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Forward One of my favorite books read in my twenties was Gift

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                         Forward

  One of my favorite books I read in my twenties was “Gift from the
Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I have read it several times over the
years. What moves me, what touches me every time is her ability to
hear the deep wisdom with which the shells speak to her, and the way
in which she applies this wisdom to her life. Most of us do not not find
it typical to speak with shells, much less converse with others about
the wonders of talking shells. If so, I imagine others might find us a bit
strange. But I did find it wondrous indeed. I found it to be an
extraordinary journey into the depths of our connection to Nature,
and the dissolution of our separateness with Her. I believe hearing the
voices of shells is a very personal experience as is hearing the voice of
God. Perhaps the shells, like God, have the same message for all of
us, but we all choose to hear something different. Perhaps the shells
have a unique and different message for each of us, yet we all hear
the same thing. No matter. What is the same and what is different are
just two sides of the same coin…which makes them One. What
matters is that we listen. If we can hear the voices of shells, or stones,
or the songs of whales, or the cry of the loons, or messages in the
wind, in a flower or falling from the stars, then we are listening. We are
listening to all the voices of Creation, and in doing so, we become one
with all Creation. We move through life feeling and honoring the
connection with everyone and everything. We are not lost and alone in
an empty material world. The voices of Creation save us from
drowning in a sea of delusion. Their voices lift us out and beyond the
all too frequent drain and stress of daily life to a place of wonder and
simplicity. Their songs inspire us to something more, much more.
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  Sadly, it is all too easy to live our lives without ever hearing the
sweet sounds of Creation. Today these voices are drowning with us in
a modern world full of noise pollution. For most of us, daily life is an
ongoing bombardment of work phones, cell phones, computers,
televisions, stereos, radios, beepers, cars, trucks, buses, freeways,
subways, traffic, airplanes, trains and more. The voices of Creation
have become a faint whisper in the distance. It will require a conscious
choice on our part to draw closer and listen. The gifts await us from
the sea and the land, from the mountains and the rivers, from the
moon and the stars. Their voices are longing to be heard, and they
are vital to our survival. These gifts are precious, and best of all, as it
should be, they are free.
 The fate of our planet, and all life that dwells upon it, is being
seriously challenged. The issues at hand are enormous: massive
starvation and poverty, diseases and threatening epidemics, over-
population, corrupt leadership in government, business and
churches, terroism and wars, global warming and unpredictable
weather patterns, increasing earth disasters, the extinction of animals
and precious fauna, pollution and the depletion of survival resources,
violence in our streets and homes. The list is staggering, and the
perfect recipe for discouragement and depression. We are no longer
on the threshold of spiritual crisis…we are completely submerged in
it. Some of us will drown in it, some of us will rise above and seek to
make a difference, some of us will ignore it completely and some of us
will wait for someone else to fix it. No matter what choice we make,
there is only one way out. The way out is in…into the heart of the
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spiritual crisis, into the eye of the storm, into the dark, mysterious,
invisible realms of our inner beings where ultimately the light is found.
 All humans share a spiritual spark. If we are, both individually and
collectively, going to find solutions to the problems confronting us,
we must grasp the understanding that we are all one family, all
descendants of the same spiritual birthplace. Spirituality is the
birthright of every human being. The essence of Spirit has gifted
every one of us with a Divine purpose for our time here on earth.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have a destiny to fulfill. All
humanity, regardless of race, color or creed, is on the same
evolutionary path towards higher consciousness. The path is
different for all of us, but the purpose and the goal are the same: to
awaken each of us to the life and laws of Spirit through our earthly
lessons.
 We are all born of Spirit. Therefore, whether we believe in Spirit or
not, whether we have consciously chosen a spiritual path or not, we
are all destined for a spiritual awakening. Some of us will have the
good fortune of being born into strong spiritual families, communities
or cultures in which our spiritual birthright or gifts are accepted and
nurtured. Most of us are raised and educated by the laws of man
which serve to cloud our memories of spiritual origin. Spiritual
awakening can come in many ways. The disillusionment of man’s world
is often a catalyst for some to consciously choose a more meaningful
life and path of Spirit. For many, an awakening comes unexpectedly
via an illness, an accident or a painful loss while others experience a
life-changing trip or workshop, a book or a healer or even a dream.
Others may have a slow, gradual awakening while accumulating
spiritual knowledge and experiences over a lifetime. Some will not
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have an awakening while in body, but rather upon the return to their
spiritual origins via the transformation of death.
  We are not as much fellow humans sharing a spiritual experience as
we are spiritual beings sharing a human experience. In the last twenty-
five years, spirituality has gained tremendous momentum, and
expanded into a vast array of spiritual and healing modalities. The
world of Spirit is no longer limited to the church or religion. Many
evolved teachers have stepped forward to offer and share their
spiritual gifts and knowledge in such areas as past-life regression,
channeling, psychic and intuitive readings, sound healing, vision
quests, shamanism, angelic healing, energy healing, light therapy,
astrology, near death experiences, meditation, Qi Gong, chakra
dance, satsang and more. There is the phenomenal opportunity to
share extraordinary spiritual experiences with others in virtually every
corner of the world. Despite this, spirituality has not gone
mainstream…yet. There is actually a lot of what I call “new age fluff”
out there, or spiritual delusion. Spiritual experiences that remain
ungrounded usually translate into strong spiritual personas. The
journey of awakening to Spirit is not about ego. It is a humble process
that gently nudges our focus inward, to a place of deep stillness
where we can rest the mind and access our hearts, the bridge
between heaven and earth. All the spiritual truth we seek is already
inside us. It is like a seed within us waiting to be watered so it can grow
and bloom. Our search for spirituality can serve to awaken us, and
give us more awareness and knowledge of the infinite realms and ways
of Spirit. But if we continue to seek spiritual truth outside ourselves,
we will only be reminded of that which we seek and have not yet
attained. Our search can become a struggle. If we can believe in and
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embrace our birthright as spiritual beings, then we have only to trust
and have faith in the spiritual truth that abides within us, and accept
the laws of Spirit as our guide. The way of Spirit is oneness, the way
of man is separation. Therefore, the problems created by man cannot
really be
solved by man…if man is devoid of Spirit. The laws of Spirit are
universal, and transcend any limitation imposed by man. If the human
race can awaken to and embrace the laws of Spirit into their hearts
and minds as a sacred way of life, then we can access the spiritual
truths within us that will assist us in living heaven on earth.
  The Mayans believe, as I do, in a Divine plan for human destiny.
Perhaps their extraordinary calender predicting the fulfillment of
man’s evolution in the year 2012 will come to pass. Perhaps not.
Perhaps we need not be limited by nor focus on the prophecies of
other cultures and religions, but simply embrace the common goal
that many humans hold in their hearts to create a better world. We are
living in extraordinary times, a time of unquestionnable awakening to
Spirit. No matter what spiritual path you follow, or not, we must all
find some detachment from the distractions, illusions and chaos of
man’s world. We must create sacred space and time to journey inward,
and find the sweet stillness in the eye of the storm where we can rest
and listen…listen to the voices of Creation, and the ways of Spirit
that are waiting to speak to us and guide us. Awareness of spiritual
truth is not enough. It is easy to talk the talk. Our challenge and our
goal is to walk our talk, to be given our own sweet voice of Creation
out of the stillness with which to live our lives, with which to speak our
truth. Our truth is Sacred. It is our spiritual wisdom native to the deep
knowings of our hearts and souls. Our truth is Wild. It is our Earth
wisdom native to the deep sensings of our natural human instincts.
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Our truth cannot run wild without the illumination and resonance of
the Sacred to guide our evolution.
  Spirit and man are not separate. We are Spirit expressed in human
form. Our spiritual truth and life is meant to infuse our human
experience. If our daily lives are guided by the laws of Spirit, we will
inevitably fulfill our Divine purpose and destiny. The laws of man and
the laws of Spirit must create a Sacred Partnership if we are to hold
all life Sacred, and find a way to preserve it.
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                     Introduction


  I recently returned from a month by the sea in Todos Santos on
the Baja peninsula in Mexico. My first day there, my wonderful
friend, Feeny, gave me a belated birthday gift…a necklace made from
many little shells we called “Chinese Hats.” To me it was so beautiful. I
thought of the person who had made it, perhaps their long walks on
the beach to collect so many of these small shells for her/his vision,
then placing each one so perfectly sized next to the other to create
such a unique string of beauty. The fact that each one of these shells
had washed ashore from a life in the ocean made it especially rich.
Each shell was an ocean jewel, and together they became a
masterpiece of subtle colors, shapes, texture and movement. My
necklace was an ocean song.
 I found myself searching for these delicate small shells on my long
beach walks. I renamed them “Mexican Hats” since I was after all in
Mexico. I didn’t know why I got so excited every time I found one.
Maybe because each one, though the same type of shell, was so
completely different in their markings and colors. I especially loved
finding them when they had just washed ashore, glistening like gold in
the sun and sand waiting for me. I found very few along the ocean’s
edge, but later discovered many of them back by the dunes where
they had been carried by the tides. I didn’t really know why I was
collecting them. I thought maybe I would make such a necklace for
someone. I carried a plastic bag in which to place all my new found
gems. One evening I emptied the bag and took inventory of my stock.
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I had collected about fifty-three Mexican Hats. I thought that was a
lot, until I counted all the shells in my necklace to see if I was getting
close. My necklace was composed of three hundred and three shells.
I couldn’t believe there were so many! Well, making a necklace would
require serious collecting. I didn’t feel that was my goal, and yet I still
felt compelled to search for them. Strangely, I could feel these shells
calling to me, talking to me.
  I didn’t obsess about collecting them. Instead, it seemed the shells
would call to me, and I would go down to the beach to find them. In
time, I began to notice each time I found one, a very particular
thought entered my mind, or I had a strong feeling about something. I
would stay with that thought or feeling until I found the next shell,
then a new thought or feeling would come. It was not the same as my
mind just wandering. These were crystal clear thoughts and feelings
riding the wave of each shell. It was as though each shell had an
energy, a story it was imparting to me when I found it.. Each shell,
each energy, each story was different. I could perhaps understand
the story by listening to my own thoughts or feelings. Each shell was a
gift, each shell had a voice, each shell had a story. Each shell is me,
and I am each shell. We are different, but we are the same. We are
One. I will take these talking shells, these parts of me, these gifts
home, and listen to what they have to say.



My shells have been sitting in a bag on the table for nine days now. I
am waiting for them to talk and tell me what to do with them. I hear the
ocean, and the stories of my shells echoing in the distance.
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It is a warm, sixty-something degree day. It is a welcome relief from my
return to the cold after basking in the warm Mexican sun. I still hear
the sound of breaking waves, and feel the playful energy of the
whales. I am missing the water. I hear my shells. They are missing the
water, too. I will give them the gift of water today.
  I find a large shallow black bowl. I pour all my fragile shells from the
bag onto a cloth napkin. I begin to sort them by size, and place them
in the bowl. Some of the shells have broken, and they go sadly into
the broken pile. I begin with the biggest shell, placing it in the center. I
arrange them with the largest shells in the middle, and fan out from
the center by size. What shape am I creating here? What do these
shells want to become? What are they saying?
 I sense they do not want to be separate. I push them together, and
see concentric circles forming. Then I begin connecting the circles.
Yes, this is it. The shells are taking on their own energy, moving
clockwise like the subtle but powerful energy of a chakra, a wheel.
When I am done, there are one hundred sixty-four shells from which a
beautiful mandala has emerged. A mandala…a chakra…a circle…a
wheel of shells. I realize now this is the form in which my shells will talk
to me.
 I cover the shells with salt water, and place the bowl in the sun. My
shells sparkle , and come alive with color. They are ready to speak. I
will wait for their call. I will sit quietly, and study my shell mandala. I will
align my chakras with the energy of the shells. I will listen……
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My curiousity for detail has won. I google “Chinese Hats”. I find that
“Chinese Hats” are all white with a rounded top and pointed tip that
often falls over to one side. Hmmm….I will have to keep looking for my
Mexican Hats that are no longer Chinese. I finally find my shells after
searching several sites, and viewing hundreds of pictures. My shell is
called “a striped false limpet”. It is part of the Family Siphonariidae,
specifically referred to as Siphonaria Pectinate, named circa 1758.
There are also other members of this Family in my collection…the
“jagged false limpet” and the “giant false limpet”. I discover this limpet
family makes its home on rocks and other hard surfaces in the ocean,
and especially in tidal basins. Their minute eggs are laid and
protected in long multiple gelatinous strands that cover the exterior
shell and the adjacent rocks.
  I am sad to think of my shells being carried away from their ocean
home on a wave of destiny that deposits them on a distant shore, and
ends their life. Yet all is not lost. Though their life force is gone, the
beautiful protective outer shell remains. It is not so unlike us humans.
A wave of destiny comes when it will for each of us, carrying us across
the great divide. Our life force departs for an unknown shore, and
we, too, leave behind our beautiful outer shell. In time, all of the shells
as all we humans will fade and return to the earth. But the voices of
the life forces that once inhabited those shells, and those bodies, can
still be heard.
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                      Chapter One
                            Big


  Today, the center of my shell mandala is calling. My biggest shell, a
“giant false limpet”, wants to be heard first. It was the very last shell I
found on the beach.
  These”giant false limpets” are different in shape, texture and color
from the “striped false limpets”. Their shapes are more irregular
compared to the latter that have a well-defined oval shape. These
giants also have rough ridges that fan out from the apex of the shell
like rays of the sun. Their colors are predominantly soft earthy
shades of burnt umbers and siennas mixed with shades of white,
whereas the striped limpets have an incredible range of striped
colors.
  I hold it up to the light where it displays a lovely, translucent quality.
On the under side, it is as smooth and shiny as marble. There is a
small ,white, teardrop-shaped protusion that was once inhabited by a
life force.
  I like this shell. It feels good to hold. It has substance, it feels
strong, it is big. Big…in fact, it is called giant compared to all the
other members of the limpet family. What is our fascination with
something that is the “biggest”? Why does it stand out among the
rest? There are so many things that have recieved recognition for
being the biggest…the biggest mountain, the biggest river, the
biggest country, the biggest city, the biggest ship, the biggest
diamond, the biggest bird…the list is endless. It seems that every
catagory has classified a “biggest”. What if there were no “biggest”?
What if all the mountains and buildings and diamonds and cities
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were the same size? How would that be different? Would all the
mountains lose a special quality now that they were all the same?
Does the “biggest” give everything else meaning, or does everything
else give the “biggest” it’s meaning? What would all the climbers aspire
to without Mt.Everest? Is the “biggest” important?
  The concept of the “biggest” must have evolved from man’s direct
experience with the magnificent bigness of the sky, the stars, the
vastness of land and sea. The absolute grandeur of the natural world
in which we live is a constant inspiration to be more and create more. I
do not think any of us can escape the feeling of awe when gazing out
over an endless ocean, or up at the infinite star-studded night sky or
perched at the edge of the Grand Canyon. We are affected. We are
on some level, whether we are aware of it or not, connected to
something so much bigger than ourselves or what we can even begin
to imagine. This connection is the fuel for creating the “biggest.”
Perhaps in our efforts to create the “biggest” of something, we will
discover a truth about this connection. The experience of something
so grand, so vast, so big is a mystery, and we are all driven to
understand it. Yet perhaps the mystery is not so mysterious. Perhaps
the mystery we experience in the grandeur of Nature is but a mirror of
the grandeur within ourselves. Perhaps we miss the connection
because in the presence of such natural grandeur, we feel so small.
Who are we to understand our own individual capacity for greatness
and bigness, when we are but a speck in the grass beneath a night sky
bursting with a zillion stars that seem to have no end. We are, in fact,
physically small in comparison, but we are not limited to that
smallness. Our ability to percieve the boundless infinite qualities of
the natural world indicates the posession of these same qualities
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somewhere inside us. Why would we choose not to see our own Divine
reflection in the ocean waters or in the starry night? Perhaps we are
overwhelmed; perhaps we are afraid. As spoken by Marianne
Williamson in her book A Return to Love, “Our deepest fear is not
that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful
beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.”
 Our true mirror is found in the natural world. Our connection to
Nature is vital. The power of Nature is not to be underestimated any
more than the power of man. Each can destroy the other, and each
can inspire the other to greatness. If we are to aspire to our own
greatness, then we must humbly accept that our greatness is found in
the reflection of Nature. Nature is our teacher and our guide. If we
stop and listen, we will hear the lessons; we will find our way.
  I do not think Nature is opposed to our aspirations for greatness. I
like to think that the biggest mountains have been man’s inspiration to
build the biggest buildings. Even some of the oldest civilizations have
demonstrated this in their timeless creations of the great pyramids of
Egypt and the great Mayan temples. The big creations of man stand
out because they are the reflections of our connection to the
bigness of all Creation. Big is important because it is a sign of
inspiration from something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes it takes
big to help us realize our goal is too small, that we are capable of so
much more. Sometimes it is our commitment to all the little things that
helps us realize what is big. I think we have to credit Nature for having
the idea of “biggest” first, and be grateful for the inspiration she
gives us.
  Big is not always better in man’s world. A big city alters the natural
beauty of the surrounding countryside, a big house costs more to
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maintain, a big war kills a lot more people. More responsibility comes
with big. We can get lost in big. Big in Nature is not always better
either. Nature inflicts upon us, sometimes when we least expect it, its
own big fury and rage with hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.
Today we attribute the unstable and bizarre weather patterns to
global warming and climate change. We are being forced to consider
that our ever-increasing industrialized lifestyle is a major contribution.
Yet, despite all the hard facts in support of this, history suggests that
unstable weather patterns have existed for centuries. Nature’s wrath
has extinguished numerous civilizations that lacked our current level
of technology and industrialization. Perhaps the planet’s big storms
and shakings are just a natural part of the earth’s evolution. Or
perhaps this is Nature’s way of getting our attention. The Earth is a
living, breathing organism like us. We are both evolving. Perhaps our
own evolution is intricately connected to our planet’s evolution. If so,
our survival depends upon a deep honoring of Nature’s ways, and
taking responsibility for the ways in which man creates imbalance. I
think previous civilizations honored the Earth more successfully
because they lived more closely to Her without all our modern day
distractions. We can learn from their astounding achievements in the
areas of life which we have all but forgotten, and no longer recognize
as important. Their connections to the Earth were big. And yet,
perhaps they, too, in their aspirations for greatness failed to
understand fully the connection between their own evolution and that
of the planet that sustained them. We learn from history the often
shocking and disturbing behaviors of past civilizations, including our
own, despite their great achievements: human sacrifice by many
MesoAmerican cultures on a massive scale; religious deception,
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control and idolatry; unending tribal wars; the greed and power
fueling the invasions of other countries; the domination of the more
fortunate over the less fortunate; the selling of slaves and the burning
of witches and Jews. Sadly, the list is big. Sadly, the list continues
today.
 If the destiny of the human species, both past and present, is in fact
intricately and divinely woven to the evolving destiny of this beautiful
planet, then perhaps the Earth is waiting for all of us to become big.
Big in the sense that we finally find what it takes within ourselves to
overcome the smallness of greed, domination, judgement,
persecution, deception, war, suffering, hate and poverty. Maybe we
need to take the focus off the big achievements outside ourselves,
and focus more on the inside. If we can slow down and find some
silence, that still place within the eye of the hurricane, we might hear
Nature’s voice. Can we dare to dream of ourselves as truly Big,
inspired by Nature toward the Divine qualities of giving, humility,
compassion, truth, peace, abundance and love? Maybe the Mother
Earth has been waiting a long time for Her children to grow up, and
be worthy to call Her home. Perhaps then Her impatience and fits of
wrath will cease, and our hearts will align in harmony….destiny and
evolution fulfilled.
  Some prophesy we will have a big intervention from above. The
Mayans calculated in their advanced calender that time and life as we
know it will end December 21, 2012, and we will have the golden
opportunity to recreate a new life. It is their belief that the evolution
of mankind on this planet has been divinely guided all along, and our
evolution according to the Divine plan will be complete on the 2012
winter solstice when our planet aligns with the center of the Galaxy.
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Hmmm….I like this idea. I embrace their beliefs. I personally would
welcome help from on high. We need it. I am not sure we can make the
necessary changes in time. Either way, our fate and the fate of our
planet is Big.
  My birthname is Anne, though I have been called Annie since I was a
teenager. But when I was a child, we had a black woman who worked
for my family who was also named Anne. To prevent confusion
between us, we called her Big Anne. It was a name that stuck with her
the rest of her days. She had a big influence on me as a child. She
had a big smile and a big heart. She was always there when we
returned home from school every day. She would stop whatever
housework she was doing, and want to know all about our day. She
took such delight in our stories that was characterized by a very
funny and unique gurgling laugh. Maybe her identity was altered with
the addition of Big to her name, maybe not. Either way, she had a big
presence and a big love for me and my siblings. I remember her fondly,
and her big smile is always with me.
  I use to make big plans for my life. Now, though there is still so
much I want to do, it just doesn’t feel as big. I seem more content with
the little, simple things, and taking big in stride. Sometimes big shows
up when you least expect it.
   In May 2006, Jeffrey and I did a river trip down the Colorado river,
specifically Cataract Canyon. I had a lot of experience running rivers
in a canoe as a teenager, but this trip was a small raft. Jeffrey, an
experienced kayaker, was part of the kayak rescue crew when the
rest of us flipped over. It was a seven day trip, and the really big water
came the fifth day. And I mean BIG! We stood on the river bank
scouting the first of three big drops called Satan’s Seat…what does
                              17


that tell you? No doubt about it, I was in for a big ride. I rode in the
raft with a competent whitewater river guide, Phil, and another
woman, Willa. We would be the rescue raft behind another small raft,
and two catarafts(rafts with pontoons). We hung back waiting, and
watched both catarafts flip. This was not good, and now we were on a
mission. Phil started yelling for Willa and me to paddle, as we had to
catch the big cataraft before it went down the other drops. We glided
right through the first big drop where the other boats had flipped,
and I was so relieved…until I saw the second big drop. We would have
to take the straight line through the big waves in order to catch the
cataraft. I had never seen waves this big on a river, maybe twelve feet
high, and lots of them. I got down in the hole, only to be flipped over
the front of the raft coming down the backside of the first wave. I
don’t know how I managed to hold on, and ride the entire drop upside
down with my head in the water, my arms and legs locked in
hyperextension to keep me in the raft. I was finally rescued by Willa,
when she could spare a free arm to pull me back in by the seat of my
pants. I was completely disoriented, with an injured knee, as we
rescued the big cataraft, recrouped and assessed damage on the
riverbank. I had now been fully initiated by the big waters of Cataract
Canyon. Fortunately, the toughest rapids were behind us now so I
could kick back, rest my knee and talk tales of big water. Would I do it
again? Hell, yes. There is something about being scared of big, and
getting to the other side, that really brings you to life.
 Big adventure, big change, big careers, big faith, big love..big can
make us grow. I can only think of one big thing that doesn’t make us
grow, and that’s the ego. The ego is a big lonely island unto itself. It is
not interested in the here and now. It is only interested in
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perpetuating past dramas. That’s its specialty. It likes to talk all the
time and tell us what to think and what to do. It’s mantra is”I am right,
and you are wrong.” It is bossy and rude, and ignorant to all the
mysteries of the soul and way of Spirit. We can tell when it has the
upper hand by the lack of sensitivity and joy in its voice. Our ego is
nothing more than our identification with thought forms. Our ego
grows and expands when its only food source for our identity comes
from the entertainment of our steady stream of thoughts. I find it a
great relief that who I really am is not all these voices in my head.
  We as a culture are possessed by our minds, and the result of total
mind identification is a false self, the ego and living a lie. Man’s laws
are written by the ego. We will never attain peace on Earth nor create
a better world living by these laws. Our work is to go inside, quiet the
mind and connect to our Sacred souls.
   The mind is the home for the ego, and I consider it to be more
attuned to male energy. The mind, however, is also home to intuition
and creative vision, which is more attuned to female energy. The mind,
the ego, the male needs balance with the female aspects of intuition,
creation and vision. Otherwise, it runs its own delusional show. Only
when we quiet the mind can we make room for this worthy partner to
show up, and invite the mind to join Her in the mysteries of the Sacred
soul. When the ego(mind, male) and the soul (intuition, female) unite,
the door to Spirit opens. Only then can we create a world based on
the laws of Spirit that will support our evolution as spiritual beings in
form. This is our new Earth. It’s going to take a BIG awakening…and
a BIG sleep for the ego.
My biggest shell is like the eye of the hurricane with all the other
shells swirling around it. It has shared its wisdom from this still place,
                                 19


an anchor in my mandala. I really like my big shell, just as I like big beds
and big trees and big bowls of pasta and painting big paintings. Big is
OK. What will my other shells have to say? I will wait for the call of the
next shell. I will listen…
                             20
                        Chapter Two
                          Dancing


