Help the Warriors Return the Light: Beta Readers Needed #betareaders #middlegradefantasy

Happy Solstice Everyone!

I was hoping to get this post out yesterday, but it ended up being a rather long and exhausting day. I was called in to sub at the middle school and the day stretched out from there without much time for blogging. So here I am now reaching out with a request to help the “Warriors of Light” repair the lines of light in Earth. I am looking for a handful of beta readers who are willing to journey (back) into The Labyrinth with my six young warriors as they continue their quest together in book two of the series.

I you have not The Labyrinth, no worries. It would be nice to get perspectives from both those who have, and those who have not. Here is a brief synopsis of the plot of the first book and the overall quest of the adventure trilogy:

A mysterious labyrinth appears to six teens, luring them into a magical maze of light broken by darkness. Here they discover they are the chosen ones, tasked to bring back the light in Earth. It is a seemingly impossible quest in a place where danger and otherworldly beings lurk in the shadows. The teens, though, have extraordinary gifts. They are shapeshifters, able to transform into their spirit animals and unleash their powers. It is both a gift and a curse, as the teens come to realize how much is at stake…

If you are willing to help me bring book two in the series into the world by becoming a beta reader, I would be very grateful. You can email me directly at aekehas@gmail.com or respond in the comments. The manuscript will be sent to you as a PDF file formatted to read like a book. At this stage I am looking for general feedback, but welcome typos if you happen to catch them. Many thanks in advance for those who are willing to help me out.

Subbing the Middle Grades: If in Doubt, Let Them Out #middleschool #subbing #mindfulness

Photo Credit: Pixabay

It was only a half day gig, but I was covering French. I know maybe five words of French so there would be no winging it if we ran out of things to do, which we did. The teacher left very limited assignments, which were accomplished in the first third of the class time, and it was a lovely day for December. Blue skies, a light wind, temps hovering around 50 degrees fahrenheit….

So we went outside, naturally. Apparently the French class never goes outside, but yesterday we did. I have learned that playgrounds are not limited by age, only the imagination. Who doesn’t like the weighty drop of a swing after the soar? Well they don’t have swings on the middle school playground in my town, but they do have a things to play on that integrated into the natural environment. There are wooden beams to balance on and hang from, ropes to navigate, and plenty of fields surrounded by trees that beg to be run through and explored. There are few things better than watching a middle schooler give away all cares and run with abandon outside. And, our work was done for the day. We had no excuses.

Nature is transformative. Before we went outside, clusters of middle schoolers were beginning to form to talk not about French, but each other. They were supposed to be practicing their vocabulary words in small groups, but the inevitable “Who do you like?” game quickly formed between two of the clusters. I observed for a while as I pretended to read.

“Okay, let’s go outside!”

The transformation was instant. Everything else forgotten, except who was going to get the football from the gym. If truth be told, I’d spend the whole day subbing outside. Weather permitting. Nothing beats Nature’s Classroom. The benefits are pretty much endless.

I often tell my yoga classes to “get outside” to ground their bare feet through Earth, which has a magnetic polarity just like our bodies do. We need that connection to feel balanced and well. Even if we have to wear shoes. We need the feel of the elements. The wind moving into our lungs, the sun activating joy and that essential nutrient called vitamin D…

I spent the first have of this past Saturday in a suicide prevention workshop and one of the issues we discussed was the high rate of suicides here in the Northeast where are winters are long and sunlight is limited. When we don’t get outside and receive that essential connection to Earth and the elements on a regular (daily) basis, we fall more easily into depression. As a substitute teacher of the middle grades, I care more about the wellbeing of my charges than I do their grades. I believe that’s my job. I can’t possibly know the ins-and-outs of each subject in each grade that I cover, nor can I know the performance record or learning habits of each student, but I can pay attention to their wellbeing.

With the exception of the underdressed (there are always a few who refuse to gather jackets), there is always reluctance to head back indoors after the allotted time outside is finished. That, to me, is a sign of time well spent. Before we went inside yesterday, I noticed that even the underdressed child with her arms tucked into her shirt had been singing for the entire ten minutes. There is nothing better.

