if anyone else is actually watching.  This is what happened when I opened a page, closed my eyes, and gave my fingers creative license…

There is a place of darkness into which one alone sometimes falls.  There is an overwhelming sense of solitude, as if no one in the world could possibly hear your voice crying out for acknowledgment.  I am here.  Can you see me?  Can you hear me?  Where the heck am I?  What is that squishing between my toes?  

When you’ve been alone this long, it is difficult to imagine what it might be like to find yourself unexpectedly bumping into someone who is suddenly walking beside you.  What was that?  Did I just do that thing where I can’t walk in a straight line, and so I accidentally bump shoulders with someone who is simply walking in the same direction?  Oh, sorry!  Let me get back over to my side of the walkway.  But then, you find yourself bumping shoulders again, and then someone reaches for your hand, only you don’t look up to see who is there, because you are simply in shock for the sensation of your hand being filled with the palm of another…  Such a foreign sensation.  But it is not that you have never felt another hand holding yours, it is that there has never been a hand that has purposefully reached before.  There has never been one with a soul as pure as your own who has seen your light and been drawn to it like a moth to a porch light.  And yet, you look down and there is a hand that has most definitely reached for yours and his fingers are gently but firmly holding onto yours.  But he is not guiding you or pulling you onto his path, nor is he forcing himself onto yours.  This soul, is quite simply choosing to join you in a slow progression of forward motion.  Witnessing your evolution, while attaining his own.  And though you were previously feeling alone in the darkness, you are now witness to a blinding light that drenches this pathway with illumination that fills every crevice of darkness.  There is nowhere for anything to hide that might feel threatening.  Everything is immersed in the light.  All falseness is exposed and only truth can remain.  In this new place, where two souls have met, there can be only complete openness and honesty, authentic realness between souls. 

Having left behind the darkness of uncertainty, outdated and overgrown false perceptions of the past, a new hope rises from the mud and murk that once squished beneath your feet.  Your days were never meant to be absent of touch, lacking in connection, vacant of affection.  All that you never knew you yearned for is right here on this path that you’ve chosen.  When you are ready to shake off the shock of disbelief, you should probably take a moment to look up to see just who it is you’ve bumped into.

My soul-daughter and I were just discussing how we can feel a sense of deepening connection with our gifts, our authenticity, and adjusting our own beliefs about our connectedness to life, the universe, and everything.  At 22, she is just at the beginning of her journey, and at 49, I am past the midpoint… I imagine how much glorious, authentic living she will get to do, having this awareness now, rather than decades later.  But then… I think the same for myself… grateful to be finding it now, rather than… well, you know.

(Chalice Well Garden / Summer 2010)

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Second Sunday Sensations

Bliss, joy, happiness, comfort, healing, sighs of relief, deep belly laughter, tears of shared sorrow, and the ultimate level of gratitude for these shared sacred days.  Many people get dressed each Sunday and make their way to a house of worship that meets their spiritual needs, and there, if they are really lucky, they find community.  I was raised Unitarian, but I’ve never really been a church-goer.  To me, the service was never as fulfilling as the community connectedness that would follow.  Long ago, I chose to cut out the middle minister.  There are still times when I may find solace in having that sacred place in which to connect.  On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, for example… I found myself numbly making the drive to our sanctuary, seeking comfort within a room of like minds and warm hearts.  Minutes from an executive airport and an international airport, I will never forget the eerie vacancy of the skies that could be seen through horizon windows.  I recall very little about what was spoken, but felt a sense of shared shock, fear, heartbreak, uncertainty, and dismay.  I do recall my own words… for my sorrow was mingled with joy.  On this terrible, horrible, tragic, no-good day, my Tribe sister was in Colorado giving birth to sweet Whimsy.  To me, she was a symbol of hope in the darkest of times.  In just three months she will be seventeen, and she couldn’t possibly shine more brightly… always our beacon of shining brilliance and great pride.