  This is my dancing shell. No other shell has its edges turned up like
the beautiful flips of a swirling skirt. This seventh shell is in motion. It
wants to dance its way through life, round and round the circle. It is
also a “giant false limpet” just a smaller version with its wings out. It is
very pointed at the top. It looks like it has skipped all the way to
shore along the ocean floor. Skipping and dancing….
 Dancing is a really wonderful thing. We get to feel kind of awkward,
unsure, until the body just takes over and says ”Let me move.” And
while it moves, we let go…go anywhere we want. I think we need to
keep reminding one another to keep the body moving, make it a
global mantra. It will keep us mindful of celebrating life, and keep us
young, and we all like that.
 Dancing can be very healing. We can trust the body to take us on a
journey to passionate expression, to the well of deep feelings where
we will bloom when it is time. Then we find sweet, safe freedom in
which to express our emotions. If we are feeling beauty, we can ballet
like a swan…if we are feeling sad, we can sway in the breeze…if we
are feeling angry, we can go wild and tribal…if we are feeling sexy, we
can let those hips go. It has been said that we should dance like no
one is watching. I think we do our best dancing when we get
completely lost in it. The body has amazing awareness if we give it a
chance. We have to turn the mind off, and trust the body will
remember what the mind has taught it. It is our feelings that get to
shine when we dance. Our emotions are the fuel for the fire of the
dance. Suddenly, there we are, embodying our feelings, grounding
our emotions in this human form. It’s an ecstatic gift.
                                21


  The elements of nature have lots of movement that resembles
dancing: trees ballet in the breeze and leaves fly on the wind, rain tap
dances on rooftops and streams gently flow and swirl, clouds do an
endless waltz across the sky and the flames of fire leap and jump.
There are lots of animals that dance before mating or fighting.
Everything that is alive is in constant motion of some kind. Earth is a
big dancer. She never stops dancing around the sun.
 I started ballet when I was very young, maybe seven or eight years
old. It was my mother’s idea. I loved my pink ballet slippers, but ballet
didn’t do it for me. I wanted to be out riding my pony or playing
softball instead. When I was a young teenager, my mother signed me
up for ballroom dancing lessons. I liked it this time, mostly because my
boyfriend was also in the class…and I loved dancing with him. We were
blessed to have dance teachers that embodied Fred Astair and
Ginger Rogers. Mr. and Mrs. Moon taught us to foxtrot and waltz and
polka. My favorite part was actually watching them dance together.
She always wore these beautiful chiffon dresses that swirled and
floated with her every move. They glided across the floor with such
beauty and ease, two souls intricately in motion as one. I wanted to
dance like them.
 Later in my thirties, I got into jazz dance. I lived in the suburbs of
Washington, DC then, and would drive twice a week downtown to
Dupont Circle to a small jazz dance school. After about eight months,
my class was moved to a different time which didn’t fit my schedule. In
its place was a very advanced class designed mostly for stage and
Broadway dancers. The teacher was offering a few openings in the
class to other students, but only if you could keep up. He would take
                             22


two students at a time, and put you to the test in class. Those few
spots were not easily filled. Most students never even made it to the
end of the class before they either quit or got the boot. I managed to
survive. At the end of the class, my teacher said that I could stay on
because I had kept on dancing even though I’d forgotten all the
steps. Completely lost was more like it. All I had was my enthusiasm as
back up. I was challenged to the max and loved it. Sadly, within two
years the school closed after losing too many teachers to AIDS.
 In my forties, I discovered African dance, and also began African
drumming. There is something absolutely hypnotic about twenty or
more drums sounding out simultaneously. Sometimes I would arrive to
dance class exhausted, but a spark fired the second I heard those
drums. African dance was so different. I found the steps less complex
than jazz, but African dance required more complex moves using the
whole body…and in a whole new way. The rhythms had such a unique
life of their own. My feet could get the steps, but the rest of me
struggled to be in sync. It took a long time to master just one dance. It
seemed like there had to be a magic button to push for the body to
find just the right rhythm. When I finally witnessed an African woman
dancing, well…I needed a lot of magic buttons.
  When I was fifty, I travelled to Mali, West Africa to study African
dance and drumming. It was nothing short of a wild adventure. We
danced about five hours a day in the mango groves of a park which
we walked a mile to and from twice a day. Every day we attracted a
large audience of African women and children who gathered around
us in a big circle. I think the beautiful black women got a good chuckle
                             23


watching us white women try to move like them. Their faces were
plastered with big smiles. We worked hard to give them all a good
performance. At the end of class, all the women and children came
out to dance with us. The African women were lovely, all dressed in
exotic colored fabrics and head wraps. And yes, they could really
move. Dance is such a big part of their culture, a way of life for them
really. Dancing feeds their souls and keeps their spirits free. It is a
powerful means of survival.
  We were invited to a very special dance in the small village where my
drum teacher had spent much of his childhood. Late into the night I
was dancing in a circle of African women who all had babies wrapped
to their backs. The dance was a rather simple step forward and back,
but with a very distinct rhythm. It was then I realized how these
children grow up with such an amazing sense of rhythm. They were
being infused with the rhythms of life while sleeping on their dancing
mother’s back. It was seeping into their little bones, down into the
heart and soul of their being. Upon waking, dancing for them would
be as natural as breathing. I wanted to be one of those babies, and
have such a sweet infusion.
  It is a beautiful sight to see a whole village happily lost in the joy of
dance. It is a real celebration, especially for the people of Mali who
endure so much poverty, lack and disease. They have so little in the
way of modern comfort, but so much soul from their music and their
dance. I had never seen so much joy in the midst of so much hardship.
  We have a wonderful dance here in Santa Fe called Embody Dance,
founded by my good friend, Tracy. She is an ex-showgirl who danced
many years in Las Vegas, so you can imagine the fire she brings to the
dance. I still call it Body Choir which was its former name. It is a two
                             24


hour free dance based on the rhythms of Gabrielle Roth, taking you
from stillness to chaos and back again. There are no correct dance
steps or moves, no right or wrong way to dance. You just let go and
ride the waves of the music. It is the ultimate expression of freedom.
  Dance is universal. Every culture proudly has their dance. Here in
New Mexico there are numerous pueblos where various Native
American tribes maintain the traditions of Sacred dances. The deer
dance is my favorite. It is so magnificent, and captures the essence of
honoring and expressing our connection to Nature through the
dance. Sometimes I like to think that all the world’s problems could be
solved if we all just got together and danced. Because in the big
picture, we are all part of the cosmic dance. Like my shell dancing its
way to distant shores along the ocean floor, we are all dancing to our
destinations. Dancing connects us all in our joy, no matter how far
apart we are.
                            25
                      Chapter Three
                          Fragile


  My ninth shell is very fragile. Nine…the number of completion. It is
the most worn of all the giant limpet shells into this fragile state. It is
totally translucent with only bits of a pale burnt sienna color. Its worn
state is actually polished and smooth like fine porcelain, as if it has
reached a state of perfection at the same time.
Worn…perfection…what a strange paradox, to reach such a fine
fragile state after so many years of wear and tear, to be perfectly
worn. Is this what I will be like when I am old, after my long journey
travelling the many corners of the earth’s surface? Will my worn out
body manage to radiate some essence of perfection? This is fragile.
  I hold this delicate shell between my fingers. Unlike many of the
other shells that have a certain strength to their shape, I could break
this one into pieces so easily. Yet there is a strength in this shell’s
fragility. It’s journey is near completion. It has a wisdom, a perfection
that transcends its worn out shell. It is saying that although it is slowly
disappearing, there is something that lives on….even now.
  Everything, despite its appearance, is fragile. Fragile scares us. It is
without question the most vulnerable of feelings, yet it offers a quiet,
unexplainable strength. There are pieces of blown glass, so fragile
and delicate to look upon, that can hold astounding amounts of
weight. The monarch butterfly and the hummingbird, two most
delicate of creatures, migrate thousands of miles without rest often
through adverse conditions. Yet, they can be crushed so easily in an
instant. And those things that appear so strong and solid, like big
                               26


buildings and bridges and trees, can also be crushed in an instant by
the shaking of the Earth or storm winds and water. Fragile can be
deceptive.
  Love and our hearts are especially fragile. I believe all our hearts
are divinely programmed for the highest love. Years and years, maybe
even lifetimes, of not finding nor attaining this love can wear us out.
But the gift in this lack is that we develop a certain fragility and
sensitivity that heightens our awareness of the love and truth for
which we long. We become transparent in the depth of our longing.
Our transparency is fragile. But this is better than allowing our hearts
to harden, better than using our outer shell as armor to keep love
out. Love is the only mysterious protection we need when we attain
the highest love possible for ourselves and others. The energy of love
is the highest, most powerful energy available to us. When our hearts
are fully engaged in loving, there is no room for fear. True love
radiates a glowing circle of protection round our hearts from which we
can give love freely. We are reminded of our fragility when the love we
give is not received or given back to us. Too much of this, and fear
creeps in. Then our fragile state needs to retreat, and find healing
with a heart refill. A heart full of love is a Divine gift. The love is always
there. We just have to let it in. We might not always get the love we
want, but we can find comfort in knowing that there is plenty of love
to go around. We are all on different paths towards our fulfillment of
love and wholeness. And those who withhold love from us are
teaching us how to love ourselves more deeply and freely. If we can
just keep our hearts full, love will keep flowing like the pregnant
waters of springtime. It won’t matter to us so much anymore if we
aren’t always loved back because we are full, and not in need. We can
                                27


find compassion for those empty hearts, and celebrate them when
they are full.
  Jumping into love is like jumping into the ocean. The salt water
energizes us, and heals us. All our senses come alive. We find laughter
and joy in the waves of love pouring over us. At the same time, we are
aware of the ocean’s power to harm us….like love. We feel fragile.
Swimming in love, like the ocean, comes with the risk of getting hurt.
But if we never take those risks, our hearts will never be filled with the
joy of being alive. Our lives, and loves, are fragile. The wear and tear
of living and loving might make us more fragile, but it is the sign of a
life and a love well lived. There is strength and dignity in becoming
perfectly worn. Our embodiment of fragile radiates the courage to
live.
   We do not always consider something really big as being fragile.
But our big beautiful planet and sky and cosmos are every bit as
fragile as our hearts. We witness today how much climate change is
tipping the delicate scales of balance on this planet, for both people
and animals. In locales where seasons are being altered by a mere few
degrees, animals are becoming extinct because of the impact to the
food supply. The changing schedule delays the emergence of a worm
needed to feed a certain species of baby birds, and so the babies
die. The pollution in a river kills all the tiny fish that are the food
supply for spawning salmon, that now must move elsewhere, depriving
a town once dependent on the salmon for food and business. Worse
yet, the tiny fish don’t die but become toxic food for the fish that eat
them, and then those toxins end up in us when we eat those fish. The
melting of our glaciers result in a severe lack of water supply to
villages that can now no longer grow their food supply.
                                28


 How can such a big planet be so fragile? Perhaps the Earth is for us
again a much needed mirror for our own fraglity. The Earth is
suffering wear and tear just as we do. If we don’t care for ourselves,
how then can we extend care to the planet, our Mother? Mothers
care for their children until they are able to care for themselves. In the
eyes of Mother Nature, we humans are taking a long time to grow up.
Let’s hope it’s not too late.
 Our bodies, like our planet, are exceedingly fragile. Despite the fact
that humans are living longer, disease is more prevalent. Hmmm….
something is pointing to an imbalance in our modern lifestyle.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it is just one thing, which makes
maintaining our fragile balance a rather daunting task. Optimal health
requires the balance on all our levels: spiritual, mental, emotional and
physical. Happiness, a positive outlook, is key. To be happy, we need
to feel connected; to feel connected, we need to feel loved; to feel
loved, we need to feel God. Perhaps our search for optimal health
and balance is really our search for God, for meaning, for our
spiritual truth. Sometimes we find God through attaining balance;
sometimes we find God through our dis-ease. Either way, I like to
think we need to start at the bottom, and work our way up through
each fragile layer to the top. So first, we focus on the physical: we
committ to a healthy diet and some form of exercise that lights our
fire; we get enough sleep and we manage our stress; second, we take
responsibility for the emotional mess in our own closets, and weed out
what no longer fits or looks good on us ; we replace the old with the
new joyfully without dumping the old onto someone else; we wash
and clean the old, and give it away with love, like a gift; third, we learn
to quiet our thoughts and give the ego regular vacations so we can
                            29


dispel illusion and achieve true peace of mind; and lastly, somehow
through the simplicity of our grounded efforts in daily life, our
spiritual self and path emerges, like a beautiful flower in the garden.
  I think there is a method to the madness. It requires a deep respect
and understanding that each step, each thought, each moment is
fragile. We are all under pressure these days to accommodate the
ever increasing fast pace by which we all live. If we miss the connection
to Nature, to Spirit, to God, to our own hearts, to grounding the
truth that we know, we will jeopardize the fragile balance of our own
lives and that of our beautiful planet.
  The Earth is perhaps as much as four billion years old. There is
evidence everywhere of the Earth being worn to perfection. I think of
the Grand Canyon, it’s magnificence beyond words. The Earth
attempts to manage a vital balance between worn and perfection, and
often produces such exquisite beauty. The Earth cannot prevent her
aging anymore than we can. But she makes the effort, as we must, to
preserve her fragility. The beautiful ancient canyons and valleys on
this planet, along with my worn and fragile shell, remind us that all life
is moving towards perfection. It takes time.
                              30


                       Chapter Four
                            Green


  My eleventh shell is the largest of all the striped false limpets in my
mandala. It is very substantial and like many of the striped limpets, it
has a hole at the top. The colors of the stripes are most unique. The
stipes fan out from the top in shades of light and dark olive mixed
with shades of gray and brown towards the edges. There is one small
deep purple spot at the edge. The underside has been washed totally
white and smooth save for one little dark spot. When I hold it in the
sunlight, there are little specks that shimmer. This is my only green
shell…and it sparkles.
  Green is really “in” these days. It’s the new trend, the new fad.
Everyone is talking green this and that: building green, growing green,
manufacturing green, designing green, living green. Green is a
wonderful new consciousness to help us preserve and be more
mindful of our precious resources, and allow us to live more
harmoniously with the Earth. It’s about time.
  We live on a magnificently green planet. I like to think the Creator
gave us so much green since it is such a healing color. It is the color of
the heart chakra. So in essence, our hearts can be constantly
renewed and strengthened by all the beautiful green that surrounds
us. We have a direct heart connection with this green Earth.
   I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia
where green is lush and abundant. I have lived in the high desert now
for ten years, and every spring my heart aches to be back in my native
                                31



land for there is just nothing like an Appalachian spring. I had the
good fortune two years ago to experience my first spring there in nine
years. I was driving one day late April to deliver some paintings to a
gallery, and I had to pull off the highway so I could take it all in. I sat
for some time gazing out in all directions upon the lush verdant fields
and mountains. Then I began counting all the different shades of
green that I was seeing. I stopped at twenty-two, and was sure there
were still more. It was amazing. There was also a life force, an
incredible surge of vibrant energy coming out of all the trees and
bushes and grasses. Everything was so alive. The redbuds on the
mountain were in full bloom bursting next to the white dogwoods.
There was a multitude of “prana”(east Indian) or “chi”(Chinese), or
as the Mayans would call it, “itz”, meaning magical stuff. All the
beauty and energy took my breath away.
  We don’t have such a spring here in the high desert of New Mexico.
The Juniper and Pinon trees look the same all year round. To boot,
the Juniper produces a very aggressive allergic pollen that can make
springtime here quite miserable. But the cottonwoods, aspen and
other trees start to green, and it’s a welcome sight in the desert. If
you dig deep, you can find bits of an Appalachian spring here. The
lilac bushes are as big as trees.
 A whole lot of green looks good, smells good and feels good. Even
drinking and eating green is good for us. So maybe now we are finally
grasping that living green is good for us, too, and affords us all the
opportunity in our daily lives to care for the planet in every way
possible. The gathering at Woodstock back in the sixties reminded us
of our need to return to the garden. A simple message then perhaps,
                                 32


but a very profound and needed one today. We are still waiting for
big business and corporations to support living closer to the Earth.
We can’t get very far in living and building green if all the people with
the money and the power to call the shots don’t believe in it. If it’s
going to be a way of life, then it has to be made affordable. I know a
lot of people, including myself, who are wanting to build green, but it
is much more expensive. There aren’t a whole lot of green builders
out there yet so it takes a lot of time and research to find ways to
build an energy efficient home affordably. Green is our future, but it
is hard to believe we have failed for so long to sensibly harness the
energies of the sun, wind, water and earth in our way of life. In light of
the serious repercussions from global warming, what are we waiting
for? Waiting for big business and government to get beyond their
greed and start to care…..waiting for the Earth to shake some sense
into us…waiting for the average consumer to stretch beyond their
comfort zone and embrace change. We all need to stop waiting, and
get going.
  The Earth is waiting also, waiting for us all to wake up. It is time we
embrace and understand that She is a living, breathing organism with
whom we all have deep connection. She is our Mother, and commands
our respect. Our respect will not go unrewarded. She can and will
respond to our shift in energy. The question is, can we make the shift
to align with Her brillant Divine consciousness? The opportunity for
deep transformation is at hand for all of us. Every one of us can make
a difference. We are all in this together now. We all have to do our
part, no matter how big or small, in caring for this Earth home that we
all share. She will keep reminding us until we do.
                            33


  Many of us on the planet are too comfortable in what my father
often described as our ”conspicuous consumption”. It is even the goal
of many developping countries. Our lives are filled with every modern
convenience and every conceivable gadget, all of which require the
Earth’s energy consumption and depletion. Living green will not be an
easy change. Our consumption cannot remain mindless. Our success
will require constant awareness and effort. We can begin in our own
homes: replacing old appliances with the newer energy efficient ones
now on the market; recycling our bottles, cans, paper and plastic;
composting and burning much of our trash; collecting rain water and
using gray water in the garden; installing solar panels or a windmill.
Fortunately, the list is growing with the current trend and interest in
green living. Today there are numerous green magazines, television
shows and workshops. The web is full of sites with green information,
support and contacts. We can all choose green. It just requires our
choice and committment. Our efforts will not be futile. We can be a
positive, hopeful example to our children, friends and communities in
caring for our planet. Our lives will be more simple and meaningful. We
can still maintain a level of modern day living comfort while sustaining
and honoring the planet that sustains us.
  I went to Ireland a few years ago. It truly is incredibly green. I mean,
you are swimming in green. Maybe that’s why there is such magic
there in all those green hearted hills. Maybe that’s why the Irish feel
lucky, cause their hearts soak up all that green.
  I love getting lost in green. I’ve always wanted to have a home
greenhouse full of plants with a big comfy chair where I can soak up a
bit of paradise…and have a shower hiding in the tall plants. Lately, I
                               34


have the urge to move to a Mexican tropical village where I can live
indoor/outdoor, and be in Nature more. One has to balance a need
for green, really lush green, and water, while living up here in the high
dry desert. I want to have greenhouses, and gardens and grow all my
own food. There’s nothing like the lifeforce of food you grow, pick
and eat right away. You can really feel it, the food glows. We are all
losing our green essence eating food that is well beyond a few days
old. The green garden is about here and now.
  Green is life. It’s food for the body and soul. It’s funny how most
kids don’t like to eat greens, but us grown ups can’t seem to get
enough of them. I love salades. My friends would say I make some
really mean salades. Someday I’d like to do a salade cookbook.
 We cannot depend on our leaders or government to show us the
way. Green will be the grass roots efforts of those who have the
courage to change. The power of change is in the dreams and visions
of every individual. When we share our dreams and visions, we build a
community of people who care to make a difference. We can be the
green generation that pioneers a new green way of living. I will rest
easy knowing my children are living in harmony with this green
Earth…knowing they can hear my sparkling green shell singing of the
fertile ocean life that feeds us.
                            35
                      Chapter Five
                         Woman