A Black Bird Flies Over White Rocks #lospadres #sacredsites

When my sister-in-law told me she was taking us to a trail with white rocks, I was expecting boulders maybe the size of a car alongside a mountain trail. The drive from the center of Ojai to Piedra Blanca trailhead is only about thirty minutes. It winds through and up the Lost Padres to more than 3000 feet of elevation, offering spectacular views along the way. The only time we were happy to have rented our red Jeep was when we left the paved roads and navigated the gullies of the dirt road the parking lot. By then I was crying.

Only a hint of what awaited. A time when a photo does not come close to reality.

Well not exactly, but the mist of joy covered my eyes as I took in the wonder before me. I immediately thought of Montserrat in Spain. Who knew I would find the magic of limestone beings rocks in California a mere three months after reluctantly departing from our brief stay on that magical mountain in Spain? I had a feeling, somehow, Sue must had her wing hand in this one too. I don’t think I was wrong…

It didn’t take long for confirmation that we had arrived at somewhere sacred.

Another too-dry landscape awaited us as we stepped onto the trail and began walking towards the limestone rocks that looked more and more like the bleached bones of giants the closer we got. I was, naturally, in heaven. And I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one enjoying the magic of the land.

Three of my hiking companions: My son, nephew and sister-in-law.

And then, suddenly, we had arrived at the playground of gods. An elephant loomed before us in the center. Genesha in white with folded ears and an impossibly long trunk sat above a resting camel in a valley of ghosts. Crevices beckoned eyes to peer; a perfect hideout from rattlesnakes, we kept away (with more than a bit of reluctance on my part) and continued our climb to towards the giants watching us.

Awe and wonder swirled with magic and joy that afternoon as we climbed and explored. We were all kids that day, ranged in age from 6 to 76 among the mountains of gods. Only time held us back from staying until the stars brought the secrets down from the sky. Oh, how I wished…

Still, I could imagine what once was and still could be again. I had no doubt it was once a place of ceremony, open to the sky, lifted from the body of Earth in seemingly impossible forms. Revered for the magic it held and opened to. A place that bore the tough of home. And there was one stone god, at the very least, I had to climb. Ganesha. And as I climbed, joined by my husband, Sue appeared.

It could only have been more perfect if there had been more time to explore, and perhaps a night to sleep under the opened sky. It was a feeling Sue would understand. A place she would have loved. A blessed day indeed.

Healing Waters: A Visual Journey #water #ocean #seacoast

During our recent family trip to California, we spent quite a bit of time on the coast. It was incredibly healing and rejuvenating for all of us. While the teenagers explored surfing, I couldn’t get enough of the beauty of the sea, its life, and the feel of the tide against my feet. Here are some of the photos I took, which I hope evoke that healing and rejuvenating feeling:

Spirit Stones on the Back of a Dragon #thousandoaks #wildwoodpark #traveladventures

The next morning, my husband and I returned to the site of the dragon/lizard, leaving our two teenagers behind to sleep in. The night we arrived in California, the moon was full. Three days later, it had begun to wane but the morning held onto the image of its fading face as we set out into the dry, dusty landscape of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks once again.

Morning Moon over Wildwood Park

This time we lingered at the junction of paths, debating whether to venture left towards Paradise Falls, or take a sharp right up the hill. The coyote from the day before was nowhere in sight, so we followed the tug of the hill and took the hand of chance. Actually, we both borrowed baseball-sized rocks from Earth, holding them in our palms just in case…before returning them on our descent.

There is an undeniably other-worldly feel to a dry desert, especially for someone used to living in a place with four seasons and plenty of rain.

The journey up the back of the dragon, although shorter in distance than the day before’s path, was quite strenuous. It didn’t take long for the heat to build inside us and soon we were both peeling off our outer layers to be tucked around our waists. We could not help but chuckle at the two hikers coming down the path in their matching pink windbreakers, zipped tight to the chins. “Must be locals,” we concluded.

The only visitors we encountered were two “pink ladies” (not photographed)

Aside from the the passing by of the two ladies in pink, our hike was almost eerily silent. No coyote. No snakes. Not even a raven…Somehow, like the prior day’s encounters, today’s lack of visitors seemed perfectly fitting. But I’m not being entirely honest either. There were the watching stones that filled the spine of the dragon, bringing the kind of discomfort that makes one turn to look over one’s shoulder. More than once.