The last community trauma did not lead me to church, though many did gather there for comfort, for support, for counseling, to find someone – anyone who could help hold a shattered soul together until healing could someday be found.  It was two years ago this week… I remember that I had been visiting a friend in North Florida that weekend, and for some reason that Saturday night, I felt restless and chose to drive home rather than to stay another night.  I don’t know what was on my mind during that three hour drive, but if my thoughts were troubled or petty they would soon be completely annihilated… along with 49 sacred souls.

For more than a decade, a small group of committed friends within my circle have gathered for Second Sunday Supper.  Each month we assemble in someone’s kitchen, and there we cook together and wine flows into glasses, while our hearts are filled and overflow with pure love and adoration for the grace and beauty of our togetherness.  I believe that if there was no food present, we would still feel well-nourished at our parting.

Two years ago, we gathered in the home of dear friends who have since moved away.  That morning we had all risen with the most tragic news, and though we had a commitment to brunch together, we had to ensure we could still gather – as one of our hosts was a member of the police department.  In a different role, and gratefully never in harm’s way, he had not been called in, and we all felt it especially necessary to gather our hearts into one place, a group hug from which we would wish to never emerge.  Upon arrival, words were difficult to share through throats swollen from primal screams and flowing tears.  Reports were coming in from comrades…  20 confirmed dead…  23 confirmed dead… 30… 35…  42….  breathless and shattered… 49 monumental losses to our beloved community.  Tears would dry and fall again.  Together we waxed on about shared dreams of a world that celebrates the authentic beauty of every individual, where self-hatred and familial denial of one’s truth could only lead to such a violent atrocity in books of fiction, and the reality of an automatic rifle in the hands of a civilian was as far-fetched as Marvin the Martian’s ray gun, pointed at Bugs Bunny on the surface of Mars… only to be found in a world of cartoon fantasy.  A convoy of refrigerated trucks would never be required, for the inadequacy of space in the county morgue.

Gratefully, most of our Second Sundays are free from such horror and sorrow.  Music plays, friends gather, food is prepared, wine is poured, bloody marys are built, stories are shared, laughter is raised, and hearts are soothed and refilled with enough love and light to carry us through the next four weeks, until we recreate this glory in another kitchen.  These people are the sacred tenders of our communal hearth fire.  Embers could never be darkened with their careful commitment.

Today we will gather in my home, and I hope that tradition will serve the quote of a friend who once said:  “Walking into Melissa’s house is like walking into a hug.”  Each guest will be greeted with more than welcome… with more than nice to see you, but with overwhelming relief as pieces of hearts are reunited and once again made whole.  We are a tiny community, madly in love with the souls of one another.  Together, we are facing a battle with cancer and ongoing treatment, the continuing grief of a dear friend lost suddenly and way too soon, we will be missing friends whose home now requires a flight or a long day’s drive to reach, we will wait for the arrival of a friend in his 70’s who went back to work to make ends meet, we will provide updates of the health and wellness of our aging parents, as well as our own aging bodies and the surprises that arise in midlife, and possibly share stories about workplace drama – or the lack-of-a-workplace bliss, as the case may be.

But all of this seriousness will be soothed and comforted by the smiles, hugs, laughter, plans for a destination wedding in the fall for two of our beloveds, and the rapt attention of each sacred being who helps to fill this space, my personal house of worship, with the love that we seek, the commitment we sustain, and the light that we share.  Oh, yeah… and by the food and wine, too.  🙂

Wishing you a Second Sunday filled with your own personal version of soul-filling, heart lifting, voice raising, complete and utter bliss.

(The First Supper by Jane Evershed)

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A Spiritual Path Less Traveled

I have been asked on more than one occasion about the sense of comfort and calm that I carry.  One co-worker asked me if it was my spirituality that made me such a peaceful and happy soul.  I tend to think that my demeanor would be the same regardless of my spiritual path, and yet I surely would not be who I am today without it.