 Shell number twelve has the biggest splash of bold color on it
around the opening on the top in sensuous shades of magenta like a
woman’s lips. This shell feels so feminine, soft and worn in places, like
most women. The stripes of this limpet have worn down to a smooth
white beyond the mouth, and then soft shades of browns and peach
fan out to the edge. The shape is beautifully round, gem like, and
solid with a soft rosey glow.
 I am fifty-three years old, and sometimes I have spells when I am
plum worn out and have to rest. I welcome the rest where everything
slows down, and I can get still inside. I like to be surrounded by Nature
often as She helps me slow down….and listen.
  I have the good fortune right now to be living with a man I love in his
all glass and steel house high up on a mountain. There is no driveway
to it, but rather a three hundred fifty plus rock path that winds up the
mountain like a stairway. I get a built in workout everyday. There is a
vernicular tram which he constructed and used to build his house, and
now serves to haul up groceries and all other necessities, including
tired bodies on occasion. Up at the house, there is a mesh steel deck
that curves out from the flagstone patio above a fish pond with a
waterfall. The sound of the running water over the rocks is like having
your own private stream to sit by. It soothes my soul. The views from
up here are mind expanding. I can see at least 180 degrees south, and
off to the east and west. There are mountains everywhere, and lots of
hills shaped like women. We are up here in this hide out with the birds,
living in an eagle’s nest. We are also accompanied by coyotes,
                               36


bobcats, foxes and big rabbits. And the sunsets….there are no
words.
 I am buried in the bosom of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the
blood of Christ. I can be quiet up here, rest my mind and let the
Spirits talk. I especially like to listen for the voice of the Sacred Wild
Feminine. She is the Divine energy that emanates from all life, from
the heart of the Earth. She is the Earth. She also has a higher
heavenly expression that I often see as the most gorgeous,
translucent shade of coral pink that shimmers and positively glows.
 The wisdom of the Sacred Wild Feminine is in softness and strength
simultaneously. She is compassionate for all life, every living creature.
She moves with the seasons and cycles that go round and round.
Time has no beginning nor end. It is circle dance for Her. She is
radiant, full of beauty and joy, yet deep and complex. She gives and
gives and gives, and only asks that we open our hearts to receive. She
is our mirror of great transformation as we watch Her die, and come
back to life, again and again. She is the Divine vessel from which life is
given, yet, we forget Her.
 I listen for the rhythms of this earthly mother, this wise woman. I
aspire to be like Her, and move to Her music. She is the life force, and
sometimes the life line when my life doesn’t feel it is working, when I am
not glowing. Like many women, I have had my share of loss,
heartbreak, injuries, abuse and abandonnment. We all have our
stories. I don’t want to think about my stories too much, maybe
because I have gotten lost too many times in my identification with
them. I revisit my stories from time to time when I hear their lessons
calling. I try to let them go with gratitude. I want to stay open to all the
                              37


possibilities for the woman I want to become. Holding on to my stories
slows me down, like being stuck in the mud, when all I want to feel
glowing inside me is that beautiful coral pink light. Sometimes it is not
easy to move from the dark gooey mud of my past into the ease of
the light. But this light, this energy of the Sacred Wild Feminine seems
to transcend my stories so I can just be…be still. In my stillness, I try
to ground those qualities that matter: softness, strength,
compassion, beauty, caring, wisdom, peace and love. I long to be a
beautiful rose in the eye of this storm. This is my rosey glow. It is a
place of rest and wholeness where I can feel nurtured and guided by
the Earth’s Divine wisdom, woman to woman.
  I think the wisdom of the Divine and Nature are the keys to real
peace for a woman. It is the true marriage, the marriage of heaven and
earth, the Sacred and the Wild, within us. They meet in the heart. It
can take a long time to find the peace of this union within
us….lifetimes. Many of us women find ourselves forsaking this Divine
marriage within our own hearts for another kind of marriage. We give
our hearts away instead to the man we love, hoping he will be our path
to peace. Some of us choose wisely, some of us do not. But the gift
of heartbreak is the return to our own hearts. We take our power
back. We realize we have to BE the LOVE we long for.
  Yet still, no one man can be everything to us. We are much too
complex for that, as often mirrored in the complexity of our daily
lives. Many women have a lot of hats to wear just in their family role
alone as wife, lover, friend, mother, caretaker, teacher, cook,
housekeeper, decorator, shopper, carpooler, gardener, party giver,
book keeper, money manager and more. Even more women add to
these roles their own part or fulltime profession, their pursuit of a
                                38


passionate interest or volunteer work, or the extra added burden of
being a single parent. It is all too easy for the modern woman to find
herself overwhelmed, and burned out with her glass half empty.
Somewhere in all this a woman must find the time to nurture and
cultivate her own inner Divine marriage because she is Divine. The
knowledge and fulfillment of her own divinity enables her to carry out
these myriad and miraculous roles with amazing grace. A woman IS
different from a man. She has a special Divine connection to the
Creator, to the life force, to Spirit, because she carries life in her
womb, and is gifted with the grace and wisdom to nurture this life. The
rhythms of her body and soul are intricately woven to the flow of
Nature’s cycles. She is intimately connected to the birth, life, death
dance. She understands these cycles are a given, an innate and
eternal rhythm embedded in the evolution of both Nature and the
human soul. To rest in these rhythms, to surrender to their natural
flow, defines a woman’s journey in knowing herself, her Sacred Wild
soul. She is One with the Earth’s wisdom. She can hear and feel the
call, and often the cry, of the Sacred Wild Feminine. These are the
gifts that set a woman apart from a man. If a man understands this, he
will be blessed. In turn, he will be a blessing to both woman and the
Earth.
  A woman can be the portal to a man’s heart, and the discovery of
his own inner Divine marriage. Through honoring the gifts of a woman,
a man can come to know the way of the Sacred Wild Feminine.In the
same way, a woman who honors the gifts and strengths of a man can
come to know the Sacred Wild Masculine. It is designed to be the most
Sacred and beautiful of dances. A woman who is truly seen and
                              39


respected by a man will bloom. In the softness, strength and beauty
of her flowering lies a man’s true wisdom.
  Sadly, there continues to be a long suffering persecution of women
in the world, and even more sadly, mostly by men. Throughout history
and many cultures, women have been denied freedom of their voice,
expression and power. They have endured the horrific degradations
of rape, physical abuse, slavery and death. I have deep gratitude for
the courageous women who fought for their rights, and paved the
way for the rest of us to have a better life. But we have not yet
arrived fully. The majority of women in most cultures today continue
to suffer. Even here in America, where women constitute the majority
of the work force, there still exists both very obvious and subtle
efforts to keep us in our place. There is something seriously wrong in
a society that prevents by law a woman’s right to choose. It is the
denial of a woman’s true power, the denial of her Divine gifts with
which to exercise that power.
 I believe that the concept of and respect for the Sacred Feminine
must reemerge into the minds and hearts of us all if we are to grasp
the real message delivered to us two thousand years ago….the
message of Sacred Union and Partnership. It is disturbing and even
shocking to acknowledge that the power of the patriarchal church
has effectively contributed to the loss of this message. Most
religions, and specifically Christianity in this case, have been
organized by men, dominated by men, dictated by men and controlled
by men. Women were to remain silent, and accept their inferiority and
their place beneath men. We were not taught by the Christian church
that perhaps Jesus was a family man, married to the lovely Magdalene
who was always by his side, yet for undisclosed and perhaps
                              40


protective reasons, their marriage could not be made public. We are
taught instead that Jesus was a Holy man, excempt of the normal
earthly experiences, endowed with the powers of almighty God, and
Magdalene was delivered to us as a whore. It all began here, the
exaltation of man, the degradation of woman and the possibility of
Sacred Partnership denied.
The power of Jesus cannot be negated, but the true meaning of his
message posed a grave threat to the people of power at that time, a
people who were not ready to embrace the power of their own divinity
as spiritual beings. They chose to foster man’s laws over spirit’s laws,
and in doing so, the true teachings of Jesus were masked in religion
and lost. I do not believe Jesus came to elevate man over woman. I
believe he came to elevate woman to be man’s equal, and create the
understanding and power in Sacred Partnership. We have only to
honestly acknowledge the devastating consequences of a patriarchy
empty of women’s voices and devoid of the Sacred Wild Feminine.
The impact of this imbalance to the lives of both men and women, our
children, our culture and our planet are evident. Our journey to
restore balance has yet to be fully embraced. As we are all divinely
assisted to wake from our sleep over these next few years, I believe
we will welcome this new vision imbedded in the power of equality.
  Meanwhile, I know many women who are mustering the courage to
make the lonely journey to the underworld to face the consequences
of the patriarch’s influence in their own lives….myself included.
Despite the increasing acceptance, presence and success of women
in our culture, their wounds cannot be overlooked. Hundreds of
years of enduring a place of inferiority, devaluation, domination,
restrictions, limitations, abuse and silence leaves scars. For many of
                                 41


us women, we have had to rely on the power of our masculine in order
to fit the patriarchy, not realizing consciously the deep betrayal to
our silenced Sacred Wild Feminine. We may be taking our place in the
world, but something has been sacrificed. Maybe it takes our lives not
working, our marriages failing, our getting sick, our anger erupting,
our souls full of emptiness before we journey beyond our
anger into our pain where we can hear the long silenced voice of our
inner wisdom. It is a strange crossroad….a place of celebration to
have found our own voice, our Divine Feminine, our hope to recreate
our life as the woman we have longed to be…and a place of complete
shattering of the safe life we have lived and known, a full surrender.
Ultimately, our journey is about retrieving all that we have lost.
 My journey has been full of a lot of anger at men. I cultivated early
on a tough, savvy, impenetrable outer shell capable of matching any
guy. My Dad was a tough man. My survival instincts told me to meet
toughness with toughness, yet inside I could sense there was another
way. It has taken a long time for me to be willing to risk vulnerability, to
hear and trust my own inner voice, to understand the other way was
the path of my Sacred Wild Feminine. I have shed a lot of tears over
my own betrayal. My angry, tough male wanted to blame the men in
my life and all the patriarchy, but all that did was keep me farther
from the wisdom of my feminine when my work was to reclaim Her. I am
still doing this work, gathering all the lost parts of Her. It was a great
relief when I realized I didn’t have to make it a war…man versus woman
or woman versus man….and I could finally embrace the path of
Sacred Union that I knew to be true.
  In order for us to achieve Sacred Union with another in
relationship, a beloved, we have to find it in ourselves first. It means
                               42


cultivating a healthy inner female and male that are working to
support us on our path instead of working against us. For myself, my
inner female was silenced, suppressed, squashed early on, and in
unconsciously allowing that, I betrayed Her. Without Her to balance
my inner male, He ran the show. He stole the car, driving wild in all
directions, often wreaking havoc and leaving a path of destruction for
me to have to mop up later….just like the patriarch has done in the
outer world without the assistance of the Sacred Wild Feminine. Over
time, my wounds and my imbalance grew deeper. Eventually, my inner
male running wild turned against me without my inner female to soften
him. I began to feel the anger seeping up from the abysss. While my
life on the outside looked charmed and in control, the voices of my
angry inner male, and ego, were doing their damage….”You aren’t
pretty, you are a failure, you will never be a success, you can’t have
love, you can’t have the life you want.” My life became a deep
emotional struggle to silence these voices. They felt like poison, and I
was dying a slow death. In fact, this angry inner male did need to die
so that I could turn my attention to my long suffering silenced Sacred
inner female that had been waiting my whole life to speak Her truth. I
found Her in my heart, not in my mind, nor out there somewhere in my
spiritual search. Her voice is not angry despite how long I betrayed
Her. Her voice is a soft sweet whisper that tells me I am beautiful,
talented, successful, lovable and able to create the life I want. She
tells me to have compassion for my angry inner male that is dying, and
trust He will rise from the ashes with a willingness in His heart to meet
me.
  I am still learning as I travel down this lovely path of the Sacred
Wild Feminine. It is uncharted territory, a road less travelled, yet I
                            43


know the way is slowly bringing me home to myself, to a place of rest
and renewed hope, to wholeness. The healing of our own inner male
and female brings the sweet success of our own inner marriage, a
Sacred Union. What we find on the inside, we can manifest on the
outside. As above, so below; as within, so without. The path of
Sacred Union in the world is about supporting one another in finding
our true selves. It’s about growth, with or without each other.
  I had an evoutionary astrologer tell me once that I’d had many
lifetimes as a successful, masterful man, in the way of a medicine man
and shaman and doctor. He said I had achieved enough growth
through my lessons as a man that I could choose not to reincarnate
on the Earth again. I chose instead to come back and master what
remaining lessons I had as a woman. Hmmm…maybe that’s why my
male side has always been so strong and more familiar, and my female
so quiet and uncertain.
  But I love being a woman. I love to saturate myself in womanly
things: a beautiful, sensuous dress, sexy shoes and hair, yummy
fragrances and lotions, colored lips and special jewelry. I really like a
man who knows these things matter, and makes the space for me to
indulge in them. There’s nothing like dressing up, and having your
man take you out for a night on the town to boost your womanly
spirits…especially out here in cowgirl country. It’s so important for a
woman to feel beautiful, and for her beauty to be appreciated and
respected. I find when I feel beautiful on the outside, it works like a
magnet pulling my inner beauty out to meet it. And ditto the other way
around. Sometimes it’s my inner beauty that creates my outer beauty.
 I really love dressing up, and I really love digging in the dirt. I love to
plant things, and watch them grow. It gives me comfort and faith in my
                               44


own growth, which at times is much harder than I’d like it to be. Plants
seem to grow so effortlessly, yet without the right amount of light,
water and care, their growth is limited…kind of like us humans. I would
be a plant at risk without my women friends. I have a great circle of
women in my life. We are a mandala of flowers, gifting one another
with the necessary nourishment to grow and bloom. Our growth can
be complex as are our bodies, our cycles, our hormones, our
emotions, our passions, expectations and dreams. We share our
knowings as women about these complex crossroads for which we
often have no directions. We are sunshine for one another, breaking
through the clouds and fog to help each other see more clearly. We
shine our light during the dark psychic passages of inner death and
loss. We dance together in the underworld like wild women, praying
for the wisdom to live gracefully through life’s mysterious cycles. We
celebrate the beautiful blossoms we know are inevitable.
  Many women have men in their lives who have yet to discover and
connect with their own inner female. These men have no idea what
they are missing! They are depriving themselves of ALL women’s rich
and wise beauty that would grace their lives with ease and wholeness.
Our hearts go out to the men who choose to judge and fear a
woman’s ways. We are waiting for you to see us in the mirror. We
women here in the land of enchantment are indeed the “way too much
sisters”(named by Feeny, the most way too much woman I know), and
proud of it. Our hat goes off to any man who has the courage to
hang out and play with us. I can promise you this….he will never be
the same.
  The Sacred Wild Feminine is called by many different names in other
cultures. I only know two off hand, one from a friend and one from
                              45


experience. My friend is a man who spent much time in Tibet, and
called me” Dakini” when I danced. He said it was an honor to be called
Dakini in Tibet. It means “ the woman dancer who can see”.
 My boys and I spent Christmas of 2003 in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. We
arranged to go deep sea fishing on a small boat called The Princess
Isis ,run by a sweet old Mexican man named Miguel. We left the dock
at six in the morning, and headed out to sea. It was absolutely magical.
The sun was just coming up in the distance between two islands,
casting its morning glow across the crystalline calm waters. I sata on
the front of the boat, and I felt myself being transported to another
realm…yet, at the same time, I was more present and alive in that
moment, connecting to the sea as if I was the sea. Then the dolphins
came…and the sea turtles…and the big fish began to jump. My son
James brought in the first of nine Sailfish we would catch within two
hours. I will never forget the look on his face when that exquisite fish
leaped out of the water, and he realized what he had hooked on the
end of his fishing line. My sons each wanted to keep one as a trophy,
and we returned the other seven to the sea. While we were bringing in
all these fish, Miguel called around to the other boats to find that not
a single other boat was catching anything. He started pacing the
boat, oozing excitement, speaking Spanish at mach speed. Our
Spanish was not too fluent, but I understood when he pointed to me,
and called me “La Mujer Grande de mar”, the great woman of the sea.
He kept saying it over and over, looking at my sons shaking his head
up and down, then put his hand on my shoulder. There was a look in
his eyes of recognition that touched my Sacred wild soul down to the
bone. For I knew he could see, and understand, my Sacred Wild
Feminine. I had been riding on the mystical sea of life, fully engaged
                               46
and connected to my Sacred wild woman, who intuitively knew how to
call the wild life of the sea from my own wild self. I can hear men now
who read this, and cast it off to luck. But if you only knew what
Miguel knew. His boat wasn’t called The Princess Isis for nothing. We
are sadly one of those cultures that doesn’t have a name to honor the
Sacred Wild Feminine.
   To top off our magical fishing adventure, the dockmaster
proclaimed the biggest Sailfish caught all year by my son Joshua.
  There are many women in positions of great power today as
queens, senators, presidents, advisors and more. Truly we have come
a long way, baby! More and more the contributions of women are
being recognized. Yet, the wild, wildlife, wilderness, wild woman
continue to be expendable resources. We need to honor all the
beautiful, vital, fundamental natural rhythms, cycles and instincts
found in the wild, and in the hearts of the wild feminine nature. We
have yet to see a world where women are free to walk on their wild
side, stepping in perfect harmony with their natural ,instinctual
ryhthms. It is a culture’s loss when they seek to control or outlaw the
Sacred Wild Feminine. For she ignites the mystery of Creation and
beauty, and all the music of the soul. She is the pearl of great price.
 The true Divine gifts that women have to offer will fully flourish
when ALL women of this planet can claim these gifts for
themselves. The voice of the Sacred Wild woman is waiting to be
heard and fill our hearts. The world will so benefit from Her return.
  My beautiful shell whispers the way with the soft rosey glow of her
lips…you can hear Her, if you listen. She is calling you to follow your
soul to the water, to be full and flow like the river to the sea, and send
your creativity, your passions and possibilities, your wildness across
the ocean to spill over the land.
                             47
                        Chapter Six
                        Connection


  The nineteenth shell in my mandala ia very worn, its surface is rough
to the touch. What color it once had has faded to a soft brown, and
there are no distinguishable stripes. But it is unique. There are two
pink striped barnacle remains with openings at the top. They look like
little volcanoes. My rough and tough shell has been home to another
small species of ocean life. The barnacles have attached themselves
so completely as to become a permanent fixture. On the underside of
the shell beneath the barnacles is a hard crust white substance, like a
glue that penetrated the shells surface to hold them in place. They
have made a secure home here. My rough shell and the little volcanic
barnacles are now one, forever connected.
  Connection….we are connected to everything…to all the Earth’s
creatures, to one another, to the stars, to all that we can see, and not
see. We all make our entance into this world connected to the cord,
the lifeline, of our Mother’s giving. It is her gift to us. Like the Earth,
all things that grow have their lifelines deeply rooted in the ground,
connected to the Mother. All creatures that roam the earth, swim in
the waters and fly through the air depend on a survival connection.
There is no escaping it. All life is woven in an exquisite tapestry.
Maybe sometimes our minds talk and tell us we have control over
these connections, but we don’t. There is a deep mystery to
connection over which control is just an illusion. The mystery is so
much bigger than us. In honor of that, we must be filled with
reverance, awe and surrender. There is a place of rest and comfort
knowing we are all connected.
                            48


 We humans have a lot of connections: to ourselves, our families, our
friends and lovers, our jobs and co-workers, our pets, our homes
and favorite places, other countries and cultures, our faith. Our
connections are endless. All of our connections have something to
give us, and us to them. Sometimes we don’t see the gift, but it is
always there. Sometimes it appears when we least expect it, and
comes in miraculous ways.
  I love the story of “Skeleton Woman” from Clarissa Pinkola Estes
book “Women Who Run with the Wolves”. A fisherman father
disapproves of his daughter and casts her into the sea, where all her
flesh is eaten and rots to the bone, leaving her a skeleton woman.
One day a fisherman catches her on his fishing line thinking he has
caught the big one. Instead, he pulls skeleton woman into his boat.
His fear at the sight of her quickly returns her to the sea, and he
hurries home. But she is all tangled in his fishing line, and follows close
behind him. Once inside his hut, he senses perhaps he is safe, only to
find her there on the floor when he lights his lamp. She is a pile of
tangled lines and shivering bones that calls his compassion, and he
begins to untangle her. The man then lights a fire, and falls asleep. A
tear begins to fall down his cheek while he sleeps. Seeing the man’s
tear reflect in the firelight, skeleton woman draws close to him and
begins to drink of his tear. His tear becomes a river, and she drinks
and drinks to quench her long thirst. She then removes the man’s
heart, and beats on it like a drum, until she has drummed back all her
flesh. She returns his heart, sings off his clothes and skin to skin,
rests the night away wrapped together with the fisherman. They
remain together, and are always well fed and cared for by the
creatures of the sea she had known.
                               49


  Skeleton woman is such a beautiful story about the mystical powers
of connection, and the life and death cycles of relationship. The
fisherman’s compassion for skeleton woman ignites his own sleeping
compassion for himself, and brings forth the burning tear for his own
longing and loss. She drinks the healing water of compassion. Out of
their combined and connected compassion, he gives her his heart,
and she shows him the heart’s path to Creation. Each is transforming
the other, each helps the other untangle their wounds.
  Maybe some of us women were cast out by our fathers. We find
ourselves searching for that healing compassion in a man. We are
blessed if we find it, and cursed if we don’t. Our search is justified,
and sometimes desparate. I think if we can find that healing
compassion in ourselves first, right down to the bone, we will find the
courage to leave our prisons and pursue freedom. Our own
compassion will be found in anothers compassion. The man is special
who can respond. He understands connection.
   I first read this book and compassionate story in 1993 while
enduring a relationship that wasn’t working. I tried to make it work,
but it didn’t. I spent too much time and energy being hurt and angry,
justifying my victim status and finding everything possible wrong with
him. This story, this book, helped me understand my need to journey
to the underworld to reclaim the lost parts of myself, and connect
with my Sacred Wild woman. I followed the voice of my Wild woman out
to the Sacred land of enchantment, into Sacred circles of women
dancing and drumming, into Sacred teachings and travels to Sacred
sites. I began to live the mystery of my Sacred Wild self. The Sacred
and the Wild are one. Together they gave me new life.
                                 50


 I have spent the last twelve years cultivating this connection to my
Sacred Wild Feminine. I attempt to honor, listen to and follow the
natural rhythms of my womanly life that live and die, and live and die. I
don’t fight what doesn’t want to happen anymore. I want my life to
flow just as it needs to, and have that be OK. I don’t want to sneak,
shrink, suppress, silence, stifle, settle or stress and call that life cause
it’s not. My life is about creation, intuition and love. My work is to be
conscious of who I am and know my purpose. I am the Wild Feminine
who holds all life Sacred…without Her I am lost.
 We all come into this life with karmic connections. We all have karmic
lessons to learn as part of our growth and evolution. It has become
quite apparent that my karmic lessons this lifetime are in
relationships. I have been a true Queen of heartbreak, and I say that
in the past tense because I am free now to be the Queen of love. I
have paid my long suffering karmic debts. My journeys to the
underworld have gifted me with the vision, healing and the hope of
wholeness. Now, I get to choose.
  I choose a Sacred connection in love, a connection that does not
always come easily. If two people are to achieve a Sacred connection,
all of their individual wounds, projections, illusions and baggage have
to be weeded out, untangled, first. Very few of us come together in
relationship having completed our weeding. If we enter the
relationship with a conscious understanding that the dynamics
inherent in relationship will afford us the opportunity for completion,
then the relationship stands a good chance of becoming a beautiful
garden in which we both grow. But the truth is that most of us enter a
relationship unconscious of the weeding for which we alone are
responsible, and it’s hard to take responsibility for the unconscious
                           51


parts of ourselves until they become conscious. If we stop tending to
the weeds on our side of the garden, the weeds take over our life and
our growth is no longer a thing of beauty. Then we find ourselves
asking or expecting our partner to stop tending his weeds to help us
or tend to the whole garden himself. Sooner or later, the garden
becomes too much work. Nothing but weeds are growing, and all the
things of beauty have died.
 The weeds we each have to tend are different for all of us. For
myself, I always brought to relationship my unconscious desire for my
man to help me weed my side of the garden. It became an expectation
because I didn’t want all the pressure of tending to my side alone. I
also unconsciously moved to his side of the garden to tend his weeds
if it looked like he needed help. I never consciously asked for his help
nor offered my help, which would have been a much different
dynamic.
  I was never at peace in my side of the garden because my Sacred
Feminine had no voice, and my angry male wouldn’t shut up. I had my
moments of contentment in tending my side and creating beauty, but
it was always disrupted by my runaway male creating the pressure to
keep the whole garden perfect…and everything I had to do, do, do
do, do. I have learned now that my ability to access my Sacred
Feminine is vital to my contentment in the garden of relationship.
Without this connection, I crumble, and lose the true essence of
myself in trying to maintain the perfect garden for both myself and my
partner, and everyone else. I am not able to sustain my own
autonomy and empowerment without the freedom I find in the natural
                                 52


rhythms of my Sacred female, and cease to be a prisoner of my
patriarchal male.
  My Sacred wild female isn’t anything like my runaway wild male. His
wildness is out of control, angry, reckless, while my Sacred female is
wild in the wisdom of her natural instincts. She cannot be tamed nor
molded to fit into an unconscious patriarchal culture that dictates
what is appropriate and acceptable for her. It is the wild runaway male
that needs her wisdom to find the balance, for he, too, craves his own
natural rhythms by which to live. I will trust, both inside and outside,
for the meeting between my wild woman and my wild man. Perhaps
they will fall in love. Perhaps he will give her his heart, and she will
show him the way to Sacred connection, creation and union. They will
walk on the wild side, following the natural cycles of many beginnings
and many endings that love endures…together.
  There is nothing like our connections to our friends…and family. I
emphasize friends here only because sometimes our emotional and
karmic connections to family can be somewhat intense. We tend to
choose the people in our biological families to be some of our
greatest teachers, and our strongest mirrors in which to see
ourselves. It doesn’t make our families any less important than our
friends, just easier sometimes for us to be seen and understood. We
need to embrace our biological families for the gifts and the lessons
they bring us. Sometimes it’s our friends who show up, and help us
with this understanding. Most often, we play out our family dramas in
our love relationships. This can be healing, or very painful and
negative. The sooner we connect to the deep knowings of our Sacred
wild souls at the core, and embrace some good juicy guidance from
Spirit, the better chance we have for creating healthy relationships.
                                53