But I’m okay with watching stones. I’d have been rather disappointed with the alternative. Watchers remind us of the living spirit(s) that embody the land. In such a place as we were, they are expected. No wonder the coyote had watched us the day before. Testing. Seeing if we were worthy of the climb.

The Watchers

I don’t know if we passed the test, but we were, at the very least, allowed to enter a space still bearing the imprint of magic. That, to me, is enough. I have learned the land’s secrets are not always revealed in one (or two) visits, if they are to be shared at all. Most often there is first a test (the coyote) before initial entry is allowed. And, sometimes the stories unfold in their own time. Imprinting the cells with a whisper before they dig into the marrow of magic.

What I did capture on camera: the image of an industrialized civilization below.

There was, though, at least a glimpse of what once was, and what could still be…In the distance, uncaptured by camera, I spotted the head of a second dragon. Miles away from the “Lizard Rock,” it jutted over a faraway valley, tracing the undulating length of the spine we had summeted. And I wondered, for a long moment, what it might be like to walk the entire length of the body…

Where the coyote lurked the day before held curious standing stones…guardians in their own right.

A Magical Walk with a dragon, a coyote, and a blackbird #thousandoaks #dragonlines #lizardrock

I’ve come to the conclusion the best magic is that which arises unbeckoned and fills the soul with joy. During a family trip to California over the Thanksgiving holiday week, I had the pleasure of encountering this type of magic more than once.

We took the path ahead, which leads to Lizard Rock. You can just make out its profile in the tiny peak to the left of the center of the distant hill.

On the second morning of our stay in Thousand Oaks, my husband, daughter ventured to a nearby system of trails and left my sleep son behind in the hotel. A mere ten minutes drive from where we were staying, we were afforded several paths to choose from for our morning hike. After debating between Paradise Falls (which likely had no water to offer) and Lizard Rock, we chose the trail leading to the head of the dragon. We could just make out its profile on the far horizon and it seemed to beckon us. I didn’t know Sue would be waiting for us there, but I wasn’t surprised when I saw her.

Once we reached the head of the lizard/dragon, Sue appeared in the form of a blackbird (possibly a crow) circling above

Call me crazy, if you will, but those who are willing to open their minds to wonder will likely nod their heads in knowing. Life is filled with magic, we simply need to recognize it for what it is. We need to respond to its subtle cue and open our minds to wonder to welcome it through the door. When we do, rarely are we met with disappointment.

The spine of the dragon was guarded by a lurking coyote, but the next morning it was not…

The land we traveled that morning, as all land is on this planet, is ancient. This land, unlike many other places that have been radically altered my humankind, still bears the memories of magic. There was little doubt in my mind that it was once, and perhaps still is, considered a sacred place. A place where people intimately connected to Life had called forth in the energies of the land and the sky to feed the dragon lines. The rocks still hold the stories. As rocks tend to do. They are the bones of Earth. The keepers of memories long stored, waiting to be awakened.

The head of the “lizard” is much larger than it appears here and overlooks the valley and distant hills.

The weather was near perfect, the sky that impossible blue that only comes in autumn. Yet, the ground below our feet was scorched and withered for want of rain. Over to our right, as we walked toward the head of the lizard, a coyote paced the hillside, watching us. If we had wanted to venture toward the spiny back of the lizard, today was clearly not the day to do so.

Not the best photo, but you can just make out the hint of the coyote in the tan speck at the bottom middle of the closest green mound.

It was a little jarring to have our animal guide lurking so close beside us, especially with the knowing that one coyote often belies a pack inwaiting. But it was approaching mid-day and there were other hikers roaming the trails with canine companions of their own. Even if we were being watched, we were safe enough. And the symbolism of the coyote, with the blackbird that awaited us, could not be more fitting for a place such as this.

Sitting on the head of the dragon/lizard rock it is easy to contemplate the vast expanse of Life.

Lizard rock is just over a mile from the parking lot of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, and when we arrived at its head we waited patiently for the hikers who proceeded us to take their photos. My daughter and I both wanted our turn, and as you can see, the view is well worth it. When a solitary blackbird appeared overheard circling above us I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt we had arrived at a special place. I could only imagine what it once must have been like to look upon nothing but wild wilderness and feel the rush of energy commence at the head of the dragon upon which I sat.

