Chocorua Part 4: Meeting the Chief in the Clouds

As my husband and I continued our journey up the quiet mountain, I stopped now and then to place my offering of tobacco leaves in the nooks of trees and rocks. Noting, as I did, how sometimes others had made their own offerings. Small and large stones nestled into crevices of wood and stone, along with the more permanent and not so mindful markings of names carved into the skin of trees. I saw the carvings as a sad reflection of the ego’s need for permanence, forgetting that the mark that lingers is a mere shadow of the true self that never dies. How we yearn for something that is false, so often forgetting the harmony that beats around us. I found the buzz of the mosquitos oddly comforting, in its reminder of the cycles of life. The sacred spring below having given birth to the insects that followed my footsteps along a path older than the trees surrounding me.

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There are several large and impressive boulders near the summit of Mt. Chocorua, but they hold their stories in a quiet, watchful manner.

The mountain remained, to me, quiet and reserved. Welcoming, yet not offering too much. Not yet. This was my first visit, after all, and as the miles slowly rose, I realized that I would likely return someday. Perhaps not to the same trail. Perhaps not with the same companion. I didn’t yet know, and that was okay.

Life cycles as it will, and it behooves us to allow it to play its rhythm without resistance. When we push, we are often met with a counter-push. A simple law of physics. Perhaps this is why the snake appeared. Not once, but twice, as we hiked the long, winding trail, slowly losing the mosquitos as we gained elevation.

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One of two snake messengers we encountered during our journey. This one reared its head toward me as though reading for an attack as I ventured near to photograph it.

I have found the snake to be a frequent messenger that appears at points in the cycle of life that call for a surrendering. A letting go of the old “skin” I choose to wear to make way for the new, lighter sheath. They remind one of the wheel, ever-turning. Endings moving into beginnings, endlessly repeating.

I had thought that the mountain might harbor hurt. A long held wound from the legend of the chief who fell from its summit. Cursing, as he met death, the white man who had poisoned his son. As I walked the first half of the mountain, I found that I was also, in essence, curing the “white man” who had felled all the trees, and placed the wall of stone beside the path of the sacred waters. Yet, as the snake reminded me (twice), time moves on, whether we allow it to or not, without judgement. The cycle weaves its circle of life and death, over and over again, and we can be a part of it, or we can use defiance to try to resist its flow.

I could not forget that I had breathed acceptance into my body before I had left my hometown that morning. There are no true accidents to life. I realized, as I walked, that it mattered little, if at all, that I was not seeing the faces of the long passed in the rocks, or feeling the pull of the familiar through my cells. Instead, there was that quiet harmony of belonging. Of being present with my beloved in human form, and the sacred landscape around us.

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A guardian along the path

There was no denying the many gifts that had been offered. The crow who had welcomed us, the “ghosts” beside the stream, the white feather in the path before the call of my feathered seer, the snakes of renewal, and even the mosquitos buzzing life. There were also berries, full and ripened to the deepest blue of truth as we approached the final mile. Tempering greed, we reached, now and then, to pick small handfuls of the fruit and felt the renewal of life in each magnificent bite. Agreeing that there was never a better blueberry than those grown on the nearly soilless top of this mountain. A grateful gift that was even more welcomed when we discovered how little water we had left and how warm it had become during our journey, as well as how unsatisfying the apples were that we had brought. Mealy and soft, whereas our mouths hungered for a cool, crisp bite. I thanked the land for the blueberries as I offered it more tobacco in return.

As we sat on the granite ledges and took in the views of the landscape around us, my husband and I noted the time and how far we had come. We felt the ache of the climb in our bodies and the hunger in our bellies. Ahead of us was the head of Chocorua, perhaps another half mile away, we could not be sure. Its side looked steep and a bit dangerous as we realized we would either have to make our way around it to find a more gentle side, or allow ourselves to finish our journey below its peak. I was surprised that I did not feel disappointment. That there was no resentment bubbling up inside at the possibility of not “completing” our journey. Instead, I felt acceptance. It was enough, all of it.

We did not turn around then, though, but decided to walk a little further. I was grateful, as we continued on for this small final leg of our journey forward, for the soft presence of the land and it’s hallowed feel. For the berries that continued along our way, and for the knowing that we had just enough daylight ahead of us to get back down, and just enough water to quench our thirst if we needed it. I thought of that sacred stream and the yearning of my body to feel its cool release. And, as I turned my gaze one last time to follow the path of a vulture around the neck of the mountain, the mighty bird moved toward a cloud that hovered beside the rock face. Perhaps it was my imagination, but to me it looked like the head of a chief in profile. Its face pointing away from the summit that would need to wait for another day.

