Author’s Notes: Writer’s block. Everyone has heard about it, jokes made, condolences offered. It’s a real thing, a time most Creatives face. The well of ideas runs dry, the lake of inspiration empties and a desert of despair stretches farther than one can see. I had it bad, wandering that desert for at least six months.
One of my writing sisters sympathized, stating her creativity had recently become dormant. We discussed the idea. She was taking a course by David Whyte who offered a solution.
She shared it with me. “Ask yourself, what do you want to say that you are not saying?”
It is a question any creative person can mold to unblock many avenues of stagnation. For an artist, “What do I need to see that I won’t look at?” For musicians, dancers, actors, “What do I need to feel that I haven’t allowed?”
When Lynnea Paxton-Honn shared this with me, my re-awakening began. “What do I want to say that I am not saying?”
In California, where we live, January roared into our state with a deluge capable of filling dry lakes and ponds, and creating new ones, seemingly overnight. It ferociously filled rivers, washing away many things. Tides surged, waves plundered. From Earth’s perspective the rain was needed even though it was so destructive. From a spiritual viewpoint, it was a physical expression of the need to wash away all that no longer serves, a process that caused great grief, but also opened new solutions and opened hearts. It awakened memories, and filled our creative lakes and wells with words for both of us…I am thrilled to present Lynnea’s poem Memories Sleeping.
When I woke in the morning, I could feel it. A miracle was coming. My heart wanted me to see the full eclipse of the super moon in Scorpio. I looked out my window. Overcast. I would see it only if the clouds in the sky moved on. I wished with all my will for a strong breeze to push them along.
As the day slipped by, my anticipation grew. Something would change tonight. I felt sure of it. Whether I witnessed it or not would be another story, but if I couldn’t see it with my own eyes, I could still sit under the canopy of the sky and feel it…maybe.
Ghrian set late. His orange arms wrapped the sky for one last hug as he slipped beyond the Pacific horizon.
Ghealach lan was exasperatingly slow to rise. I did not know the exact location she would appear, and I didn’t want to miss anything so I did not wait on my property for a chance to see her through the branches that umbrella my yard. Instead, I walked up and down the hill trying to glimpse her from a view that was not obstructed by tall trees.
My cats wondered what I was up to and sat on the front stairs watching me crest the rise, disappear, and then reappear.
My neighbors must have wondered, “What’s up with her,” because ordinarily I keep to myself. This moon was drawing me out, asking me to venture forth, to witness…something. I had to go.
I made several trips waiting…waiting…waiting. Would she rise above the Sierra Nevada in time for me to see this event?
Finally, the imperative to walk away from my property to a place up the street paid off. Ghealach lan rose slowly, peering through the trees which sat on a higher point of the hill to the southeast.
It took forever to show her entire face. I sat and prepared to wait. People were out. I could hear their voices, but no one came down the road upon which I sat. The sky was clear. I was a grateful witness.
My faithful black cat, venturing out of his territory to check on me, wondered what I was doing sitting in the road. I pulled him into my lap and said, “I am safe. I can’t go home. I have to be here.”
Time stopped as Ghealach lan floated higher against the black sky. Purpose obscured her light. She looked like a dull, orange marble floating in a black sea. I felt her stealth, a wolf taking her place as guardian of the pack. Her energy increased, though her light did not. She prepared for something….
Slowly, she inched toward the zenith until she settled within the ‘v’ between two trees.
As I gazed, my heart reached toward her. Blood stilled in my veins. I held my breath. Even the twinkling stars fell quiet.
Shadows trembled around me, rising one by one.
“Come,” said Ghealach lan. “Your time here is done.”
Releasing their hold on Earth, shadows slowly rose at her bidding. They swirled through the air, catching zephyrs as they followed an inescapable impulse to join her.
My bones loosened. I felt my energy sink into the Earth. Shadows long wrapped around me let loose.
“Come,” said Ghealach.
My shadows drifted toward the heavy darkness that swirled toward the moon. She gathered them one by one, accepting each as a long lost child. When she grew heavy with their darkness, she silently slipped away, leaving the sky and my heart to grieve her disappearance.
Intellectually, I know what happened in that brief instance, but I prefer the magic. I could no longer see her or feel the comfort of knowing she was there, hovering watchfully above us. In my heart, I saw her release each shadow to the Universe, Itself a willing swallower of sorrows. As the shadows slipped from Ghealach’s grasp, her face, a mere promise of orange against the matted sky, became visible to a sharp eye watching for her.
I breathed a prayer, “Thank you, Seanmhair.”
She had willingly taken my shadows from me.
They had answered her command.
I heard her say, “From this moment, your life is forever changed.”
