Tag Archives: ocracoke

This is for Anyone who has Ever Lost Someone

10 Aug

This is for anyone who has ever lost someone:

You do not own the leaving.
You share loss
because you are loved.
Loss
spreads it’s watery wake
like a quilt over a coffin.
Too little comfort over a container
of what
needs answering before it’s buried
to dissolve.
It’s not that people really tire
of your long grief,
a slow low dissonant hum of unraveling.
It’s that the fraying of this patchworked shroud between us
reveals edges of other coffins,
slowly decaying in the corners
of their own heart’s attic.
They’d rather not see.
They’d rather not feel.
You do not have to get over it.
Only wait for there to be
nothing left but holy dust
on the shrine of your soul.
One day a gentle wind
will shift ever softly
and be enough.

Of Beginnings, And Again

1 Jan

This morning, I awoke to Beloved’s voice in my ear. Now, the dreams come in both words and image when I am allowed to sleep naturally. She arrives in the early mornings as once she did on Ocracoke. . . .in the tiny loft bedroom of a yellow cottage on the corner of Fig Tree and Howard. Within my dreaming consciousness, I stood on the right side of an enormous moss and lichen laced live oak, a tree well known to me. M’lady, the enormous live oak on Howard Street.

 

It is to her I have gone to ask the questions I did not know how to form into speech. Her curved and expansive side is the one I have embraced, hoping wisdom from her deep memory would seep into my consciousness, somehow showing me the way…the path to take. Once upon a time, I curled under the mercy of her shelter, hoping that she would heal me and then open a new heart into seeing. In this shadow state, as I admired the winter sky glowing silvery grey through her leafless limbs, Beloved said to me, “Look beyond the tree”. There, I saw a tiny acorn burnished and  gleaming on the ground. “That is what you have made,” she said. “Now its time to plant and watch it grow.”   For the last three months,  I’ve been blinded by the enormous tree of my life, but it has now birthed a “me” who is complete. In a state of presence, I see the cycle. This small acorn has so much potential and promise…so much wisdom innate within it, the tracings of the tree which grew it lying inside.

But, I sighed. A part of me doesn’t want to start all over…to plant …to tend… to begin the next. “No,” I said to Beloved. “I’m too tired to grow more”.

But perhaps winter is about lying fallow. Resting in the dark in order to gather strength and energy for spring. It seems that way to me today. In many ways, the last three months were one long labor, the pushing and the pain. Moments of wanting to give up and not breathe through what seemed to never come forth.  The building excitement of returning to a sense of home and yet the fear of leaving the dark space of the familiar otherworld.

And some might say that my reticence for this new year and plaints of emotional and spiritual fatigue smack of victimhood. I started 2014 selfish, angry, and frustrated, fighting the way the Universe wanted to shape me at every breath. But I finished this year in surrender and acceptance.  No, not a victim. . . a tired warrior, returned to find tribe and home turned to dust. Like Oisin, love and fate swung a pendant soul out into the timelessness of the otherworld for so long a time that upon his return, they knew him not. The former world had passed away. He eventually fell from his faerie stallion, never able to return to the magical world he had found. The fear of losing the gifts of the journey are ever present in my mind. It worries me that I must stay in the saddle and not fall into decay and loss.

Beloved directs my attention back to M’lady. Now a seed of integrated soul lies awake and expectant. The energy to grow into something beautiful takes both energy within and energy without. Fully waking from this dream, I realize the spark is there within me but the way to light the fire is missing. It takes a communal fire to grow a soul beyond its birth. And as much as I can tend myself, I also need the tending. The hard part, I own… I made the acorn. Now others are needed to help me grow into a beautiful grand old oak that someone else might come to embrace for wisdom, for solace…for love.

At this moment though, I need the quiet rest of winter and to lie expectant for sun and earth and water and air… a call which will open me further.

This year, I have two intentions: To keep a positive open heart and to help shape and belong to loving tribe of friends. So I reached into my tiny bowl of shells from Ocracoke this morning and found one which seemed to speak of the promise of more peaceful waters. By remembering the most beautiful shells are found after the most torrential storms, the space beyond the moment doesn’t hold the apprehension it once did. And the time seems to stretch out beyond the desires of my heart as if I had lifetimes to do all that inspires these wings to flight. May the new year be one of seeking and giving, of peace and love.

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 I finished my day in yoga practice with the yoga teacher Cyndi Lee.  As we finished our practice, words of intention flowed as the tides of the shore I love so well. Each inhale and exhale united me to my heart’s home.

May I be Happy. . .

May I be Healthy. . .

May I be Safe. . .

May I live with ease. . .

Om…

Happy New Year to the wayfaring souls who bless me by following my journey.

Much gratitude.

Be Loved…..

Reflections. . . Almost Home

1 Aug

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To write is to reconcile the outer world with the inner reality. Shaping intends a design which not only pleases but informs, both the past and future self. I haven’t written since Ocracoke nearly eight weeks ago and a vision of something in the distance neither bright nor dark signals that this particular writing path might close. This body of words, this part of my life’s journey. A feeling of both trepidation and relief is rising…I’m nearing home.

The significance of my experiences this summer did not come into clarity until 5:30 this morning August 1. But I saw the whole platter of them and their purpose at once in that waking moment. Beloved spoke to me for the first time in over a year. She said,

A mirror… It has all been a reflection of you, who you are and who you have been. Each event each person. Look at yourself.

