In Memoriam: “Gram”

It’s been a week since my grandmother left this life and rejoined the realm of spirit. She was 94.5 years old, and for the last two decades of her life she awaited the day when she would be rejoined with her beloved husband, the man I used to call Poppy.

Donald and Elizabeth Davis, aka Poppy and Gram

I feel lucky to have had my Gram in my life for nearly half a century. It is a much longer time than most. My mother was a young mother when she brought me into the world, and her mother was there to welcome me into this life. One of the last memories Gram shared with me, as she often did, was of that day.

“Did you know, Alethea,” she reminded me as I sat beside her on her bed, “I was the first person to hold you?”

Gram holding my sister and me, newly born

I know the story well, as I do so many others Gram used to like to share with me. Although we lived, for most of our shared lives, 3,000 miles apart from one another, Gram and I spoke regularly on the phone. When it became evident that she was getting ready to transition out of this life, my sister and I decided to fly the distance to visit our Gram one last time.

It was, in many ways, just like old times. Except it wasn’t summer, there were no longer mystery meals to unwrap on the plane, or cigarette smoke to pollute our lungs. It was, though, just the two of us again, flying west to see the family we had left behind when we were four and six years old, if only for a few days.

And we are both glad we did. We spent many hours of those two days sitting with Gram, trying to help her find comfort in her increasingly uncomfortable body, and even wheeling her outside for some time in the fresh air to look at the gardens surrounding the facility where she lived.

Gram’s weariness with life was apparent, but so was her unfailing love for us. Gram was happy we were there and didn’t want us to leave.

Although our Gram and Poppy had their faults, as all people do, they always exhibited unconditional love for me and my sister. It was something we needed as children, and clung to, despite only seeing our grandparents for a few days a year, if we were lucky.

In those few, brief visits, I have compiled a lifetime of happy memories. Sitting on the sun-soaked deck of my grandparents’ pool and eating homemade dried granny smith apples with Pringles and cans of pop is one of them. As are the moments when Gram would take my hand and trace each finger from the base to the tip before she took her emory board out to shape my nails and push back my cuticles. “You and your sister have such pretty hands,” she’d tell me, “just like your mother’s.”

Mine was a childhood filled with a sense of not belonging, of feeling like I constantly needed to prove my self-worth and earn my keep, but never was that the case at Gram and Poppy’s house. For those few blissful days each summer, my sister and I were able to relish the bliss of unconditional love, and even of being spoiled a bit.

At Gram and Poppy’s we’d watch forbidden cartoons during daylight hours and gleefully open cabinets filled with the junk food of our choosing. Outside, we’d turn handstands on their perfect lawn and lift our feet above the water in their chlorinated pool. Whenever I smell cedar, I think of Gram and Poppy and their home atop Mt. Scott in Portland. It was the closest place to heaven I found in my godless childhood.

Gram and Poppy sold their house on Mt. Scott many years ago, but during our brief trip west to say goodbye to Gram, our father drove my sister and me to see it. It looked the same, but very much changed. Just like life. Just like the entire trip.

The heaven/haven of my childhood

The night before Gram passed, I had a conversation with her in my mind. I told her how much I loved her and that it was more than okay to leave. I knew she was ready. She had been working hard, in fact, at letting go. Gram knew I believed in life after death, even if it wasn’t in the same way she did.

“Send me a red bird,” I requested the following morning after I learned of her passing. “Let me know you made it okay.”

I was in the car, and as I turned the corner, a red-breasted robin stood in the road in front of me. It looked at me, then flew away.

I turned the radio on, and through the speakers came the word “bird.” NPR was doing a showing on birds.

“Thank you, Gram,” I told her. “I love you.”

“World Gone Good” Episode 88: “Alethea Gone Good” #podcasts #writing #healing

Episode 88 of “World Gone Good”

My journey into the world of podcasting continues with episode 88 of Steve Silverman’s “World Gone Good” podcast. I had a wonderful time chatting with Steve about healing, writing, reiki, yoga, and following your joy. Some of the highlights include our Jodie Foster stories, how we healed our stomach aliments through mindfulness, and how we channel our inner truth through writing.

It was a genuine honor and pleasure being on “World Gone Good.” If you have thirty minutes to listen to episode 88, you can find it here. Better yet, start following Steve’s awesome podcast!