I folded my hands against my heart and took a deep breath. Then I bowed as I felt the gravity of that.
Slowly, her dull orange face glowed brighter.
I slipped back whence I came, to the shelter of my trees and my home.
As the world increasingly challenges our senses of stability and well-being, an intentional daily recharge of spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical batteries is a necessity. Most of us have ways of making our lives pleasurable and happier, but we do it far too tight-fistedly. Often, we indulge in seeking to recharge only when the Universe presents us with an opportunity.
I want to throw down a challenge. Spend at least 66 days making a conscious decision to do things that recharge your batteries.
When I was a working person I intently focused on my job, I focused on being a single parent providing for a family, I focused on maintaining my place within my community; I did not focus on myself, nor did I take care of recharging my metaphorical batteries. When I retired in June of 2020, I kept the pace, because my primary reason for retiring when I did, was to give myself more energy and time for writing. Admittedly, I enjoy writing, but I was used to working at 120%, many times beyond my energy reserves, so I pushed myself.
I forgot what fun was for me. I didn’t know how to have fun. I resigned myself to thinking I was a person who just didn’t have fun. I tried to trick myself trying to find the fun in my new “job” of being retired. However, I soon suffered the effects of “burn-out.”
I had to stop to rethink this.
When one has had a long life of working, especially in a career of service to others, it is hard to stop.
Stopping became my goal.
I lazed around for weeks.
At first I felt worthless. Then, something magical began to happen. I found activities that, while not productive, were extremely enjoyable. I began to let go of my taciturn seriousness, to experience tiny frissons of joy that bubbled up from time to time. They were delicious.
Eleven days ago, I accepted a 30-Day Challenge to Fill My Cup. The idea was to do something that made me excited and energized every day, to find things to do for myself that made me feel happy and satisfied with life.
The first day, March 21st I drew pictures from memory of someone I love. It pleased me. The images didn’t have to be perfect because I was drawing from memory, and I really wanted to do it. The project made me excited. That excitement colored other things I did that day.
The second day I baked cookies for breakfast. Then I treated myself to a movie – Pitch Perfect. It was ‘perfect’ because it reminded me how much I used to love singing “a cappella.” I found things to love about the whole day.
The third day, I drove country roads on my way to a tax preparer’s appointment. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. It set the mood for a meeting to discuss a subject about which I was worried, this being the first tax season as a non-salaried person with a home-based business. I was so relaxed from driving that the meeting was wonderful and I didn’t have to pay extra tax fees.
The fourth day I foraged my yard for greens. Being a Reluctant Gardener, I had to try what nature was offering. I can assure you “lawn eating” is enjoyable and satisfying. I also began to notice something else. Little things that used to bother me, no longer bothered me.
I was getting used to sitting on my stump to meditate. I had the pleasure of watching ladybugs hunt together. So interesting.
I continued the practice of “filling my cup.”
I’d to share a couple of stories:
On that Friday, five days into the practice, I woke somewhat disconnected with Earth and still very much in that weird dream state between waking and sleeping. I couldn’t let go. I needed to let go because I had a “date” with some artist friends to work in an open studio situation. I love to work with others. I had to release the disassociated state I was in so it would be safe to drive. I was somewhat successful. When I got into my car, the battery was COMPLETELY dead.
Oh no. There was no time to deal with this.
Truth be told, I wasn’t completely sure it was safe for me to drive. Maybe this was the Universe’s way of keeping me off the road. I called one friend to explain my situation. She was sad, and suggested I call another for a ride. Then she amended her statement and said, “Of course, I will understand if you would rather take care of your car.”
Hell no. I didn’t want to deal with my car. I wanted to draw. With people. In an open studio. Chatting about life.
Why was this happening?
Wait a minute. I don’t have to put up with this.
I called another friend.
“Hey. Have you left yet?”
“Yes,” she replied. My heart sank.
“Where are you?” I timidly asked.
“I am at the end of my drive.”
“I’m calling because I don’t think I’m going to make it today. My car is dead.”
“I’ll come pick you up.”
Oh, thank God. I wanted to fill my cup with time spent with my art friends doing art, and telling stories.
“Oh, thank you,” I said. And then I added, “I don’t think I should be driving today anyway. I am having trouble letting go of Elsewhere,” which I knew she understood as me unable to release a state of being not quite in the world.
“I’ll be there in a few.”
I understood I needed to call services to get my car fixed, especially since it was Friday, but I just didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready to face the hassle, and I thought, who cares. I’m retired now. I can wait until Monday. My old self saw this as extremely irresponsible and for a moment, I wavered. Fortunately, my new, cup-full self was extremely excited to forget about the car and go have some fun.