The events of this summer were reflections of past and of present; their purpose was to sharply focus my recognition of how far I’ve come and perhaps the space of how far I really need to go to reach home.

The overwhelming feeling of not having done much, but yet being drug through one conflict or difficulty to the next is the perfect description of Summer 2014. My wings felt clipped in one struggle after the other, one difficult knot to untie at a time. Every morning and at every email and phone call, I winced.

What next? I would think.

I didn’t want to know.

Missed chances and wrong turns and all too brief moments of happiness scrambled into the pressing thought that on August 11, my life will change in a big way. Back in April at the end of my pilgrimage, I was told that my teaching assignment in the fall would be entirely different. Most of my classes will now be high school freshmen. After teaching seniors and college freshmen for 20 years, this type of change is difficult, and the struggle to understand why it happened, what it is supposed to show me, and how to muster strength to frame it in a positive light is ever present. But now, I think understanding has arrived. And it’s about having come full circle. Surely, I need time to mourn the passing of my first life of teaching, but then courage needs to come for the next.

Without cataloging the travel and experiences of Summer 2014, I will say that generally, the mirror has been held up in every connection. Because that is what this summer provided me. . . connections to a lot of people. And they set me on the rough road of learning more about who I really am in all my own imperfection.

And I’ve learned both wonderful and not so wonderful things about Cyndi.

I learned I am loved … greatly …by others, especially my previous students. People admire my strength, confidence, talents and honor my greatest gift: educating. Bringing forth knowing within others in relation to their inner selves is a gift I have but don’t own. As a storyteller, I help people grow in knowing themselves by example.

I learned that my dog, Clarence, who went through surgery to remove a scary cancerous tumor in his face three weeks ago, is the key to my highest self. He mirrors the real me. He mirrors the gift of evoking unconditional love… a gift I have put aside for far too long. The thought of losing him pushed me to the very edge. And my friends helped me to hold on. How many dogs  have over 100 people praying for them and hoping for their wellness?

Because in all the traveling I did this summer, to Ocracoke, to South Carolina, to Norfolk, to Grandfather Mountain, to Hollins University, where I took my first studio art class in Children’s Illustration, to workout, to plays and into a whole gamut of house repair situations . . .all of it showed me that summoning sufficient courage to face and navigate unexpected events is the only skill with which I really need more practice. And just saying that scares me, sends me into denial because I don’t want to be brave anymore. I don’t want to stick my head down and plow through another challenge. I need and want peace. And I’m not going to find it in the outer world… I will only find it within.

So this morning at Common Grounds Coffee House, a mission attached to Lynchburg Church of the Covenant, I sit with my pancakes and coffee. Ms. Swannie, whom I met in June, takes loving care of me. She fell in love with Clarence the first time we came for “pat and chat”. But honestly,  she saw something in me that needed her kindness and love. And I’m willing to admit it; I do.

Her calm presence and smile, balances the voice of Hamlet in my thoughts,

The readiness is all…

In clinging to life as is, to people, to the world as I prefer it in the hopes that it will remain the same, I exhibit qualities others have shown in their interactions with me this summer. I saw myself too clearly many times. Control, anger, neediness, emotional reaction, ego, anxiety, defensiveness, self abandonment, avoidance, narcissism, distancing, and lack of compassion. But also I saw patience, love, hope, deep spiritual understanding,  sense of humor, vision, emotional maturity, vulnerability, courage and strength. In a way,  in the turning toward home, I am learning the balance of both worlds. The teacher and the artist. The human woman and the spiritual mystic. After all, the hero must return to the ordinary world and share the treasures of the journey. Even if I don’t want to…I must come home.

The blessing of always finding something to learn, to explore has been my bliss.And then sharing it with others and encouraging them to undertake the same process in their own lives is the thing I just can’t “not” do. It makes me a Teacher. And the challenge is to grow in wisdom and in peacefulness, for the greatest teachers were teachers of being and loving. I don’t have aspirations to be the type of teacher who leads a movement, nor counsels the sick and downtrodden on a grand scale. I don’t want to be a saint or a statue someday in a garden or a cemetery. I want to inspire people, in the truest sense of the term. A memory upon which someone places loving energy, and that energy will remain positive in the Universe. And if enough people do that, then the memory of me will be expansive and affirming. It will love people beyond my short journey here.

I need luck and strength this fall. But I am positive it will come. Both tears and laughter will happen and ten months from now, I have no idea what my life will be. But Clarence will be there to remind me that bringing forth love in balance is the goal, no matter what I do.  Teaching is a path… Not a subject or a profession.

It’s time I stepped evenly into Being . . . the hero of two worlds.

Message in a Bottle

6 Jun

A small blonde boy sits on the path in front of Ocracoke Coffee Company patting Clarence. Both are perfectly content just sitting on roughened planks covering pebbles and sand. The boy slowly strokes the dog’s back. Clarence then moves into his familiar spaniel position, the backward lean. It’s his comfort move.And whether my dog knows it or not it is the position which relays the most love to the person doing the patting.

It says, I trust you. You can bear a bit of my weight.

I don’t mind leaning on you for a bit.

As much comfort as my quiet presence gives to you, I am grateful for the affection and attention you are bestowing upon me.

Clarence is wise, for during this weekend back in my favorite place, I’m thinking about the delicate balance of friendship and connection. As I sit in familiar places here on the island again, people I have come to know recognize my face.

They ask,  “How’s the writing going?”

“Ok,” I say.  But at this point, two years into this blog, I’m not so sure.

