I had been dreaming about being at school. That is not unusual for me. Last night I was back at Bowdoin College, but it really wasn’t anything like the Bowdoin I attended nearly 25 yrs ago. Instead, it felt foreign and strange. I was enrolled in four classes, yet hardly even attended the lectures. I couldn’t seem to remember where my classrooms were, let alone the room number of my dorm room. The dream was filled with angst, reflecting the, well, let’s just call it a semi-existential crisis I’ve been battling these days: What the heck am I doing here and where the heck am I going with my life?
Yep, I know that sounds extreme and dramatic. And, quite frankly it’s something I circle back to from time-to-time. I’m now at the stage of life when my kids are nearly ready to head off to college. As they get ready to embark upon life outside of their childhood home, I can’t help but think about what that means for me.
Once again, I’ve found myself circling back to the idea of returning to school, myself. It doesn’t matter that I’ll be 50 in less than three years, I seem to have a passion for life-long learning. The only thing that tends to hold me back is the money. Which is an underlying block in my current semi-existential crisis.
School seems a foolish thing to think about for myself when my own two kids will be heading out the door in just a few short years. Even though our household income is higher than most, it’s not enough to pay for 4 yrs x 2 kids’ college tuition costs. When my husband recently announced our current rate of college savings and how he had hoped that I would have been able to contribute more through my meager income, I felt a wave of panic and guilt set in. Every dream and hope I had for my life, and our shared life as a family of four, began to dance in spectral forms around me.
I don’t mean to be dramatic here, but I wonder how many other stay-at-home-parents feel the same way and are haunted by similar ghosts of a future that could have been, but never was…
Even though I wouldn’t trade back my time at home with my kids, if I could do it over again I would have a plan in place for this time in my life. I would have thought long and hard about a career that could be picked up again after a long absence, or one that could be nurtured part-time as I nurtured my children full-time from home.
I don’t life in a society that makes it easy for mother (or fathers) to return to the workforce after long leaves of absence, at least not in careers that honor higher degrees of education beyond the high school level. Nor does it assign monetary value to the work that is done by a stay-at-home-caregiver. It is, for the most part, an unpaid and thankless job.
Yet, despite this, I would not trade in my time with my children. I also know they are grateful for my presence in their lives. As the saying goes, it’s nearly impossible to have it all. So we must instead as ask what is enough?
In my present state I have come to realize that I tend to define my own worth too much by monetary values without allowing myself to accept how much value there is to the unpaid work that I do. That’s where my friend the cardinal comes in.
After a night of struggling with my inner-demons, I woke to birdsong. Mind you, it’s the middle of February and temperatures are below freezing when I wake most mornings, including this morning. I am not used to hearing birdsong in the middle of winter outside my window.
At first I was a little annoyed. I rather liked the idea of a few more minutes of sleep on a day when an early rise was not needed. But there was no further sleep to be had. The bird was insistent, and soon after I pulled the plugs from my ears I had a good idea of what type of bird it was. I wasn’t, though, quite expecting it to be so bold.
The cardinal was the first thing I saw as I pulled aside the curtains. Its crimson coat, a bold contrast to the snow-brushed hemlocks as it peered back at me and sang. It was eye-level. The only bird in sight. The only bird singing. Fine, I told it, I’ll look you up in Ted’s book later.
I should not have been surprised by what I read, but somehow I had not recalled that particular bit about the cardinal as a messenger. In the last sentence of Ted Andrew’s description of cardinal in Animal Speak, you will find these words, “…remember that everything you do is of importance.”
I am sharing them here, because if I needed the reminder, perhaps you do too.
It was dark in the room, as it often is during the daytime. My children, lapsed back into younger years, opened the seldom used front door to let the wild bird inside. It flew, or rather seemed to stumble, bumping along the floor for awhile until it settled under the couch into sleep. There it stayed for quite some time. I can’t tell you exactly how long, as dream time stretches and bends in funny ways. And soon enough the dream shifted, and my feathered seer disappeared.
I left the pileated woodpecker behind in the room we once referred to as our children’s playroom, but is now a library/game room, and found myself inside a museum. Well, that’s not entirely correct. If memory serves me, I was first outside. Once again, the light was muted as you often see in movies to build dramatic effect. Here the old blended with the new, again, and I found my eyes pulled to the stones. No surprise, really. That’s where the seer resides and reads the secrets held within.
I was excited. Sure that there had once been a circle in a place now built up by more modern hands. “See that one,” I pointed, “and that one!” The position, size, and alignment could not be accidental. And then it all began to fall apart. Suddenly I was inside the museum in need of a restroom. Here I found myself literally exposed. The bathroom was more an office than a cell, open to windowed rooms with people inside, and a wide open door where others walked by. And there I sat in the center with my pants down, exposed and worried about what others were seeing and perceiving. My sight pulled in angst to the world constructed around me while the inner spirit struggled to break free and wander back outside with the stones.