I started my spiritual journey at age 23, at a time when I felt unfocused and unsure of my future direction.  I was raised Unitarian Agnostic, so had an openness toward learning about world religion and alternative paths of spirituality.  I had gone to church with friends while growing up, and had experienced multiple denominations of Christianity, but was never able to find a connection there.

As a teenager, and an adoring fan of a certain chiffon cloaked songstress, I developed an interest in learning about Wicca.  I recall asking my brother one day, “They call her a witch, but her music is uplifting and makes me feel good… so how can she be bad?”  His reply was that she wasn’t bad, she was a Witch to Wicca, as a Catholic is to Christianity (providing clarity to a non-religious kid). 

In the mid 1980’s, there was little to be found in the library on that topic.  I found a brief outline in an encyclopedia that I photocopied, but it didn’t do much to help my understanding.  It felt too foreign and strange, and so I dropped my inquiry. 

Then, in February of 1992, my Mom signed us both up to attend a workshop at our church, called “Women in Religion – A Walk in Many Worlds”.   It was a weekend of experiential learning about Feminine Spirituality, hosted by Margot Adler.  I can still vividly recall the Saturday morning ritual that was simple in nature, but powerful.  There were 120 women in attendance, and Margot (the late NPR Correspondent, and granddaughter of famed psychiatrist, Alfred Adler) invited any woman who was going through some kind of trauma or sorrow to enter the center of the circle.  When I looked around, there were not enough women left in the outer ring to be able to clasp hands.  For me, it was a moment of empathic clarity to understand the prolific suffering of others. Prior to this gathering, I had not yet come to understand that what people display ‘on the outside’ does not necessarily reflect how they feel on the inside.

As we joined voices for my first healing chant, there was an unmistakable energy rising.  It came up through the soles of my feet and poured forth through the tears in my eyes… there was so much suffering in this circle.  I longed to hold every woman in sacred space. 

These are the words that we repeatedly chanted:  “I am a circle, I am healing you.  You are a circle, you are healing me.  Unite us, be one.  Unite us, be as one.”  I still find this chant to be powerful and incredibly moving, whether in a circle of three or three hundred. 

At the time of our gathering, I knew one woman in the circle, but when I would later reflect on that moment that changed my life for the better, I would realize that a good number of those present would become my people. 

Aside from the healing chant, there is one thing that really stands out in my memory of that weekend. We were all invited to bring an item to place on the altar, and had a chance to explain the symbolism of our offering.  Margot spoke of the item she brought, which was a replica of a Neolithic age goddess image known as the Venus of Willendorf.  She dates back over 30,000 years, and here’s the thing… she is not a stick figure.  Willie is actually rotund by current standards.  She is full, and round, and fertile, with hips meant for childbearing.  Margot said that when she learned to see this ancient relic through the eyes of those who created her… with a sense of awe and reverence… she could begin to see herself that way.  Can you imagine – realizing that someone who looked like you was once considered divine and worthy of worship? There really might be something here for me, after all, I thought.

After the workshop, my mom found an ad in the paper for a six-month class on Wicca.  Again, she signed us both up.  Mom left the class when she knew I was safe (i.e., not getting involved with a cult), as this path was not for her.  I continued my weekly commitment from March through August of that year.  We learned about different mythological pantheons, sacred ceremony, herbalism, astrology, divination (such as tarot and runes, etc.), and more. 

It’s funny to come from the perspective of skepticism and open mindedness.  It takes a really long time to move through disbelief and prove-it mentality to genuine knowing – even when you’ve been witness to real magick and minor miracles.  It helps to be a highly committed individual; you can just keep trying, until it clicks.  It also helps to have others with whom you feel safe to explore.  When the class was over, I was initially not sure I would do anything with what I’d learned.  There were parts that resonated, and parts that did not.  But, as fate would have it, I was invited to join a small group of classmates to continue this exploration.  These people valued my authentic nature, and did not judge my lack of education on the subjects into which we would grow.  With their confidence and support, I began to blossom.  I was their ‘maiden’, and the tarot card that symbolized my place on the path at age 23 was The Fool…  a curious soul at the beginning of an unknown and exciting adventure.