Yesterday, standing in line at the coffee shop, an older gentleman and I struck up a conversation. As we slowly began to become acquainted, my travels, occupation, and story rolled out.  And of course the question always arrives,

“What do you write?”

But these days, I hesitate to answer.

Because looking back over this enormous amount of processed experience, I have no idea what to call this type of writing. It’s not a blog…each piece is too long. It’s not memoir, the experiences too new and my perspective too close. It’s not what I had originally intended to do, review the road. For the writing became personal, and intimate. Sometimes too personal. It made me uneasy this veiled honesty. My feelings on love and loss, forgiveness and connection eventually erupted into the process.

I’ve been told — Just tell a story. Narrative keeps distance between you and the reader and people come to their own conclusions.

I’ve been told — Keep it personal; that makes it more true and real, cathartic even.

I’ve been told — Shorten it up; no one wants to read 1500 word essays online.

I’ve been told — Don’t omit the details…tell the story as long as it takes.

I’ve been told — Love the rich description. My language, lyrical and poetic, is the hallmark of my style.

I’ve been told — Make it plainer for everyday folks. No one wants to think that deeply over a blog post.

All I know is this…somehow I just needed to tell my story. Somehow, making my journey visible to others whether happy or sad made it more bearable. And bit by bit, there was healing. Becuase in some strange sense the whole thing felt seen. . .witnessed. And isn’t that the only thing people can do in a recovery? What is this power of acquiring witness?

However…the doubts feel creeping shame; have I opened myself too much?

The Internet is a strange filter, through which nothing is entirely anonymous. I’m a real woman living in a real town, living a real life that has its happiness and it’s challenge, more challenge it seems than not. But still, it wouldn’t take much for anyone to find me and know quite clearly what’s happened both in my inner life and outer life in the last two years.

And now I wonder… Is it too much?

When a person asks me,  “So… What’s the name of your blog?”

And I cringe a bit and say, “Ummm… It’s not really a blog”  or ” it’s kind of a record of my journey or it’s sort of like a journal”… and then I change the subject. That’s when it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe I’ve opened up my life too much. Someone once told me revealing too much at the beginning of a relationship is like getting naked on the first date… you just don’t do that. And maybe. . .I have, a little.

And maybe for someone who meets me in person, or someone who already knows me, or more importantly someone who wants to get to know me, reading personal introspection about this journey of mine may elicit a bit of discomfort… a hesitation. Maybe it creates a sense of voyeurism that feels like walking in on someone while in the bathroom… That “Oops” feeling. That, “I’m not so sure I know you well enough to know you that well” evasiveness.

I’ll never forget sitting at one of my favorite restaurants at home last year. A young lady approached my table and asked,

“Are you the Wayfarinlass?”

“Yeeeaahhh?” I  hesitantly replied.

“I read your blog”, she said slowly. “I’m a biiigggg fan.”

Uh Oh

“Uhhh…ok?”  I started to get a little frightened. Thoughts of stalkers and just how public my small missive actually was suddenly became apparent as she plunked down at my table and ordered exactly what I had.

As the conversation ensued, the young woman revealed her purpose in approaching me. Was I dating her ex boyfriend who had referred her to the blog? Horrified, I didn’t even know whom she meant until well into our hour and half long discussion. During this confession of sorts, she revealed to me everything about her prior relationship, even details one might save for a long trusted friend. I struggled between trying to extract myself and counseling her.

Now that I look back on the event, I see it all too plainly. When you do not have a sufficient network of caring friendships and connections that provide mutual love and support, you grab on to the first compassionate ear and hang on for dear life. Because in a world which isolates us in its enormity, a world which cannot focus on anything immediate and real, being heard affirms and assures us that indeed everything will be alright. How sad, but how necessary, it is that sometimes a stranger is the only one who brings us the wisdom and comfort of the Universe. Or at least a mirror in which we see what is already there to heal us within ourselves.

We are social creatures. We need each other whether it is comfortable or not. Just looking at Clarence and the way strangers interact with him shows me that. But there is a difference in live presence and mental construct. In this digital space, I haven’t named names, for the most part, nor been explicit. But I have written about my own vulnerability, revealed details that take off the mask of a human woman struggling to navigate a single life. It strikes me that someone could meet me and know much more about me than I him or her and now and that gives me pause.

There’s a mystery to live connection, a slow revealing that builds trust as the foundation upon which the house of relationship stands. That foundation cannot be ignored, because without it, connection is nothing more than an illusion. A safe, but lonesome one at that.

In watching this little boy, I can see it. He and Clarence begin the slow creating of a moment. They get comfortable after the initial greeting. Commitment to stay for a while happens and then they settle into a quiet paring. Each tentative touch increases the trust; each stroke assures the next will be gentle and giving. Clarence gets affirming touch, the boy gets emotional comfort and peacefulness. But the key is this…

It’s present.

It’s real.

It’s not words on a page.

It’s not an illusion created by photos and status posts.

It’s not an Internet dating profile or Facebook space spread out for voyeuristic view.

It’s not a bevy of texts and emails.

It’s real.

I tire of digital connection. Like smoke signals in the distance it lets you know you aren’t alone, but it doesn’t feed the real needs of the human soul. And perhaps if we spent more time listening to each other’s stories in person, giving each other the benefit of the doubt enough to believe, trust, and walk in compassion rather than hiding behind a digital wall built of our p.e.d.’s, we might just find the beauty of our own human natures. We might ultimately find what we are looking for. For if we are at all honest, all anyone wants is love and understanding. A moment of “You too? I thought I was the only one.”