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Where we stopped to rest with the cloud formation of the legendary chief in profile. It was a bit more clear in person.

 

 

 

The (dead) crow, the red fox & the turkey (feather)

I used to keep a journal just for animal encounters. Not just animals, insects too, and birds, and all manner of non-human life forms I met up with each day. I was interested in their symbolism and what it might mean to me. Synchronicities and patterns. The universe talking in code. I used to do a lot of things I no longer do, and these days I am acutely aware of how much I am allowing myself to be wrapped up in the mundane, favoring it over the magic of life. Not because I want to, but because I have somehow convinced myself that I must. I must search not for encounters, but for artificial messages. Messages that I must send to get readers for my new book. It is a task I do not like, but that in itself is a lesson and, therefore, a gift. How do I make magic out of the mundane? Somedays it’s easier than others.

When the jobs we feel we must do become a chore, should we continue on in toil, or should we pause and breathe into the depth of being to find the magic contained within the moment that is always offered to us? The moment upon which we trail our breath and our thoughts, whether they be rapid, or peaceful? Today there were many encounters throughout my day which felt forced, labored, without fruit. Yet, there were also pauses when I stopped to be present.

I watched the squirrel, boldly wearing red fur as it masqueraded as an acrobat climbing up, then down my apple tree stealing apples in its mouth and leaping through limbs as though gravity was a ruse. I could almost believe anything was possible until I returned to the drudgery of musts. “You must do this to sell books.” “You must do that.”

The voice inside my heart forever whispering against the pull of musts, “just let it be.” “They’ll find the words you wrote for them, somehow.” I don’t always believe in somehows, but the voice inside me tells me I should.

The crow that stopped my feet today was dead. Its head pointed downhill. Black feathers tucked above the vibrant green of grass on this sunless day. I couldn’t help but think of magic extinguished. It had fallen beneath wires. Was it electrocuted by too much force? Energy coursing outside its bounds? The owl had been found in nearly the same place, also dead, one month before. I cannot help but think of the two bird messengers in my book. Grandmother Crow. The owl who haunts the last pages with a warning…

Yet death, I am reminded by yesterday’s snake, is not an end, but a beginning. Decayed life breeds new life in that ever-lasting cycle. How can I forget the wisdom of Shesha? Did I not write his story upon the pages too?

Briefly, today, I thought about fairies. Sue had reblogged a post about the fey and for some wonderful moments, I was transported into the realm of magic not often seen. Perhaps that was why I was lead by the turkey feather, which floated up from the blackened road as though wanting to be seen. To be caught, as I drove home. So I took the ever-willing dog for a walk, and there it was still. In the middle of the road. Large, curved and perfect. Banded in brown. A solitary turkey feather waiting for my hand to receive its gift.

So I twirled it in my fingers, feeling the life still present. Blessed life. A reminder of abundance. Down the road, a red fox wandered from the twilight woods and stopped to fix my gaze. We stared as though each daring movement, until a car passed by. Some say foxes hold the secrets of the fey. Cunning, bold, stealthy. Red, like the squirrel. Have I lost touch with the red blood of Earth? I wrote the words in this book, in part, to save her. Created six warriors with a mission to repair her broken veins, forgetting, after I had finished, that one must care for the inner body, always, while caring for the outer. And so I look back upon today. To the red squirrel taking with ease the fruit of the apple back to its nest. The dead crow charged with too much power. The lone turkey feather in the middle of the road. One perfect blessing waiting to be held. And the red fox, who had ventured, for a moment, out of the hidden realm to say hello.

 

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Grandmother Crow speaking her ancient wisdom from the pages of The Labyrinth

 

 

The Beginnings of Endings

 

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

The owl appeared as the resurrected phoenix during my last, formal meditation as a student of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. At some point, the seeker becomes the seen as the threshold to the mysteries are opened. The wisdom that always lies in wait within is always just a conscious breath away, but humans can be shallow breathers. In my young adult novel The Labyrinth, which is due to be released in a month or so, the voice of an owl cuts through the darkness as teens search for what they cannot find.

“Whoooo Loooooks for Yooooou?” The owl calls out to them.