Then magic happened after the art session later that afternoon.
On our way home, my friend and I joked about the car. “You should try to start it before you call anyone. You know how you are.”
I did. When I was working in an office, no one would let me use the copy machine because somehow my energy always shut it down. So, it was possible that my being in a dissociative state could shut down the car. That is magical thinking, but it was worth contemplating to avoid the hassle of finding help for a dead battery. We laughed.
The first thing I did was try the car. Nope. Battery stone cold dead. Oh well.
Instead of calling Triple A, I called the local mechanic’s shop because the week before this one, my daughter had a car break down and the local mechanic wasn’t taking cars for about a month because he was so busy. There was no point calling for a jump-start or tow unless I had somewhere to take the car to replace the battery.
The receptionist answered. “Yes. We can see you right away. Let me check if we have a battery.” She came back to the phone. “We have one battery left. You are in luck. Come on in.”
“Wow. Thank you.”
I had to call Triple A. My daughter’s experience the past week was that Triple A couldn’t come until the next day. I was calling late on a Friday afternoon. It was possible there wouldn’t be a driver available. I would find out, and then call the auto shop to make an appointment for another day if needed.
“Yes. We can send someone within the hour,” the receptionist at Triple A said.
“Wonderful.” I felt very lucky.
Then she said, “We will let the driver decide if you need a tow or not. That way, your tally for services isn’t affected.”
“Thank you,” I said, amazed at her generosity and feeling very cared for.
I called the auto shop to confirm whether or not they could see me in an hour, and if not to make a plan for a drop-off. I received a go-ahead. Within five minutes, the Triple A driver confirmed he was on his way and expected ETA was fifteen minutes.
Wow. Events were lining up.
I opened the car to raise the hood.
When he got here, he attached the charger, and told me to turn on the car. As I did, the horn began beeping. Nothing we did turned it off. The driver disconnected the charger, then frantically hunted for the circuit to the alarm. He found it, disconnected it, and the annoying repetitive blast of noise went away. However, the lights continued to flash.
The car easily charged, indicating the alternator was okay. I drive a Honda. Repairs can get expensive so this was a welcome relief.
“You can drive to the auto shop now.”
“The flashing won’t matter?” I said.
We exchanged pleasantries and he started to leave. I jumped into my car.
I could not engage the gearshift.
I thought, “Oh my god. I must have jammed it when I put it into park. My hands just aren’t strong enough to disengage it.”
I jumped out of my car and attempted to wave down the driver. He did not see me and crested the hill. Where was my mild state of panic? I ran though I am not a fast runner.
A car pulled over the crest of the hill coming the other way. The man inside saw me running, madly waving to the Triple A driver. He honked and yelled to the driver of the tow truck. I heard him say, “That woman is trying to get your attention.”
The driver came back.
This was becoming a huge, weird, and exciting synchronous adventure of collaboration.
Like me, he could not disengage the shift. Neither of us could drive it. The anti-theft device had turned on. He would have to tow it.
I am a person who loves to collaborate. I am energized by it. This experience felt like a storm when the electricity goes out. Everyone scurries to find and light candles and life goes on a little more exciting than it was before the blackout. That driver didn’t usually let patrons ride in his truck, but by this time neither of us was willing to let go of this adventure. Riding in that truck was a fantastic experience.
When we arrived at the auto shop, the head mechanic taught us how to disengage a Honda’s anti-theft device. Since I like driving Hondas and the Triple A driver has to frequently deal with them, we were both pleased to learn this.
Then the mechanic drove my car into the work area to change the battery. Amazingly, the dead battery was still under warranty. Not only was my battery replaced that evening, I didn’t have to pay for it.
Wow. Just – wow.
Within these eleven days, there have been several upheavals in my life.
For instance, I was so jazzed by the challenge so far, the next day I decided to pull inedible weeds from my yard. There were only a few: patches of foxtail (also dangerous for animals), inedible thistles, oat grass, tar weed (yuck). I worked too long, and because of the way I am built, dislocated two ribs. Normally, pain like this would send me down a rabbit hole of despair that lasted for weeks as I struggled to work and maintain a provider lifestyle while fighting excruciating pain. This time, I selfishly treated myself to complete convalescence. Instead of wallowing and worrying, I learned how to work around the pain by focusing on the ball of energy that roars like a small sun within my core. I did the exercises I had to do. I concentrated on relaxing the distressed tendons and ligaments. I thanked the pain for reminding about correct posture. I learned to appreciate spending time to care of self.
My ribs slipped back into place within three days, but I knew I still needed to be mindful of the way I moved because they weren’t completely settled into their sockets.