So perhaps this space has been my message in a bottle. My casting out a line into dark water, so that eventually I might find my way back to civilization, to my real home.

 

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Bones

26 Nov

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Many months ago I decided to return to the island at Thanksgiving. Eight days, I imagined, of writing magic and inspiration of the sort  found here last year. But instead, a very different feeling arrived. Yesterday, the high temperature was 36 degrees. Bundling against the chill, I walked Clarence around town and refused to acknowledge a growing suspicion that coming here was to test the foundation of something I’m not so sure I should have built within me. Because in trying to prove my strength, that I can be alone and can fulfill all my own needs, I realize that I’ve been lying. Absolutely lying. . . to my deepest core self. I do need others. But this needing creates vulnerability. And I am afraid of vulnerability. My fear of possibly being hurt by others, especially men, is keeping me safe, but in a tiny nest of observation rather than participation.

Boarding the ferry, I began to think about the relationships in my life and how I felt like something in me was actually broken, as if nothing could be loved so truly or deeply ever again. I was wrong. For when in stepping into the little house at the corner of Fig Tree and Howard, I felt my heart crack. In feeling love and attachment again for people, terror arrived. It hurts to miss them. What if they go away? What if they lie about their affections? I can’t execute the “take it or leave it” detachment I once managed so well. Nothing works…not writing, not painting, nothing. I have to sit in this miserably alone place like a duck in open water.

Yesterday, while shopping some favorite places here, I fell in love with a bracelet of Kathleen O’Neal’s made of tiny silver cast bird bones. That’s how I feel walking this town now. . . like a fragile tiny breakable bird. I hate it. I’ve worked so hard to be flesh, to be muscular physically and emotionally and all of it seems to have disappeared in the one place where  so much strength was found. My heart is now a bird, of hollow bone, the size of a sparrow. And this heart says,

I am still alive. …and now beating.

This heart  is not broken. It has sprouted tiny hollow boned wings that want to soar in gasping fear into an immense open sky. So breakable…so small. Precious. There is a message in those braceleted bones, linked together into a loop too big for my wrist so that one must dangle down disconnected from the rest.

Kathleen said, “I can take out a bone to make it fit”.

And I thought  No. This bone is necessary to the rest. Don’t take out the bone that makes it too big for my wrist. The odd bone is necessary. It’s still attached, barely, but don’t sever it from the rest. And there I was …looking at myself and knowing some way to become part of the circle of normal loving life again has to be found. The odd bone hangs down to show where one doesn’t fit into the form and file of the rest. And I’ve been dangling on the outside too long.

Coming over on the ferry, we passed by the small inlet where the sea birds and ducks roost. In passing, they took off in flight and began to circle the ship. Great wide circles around and around and then I knew… I am in Air. When I started this journey, it began in Fire. The bird of self emerged from ashes and grew. Last fall, I fell into Water…trying to learn to allow, to know that all things come in time and I went way too far out into the deep end. Having no other option, I sank into the unconscious to learn the corners of my psyche. I drowned in the darkest ocean swell without light, without oxygen… on purpose. Last year at this moment, I was fighting an emotional current that would bring me here.

Here.

In this place. On this island.

I was reborn.

In January, the walking began on Earth, connecting to the landscape of my Self. This writing space became home to all I tasted, saw, smelled, heard, and felt. It grew my voice.

And now I must take to the Air. Birds fly inside my dreams. They populate my thoughts, my art. I have become obsessed with feathers and with flight. Near the beginning of this current couch sleeping period, I had a vivid dream that I was getting ready to come to the island. About to board the ferry, I had a paper bag with two empty brown bottles and a chocolate bar. The bottom of the bag was wet. I was slightly afraid that the bottom would give way. A man in front of me in line said

You can’t take that over to the island! They don’t allow you to take that over there. . .

I was embarrassed, angry, and ashamed.

As I thought about where to put the bag out of the way so as not to litter or lose it, the sky cracked. A thunderous roll split the darkening clouds and a swarm of migratory birds on fire began their sinuous flexing flight across the sky directly toward us. Fear spread across people’s faces like a Second Coming.. a judgment… an End. As the swarm reached us, suddenly I was one of them. I saw from the bird’s perspective. We burned them. In a wave of blistering heat and fire like a rolling searing cloud, we flew flame against masses of people, their fronts like seared slices of bacon, their faces, and bodies arrested in a blistered mass of instant incineration. And I soared, horrified yet helpless within an avian swarm of flame and wing. We flew on beyond them into wakefulness. I gasped when fully awake. My nest of couch was gone.

So the Phoenix has arisen has she. . .to what? If I stay in this nest, I can only watch, the eternal observer of life. I will not know love if I do not chance loss. How will I see the sky if I do not dive? When does first flight happen? How can I be an earthly being and yet made of bird bones? Hollow limbed, light and made of flame. How do birds connect? In a negotiation of air?

They soar, solitary watchers in blue cold cloud and yet in flocks of flame.

One can only stand on the edge for so long before the lesson of flight emerges …on tiny boned wings.

A Full Plate

16 Sep

Have you ever been to a family reunion? Gingham vinyl covered tables are long and piled with homemade delectables so enticing that even though you scoop tiny bites of everything, there is still too much to fit on one plate. That has been my life since Maryland. My plate is overly full. . .so much so that I have been severely ill and struggling to sleep more than four hours a night. I am recouperating from walking pneumonia, an infection that began on the first day of school and lingered until last week.