Ultimately, are we not all looking for our own selves? The truth of the soul that is often only allowed to exist fully in the false protection of the shadows. The eyes, therefore, must turn inward and grow accustomed to the dark, where eventually they learn to see the light held within.  We are all seekers of wisdom, but sometimes it is worth asking what is the wisdom we truly seek?

The crow was waiting at the top of the building when I stepped outside the door of my final day of yoga teacher training. She cawed loud and strong, least I miss her presence, looking down at me as her eyes followed me to my car. Don’t forget who brought you here, she seemed to be saying, along with, you know this is only a beginning.

I have learned, over the course of these last three years in particular, how much endings are really just beginnings. Once we have crossed that threshold that marks the completion of a road along our journey, another road awaits us. The road is often unmarked or vaguely marked at best. if we knew what was waiting, would we walk with the open heart that requires trust and surrender?

And so I find myself walking across the threshold with eyes that have learned to see in the dark. Fear has become a friend that sometimes takes my hand to remind me of courage and I have grown comfortable with what is waiting to be known. I have learned that within each moment I can find the presence of teachers surrounding me. They are the trees outside my window and the birds that pass by. They are the people I encounter on the streets, and the dogs who share the couch as I write. My computer is my teacher, with all its quirks and challenges. And there is always, that ever-guiding light within.

I have become also, a friend of wait. Patience provides a soft hand that is worth holding for as long as it is offered. Magic is, after all, held in the present moment and if one pushes against the ever-flowing current of time it is lost.

Crow #writephoto #suevincent

 

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

If you think darkness is fear

follow me

If you see death in shadows

follow me

If you seek happiness through the sun

follow me

If you feel comfort in the covers

follow me

And I will show you the magic

of the hidden self

Joy screeching past decay

Reveals Life

Eternal

 

My latest take on Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. As usual, I’m never quite sure where her photos will lead me. They seem to take on a voice of their own. If you would like to participate, please click here

 

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The Return of Grace

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Light over shadows

I have found grace, again. You could say I just went through another “Dark Night of the Soul.” One of many, but this one was particularly acute. This one began on my birthday, if you are interested in reading that story you can find it in my post The Return of the Goddess. It came to a head one month later, when I entered one of my darkest nights and found myself doubting whether I was going to find the light again. “You’re not a quitter,” my good friend told me as I sobbed over the phone 3,000 miles away from her.

She was right. I have never given up, even in my darkest moments when the light seemed to flicker in a shroud of darkness inside of me, gasping for air, and I had no real intention of giving up then. Yet, grace seemed illusive, a state so far from where I was, that I could not imaging reaching it again.

I have found grace, again. The light, ever-burining inside has erupted through the shroud of shadows and pronounced victory. Grace, I have found, is subtle. It is gentle, yet profoundly beautiful as it works its way through the pain to find the heart of life and beat it gently back into rhythm. Let me share give you some of the story, so you will better understand the cycle as it came through me.

On my 43rd birthday, my pain-body, or shadow-self, called out to be seen. I saw that inner-child and the goddess-woman still hiding in the shadows wanting to be healed and brought back into the light. Through the course of the ensuing month, I was faced with many tests that brought me ever-deeper into the darkness that needed to be explored and healed. As all spiritual tests are that ask us to evolve, these were not easy, and after one full month of them with little respite, I felt brought to the point of collapse, yet in an almost sadistic way, I was also saying to the Universe, “bring it on, let’s do this.”

And so the adage, “be careful what you ask for, you just might get it,” could be applied, yet I also believe that we are never given what we can not, in theory, handle. So, I worked though the horrific dreams at night and the daily, sometimes, horrific, ordeals of waking time. I started going to tai chi classes on Fridays, a few hours after my regular yoga class. As a friend so eloquently stated during lunch today, when yoga is practiced as intended “it is like inviting God into your body.” Or, it could be said, it is like letting the God force that is within in you, but only simmering, stir back into life. Yoga, tai chi and other activities that work with the life fore energy, can be incredibly intense, leaving you feeling like you have literally had a battle of light against darkness.

In the midst of this, I decided to get myself an energy healing that focused on releasing ancestral trauma and abuse, going deep through the lineages to release stored memories of trauma, including those passed down to you (which, by the way, was on a Friday, right in the middle of yoga and tai chi). Foolishly, I had hoped to be done with the worse part of what I had been experiencing after the session. As my friend 3,000 miles away reminded me, “You know better than that, Alethea. You’ve told me about how this works before,” adding an anecdote just in case I needed proof.