That night, when one of my cats wanted in, I opened the door for her. She ran through my legs. I carefully turned to watch her run through the house toward the sunroom where my cats eat and she sleeps.
“Oh good grief.”
A tail was dangling from her mouth. That morning when I went out to greet the day, I noticed a small liver under my feet before I stepped on it. I cleaned it up and found a tail to go with it. I didn’t mind because it meant the cats were keeping the place free of mice.
But this cat chose to bring one inside with her.
Normally, this would have sent me into a tizzy. However, my cup was full because of my practice of intentionally filling it. A dead or live mouse in the house was not going to intimate me.
As expected, when I got to the sunroom, she had dropped the mouse and was imploring me to feed her.
The big black cat was already in the room waiting for dinner. He was a renowned mouse and rat catcher. However, I guess he is respectful. It was the other cat’s catch. She had dropped it on the floor and was looking at me expectantly. The black cat sauntered over and sniffed the mouse’s nose. The mouse, whom I presumed to be dead, lifted his head and sniffed the black’s nose.
Then the black sat and stared at me, as if to say, “Well. This one’s for you.”
Oh dear. How was I going to deal with a mouse and not quite healed ribs?
I turned to the cat that had provided the mouse. “Thank you. Thank you so much. You are a mighty hunter.” I looked around me for something with which to catch the mouse. As I did this, the mouse jumped up and scurried under the hutch.
Geez. There was no way I could get on the floor to flush it out without disturbing my ribs.
However, the cats could.
I shut the door for the night, and went to bed. Okay, I know. Escapism.
Or recharging batteries.
Take your pick.
The next morning when I awoke, I expected to find body parts. I also knew I would have to clean the entire room. Was I physically up for it?
Huh. There were no mouse parts in the sunroom.
Both cats wanted breakfast. I quickly fed them. Both cats wanted out. I let them out.
I made coffee, resigned to hunting for a mouse. First, I was going to enjoy my warm morning, life affirming drink, meditate, get grounded, wake up fully – and I was going to fill my cup.
The big black wanted back in. I let him in. He quickly ran to the sunroom. I shut the door and returned to my coffee not ready to give up on my practice. My biggest fear was that the mouse had crawled under the refrigerator. I made mental plans about who to call if that was the case.
I loud clatter ensued from the sunroom. The mouse was still alive?
I went to check. The big black was chirping that strange little sound they make on the hunt. If he was right, the mouse was in the corner by the back door. I felt strong enough to move the small weight set, chair, and barrel that held my hiking, and walking sticks. As I moved items one my one, I thought, what will we do if it runs under the refrigerator. As I moved the barrel, the black struck. The mouse squeaked. I opened the door. The big black pranced outside with his catch. The skinny tail dangled from his mouth.
That cat was so proud of himself.
He was my king.
I was so proud to collaborate on a hunt.
My cup was completely full.
The hunt had totally recharged my batteries. I was ready to clean that entire room, which was necessary because the smell of mouse pee is very strong. It took me all day. Amazingly, sweeping and mopping the floor bit by bit actually popped my ribs completely back into place. Who knew?
I challenge each of you to find those things that recharge your batteries. People once thought that 21 days was enough to establish a new pattern. The new paradigm is 66 days. I plan to practice recharging my batteries every day for at least a year. I invite you to join me. What excites you? What gives you energy? What makes you want to get out of bed and get going? Do that. Do it often. Practice recharging diligently. I think you will find, like I did, that those things that once seemed so harrowing now seem like adventures. I think you will find your life bubbling with joy.
I look forward to hearing about your escapades as I continue to recharge my batteries day by day.
You asked me what it feels like to connect with the imaginal realm, a place where trees and plants speak with scent and with flavor, animals speak with images, angels with colors and ideas, and where humans speak with emotion rather than voice. In this liminal place, the geometry of serenity is a rosy quartz-colored sphere, joy is a sturdy rectangular plane upon which to stand, knowledge is fleeting ether that passes by unless witnessed. The imaginal realm seems utterly empty, profoundly silent until observed; then, it springs to life with all there is.
Those that honor it feel completely bonkers, but only because those cemented in matter cannot smell what they smell, taste what they taste, see what they see, hear what they hear, or feel what they feel, though it is possible for them. It isn’t a matter of a sixth sense. It does not take anything extra. It is a matter of heightened senses, using what is human and extending it to include other dimensions.
Connected as you are, what you really ask is, how does one observe this imaginal space?
Considering you are standing in the middle of it, all it takes is a willingness to believe that what you sense is actually happening. The energy of potential can seem like a mere wish, a daydream or a passing thought. Dismissed as such, it is fleeting and not noticeable…until it is too loud to ignore.