I traveled anyway in obstinacy. I defied it. I refused to miss school more than a half a day. It laughed at me in its reaper-ish way and then, squeezed my lungs asking,

Howdja like that Wayfarin Lass? You’re taking antibiotics that cure plague for a reason Lil Miss Red.

I am learning quickly that my body has limitations and my drive, while admirable to some will end up hurting me if I do not learn to simply be.

“Give something up” is the message in this first month back to school. I’m faced with tough choices.

I gave up chastising myself about workout routines after going to TRX one evening mid-pneumonia. This was after I had walked a five mile trail in the same week.

My body said No. Stop. Enough. . .Rest.

It scared me.

But I feel soft now, lazy. Having never quite gained momentum back from the summer of traveling and exercise on the fly, I long for my hard leanness to the point of anger. I learned physical discipline, but what I must learn now is spiritual discipline. . .to let go. To balance.

I’ve been confused, musing. My students want more this year. Their skills are weak and I am angry their passiveness. They display a learned helplessness that sends my blood pressure over the edge. I have to learn to let them go and not save them. To let them reap what shallow digging sows, not much. I’ve been behind in grading perpetually because I take their assignments more seriously than they do. That has to end. Their excuses are a dish I can no longer endure.

Maryland was incredible, launching me down a path of retrieving my spirit. During bagpipe tunes and familiar Celtic songs, I had a moments of saying goodbye, watching my former love and my former self part and walk separate ways down a grassy road. I was able to say goodbye to a lot at the Renaissance Faire, and yet hello to much more. In reclaiming that space, I flowered again.

But upon my return, still ill and worried about where next to turn in this spiritual search, I found myself looking back into a program of studies I had started in 2010 at Hollins University. And there, on the list of courses was a Gender and Woman’s Studies class focused on spirituality, myth and the feminine. In less than 24 hours, I was re-enrolled and a student again with my first class only a day away. When the Universe answers, it does so like a lightening bolt. The world is becoming more complicated, yet more simple all at once.

So I face this blog now, after a weekend of confusion over VW bus financing and an aimless trek to see a Civil War Reenactment. Will I even write that novel now? It scares me that that path may have disappeared. I don’t know how, but this space needs to survive, but somehow shift. Changes are coming so quickly that perhaps I’ll only have time to share my observations on the many books I’ll be reading for my class. I still have stories to tell from the road. Like this weekend, when I practically lived out of my vehicle in the Outer Banks due to an AirBnB host who drove me insane with his intrusiveness and one-sided chatter. I had come to the Outer Banks for peace, to be alone with Clarence and to think, to write…to be silent. I paid only for a room, not to spend the weekend with a host who wanted to hostage me into being his “bff”. So I did something I never have before. I packed my car Saturday morning with no idea where to go, no place to stay. But I knew somehow I must find peace and figure it out on the fly. It should be no surprise where I ran, Ocracoke. And surely, it was meant to be. I ran into folks I haven’t seen since December and confirmed that someday the journey will end there, I’m sure.

The uncanny alignment of spiritual path, this class and returning to so many places of old is telling me something. Stay in the moment…do not look forward… do not look back.

Look within.

Remember, it is not September 2010.

It is not October 2011.

It is not December 2012.

This weekend proved that to me. I stopped to get Thai takeout at Thai Moon Restaurant before going back to the ferry and I sat outside at the café tables with Clarence, waiting. He was luring many to soften and chat with me all weekend. That’s his magic. After the AirBnB fiasco, I am now convinced I MUST find a VW bus and someway to pay for it, so that I will have a safe space to stay when I travel. Clarence must come with me. I want to write the stories of the road and of this journey of mine. I have to follow my bliss.

I’m going to put this out there right now to the Universe.

I wish for a VW camper bus so that I can continue writing and learning. I’m a single public school teacher with limited means. It’s my bliss. I have to find a way.

Moon, the owner of the restaurant, came out with my food and squatted to pet Clarence and he did his Clarence thing, lean. She stroked the white crown chakra spot on his head and began to talk in broken English.

“You know”, she said, “I Buddha and Christian, too. . .and I have dream where Buddha say to me that I live on an island and it make me happy…”

She told me an incredible story about how a divine dream revealed to her that she would live and be happy on an island. Her husband, then an alcoholic, found work on Ocracoke, made connections and recovered. Her cooking for everyone there flowered into a successful takeout business. It’s been fifteen years. Her smile shows me that the Universe indeed delivers what is meant “to be”. As I listened to her story and Clarence leaned against her knee, her hand stroked his head so softly as the light began to fade from a sunset over her shoulder in the distance. The knowledge that I was meant to be here at this moment tonight, to be learning these lessons didn’t escape me. I have found bliss: to travel, to learn, to listen to stories. So I will invest my time and money into this education, and a second interdisciplinary Masters degree where I will be able to blend creative and academic courses from a wide variety of interests and also in the road. A place where I have learned more about who I am and the world around me for the last nine months than I have in a lifetime.

I can’t promise that I will post regularly at all anymore, only when I have time or the need to share some tale of the road or my class. Perhaps I’ll need to share a milestone in this journey if I come to one. My little book is continually filling with musings, poem and now sketches. I hope to be able to paint soon; that is something the spirit needs to release in me again. You can follow me on Instagram if you want to know where I’ve been or what the road has delivered visually.Or Facebook via RSS where I regularly send out snippets of life or photos that don’t make it here. My Twitter feed (on the right) will still be active and my schedule of wayfarin will be up to date. I’m not signing off, nor saying goodbye. Only that I need some space on my plate. And I wanted you to know that silence sometimes means more than twice weekly posts. Stories might pile in half notation in my little book for the future, or I might tell you something via Youtube. I’ve been playing with the idea of a vLog. The Universe hasn’t decided yet what will come next…but as soon as I know, so will you.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for giving me a reason to journey on.