For me, what was most profound in this exploration was the ability to finally find myself in the divine.  For on this spiritual path, through Margot Adler’s introduction and the class on Wicca, I met the Goddess.  Before this, the only expression of divinity I’d been shown came in male form, and quite frankly, having been betrayed by a male at age 20 to whom I had given my heart, well… I just wasn’t interested.  How could I trust Him?  And so here, in the proverbial lap of the Goddess, I was ready to make my home.

Over the last 25 years, my personal definition of spirituality has fluctuated. I remain committed to a permanent state of evolution, as I allow life and experience to alter understanding. I am an eternal student gathering insight from many paths, traditions, and religions. I find focus and strength in the archetypal feminine via Jungian psychology. I am grateful to have been raised with an open mind, not tied to a single belief system or dogma.

I love that we all have the freedom to explore and ultimately define what it is that makes us feel safe, supported, transformed, fulfilled. 

For me, an earth based, goddess centered path still resonates most clearly… but my understanding of consciousness continues to evolve, and today I define myself as spiritual, but not religious – hesitant to limit my own possibility for growth and expansion. 

What I’ve gathered from every single path I’ve studied… is that symbolism is powerful.  We can find commonality in the Earth’s path around the sun through the changing seasons, and the cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth of nature.  And just as Mother Nature sheds her leaves each fall, we too can choose to drop what no longer serves us, be it an attitude, a toxic relationship, or a path that no longer meets our needs.

Whichever path you have chosen, and however you define it, dear ones, I hope that your own sacred journey is paved with love and healing light, and that you are surrounded by a community of supportive, loving, compassionate friends who will take your hand when you need guidance through moments of darkness.  Knowing that I am never alone, and that I am surrounded by so much love has always been a great blessing to me… and from the center of my being, I wish the same for you. 

Thank you for walking this path with me.

The Once and Future Son

At the end of 2015 my soul-sister and childhood friend embarked on a healing journey.  She is such a beacon of positivity and light that you would never know the darkness through which she has come.  Her heart is so big and so open, you could not imagine that it had once been mishandled, manipulated, abandoned, and betrayed.  Her generous heart just keeps shining, giving, expanding.

She is one of my great heroes, and without a doubt, a soul with whom I shall always resonate… together, we create a kind of harmony.  She came into my life when we were ten years old, and though there have been separations of time and distance, when we come together, it feels as if no time has passed, because clearly… we are always together… hearts singing to one another over the miles.

Our favorite pastime is what we call ‘couch time’.  This is when and where we go deep.  The season that her healing began brought us ample couch time, as she was staying with me while working on a project in town.  She engaged the support of an intuitive life coach during this visit, and it was from her first session that our assignment was delivered.

I never wanted to have children of my own, though I’ve always been grateful for the faery goddess babies in my life, that are the sacred legacy of dearest friends who have nurtured my presence in the lives of their children.  I’ve witnessed the joy, pride and glory of motherhood through many of my girlfriends, and I’ve witnessed the sorrow and heartbreak of some whose longing for such a blessing did not come to fruition.  This is where our story begins.

Being separated by distance sometimes does not allow us to be witness to the suffering of loved ones.  With 2,000 miles between us, I fear that, at the time, I was aware of my dear one’s miscarriage, but perhaps failed to be present with her at the time of her loss and grief.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to make up for my failure, when she shared with me the task before her.

The very first mission of her healing journey was to make peace with the loss of her son.  It was suggested that the work would be most powerful and effective at the Winter Solstice.  It was early December and she was about to return home, but she asked me to help her with this endeavor, and booked a flight to return for couch time later that month.

My own spiritual path of the last 26 years spirals around the Celtic wheel of the year, and the significance of a ritual to greet her son on the day that the ancients celebrated the rebirth of the Sun was not lost on me.  I set forth to create for her a sacred space in which to find celebration and closure.