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.

On My Birthday #poetry #birthdays

The 12th card I drew

I’m going to imagine something different:

The beauty of the goddess unfolding

Light softening the edges of life

Years, a mold of becoming

The inner child emerging

and merging into the dance

of a perfection that is truth

This messy cohesion of unity

Something radiant called a Life

So many journeys to get to this place

Defining and refining

Breaking down to build

Whole

Like a chalice spilling over

to fill again, and again

Tireless infinity splitting open

the moment not like a wound

but like a lover seeking joy

This seed waiting to germinate

finding the sun was always there

in the full splendor of wonder

watching the budding of a radiance

thriving under the moon, night

as much a friend as day

the taste of sorrow becoming happiness

refined

I wrote this poem before drawing 12 tarot cards as a reflection upon this day. Forty-eight years ago I was born into this life. A life that seems, at times, difficult to define and accept. Birthdays have never been easy days for me, in large part because they have been days, like all the others, not wholly mine to embrace and be embraced by. I knew I would find the chalice in the cards, but I thought it would be The Queen of Cups, as this is how the “I” has reflected itself over the years, but 12 cards unfolding this journey brought The Ace. I had, after all, asked for something new...

Seeding the stones: Keeping A Promise to a Dragon and a Stone Part 4 #vthikes #dragonlines #dragonstones

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.

So much to see and discover off the beaten path.

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.

Ari the wolf-like rescue dog. Eager to make new friends.

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.”

Not the snake from that day, but similar.

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.

The Eye Opens: Keeping a Promise to a Dragon and a Stone Part 3 #VThikes #dragonlines #leylines #sacredsites

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.

This image is from my trip in July. Can you see the face near the apex?

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.

This wooden dragon brought back memories of a recent dream

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.

A rock not meant to be climbed

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.

It was difficult to over-look the markings…

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.

To Be Continued…

The Path of the Pyramids: Keeping a Promise to a Dragon and a Stone Part 2 #VThikes #dragonlines #pyramidstones #sacredsites

A little pyramidal cave in the rocks

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.

A “portal” pyramid in the boulders

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…

This beautiful wolf-like dog appeared at an uncanny moment for us. His name was Ari, the eagle-boy in my book series, yet he resembled Lupe, the wolf-boy.

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.

So many guardians in the trees

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.

Dragon wing?

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.

We couldn’t help but feel the body of the dragon as we neared the summit

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.

Although this may not be the best depiction, there are curious carvings in the rocks of this mountain that made each of us think of the stars.

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.

One of the whale stones we encountered

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…

To be continued…

Keeping a Promise to a Dragon and a Stone: Part 1 #VThikes #sacredsites #dragonlines #dragonstones #leylines

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.

Photo taken by Deb. We saw hearts everywhere throughout the day.

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.

My faithful companions with just a hint of mischief in their visages.

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.

“11:44”

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.

“Slut?!”

“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…”

“Yep.”

“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.

To Be Continued…

Ghost Stories #ghoststories #paranormalencounters

IMG_0676
My daughter at the helm learning to drive with her dad in the background

We sat in plastic chairs huddled around the flames my daughter had brought to life and talked about ghosts.

“What’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?”

I had four teenagers spellbound. Aware with each word I chose I could either feed their fear or help abate it. And what of my own?

Should I really tell them about ghosts? 

The thought came and went. And came and went some more as I began the story about the woman in the two-hundred year-old dress seated at the piano with her daughter playing the keys of a past she could not let go of. But that was cheating, in a way. I had not seen her, only heard about her. So I told them how, before I knew better, I had evoked the spirit of another lost soul who wandered the hallways of my haunted school. Learning, in the process that he was a specter not to be feared, but to be pitied.

In turn they told me about their friends playing around with online videos to conjure spirits and enter into past lives.

“Didn’t you have an Ouija board,” my daughter asked as the mom inside of me came out to lecture about using care and caution, and how some things are better left alone and that’s why there are professionals…before I was cut off again.

But what’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?

I wasn’t willing to go as far as the demons I had battled while my body slept…so I told them about the hair puller yanking me awake in the middle of the night.

“Oh my god, I would have lost it!”