The honeybees on the few cati that were in bloom brought a glimmer of hope

Sadly, though, I could not ignore the feeling of neglect in its place. Southern California is suffering greatly from the effects of climate change and the land is so thirsty for water even the visiting body aches for it. I felt myself wishing I had the power of my Warriors of Light character, Dell, wishing I could sing the water back to water Earth.

The walls of the cave continued to fill, and Dell did not drown. She had becoming a part of the body of water. Together they moved against the structure of stone, softening its form and urging its pores open to fill hardened veins with life. Up they rose, higher and higher, as the water lifted the weight of time along its way to open air. 

And instead of fear, Dell felt only joy.

Triggering Times Can Lead Us to Wellbeing #yoga #mindfulness #wellbeing

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I just finished listening to part of a YouTube astrology post that a blogging friend of mine shared. The astrologer triggered had me at the word “trigger.” To say these are “triggering times” for many of us is probably an understatement. We don’t, in fact, need an astrologer to tell us that volatility and instability surround us and stir the sense of unease within us, but it’s helpful to know how we react to what triggers us. It’s helpful to discover the cause and the effect.

Triggering events are what spurs life into being. If you recall yesterday’s post where I discussed the five elements and their corresponding seasons that cycle through our lives, you might bring life’s triggers into the perspective of the natural patterns of Life. And these need not be negative. We need not view them from the lens of judgement. The union of yin and yang energy that brings forth life is often pleasurable, just as a “triggering” song might inspire us to dance or sing with joy.

The key lies in the response. What do we do with what we are given? How do we learn? How do we take action that yields new growth, which brings us closer to the state of being that resides in joy?

Often, when we are triggered by something that we perceive as “negative,” we dive into defense-mode. We externalize our feelings to guard and protect our sense of security. It can take tremendous vulnerability to let go our guards and dive inside instead of outside of ourselves. We forget that herein lies the gift. When we go within we find the seat of our strength and our inner power, because that ever-wise inner-self calls us home to who we truly are.

I have experienced many triggering events in my life. Some days I experience several over the course of just a few hours. I probably don’t need to tell you how exhausting that can be. We are energy, and the more we are pushed to expend our energy and then turn that push into defense-mode, the more exhausted we become.

These triggers remind me of the guards I still station around my joy. They are irrational in the moment, but rational when I dive into the body’s wounded stories. What a disservice, though, it is to myself and others to perpetuate these myths and to allow them to wreak havoc on my interconnected mind/body/spirit.

There are times where it doesn’t take much to spur the creative action of grown. Years ago, I decided to get my palms read. I was a vendor at a local metaphysical fair and during one of the audience lulls I went over to a booth that had caught my eye. I’d say about 50% of what I was given during the reading rang true, the other 50%, well some of it triggered within me with the feeling of untruth.

As the palm reader was studying one of the lines on my hands, she declared with absolute assertion that I could not be a writer because I lacked the line for creativity. This statement triggered a whole series of wounds inside of me before it spurred me into growth. It triggered my sense of self-doubt and the idea that I would never be good enough to do what my heart knew to be truth since the moment of earliest memory. It temporarily unraveled my sense of identity and had the potential, if I had let it, to unravel my dream. I pushed aside the fact that the reader had also got a lot of other things wrong, like that I really didn’t listen to, nor like in the least bit, heavy metal music. Instead, I immersed myself in the one statement that spoke to my wounds.

And for those of you who follow my writing, you know that I haven’t stopped. We can feed our energy bodies or we can deplete them with the stuff of life that triggers us. Many of you may also know that when I was in my early thirties I suffered from debilitating IBS. For two years I allowed my energy body to suffer because of its untended wounds. Then, on Mother’s Day of 2008 I awoke from a hellish night of my body’s agonies and decided that this trigger I was experiencing was not going to defeat me. I was going to defeat it. Or, let me put it more kindly, I was going to grow from it and heal it. For the sake of my children first, and my own wellbeing (still always second, I’m still learning), I dove inside and released what needed to be freed. It was the same day I gave myself permission to write. I had 30+ years of words buried inside of me, it was no wonder my body was ready to explode. Thus, you can perhaps image how triggering it was to, years later, hear that palm reader tell me I was not, in fact, a writer.