The following meditation was inspired by my journey to Ireland in 2008.  As I walked into the passage tomb known as Newgrange or Bru Na Boinne, it was clear to me that we were walking into the womb of Mother Earth.  It can be seen from everywhere in the Boyne Valley, and this is where the people of this region would bring the cremains of their loved ones.  There is a window box over the only doorway through which the rising sun enters only once a year… on the Winter Solstice.

It is my strong belief that they were longing for the rebirth of their beloveds, along with the rebirth of the Sun, as this is the time of year (in the northern hemisphere) we see the longest night… from which point the days begin to grow longer.  This is the journey that my friend and I shared on the longest night of 2015.

The journey into darkness has been a long and difficult spiral inward.  You have come to this place, upon a frosted, moonlit valley, to seek healing, comfort, and to lay down your burdens.  In your mind’s eye, you travel over the river… the surface alive with movement – spirals ascend as if to caress the face of the moon. 

You  journey upward, to that ancient place on the hill… the earthen mound that can be seen from anywhere in the valley… the womb of the Mother.  As you approach, following the path that leads to the curb stone that marks the entrance, an Irish Hare pops up from the landscape, and dashes off, into the night.  You arrive at the portal stone and run your fingers over the petroglyphs left upon the stone more than 5,000 years ago… clearly symbols of the river that brings bounty to this valley, and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Now, you step forward and walk into the doorway, surrounded, as you move forward, by megalithic stones that form a passage, protective walls, and ceiling.  It is dark here, and you step with intention, guided by the feel of the protective granite, but it is safe, and you can breathe with ease, knowing that you are safe in the belly of the Mother.  As the wall begins to curve, you know that you have reached the center… slightly up hill from the ground from which you entered.  Here, you take a seat… and wait.

On the longest night, you find peace in the darkness.  You have come here to reconnect with the one you thought lost, the one who tried his best to come to fruition as the child of your womb…  the son of your heart.  It is here, in this ancient, sacred place… that you are finally able to give him a name.  Here, before you, a shadowy image begins to emerge and take shape in the darkness.  Outside, the very edge of the top of the sun is kissing the horizon, and a tiny ray of light has begun to journey toward you, across the cool stone floor.  The pale light allows you to see that there is a large stone basin in the center of the chamber, and the small being that is emerging from the darkness is a young boy… who bears a striking resemblance to someone familiar. 

As the light continues to gather in the chamber, you are able to see more clearly now, and the boy before you holds out his hands, reaching for you, and as you lean in… you feel the small, dry, warm palms upon each side of your face.  As you look deeply into those eyes…  YOUR eyes, gazing lovingly back at you…  you are finally able to have that conversation that your soul has longed to share.  Greet him by name…  and take the time you need to speak with one another.  Say the words that float from your heart to wrap him in mother’s love… and wait to hear his reply.  There is no need to rush, in this sacred place…  you are both, for this moment…  timeless.

When words have been shared, tears have been shed, and laughter has tickled the tips of your toes…  you look again, into those familiar, beautiful eyes that reflect all that is perfect in this world… the one who has never let you down…  recognizing YOURSELF as great warrior of your own story, you are able to release the feeling of loss and sorrow, feeling in your heart, that it has been replaced by gratitude and joy.

By now, the bottom of the sun has gently caressed the horizon, and its beams of pure, radiant, healing light are streaming through the window above the doorway to the passage… and the altar stone, upon which your sacred child is seated, is enveloped with a golden light.  As you gaze upon his beloved being, you gasp to realize that HE has become the light.  Every cell of his body has begun to shimmer, like sparkling gold.  He reaches for you again, and you take him into your arms for a final embrace. 