My women friends are the rocks in my life. I have really great male
friends, too, but it’s not quite the same. The connection with my
women friends weaves both a beautiful ease and depth in sharing the
fullness and essence of who we are as Sacred Wild women. We are
multi-dimensional mirrors in which we get to see all the possibilities of
who we can be. We celebrate our Spirit wisdom and our Earth wisdom.
The union of Spirit and Earth wisdom gives birth to our sensual joy
and spiritual bliss wherein we laugh deeply and cry deeply. It’s the
healing laughter we share that I love most. Those belly laughs from
the abyss bring on our deepest love and freedom for life. Some say
God is laughing all the time.
 I love the connection I have with my children. I was a very young
mother at twenty-one, and not at all sure what to do with this
marvelous new creation I now had as a full-time job. My baby and I
were so connected that if I had a bad day, so did he. This made me
very nervous. One day in early spring, I took my baby, Joshua, out to
a field by the house. I sat him down, and made a circle around him
made from stones and wildflowers and daffodils. Then I walked
around the circle, thanking God, Great Spirit, for this child and in my
prayers I gave him back to the source from which he came, because I
didn’t know what I was doing as a new mother. I needed grace, and
lots of it. I needed a connection to something much bigger than myself
to parent this child successfully.
  I adore my two sons. They melt my heart, and bring me boundless
joy, even now at ages twenty-eight and thirty. If I could describe my
connection to them, it would be them as my teachers. I watched them
grow in constant amazement at their wisdom. I still do. I am not sure,
but I think maybe they taught me more than I taught them.
                               54


 I had a wild run away Pinto pony once named Mocha. Our
connection was one of patience. He gave a charming, calm
performance when I test rode him so he came home with me. But the
first day on him out of the barn, he took off like a rocket. I would hold
on with all my might until he finally bucked me off. This went on for a
long time. Then one day after being bucked off just too may times, I
decided to stay on the ground. After some time passed, Mocha
appeared. He came close, stood over me and put his nose down to
me. I scratched his nose, and climbed back on him. And for whatever
reason, he never bucked me off again. We finally made a connection.
 It is true what they say about a dog being a man’s best friend. I
overheard an elderly gentleman the other day telling someone he was
tired of travelling, and just wanted to stay at home so he could get a
dog. I had to smile, thinking of the great dogs I had known as
companions, and teachers like my children. Without words, just the
mystery of connection, they taught me patience with the gift of
unconditional love filled with lots of laughter. But the hardest lesson
they gave me was the pain of loss. Some of the most challenging
lessons coming from the connections that we lose.
 When I was twenty, I had an amazing yellow lab/shepherd mix that I
had rescued from the pound. I named her Tara. She was covered with
mange, and it took months of rubbing this nasty liquid into her skin to
get rid of it. She had an uncanny zest and enthusiam for her life as a
dog. She smiled at me often as if to say thank you. I loved our
connection. I was driving home from college at Thanksgiving with Tara
and my boyfriend’s dog, Herbie, in the back. I decided to take a quick
detour to visit some friends who just had a new baby. I was driving
down a winding, hilly dirt road, and was hit head on at the crest of a
                             55


hill by a pickup truck. In an instant I figured my life was over when a
blinding white light engulfed me. I let go of the steering wheel to cover
my eyes. Everything went into slow motion, and I heard all the sounds
of the crash, but they seemed so far away. When I came to, I was on
the floor of the passenger side in a ball covered with glass. I didn’t
have a scratch. The car was on its side in the ditch without a single
window in place. I could hear Tara gasping for air, and a man nearby
crying and praying. I climbed out a back window as the steering wheel
had collapsed and punctured the drivers seat like an arrow. When I
climbed out, the man who had hit me fell over in disbelief. Tara was
badly wounded. Herbie had escaped any serious injuries as he was
tucked behind her while they rode with their heads out the window. I
had to shake the man to his feet, and sent him down the road to my
friend’s house to call the police and a veternarian. I sat in the road
rocking Tara and waited. The policeman arrived with no veternarian.
He looked at Tara, then at me with his hands on my shoulders and
told me clearly my dog was too badly injured to try and save her, and
it would be best to end her suffering. He held my hand, and walked
me down the road a ways, then he went back to Tara and shot her. I
fell to my knees and wept painfully until the policeman came to collect
me. The man and I sat in the backseat of the police car while the
policeman questionned us as to what had happened. The man
admitted quickly it was his fault. He was late for an interview for a
second job, and was driving too fast. The policeman asked me if I
wanted to press charges. I turned to look at this man. His face said it
all, his eyes full of remorse and regret. I could feel compassion rising,
and responded no to his question. The man took my hand, and told
me through his tears how he had four kids with one on the way. He
                                56


couldn’t make ends meet, and was forced to seek a second job. He
thanked me, then stared at me for some time before he said he had
witnessed a miracle, and would never forget it.
  My car was totalled, and Tara was gone. But I was alive and unhurt,
and forever changed. I felt Tara had taken my place that day….given
her life that I might live. If I had worn my seatbelt, I wouldn’t be here
writing these words. It took me a long time to wear my seatbelt again,
and I still tend to take it off on dirt roads. The white light was a
mystery. But what is clear in that mystery is that some powerful force
much bigger than myself and my life showed up to protect me. I never
questionned the forces of the Unseen again. I had made a connection
to the invisble realm, and I knew it was as real as anything I could see. I
suppose that accident was my Initiation, a cosmic experience, to
embrace a new path because my faith and experiences in the Unseen,
unexplainable realms grew stronger and stronger from that day on. I
had been launched onto the unknown path of Spirit, forever
connected through Tara, and to Tara, by the Great Mystery.
 There are so many incredible stories about the connection between
animals and humans. For some people, their connection with animals is
more profound than their connection to fellow humans. Animals seem
to communicate with a sixth sense, and there is more and more
evidence that most animals have their own language. They radiate a
connection to the Earth’s wisdom, and even the higher realms of
Spirit. Because our communication with them is not dependent on
words, we are given the opportunity to work with the Unseen energies
which give us a deeper connection to all life. If we listen closely, we
can hear what they are saying.
                             57


 I read the other day about these new experiments being done that
are attempting to prove the Unseen realms and our connection to
them. A mans’ DNA was extracted from his body, and taken many
miles away from him. Then they subjected the man to various
influences that would trigger emotional responses, and attempt to
measure similar responses in his DNA. I don’t recall exactly how they
were able to measure his DNA response, but incredibly, for every
emotion the man experienced, his DNA miles away recorded the same
response. Wow…that blew my mind. I started thinking about my kids,
the DNA we might share, and wondered about the mystery of our
connections along this invisible thread.
  We are all connected, no matter our age, gender, race or religion, in
the circle of life. Each of us is a connection to one another that can
make a difference. It is not necessary to aspire to greatness. If as the
late Joseph Campbell suggests, we simply follow our bliss, we will
naturally fulfill our destiny. Sometimes our connections are severed
through loss. If we can find the gift in the loss, if we can continue to
follow our bliss and sustain our passion for life, our gratitude will
keep us connected. The world cannot afford for a single one of us to
feel separate and alone, for we all have a gift to give, no matter how
big or small.
 Our connections go round and round in a spiral dance like the shells
in my mandala. Our lives cross paths with one another along the
intricate spiral path of the hologram that knows no time. We are all
mirrors in our own gardens, giving one another the reflection of who
we really are. Our connections with one another provide us with love,
companionship, lessons and growth. Our connections to the animals
                             58


give us wisdom, wonder, and joy. And we are both, humans and
animals, dependent on our connection to the Earth for survival. The
quality of this connection is crucial. Our modern world poses a
serious threat to sustaining this connection. We cannot afford abuse
to our planet on a grand scale anymore than we can afford abuse on
the personal level of our lives. Abuse is denial, and denial errodes
connection. We cannot be a connection that makes a difference if we
are not grounded in our connection to daily life. The times we live in
require that we all show up in every and any way we can. We are all in
this together now. The days to come, no matter how blessed or
turbulent, will remind us of our deep connection to Spirit, and afford
us an opportunity to embrace living by its laws. Spirit’s laws uphold
oneness, connection, cooperation, harmony, acceptance, patience,
presence, compassion, abundance, equality and honesty. Man’s laws
too often dictate separation, disconnection, domination, judgement,
greed, lack, discrimination and injustice. If we are in truth spiritual
beings having a human experience, then we will fair far better living by
the laws of Spirit. Man has been enforcing his laws for a long time on
this planet. I am not so sure it is working so well, kind of like having a
bad president in office for too long. It is time for a change. It is time
for Spirit, for the Sacred, that dwells within everyone of us, to have a
voice.
  The Spirit of the Earth and all her wisdom, the Spirit of the
Heavens and all the Unseen mysterie are speaking. Their voices carry
the sweet aromatic fragrance of our Sacred and Wild souls on the
wind. We can trust the depth of our senses and feelings to guide us to
the calm, still waters to witness the truth of our reflection and
connection to all that is. Here lies the beauty of our harmonic
                             59


resonance. Then, like the little barnacles on my rough shell, we just
might have a secure home here on planet Earth.
                                  60
                        Chapter Seven
                            Color


 My bowl of shells has been sitting in the sun. All the water has
evaporated. I cover them with water, and bring them back to life.
Suddenly, it is a symphony of singing shells. Every one of my shells
has a voice now. Together, they are a beautiful chorus singing a song
of color.
 Their singing voices take me around the mandala. I hear each song
radiating out with the uniqueness of their subtle shades. Though all
my shells are from the same family, I am amazed at the diversity of
colors they each display. Only a few hint at similarity. The palette
includes shades of burnt and raw umber, burnt and raw sienna, light
and deep magenta, hints of orange, green and purple, gray and black
along with many shades of white. I am a painter so I tend to see colors
as shades of paint. The colors my shells exude can also be described
as chocolate, redwood, bark, curry, peach, moss, eggplant, wine, soft
rose, steel, dove, wheat, snow and ivory.
 Color is crucial to our existence. Color brings life to everything. It
makes all our senses pop and tingle. It feeds our imagination and
expression with freedom. A beautiful and extraordinary combination
of colors burn into the soul. You can really feels colors, especially
when you wear them. I have a real love affair with color. Color lights
my fire, it really turns me on.
  One of my first memories in this lifetime was a brillant colored
butterfly mobile that hung over my crib. That was the beginning of my
color infusion and addiction. Later on, around first grade, I would
pick out the dress or clothes I wanted to wear every day by the color.
I still do. There are days when I feel soft and cozy, and reach for
                              61


pink…days when I feel stressed and reach for blue to calm me
down…days when when I feel weak and need a shade of orange to
give me guts…days when I feel sad and need green for healing. I have
a lot of clothes, meaning more than I need, because I am a sucker for
color. There are just so many desireable colors needed for all my
moods! And so many beautiful combinations of colors to create.
Wearing color makes me feel good. I want to surround myself with
colors, create whole worlds with color.
  I think there is a whole world of color inside us. We are rainbows
really. In India there is a Sanskrit word, “chakra”, meaning “wheel of
light”. Our chakras are what really drive us. We are moving circles of
light, of color, of energy, up and down the spine around our central
nervous system. There are seven basic chakras, and each one
radiates a color. There is so much to be said about chakras, but a
quick and easy description follows:
   1) the Root chakra, at the base of the spine, with all the shades of
      red, is concerned with our connection to the Earth, our daily
      groundedness, our survival needs and passion for life
   2) the Sacral chakra, our sexual organs, with all the shades of
      orange, is home to our sexuality and creativity, which together
      define a big part of our spirituality
   3) the Solar Plexus chakra, the center of our gut, with all the
      shades of yellow, is about riding the wave of our emotions,
      maintaining our own empowerment and feeling all our feelings
   4) the Heart chakra, the bridge between heaven and earth, with all
      the shades of green, and some pink, is all about the matters of
      the heart, loving and being loved, harmony and balance
                           62


5) the Throat chakra, our neck and voice, with all the shades of
  blue, especially indigo, is the expression of our truth through
  sound
6) the Third-eye chakra, the mind between our eyes, with all the
  shades of violet and purple, is all those never ending thoughts,
  and the power of creative vision and intuition
7) the Crown chakra, above our heads, defined by shades of
  white, gold and magenta, is our connection to the Divine, to
  Spirit, to the Sacred Unseen realms
    Some say there are more than these seven basic chakras in
  the body. I believe there are more chakras above the Crown
  chakra where the higher laws of Spirit reside. Our lives are a
  journey up the spine. We are blessed if we find our connection
  to the Divine while still in body. A whole other world opens up to
  us with a desire to live by Spirit’s laws over Man’s laws. Our
  chakras are the energies that connect us to both the Earth and
  the Cosmos, to matter and to spirit. This rainbow of colored
  light is our life force. Our happiness and health depends upon
  the quality of light emanating from our chakras. The colors of
  our chakras will remain luminous as long as the energies
  continue to move along our spine. Our health declines, our
  colors fade, when the energies become blocked. Color
  visualization, or saturating ourselves with a particular color, is a
  powerful tool for healing. The impact of color upon us cannot
  be underestimated. The more we connect with the colors of our
  chakras, the closer we come to understanding our own well
  being. I like to think of drinking color in, making me juicy and
  delicious, nourishing the colors of my soul so my light can shine.
                           63


 We are rivers of light, the continous flow of light and energy
moving throughout our bodies sustaining us like the precious
waters of the Earth. If the essence of our energy is light, and
color is light, then we are truly rainbows…the alchemists of sun
and rain, fire and water. Perhaps the wonder and magic we all
feel at the sight of a rainbow in the sky is the reflective gift of
our own inner rainbows, reminding us in that fleeting moment of
the beautiful colors we all carry inside.
 I am a fine art painter. I have been painting and obsessing with
color all my life. I was not a child that exhibited some
exceptional artistic promise. I found painting by accident, and
fueled by a somwhat desparate search for a new major in
college. I would also say, in retrospect, fate would have it that
painting found me. My father encouraged me to pursue a
career concerning the environment. After several years of soul
searching via other colleges and time off travelling/working, I
attended the University of Virginia with a major in Environmental
Science. But I failed, twice, to pass calculus which was a
requirement for this major. I really did try, having received
significant amounts of tutoring from a medical student. I finally
had to humbly accept that my brain did not work this way. In my
desparation and need for consolation after my final flunk, I
dropped in on a friend’s watercolor class. I picked up a brush,
started doodling, all the while chatting with her about my dilema.
My moment of destiny arrived when the art teacher peered over
my shoulder, picked up my painted doodles and exclaimed to
the class that this was what he was looking for. And so it was,
                            64


the day I picked up a brush, and never put it down. I graduated
in 1978 from the University of Virginia with a BA in Fine Art.
  I was completely compelled by color. Everywhere I went,
everywhere I looked, color was calling. I couldn’t paint fast
enough. My obsession with the juxtaposition of color was
insatiable: violet tulips in a yellow vase on a jade green
tablecloth against the backdrop of a soft gray rainy day, or the
black cows in a yellow ochre field against the deep purple
mountains beneath a periwinkle sky. Color got me out of bed
every morning. I couldn’t wait to see the way the colors came
together in their luminous dance. Despite having a newborn in
May of 1977, I had produced over seventy paintings on paper by
the end of 1978. It helped that he was a very good baby!
 I was seeing the world through new eyes, what the great
painter Robert Henri would call the “art spirit”. Everything was
one big painting. My addiction grew to wearing more and more
colors, mixing them like a painting. Soon I was filling my house
with colorful rugs and fabrics and painted furniture. Finally, all
the white walls had to go. Eventually, this passion became a
decorative and faux painting business in the late eighties that I
started with my girlfriend, Paige. And later, in the nineties, after
deciding I had spent enough time on a ladder inhaling paint
fumes, I continued sharing my passion in teaching decorative
and faux painting workshops.
  I absolutely love bringing a home to life with color. I
remodelled a house I lived in once that became an epiphany of
color in all its glory. The entrance and livingroom glowed sunset
                           65



yellow into a periwinkle kitchen that led into a coral diningroom
down a soft lime hallway to an ethereal blue bedroom. I painted
a trompe l’oeil garden path on the door to the garage, and fish
swimming under the sea in a wall niche. My sons, Joshua and
James, helped me sponge paint their rooms. Then I painted a
big ocean wave with surfers in Joshua’s room, and James had a
jungle of animals in his room. Three years later when it came time
to sell this house, all the realtors strongly suggested I repaint all
the walls in neutral colors if I really wanted to sell it. I got an
offer on the house before it was even listed by a couple who
loved all the colors, and didn’t want to change them. Luck
maybe, but I think color really does talk to us, and makes us feel
good. It takes us crazy artists who can see and hear color to
paint a house this way so that others less daring can appreciate
it. Five years later, I would get lucky again, and sell another
house I’d painted with aqua colorwashed walls in the guest
bedroom, an apricot diningroom with a deep blue purple ceiling
and a faux tortoise shell banister along the stairs. This couple
even wanted to buy a lot of my painted furniture and paintings
to go with it.
  People say I have a gift when it comes to color….and houses.
I haven’t owned my own home in a long time, and all the white
walls are wearing me down. I have been living a gypsy life, but
blessed with some adventurous and life-changing travels. I fill
the house where I live with the beauty of color from around the
world: tablecloths from Peru, blankets from Bolivia, plates and
vases from Mexico, leather pillows and fabrics from Africa. I
                            66


want to build a home with my beloved on a magical ranch we
own. I want to create a beautiful sanctuary where color shines,
and radiates its gifts of beauty and joy and healing to all who
come. I want my paintings to go out into the world, into the
hearts and homes of others, and share my gift of color.
 Imagine a world with no color. If our eyes are truly the windows
to our souls, then I think our souls would not be so rich and full
without color. We would have the expanse of our other
senses…sound, taste, touch and smell…but a big piece would
be missing. I love black and white photography as it captures
and defines a stark, almost raw, quality to the image, yet the
whole story is not being told. I remember an art teacher told me
once that my drawings looked like I hated drawing. I guess I was
in a hurry to dive into my affair with color.
  Nature is our mirror for the healing power of color. The lush
multitudes of green in spring remind us of our rich, full hearts
with so much to give. The vibrant, pulsating red violets of the
redbud blooming arouses our longing for love and passion. Our
brillant yellow sun reminds us every day how good it is to feel
alive. Nature reflects her own talent as a painter when I gaze
upon an electric high desert sunset, or upon the shimmering
shades of chartreuse and magenta in my favorite orchid. She is
a infinite sea of inspiration and creation. Our ability and desire
to create draws us closer to the Creator of all life. In that, we
can find the gift of passion to let our colors shine…like my
beautiful shells glistening in the sunlight beneath the water. We
humans are all shades of color, each with our own special voice
and song. Together, we sing the body electric.
                               67
                         Chapter Eight
                             Beauty


 All my shells are beautiful. I hear one shell calling to me. It says it is
the most beautiful. Hmmm…how will I choose just one? I will journey
around my mandala, and see which one proclaims such beauty.
 I stop at shell number one hundred and four. I have tried not to let
my passion for bright color overide the call of the more subtle
shades. I have paused at several pink shells, but it is not so much the
color of this shell as it is the light. Unlike almost two-thirds of all the
shells, this one does not have a hole in the top. The center is very
white and glossy. It is surrounded by two circles in shades of soft
gold, the inner circle being darker. The outermost circle hints at
muted shades of purple over which lay very well defined and delicate
stripes of burnt sienna, a rich red brown. Its’ shape is oval, almost
tear drop, with a smooth, refined texture.
 This shell beckons to be held up to the light. Many of the striped
limpets are very opaque and dense in the light, but not this one. It
glows like a star. The center radiates its mysterious white light to fully
illuminate the whole shell right out to the edges. It is a shell full of
light.
 So beauty has called. It says it’s our light that makes us beautiful. I
know that no matter how much effort I put into my outer beauty, it’s
my inner beauty that makes me glow. It can be difficult to focus on
our beauty within when our modern culture is so obsessed with outer
beauty. It is all too easy to believe our beauty is limited to our bodies,
our hair and makeup, our clothes, cars, homes, jobs or circle of
friends. If we fall for this, we are a beautiful shell with no light.
                                68