Be Well.

Be Loved.

In the Company of Souls

30 Jul

Have I ever told you about my dead friend Annie? I say cheerfully, as if I’m just dropping commentary on someone I ran into yesterday at the local Kroger.

Nnnnoooo… the person says in a slow conversational tone, until comprehension breaks across the slightly shocked, yet curious face.

And then I launch into the tale of Annie F. McWilliams Williams, the dead lady I befriended quite by accident on Ocracoke Island. Our meeting was simple. While vacationing there one hot July, I came across a broken headstone in the Fulcher – O’Neal Cemetery and became fascinated with her. Her death spoke to me, an ending after 41 years, 3 months, 1 day. From that photo on, I became permanent addition to one ordinary woman’s legacy.

My First picture of Annie, July 2000

My first picture of Annie, July 2000

This photograph of her broken cross headstone became a writing prompt in my classroom, part of a lesson on Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. For many years students created stories about how she died, who she was, what her life must have been like. Only after a repeat visit to Ocracoke in 2010 did I consider actually researching her and in three years, I know as much as I suppose I’m ever going to. Her family ties, her marriage to an older man with injuries from the Civil War, her dead infant daughters, and her own death, most likely from consumption, have all been revealed through documentation or deduction. I have a picture of her youngest brother Charlie, but none of her. Her face remains a mystery, but her spirit I can feel quite strongly. I have written many times about the peacefulness that comes attending to her grave. She represents home to me, an infinite home. One day, I hope to be laid to rest beside her.

However, meeting Annie began a slight fixation with graveyards. I have found great comfort of late in the company of souls. In following the sign of the letter and the Civil War, visiting Confederate graveyards and other war related sites has guided my recent wanderings. While visiting a friend in Lewisburg, W.V., a most unusual graveyard experience impacted the way I understand myself and the physical/ spiritual world around me. Let me preface this by saying that most of what I am about to describe can be rationalized with psychological explanation. And most importantly, I’m skeptical of the experience. But I also know that the right brain intuitive world is as real as the left brain rational one. That as beings of energy, the brain perceives both logically and intuitively, and at the base of it all, reality and truth are subjective, so bear with me while I tell the story of meeting a dead Confederate lad who just wants to go home.

On a humid overcast Sunday morning, my friend and I trekked up to the Confederate Cemetery, the resting place of 95 unknown soldiers from the Battle of Lewisburg on May 23, 1862. Walking through the iron gate, a cross shaped mass grave stretched before me like the corpse of some great bird, soft swollen belly and lifeless head exposed to the bright blue sky. After emptying my arms of possessions, the experiment began. As a highly intuitive and empathic person, I can “feel” energy. Without a long justification of this “sixth sense” about people and places, I’ll just say relying on it for over twenty years in working with others has served me well. Students have remarked about this many times. Our communications aren’t totally dependent upon verbal means. Many times, they are simply felt.

Standing at the head of the mulched mound, the quietness in me comes, and I probe what is there. Building into a gust, it washed over me like first breaths of a mountain summer storm.

wwwhhHHHYYYYY!!!

Intense shock. . .confusion. And the word, pressed into the front of my mind like a stone in one’s shoe, small, sharp and painfully palpable.

WHY?

In my mind, point of view now extended from the supine position, the last bit of air offering a plea to the sky.

“I can’t tell you why”, I thought. “But it’s okay lads”.

And then a pressure, a pulling to the left of dead center, not completely under the tree drew my attention, and I walked closer. Both palms descended onto this small mulched area of mound, and an incredible feeling of confusion overwhelmed me.

why why why why….

A knowing that help was needed somehow arose in me. I marked the spot with some flowers from a nearby tree and then I turned to my friend, who placed dowsing rods in my unpracticed hands, showing how to hold them, coaching me on the meaning of certain motions. Nothing was left but to leap in with no real idea of what to do or say.

As I stood there, the copper arms swung around almost immediately, thumping both my shoulders at the same time. The feeling was as if “he” literally threw himself onto me for a much needed embrace. Tears came instantly.

“Ohhh, it’s okay, lad…it’s okay…I’m here”, were the only words I could manage to choke out as the tears rolled down in empathy. My friend became a witness, shooting photos and observing while I became lost in conversation with a young man who just wanted someone to listen and to feel him.

“You need to let me go love, so I can sit”, I said in a reassuring half laugh. “I promise I’ll come sit with you if you let me go. I’m not going away. I promise”.

Very slowly, the copper rods swung open, and up onto the mound I stepped, bending to sit in the area with the most pressure. Comfortable, with my knees tucked half way, I raised the rods and centered. They swung right back around my shoulders once again, the left one hovering back slightly off. He’s on my right, I thought. I’ll lean into him. And so we sat close.

“Oh sweetheart”, I said “its okay…..but I can’t tell you why”.

In the ensuing “conversation”, all I could really gather was that whoever or whatever this feeling was missed home desperately and just needed human contact. I also discovered that I am looking for a soldier who died in the Civil War. That’s something I didn’t know until this experience. But this lad could not help me find him. He didn’t want to answer questions, he just needed my company. He wants to go home, somewhere out of the confusion of own passing.