I am not surprised by the dream. When one ignores the first sign, another one will inevitably appear. About a week ago, I dreamt of another “play room.” This one was hidden inside my sister’s house. When I stepped inside this unexpected wonder, a child’s dream unfolded. Gradually I was draw to the vast windows where I stood in awe peering into the vast wilderness beyond. As in the dream last night, there were feathered beings. More than one. Young and downy, their colors muted into balls of fluff. Fledglings impossibly large, and birthed forth in autumn instead of spring. No, I thought, it could not be. They were so healthy and vibrant. Filled with the promise of life.
Before I woke completely into morning, I had another dream experience that has lingered with me. It is a brief recall. This time I found myself inside a vehicle with the radio turned on against my will, playing a recording of my voice. The first sounds were those of coughing, as though I was clearing my lungs of congestion. Then the coughing turned into a humming of sorts. “No,” I said embarrassed, “Don’t listen to that.” My voice on display, to my ears, echoed back to me dissonance as I resisted. Then strength grew into a sound that sung of freedom. It felt powerful and clear, now that all the gunk had cleared. “Take care,” the voice urged before it stopped. “Take care of you.”
I find myself now wondering, in the sometimes harsh light of day, how many of us are feeling the same way. This long year that has held fear and constriction for so many of us has, no doubt, left imprints on us. Perhaps, like me, you have used the pandemic and political turmoil as an excuse not to wander outside the confines of containment, and by containment I don’t mean those imposed to preserve health. Rather, I am referring to the free spirit that is a winged thing always yearning to fly. Always yearning to sing to the tune of inner truth. I must remind myself to play. To wander into magic, even if it involves outer restrictions. To let the feathered seer awaken once again and commune with the mysteries of life that return the wonder of the inner child.
Neglecting the soul is never a good thing, as I was reminded before I woke to this day. If we ignore its yearnings, a restlessness sets in. And sometimes, that restless turns to malaise.
We left the eye with more questions than answers. Inside my mind’s eye I could still see the figure of white light standing over the pyramid stone. Waiting for our arrival. Waiting for the white pillar of crystal I had promised to seed at its base.
It was a short walk, through the tangle of roots and moss, to get back to the stone that had filled my thoughts for two months. I dropped my backpack nearby, and began digging through the contents for the wrapped selenite and Sophia’s small pyramid of rose quartz. As I searched for the pink stone, a noise rustled the forest into alert and we knew hikers were approaching.
Worry set in a bit as I wondered if we would be interrupted when it really matter most, but I soon discovered that our visitors were, in essence, just what we needed. A heaviness had set in after leaving the guardians and the white boulder. I, personally, felt a bit of an unease as to whether we were really meant to be near the “eye,” or had tried to “look” too closely at what was not meant to be observed. But there had been the wren, and I had to believe there was a purpose to our visit, even it if was not wholly revealed.
The wolf-dog appeared before his human companion. Later, Deb would remark about how even her appearance seemed more than accidental. A tall blond with blue eyes filled with an ethereal light. She and her rescued husky brought a joy that was much needed. That had somehow dissipated after our climb.
Ari and his caretaker had lightened our collective mood, and after their departure we decided to take a few moments to ground ourselves with some food and water. It was clear, through our visitors, that we were not meant to rush.
Trusting the inner guidance I was receiving, I suggested we form our own pyramid to seed our offerings and then join our energy with the energies surrounding us.
It was a natural unfolding, the white pillar slid into darkness, settling well below the base of the mighty stone above it, while Sophia and Deb seeded their stones at the points of their calling. No one else appeared from the trails as we gathered together again to extend our arms into three sides. Each voice, in turn, opening to words of gratitude for our presence being allowed. And, our offerings being received.
Our work soon felt complete, and a quiet fatigue settled in as we began to make our descent down the mountain. Although we shared words, we were also individually wrapped in the processing of our experiences. I, wondering if the lines might shine a little brighter than when I had first arrived on the serpent mountain two months prior. And, perhaps, a little more opened. Lines rejoining as the crystals settled back into the body of the Mother.
“It’s a snake!” Deb announced, as I shrieked and jumped back into the arms of Sophia.
“Oh gosh,” I apologized. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare it away.”
A garter snake, well into adulthood, its brown and tawny body blending with the earth, slithered away from our path and into the underbrush of the forest.
I thought of Shesha, the snake-boy from my book. The fourth character in the six to appear that day. And we all thought of Isis. It seemed a fitting guide for the end of our journey.
The small blue car coasted down the mountain with more ease than it had ascended. As we turned the corner to join the main road, a bear arose from the wooden face of a store placard. There, before me, was my sign from Sula, the bear-girl. All that was left was Dell. The otter girl. I realized the chances of seeing an otter that day were slim, but still I wondered if the hexagram would complete itself.
Less than twenty-four hours it would. Opening the screen of my computer, an otter would appear. It was time to await the next journey. Wherever and whenever that might be.
When we arrived at the pyramidal stone that had caught my eye during my first visit, I found myself worrying a bit about encountering other hikers. The stone is not far from the intersection of three trails, making it likely we would not be alone. Yet I need not have worried. All beings we met seemed to be messengers even when they were not aware that they were.
I pointed the stone out to Sophia and Deb, who could not deny the significance of its shape. It also seemed to mark the entrance to an area that pulled us into a desire to explore, and so after paying our regards with the knowing we would return, we ventured off the beaten path.