I am a great advocate of a beautiful lifestyle. I believe it is the
birthright of all people to experience beauty and be surrounded by it
as much as possible. I had the good fortune of growing up on a
beautiful farm with a beautiful mother surrounded by beautiful things.
As such, my father would comment on more than one occasion
regarding my expensive taste. There are some who would say I
possess a certain air of entitlement for the finer things in life. I am not
sure the correct word is entitlement as it is expectation. It seemed
only natural for me to expect the lifestyle to which I had grown
accustomed. Along the often bumpy road of life, I learned that having
and not having were just two sides of the same coin.
  If we grow up having everything, it is easy to place too much value
on material possessions. Some of the most unhappy people I know
have everything. We might foolishly believe that everyone else in the
world has such an abundant lifestyle. We would find it very hard to do
without were fate to change its course.
  If we grow up with very little or nothing, we tend to appreciate more
what we do have, and the things which we strive to obtain. We don’t
take things for granted. But we can also become obsessed with our
striving, and once obtained, our possessions can lose their meaning .
  Beauty can be our balance. If our true beauty lies within, then we
have an opportunity as well as a responsibility to infuse the world
around us with our light. It does not matter whether we are the haves
or the have nots in the material world. We all have the light. It is our
light that gives beauty and meaning to everything.
 It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am always
amazed at something I find beautiful that someone else does not. We
do not all agree on the beauty of a house, a dress or a painting. Yet
                            69


few of us would argue the beauty of the Grand Canyon, the snow
covered Alps or an Appalachian spring. Perhaps it is because Nature
does not question the beauty of its light. Nature lets its colors shine
with such magnificence and certainty. We humans tend to doubt our
light within, and in doing so, we fail to understand the true essence of
our beauty. Our beauty, our light inside, is a Divine gift every bit as
magnificent as what Nature mirrors to us. The more full of light we are,
the more beautiful we are, the more beauty we see in the world
around us. Though we may never all agree on the beauty that appeals
to us in man’s world, we must agree on the beautiful light that shines
within everyone of us if we are to become one world. Peace among us
depends on it.
  The women of Mali in West Africa are absolutely beautiful. They are
beacons of light and electric color amidst a landscape of lack,
poverty and disease. It’s not just the amazing colors and designs of
the fabrics they wear, or even the regal manner in which they wear
them. They ooze a pride and strength of purpose that towers over
the rest of us. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. And when their eyes
met mine, I felt exposed right down to the bone. Their eyes did not
stop to assess my exterior appearance. Those big brown- eyed
windows of their souls were searching for a common light with which
to connect. These women depend on the inner connection of beauty
and light for survival in desparate and dark surroundings. I do not
know if they realized what a gift they carried. Though I often sensed
their longing for an easier life, they rarely failed a smile or betrayed a
ray of light. My admiration for them was huge.
 In Mali, it is the women who work the fields, not the men. The men
are usually found in the shade conversing over cigarettes. The
                                70


landscape is filled with the women’s brightly colored dress with babies
on their backs, and big baskets of grain on their heads. Their labor is
a dance and a song. It is survival music, a fusion of heart and
celebration to keep them going.
 Not long after my return from Mali, I was walking the streets of LA
emersed in culture shock. As I passed other women, I found myself
looking past their beautiful clothes, elegant shoes and latest hair
styles, searching for that light within. It seemed most of the lights were
turned off. I missed my Mali women, and thought what a strange
paradox to see emptiness and disconnect in the eyes of women
surrounded with such abundance, beauty and ease. And I realized
the depth of the gift I had been given, despite sleeping in the dirt
some nights, days without a shower( much less a hot one), and
questionable living conditions and food. I had a responsibility to turn
my lights on, no matter what. I would do myself nor the people I cared
about nor the world any good by keeping them off. I would honor the
women of Mali by flooding man’s world with my light. I would sing and
dance as I labored, and celebrate the fusion of man and Spirit across
the globe. I would tend to my inner spark, and pray for an eternal
flame.
  I have always aspired as a painter to create paintings of such
beauty that they take your breath away. I have a ways to go yet. But
maybe my ability to do that will depend on just how much beauty I can
find inside myself first. An art therapist friend told me once that
painting was such good therapy because light and color were derived
from the original energies of Creation. Maybe I am looking in all the
wrong places for my understanding of how to create real beauty.
Maybe I just have to go back to the beginning.
                             71


 I think we all need as much beauty around us as we can possibly
stand. Would there be a thing as too much beauty? Beauty inspires us
to feel beautiful, and to create more beauty. Like color, beauty sets
our hearts on fire, and carries our souls over the great divide. Beauty
is nourishing food for the soul. There are so many things of exquisite
beauty out there to feast upon, in the smallest details of daily living
and in the grand picture of the world all around us. Yet it seems all too
often the cry of beauty goes unheard as we miss the sweet twinkle in
our child’s eyes or the pink moon rising over the blue mountains.
Perhaps because we hold beauty as a thing to gaze upon instead of
intimately knowing beauty as an ecstatic feeling inside us that
transcends the need for the things we see. True beauty does not
depend on what we see out there or in the mirror. It is a feeling that
swells inside us like a wave, and washes over us far beyond any image.
It is a life force for which we are the reflection.
 We are all beautiful people. Some of us become more physically
beautiful than others. Maybe it’s a simple fact of good genes…maybe
it’s a matter of our souls longing to know beauty in every way.
Physical beauty is a gift, but it often comes with its own challenges.
One can miss entirely the gift of outer beauty if it is not balanced by
inner beauty…and one can never know inner beauty if outer beauty is
all there is. I walked the runway at an early age, being a child model at
fashion shows for big department stores like Saks Fifth Ave and Lord
& Taylor. I probably would have gone on to have a modelling career,
but I never grew past five foot four inches. I often wonder what my life
would have been like with all that focus on my outer beauty. Maybe
fate was working to keep me small on the outside so I could grow
bigger on the inside.
                                 72


My mother is an extremely beautiful woman, movie star beautiful. As I
grew up, people would always say how I looked just like her. But I
didn’t always feel beautiful. I would often be somewhat shocked when
men, or women, would tell me how beautiful I was. When I was
seventeen, I was travelling home for Christmas from school in
Switzerland, and had a few hour layover in Paris. I was sitting in a
restaurant when a tall handsome man asked if he could join me. He
was quite the charmer, and kept going on about how beautiful I was.
He was a Count from Portugal, very wealthy, and asked me to come
live with him there where he would provide everything I needed and I
would be his mistress in return. Wow, what an offer…I actually
thought about it! Then I thought about how I might never be seen or
heard from again…so I declined. I never had such an unexpected, and
yes, a bit tempting, offer like this one again, but I did have a lot of
attention from a lot of men in my life. Now, this is not an ego thing…
while this is a nice thing, and many women would find it desirable, I
often felt uncomfortable, hassled and my space invaded without
invitation. My own beauty scared me at times because it often
attracted attention that I did not want. I would have preferred the
safety and comfort zone of respect, which didn’t always come with
this territory.
  I have known outer beauty well…in the beauty with which I was
gifted, in the beauty I strive to create around me and in the beauty of
the natural world. Now, at fifty-three, as my outer beauty begins to
wane, it is my inner beauty that calls. It is the voice I want to hear, the
flame I want to feel burning inside.It is my heart talking, my heart on
fire that seeks to illuminate my world from the inside out.
                               73


 I had a very powerful dream some time ago. I am walking in a very
dark place, like a long dark alley. I hear the cries of women ahead,
then I see them. They are weeping, wailing with long mournful faces
and desparate eyes. Some of them are maimed, missing a breast or
their hair, and some are rocking lifeless babies. There is no color, no
light. There are long black threads coming out from their hearts, all
tangled and lose around them. I can barely stand it, my heart is
breaking. I keep walking. Some light appears, and I begin to see some
color in their faces and bodies. I notice they are connecting the ends
of the long , tangled black threads back to their hearts. There is hope
in their eyes now. I feel an energy rising that radiates a sense of
purpose, a choice, a strength, a mission. I begin to hear laughter and
singing. The light is growing brighter, the colors exploding. I am
walking to the end. I begin to cry at the sight of all these beautiful
women joyfully connecting the long black threads back to their
hearts, and helping one another connect them. Their hearts are like
beautiful roses, glowing and fragrant. There is no more darkness,
sadness, desparation or loss. Their bodies and their hair are shining
with color and life. Their eyes are full of peace and understanding.
They gather in a circle, holding hands. I see the now pink glowing
threads weaving from heart to heart around the circle. They turn to
me, and beckon me to join their circle. I feel myself soften and melt in
the power of this dancing wheel, the strength of this connection, the
peace of this wholeness. There is a silent knowing that pulses among
us that says the heart is the home of our beauty…the heart is all that
matters.
  Not long after I had this dream, I made a journey to the underworld
in real time, not dream time. I was one of those women, drowning in my
                               74


sadness, desparation and loss. I had to take a long painful look at all
the ways in which my life was not working…and why. I had to sit in the
dark, and untangle all those black threads. I had to face each lost
part of myself that I had unplugged from my heart, or allowed
someone or something to pull it from me. My pile of tangled black
threads were all the ways in which I had betrayed myself, my heart, my
own inner female. Two choices became clear in the darkness. I could
choose to stay in my anger, be the victim of my own or anothers
betrayal, wait to be rescued or die….or I could choose to take full
responsibility for my own betrayal instead of blaming another, find
the much needed forgiveness and compassion for myself, and others,
that would help me heal my heart and empower me on the path to
love. I chose the latter, the way of the heart, and not without buckets
of support from the wonderful, beautiful women in my circle.
  Women are beautiful...love is beautiful…life is beautiful…and my
shell is beautiful. If we are to create a better world and survive as a
species on this beautiful planet, then we must seek to cherish and
honor all things of beauty, especially the inner beauty because it
reflects eternity.
  There is a quote I keep in my kitchen where I can read it often. I cut
it out from somewhere a long time ago, and apologize for not knowing
who wrote it: “She said she usually cried at least once each day not
because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life
was so short.”
 My most beautiful shell, was your life in the sea short? Did you have
reason to cry in those deep waters? Did you feel beauty?
I think so…
                           75
                      Chapter Nine
                         Rich


  My shells need water again up here in the high dry desert. I watch
their colors spring to life in the moisture. Just beyond my most
beautiful shell is the most intensely colored shell of all, number one
hundred six in the mandala. The center of it glows deep shades of
rose and reds like fire. Stripes of deep browns, almost purples,
surround the center radiating out to the uneven edges. This shell is
defined by its deep rich color.
 Rich…something we all long to be. Like beauty, there is being rich in
the outer world, and being rich in our inner world. We all understand
what it means to be rich in our culture. We have lots of money in the
bank so we can afford a big beautiful house, send our kids to the
best schools, buy expensive cars and take exotic trips. But this
definition of rich belongs solely to man’s world. I am not sure we can
define ourselves as truly rich on the outside if we have not cultivated
a spiritual richness on the inside. Our sense of being rich on the
inside transcends all our external riches. In the end, we can only take
the richness of our Spirit with us.
 There are some who believe the path of spirituality requires the
denunciation of the material world. It certainly can make it easier to
cultivate our inner life without all the distractions that consume us in
the material world. Our homes can become a prison instead of our
sanctuary, and our lives an endless state of slavery to fulfilling our
obligations and tending to all our stuff. Too much of that drains us,
and we lose our way. We might find ourselves living a lie.
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I believe we are here to embrace the material world in all its glory and
in all its madness. If our true nature is spiritual, and we are here to
embody the human experience, then it is our job to infuse all of that
experience with our spiritual attributes. A wonderful teacher of mine
once told me that the path of true spirituality is the zen of simple
groundedness. We do not need to shun the material world and the
demands of our daily lives to find the simplicity in being grounded. We
need only to prevent our souls from being swept away in the flood of
materialism. If we soak our daily lives with the water of Spirit, like
gentle rain, we will not dry out and become victims of flooding. We will
create instead a beautiful stream with a nourishing flow in which we
can grow and ground ourselves.
 Being grounded is being connected to the Earth, to Nature and all
the creations of the physical, material world. We are here to fully
participate in, fully embody and fully enjoy all of it…as spiritual
beings. Our job as spiritual beings is to make time for those things
that nourish us, empower us and bring us joy. Our job as human
beings is not to live our lives devoid and disconnected from Spirit. If
we ground ourselves in the simple things…working in the garden,
walking in the mountains, napping in the sun… we will have a sweet
place to come back to when material madness threatens to consume
us. We can learn to master being still in the eye of the storm while the
chaos rages all around us. We can rest our mind here, find some
peace.
 It seems money and worry go together.I don’t think I know anyone
who doesn’t worry about money in some way or another. And it
doesn’t seem to matter whether you are rich or poor. It just comes
with the territory. Maybe because money has too much power.
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Maybe if we didn’t give it so much power, we could all stop worrying
about it. We have built a world in which having money matters. It comes
with a whole lot of pressure. Most of our dreams in life require big
funding. We can sacrifice our dreams because of lack, or become a
slave to our dreams because of abundance. It’s hard to find the
money balance.
 My maternal grand-mother lived a financially privileged life. I could
never understand why she worried so much about money. I inherited
some money from her, and all the worries that came with it. She was
very good at holding on to her money. Unfortunately, I did not inherit
that talent. I happen to have an exceptional talent for spending
money. To be really honest, I have way more interest in spending
money than I do in making it. Making money has always been a
challenge for me. But then I chose to be an artist. And struggle seems
to go with artist like worry goes with money. They say if you do what
you love, the money will follow. Hmmm…I love to paint, but the money
must be getting bad directions and keeps getting lost.
 My Dad had a powerful work ethic. I am not sure I inherited this
either, but I was very influenced by it. I am a very hard worker when I
need to be. Oddly, I always seem to be working, and the money is still
wandering out there lost. The most money I have ever made was in
remodelling a house which I sold for a nice profit three years later. It
was a labor of love, full of my artistic visions, and one of the few times
the money did follow. I must love painting because in thirty years I
have done about six hundred paintings, mostly on paper. I keep
wondering where that lost money is, and worry I will end up being one
of those painters that has to die before my work gets discovered. But
I keep on painting.
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 Most people in our culture don’t consider a career in art to be a real
job. But I have had some real jobs in my life: an ad layout designer for
a newspaper, a swimming instructor and lifeguard, a bread baker and
label designer, a yearling( one year old horse) trainer, a realtor, a
USPTA tennis instructor, owner of a decorative and faux painting
business and three art galleries. My favorite job though was being a
Mom. There’s no paycheck for raising kids, but the reward is far
greater than money. Maybe I got used to working for free all those
years. My two sons are kind, compassionate young men. No amount
of money can buy that. For many women, raising healthy, happy kids
that become healthy, happy adults is our greatest achievement. It is a
hard act to follow. Too bad we can’t add successful parenting to our
work resumes as something of value. Twenty years of parenting
requires more hard work around the clock, more patience, wisdom
and knowledge than most jobs.
 I grew up on a big black Angus cattle farm in Virginia. My Dad was a
lawyer with a home office. Most of his time out of the office was spent
working on the farm. He made all of us kids work on the farm, too. He
would pay us to work, and always inspected the jobs he gave us to
do, which we often had to redo after his inspection. He especially
liked to recruit all our friends to work when they came to visit. He had
an endless mission of rock clearing from the fields so he always had
an eye out for extra manpower to fill more than one wagon load. I had
to warn my friends about my recruiting Dad, especially in summer
during hay season. Back then, before the round hay balers, we had
to collect all the hay bales from the fields in a big wagon, and send
them up to the barn loft for storage. We used to draw straws as to
who would luck out stacking bales in the barn loft where it was over
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100 degrees. It was hard enough hauling eighty pound hay bales in
80 degrees. I always felt bad if one of my friends
lucked out, when they thought they were coming for a nice cool visit
by the pool. A lot of my friends didn’t come to visit as often, or waited
to come visit in the safety of the evenings when my recruiting Dad
was off duty. I am grateful to my Dad for passing on his strong work
ethic. I complained about it back then , but came to see it as a gift as I
grew older. I can chop and haul wood, repair fences, climb ladders,
run a chainsaw and weed whacker, create gardens, plant trees and
drive a tractor. I learned so much about the land, how things grow and
the names of all kinds of trees and birds. I am not afraid of hard
physical work, especially if it has a sweet reward like new flower beds
or a newly painted room. A passion for creating beauty is a labor of
love. Our labor infuses all our creations with an essence of our Spirit
along with our sweat. When I work with love in my heart for what I am
creating, I am happy to be working. Without the love, my work can feel
empty. Our labors of love, whether followed by money or not, are
what fulfills dreams and legacies.
  I don’t know if my Dad particularly loved being an attorney, but I
know he loved the part wherein it allowed him to help protect the rural
environment. Along with being a strong advocate and advisor to the
local environmental council, my Dad helped many big surrounding
farm owners to place protective easements on their land. His
conscious management of our farm was an inspiring example to
others: he fenced off all the streams from the cattle to protect the
quality of the water and prevent erosion; he created sanctuaries for
wildlife habitat; he minimized the use of toxic chemicals that eventually
would find their way into the coastal waters. His efforts resulted in
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numerous awards for our farm from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
as well as from the state.
 Though my Dad is gone now, our farm continues to glow with the
living breath of his Spirit, and his deep love for the land. Through him
I came to understand the essence of hard work fueled by love, vision
and passion. Though I have not necessarily been able to translate my
own labors of love into monetary riches, I carry inside the mystery of
my love for life, and my desire to express this love through my efforts.
In this, I am very rich.
 My parents had a wonderful woman, Marguerite, who worked for
them when we were small. She stayed with my family for many years.
She made us breakfast every morning, and stayed with us kids when
my parents were away. She was a devout Baptist, and would read to
me from the Bible when I was sick, prompting my first questions about
God and the Unseen world. Her humility in service was so aptly
defined in the way she called me ”Miss Anne” or my brother “Master
Tony” even though we were just kids. She cared for us like we were
her own. One day I went with her to her house, a simple old
farmhouse down the road. While sitting in her livingroom, she turned
to me and said, ” I don’t have much in the world, but I have a
wonderful husband and daughter I love, a wonderful family I work for
that I love and I love God. I am the richest woman in the world.” She
would often remind me that the secret to my being rich inside was my
gratitude for all things. She never faltered in her faith, even in hard
times. She was a true ”Mistress of Gratitude”…and rich beyond
measure.
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 The more wealth we have, whether it be in worldly riches or spiritual
riches, the more responsibility we have to share. There are lots and
lots of very poor people on this planet. Their numbers stretch far
beyond the number of wealthy people. Some of the wealthy people
share, some of them don’t. Some of the poor people even share,
some of them don’t, and can’t. The world needs people with money to
show up and care. We are blessed to have the likes of Oprah Winfrey
who does so much for women and orphaned children; for Paul
Newman who does so much for sick and terminally ill children and their
families; for Robert Redford, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Al Gore who
do so much for our environment; for Ammachi who shares her
spiritual wisdom and love as the embodiment of the Divine Feminine,
and does so much for her people in India and around the world.
 Money is a gift from the infinite abundance in the Universe. I do not
know if it is right that some people have so much money, and so many
people have so little. Maybe we are all supposed to have the same
amount. What would that world look like? Maybe we all have different
amounts because of karma or lessons we need to learn, because of
opportunities given, taken or missed. I only know that man’s laws that
involve money together with greed, domination and lack do not work.
When we are given an abundance of money, we are given as spiritual
beings the honor to create more abundance for others in need.
  Our planet, Mother Earth, will not sleep well at night knowing so
many of her children are in need. We must all choose, whether we are
rich or not in the world, to believe in the boundless abundance of the
Creator and this Universe, and let go of lack. There is plenty to go
around! If we cherish this belief, we can become co-creators with
Spirit, and all work together to create a new vision where we are all
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rich inside, and able to mainfest an equality of richness on the
outside. It doesn’t have to all look the same. Some who have money
will always aspire to more, some might even aspire to less and some will
always be grateful for whatever they have. It is about the right for
ALL people on this planet to have an opportunity for shelter, for
clothing, for food, for health, for work, for joy. There isn’t much joy
in starving to death.
 I do not think Mother Earth is waiting for us all to win the lottery. I
think she is waiting for us all to strike gold on the inside with the
depth of our gratitude for wherever we are and for whatever we have,
and work together in whatever way we can to heal the imbalance that
man has created in his misuse of money. We all want money, we all
need money. But we need to see it as a beautiful energy that weaves
its way around the world giving life to everyone instead of just to
some. There is so much suffering in the lives of the poor, yet many
have found an inner wealth. You can see it in their eyes. I do not think
they all aspire to great outer wealth. I think most are grateful to have
their basic needs met. They deserve that…we all do…a chance to
create a better life. There is also suffering in the lives of the rich, just
a different kind of suffering. Being rich will never buy you happiness.
It’s best to become rich inside first so one is able to fully embody with
gratitude becoming rich in the world. Rich…poor…just two sides of
the same coin. The poor can teach the rich, the rich can teach the
poor. We are all here to learn.
 Truthfully, money gets me all wound up. I have had a lot of money
issues, and I have had to work hard to make my peace. I am not so
sure all of us are here to generate and manifest money despite our
need for it. Some of us are called to a more inner life. I personally
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have found myself on a spiritual path in this lifetime, and it has not
been without some level of resistance at times. I have had to accept
that my life doesn’t quite work like those who remain faithful to man’s
laws. I choose for my life to be Spirit guided. If I am blessed in this
lifetime to be richly rewarded monetarily for the fruits of my labors, I
hope I will choose to do the right thing. I hope I will richly receive the
blessing, and not cave in to unworthiness or selfishness. I hope I will
use it to create more beauty around me. I hope I will sit calmly with my
fortune, and allow it it to give me greater vision. I hope I will satisfy my
own dreams and longings, and then strive to help realize the dreams
of others. I hope I will share the Earth’s abundance in the same way I
share my spiritual abundance. For we are truly rich when we can help
create a little more heaven on earth.
 Today is Easter Sunday. I am looking at my beautiful colored shell
that glows with a richness beyond my other shells. I am thinking of the
man who also glowed and shined among the crowd…whose ascension
two thousand and eight years ago serves to remind us of the rich
Divine souls that burn inside us all.
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                        Chapter Ten
                           Ethnic