I tend to be one of those people who always looks for the underside of the story of an event. I like to dig into the “why” to discover a deeper meaning, and how it might relate to the bigger picture of my life, or life in general. It helps me make sense of a world that would otherwise seem chaotic and randomly unjust. I don’t always like doing it, but it’s essential for my own wellbeing.

I am currently reading a book I don’t like. It’s a sequel to another book I didn’t like. The author, Octavia Butler, was a fine writer, but her apocalyptic choice of genre is triggering for me. I suspect that was a large part of why she wrote the books she did. In these particular books, the nightmaric world she created for the future illustrates a future out of control due to all the triggering events that lead up to its dystopian creation. Climate change, greed, the lust for power…it hits hard with a possible reality that is difficult to stomach. Yet, I keep reading it. It is triggering my shadow-self, that part of me that I don’t always like to visit, and that part of humanity that Butler is asking us to see for all its potential horrors.

There’s a section of the population, including the lead character of the books, that Butler calls “sharers.” It is another word for empath, but in the case of Butler’s stories, these empaths were created from a drug their mothers took. The stark reality, though, is that we are all empaths. Some of us hide it better than others. Some of us build shields to protect what we don’t like to feel. Butler’s books are uncomfortably close to our global reality, and because they are so dystopian, they stir more despair than hope through their plots. Yet we can still use them as triggers for change. We can dive deep, deep into the shadowland of the individual and the shared self to find out the root cause of our actions or inactions and allow the trigger to inspire positive growth.

It is always a choice. Life, in each moment, unfolds a myriad of options at our feet, asking us which way we would like to walk. We can, quite literally, in each moment choose the path of darkness or light. Love or hate. Peace or turmoil. Wellbeing or disease. The choice is always there.

The Cycle of Letting Go into Trust in EMYoga #emyoga #yoga #grief

Nature’s 5-pointed starfish. Photo credit: Pixabay

There is a pattern developing in my yoga classes and it centers in the place of the lungs and heart. In the practice of EMYoga (energy medicine yoga), which was created by Lauren Walker based upon the work of Donna Eden, the body is viewed through the lens of the five elements of ancient Chinese medicine. The elements, which correspond with the seasons, can be viewed as a circle, but also a star. I like the symbolism of both. The star within the wheel.

Water reveals winter’s deceptive stasis. Photo credit: Pixabay

Arising out of the element of water, where life is birthed into being, the energy body (for this post’s purpose, the term energy body includes the entire body: physical, emotional and spiritual) is encouraged to move out of the stagnation of fear into the courage of potential. In the watery world of potential, everything is possible as creation stirs into being.

The wood element takes over in spring, bursting potential into growth. Photo credit: Pixabay

Winter’s hidden growth emerges in the springtime, the element of wood, breaking ground in the cycle of rebirth. The energy body can become restless in the element of wood. Angry, even, when growth is not happening fast enough, or not in the way the mind wants it to. Here, the sometimes frenetic energy of springtime can be tempered, like all energy, through the compassion of the heart. Aggression then becomes assertive action as the energy body learns to harness the force of spring for positive action.

Too much fire can wither life. Photo credit: Pixabay

Spring weaves into the energy of summer, where the heat of the sun burns the fires of creation. Too much fire leads to anxiety, as the energy body seeks to dance and move itself in a thousand different ways. An excess of fire leads to burn-out, and so the flames seek also the tempering of the heart of reason and compassion, moving the creative force into the energy of inspiration.

The phase of balance (equinox) or excess (solstice). Photo credit: Pixabay

As summer wanes, the energy body begins to turn inward to the self, seeking reunion with the inner child who represents the true, joy-filled self. It is the time of transition, where the outer begins to move inward again. The element is Earth, residing in the in-between times of the equinox and solstices. Those with an abundance of Earth energy tend to neglect their inner child in favor of excessive giving to others (summer solstice), depleting the self of sunshine (winter solstice). The energy body seeks balance (equinoxes), urging the turning inward to reconnect with and tend to the inner flame. It’s not always easy to do for those who tend to reside within the element of Earth.