When you both have shared the comfort of touch, and are ready to say… farewell, for now…  you loosen your grip, and his shimmering being pours through your body with a warming, glow of golden light.  He has been released from this world, and his radiance leads you gently out of the ancient mound, and back into the full, warm light of the sun.  It is a new day, and you feel refreshed and light.  You are ready to emerge from the passage… and for the new opportunities that you shall bring to birth in the days and months ahead. 

We are the earth. We are the womb.   Come rising sun.  Lead us from the tomb.  

Beautiful being… welcome to the light! 

Through these words, and upon this journey within, my friend found the closure she sought.  She made peace with her sorrow and regret, and found a way to have a relationship with a soul that she cannot see, but that surrounds her and moves her, despite the limitations of an earthly body.

If you are aching for the loss of a loved one, whether or not you knew her or him in a form made manifest, know that my soul-sister and I are holding you close.  We invite you to take this journey into yourself, and there, we hope you may find comfort and deep peace.  Love and brightest blessings shine brightly upon your sacred journey.

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Sunday Service or Faery Fantasy?

Have you ever had an experience, that when over, you look back and wonder if it really happened?  My memory is rather selective.  I call it Swiss Cheese Memory, because it seems I may remember pieces of a story, while other bits fall through the holes.  But there is this one magickal day, though buried beneath twenty years of mundane history, which offers me remarkable clarity when plucked out to be shared.  I keep this memory planted in a tiny pocket behind my heart, and am always grateful to be able to return to that very moment… as if to prove time travel a reality.

In college, I took four semesters of American Sign Language.  That’s not to say that I ever had the confidence to do anything with it, but I can still spell out the alphabet and offer you my gratitude, my love, and inform you that I have to pee without speaking a word. 

My classmates were far more confident than I, not limited by a false belief of not being good enough, my old wound – now healed.  So, when a total immersion opportunity in St. Augustine arose, I joined them for the weekend trip, but did not attend the course.  As they headed back to the college for the deaf on Sunday for their final class, I got in my car and drove along the waterfront to find a parking spot.  My thought was that I would find a tree beneath which I would read a book before meeting up with the ladies for lunch.  On this particular day, the sun was shining, the breeze was beautiful, and there was not a single place to park.  So, I kept driving. 

Soon I found that I was no longer in familiar territory.  I ended up in an old neighborhood, and thought I should probably turn around and go back the way I came, so not to be lost (in an era before GPS and cell phones).  When I pulled over to get my bearings, I found myself in front of quite a sight.  I pulled out my journal to write about what I saw, scribbling imagined emotions to go with the vision before me. 

Surrounded by a chain link fence, was a small cinder block structure that was covered in small white crosses, some atop blue hearts.  There was no roof, floor, windows or doors on this house, and with all of the crosses, I imagined a whole family having died there (morbid, I know), as it resembled many roadside memorials I’ve seen. 

When I looked up from my writing, I noticed a car to my left was inching slowly past, with two women eyeing me with suspicion.  As they parked in front of me, and got out of the car, I rolled down my window and they approached, each dressed to the nines, pillbox hats, and all.  I told them that I was intrigued by this house and had to stop, and asked them if this was a place of pain for them.  One woman replied:  “Oh, no honey.  This is our church!”

The next thing I knew, I had been invited to worship with two elderly black women somewhere off the beaten path of historic downtown St. Augustine. 

Of course I accepted their offer, and I helped them carry items from the car into the curious structure that was sacred to them.  Together, we transported a canvas bag with a few hymnals, a battery powered keyboard, and a Christian bible.  As we passed through the gate to enter the property, one of my hostesses placed a halfway deflated balloon at the gate, and turned a sign around to show anyone arriving late that church was now “In Service”. 

We entered the ‘sanctuary’ through the unhindered doorway that faced the road, stepping onto beautiful green grass.  There were randomly placed cinder blocks and a few planks of wood that leaned against the wall.  By their guidance, I helped rearrange these items to become a pew and a keyboard stand.  Next, I was guided through a side-doorway, and found that there was a small wooden closet with a lock, from which was pulled a small wooden lectern.  It looked more like a plant shelf that had been painted blue with a white wooden cross added as a symbol of its importance… to cradle the holy book for reading.  There was a porcelain heart-shaped box that sat on the shelf, behind the cross.  With this final placement, in the front of the room, facing the single pew, and to the left of the ‘choir’ section, we were ready to begin the service.