I immediately had the sensation of entering into what felt like the body of the dragon. Dimension began to slip away, and the mind softened as the inner sight opened. I knew my companions were feeling the opening too, but I would not know until we rejoined how similar our experiences were.
As I walked, past dreams and visions started to knit together, as worlds folded into each other. As strange it all seemed, it also made sense. At least to the degree I was meant to understand that day. I soon discovered the land here holds its secrets tightly guarded and a trust must be earned to enter into their mysteries.
An other-worldly presence was undeniably evident, it turns out, to all of us. The face in the pyramid stone that had appeared during my trip in July, along with the large stone head at the beginning of our walk that day, could no longer be claimed as mere coincidences. I am a skeptic by nature, but I could not deny what I was seeing once Deb and Sophia revealed that they, in fact, had seen the same.
Yet it wouldn’t be until later, after I had some time to digest the experience, that I would begin to connect the dots and wonder how lives past and present were weaving together for a purpose just beginning to be defined. “Ammon Ra!” I was nowhere near Egypt, but the pyramids were everywhere, dimensions had collapsed the stars into Earth, and one tiny messenger was about to lead us to a mysterious eye.
I believe it was Deb who first spotted the tiny brown bird flirting among the shadows of the trees. It flew just beyond our reach, and difficult to detect. Were it not for its voice, we may have lost it. Yet despite its illusive nature, the bird seemed to beckon us to follow, and so we did. It was, in my mind, without a doubt, another messenger. Perhaps our most important one.
“I think we need to go there. In fact I know we need to go there,” I announced as I pulled my companions into the undergrowth of a path that wasn’t marked by human footsteps. The energy of the beacon had an undeniable force, yet there was a point when I knew we must stop.
Surrounding us were guardians staring out from the trunks of trees, peering through the visages of moss covered stones, and leering up at us through darkened holes. I was beginning to feel rather like I was in some Tolkien novel and the words, “Thou shalt not pass,” echoed through my mind.
We gathered between the grumpiest “troll” and the wooden head of a dragon guardian, forming a makeshift triangle on the uneven earth after we placed offerings of herbs and corn near the watchful eyes.
On one side of us was the alpine forest, on the other, an immense white stone. If I had any doubts it housed the treasure being guarded, they soon disappeared.
Soon after our eyes closed in meditation, the serpent appeared. Its body emerged from the white boulder just over the head of Sophia and quickly wrapped the crown of our trinity. There it held us until we were finished.
“She’s standing in wait,” I whispered, eyes still closed and fixed upon the pillar of white energy waiting by the pyramid stone. Who she was, I still cannot say for sure, but she knew we were coming, and I was pretty certain I had seen her before. I recalled the “white goddess” who appeared in England at the foot of my bed years before, pulling the bedclothes back, urging me to surrender to the fey queen’s bidding. I thought also of Sophia, who had pulled the card for Isis before we had left. Was this her serpent energy that wrapped us tight?
It was after we rose from our mediation that I really looked at the white rock we stood beneath. “It’s the eye,” I don’t know how I knew it, but I was certain of my words.
Sophia, drawn to the curious markings that crisscrossed its surface, tried to get closer. The soft earth of the lid pulled her back and she lost her footing. “I don’t think we’re meant to go any nearer,” Deb and I both declared.
After a taking a few photographs, it was clear the “eye” had given has all of its gifts for the day. It was time to complete the mission of our journey and return to the pyramid stone and offer up the white pillar from Mystery Hill.
There were at least as many pyramids as there were hearts along the journey that led us to one particular stone pyramid at the crown of the dragon. Too many to count, and probably a lot that were missed by our eyes. It seemed, though, like the hearts, more than a coincidence… Pyramids carved into the faces of stones, stones opening to their portals such as the one above, and rocks that had somehow fallen from Earth’s openings into perfect pyramidal shapes.
Guides continued to appear as we ascended the mountain. Soon after the chipmunk, a call rang through the canopy above. “It sounds like an eagle,” Sophia remarked, “I was told an eagle would be here today.”
We did not see the eagle, but days before I had seen an eagle twice in my travels. Three times in total this summer.
Followed by the eagle, was a yellow butterfly spotted by Deb. It was becoming a little uncanny. Not only were these common guides in my personal life, the eagle and butterfly are two of the totems in my Warriors of Light series. And it would get stranger from there…
Worlds started to collapse as the mountain watched us walk its body. So many watchers, I would later remark that I was grateful I did not take this journey alone.
After that rather shocking encounter with the rock face that looked like the head of a galactic being, we were constantly aware of being observed. Ents appeared in the taller trees and trolls below them. Some seemed happier than others about our presence and it was clear we were walking in a land that did not really belong to humans.
A land, we would feel every-increasingly, that was guarded with a purpose. And, was alive with forces that, well, seemed other-worldly. Unlike in many of the places I have visited in England, where the magic of the land was enhanced by an ancient sophisticated society that moved and placed stones with deliberation, here mighty stones formed uncanny alignments by the forces of Earth.
Yet there were so many similarities. The feeling of dimensions collapsing and realms mixing. The feeling of forces dormant and waiting to be reawakened…it was more than obvious a dragon lines ran through this land, and the three of us could not help feeling and seeing that the stars also had a special alignment with this serpent mountain.