I watched my daughter’s best friend nervously scroll the phone in her hand.

Had I said too much?

I knew she was afraid. And, she knew she could tell me to stop talking, or walk away. Beside her bed back home I could see the half-empty bottle of “Ghost Be Gone” spray I had filled several times for her. You need to learn how to do this yourself…I had told her more than once, but she had wanted just the crutch of the spray.

Without fear can we learn empowerment?

While I told some of my ghost stories, I thought about my four-year-old son calling me awake in the voice of terror, shaking me from sleep in the middle of the night. My husband, telling me to let him learn courage as I held his trembling body in my arms. I thought about my son, a little older saying, “I see strange colors in my room at night,” when I was just learning how to process the truth of his words.

Now fifteen, he sat beside me, slightly removed from my daughter’s friends, but not unwelcome tucked into the shadows of our circle. “Can you feel them?” he asked before he told us the story of being alone in the house with the dog barking at nothing. The cat staring at the unseen. His body knowing what his eyes no longer see.

How could I not seize each moment with care, handling it as best I knew how to, knowing that I was once that child in the dark?

My daughter’s best friend dropped her phone on her lap. “My grandma is always with me, but I don’t like it.”

I weighed each word on my scale of truth, aware that my scale of truth was not the same as others. I was raised on the belief that there was no soul beyond the body, but I knew enough from her stories and her mother’s, that she was not.

What would you have wanted to know? The inner voice kept urging guidance. So I told her about the grandmother who sent me the scent of roses to remind me of the love she struggled to show me when I could see her with my eyes.

“Have you seen The Conjuring?” she asked me, tipping the scales back towards fear.

I wasn’t even sure I knew what the movie was about, but I could guess from the title, as I told her I avoided all movies and books that sensationally evoked the darkest side of humanity. I see no point to them, although I’m sure others will vehemently argue their value. I’ve never seen much value in glorifying violence and we all know the adage, “What we feed grows.” I made a vow to myself long ago to grow empowerment over fear in each child, teen, or adult who came to me for guidance.

“How many dead people have you talked to?” another friend asked.

I don’t keep track of numbers like this, and after I reminded them that I wasn’t a medium by profession, I decided to tell them about the visit from the desperate mother. She had been dead only a week or so, but she was already worried about the adult daughters she had left behind. Her human brain, I would later learn, had long lost the ability to coherently remind them of her love, so she had chose to visit me, a somewhat forgotten friend from her daughter’s childhood, before I feel into sleep, to relay what she hadn’t been able to say before she had passed. The story also had an element of mystery. A ring lost to her years of hoarding, stuffed away in a buried box, she needed them to find. Which they did.

“Wow! Really?”

While the teenagers wrapped themselves in the intrigue of the story’s mystery, I hoped the were also thinking about how ghosts need not be feared like the ones in their movies.

“I couldn’t live in a house that someone had died in,” someone eventually shared.

So I told them about the man who had died in my children’s first home, before me moved in. Perhaps they were expecting to hear a tale of fright, but instead they heard another tale of love.

“You have complete power over what you let in,” I told them as I started to come to the thesis of my narratives.

They didn’t believe me. At first. But I persisted, even though I could tell I was starting to lose their attention. They were here for ghost stories, after all, and my nudging daughter knew I had an abundance of them.

Instead, we talked about shields of energy and intention, followed by more examples than they cared to hear of how empowered they each were before we finally crawled into our respective beds well past midnight.

I had a feeling they’d sleep well, even though we had spent the night sharing ghost stories.

It was 10am before I heard the first stirrings of movement from the bedrooms downstairs. The cinnamon rolls on the stove had already cooled to room temperature. I lit the flame under the frying pan and began to crack eggs into a bowl to whip them into a scramble.

“Oh that smells good.”

“I’m so hungry.”

“I slept awesome!”

“Me too! Even though I dreamed about ghosts.”

“Yeah so did I! I can’t believe how well I slept.”

Inside I sighed relief. I knew the outcome could have been different, but I was also careful with the scale I had been balancing with each word I let forth from my mouth. There could have been angry texts from parents of scared kids, and any number of unhappy outcomes, but instead I had around me five hungry teenagers eager to go about their day empowered from their night of ghosts.

