Archive | March, 2014


26 Mar
44x36 oil pastel

“The Greatest Gift” 44×36 oil pastel


I am a hole in a flute that the Beloved’s breath moves through. Listen to this music.  –Rumi


My friend sits in a chair across from me, her eyes an ocean of empathy.

“I’m not good”, I say. “I should be feeling better, but I’m not…in fact, every day it gets worse. I should be feeling better…what is wrong with me?”

She listens to my story of confusion and regret. For a hasty decision of mine has hurt someone I love and myself in the process. An elephant named “Loss” is squatting on my chest. Tensed from jaw to knee, my left side aches; my knee popping disturbingly every time I bend it.

“I can’t eat,” I tell her. “I’ve lost five pounds. Everything that usually works to lift me is failing.“ The pressure in my chest, like a bucket of heavy ball bearings, spills out. Their cracking on the floor is the sound of my crying. In these moments, I am completely raw…completely open…completely vulnerable.

Gently she says, “May I commend you for your authenticity at this moment? This is the bravest I’ve ever seen you.”

I nod, wiping my nose.

Waveringly I tell her, “You know, one time on the phone, I was relaying my schedule of events for the weekend down to the last hour. And he innocently said to me, ‘Gosh honey, you are the loneliest person in the world.’”

I look up at my friend through large seven year old eyes.

I catch my breath, a sudden calmness descends over me.

I whisper.

“I am, …I am. “

As we talk, I begin to unwrap the gifts that have come through this connection and begin to see the situation in a completely different light. There was an awful lot of love there I just didn’t allow. This “moment of truth” has been coming for a long time, a point where being bound in the inability to move away from the discomfort of my own soul is essential. For now I am in the most important part…the part where I surrender. What seems unforgivable in me must be forgiven and I must move past what was done to me.

In order to love, I must be willing to truly accept it, to be vulnerable, and to be grateful for whatever healing comes from the connection, however and whenever it is given. To accept myself in like manner means loving parts of me that are not so lovable…parts that are selfish…parts that are weak or judgmental. To really love, one must not connect through wounds. Wounded connections have a past which weighs them, mires them. One cannot move forward unless forgiveness of the past happens, not for the person who has wronged us, but for our own sense of wholeness and healing.

“I hope you are writing down all of this,” she says. “Do you realize what enormously important gifts you’ve been given by this person?”

In recalling moments of true authenticity in the connection I have lost, my biggest dragon wheels into view:

My own feelings of unworthiness to be loved.

Truly, I cannot receive any love, unless I acknowledge a deserving in my core Self…not my ego. In true and honoring acceptance of people, I must allow them to love me as they are, for they love me as I am. This is love without attachment.

Doing so is hard. It’s hard because I am not a patient person who is entirely comfortable being with herself. In Joe’s terms, I now face the Ultimate Ordeal, learning the true nature of forgiveness. For that is the nest of unconditional love. All the while, the Universe was giving me what I needed and I wasn’t aware, wasn’t cognizant of the gifts so freely given.

My friend hands me another tissue, “Do you understand,” she says “that you are sitting in these emotions and tolerating them? This is so important. Feel it fully and let it go on its own.”

“I know”, I sniffle. “Honestly, I don’t have anymore energy to fight.”

But knowing the end of the story helps. I know the reward for moving through this portion of the journey. So I live each moment, tolerate what needs tolerating and open myself. My soul is fully awake.

Our conversation turns and I begin to tell her of my Lenten pilgrimage. In true “Wayfarin” style I had decided to visit as many services as I could from as many different faith systems as possible. My thought was to honor them in doing so. To give homage to all of the faces of the Divine. Unconsciously, though, I have piloted myself into a crucial and necessary part of this journey.

Now I understand the lyric, “…was blind, but now I see.” And it has nothing to do with dogma nor ritual nor icon, but the truth of this human existence. . Why was I put here? To Love. And I do not know completely how, and that is why I am here…now…walking this road in pilgrimage to learn how unconditional love feels…how it is both given and received. I’m not looking for the Divine as some external entity apart from my Self. I’m looking for the Universe that is already inside of me.

I begin to cry again. This is the hardest work I have ever done, I think. It is harder than anything I’ve ever faced.

My friend smiles, her snowy white hair framing her face filled with conviction. “You are so strong. Look at the most painful parts of your life. You survived…didn’t you? You can do this.” she tells me. “See how it all is falling into place? You are getting what you need as you need it. It will come in little bits …from all over. But you see it now. Don’t you? “

I nod, wiping my eyes. To be able to learn to rely on my higher self, to be able to transcend into the joy of a moment like butterflies on the bushes at City Cemetery, or a leaf twirling downward from my backyard trees. To revel in the hush of snow in the crisp dark or let croissant and coffee on a May morning in the effortless sunshine flood my senses, I must allow. To pause in connection to the Universe in a poetic line that cups the dearest emotion in my entire frame… that is true balance. That is where I want to be.