And, even though we had not chosen to walk the path of the water lines, the feeling of the element was present. It was held in the body of the stones with whale beings seemingly embedded into the body of the dragon. Fire and water. Alchemy. I couldn’t help but think of how the magical hexagram was here. And I could only hope that the lines were still alive here, even though there were obvious disruptions. Most notably, the towers of metal we could not bring ourselves to linger near for too long (much less photograph) that several feet (thankfully) away from the crown.
Memory and intuition brought us to the crown even though we were walking an unfamiliar path to get there. The increasing pulse, pulling us to our destination to place our offerings and heed the land’s calling, whatever it may be. And if it were not for the wren, we may never have seen the eye…
We left at 9:30am. Three women, piling into my little blue car to fulfill a promise I had made with a dragon. And a stone. We had everything we needed, or so I hoped. To be honest, I wasn’t wholly sure what we needed, or what at all to expect. All I knew was where I needed to go and what I needed to leave behind.
My offering was wrapped in gold satin at the bottom of my backpack. A gift unearthed six years before at in a place where it shouldn’t be by my daughter. I couldn’t deny I would miss it, just as I had the Raven’s Crystal but this too was not mine to keep.
Inside the pack, with the pillar of selenite, were my snacks and water, some tissues, bandaids, my wallet, windbreaker, and three bundles of sage and lavender from my garden. There had been no more dreams or visions, aside from the returning memory of a journey with my two companions to the Mystery Hill where my daughter had found the offering years before. They, in turn had brought their own offerings, which later we would realize were perfect. Being led, like me, with few clues but with a willingness to discover whatever awaited.
The signs began to become obvious when we pulled the car into the base of the mountain. Although its electric charge was now at zero, the gas meter read 333 miles remaining in the tank. When I glanced at the sequence of 3s, then shared the number with my companions, it became obvious why we had formed a trinity for this journey. There had been a moment of guilt days before, followed by an extension of the invitation to others to join, but in the end we were left with the three I had envisioned. And, somehow we had settled, without knowing it, to embark on the day of a new moon, because it was simply the only day that worked.
Deb and I jumped out of the car to pay the park fee, get maps and make an inquiry.
“Can you tell us how to get to the Serpent Ridge trail,” Deb asked a dumbfounded attendant. I had an impulse to nudge her when I saw the look on the attendant’s face.
“There’s no trail by that name.”
“Yes there is,” Deb insisted, “readying her phone to pull up the evidence.
“Never mind,” I interjected.
I’m okay with not being considered “normal,” and perhaps a tad bit “crazy” by some people’s standards, but I saw no point in further alarming the poor woman behind the glass who seemed pretty close to making use of her own phone. To call the authorities.
“We saw it online,” I said. “It was probably just named that by some hiker, never mind.”
The car chugged up 2/3 of the mountain with some effort while Deb and I shared our experience at the gate with Sophia. Marking the beginning of a steady stream of jokes and much laughter that would carry us through to end of our day.
The air was colder than I had anticipated, and the sky threatened a rain that never released from the clouds when we disembarked from the overheated car. Resting nicely in a near-empty lot, we left the vehicle behind to eat lunch.
“What time is it,” Sophia inquired.
The next time I would look at the clock on my phone it would be 12:44.
“Should we take the slut trail or the slab,” Sophia wondered as she studied the map.
“Slot, Alethea, Slot!” That was it, we were doomed. I could have blamed the wind for the tears, but it was pretty obvious that the three of us had reverted back to childhood. Laughter would turn out to be the balm we needed as we descended into the darkened forest.
Our first guide was a familiar one. “I was wondering if you’d be here,” I greeted the chipmunk as it scurried from stone to stone beside us.
“Do you remember the chipmunk at America’s Stonehenge,” I asked my companions. They recalled its uncanny hoping to the stones where our eyes needed to linger. This one, though, stayed with us for just a short time. There was another guide yet to make its appearance. A guide that would make me think of Sue.
I took it as a good omen we were in the right place, but I think the old man who passed by moments later thought I was as looney as the gatekeeper did Deb. More laughter, of course, ensued.
The next being we encountered stopped us in our tracks. Nestled into the roots of two birches aside the path, it was impossible to miss.
“It looks like…”
“I had the same thought.”
All three of us, apparently, saw the same image encased in stone. And what we saw foreshadowed what was yet to come.
She stands alone in the vast echoing darkness, as she does each day. Her hair ripples a night without stars from her crown to her waist. “Ammon Ra!” She calls through the portal. “Ammon Ra!” She raises her scepter to the apex, heralding the opening. “Ammon Ra!” Darkness slips away to the effortless lift. Stones becoming an illusion to weight. Her body, the channel for the sun, her voice, the gateway. “Ammon Ra!” Dimension collapses into waves of light, filling the great pyramid it searches for the veins. “Ammon Ra!” The scepter meets the floor and gold spills into the ground in a vast web without endings. Below the feet of the priestess, Earth pulses with energy. Tomorrow she will return. And the day after that…
It’s a hot morning in mid-July and I am climbing a mountain that has called to me through the channel opened to the higher self. I am not thinking of Egypt or a long ago time that has rippled back to this one. Instead, I am trying not to think, allowing myself to surrender to whatever will be. It is hot. Airless. Just as it was a year before when I climbed another mountain with my husband on our anniversary because it called me from a place beyond logic.