 Four shells call to me today. Shell number seventy-four is a perfect
Chinese hat shape. It is mostly off-white with radiating stripes of light
brown and dark gray from a shiny white pointed center. Shell number
eighty is my darkest shell. The center is like amber surrounded by a
deep brown extending out to the edges, and overlayed with very fine
distinct ivory stripes. Shell number ninety-two is one of only two
jagged limpets in the mandala. It is a soft umber brown with thick
raised ivory colored stripes that extend unevenly to create a jagged
edge. It is full of texture, yet worn almost flat. Shell number one
hundred fifteen is an almost perfect oval shape, smooth to the touch,
with a pale gold center accented by a splash of deep brown. The
remainder of the shell is ivory with most unusual dark gray stripes.
Whereas most of the stripes on all these limpets are very defined and
delicate, these maintain a loose, uneven hand-painted quality.
  I pull these four shells out of the mandala to study them. They all
share the same shades of color: white, ivory, dark gray, shades of
brown with bits of black and pale gold. Each of these shells have a
unique pattern and design, along with the colors, compared to all the
other shells. Though they are members of the same family, these
shells stand out adding much interest and diversity. Like the human
family, we are not all the same though we are all connected. It is the
wonder of diversity among us that makes the human race so
marvelous. These are my ethnic shells.
  We all make the world go round. What a boring ride it would be if we
were all the same. It is the miracle of so many rich, diverse cultures
that sparks our passion and excitement for expansion. When we are
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able to embrace cultures beyond our own, we move beyond our own
smallness to a more grand picture. We move closer to understanding
the mystery and beauty of Creation. To find the light of human and
Divine connection deep in an African village, or high in the Andes
mountains of Peru, is to find the very heart of the Creator’s vision.
Our differences are not meant to divide us. We cannot expect to
blend our cultural ways nor seek to convert others to our own. We
can find the buried treasure in our differences if we seek only the
common gold thread of Divine connection among us. Our differences
are united through the spiritual laws of respect and humility, and
divided by man’s laws of judgement and domination.
 Ethnic diversity is the spice of life. I have had the good fortune to
travel a great deal. It’s my number one addiction. I attended a high
school in Lugano, Switzerland after escaping an all girls boarding
school in Virginia. I only went to the meeting about this American
school in Switzerland to avoid taking a surprise history test for which
I was unprepared. I was delighted to find something that really perked
my interest, and spent the next six months convincing my parents to
send me there. It was a glorious change from boarding school…and
there were boys! The school catered to American kids whose families
were living and working abroad. I made friends from all over the world:
Spain, England, France, Austria, Yugoslavia, Ireland, Germany, Italy,
Asia, Africa, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. We travelled a lot together
as well as on school trips. I was in heaven!
 I had some really wild adventures. One in particular was to Morocco
with one of my roommates, Jill, over spring break, after lying to my
parents that I was going elsewhere with a friend. I got in a whole lot of
trouble for that, but the adventure was worth it. We were both long
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blonde hair hippie chicks. We landed in Casa Blanca at one in the
morning with no arranged accomodations. We had a taxi drop us off
at a small hotel he assured us would have rooms, but they didn’t. So
there we were wandering the streets of Casa Blanca at two am looking
for a place to stay. When we picked up some very shadey characters
on our tail, we decided it was time to take whatever we could find. It
was a real dive, rats and all.
 The next morning we took a bus(I guess you could call it a bus)
south to the coast…and what a ride it was. The roof of the bus was
piled high with bags, sacks of grain and a lot of chickens and goats.
The eyes of all the Muslim women pierced us from behind their black
concealing robes while the hands of the men seated behind us kept
stroking our long blonde hair. The bus was packed to capacity as we
settled in for a long five hour ride. Our attempts to nap ceased
abruptly with a large woman boarding the bus with a baby in each arm.
After pacing the bus from front to back, and not a single man offering
her his seat, she heaved a baby at me, the other baby to Jill, then
squished us both as she made room for herself on our seat. The
babies were so dirty with very unpleasant smells and noses running
like a stream. Periodically, she would grab one of them from us, but
they always came back. The temperature on the bus was climbing, few
of the windows were open, the air was thick and we were sweating. It
was an endurance test.
  At every stop, we prayed for the woman and her babies to be at
their destination. Instead, she would stand, glare at us, then
disappear for ten minutes leaving us with her babies. Some of the
passengers would deboard and proceed to urinate or deficate in the
streets. On several occasions, people who were sick or maimed would
                             87


board and pace the bus with an outstretched hand, begging for some
help. They rarely got any assistance, and sometimes passengers
would start yelling at them to leave. I couldn’t bare to look at one
elderly man who had a terrible big gash across his chest that was
oozing all kinds of dreadful stuff. Meanwhile, there is chaos with bags
and goats flying everywhere while some passengers deboard at their
destination, and new passengers climb on. Jill and I just sat there with
our Muslim babies in shock.
  Finally, the woman deboarded with her babies. After she was gone,
I thought how odd it was that we never exchanged a single word. I
spoke some French, and tried once to speak to her, but she looked
the other way. Communication was only with our eyes.
  Soon after, Jill and I arrived at our small coastal village that would
be our refuge for five days. We managed to find a sweet clean place
to stay run by a French woman. Once out and about, we were
surprised to find quite a few Americans and Europeans here. Our
first priority was to purchase some nice long robes so we could blend.
We soon found out the experience of buying goods was a real ritual,
and didn’t happen quickly. Once we had picked out the items we
wanted, the shop owner took them and placed them in a pile on a rug
surrounded by big pillows, and motioned us to sit. He then served us
a strong tea with mint and sweetened with a lot of sugar. Sometimes
the tea was accompanied by a pipe of strong tobacco or hashish. As
we drank our tea, he would fumble through our items and mumble
numbers until he came up with a price, whereupon we would challenge
his offer. This negotiation went on for some time until we at last
agreed on a price confirmed by the shop owners big smile. I was
thrilled with my purchases. I had a beautiful, glowing soft pink hooded
                             88


robe in a light weight cotton with apricot colored embroidery. I also
bought a deep red leather bag embroidered with all kinds of
gemstones. Now we were ready to mingle and blend in local style.
 We headed to Marrakech five days later on the dreaded bus. While
waiting in line for our bus tickets, I stood behind a little man with long
scarey fingernails that were dug into the arm of a little boy. The boy
looked up and back at me with tearful, frightened eyes. I knew I
shouldn’t make it any of my business, but I did. I tapped the man on
the shoulder, and told him in French that he was hurting the boy’s
arm. His eyes filled with hatred, he cursed at me and looked away. I
tapped him on the shoulder again, and before I could get any words
out, he had his hands around my throat and pushed me against the
wall with his long nails digging into the skin of my neck. Out of the
corner of my eye, I saw the little boy run and disappear. Jill was sitting
on a nearby bench, and finally heard me yell. Suddenly, two Marines
appeared on either side of this angry little man, and escorted him
away. My neck was badly scratched and bleeding, Jill was yelling at
me and I was glad the little boy had escaped. The Marines returned
and promptly lectured me on the safety of minding my own business
in a foreign country. One of them did suggest, however, in light of
how quickly the boy disappeared, that I might have spared him from
being kidnapped, and sold on the Black Market. Morocco, they
explained, was well known for this, and children were no exception.
Neither were blonde American teenage girls, they reminded us. The
Marines rode the bus with us to Marrakech, and we soaked up lots of
good Marine savvy and stories along the way.
  We stayed at a nice hotel in Marrakech where my roommate from
the Virginia boarding school and her family were visiting for spring
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vacation. I strolled out poolside in my pink hooded robe to find her.
Her parents gazed at me in disbelief after finding out I was travelling
with just my friend( we were seventeen) in what they continually
referred to as a dangerous country. The visit was tense, and didn’t go
over too well. Her parents had a whole new picture of me now, and I
don’t think it was one of approval.
   Later that evening, Jill and I hit the hotel disco where she
captivated a tall, dark handsome man. After it was obvious they were
going to dance all night, I retired to bed. We had a rental car reserved
in the morning for our drive north to the city of Rabat. We had had
our fill of the dreaded bus, and wanted the freedom to see sights
along the way. I wanted to get an early start, but had to wait for Jill
who was moving slowly. I waited for her in the car while trying to
familiarize myself with something that didn’t even remotely resemble
an American car. It had a clutch, but I couldn’t figure which gears were
what. Jill climbs in, and announces she has agreed to give this man
from last night a ride with us to Rabat. I am not comfortable with this
idea after the incident in the bus station. She finally agrees, and we
screech out of the parking lot just as he walks out. We look back and
see him yelling and screaming. He does not look pleased. We leave him
in the rear view mirror.
  I am still trying to figure out the gears. The stick shift is a long rod in
the dashboard with no numbers so half the time I am not sure what
gear I am in. I have to guess by the sound of the engine. Forget about
even trying to find reverse. Worse still, when we stop for gas, we
cannot find the gas tank. We wait for the gas attendant to
know, but he just keeps shaking his head. I speak to him in French,
but he doesn’t seem to understand. He watches us search the car
                               90


from top to bottom with no luck. Finally, a gentleman stops for gas
who happens to know where it is. He opens the back of the car, and
flips a little switch that pops open the lid to the gas tank to the right
of the back bumper. Next came the headlights, which I could not find
while we were driving so I had to pull over. It was a good hour fumbling
around in the dark until we found a small round knob tucked under
the dashboard. Wow….what a car!
  We unloaded our puzzle car in Rabat, and stayed our last two days
at a great hotel with an awesome pool. While we were checking out in a
very crowded lobby, I heard someone yelling. I looked up to see the
man we had ditched in Marrakech way across the lobby, and pushing
through the crowd towards us. He didn’t look happy. We threw our
money down, and headed for the door. A laundry truck was parked
out front with a man closing the back door. We asked him if he could
give us a ride to the airport, he smiled, opened the back door, we
jumped in and made the perfect getaway. We laughed all the way to
the airport, where our good humor was dampened with a cancelled
flight until the next morning. We were too low on cash to do more taxis
or a hotel. We made our beds in the most uncomfortable plastic, hard
chairs in the airport, but rested the night satisfied with the survival of
our wild travels.
  I now had an insatiable craving to travel and experience other
cultures. I was not the same when I returned. My mind, my vision, my
curiosity, my passion, my sense of self had all expanded ten fold. I
felt bigger, more full, more alive.I wanted to see the world, to taste
and experience all the different flavors of cultures, their traditions
and environments. Despite some of the unpleasant and potentially
dangerous encounters on this trip, I was hooked.
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  We learn so much about ourselves when we dare to journey into the
unfamiliar territory of foreign lands. We are forced to dig deeper to
accommodate language barriers, customs, traditions, food, potential
dangers and diseases, even climate. We are compelled to grow and
expand. I know people who prefer to play it safe when they travel.
They either travel with a tour, or move from one five star hotel to the
next. Nothing wrong with this, it’s nice to have such travel options,
especially for the elderly who are embracing their latter years with
long awaited opportunities for travel…and I admire them. But so
much is missed when we don’t have the opportunity to interact with
the local folk. The ignition of the magical ethnic fire never sparks.
Overcoming and transcending our comfort zone, and taking some
adventurous risk, can be life changing. My ethnic friends have been
such a tremendous gift in my life. They are a constant reminder for me
not to lose my way in the deception of the western material world and
the ego.
  There are many ethnic cultures today who are threatened with
extinction, and pressured to conform to the fast pace of the modern
industrialized world. The closeness with which these tribes live with
the land and Nature, and thus Spirit, is full of wisdom that stands to
be lost, wisdom we might someday wish we had helped preserve.
   My sister, Lizzy, and I both have big world maps in our homes with
colored pins of all the places we have been. She worked for the
airlines for twenty-five years, and truthfully, I don’t know anyone else
who has travelled as extensively. Her map is a sea of color. She is
always travelling. I can’t keep up with her, but I travel whenever I can. I
like to look at my map, think about where I’d like to go next, and be
reminded of where I have been.
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   I had the great fortune of travelling to Lebanon in the summer of
1972 to visit my boyfriend, and experience Beirut in all its splendor
before it fell to ruin not long after. Even when I arrived, the airport
was heavily guarded with soldiers and guns. It was truly a great
cosmopolitan city. I loved walking the streets, watching all the well-
dressed beautiful people go by, and stopping at a street corner to
eat a “shwarma”, thinly sliced lamb with a delicious cucumber mint
sauce wrapped in warm pita bread…yum! I especially loved the early
evenings when a big orange sun would hang over the Mediterrean Sea
while haunting prayers would echo out over the city from the temples.
 My travels over the next twenty-five years would take me back to
Europe several times, and to many tropical locations. Travelling
during this time had a whole new dimension now that I had become a
painter. My travels became the fuel that drove my inspiration. I was
never without a camera or sketch pad. Many many paintings came
from the islands of Hawaii, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the West Indies
and Margarita, Venezuela…and a glorious trip saturated with wine
and pasta through Tuscany and Umbria. In 1996 I relocated to Santa
Fe, New Mexico…another painters paradise that would become
home. From here I began winter travels south to Mexico, where I have
a deep love for the people, their warmth and family orientation, their
colorful culture, their language and without question, their food.
  In the last seven years I have had some extraordinary trips: a long
sojourn into the mysteries of Peru and Bolivia with six others including
my son, Joshua, and guided by a Shaman; a business venture to Hong
Kong and deep into the back country villages to visit furniture
factories; an ancestral journey with my sister and my two sons back to
                            93


our roots in Ireland for a family reunion; a healing retreat of my mind,
body and soul in the beautiful lush Tao Gardens of Thailand; and an
adventure in African dance and drumming accompanied by a musical
tour deep into the Sahara desert, and a mystical venture into the
Dogon territitory of Mali, West Africa.
 Like my Moroccan journey, there is so much I could say about each
of these experiences in the way my life was changed and my soul
expanded. What I take with me most from all these jouneys is my
connections with the people. And it was the people of Mali that
captured my heart. And so we return to Africa…
  My girlfriend, Melanie, and I had decided one day, while hiking in
the mountains of New Mexico, to do something drastic to celebrate
our fiftieth birthdays that fell about a month apart in the fall of 2004.
It took us until almost December before we targeted Mali, where she
had always wanted to visit the Dogon, and I had a passion for African
drumming and dance. We also discovered the fifth annual Festival in
the Desert would take place in January 2005 in the Sahara. I agreed
to accompany her if I could find some study in African drumming and
dance part of the time. Incredibly, two days later I found a teacher
who would be in Bamako during the time we had planned to go. His
group would also be making a trip to the Dogon. So Melanie agreed
to immerse herself in the drumming and dance, we would leave the
group and attend the festival, and then return for the trip to the
Dogon. It was perfect.
  We rendezvoused in Paris, and flew to Bamako. Unfortunately,
there was a miscommunication regarding our arrival date so we found
no one to meet us at the airport. The airport was an experience in
itself. Fortunately, I could use my rusty French to get us a taxi and a
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hotel for the night until we figured out how to find our connection. We
had a lot of help from our taxi driver, Buktu, who spoke a bit of
English, and agreed to come by our hotel the next morning to help us.
This was a good thing because when we checked the phone book to
find our drum teacher, whose last name was Doumbia, there were
several thousand Doumbias. Buktu had the brillant idea to take us to
an arts and crafts center in the city where people made drums. There
we miraculously found a cousin of our drum teacher, Abdoul, who
escorted us to his house where we would be staying.
  The conditions at the house were downright scarey. Not everyone
had arrived yet, so we took advantage of that situation, huffed and
puffed our way into a room with one of the few beds. Melanie and
Abdoul went head to head over the miscommunication, and the
questionable living conditions. A good man named Sekou mediated
the confrontation, and peace was made. We would agree to step
beyond our western world comfort zones, and accept what was, in
exchange for the bathrooms being maintained at an acceptable level
of cleanliness for us ladies. This was worth fighting for!
  There were about ten of us in all, mostly from the states, and
Katarina was from Prague. Every morning we walked a mile along the
dirt streets to the mango groves where we all drummed and then us
women danced. We returned to the house for lunch, a brief rest, and
then back to the mango groves. We always had a great audience of
beautiful African women and children who loved jumping into our
dance circle at the end of class. Sometimes I would sense the African
women laughing quietly at us white women trying so hard to pick up
the dance rhythms that were so natural for them. I think they found
us very entertaining.
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 Abdoul helped Melanie and I find a guide who would drive us all the
way to Timbuktu where we would stay the night before heading forty
miles into the Sahara for the festival. After hearing all about it,
Katarina decided the festival could not be missed so she joined us.
Our guide, Menlas, was an absolute gem, and took great care of us
during our day and a half drive to Timbuktu. He made sure we were
well fed and well informed as he shared all his knowledge about every
village and area through which we passed. Our stop in Mopti along
the Niger river proved fruitful with our purchases of bightly colored
turbans that would soon protect us from the blowing sands of the
Sahara. The evening of our first day of travel was joyously ended with
the first warm shower we’d had since arriving in Mali.
 We crossed the Niger river by ferry the following day, and later
arrived at the end of the world in Timbuktu. This sand filled city
boasts amazing architecture, and is home to the Tuareg tribes of the
Sahara. Here we rendezvoused at a hotel with the group with whom
we would travel to the festival in the morning. It didn’t take us long to
meet a young Tuareg man, Nadu, who became our friend and guide.
He took us to a fine little restaurant that evening, and agreed to
reconnect with us at the festival. Meanwhile, our guide from Bamako,
Menlas, would visit family in Timbuktu, and wait for our return three
days later.
 We packed into our assigned four wheel drive vehicles early the next
morning, and literally raced forty miles into the Sahara. It was wild.
There were broken down, crashed and smoking SUVs everywhere,
and a lot of near misses as the drivers abandonned all rules of the
road. We arrived several hours later to find ourselves in a sea of
rolling sand dunes, and surrounded by hundreds of Tuaregs on their
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camels. It seemed there were more camels than people. We made our
way across the dunes to our leather pitched tent that we would share
with two women from Norway.
  We spent the next three days trekking back and forth over the
huge dunes to the stage where all the music happened, that included
many of Africa’s most well known musicians as well as musicians from
around the world. It was an unbelievable setting. Other treks took us
to the bar for a beer, to the food tent to eat, to shopping venues and
areas where the Tuaregs often played mucic, danced and displayed
their tribal traditions. Our turbans from Mopti were a permanent
headdress in the constant blowing sand.
 We managed to connect with the few fellow Americans there, and
made lots of new European, and Tuareg, friends. Nadu was
constantly checking in on us, bringing by friends with jewelry to sell
and sharing an afternoon ritual of tea which he would make for us at
our tent. The highlight of our stay, besides our camel ride, was our
new friendship with an extraordinary American woman, Elizabeth, and
her even more extraordinary daughter, Sahara. We had met them at
the ferry crossing near Gao. They were well seasoned travellers in
Africa. Elizabeth is an amazing photographer of ethnic tribal people.
She uses a special mirror that creates an elongated distortion
infusing her photographed subjects with a highly mystical quality. She
was there to photograph the Tuareg women. We were fortunate to
witness her at work one afternoon, and later enjoyed a delicious sand
free lunch in her tent. We still stay in touch with her.
 We returned to Timbuktu with sand in our hair , ears and toes and
everything we owned, and welcomed our usual cold showers. Menlas
seemed excited to see us as though he had missed us. We made our
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way back to Bamako with new African tunes, new friends, new jewelry
and new memories humming in our souls. Two days later, we were off
again with our group to a small village outside Segou where Abdoul
had spent much of his childhood.
 We arrived late in the evening after dark, and quickly sorted our
sleeping bags for a night under the stars. Abdoul announced the next
day he had a surprise for us in the evening. We spent the day
wandering his village, playing with all the children, walking the fields,
watching the women grind millet and having beautiful bracelets made
by the local blind jeweler. We also attended a well debated village
meeting where the elders discussed an ongoing issue of whether or
not to provide education for the village children. Interestingly, none
of the local women attended the meeting. They were all working.
  When evening came, we gathered in the center of the village,
surprised to find so many neighboring villagers who had walked to the
village to perform a special dance for us. Abdoul explained how every
village had a leader, and a fool, whose job it was to enlighten the
leader by making fun of him and mirroring to him the ways in which he
was considered to be off-track with his leadership. So the
neighboring village fools had come to offer us the dance of the fool,
where we all got to dance and make fools of ourselves. Everyone
drummed and danced and laughed into the wee hours until we were all
drunk with the fool’s joyful humor and freedom. It was magical.
  From here we headed to Dogon territory. A lot has been said and
written about the people of the Dogon. Unlike most of the people in
Mali, the Dogon are not Muslim. They are a mystical people, having
been visited they say by beings from the planet Sirius, and instructed
not to convert to the Muslim faith. They were given their own
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doctrine to live by, and guided to live at the base of a huge
escarpment in southeastern Mali. The area had once been inhabited
by pygmies that had long since fled south to the Congo. The Dogon
had planted fields and fields of millet, and the villages were full of
upside down cone shaped granaries. Long ropes hung from the many
caves in the escarpment that was now a burial ground for the Dogon.
You could only travel with a guide into the villages because there were
so many sacred objects and places off limits to visitors. So sacred
were these beliefs that death had come to some who had trespassed.
  About six of us hiked into the Dogon territory with our guide
named Moussa. We stayed at a little place in one of the villages where
the roof would be our bed under the Dogon stars. Melanie and I
quickly sought out a little shop full of Dogon collectibles. We made a
pile of the items we wanted, and waited for the shop owner to return
while we had dinner. When he did not return, I explained to Moussa we
needed to find the shop owner to pay him. He agreed to take us and
find him. While we had Moussa alone, I also explained to him that
Melanie had brought some of her recently departed partner’s ashes
with her, and wanted to leave them in the Dogon. It was a big part of
her choosing to come here. I asked him if there was a sacred place
where she could do this. He smiled, and then with a rather serious
look, asked us to follow him. We wound about through the narrow dirt
streets until we came to a large tall plain sculpture surrounded by a
circle. He asked us to wait there. It was some time before he came out
from behind a door, and said he had consulted with one of the elders.
He said she was free to spread his ashes here in this circle, but
before she did, I would need to explain to her everything he was
about to tell me. Moussa only spoke French so all of this is
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transpiring in my rustic French, and it is slow going transmitting to
Melanie what I hope I am understanding. Moussa is very patient, and
continually asks me if I understand. He tells me that the information
being given to her is for her only, and she is not to share it with
anyone. She spreads Leonardo’s ashes amidst the mystical energies
of the Dogon. We sit in silence for some time. At sunrise, a black
rooster will be sacrificed for his soul’s journey.
 It is late, and we still need to find the shop owner. The village is all
dark, and we are the only people in the streets. We find the shop
owner at home. We have the items we want to buy with us. The shop
owner and his friend bring little stools and cold beers into the street
where we all sit. They even build a small fire. He places the items on
the ground, and begins to tell us the story behind each one. I am just
amazed at the things I am hearing. I also notice that there is something
very mysterious in the eyes of these people…a clarity, a sparkle, a
deep knowing. Their energy is very calm and grounded, yet there is
something very etheric about them. I translate all the stories for
Melanie. We are reeling. There is so much magic in these items we are
wanting. After all the stories, we make our offer. It takes several
offers before we agree. We leave satisfied, clutching our items as
though they are gold. Moussa guides us back to our rooftop. The
whole village is dark and asleep.
 We hike out the next morning. Once we are on top of the
escarpment, I begin asking permission from the powers that be in the
Dogon to have a small stone from the earth here to carry home. I am
walking, and looking at the ground when Moussa stops us, and
explains we are in a very sacred spot. He points to a circle nearby and
explains that someone in the village seeking an answer will spread a
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certain number of raw beans in the circle. At night a fox will come and
arrange the beans, and in the morning an elder will come and read the
answer in the arrangement of the beans made by the fox. I looked
down and saw a small round orange red stone. It sits now on a table in
my sunroom amongst other stones, but it is without question my most
powerful stone. I use it with great caution when I do energy healing
work.
 Our adventures in Mali continued right down to the very last minute
before we left with music and celebration and dancing, even amazing
readings for us by Sekou taught to him by his grand-father. I hated
to leave, but I have to say a green salade, a nice glass of wine, a good
bed and and a hot shower were calling. I had gone five days once on
this month long trip with no shower, had only one hot shower and
slept in the dirt numerous times. But I was really full from a place that
seemingly has so little. I was full with the eyes and smiles and warmth
of all my new African friends, full of their music, their dancing, their
joy amidst such suffering, lack and disease. I was full of the beautiful
African women, their pride and their strength, and had a big pile of
colorful fabrics to remind me. I hope to someday soon bring my dear
friend Sekou here to America. I hope that I can give to him here in my
land of plenty as much as he gave me there in his land of empty.
  My home is filled with ethnic artfacts from around the world. They
serve to remind me not only of all the wonderful places I have been,
but remind me of all the diverse human experiences and connections
that have touched my heart and soul so deeply.
  For the first time in American history, we are witnessing the
possibility of having an ethnic president. We are no longer a big world
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separated by our ethnic, cultural differences. We are blending and
melting into a small world where everyone matters. Our planet, our
Mother Earth, will one day reveal the true essence and power of the
Sacred Wild Feminine, and guide the human destiny, when all those
suffering and in need are cared for and fed. Like the shells in my
mandala, we are all one family…each shell, each person unique and
different with a gift to give. We are all travelling around this mandala,
around this circle of life, around the globe, bringing our own special
spice to flavor the world.
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                    Chapter Eleven
                          Old