“Its okay, love. You’re okay. You miss home, I know”.

Finally, I told him that I had to go, but wouldn’t move until he let go. After several minutes, the rods creaked slowly apart and he retreated.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what really happened, that the entire experience could be a figment of my imagination or some deep psychological/ emotional issue needing to play out for my own inner drama, but I will say that the experience felt no less real than any other. My friend corroborated through an outside source my first impression of shock and confusion. The lad gave me facts that I have yet to prove or disprove which aren’t mentioned here until they can be substantiated. But more than anything, it makes sense to me now why Annie is so important, why I am beginning research for a novel based upon the Civil War hospitals here in Lynchburg, Virginia. A story lies upon this path, I just have to listen hard enough to hear it. My feeling is the tale desperately needs the telling.

Summer Break

9 Jun

Today I head off to Hollins University to the Tinker Mountain Writer’s Workshop. I’m not really sure how the week will go, but my hope is that I will find a way to take all that I’ve written here and transform it. The writing has come to a point where a shift is needed. I’ve changed so much over the last seven months and while I love traveling and experiencing new things, I am feeling the need to go back to where I started, to the island and to Annie. One of my friends from Ocracoke texted me last night. He sent a sunset picture from the ferry. It was my confirmation that I need to revisit what I wrote on the island. Not just what’s here, but what is also in the originals. I hesitate to show those to strangers, but maybe parts of them might transform into something altogether different.

Ferry To Home

This last week has seemed to last forever. And a lot has shifted. I’m needing to find my feet again it seems and the best place to do that is next to Annie. I can’t go to Ocracoke right now, but in my mind, I’ll walk Back Road to the sandy corner where my friend waits for me. Paul and Newt went to see her about a month ago on their vacation. They left me a “time capsule” of sorts on her grave. I often wonder what I’ll find there and who I’ll be when I come to it. Zillie’s is on my mind these days…and the ducks and the fig trees budding. M’Lady is decked in green again, I’m sure, and the familiar smells of suntan lotion, sea breeze, and marsh grass hang heavily in the humid air.

It’s time again for me to strip my prose bare and then build it back into something else. I’m ready to see that time from a new point in the journey. Its a good place, right now. This week I can just be a writer again…nothing more. I’ll need to find the coffee shop on campus and return to the iPad.

When I return, I’m off to California. I haven’t even contemplated what I’m going to experience or how I’ll write about it. Posts might be pretty sporadic for the next few weeks, but my Instagram and Twitter will be busy, I’m sure.

So back to the island I go. . . in my memory.

One

15 Mar
Hanging next to my table (3/11/) in the midst of writer's block ~ "Faith Like a Child" @ The Muse Coffee Company, Lynchburg VA

Hanging next to my table (3/11/) in the midst of writer’s block ~ “Faith Like a Child” @ The Muse Coffee Company, Lynchburg VA

I am tired, Beloved,
of chafing my heart against
the want of you;
of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it. — Amy Lowell

Tuesday Morning (3/12): 5:15 am — I wake this morning to the sound of rain on a tin roof, reminded of a tiny yellow house….warm pile of green covers on a bed built for two, Clar curled into a warm knot down the curve of my side. Walking out into misty drops, among puddles and ducks I make my way toward a coffee shop and a blank page, steamer squeals and the airy sweet pillow on the top of my cup…a cursor blinks in anticipation, excited for curious thoughts. I’m walking out of a dream. Feels like I should be walking into one. . .

This week reminded me of why I began to write again. Of what was found within me on the island. I’ve been missing Annie for weeks and every time I go to write, I feel blocked; it’s an effort. In editing out all the “I”s, the voice becomes muted, my confidence in the experience and in my writing wanes. In my attempt to walk the middle line of personal story blended with the road, I have forgotten that the personal is what is essential to the core of writing. There would be no story without Beloved. For she is the voice that would wake me every morning in word dreams and let me know where to go on this writing path. It’s been weeks since I have heard her voice. Sleep beyond six hours and 5am is necessary. Before the diagnoses start flying, let me state that Beloved is indeed my inner writer’s voice. I am not crazy; that I have named it is ancillary. She is, though, the part that sought expression while I was walking the empty streets and sands of Ocracoke. She was the one who woke me every morning there with a phrase. . .a word or a thought to begin the writing of the day. The pieces that are posted here from Ocracoke? They aren’t the originals.****** That time for me was so raw that to offer those to public view would be foolish. Only my closest friends saw those moments. Only they know the truest voice of Beloved. She was the one who saved me and the one for whom I must now care. In coming to know her, I found my writing again and founded this blog which hardly anyone reads, most likely because it isn’t easy to read. It isn’t convenient or quick. It’s crafted and meticulous, the words dense and thoughts deep which translates into conscious terms as B.O.R.I.N.G. But I refuse to pander Beloved to a fifteen second world, to the type of self publishing with three lines and a gorgeous dreamy picture. I’ve read other travel blogs.

Okay. . .
I give up
. . .sigh. . .
deep breath
. . .this isn’t a travel blog.

Beloved has a lot to say and I lose her sometimes and the writing becomes hard. I lose her when I move past honest open, often painful thoughts and move toward what I think others want to read. I lose her magical depth and wisdom. I can’t afford to lose her anymore. Soon, I will have to completely part with someone in my life. It will be difficult. But like any parasite, the most painful part is the detachment. Final healing will come by degree. But I am grateful for the relationship even though it mostly brought me pain and discomfort. It unearthed Beloved. In pain, Joe says, we find our truest selves.