Instead I have brought a packet of tobacco leaves, as I did when I climbed to see Chocorua. It is not yet time to bring the crystal, now I know why my daughter dug the wand of selenite out of a sandlot six years before I would find myself inside a vision of life that is woven into this one.
It’s no big deal. There are others who call in the opening, collapsing dimension in the path to the stars.
Admittedly, despite the attempts to expect nothing, I am looking for signs along the path. At Chocorua I had several: the ghostly figures of Native Americans watching us walk beside the sacred stream, the white feather fallen upon the path, two snakes, the crow greeting our arrival and the pileated woodpecker, my “feathered seer” calling through the silence. And, finally, the face of the chief in the clouds just before we turned for our descent, not having quite reached the peak of our destination.
Today there are no ravens promising magic, only a woman and her dog who quickly disappear ahead of us and out of sight. I have a feeling it will be a quiet walk and I will be watched more than I will see. This is often how it happens, I am learning. A trust needs to be earned, and I am heedful of my steps and mindful of noticing where I feel the nudge to drop a few leaves of tobacco for the spirits of the mountain.
But the energy is there. I can see the serpents in the stones we pass by and I can feel the lines of water, even though it is nearly dried up.
We find the spring empty of people and I am grateful for the chance to linger beside the stones (who watch us closely) and cool my skin in the cold, clear liquid.
It is a place I’d like to linger longer. Light dances with water here, creating alchemy with color on the stones. The veins feel alive with the pulse of the dragon and the stones eroded in a way that does not feel accidental.
But we have a long way yet to go, and I am determined to reach the peak, unlike last year. I don’t know what to expect, but I am expecting something. Our walk, though, is quiet and intense in its ascent. The path we have chosen gives us few breaks from the vertical climb and the heat is strong today.
Before we leave the waterfall, I notice the metal on the rock. The chiseled words feel, well, perfect.
I take a final look that the stones and the light’s dance on the water. Grateful that it will be there on our return.
Ahead of us is more heat and the rigors of our climb. But we will not rest in one spot for too long. The stones watch us while we walk, and I leave my trail of tobacco leaves hoping it is enough.
I still don’t feel home here the way I do in England, walking the newer lands of America, but I am learning to trust that the pulse that feels like magic beats here just as strongly. Even if it’s not quite as close to the surface. I have noticed during my walks through the mountains and forest paths of New England, that the land here is cautious of my footsteps, as it should be. Our ancestors here have left a troubled path, and my veins do not course with native blood. I am often acutely aware that I am an intruder who needs to earn trust.
Yet, the stones show me their faces and forms when I look close enough, and sometimes a bit of unexpected magic is revealed.
Like the cube of quartz we find as though it has been tossed to be seen, just inches from our feet in the bed of dried leaves. It feels like a gift to be left, but noticed. Not photographed. A reminder of what I will bring with me next time.
Instead I photograph the tiny orange mushrooms that look like a trail of the fey, and we continue our climb to the strange little hut that I cannot imagine falling asleep inside.
“You’d need to bring a pad with your sleeping bag,” I tell my husband as I press my fingers into the unforgiving metal mesh. I’d rather not think of what else might venture inside the opening in the darkness of night.
Did I mention my bladder has felt the need for release before we began our decent? A minor inconvenience that my mind returns to each time I take a drink to quench my thirst. For some reason I can’t bring myself to relieve myself behind a stone. There’s no one around.
Just the stones of a former habitation as we get closer to the top.
And lots of large, curious looking boulders that call for a better look upon our descent. But we are nearly there, the signs promise us our feet will soon reach the peak.
I am expecting, even though I have tried not to expect, a vast rocky face with clear vistas, but instead we need to climb once more. This time it is stairs up to a guarded platform. Here, finally, we meet more visitors and it feels crowded on top of this large mountain.
But I am not wholly disappointed. Up here I can see the peaks beyond and take in the contours of the land from a point not seen from the ground. And, I can see the ripples on the back of the dragon.
But we are hiking in the midst of a pandemic, and others are waiting for the view, so we don’t stay too long atop the constructed tower. Besides, I still have to pee, it’s lunchtime, and the stones below are calling.
Although there is a great deal of the mountain remaining for me to discover at perhaps another time, this place beckons to me. And soon I have an idea why.
It’s not just the stones piled into caves that will have to wait for my eyes to peer inside, it’s the stone in the middle, curiously shaped like a pyramid. In the distance, far beyond sight, a bird calls through the forest. It is a pileated woodpecker. My “feathered seer.”
We all know the definitions and the way stories portray them. Often there is a villain who spurs the hero into action, saving the victim from an evil fate. The hero becomes the embodiment of the light, the villain of darkness, while the victim hangs somewhere in between, like fulcrum, deciding how the scales will be tipped. Who, then, has the true power?