What I am learning now is that when I cry to the Universe for help, there WILL be an answer and it will give me what I need. Last Friday, I attended Shabbat at Agudath Sholom Synagogue. In a small group of fifteen, I sang the Kabbalah, and in the prayers I heard the gratitude of the Israelites in each verse.

“Baruch atah, Adonai, gaal Yishrael”

Praised are You, Adonai, for redeeming Israel

I thought of the Jews and their centuries long persecution and plight. Their connections held them wrapped in the faith that they would be delivered out of bondage. I think of the massive loss of loved ones and of their personal sorrow. They have learned forgiveness as a way of transcending despair.


Sunday, at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Stuart’s Draft with my brother Paul, I saw it in Matthew 6:26 part of the Watchtower lesson for the day.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

On the trip to Ocracoke this past Thanksgiving, birds came into my consciousness and populated my experiences. Looking back on that post and my art from then till now, I know nothing is random. This pilgrimage is to learn forgiveness, to untie an emotional knot that threatens to strangle all that has been given in this journey. Every step of the road was leading to this point. It is the most important time of my life, I think. And summoning all the courage I have to allow whatever comes will guide the going. There is no need to “do” anything other than be awake…listen…write…cry… lean on friends if I need…do my daily work.

Driving home from my friend’s place, I think back to Ocracoke Coffee Shop in December of 2012. A woman is seated in a red cushy chair with Ryan’s café au lait and a bagel, someone who needed to find a way to heal herself. Maybe I will return there this year, maybe not. The discovery of voice there and the lessons learned since are what I needed for now. Soon, I go to Charleston SC with Clarence and my mother to  re-walk another road from last summer, the Civil War. My pilgrimage will end at St John the Baptist Cathedral. I am meant to be there. In between the then and now, stops will come along the way. Easter Sunday, I have no idea where I will see the sunrise. However, I can guess…with coffee at granddaddy’s grave, sharing with him more of what he deserves in a granddaughter. And the journey will go on …from there.


The Wind Blows the Water

21 Mar


Silted earthen body
hatched of Hyperion
extends one blush
sole upon a cool mound,
pushed to its density
in a sandy stride.
Five sinistral toes
clasp its surety
like a newborn’s fingers,

And into a westward tide,
one white right
tentacle uncurls
into the tourmaline swell
of dream.
A semi footed
a bi-aural note.
Mortal. . .
Immortal. . .

This Being,
left foot planted in Gaia’s grasp,
right foot floating in Pontus’ placid palm,
she walks two worlds,
the veil
a starry measure
to hang
an artless

The Seat of the Soul

18 Mar

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We all have the same purpose: to love and be loved, to be the light that casts out darkness, wherever we are in whatever way we can -Marianne Williamson

Clar and I rise in the pre-dawn light; coffee is to be had before the drive that will take us north to West Virginia.  He yawns, stretches and looks up at me with those large soulful eyes of his. My constant companion these days, I cannot bear to leave him at home anymore. So he rides wherever I go. To the Fresh Market, to workout, even to school where I trudge out to the car three times daily to walk him. I make sure he is comfortable snuggled into my pink 1970’s Hollie Hobbie sleeping bag lying scrunched in the back seat of my car.  He’s lived a lot of his life in that car, as have I.

 Skirt, tights, scarf to cover my head, I tick off my mental dressing list in a drowsy state of numbness,  moving about my mother’s darkened hallway considering the day ahead.  This Lent I have decided to visit as many churches, from as many different faiths systems as I can because now, something in me I need to listen to is growing. Maybe, just maybe, these places will help me to hear it.  In the fall, I knew the “spiritual” part of this journey, if one can call it that, was starting. In finding a class on spirituality and launching back into another program of study, so many doors opened. I learned so much.  Mysticism, Spiritualism, Esotericism, Divine Ecstasy, Prophesy, Shamanism, Energy Work, Fields of Consciousness, I read, wrote and thought but from an external vantage. And to be honest, I knew relationships back then would be a huge part of this spiritual learning . But I didn’t know until now that the lesson wasn’t about finding a practice, nor anything practical or external. It was about what was within me, what keeps me from growing as a more enlightened person. And now the moments have come which show me how asleep I’ve been for almost five months. Looking back now to my previous post about relationships being like shoes, I wince.  How insensitive and unconscious I was.  My actions have led me to recognize elements of self which need the light. It’s time to deal with this dragon called “on my own”.

 As an esoteric person, and one most comfortable with these elements, I chose an orthodox service to attend first. Last fall, a Saturday vespers at an orthodox church here in town only yielded a slight exposure to these rituals. Something was missing, honestly perhaps a real readiness for the experience. Nonetheless, I go today to St. Mary’s Orthodox Christian Church in Bluefield, West Virginia. It is the only place I can think of to  pilgrimage right now, connecting me to memories that I struggle to put to rest. To be there may bring me the voice I’m learning to try to hear.