Humans speak in emotion. They can say whatever they want to, but their real language is emotion. Humans are shouting right now. Floods, fires, global warming, pestilence, earthquakes, volcanoes, unrest within and between countries…it’s nuts. Emotions are running at an all-time high.
I find myself cautioning those around me lately, “Slow down, examine what you feel. Is what you are feeling right now your own emotion? There is a possibility that you are picking up on the emotions swirling around us.” The liminal world is knocking at the door.
What is happening in your life? Where are you this very second? Stop right now, and assess.
Is something happening that is truly yours to be sad, angry, or frightened about? Then, by all means, you should be sad, angry, or frightened. Those emotions will help you discern what to do next, but for the rest of us, we need to get out of your way to send you support and strength. The only way to do that is to be in our own space, claim our own emotion, and not add to the fervor of whatever emotion is swirling about.
Is this my emotion?
If not, instead, breathe. Take into account what is really happening around you. What is the appropriate emotion for that?
Emotional ownership is a thing.
It’s important to know if you want to extend your senses into the imaginal world, because that world is EVERYTHING, with no judgment of right, wrong – good, bad – happy, sad. It is there waiting to be witnessed by YOU. You will witness that which you look for.
This is the first step to observing the imaginal realm. Own your emotions. You are an emotional being. You speak with emotions. Trust me on this. Words have secondary, and sometimes false, meaning. Emotions tell truth. It is hard to believe I am saying this as a writer, but I am and I don’t think I can say this or write it often enough. Emotions are a human’s primary language. Use them appropriately.
Think of it as a mindfulness practice. Pay attention to your first emotion of the morning. Observe emotions that follow. Do you see a pattern? Stop and ask, “Is this really me? Do I really have reason to feel this way?” Watch for stray emotions that don’t match your life, especially loud ones.
There are moments when I burst into tears, or laughter, or quake in sudden fear…for no apparent reason. Extreme emotion is easy to observe. It’s a perfect time to practice. I always ask, “Is this mine?”
For instance, yesterday I was singing Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell, recorded by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles. I had already listened to the song once and thought, “Gee. I can’t remember these lyrics.” So, I looked them up to sing harmony with Josh and Sara. Totally engulfed within the music, I suddenly choked on tears at the line, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now.” Ugh. Tears streamed down my face. Just like a wave, despair washed over me.
Since I have been doing a lot of negative pattern clearing, I first looked at that. I didn’t have any emotions swirling around me from those experiences. I don’t watch the news, I feel safe and happy in a quarantine situation, my friends and family are all well.
Living in California, it’s probable that it came from outside me. I was singing, which is my primary go-to for connecting to liminal space. I live in a fire zone. People have lost everything they have. I live in a high Covid-19 zone. There are people dying from this dreadfulness.
This wasn’t my emotion to own.
I stood tall, and strong. I took a deep breath. The waved washed back over me and disappeared into source. I finished the song. It was, literally, that fast. There was no need to hang onto it.
I have been practicing letting go of that which isn’t mine. You can too. The first step is asking, “Is this my emotion?” Be aware of that which is and that which isn’t. The emotional response won’t stop, but if it isn’t yours, it will pass within 90 seconds for most of us. All you have to do is acknowledge it, and let it move on through you. Simple, huh?
Good luck this week. May Peace find you wherever you are.
P.S. Here is a poem for those on or curious about the Twin Flame path, and a tiny glimpse into my life and the imaginal realm.
What is the difference between being and non-being? Is it possible not to be? Virginia Woolf once described ‘non-being’ as unconscious living. For her it was “the cotton wool of daily life” that became unconscious living. Since daily living is mundane, I can see how it feels like cotton wool that shrouds one moment to the next, unmemorable, unnoticed, forever passed, never to be regained. What happens to us when we are conscious every minute? Is it even possible to hold onto conscious consideration every minute? Perhaps it is in paying attention to those moments that are magical that we find consciousness, or being, the easiest.
Virginia Woolf’s first memory of ‘being’ was as a child looking at a flower. As she studied it, the flower seemed to her more than flower, it was Earth as well and by looking at the flower she was also looking at all of the Earth and feeling her place as part of it all.
Could I pinpoint a definitive time when I realized the difference between “being” and “non-being?” Was there a first moment when life opened and I felt complete, part of the whole?
As a child, there are two possibilities; times I remember well enough to create a blog post. The first is a day when I was nine, and I put on prescription glasses for the first time. Trees were suddenly more than two-dimensional, giant green shadows. They had leaves, which intellectually I knew of course, but I didn’t see well enough to count their separateness until I saw individual leaves on individual branches as we drove past them on the way home from the optometrist. My mother graciously stopped the car so I could focus completely upon them. I saw separate lines of shadow, pulling each graceful branch into three-dimensional existence. I saw birds. I saw the movement of the wind as it rustled past all that was within a tree. Each tree was different, unique. Trees were amazing and everywhere. Life was miraculous!