I have been thinking a lot these days about how and why we choose to be either the victim or the hero in our individual stories and how this reflects upon our collective story of human existence. I have also been thinking about how we define and cast the role of villain in our stories. For some, a villain who fulfills the classic definition of villain-hood is actually lauded as a hero. This casted role depends upon our subjective nature, including how we cast ourselves in our play that is life.
And, must the hero be always wounded first? Would there be a hero without first enduring the wounds? I’m not sure it is possible. We must feel the pain to know it. And would there be a victim without the hero, and a villain without the victim? And, can they all be, in essence, one and the same?
When I think of my own story, I see all the times I tried to become the hero of my own story only to fall back into the role of victimhood. I realize how much my cells have programed the codes of my ancestors. I see how often I have cast people into roles and how these roles have defined them for me. The victim for me was a hero for another. The villain, the victim, and so the cycles goes in an endless round.
So who am I? Last night I found myself inside two vivid dreams. Although they were different scenes, with different players, I found myself embodying a similar role. In one dream, I found myself trapped on an electrified strip of metal while trains raced beside me. One going in each direction, while I scrambled in the middle for a hold. Trying not to get zapped.
In the other dream, I was outside, gazing up into endless blue as I followed the skyline of the buildings beside me. I lay on my back in the middle of a highway, unfazed until I realized where I was. Unfazed until I allowed the program of fear to grip my heart into the belief that I might become a victim if I made a wrong move.
Are we all, in fact playing a game of chess in our lives? Or do we just think we are? One wrong move and we will be obliterated. By what? Fear of the unknown paralyzes our actions as does fear of repeating something from our past. It is hard to reprogram the cells. It is even harder to step into the belief that we can.
Fear is an uncomfortable bedfellow, and yet if we are willing to examine it, to hold it in front of us and look it in the face, it becomes comedic. Its hideous face squishes easy into new forms if we poke and prod it. It’s malleable, because it isn’t really real. It’s simply a shadow of the true self.
Yet how we hold it aloft, knighting it with the mark of hero! So often, we do this, it is impossible to keep track. We need only look at how we hold aloft our leaders. Few are true heroes. Many are villains, and most, if not all, are victims of their own stories, and our collective one. The true hero may be there, but it is deeply cloaked under fear.
Sadly, we are living in a time when true heroism is often overlooked, or even worse, slayed by the villain we like to think is a hero because if we don’t, we worry we too will be slayed. It seems insane, when you examine the play in all its facades, and yet here we are, collectively. Even the darkness resides in those we may think are filled only with light. Should we then be ignoring this complicated, yet simple truth that each role resides in each of us? Should we not acknowledge this truth and work towards compassion for the self and the “other” as we examine how we play each role and how the roles become us?
I think we have no choice but to do so, or the cycle will repeat endlessly in different forms. Otherwise, the victim will never be released from its shackles, forever forced to decide how to tip the scales. The cycle continuing until the victim realizes it is up to her, or him, to remove the chains and realized the hold was self-imposed all along.
At some point we must come to the realization that we are each the villain, the victim, and the hero of our own story. Perhaps we cannot have one without the others, but we can choose which one we will embrace. We can choose what story to write into our cells. And, that story can have a different narrative than the one we wrote yesterday. It’s our story to write. It’s our story to live. It’s our story of life.
It was yet another fitful night in the realm of dreams. Back to school I went. This time to a peculiar college with a new roommate/dream guide. She sat before me, on the opposite bed, after I had tried to parcel out the pieces of her enormous puzzle into boxes on the floor below. Each one containing a jigsaw assortment that somehow went with the one beside it. Three, I believe in total, of interconnected scenes.
She seemed amused by my earnestness. Although she wore the face of teenager, large brown eyes framed by blond tresses, she was clearly wise beyond the years she showed me. Around her neck wrapped a red panda. Her pet? I wasn’t entirely sure how it had gotten into our room and why it was around my roommate’s shoulders like a living scarf, but I was fascinated. It was as though an old friend had come to visit me.
Let me return, for a moment, to the realm of daytime, and set the clock back about four decades. Imagine a little girl with blue eyes and dirty blond hair staring up at a caged enclosure where two red pandas are on display in their zoo-home. The little girl is about seven years old and she has declared those two curious looking pandas her absolute favorite animals in the entire zoo. This zoo that she visits often each summer because her father works there as a landscaper.
The red panda on the upper branch stares back at her, its brown eyes soft with understanding. The little girl is sure the animal can read her mind. She is sure a connection has been formed. Her love for the creature is sealed inside her heart. They share something beyond words. This soft, gentle being who looks more like a tiny bear crossed with a fox has become the girl’s chosen totem, at least for awhile.
The little girl never forgets her love for the red panda, but she moves onto other loves, and other beings fill her heart as she grows. The more visits she makes to the zoo over the summers she flies west to see her father, the more secrets she traps inside of her throat, which becomes wrapped in her growing confusion of truth.
Let’s leap ahead to last night and the return of my quiet and almost forgotten friend who is wrapped around my roommate’s neck. Before I can inquire why it is there, the red panda is suddenly around my own neck. I unwind it carefully, and hold it before me in my hands where I start to examine its soft body. Although the soft animal appeared well and healthy before, it now seems ill. In particular, it’s throat. As I hold it, the red panda coughs and I can see the damage incurred to its throat.