 In the car, winding our way up Rte. 460 through Blacksburg, the radio plays. An unidentified inspirational speaker shares the story of  an 84 year old widow who has lost her health and family. Living now in assisted care, instead of choosing to look at her situation negatively, she chooses to be grateful, to be positive.  And this attitude has helped others so much that they visit her and connect with her, sharing compassion and love. To seek joy, to let it live through the soul no matter the situation seems so difficult, but being mindful of its importance is needed now. Trusting the Universe to give me what I need is a leap of faith. Maybe that is the essence of what it’s trying to teach me.

 Clar and I pull into the parking lot of St Mary’s 20 minutes before the service, and I get him set up in his pink Holly Hobbie cocoon in the back seat. The temperature is dropping, and the skies grey over with the last lingering embrace of winter. I walk into the vestibule. Immediately, two older ladies look at me and smile. They walk over; they touch my arm and hug me.

 “Oh, welcome!” one lady says. “You are new here?” Her blue eyes extend motherly concern over silver steel rims.

The other lady in a soft white sweater fingers my hair curling out from under my white silk head covering. She says, “Oh how pretty you are.” She turns to her companion, “Look how tiny she is.”

Both ladies laugh like small tinkling bells and press me for my story; I talk with them for a few moments. Their warmth is overwhelming and their care and gentle enthusiasm as effortless as breathing. I am in the right place, I think.

 Warm golden light reflects from jewel-toned icons on the rood screen which separates the altar from the sanctuary. Large eyed eastern saints, their hands curved into mudra, stare back at me in their ancientness. I watch the parishioners kiss them and bow, lighting small beeswax candles for their intentions. The air is so heavily laced with frankincense and myrrh, it almost hurts to breathe. But I am surrounded by a pouring forth which holds the first memories of holiness for me, of the mystical nature of the Divine. I sit on a red cushioned pew alone and rest. It feels like I am breathing for the first time in many days.

 The tones of the hour blend with the intertwined voices of two gentlemen beginning to sing the Kyrie. Instantly, I tear up. To cry this longing out into this safe space of holy presence, I need to let go. Dreams and expectations. Anger and loss. Self judgment.

 “Let it all go”, an inner voice says and a tightness in my chest begins to loosen.

              Looking to my left, a dark haired young lady has risen and slides over to me. She touches my arm and smiles. Her name is Alina and she is originally from Romania. She welcomes me too, pulling a black prayer book from the rack and tracing her finger over the program to show me how to follow along.  As the liturgy progresses, I let the singing wash over me like the clouds from the brass censer. I cross myself too many times to count, breathing out the notes of  the song.  When I lose my words, I hum. I harmonize with voices and spirits. The singing never stops even when we are silent.

All who pass by me on their way to the altar smile; some touch my arm or my shoulder. A small boy of seven sitting two pews ahead turns from his mother to smile up at me. One lady touches my head wrap, “It’s so nice to see someone with this”, she says. For I am the only one in the congregation with a covered head.  I don’t mind. It’s covering my ego, something that needs to have been released for a long while now.

 When I meet Father Mark, though, I begin to struggle. I tell him I have come because another orthodox church I contacted told me I couldn’t. “They don’t take visitors”, I say. “And I am not Greek.”

  “Nonsense!” he says. “That’s ridiculous. I’ve never heard of that EVER!” He frowns at me, but welcomes me anyway. But I feel as if I have just been accused of lying.

 In the midst of the two hour mass, he gives his short homily. And that is when the lesson presents itself. Instead of speaking about love and compassion, or forgiveness and contemplation, he speaks in judgment, not only of Christians but of other faiths as well.  They do not know “The Truth”, he angrily intones.  His instructions focus on what Orthodox Christians need to be doing in their spiritual lives during Lent, but it seems to rest on the “doing” of the faith rather than the “being” of it. His angry, stressed, contemptuous tone highlights resistance and closed mind rather than allowing all lessons to come as they are intended.  I look to the Christ figure in the stained glass behind him, his hand in the Vitarka Mudra, the sign of teaching. For I am certainly being given a lesson at this moment. How many times in my life have I judged others,  those with which I have been in relationship? How many times have I selfishly thought life should be lived “one way” rather than devoting my introspection to my own journey and the lessons conscious presence with others teaches me? How many times have I seen difference without compassion and delivered impatience to those who needed understanding the most? Love, howsoever it is given, one should always be grateful for. It is love offered freely and that is the gift of the Universe.

            After the service, many members of the congregation greet me, eager to know where I am from and my story. They are gathering for lunch, where everyone has brought a hot dish. Casserole after casserole, potatoes and ham, macaroni and cheese. Coffee, in a silver percolator.  I am invited to stay more than once. . . to share, more than just food.

 It’s hard to see oneself clearly. To understand that right and wrong paths on the journey have blurred lines attached to more than just perception. And perhaps self forgiveness for shortcomings is the hardest compassion we can muster. But we must. For out of self compassion, we see others more clearly and we are able to love them as they are, even in their imperfection. Perhaps that’s what makes them most beautiful, and reveals the gift of their connection to us.  . .the realities of their own soul’s journey toward the light.

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