The second time that I remember was the day I truly understood “being.” I had an encounter with a cricket….
My maternal grandmother’s yard was an adventure. It encircled her home, a reclaimed chicken coop rebuilt into a house by my grandfather’s love. Nestled in the middle of a quarter of an acre within the city limits of Stockton, California, it seemed to go on forever.
Innately aware of feng shui, my grandmother created room after outdoor room with unique fencing, hedges, gates and trellises, or simply turns of the building. The result was living art, and dreamlike. At fourteen, and labeled a magical thinker, I spent a lot of time outdoors appreciating her creation. Her yard was Wonderland within which a imaginative child could find freedom and peace.
One day, as I was sitting on the back steps leading to the innermost courtyard, I saw a cricket. To look at him, I may not have recognized him as such, but he scratched his wing with a back leg and created that familiar chirp that comforted me to sleep every night.
As I watched him chirp, and wave his antennae, I swear to you, he spoke to me. “Admire the geranium next to you.”
What? The geranium?
I looked to my left at a few squatty, plain green bushes. To my right, beyond him, was a leafy plant with a brilliant red-orange blossom reaching out of its foliage on a long straight stalk. What a pretty color, I thought. I didn’t know what a geranium was at the time, but the flower was beautiful and it was nearest the cricket, so I admired it.
At my side, the cricket chirped, his beautiful bell tone adding magic. Suddenly the slightest of vibrations frizzled around the edges of each blossom, a glow of dark that seemed to soften the solidness of each petal in the stark contrast. It was as if the petals were only a vibration of possible structure rather than coherently in this world. This caused the petals themselves to glow even more brightly as they seemingly strove to hold my attention.
Riveted, I no longer heard the cricket, or any other sound for that matter. I was totally absorbed as the geranium vibrated with red, with life, signaling a magnificence I could not at that time fully understand, except I knew a moment had opened a window onto life, how it manifests and comes into being. I sat in wonder at how beautiful it all was and how grateful I was to be witnessing it.
My grandmother knocked on the door before she opened it gently. I jumped when I felt it lightly touch my back.
“Time for lunch,” she said, quietly. Then she shut the door.
I didn’t look at her, though I could imagine her smiling at me as she shut it. Instead, I looked for my cricket friend to exclaim my discovery and to thank him. To my dismay, he had crawled into silent invisibility.
But that flower!
I didn’t forget that experience, even when adulting took me away from observing the world with such an open eye. Like all of us, the hustle of living during this time in the United States, and perhaps anywhere, stuffed cotton wool into my brain.
Later, when life slowed as it does as one ages, I began to see those vibrating edges again. I pointed them out to my art students, my math students, really, any student that took to staring at the geranium blossoms next to the entrance to the school for which I worked. Some of them claimed to see it, others didn’t. I hope someday they do.
I hope someday they can see the shadow where a fig tree plans to set fruit, or the joy that glitters around their dog, or the insect that lights up when a bird spots it. I hope they see the light around the people they meet, and smile because it is so beautiful. I hope they understand how beautiful they are.
This world is amazing. I hope each one of us takes a moment when a cricket insists we admire a geranium to watch as life vibrates around each petal’s edges where it meets the whole of Creation and says, “I am.” That is a moment of “being.”
Plants are teachers. Their lessons are as subtle as their language; lesson that are easy to ignore if one isn’t mindful, and time moves so slowly for them, requests never seem urgent.
I felt the Liquid Ambers’ threats. Occasionally I would feel a slight shudder when I walked under them. I envisioned one or both crashing to the Earth. If that happened they would take out fences, smash windows, perhaps hurt animals, or gods-forbid – people. The Chinese Hackberry needed a trim, as did all the trees on this property, but I felt I had time. I made a decision. I would tend to this in January, after leaf fall. It was healthier for the trees.
The trees had another plan.
I was minding my own business when I received a call from a neighbor. “Have you eaten?” He often does this.
There have been times I forget about food. When he offers, I accept with deep gratitude because I am creative and become too caught up in whatever it is I do to deal with simple acts of three-dimensionality like eating.
That day I remembered. “I just ate,” I said.
“I’m bringing it over, anyway. You can reheat it later.”
I said, “Okay.”
Perhaps I should have refused him.