 There were days before I turned fifty when I felt tired. Something
shifted after fifty. Now I have days when I feel old. Hmmm…maybe it is
the sheer thought of having made it this far, a half a century, maybe
it’s all cultural conditioning. Maybe I am just plum worn out from the
pace of this crazy go get em and do everything culture. Maybe my
Vedic astrologer is right about my three major planetary transits of
great challenge in a row since the age of fourteen. I have bags under
my eyes as of late from insomnia, and my hair seems to stay in a
constant state of desparation. I rather like the idea of more rest and
relaxation, of doing more nothing. Turning off my mind, getting still
inside, taking time to just watch life go by rejuvenates me. This would
drive some people I know crazy. They just keep going and going and
going…
 I hear an old shell calling. I cannot say for sure if it is my oldest shell
in the mandala, but it sure looks old. Maybe because it is the purest
white in color of all the shells. All the stripes and colors once there
have faded save for a bit of pale gray around the center. The
underside, however, is beautiful, smooth and oh so shiny with soft
shades of gray and white with hints of gold.
 Like my old shell, we, too, become old with time. Our stripes, our
body texture and definition begin to fade along with our colors. We
wash ashore like my shells, where we dry up without the nourishing life
force of the ocean waters. Someday our shell will be empty, and our
own life force will move on in search of a new ocean.
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I would like to know who wrote this script of birth, life and death. Why
can’t it be birth and life, and we can just skip the whole death part?
I’d like to see this script rewritten. I actually think it’s possible.
If this outward script is a reflection of our inward lessons, we’d best
hurry up and learn what we came here to learn so we can get on with
something new and different…and better. I guess you could say I
have some resistance to the impermanent nature of things. I embrace
change OK, but I struggle with the letting go part. The only saving
grace to the often painful and difficult transitions of aging, death and
loss is our cultivation of light, beauty and peace on the inside. The
inside of my old shell is actually very elegant. The soft grays sparkle
with silver, and the whites are irridescent like pearls. I imagine myself
like the inside of this shell when I am really old, my hair white as snow.
I am wearing a long silver evening dress with beautiful long pointed
black satin shoes, and pearls dripping from my neck and wrists. My
white hair is up in a diamond clasp with sprigs of white babies breath.
I don’t feel especially sexy, but I do feel very sensual. I am keenly
aware of my inner beauty needing to outshine my fading outer
beauty. I am trusting down deep somewhere that there is a wonderful
plan and outcome to this whole questionable aging process.
 Well, I obviously have much to learn yet from those who are aging
gracefully. I have some women friends in their sixties, and I must say,
they are an inspiration. They have thrown all their worldly struggles,
ambitions and expectations to the wind. They are women on the wind
who go where they want, say what they want, do what they want and
they don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. Yahoo!!!
 In our western society, there isn’t much room for the aging. Some
are fortunate to have family who will care for them at home, some are
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fortunate to maintain good health so they can still care for themselves
as they age. But most of the aging are filed away in nursing or
retirement homes. We make no place of honor for the aging, and so,
we are a modern culture empty of the elder’s voice and wisdom. It’s a
crying shame.
  I was fortunate to know both my paternal and maternal grand-
parents. I have read that we are more like our grand-parents than our
parents so knowing them and soaking up their wisdom is a good thing.
    My maternal grandfather died when I was a child so I didn’t get to
know him as well. We called him Grumpy, but he was actually very
sweet. I remember visits to his house always included sitting on a stool
at his bar where he made us Shirley Temples, and we ate a lot of
pretzels and talked. He loved flowers and gardening so we always
ended up in the garden. He had an old globe that he would spin while
we held a finger lightly on it, and wherever it stopped, he said that is
where we would live. I always ended up in the ocean. He was an ocean
man, a Captain in the Navy, and one of the first pioneers in
developping ship to aircraft radio.
   My maternal grandmother, Grammoo, lived to be ninety-eight. She
was remarkable. She stood straight as a pin, her pink glowing cheeks
adorned by crystalline blue eyes and wavy hair, and a smile that
boasted all her teeth. She summered in Pennsylvania, wintered in
North Carolina, and visited us in Virginia in between. She was always
giving me books on the power of positive thinking. She was actually
quite negative about most things, and worried about everything. She
was always saying, “Oh dear…” as if impending doom was imminent.
But I guess in her private moments she worked on the positive side of
life. She came from a very financially priveleged family so I could never
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understand what all the worry was about. She fussed a lot over her
material belongings, but she knew everything that went on. She didn’t
miss anything. Once we went to lunch when she was well into her
nineties, and she asked me for a bite of my pizza. “Hmmm…” she
muttered, “that’s very good. You know, I have never had pizza.”
I couldn’t believe it, and promptly brought her a plate full. She ate it
all. Grammoo, despite her worries, found delight in the simple things.
  My paternal grandmother, Mopsy, was a southern belle from
Georgia. She was always beautifully dressed with gloves and a
smashing handbag. She had a very refined way of doing everything
and anything. There were only certain, proper ways to do things, and
she made it a point to teach us. She would actaully test us the next
time we’d see her to see if we had retained anything she had taught us
from our previous visit. She had a great laugh, but it hid a lot of pain
behind her eyes. My grandfather had developped a tumor on his
spine, and the operation left him paralyzed in a wheelchair. She made
the best of it, but I could tell life after that had been hard for her. But
she was always looking for fun things to do with us. Once when we
were visiting, she sent my mother off to have some time to herself.
Meanwhile, she took us girls to the beauty salon, and had all our long
hair chopped off into cute sassy styles she thought more
appropriate. I thought my mother was going to kill her.
  I think Mopsy was terribly lonely after her husband died. She
eventually had a stroke that didn’t kill her, but left her in bad shape.
But I had the blessing of being able to go spend time with her in the
hospital before she died. I would bring her cookies, paint her nails
and read to her. On warm autumn days I would wheel her out into the
sunshine. It seemed the sun became an elixir she would drink,
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magically transporting her back to summer afternoons on the porch in
Georgia. We would have whole conversations that took place
somewhere else. I learned so much about her during that time, her
joys and her pains. My heart really went out to her.
 My paternal grandfather, Popsy, was sixty when I was born, and I
only remember him in a wheelchair. He was often in his therapeutic
hospital bed when we came to visit watching TV. He never seemed to
mind that we all piled onto the bed with him. He smoked a pipe, which
we loved to fill for him, and he was a master of blowing perfect smoke
rings that floated around the room, and often in our faces. We didn’t
mind. He had a twinkle in his eye, a wry sense of humor and a strong
Irish will. The doctors didn’t think he would live very long after his
operation to remove the tumor on his spine, but he lived to be eighty.
  He was a very accomplished and decorated man, a three star Major
General in the Army, and served alongside General (President)
Eisenhower. They became great pals, as did their sons. My father
and John Eisenhower were best men at each others weddings, and
life long best friends. As a result, I grew up knowing the Eisenhower
family intimately. John and Barbara Eisenhower had four children,
three girls and a boy, the same as my parents. We girls were all about
the same ages. The Eisenhower family would often come to our farm
in Virginia for visits, and we always had good fun. I remember once in
winter, David brought hockey sticks and pucks for us to play ice
hockey on one of our frozen ponds. He and my father had a good
battle going when they both dropped through the ice. Fortunately, it
was in the corner of the pond where it was shallow so they only
dropped just above their knees. We all had a good chuckle seeing
them knee deep in the cold muck.
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On other occasions, we would rendezvous at Eike and Mamie’s home
in Gettysburg. This was very special. Eike had a very unique
social manner in which he chose to visit with each of us kids
individually. Our arrival would be graciously greeted by Mamie, and
we would all gather in the livingroom to visit, and await our turn. The
angst of our waiting was always eased by Mamie’s yummy lemonade
and chocolate chip cookies. This was all fine save we kids were
anxious to get out and play!
  My visits with Eike were characterized by brief sits in his lap, and
answering a zillion questions. I loved sitting in his lap. He was like
Santa Claus with a twinkle in his eye, rosey cheeks and a brillant,
warm smile. He made me feel good. He wanted to know all about me:
how I was doing in school, what I liked best, what books I was reading,
what grades I was getting,, what sports I liked, how I was doing at
home, who were my friends and what were my dreams. I never really
understood why he asked me all these questions. I just answered
them. Sometimes he wasn’t satisfied with my answer, and would keep
asking until he was.
 On one visit, when I was too big to sit in his lap anymore, I walked in
to see piles of paintings all around that he was working on. I recall
being surprised that this famous man who had been a President and
had fought big wars loved to paint. He was painting scenes of his
farm, and they reminded me a bit of the work by Grandma Moses. We
talked about art and painting the whole time. Hmmm…years later
when fate would have it that I became a painter, I often thought back
to that visit, and wondered what seed had been planted.
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 I guess the most exciting thing about knowing the President for a kid
was visiting him at the White House. I was quite small when we spent
Christmas Eve there along with his grand- children while he was
President. But that didn’t stop us from sprinting up and down the
halls at high speed in our socks, and sliding on the smooth floors. We
were all finally rounded up, and returned to the playroom after being
found jumping up and down on Lincoln’s bed.
  I remember my mother talking about this visit, and what my sister,
Lizzy, had said after first meeting Eike. She kept asking when we were
going to meet the President after she had met him. My mother
explained to her that she had already met him, to which she replied,
“But that’s not George Washington!”
   Having the opportunity to know President Eisenhower was an
extraordinary gift, as was knowing all my grandparents. Perhaps it
was all of these connections with the elderly that would later in my life
help foster a deep friendship with an old black woman named Anna
Josephine Timbers, known as Josie.
  I met Josie when I was nineteen years old. She was living alone in an
old farmhouse on a farm in Virginia where she had lived and worked
most of her life. The farm had been bought by the family of one of my
boyfriend’s friends from the city. My boyfriend, John, and the son of
the new owner, Bill, were spending the summer remodelling the main
house with other friends. I was living on our farm about forty minutes
away, and spent much of my free time visiting there when I wasn’t
working. John was a photographer, and in the course of
photographing Josie, had become her friend. I soon followed.
  It wasn’t hard to love Josie. She had a deep kindness mixed with a
sweet sorrow that pulled me in like a bee to the flower. Despite going
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blind in one eye, she would cook these amazing meals for us: fried
chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, stewed tomatoes, apple
pie. We’d sit on the porch with full bellies, and rock in our chairs to
the rhythms of her stories. She called me Anna, and time spent on the
porch jawing(talking) as she called it was the highpoint of her day.
Her grand-mother was part Cherokee Indian, her mother had been a
slave. Josie had raised six children on that farm, had lost her
husband, Henry, twentysome years ago, and had already outlived
one of her children. She had one daughter who lived nearby with her
family. We spent a lot of time that summer on the porch jawing with
Josie.
 The years went by, John and I eventually returned to Virginia, got
married and had two sons. Visiting Josie became a regular, and oh
how she loved the babies. I couldn’t hold on to one of them more than
a m inute after walking in the door before she snatched them away
into her arms saying, “ Come and get some sugar.”
 Sometimes she seemed so sad, sometimes she would talk about it,
sometimes she would brood in her silence. I started doing more of the
cooking, and we did what we could to help her out. One spring we
planted her a big garden, and she really loved that. Then one day
news came that the farm had sold again, only this time Josie would
have to go. John and I wanted her to live with us, but she refused. I
think she knew her time was getting near, and she wanted to stay
close to the land she loved. She moved to her daughter’s nearby, but
when we came to visit, it wasn’t such a good move. She was living in a
rundown shack out back with no bathroom. She had an outhouse,
but getting to it was a challenge now that she was almost blind and
moving slowly. I always told her I would cook when we came to visit,
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but sometimes she’d go ahead and cook. I knew soon as we walked in
she’d been cooking from the good smells, but also from the burn
marks on her hands or arms from not being able to see the hot
burners. We talked to her daughter, Sis, about improving her living
conditions, but we didn’t get very far. One day we came in and Josie
was very upset. She asked John to check under her mattress where
she kept her cash, but none was there. She sat in the chair and cried,
telling us her own family was stealing money from her. It was awful.
She just had no place inside to find peace with that.
 The time finally came when Josie’s blindness forced her family to
move her to a retirement home. I knew she wouldn’t last long there so I
made every effort to visit her as much as I could. One day in late
August I came alone to see her. I stood in the doorway watching her
gaze out the window, rocking in her porch chair. I stood there a long
time with an uneasy sense that this might be the last time I’d see her.
Finally, she called my name. She knew I was there. She sent me down
the hall to borrow another rocking chair so we could rock and jaw
together. We rocked and jawed for almost four hours. In that time,
Josie shared the real pain of her life with me: how hard she had
worked, how much Henry drank, how her blindness she knew was
caused by him hitting her in the face, how much she loved the son she
had lost, how she couldn’t understand her own family stealing from
her. I knew she was trying to make some peace, but I couldn’t hold
back the tears. I had a hard time leaving her that day.
  Shortly after, her family gathered for a big reunion that Josie
attended. I guess she used it to say goodbye to everyone. She died a
few days later. I think she was almost ninety-five years old.
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I am crying as I write this. No other human being found their way into
my heart like Josie. This old black woman was my dearest, best friend.
I learned about being old, mostly I learned about love.
 I have friends who say attitude is everything when it comes to aging.
After all, there’s no place left to run, no place to hide. It seems
everything you feel on the inside somehow now manages to show up
on the outside. If I am depressed, stressed or worried, there it is in the
mirror. So more than ever, there is a need for constant monitoring and
refinement of what’s happening on the inside. I don’t stress much
over some strict exercise regime to try and combat the signs of aging.
I exercise when I have time, and I make it fun. I ski, dance, play tennis,
swim, hike, do yoga or walk whenever the fun calls. I’d like to be a
beautiful pearl as I age, but I can do without the grinding sand.
 Everything is growing old all the time…people, trees, animals, the
planets, even all our material stuff. Everything that is matter is
growing, changing, morphing into something. We can really count on
everything changing, nothing staying the same. It’s a mysterious
energy, the unseen force behind the curtain, but every bit as real as
the seen. It’s kind of like we are all riding the change train except none
of us really know where we are going, or even where to get off. We’re
just going for the ride. There is a certain lightness and freedom in not
knowing where we are going. It’s exciting really to trust in the
unknown, to open to a boundless, eternal energy and have faith in
guidance from on high. I think this energy has a destination of
somewhere better and higher than we can imagine. The more we keep
opening to this energy, the bigger it grows. Transportation becomes
transformation. Sometimes once we know where we are going, the
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magic disappears. We become attached to our knowing…and the
truth is that none of us really know.
  I will pray for a lot of grace as I grow old, and for the voices of my
ancestors and the elders to guide my way. In the end, I will knock on
Death’s door only to realize that Life is on the other side. For Death
and Life are just two sides of the same coin. We separate them, one is
matter, one is spirit, but I think they go together like peas and
carrots. They are both great transformations that deserve
celebration. Life in body on this planet can be difficult, but maybe
once we leave, we will just want to come back. Maybe a bit of time on
the other side will help us regain our perspective, so we can come
back and do it better the next time. Some people believe this one life
we have now is all there is. We don’t get another chance. The problem
with that belief is that it is linear, when the energy of time is circular.
Everything goes round and round. History shows us that, as do the
seasons with their natural cyclic rhythms. I think we have all had lots
of chances, and there are more to come. Each lifetime we are given is
a return to the Earth school, and the only thing we really have to do is
learn while we are here. It’s not easy when we come back with a fair
amount of unfinished business, and have to spend a good deal of
time mopping up our mess from past lives. But if we could somehow
understand that clearing our karma gives our souls the freedom to
choose a new and better path, we might learn to embrace our lessons
with less resistance. Then we can move through life with greater ease,
and actually celebrate all the opportunities we are given to lighten our
load and grow.
  Some of us are given harder lessons than others. But that does not
in any way makes us less than others. We must guard against self-
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judgement and comparing our lessons. One thing is certain…we are
all challenged with our lessons in life. We can either choose to drown
in our dramas, or find the gift in them. It is bittersweet at best, but the
gift is there. To find it requires surrender, a willingness to let go of
our limited beliefs in the laws of man and embrace instead the truly
magical boundless laws of Spirit. It’s a good trade.
   They say wisdom comes with age…thank goodness. It seems there
is a lot we can celebrate in growing older. Like the women on the wind,
we really don’t concern ourselves as much with what others think. It’s
not in a manner of disrespect, but a place of freedom to express with
more confidence and less fear. I use to worry whether people liked me
or what they thought. I use to feel everything in my life had to be
moving along according to some schedule and picture I had in my
mind. I had to have the perfect home, the perfect kids, the perfect
relationship. What a relief to have moved beyond that pressure!
There are still things I want, but I am more relaxed about them
unfolding in Divine time instead of in my time. I used to push hard to
make things happen. Now I rest, and wait for the invitation. I am more
interested in manifesting what I want from a place of joy instead of
stress. I am more interested in spending more time with my children,
my good friends, my beloved, my dog…more time in Nature, travelling
and doing the things I love, which fortunately for me includes work. I
am more interested in soaking life up than being burned up. I am more
interested in the depth of my feelings than my piles of
accomplishments. I don’t care so much anymore about the stains on
my clothes, the holes in my socks, the crumbs on the counter or the
lipstick on my teeth. I rather like the idea of cultivating my wild woman
more as I age. I find myself quietly yet vigorously creating a new image
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for myself with which to live out the second half of my century. I see a
tasteful, but a tad shocking new hairdo; a more sleek, silky,
sophisticated wardrobe and a bright pink ’57 pickup truck for my life
on the ranch.
  I had a great old 1954 Ford Country Squire “Woodie” wagon when
my kids were small. It had a red and white striped headliner, a big red
leather front seat that went all the way across and a big ivory steering
wheel. The horn was so loud it would jolt people straight up out of
their seats. I would pick my kids up in it from school, and all the kids
wanted to ride home with me. I met a lot of people through that car,
and had more adventures than I can mention now. Once when I was
having sushi dinner with a friend, the owner of the restaurant came
around asking who owned the old wagon parked out front. He said all
the Japenese chefs really wanted to see it, and asked me if I wouldn’t
mind showing it to them.. They all climbed in, took turns playing
behind the steering wheel, looking under the hood and really lit up
when I turned on the old radio. It was too funny. We ended up with a
free dinner as a result of the vintage car show and tell. It was a happy
old car. It made people smile.
  All of us go through an astrological transit known as Chiron return
sometime around the age of fifty. Chiron is the planet of the
wounded healer. The transit gives us the opportunity to reflect on
the pain we have experienced in this lifetime, and transmute it to
become the healer. At our Chiron crossroad, we either choose to
hold onto our pain or release it. If we stay stuck in our past wounding,
it will continue to influence our lives in a negative way. If we can
become aware of, embrace and heal our past pain, we are gifted with
a new freedom with which to move forward, free to give back all that
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we have been given. Fifty is a significant turning point for us all
because by then, most of us have a good accumulation of wounds.
They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. We all have a story. We have
to let the story go, stop identifying with it and create a new
story…the one of the wounded healer. We are all walking wounded,
and we are all healers. Healers can help others because they have
been wounded, but not until they heal their own wounds. Maybe one
day healing will be instantaneous, but for the time being, it’s a
gradual, lifelong process. We are all at different stages. We don’t have
to achieve a hundred percent healing to help others. We just have to
get to the other side of our own pain, to the joy, so we have
something to give. The path of the wounded healer is full of humility.
We can’t save the world. We can follow our heart to help orphaned
children, endangered animals, threatened environments or just show
up and be fully present for those we love.
  My father died seven years ago. He had a brillant mind, and we all
had to watch him lose it to Alzheimers. It was especially difficult for me
as I was living two thousand miles away, and could not be there
enough. I made several trips back to Virginia from New Mexico to be
with him, until I made the last one. He was in a nursing home, and I
would go every day to see him. He was no longer able to communicate
with words, so I had to try and find other ways. But the day came
when I had to leave, and knowing it would probably be the last time I
would see him alive, I did not know how to leave. I finally sat beside
him, and laid my head on his chest. I told him everything I needed to
say, and still I could not leave. He put his hand on my head, then out
of his mouth, clear as a bell, he said, “ It will be OK, Annie. It will be
OK.” I cried and cried, but I had what I needed. Once again in my life,
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I couldn’t ignore the invisible forces at work that had helped him put a
sentence together when it was beyond him any other time. Something
beautiful had stirred in his soul beyond the limits of his sick and aging
body. He was the vessel for the infusion of Spirit that revealed Itself
through him. He was Spirit in body, returning home.
 I am down off the mountain this afternoon. I am sitting in the warm
sun of early spring, sipping a glass of Spanish red wine beneath big
old Cottonwood trees. It’s mighty fine. I wonder if I will grow old and
be magnificent like these majestic trees. I wonder if who I am now is
enough. Must I wait to grow old before I am truly wise, or become
known as a great painter. Must I wait for someone to liken me to
these old trees and say, “ Look at that magnificent old woman!”
No…today, here, now, this moment is really all I have. In the power of
this now I sing the body electric. I will celebrate this passing youth,
this growing older. I will give myself permission to feel and live it all
right to the end…when my spark flies on, and leaves my body. I will be
an empty but beautiful old shell on the beach.
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                     Chapter Twelve
                        Children