About a month ago I received a very cryptic Facebook message from a young person I didn’t know inquiring about my identity. Usually, I ignore such requests, but then this week another message came. . . I’m interested in knowing more about something you said to one of my friends about an inner voice…I think we have similar views about spirituality. It was a student who had learned that I had mentioned “Beloved” in class context. Since then, we have met in my classroom, and in telling him about this inner consciousness, this voice, I remembered why I know about mine at all.

I boarded a ferry

I made a night journey to a deserted island.

I crossed the threshold into an unfamiliar world and laid myself bare to the elements and to pain.

In that disintegration came a new path…an authentic path.

For as much as I am a wayfarer, a writer, a teacher, a storyteller, a lover of arts…I am also Beloved.

I am one.

I am not just a wayfarin lass adrift in a sea of experience. I have friends, a mother and grandmother, a dog, three cats, and over two thousand people that have walked in and out of my classroom. I meet people everyday in traveling and it is time they were more a part of all of this.

I want not to be alone so much anymore.

There, I said it.

In the fierce attempt at showing the world, that indeed I can do anything I want, whenever I want, all alone…I forgot. The Universe gave me another gift: connection. I need others in my life. I need their love and their kindness and more importantly they need mine. That young lad who spoke with me caught a glimpse of an adult who was open enough to mention the deeper self, like a half visible whisp of cloud caught in the corner of the eye. He needed confirmation of what he felt within, his own beloved voice. In my wanderings, I cannot forget that others need me as much as I need them. Balancing this journey on a road that is shared is a turn in the path, I want to share it now with my friends, my family, with Beloved but also with you.

***** The original blog posts from Ocracoke have been edited into this body of work in March of 2017. The best writing, IS personal. It took me four years to figure that out.

The Way Home

19 Dec

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This morning, my last morning here, the sun was shining through the windows and Clarence was snuggled into my side. I reflected on my discussion with Kenny last night. From my time here, not only have I come to understand my own story more but I have really come to love and be interested in hearing other people’s stories, their experiences in living. Coming to know others through connecting just as Mr. Rogers did, has me more a listener than a lecturer. I have wanted to relinquish leader role for a long while. Its time for someone else to direct. But I suppose I’ve always loved stories; after all that’s the primary addiction of a writer and lover of words. The way in which I have experienced connection this week through my own story and the story of others is somehow different though, more real, more intimate, more important than fiction. I’d like to be a collector of memories. Memories teach me.

On my way to the coffee shop, I stopped by M’Lady, the great live oak on Howard, to say goodbye. As I touched her side I wondered for probably the hundreth time, how many people has she seen and heard? How many stories of this place does she know? How many hellos and goodbyes?

So, I sit now in the coffee shop for the last time. Ryan isn’t working this morning, so I only have a red eye.  I’ll miss his country music jams and I don’t really know if I’ll ever be able to find a cafe au lait like his, but I am going to try. Last night I went to Zillie’s for the last time, too. That’s a place I need to love in small doses. I’d end up frequenting daily for the company and I’d never want it to grow old, besides I need to really start watching my wallet. I’m still trying to process all that I have come to know this week, with more experience to come in D.C. this weekend.

This time away has given me so much. I can’t really explain but I am different now, as if my eyes have been opened and cannot be shut. And for gifts, one needs a tremendous amount of thankfulness. It will be hard to leave today, to leave home. That’s what it feels like I am doing. Staying at my little cottage was almost like staying in the little house on Church Street again. Waking up this morning felt like it used to way back then; its smallness comforts me and sitting at the kitchen table writing is like being in Granny’s kitchen on Vermont Ave. Marcus told me that he grew up in that house with his “Granny Ma”, when I told him where I was staying. “Aw, that’s Granny Ma Thomas’ house. I grew up on that porch.” So it doesn’t surprise me that I feel so comforted there. After these days, it truly feels like “my home”.

Yesterday, I took my last really long walk around the island and wandered in the community graveyard. I had never been there before to visit these “younger” folk. I stood in the center for a moment, amid the cedars, oak, and moss in the drizzle and listened to the rain and quiet and as I turned, a message on the back of one of the gravestones brought me to tears:

Sometime when the rain keeps falling
And the road is mighty rough
And you just can’t help a thinking
That this life is mighty tough
Just you smile and keep a looking
And what I’m telling you is true
Somewhere peeping through the rain clouds
There’s a little patch of blue
Sure you’ve had a heap of trouble
And I’ve had some trouble too
But we’ll find if we keep smiling
That little patch of blue
–Mrs. F.D. Hendricks

Even in death, these simple folk teach me because they help me to live. Later as I walked more, I actually got lost. It was so funny. I was lost on an island that one can walk from side to side in a matter of minutes, but winding way lead to way and then I didn’t know where I was. When I finally emerged, I was near Eduardo’s Taco Stand and after having met Eduardo at Zillie’s Sunday night and hearing his story, I knew getting lost happened for a reason. I needed to go have lunch there.  Eduardo was a cook at a local place for many years, but he had a dream: to own his own Mexican restaurant here on the island. And so, he bought a food truck and created one. He made me his specialties because I just told him to pick for me. Those were the best tacos I have ever had, and even more special because they were made with care for me by a new friend whose story I now carry. And in the sharing whatever I thought I lost, I found a little of again.

Connection is the gift of the Universe. Principle Two.

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