Since moving here less than two years ago, he has hated my trees. I am the crazy tree lady. For him, my yard is an eyesore. There are too many trees. When oxalis and three-corner leaks spread underneath the trees in the spring, the yard looks wild and unkempt. He hates the seedpods that the Ambers drop. Leaf fall upsets him. The trees obstruct his view of the corner above us. But, what he really hates is the shade in his yard. He worries it will kill his grass. There hasn’t been a single time that we have spoken across the fence that he hasn’t complained about my trees. Usually, it seems like banter, a conversation opener, a place to meet in the middle.
However, that day when he brought over the food, he very cautiously informed me that he had called a tree specialist to get a diagnosis for my Chinese Hackberry. It was very sick and needed to come down before it killed somebody.
I was puzzled and said, “My arborist didn’t notice that. Why wouldn’t he tell me that?”
I then explained to him my worry about the Liquid Ambers. They are fragile trees and have grown quite tall, but arborists don’t like to trim them because it makes them weaker. “I plan to deal with them in January.”
“Well that front tree is very sick. It has ants.”
Around here, all trees have ants. “I think my arborist would have told me if there was a problem,” I said.
“I knew you would be like this. You are so irresponsible.”
“Why do you have to be such an immature baby about this?”
Ego raised one eyebrow.
It suddenly occurred to me that this had been a plan before he bought the house next to mine. He intended to get rid of the tall, offensively shading trees next door. Wow! Was it possible he shared food with me so that he could wear me down? Was he thinking I now owed him? Did he expect I would cut my trees for him because he had fed me so often?
Ego insisted, “Give the food back. Right now!”
I tried. It was sad letting go of Nori sprinkled rice with pickled plums, but I pushed the dish toward him.
He backed away. “Just take it,” he shouted. “Take it.”
My mistake occurred when I said, “Oh, I see now. This was a plan. Well it works for you, doesn’t it? You have wanted this since you moved in.”
The instant the words left my mouth, I felt my mistake.
He retorted, “My house isn’t made of cardboard. It will be expensive to rebuild, and I will be suing for it.” As an afterthought he added, “It will be way more money than you have.”
Ego snapped. An avenging tree angel took over my voice. I have no idea what it said, but I know it called him out.
“I knew it,” he said as he stormed back toward his house. “You are crazy. God-damned fucking crazy.”
I felt crazy.
Shaking and dazed, I called my tree specialist. He came that evening.
“This is probably the healthiest Hackberry I have ever seen,” he said.
I knew this but…, “I need proof. Something in writing from an expert that says my tree is healthy.”
“Who are you doing this for?” he asked.
“My neighbor wants to sue me.”
He shook his head, but he called in another specialist who came later that night who confirmed what we all knew. My tree was healthy. If I wanted to trim it, I didn’t have to wait until leaf fall. He understood my misgivings about the Ambers. He said they could wait until leaf fall, or come down right now. Either way, I was right, Ambers in general weren’t suited for this climate or in such close proximity to houses.
Would my neighbor approach the City with a complaint about my trees while I waited for leaf fall? Would I have to take them all down? Would the unprecedented heat of California cause some unforeseen disaster? “Will you write a report? I need to protect myself,” I said.
He had to drive to the Bay Area that night, but he promised to write and send it when he arrived.
I received it that night.
Two weeks later, my Ambers felled and Hackberry severely trimmed, acts that bring pain and tears even today, the neighbor had the nerve to write me a thank you letter for fixing my trees for him.
Ego awakened again and said, “Shit.”
How does one shut up inner dialog when every step onto the front porch reminds my poor little Ego that it no longer has the protection of three loyal trees? How can I stop anger when I see my burned roses, and dead blackberry vines no longer sheltered from the brutal sun? How can I stop the tears as I watch my generous fig tree that has lived its life as understory burn away in the heat?
A few nights after that tragedy, I went to my weekly meeting with the Women Writers of the Well. Driving there, I promised myself I wouldn’t write about this event. It was time to let go.
Who was I kidding? I couldn’t find equilibrium. I didn’t know who I had turned into that day. What kind of person blindly lashes out after downloading information that should have remained a hidden knowing? I wish I could have quelled his fears instead of adding to the insanity of his accusations.
Then, one of the writers shared this prompt: a big hole.
A door opened. My pen flew across the page.
I picked up Ego, along with Anger and threw them into a big hole. I watched them fall, until darkness sucked them up.
Like all things, Valarie, they didn’t stay in that deep oblivion. As I turned, Anger grabbed me.
“Fix this,” it growled.
“No,” I said, fully prepared to kick whatever crawled out of that hole back into its depths.
“Where is this going?” Ego pleaded.
“Back into the hole, with you,” I shouted, pointing an angry finger.
Shaking my head, I stormed off. Sometimes it’s best to turn your back on a thing.