What have I done? Has my own, damaged throat, somehow damaged my beloved childhood totem?
I am filled with despair and worry, but before I try to solve this puzzle, let’s explore the nature of the red panda:
Red pandas are native to Asian countries such as Nepal and China. They make their home in high altitude forests where they are endangered due to human encroachment from deforestation and poaching. Quiet creatures by nature, red pandas are “soft spoken” and introverted creatures. They are closer to the size of a large cat than they are to a panda bear. Like their namesake, though, they depend upon bamboo for their survival. Red pandas are solitary creatures who are most active in the between times of dawn and dusk. They are, I am realizing, an awful lot like me.
Which brings me to the curious puzzle that was now before me on the floor of my dream. Where’s my water dragon? I wonder as I gaze at the head of the wooden dragon held together like a puzzle with interlocking pieces.
I am a water child born under an Earth sign. These two elements drive my nature, but as in all forms, they seek to be balanced. Wood is one of my weaker elements, so perhaps my dream self should not have been baffled by the head of the wooden dragon that now lay at my feet.
Often when we wake from the realm of dreams we must knit together the pieces of our night travels as best we can to make sense of the strange landscape of night. Before I fell into slumber last night, I had been thinking about Elan (often knows as Elan of the Leys or Keeper of the Dragon Lines as she seems to have appeared for my story) and how she made her appearance on the pages of my book, but had left me hanging for weeks as to where she was going to lead me and my characters. As I
drifted into sleep she came to me, finally stepping out of the shadows of the trees to stretch her antlers to the stars. She was showing me the way, if I chose to follow the path beyond the foothold of Earth…
It was 3:30 in the morning when my husband got up to use the bathroom and I woke from an owl peering at me. A Great Horned Owl.
I had been walking at dusk down the roads nearby my house. When I arrived at the crossroads in my dream, I turned towards my left, the direction of home. There he was, getting ready for flight.
You have returned to guide me.
I was sure it was Eagle. I had seen the white of his tail as he stood. The white crown of his head, turned to face me, was unmistakable.
And then he transformed into Owl. Feathered features became nearly camouflaged into the darkening day, but unmistakable were the ears. They were tufted into horns.
She rose to take the place of the one I had depended upon for so long. The bird of great strength and vision. Filled with yang energy, Eagle showed me how to harness the sun and look with keen vision at the world below. The guide of the nation that I call home. A bird sacred to the native people whose voices were silenced, their stories erased. A guide stolen to adorn the new nation. The great horned owl calls us to hear the truth that has been hidden. The truth that many refuse to hear.
I had a lot to think about. So much, that each time I tried to will my mind back to sleep, it would write lines for me to record. And, so, at 4am I rose, thinking of everything that the birds were telling me. Three in total, but more on the third later, as well as the white light blinking over my neighbor’s garage, Strange, it has never done that before, like a beacon in a lighthouse, calling a ship home.
It was all starting to come together.
Yesterday, before I went to bed, I had been cleaning out the office room. Culling through books and dusting shelves before I tackled the plastic storage unit filled with photos and various mementos of memories. I hadn’t sorted it, just added to it, since the year my son was born. That was nearly 15 years ago. Now seemed to be the right time.
To get to it, I had to move pictures resting on the floor and not on our walls. I chose only one to rehang. An owl with tufted ears made over scraps of words by my son years ago. I took a nail and found a place amidst the other art that adorns our stairwell. Choosing a spot a hands-width from the railing, I knew it would be bumped, and might even fall upon someone’s descent. Oh well, I thought. I’ll place it there anyway. Its silver frame standing out amid all the blacks, bumped lightly on my way down this morning.
In the dream that pulled me from sleep, it was not Eagle’s voice who replied, but Owl’s, I am the one guiding you now.
The “you,” felt like a “we.”
A few days ago, I was drawing cards for someone else. Someone who was considering a new path in life that would also affect me and those I hold dear. The first card I drew was the Queen of Cups. The Significator Card. The Queen who has guided me since I shuffled my first Tarot deck many years ago.
It had been awhile since I had been called to bring forth the cards, but they still brought a feeling of home to my hands. There she was, sitting on her throne. Her familiar face gazing upon the chalice in her hands. Her feet, crossed at the ankles, blue like the water around her. Baby mermaids gazing down at her, a cherub nestled, partly hidden, at the base of her throne, while her eyes fix on the golden chalice, too large for one hand, held in her grasp.
Strange, I had never paid much attention to the right foot hiding the left. The left hand touching lightly the hold of the right as it balances the hold of the chalice. So intent she/I was on the vessel.
I have been dreaming about water a lot at night, but that is nothing new. Water is my primary element, followed by earth. It pulls me into my dreams, and into the hidden realms within.
When I woke early this morning from the owl, I knew her to be female. Whereas Eagle embodies the divine masculine energy of the universe, Owl is a master of the divinely feminine forces. Owl rules the night. She sees through the darkness, a guide of the hidden. She asks us to explore the paths we like to hide, guiding us through the shadowland to get back “home” to the true self. She is master of the element of water, whereas eagle, her masculine counter-part, dives by day into the element of water for sustenance when he is not ruling the sky. He is part water and part earth, but mostly he is air and fire.