An autumn leaf on the verge of letting go opened to the heart. Photo credit: Pixabay

It takes trust, and letting go, and so we move into the final element on the wheel, and the last point on the five-pointed star, which resides in the “season” of autumn. In the northern hemisphere we are in the middle of fall, so it is fitting that my classes seem to keep finding their way to this seasonal elemental focus. Due to the pandemic, though, loss has become universally poignant. Grief feels like a cloud surrounding us, and for some of us it is deeply infused into our energy bodies.

A scattered deck of Tarot with the Wheel of Fortune in the center. Photo credit: Pixabay

So how do we let go into faith and trust? How do we allow the wheel to keep turning to move back into the season of winter and the phase of infinite potential to bring forth new life? It is perhaps the biggest act of faith we can partake in. Surrendering to the unknown, and trusting in an inherent, yet often elusive-feeling of universal love that supports and surrounds us all, is no easy feat for someone who is immersed in the energy of grief. We, as humans, learn to cling to the tangible as we become accustomed to life in the body. We look for safety and security from the touch of others and the comforts of physical objects. When we lose these things, we often linger on the empty feeling of lose and our sense of security becomes threatened. The ancient Chinese medicine element associated with the season of fall is metal. In Tarot, the element is air, but it is often depicted through the metal symbol of the sword as a representation of this very mentally focused season/element.

It takes mental fortitude and a mighty hand to form the sword, as well as to make the choice to use it of to lay it down in surrender. There are two forms of surrender. Defeat and trust. With trust, as we see in the Ace of Swords, the mental energy of the metal/air element gives way its hold to a higher power. Piercing the crown that sits atop the head, it breaks open the energy of the 7th chakra/ or crown chakra, to open to the wisdom of the divine. It is the ultimate surrender of faith. The mind relinquishes its hold on control and trusts that there is a universal plan that arises from the energy of love. A challenge when one suffers profound loss, yet this trust comes with a knowing that death is a natural part of the cycle of life and this season of loss will move, once again, into the infinite potential of creation.

Ace of Swords in the Rider-Waite Deck

Unfolding #poetry #yoga

To tumble out of the unfolding draw in a breath

Remember who you are

Remember the child who knew how to dance with light

Your doorway to truth

Like Alice peering into the Looking Glass without fear

Grab ahold of wonder

Dive into the ripening

You the vine, but also the seed

Arising from the place of beginnings

Everything already coded

waiting to break open

To reach beyond the ground

draw down light and spread the tender vine

Rejoining the spiral dance

Our Greatest Teachers Never Leave Us #lifeafterdeath #magic

Sue would have loved this smiling stone…

It is unfair to say she has not visited because my mind had hoped for more. This stubborn mule of expectation impedes the magic of the offerings. If I allow myself to weave the threads she sends through the veil, the tapestry becomes a perfect gift. With each offering, I weave the continuation of our story. She doing the work there, and I here, yet somehow there is no here or there. Only everywhere. Creation ever unfolding its mysteries. This is just what I would expect of my teacher, so why want more?

What I seek becomes our tapestry, and I step back to look at the whole still forming. How beautiful is trust as one reaches for the offering, saying yes, I know the source. I accept the continued mystery. I accept not knowing when the thread will pull the veil apart and ask to be woven in connection. She knows I like puzzles, a fellow seeker of truth. She knows the senses can be wholly alert when allowed to open.

If I tell you it all? What will be left?

The joy is in the journey. Delight arrives when the light of knowing illuminates questions. Life, she reminds, need not be a burden of holding, but the beautiful wonder of stripping bare the wrap of that which is cumbersome.

You can be anything in any moment.

The embodiment of the free soul, allowing. Dropping the pretense of control and letting go. That is why we dream of flight. The soul grows heavy in a body of gravity, but it need not.

Each footstep can be magical.

She knows I have felt the magic of the land. She watched in recognition the homecoming. Knew how the Earth’s secrets whisper to those who open to hear them. Each footstep a chance to peek through the door of wonder. Yes, how could I doubt she would not walk again with me? I see her in the cloak of feathers, weightless when she wants to be. She is laughing with the rocks. She is home, ever-nudging me to find it again.

How could I doubt?