As if reading my mind, it shouted, “Not true. I’ve always been there for you. You need someone to protect you, guard against that world out there that doesn’t understand.”
I flashed a middle finger at it. “I can protect myself. I make good decisions. I don’t need anybody telling me how to run my life. I have rights, you know. I deserve to be free of the likes of you.”
“Oooh. And you’re gone,” I said, shoving at it, hard enough to knock it back into the big hole.
It wouldn’t stay there. I knew better than to expect that, but I didn’t want to listen anymore.
“You need me,” I heard it shout from a deep, deep place. It wasn’t going to leave me alone until I grappled with it.
“Dammit!” I hate when Ego whines like that.
Sometimes it is hard to see a train wreck coming. Sometimes we can’t step out of the way. So, here I stand in front of the computer, grappling with the story I started during a writer’s meeting a few weeks ago; writing and rewriting, wondering if it will ever be smooth enough for a blog. Time will tell.
In the meantime, does anyone have a shovel I can borrow?
I can’t do this. I don’t have the talent. It has dripped off my fingers to sully the floor instead of inking this paper.
Dang, it’s dusty in here. Where’s the broom?
I forgot to wash the dishes.
I need to wash clothes for tomorrow…
…I don’t have the time to do this right now.
Time. What else do I have? I live alone with no one to attend but myself, I retired from twenty-four years of teaching one year ago precisely to make more time for projects like this…I have time.
I need another excuse to avoid this impenitent white.
I’ve accomplished a lot this year avoiding this project: published a novel, finished another. I maintain a blog site, I have created two book covers for projects not mine, taught art lessons, voice lessons, drawn 36 portraits. I have done all kinds of things that have ousted the premier project I promised to do, a project of the heart, a project for and with a writer whom I love, my son.
I ask my body, listening to the senses given to navigate this dimension. What does it have to say when I think about this project? I imagine the heroine, Colenso, and all the people with whom she connects. I start to feel hollow, constricted…saddened.
Tears start flowing from my eyes.
Aaaugh. There is so much pain here.
She is beautiful. She is brave. She is creative. She has the energy of a younger woman desperate to follow her purpose on Earth. Where will it take her?
Abandoned by parents, raised by a grandmother who committed suicide to escape untenable lower class working conditions, and burdened by magical gifts that drive her to right impossible wrongs…I…I feel…I feel trapped by her. I do not know how to express a grief that closely matches the vibrational magnitude of my own pain, the pain of a single mother raising two fatherless children, another layer of generational abandonment heaped upon generations behind us, so much suffering.
Will Colenso find peace before she ages and becomes inexorably tired? Will the monsters that hunt her catch up before the Old Ones bring her to her proper place?
Only if I can forget that I am the old, tired one.
There must be a way to reclaim my youthful strength, an ability to put myself in her shoes, to jump ship and put myself in the shoes of the other characters, to face the evil with her, and not flinch from my ego who warns me of my own reflections, “Don’t go there.”
I will go there…when I find the strength…when the dishes and floor are clean and I find enough self-love for both of us. I will go there. I will.
I knew the instant he turned and looked into the camera that he was the emerald I had lost so many lives ago. Also, he was the man I had sketched into the middle of the night, nineteen years ago.
For as long as I can remember, I have been looking for another, the one that vibrates with me, someone who was supposed to come to Earth when I did. I often felt him even as a child, but I could not see him. During the summer Solstice of 2002, his presence was strong. I attended a full moon ceremony with some friends. The hostess and I were chatting when she stopped, stared over my shoulder, and loudly proclaimed, “Who is that tall, dark man standing behind you?”
I could feel him.
She could see him.
I was jealous.
That night, after settling my children, I took up pencil and paper and asked, “Who are you. What do you look like?”
Hours and several attempts later, I had an image that spoke to my heart. I hung it on my wall, grateful that he had appeared. I no longer felt alone as a single woman raising two young children on her own.
I have drawn him often through the years when I have felt his presence touching mine.
Trapped inside by Covid-19, I watched endless hours of Netflix. Suddenly – there he was. My phantom friend, no longer a ghost as narrowly defined by me.
Like a hawk, I hunted through vaults of images on the internet, seeking matches to my own images of him. It felt surreal when I found them, creating more questions than answers. Six thousand, seven hundred, ninety-two miles away, there is a man I have been drawing for years, standing next to me in some other dimension, who is actually alive and successful.
How does that happen? Why does that happen? We don’t speak the same earthly language, but somehow there is a communication between us.
I hope he is blissfully happy. I am forever grateful he has graced my life with his presence from time to time. I don’t know if we will ever meet during this lifetime, but I hope we do.