When Covid-19 started spreading rapidly across our globe, I kept thinking about the fires it was replacing. All those fires ravaging the lands across Earth, extinguishing so much precious life. Feeding fears of survival worldwide.
Now we have a corona viral host trying to nest in our lungs. If it brings death, it feels like drowning. It is nearly undeniable there is a struggle of forces occurring within and outside of us. A struggle for a return to balance.
About a week ago, I had another dream that woke me. I had been walking another path. This one filled with the light of day. Blindly wrapped in my own thoughts, I passed a large doll severed at the waist, and thought of Russian nesting dolls, instead of seeing it for what it was.
It didn’t wait long to catch me. Before I had taken a few steps beyond its severed bottom, the doll took life. The bottom half rejoined the top, and it began to chase me. Look at me? See me! You cannot escape me, it glared into my face. I recognized her by her teeth, long gnashing fangs.
Years ago, I took a shamanic journey to meet fear. I thought I would be afraid at what I saw, but I wasn’t. Instead, I discovered that it was both empowering and a relief to look at the face of my fear. Before me was an almost shapeless form, like a nesting doll, but all black. Its skin glistened like tar. The only feature recognizable as living was its face. Its dominate features were long, white teeth, shaped into fangs.
And so it would appear fear has made her return to me, calling out to be seen. I don’t think I’m alone. There is a global fear, in the form a virus trying to find a host inside of us. It is already taking over life and destroying life as we are used to knowing it.
It is difficult not to feel fear right now. To feel uprooted and insecure. It’s difficult to know what to do, or where to turn to for security and comfort.
Yesterday, while I was taking a shower, I found myself inside the image of a giant redwood tree. There I sat, cradled into the base of her trunk. Held inside this nest created by this mighty tree, rooted firmly to Mother Earth, with her boughs extended towards the sky and sun, I felt safe. I felt home.
Many of us have been washing our hands excessively, using water and soap to rid ourselves of the fears of being contaminated by a virus that is transmitted by salivary excretions. Trying to remove unseen forces that threaten to take hold of our lives. Even if the virus itself has not found a host inside of our bodies, it has found a host inside of our minds.
This fear has severed us at the waist. We are hoarding toilet paper irrationally. The virus does not attack our guts, but our lungs, yet we have allowed ourselves to become uprooted by our fears. We are buying more food then we need, leaving others to go without. We are scrambling for stability while the foundations we have so long depended upon are crumbling around us.
I have been walking a lot outside, as many of us have who are spending time outdoors in nature to try to lesson the communal spread of the disease. When I am outside, I feel connected. The inner joy starts to spark its light within. The roads, these days, are scattered with more people and dogs, then they are with cars. Seeing fellow walkers pass by, fills me with hope. Each time I journey outside, I see or hear a woodpecker. Most days it’s a pileated. Flying over my path, calling form the trees. This is not usually such a common companion to my days, and I am grateful for the gift of its constant, guiding presence. The pileated, which I, have been referring to as my “feathered seer” for nearly three years, has become nearly a constant companion in this time of unrest.
The pileated woodpecker, with its cardinal-like crown of red feathers, and streak of crimson at its throat, has a lot to teach us about fear. The color red is symbolic of fear and also of love. It is the color of our root chakra, and also the color of the blood that gives us life.
I have now seen The Queen of Cups card from Tarot three times in the last three days. Once drawn by my hand, the other two times by people whose blogs I happened to come across. I was not searching for her, but she has found me again. She has found all of us. And, so has Judgement and Fire.
Three times, in the same manner, I have seen the Judgement card and the Two of Wands. I have also seen the fiery wands held in struggle in one path, the air of freedom in another.
There are many ways to read the cards, and one must follow the guidance within to understand their messages in light of the circumstances one is working with. Each time I see the Judgement card, I am given the image of rebirth. The card literally shows naked bodies rising from caskets floating upon water. Could there be a more fitting card for our time?
The word “judgement” is subjective. The human mind judges, the higher mind does not. This card, next to the Two of Wands, strengthens the choice we seem to be offered by this viral pandemic that can be perceived as a harsh, or even cruel, gift. That is the choice of our free will. We can face our fears and explore the shadowland of the self in the path back to unity and balance, igniting the true light along the way, or we can succumb, as we have many times in our collective history, to the fear that severs and divides us.
The Two of Wands literally offers us the world in our hands. The old path, the wand to the right, is being traded for the new/truth path, as the querent takes the staff to his left, while holding the world in the palm of his right hand. He has, it appears, chosen his inner truth to become his new guide. Before him is a land open and fresh, wrapped in the embrace of water. The womb of Mother Earth.
Can we, collectively and individually, make the return to our true roots? Can we face our fears and weave the broken threads of our global community back into unity? Can we clear that which threatens to drown us individually, and realize that we are all, in essence, seeds from the same source? All elements reside inside all of us. There is light, and also darkness. There is the sun, and also the moon. Long, long ago, our ancestors knew that when fire joined in perfect balance with water, united through spirt/air and rooted in earth, the true, divine star of the self thrived.
The birds give me hope. Their paths can guide us back home.