 I hear these little singing voices going round my mandala…the little
voices of children…my children shells. There are a lot of these little
shells, maybe fifty that are all about the same size. Most of my little
shells have holes in the top, like mouthes with which to sing or portals
to another world. Their colors range from many shades of white to
pink and rose and gray and soft siennas. My children shells are
happy. They are dancing to freedom on the spiraling waters of this
circular force, shooting out off the end of the mandala into the
Cosmos. Yet, they are here, grounding the mandala.They are the
anchors for the truth that has gone before them, the truth that is and
the truth to come. These children shells are our future.
  I heard a story once about a couple who had a seven year old
daughter and a new baby. One evening they heard their seven year
old talking to their new baby over the intercom. She was telling her
new baby sister to please hurry up and learn to talk because she was
forgetting about God and needed to remember.
  Children are light beings. They come into this world glowing,
infused with Spirit. They are little magical beings, messengers from
home. Unfortunately, we adults are all too quick to impose the laws of
man upon our children. By the time most children are seven, the veil
connecting them to Spirit has thickened, their souls conditioned.
While it is true most infants and toddlers are totally dependent on
their parents for their basic survival needs, I do not think most
parents are able to provide the necessary spiritual food. How can an
adult parent, who denies their own connection to Spirit, nourish this
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in their children? I suppose they leave this job to the church, or the
child later in life embarks on their own spiritual quest. It is a great loss
for both parent and child. The parent misses the opportunity to
reconnect with themselves as a spiritual being, allowing their child to
be their guide back to the wonder and mystery in life and developping
the sensitivity to their child’s Divine purpose. The child misses the
opportunity to develop and strengthen their spiritual path, to be truly
seen and recognized, and grow up with the confidence in knowing
who they really are. Instead, we impose our parenting laws upon our
children. We enforce rules for everything they can do or not do, we
pile up the expectations(often in our own image), we decide what is
best , what they will wear and who they will be…all without asking.
Our decisions are made by parental egos, disguised in the best
interest of the child, when in fact, the child’s desires, true needs and
destiny are being scarificed. And so begins the mastery of our own
self-betrayal, and a long road to unravelling the mess as an adult.
And we wonder why our children resist or argue with us, don’t seem
happy and can’t wait to leave home.
 Now, I am not admitting that I had my parenting act all together at
the ripe age of twenty-one when I had my first child. I didn’t. I was
terrified. But my fear guided me to surrender my children back to the
Source from which they came, and to ask that Source, Spirit, God,
call it what you will, to give me the help and grace I needed to raise
them. I traded places. I let them become the parent teacher and I
became the child student. I still dared to discipline, and had rules to
protect their safety. But I really made an effort to understand who
they were, and to guide them accordingly. I didn’t enforce parental
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law. I enforced listening and asking. Out of that grew what I called
“grunt” sessions. We took one night a week after dinner, and
everyone had a turn to voice what was bugging them, who was
bugging them and how they’d like to see it changed. I was usually the
main target, and put up with a lot of grunting. But I also really learned
about my kids, and how to be there for them in a better way.
  Parenting isn’t just about knowing who your kids are. It’s about
knowing who you are, and setting protective boundaries for yourself,
and your kids. I suffered from terrible PMS in my late twenties. Don’t
even get me started on how hard it was to find any real help. Suffice it
to say, I became my own doctor. Anyway, my symptoms were more
emotional and mental than physical. I went up and down and all
around. One minute I was laughing, the next minute sobbing. One
minute I was calm, the next minute on the warpath. This was not good.
In order to spare my kids from this craziness, I sat them down and
explained that once a month we would be getting a visit from Alice.
And Alice was crazy. Alice would cry for no reason, and yell for no
reason and complain for no reason. She wasn’t always nice, she didn’t
always make sense. It would be best to make fun of her, or ignore her.
My kids thought this was great. They couldn’t wait for Alice to come,
and their primary strategy was making fun of her. I couldn’t believe
the way they helped me endure the hell I went through every month.
  Sometimes when I was on overwhelm, I felt the need to talk to my
kids about it . I wanted to share what was going on with me so they
wouldn’t take any of it on and feel it had anything to do with them. So
we’d pile into the ’54 Wooodie wagon, go get icecream and I’d take us
for a drive talking all the while. I don’t know how much they
understood, but I didn’t expect them to, and somehow it didn’t really
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matter. But I do think they understood that my problems were not
their problems. I wanted them to remain as light and free as possible. I
wanted them to keep shining as the beautiful boys they were with
icecream running down their chins.
   It’s important for us as parents to support and cultivate the
favorite things our children love to do. Both of my boys were gifted
athletes and loved sports, and my youngest, James, took to soccer
like a bear to honey. He even slept with his soccer ball as a child. He
went on to attain a soccer scholarship for college. My oldest, Joshua,
is a wise old soul and a great cook. He will make some woman very
happy one day with that talent. Joshua is a mountain man, a real lover
of Nature and the outdoors. He lives and works on our farm in
Virginia, while James prefers the city life of Miami. I used to watch
them as kids through the window playing soccer in the backyard.
They would practice for hours all these amazing plays, and then walk
out onto the soccer field for a game, and execute those plays to
perfection. They were quite an amazing duo, and had a comradeship
as brothers that really melted your heart.
   My two favorite things to do as a kid were riding my pony and
shooting guns. I must have been a cowgirl in a past life. My mother
didn’t have the keen support for these two activities as much as my
father. My father and I rode horses often together. I also spent a lot
of time riding by myself all over our big farm. I am sure my love for
Nature sprang out of all these long rides as a child. My father taught
me how to shoot guns at an early age. How I loved going down to the
dump, setting up rows of old cans and bottles and target shooting.
By the time I was ten years old, I was a darn good shot. The summer I
was ten I went to camp, and excelled in riflery, such that my teachers
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had to wonder. By the time I was a teenager, I could pretty much out
shoot any of my guy friends. Some of my friends now find it strange
when I talk about how much I love guns and shooting, but I had good
experiences around guns. It’s a shame guns so often fall into the
wrong hands, and give guns such a bad rap.
  I ended up going to that camp in the mountains of North Carolina
every summer for five years. It was primarily a canoeing camp, and the
canoeing program was run by a master whitewater canoeist named
Hugh Caldwell. He was also a professor of Philosophy at the
University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was the kindest,
most loving man and the reason I kept going back. He infused me with
his love for Nature and running rivers. He prided himself on getting all
his girls down some of the toughest rivers in one piece. Every summer
a handful of girls would committ to the gruelling four year canoeing
program to attain a Captains Hat, and I was one of them. It was no
small undertaking. We had to master everything there was to know
about a canoe and running rivers, as well as the basics of sailing,
kayaking and motorboats. We had to run solo two of the most
challenging rivers, the Chattooga in Georgia and the nearby
Nantahala. The summer I was fourteen, Govenor Maddux of Georgia
was proposing to dam the Chattooga river. Hugh wasn’t going to let
this happen. He arranged for the five of us girls, who were hard at
work as would-be Captains, to take Govenor Maddux and his team
down the Chattooga. It was Hugh’s hope that this experience would
prevent the decision to dam the river.
 Now, I was a scrawny small girl at fourteen. Govenor Maddux’s
bodyguard was assigned to my canoe, guns and all. He was a big man,
and he didn’t look upon me with much confidence. In fact, all the men
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looked highly nervous at the idea of being escorted down the river by
a bunch of teenage girls….save for the Govenor who would ride in
Hugh’s canoe. I was to follow Hugh’s canoe, and knowing this to be to
my advantage, I was fully confident in assuring the bodyguard he
would not get his guns wet. Despite two of the canoes capsizing,
Govenor Maddux and his team had the thrill of a lifetime. The wild and
beautiful Chattooga river would be protected forever from the threat
of being dammed. It was an accomplishment that would give us five
girls at a young age the confidence to create change.
   Our children do not really belong to us. They are tender souls
placed in our care. It is not so much about parenting as it is about
teaching and being taught. We tend to believe our children come in
ignorant and needing all of our adult expertise, but I really believe
they have far more to teach us than we do them. Children have a deep
sensitivity and a great knowing. We would do them great service in
helping them cultivate these qualities. We can be a source of strength
for their spiritual path along this road of human experience. We can
spare them the long desparate search for their true selves by
choosing to be our true selves, spare them the pain of living a lie.
  Some children being born now, and during the last twenty years,
are considered quite special. They are known as the Indigo children.
They are coming in with their spiritual gifts fully in tact, as opposed to
losing these gifts in the transition from Spirit to human form. No
amount of human conditioning seems to interfere with their purpose,
though sensitive guidance seems to increase and enhance their gifts.
They can see and read auras, perform healings, demonstrate
exceptional talent in the arts, music, science or language, and are
gifted with compassionate hearts and love for humankind. They are
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without question fully wired for the spiritual path, and the life to come
on this planet.
  Children bring us joy. They ground us, give our lives purpose and
keep us young. The years spent raising our children are truly the
golden years. You may not see this now while in the midst of it, but I
promise you will know what I am saying when your babies grow up and
leave the nest. My boys are grown with lives of their own now. I have
to say, I haven’t quite been the same since they left. There is a bond
between a mother and her children that never dies.It’s not the same
with the father, sorry. It is the deep physical, emotional and spiritual
bonding with a life in the womb that bonds a woman to her child like
cement. Many women come completely unglued when all their children
leave home. It’s understandable. Their whole lives may have circled
around the needs of their children, having sacrificed their own needs
for so long. It can come as a real shock, to suddenly have all this
space and time for oneself. I think many women need to embrace a
time of grief to let their children go before they are able to celebrate
a life of their own. This might be more rare today as so many women
combine careers with child raising. I had some part-time help with my
children. Mostly because I felt it was healthy for me to maintain some
space of my own, and it made me a better mother. But I could not in a
million years have left my babies in day care all day with someone else.
They were far too precious to me, and there was too much to miss. It
was hard enough when my husband and I separated, and I agreed to
give him joint custody. He probably never knew this, but it damn near
killed me. Not every woman is in a financial position to stay at home
with her children, nor does her job provide day care. I seriously have
to question what is wrong with our society that businesses who
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employ and value the work of women do not provide in house day
care. This is a given in countries like France. Women need to demand
it, or find another job. I was lucky to pursue a professional tennis
teaching career as a single mom that provided day care so I could
always have my children close. Of course, I had them out on the
tennis court instead participating in my kids classes, but the option
was there, and that made all the difference. In our modern world, a
woman should not have to choose between her career and her
children. Women today make up almost half of the work force. If
companies want women to make happy, healthy contributions to both
their jobs and their families, they’d best take better care of their
women and give them options to succeed at both. Women have a long
history of taking care of the needs of others. It’s high time they got
their needs met.
 I am so proud of my children. I made my mistakes along the way as
we all do as parents. After all, there are no real guide books for being
a parent. Our best guide is the soft whisper that speaks from our own
hearts. My children are the light of my life. They have been my best
teachers. I honor my children’s father, who filled the gap from our
divorce by giving his heart and soul to his boys. His achievement is
rare in the life of men. For myself, if I never achieve anything else in my
life, having raised two fine young men with awareness in their souls
and compassion in their hearts will surely be my greatest
accomplishment.
  So off I go now, with my cosmic dancing shoes on, following the
songs and laughter of all my children shells…round and round the
mandala…round and round this circle of life. I will learn to celebrate
the children of this world. Because of them, I will laugh until my belly
                              125


aches, find the wonder and magic in everything, soak up the sun,
dance in the rain, melt in healing hugs and go to bed at night tired
from too much play. Our children are our future, our guides to living
heaven on earth and our mirrors for our lost wild natures.
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                       Chapter Thirteen
                            Small

 I have journeyed around to the end of my mandala on the singing
voices of children. Here is my last shell, my smallest shell. It is the only
shell in my mandala with two holes in the top, or it is one hole with a
bridge in the middle, the bridge between worlds, the bridge between
hearts….a rainbow bridge. It is oval in shape with stripes of deep
brown rose. It has the feeling of a small child’s shoe, and when I turn it
around, the bridge has a U shape like a smiling face. And so it is, my
last shell, the final anchor to the great circle of life, is a small smiling
shell.
 My smallest shell feels big somehow. I sense in its little world a lot of
big knowing. Perhaps it is smiling because its big truth goes unnoticed
in its small disguise, kind of like children. Perhaps it is saying that the
answers to all our big questions can be found in the little things.
  All of matter appears to have large presence. Yet underneath,
inside, unseen, the matter is made up of a zillion small cells or atoms. I
remember the first time I looked through a microscope in grade
school. My mind had an instant expansion upon viewing the teeny tiny
itsy bitsy world of the Unseen. Suddenly, there was a whole other
world to consider beyond my naked eye, a whole new world behind
the scenes. Everything was no longer simply what it appeared to be.
 We think of the world as being so big, but it is actually small in the
cosmic perspective. We humans are but tiny specks decorating planet
Earth while we swirl at mach speed in an infinite space of grandeur. It
is so easy to forget the magnificence of the Universe while we are
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engaged in our daily routines. If we could plug into this cosmic
greatness and merge it with the smallness of matter, we would no
longer live as lonely prisoners bound by our own manmade limitations.
We can infuse matter with the mystery of Spirit. It’s already there in
everything. Heaven is already here on Earth. We all just need to use
our Spirit eyes to see.
 Science tells us that living matter began with the Big Bang, while
quantum theory suggests all living matter is contained in one tiny
atom. Nature clearly demonstrates that all life begins as a small seed.
How extraordinary that all life originates from a humble and
unpretentious beginning, yet manifests into such greatness! Perhaps
Nature attempts through this miracle to reveal the great mystery of
the force behind life’s small beginnings. Quantum physics also
suggests that all matter is primarily composed of empty space. If this
is so, what energy, what force brings matter into form, brings life into
creation? The church tells us that God created all things, but some of
us are prone to questionning who and what God is. God is defined by
others also as Spirit, the Great Spirit, the Source, the Creator, the
Lifeforce, the Father/Mother, the Divine and on. I like to think that
behind all our efforts to define this force is simply our awareness and
consciousness that brings meaning to the force. It is obvious from all
the many diverse religions and spiritual paths in the world that
everyone cannot agree on the same definition. If we were all to
extend ourselves beyond mind and matter, we just might arrive
together at a place of transcendent consciousness, that we recognize
as being the force itself. I believe all life on the planet, including the
planet, is evolving. The whole point, the whole plan, the whole show of
all life is evolution. It is an evolution towards higher consciousness,
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and that higher consciousness is God, is the Great Spirit, is the
Divine, is all those definitions. More importantly, it is us. We are the
higher consciousness that we seek. It is our own consciousness that is
the energy, the force that brings life into creation and gives meaning
to all matter. It is our own higher consciousness that will carry us over
the great divide, and guide us to the fulfillment of our destiny. We are
all our own small Universe together in a Grand Universe. We can
choose the mystery and the magic, or we can choose the mind. The
mind makes us a victim, the mystery makes us one.
  The process of evolution takes time, full of many small steps. We
can start in our daily lives with a return to the sweet small things that
life has to offer. For most of us, our lives are big and complicated.
There is a lot of focus on the big house, the big career, the big bank
account, the big goals and the big dreams. The sweetness of the little
things is easily swallowed up, leaving a bitter taste in our mouth. We
may all desire to move towards some form of greatness, but it is the
quality of our small steps that builds our future. We need to
appreciate the now in our longing. I often find myself focused on
wanting what I don’t have yet. I have learned that it only takes me
farther away from what I desire because I am no longer focused in the
moment. I can only create my future by being full in the present with
what I have. My gratitude, acceptance and joy of what I have and
where I am now are the powerful small steps towards the inevitable
evolution and manifestation of my dreams. I think it’s supposed to
work like magic. The more we are being who and what we want in the
moment, the better chance we have of attracting it.
   Sometimes I have to fake it til I make it. I don’t feel grateful or
happy all the time. Sometimes I feel downright depressed. It’s usually
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because I am buying into my ego, allowing my mind to run 24/7 or
listening to the lies of my conditioned self instead of my true self. At
this point, I just have to stop. I have to make time to be still and rest
my mind. Nature is a great cure for a restless mind, as is doing really
heartful things. There is a mantra I use that always works, though it
took some time before I could wrap my mind around it, and then
realize I had to unwrap my mind. The mantra is, “ There is nowhere to
go, there is nothing to do.”
  Now I had trouble with this because in my mind I was always going
somewhere and always had so much to do. I think I spent a good three
days mumbling this mantra over and over, even in my sleep, until I was
successfully brainwashed. And somehow this little nothing of a
mantra began to change my life. All I had to do when I got stressed or
depressed was to start chanting about nowhere and nothing, and
everything would shift. I suppose because our stress and depression
is really based on an illusion of having to be everywhere and do
everything. Once I convinced my mind there was nowhere to go and
nothing to do, it began to rest….and rest…and rest. And out of this
long siesta came a whole new awareness that wasn’t rooted in my
thoughts, but in my feelings. It was a whole new way of being, and
living. I could finally feel inner peace instead of obsessing about how
to attain it with my mind.
  We don’t have to become a monk, or disappear to the top of a
mountain in India for ten years to find inner peace. We just have to
quiet the mind. The mind is home to the ego, and the ego likes to talk
all the time. In fact, it will never shut up if you let it. There is some
staggering statistic about how many thoughts actually pass through
our minds in any given day. It’s brutal, unrelentless. If we attempt to
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entertain all of those, we will surely fry our brains. Most of us get
stuck, and keep repeating certain thoughts like a broken record. This
is our conditioned mind maintaining our conditioning. We can’t break
away from the mind, and discover all the other lovely qualities of our
feelings and our heart if we can’t silence the mind. It’s really like a
ruthless and deceptive dictator that orders us to go here and to go
there and do this and do that, and we do it. Then we wonder why our
lives are full of stress and aren’t working. We are living a lie. The mind
has its place and its purpose. We can have a beautiful mind if it is
governed by our heart. It really keeps coming down to choice: do we
allow all our thoughts, our mind, our ego, to determine our false
truth…or do we allow the essence of our Sacred souls with all its
deep feeling and innate knowing, to be our resonant guide to our
truth? Let your heart do the talking.
  Someone told me once that the Buddha admitted to having a
steady stream of thoughts, but instead of entertaining them, he
allows them to float on by like passing clouds. Nice.
  Our mind is not our Master nor the messenger of truth. When we
give the mind power devoid of the heart connection, we unleash a
world of deception, injustice and suffering upon ourselves and all
mankind…history in the making. The mind that would be King cannot
rule without his Queen of Hearts. The heart is the barometer of truth,
and it will register which thoughts are worthy of our attention. That’s
the beauty of it. The mind gets to rest while the heart takes us on a
go everywhere and do everything journey of love. The beat goes on…
 Every small thing contributes to the whole. In the end, it all comes
down to a whole lot of small miracles. The evolution of humankind
isn’t going to happen with a big bang. It’s a series of many small steps
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being taken over a long period of time. Each one of us is part of every
small step when we personally evolve into self-empowered and self-
created conscious beings. We are all in the garden together, and we
have only to tend to our own small patch for the whole garden to
flourish and become a thing of true beauty. We are all going to have
to bloom for the world to become a better place.
   Every day, every moment gives us the opportunity to become
better gardeners. It’s the smile we squeak out to the irritable sales
clerk who is clearly having a bad day…the spare change we give the
homeless…the massage to an aching body…the respect to the
elderly…our listening ear to a friend…the flowers to our lover…the
new dress to ourselves…an orphaned child a home. If we can find joy
in the simple, small things, our gardens will surely grow. We cannot
plant the small seeds for future gardens, and generations, with the
delusion of pain and suffering. If we want to create a new world, a
better garden, then every small seed we plant must be planted with
love.
 They say love is all there is. We come in with love…and we go out
with love. It’s all we take with us when we go. True love grows with
time, yet we all want it to burst forth in all its glory on day one and
never change. But love, like so much in life, is intermittent. It comes
and goes like summer rains. Therefore, we have to really love love
when it rains down on us. We have to soak it up like parched ground
because the more full of love we are, the more freedom we have to
foster our own higher consciousness. The freedom of one soul can
mean the freedom for all souls. And freedom is the greatest gift that
love has to offer. This is not a small thing, but it grows out of every
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small seed we plant while holding the space and vision for what is
possible.
  I love my small shell. In it I find the freedom of all the little things that
matter and the little things I love: my little dog, a little touch, a little
present, a little stroll, a little snack, a little flower, a little rain, a little
nap, a little visit, a little light, a little help, a little hope. It all goes a long
way.
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                          Epilogue


 My journey with my shells around the mandala has come to an end.
Perhaps one day they will call to me again for yet another loop in the
circle of life.
  Summertime has come, and I have come down off the mountain. I sit
in the warm afternoon sun, and reflect on the voices of my shells.
They have taught me to listen to the depth of my own inner voice, a
voice that has been silent for too long. Perhaps now I can trust it to
sing out my truth.
 What is my truth? What truth can I leave you with that really matters,
and says this is who I am, and I am not afraid to speak it?
  I believe we are living in extraordinary times. We have only to
acknowledge the first woman ever and the first ethnic man ever as two
of our presidential candidates. I believe we are on the brink of a
brand new world. Life as we know it may never quite be the same, but
we have to believe it can be better…better for all of us, not just for
some. We must all hold a vision in our hearts, for without vision, we will
vanish. I do not know if it is possible or even necessary for us all to
hold the same vision. Perhaps if that is meant to be, it will evolve in
time. What I do know now is that we are all connected, we are all one
family. Our health, our path to end pain and suffering on this planet,
can only come about when everyone in our family is being fed and
nourished. Because when just one suffers, we all suffer.
  I believe women have suffered more than men. I believe women have
long held in their hearts a vision that includes others, and have long
suffered the patriarch’s vision that excludes others. I believe many
men have suffered in both their inner and outer worlds from excluding
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women. Neither man nor woman has been able to live their truth. A
woman’s voice carries her truth, and is connected to deep wisdom.
For women by nature afford themselves time for reflection, the
cultivation of an inner life and an understanding of their feelings and
natural rhythms. For most men, their life is outside themselves, and
they are lost on the inside. It is time for women to speak, and for men
to ask and to listen. The movement towards Sacred Union, both
inside and outside, requires patience and assistance from both man
and woman. It is a leap into the unkown together, the courage to heal
all our betrayals and move beyond our cultural conditioning.
  Our journey is not toward one or the other, the patriarch nor the
matriarch. It is a brave new world wherein the opposites are united
else we continue along the razors edge. If the whole point is our own
evolution, then we must understand that the other side of that coin is
our own destruction. We must create new freedoms in our culture that
support and cultivate higher consciousness over remaining in our
manmade prisons that limit us to material false needs and living
culturally conditioned lies.
  Do what you love, do what feels good, follow your bliss. It is a
simple path, and simple is good. The beautiful gift in simple is that it
affords us the freedom to be with the things that really matter…all
those lovely matters of the heart…how much more deeply and freely
can we melt into love….and happiness becomes a worthy goal. We
can embrace pain as our teacher, but ultimately, it is the wings of our
happiness that will carry us to freedom. It’s our own self-love that
matters most…so we can BE love and stop searching for it. God,
Spirit, Source, the Divine, they are already inside us. All we have to
do is plug in.
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Happiness breeds creativity. Our creativity brings us closer to the
Divine Creation both inside and outside ourselves. It is our higher
consciousness transcending all the illusions and limitations of man,
and connecting us to the deep, inner creative well of our cosmic self.
Our evolution is an invitation to celebrate the cosmic dance. So get
your dancing shoes on!
And what is this dance really all about? What does all this mean about
higher self-consciousness, going within, quieting the mind, embodying
Spirit, connecting to our Sacred Wild Feminine and Sacred Wild souls,
being our Divine self, trusting source, transcending ego, journeying to
the underworld, bridging heaven and earth, Sacred Union, inner
marriage, letting go, surrender, waking up, life and death cycles, living
a lie, celebration, evolution, healing…it means we get to re-create
ourselves. It means we are awakening to our evolution, our destiny, as
a species on this planet Earth to honor and embrace our most innate
true selves, leave our egos behind and shoot the moon with magic. It
means we can infuse the current limitations of our rational, logical and
material mind set with the essence of the cosmic energy that holds all
the infinite possiblities of our own creative consciousness. We must
create a new way of thinking, a new mind, if we are going to create a
new way of being in the world.
  I like the idea of a new me. A new world to accompany and support
that would be a real bonus. In the meantime, this business of having to
mop up old karma while not creating new karma is very tricky. Letting
go of the past, clearing the decks and gifting ourselves with freedom
are no small tasks. There’s no polite way of saying it….it kicks your
ass. Transformation, creating ourselves anew, is something you have
to really want. I mean really want. You have to be good and tired and
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sick of the old. You will only see clearly and freely through the
looking glass when it is shattering…and you are the glass.
 It’s worth it, this thing called growth….it really is. It comes to you
sometimes with the softest touch, and other times like a dagger in
your heart. But we learn to ride the wave no matter what it brings. I
can tell you this: It washes beautiful shells onto the beach for us to
find, and gifts us with a sweet freedom few of us have ever known.
Freedom from the past, freedom from our mind/ego, freedom from
our pain, freedom from the lies and especially freedom from time.
According to the Mayans, the true calendar is based on thirteen
moons, not twelve. Therefore, we are not even living our lives with the
harmonic resonance of the true natural and universal rhythms. Our
understanding of time is artificial and linear, as defined by our
expressions of not having enough time, running out of time, killing
time, spending time and wasting time. We perceive time as something
we can measure, which only serves to restrict and stress the ease of
our natural flow. Time is a circle dance, like the shells in my mandala,
going round and round. When we begin to dance to our natural
rhythms, we will be guided by the Universal Source into a new
frequency….and a new free dance will begin.
 Time is speeding up….we need to slow down…and listen. The big,
dancing, fragile, green woman of connection to beauty and color, who
is rich in soul, embraces everything ethnic and old, celebrates children
and delights in the small things, has spoken Her truth. She is the
Sacred Wild soul in all of us.
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All life is Sacred. We must hold the vision for this Earth to be a planet
where we can fulfill our dreams. The attainment of our own individual
higher self-consciousness is to live our lives here as the
Divine, spiritual, free and immortal souls that we truly are. We can
ground ourselves in the simple truths of daily life wherein we create
Sacred space for stillness and connecting to our hearts. Our
movement into a new way of being and living has our hearts at the
core of the circle, at the center of the mandala. It is the resonance
with the realm of our feelings and the depth of our compassion that
will show us the way home.