I had taken a risk when I chose to face fear instead of shoving it back into the darkness.  Usually I play the quiet role of the host-mom, choosing to stay in the background, careful not to hover or impose. That night, though, I had been invited to enter the circle around the campfire to play the role of storyteller and I chose to take it. There’s something about campfires. Being out in the night air where the darkness is cut by the flame in the center evokes the desire to tell stories. But not just ordinary stories. The embers stir that which is hidden, calling it to come out and be seen. Heard.

As those five teenagers faced their ghostly fears of the ephemeral world that no longer scared me, my own fears had played through me. My children are at the age of transitioning away from the protection of the hearth fire and the maternal chords are frequently tugged inside of me. Earlier that day, before we gathered around the fire, I had watched from the shore as my daughter and my son struggled to start our boat. Part of me was hoping they wouldn’t be successful, but persistence on their part paid off as they slowly pulled away with friends on board to tube and ski for their first time without an adult on board.

“Stop taking pictures and help me in!” My brave, determined 16-yr-old daughter, who had learned to drive the boat this summer, six months after she got her license to drive a car, was showing me her anxiety about safely docking to unload. And she was showing me she still needed me, albeit with the  irritation of a teenager, and so I put the camera down and caught the rope to pull her in.

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Our Quiet Anniversary Began at a Gorge #quecheegorge #vtsites #deweysmillpond

Before our long day of hiking, Dave and I drove up to Quechee, VT.  We stayed at an old farmhouse with a long history. Built in 1793, The Quechee Inn at Marshfield was once the home of Vermont’s first lieutenant governor, Colonel Joseph Marsh. It’s now a lovely inn filled with rooms that hold the charm of its history. I almost wish we had seen a ghost…

After an early three-course dinner complete with wine, we headed out for a walk. Although I was hoping to discover the location of a nearby site purportedly containing ancient stone chambers aligned with the solstices and referred to as “Calendar II” on cryptic websites, it was apparently not meant to be. I am now quite certain it must be on private land, but if anyone reading this knows, I’d love to learn more…

Instead of searching for the illusive stone chambers, Dave and I headed out in search of  Quechee Gorge. There is a trail on the road across from the inn that extends 1.4 miles from a pond to the famous gorge.

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Dewey’s Mill Pond is just across the road from the inn

Mindful of the goose droppings littered throughout the parking lot, we admired Dewey’s Mill Pond quilted with water lilies.

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The Ottauquechee River feeds into Dewey’s pond

A small trail through tall rushes winds through the waterways of Dewey’s Mill Pond and Ottauquechee River. While we walked, goldfinch flitted across our path and tree spirits quietly watched our passing.

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It was an unexpected delight to find our path leading to the magnificent Ottauquechee Dam and Waterfalls.

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The hydroelectric dam is quite beautiful.

As you can see from the photo, the water level was not high enough to cause an impressive waterfall from the dam, but the impressive size of the rock face is evident.

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Another view of the waterfall from the dam through trees lining the path lends the illusion of a more robust stream.

Each step of the path from the pond to the foot of the gorge is lined with beauty. Soon after the falls, the trail leads into a forest that only partially hides a sharp descent into the gorge.

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It’s hard to capture the sheer drop-off lining the forest path.

At its highest point, the drop from Quechee Gorge is 165 ft. The couple of times I have been here in the past, the gorge and its surrounding areas were filled with tourists. It was a bit surreal and eerie to be alone for most of our walk.

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Built in 1911, The Quechee Gorge Bridge is Vermont’s oldest steel arch bridge. 

One gets the most impressive feel of the height of the gorge from Quechee Gorge Bridge, which is lined with an arched railing and is posted with suicide prevention hotlines. From the pathway beside it, though, you can get a look at its underside.

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Had it been springtime, or had we been in the middle of a very wet summer, the gorge would have looked much different than it did. Although signs warn of sudden rises in water from the release of the dam, we saw only a calm stream in the middle of its rocky bed.

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The bed of the gorge.

Beyond the rocky bed, the water collects into a pond. Here we saw our first glimpse of visitors since we left the dam. A few teens were out for an evening swim. We left them alone and began our way back to the inn.

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Dewey’s Mill Pond upon our return.

It was a lovely way to spend our evening. When it got dark enough, we tried to see the comet, but to no avail.