One woman took her place at the keyboard, and the other behind the lectern.  I took my place with hymnal in hand, respectfully, upon the pew of block and wood.  The service proceeded in the usual fashion… a bit of music, followed by words of scripture.  At each phase of the service, I was informed of their traditions.  “This is where we do the meet and greet.”  And the three of us stood, and I introduced myself to Vondelin and Petronella, two sisters, both in their seventies.  They called each other Von and Pet, for short.  Their mother had taught at the local school for the deaf, and it was a fire in the nearby historic district that sent embers aloft to burn down their family church. 

We returned to our assigned places to continue the service.  I was invited to read something from the ‘Good Book’, and not having a Christian background, I asked Von to select a piece for me.  As she took my previous place on the pew, I looked out over my congregation, and delighted in the sight.  When I finished my reading and returned to my seat, Pet asked if there was a song I’d like to sing.  I told her that I was not familiar with this hymnal, and the only song I could think of that might be appropriate was one performed in the church scene from the movie, Corrina, Corrina with Whoopie Goldberg. 

And so, the three of us moved to the music of the keyboard and we let our little lights shine!  Next, it was time to do the offering.  Von pulled the heart-shaped box from the lectern shelf and informed me of this part of the service.  When I told her that I had left my purse in the car and offered to run out, she handed me two dimes, and said:  “No, no, honey… too much money just invites thieves.”  And so I placed the two dimes she gave me into the box, and Petronella did the same, then Vondelin returned the box to the safe place beneath the bible. 

Again, we all returned to our designated roles, and I listened to the completion of our service.  As I sat there, in this simple structure with my feet in the grass, looking up at blue sky and lush green treetops, and then looked back at these two, lovely, authentic, open-hearted women… my heart experienced such bliss.  When the service ended, I helped them return the space to the state it was in upon arrival.  We locked the lectern and porcelain box in the closet outside the side door, and removed the planks of wood from the cinder blocks and leaned them against the wall.  I helped them carry the keyboard and hymnals out to their car, and thanked them for sharing their Sunday Service with me.

As they drove away, I sat in my car, as I had done just an hour before… looking over at this curious structure, and wondering to myself…  Did that really happen?  I eventually drove away to find my friends, whose voices had been liberated over lunch before our drive back to Orlando.

At work on Monday, still affected by the wonder of it all, I shared my experience with co-workers.  One who often prayed for me and my Unitarian-pagan soul, said:  “See!  I knew you would find your way to the one true path.”  And I looked at her and said:  “Oh, no!  Don’t you see?  As much as I was in their church… they were in mine!  With words of worship and song, we had our feet upon the earth, and the sun upon our skin, the breeze danced through the trees to caress our faces, and we were all one.”

When I later shared this magickal tale with my Tribe, we all wondered if I had slipped into some kind of faery realm.  But it was all confirmed when, several months later, my friends went to St. Augustine to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and they followed my vague instructions to finding my magickal church. 

Not only was the structure still there, but it had new windows in the front.  They attended the service with my not so faery friends, and learned that they had been raising money to refurbish the church, and were doing so, literally one window at a time.  That made me a little sad… that they were working to remove nature from their sanctuary. 

Several years passed before I made my way back north to St. Augustine.  When I made that drive around the waterfront and into the old neighborhood, I did not find the church.  I don’t know if it was torn down or rebuilt to be unrecognizable to me… or if it finally passed through the veil into the faery realm, after all.  I do know that I will forever be grateful, for my curiosity to stop, and for the kindness of two sisters to invite me in.

I hope that if you ever find yourself at the doorway of a magickal threshold, that you will accept the invitation… and enter.

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