So, the wave of darkness came crashing down in full force this past week. One of the most dramatic incidences that occurred involved witnessing my daughter’s terror at being exposed to a horrific story at school by a police officer teaching drug education. The aftermath of this being almost as unpleasant as the episode itself, show-casing the shadow-side of many involved, along with my own.

In the midst of all of this, I began reading M. Scott Peck’s, M.D. book People of the Lie: The Hope of Healing Human Evil. Having just finished The Road Last Traveled by Peck, something nudged me to go further into this place of darkness inside to explore. And there was that moment, yes, that moment, where I had to ask myself, are you dancing with the “devil?” Now let me clarify, by “devil,” I adhere to Peck’s then 8-yr-old son who defined the devil to be the opposite of “live,” or “lived,” which is the word spelled in reverse. That state of none “life” where we can succumb completely to the darkness that resides inside. I knew I was agreeing to push myself to the brink of fear, and as my spiritual mentor pointed out to me after my lasted journal for the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, “You are really going through some dark things at present… but always remember that the ball cannot bounce until it hits the ground…and the harder it falls, the higher it all soar.” It’s worth also mentioning that this dark night was occurring during the 6th month of my second year with the school. The half-way point. One could also say, the turing point.

Those words were written by my mentor a week ago, and as I’ve just said, it got worse before it got better.

I realized the light of grace was returning to me last night, in my dreams, where I often learn a lot about myself. I found myself riding in airplanes (the symbolism of which you can look up) to faraway destinations I had never been to, by myself, without the baggage I was accustomed to taking with me. The planes dived and flipped in mid-air, I found myself without my seat-belt on, I was in a strange place with strange people, yet I was okay.

I woke feeling lighter, much lighter that I have for many days. The tests that could trigger me during the morning, did not. At 11:15 I got into my blue Volt, and started driving north to meet my friend for lunch. I felt exhilarated, like I had new life coursing inside me. A large crow flew from the forest beside the road and straight over me, as though guiding me north, for some time. I smiled. The crow had returned. The messenger that reminds me of rebirth out of darkness. And it never left. Through the entire ride there and back home, the crow appeared often. At the beginning of the ride home, now going south, it emerged from the forest with a red apple in its mouth, and flew over the car once again, turning south to guide me. I found myself filled with gratitude. In the parking lot there had been a car parked beside me with 444 on its plate, during the ride home, 555 (for more information on number meanings I recommend Doreen Virtue’s resources or Joanne Sacred Scribe’s website.  I felt incredibly blessed and guided, and I knew the light inside had won, again. I knew that I had just turned another corner in this journey of life.

As I continued to drive, with crows appearing in trees and in flight beside me, I listened to the end of a story on NPR about a writer who had suffered brain damage from an accident, and had not only survived, but thrived from her ordeal. She had transformed her darkness into light. After the story was over, I hit the buttons on my touchscreen to find music, and found John Legend’s song “All of Me” playing. Impulsively I started singing, surprising myself with the harmony of our voices. I sang loud and with passion. I sang to myself, “all of me loves all of you,” and I meant it. And I cried, again. Not from a place of despair, but from the state of gratitude, surrender and grace. I felt filled with light and life.

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Mourning dove feather I found on my path: “Light emerges out of darkness”

Day 3

It rained all day yesterday, and the dogs and I decided to stay near home. Today, though, is beautiful. It feels like April instead of March, the air soft and warm.

Where I was stopped.
Where I was stopped.

Last night I dreamt of a hummingbird. I was sitting outside, on a warm sunny day, and the hummingbird, larger than life, flew into my field of vision and hovered before me. It wore the colors of the forest. The colors of the heart. A rich green cloak over a gold breast, reminding me that the heart beats for life, but also for joy.

A living embodiment of the resilience, and a reminder that joy is the nectar of life.
A living embodiment of resilience, and a reminder that joy is the nectar of life.

This time I was stopped at the edge, where the yellow caution tape three days ago embraced a forest filled with life. I thought of the beautiful struggle of a seed, smaller than my fingernail, quietly, valiantly, growing into the full breadth of a pine whose trunk once spanned the embrace of my arms three times over. What did it take to grow to those great heights? Perhaps 50 years.

There once was a forest.
There once was a forest.

It took less than 3 days to lay waste to the forest. Each time my breath catches in my throat with loss, my heart beats towards life. The last bird I heard singing inside the forest was a cardinal. Today, the 3 crows that have been by my side faithfully, flew to the edge where I stood and bore witness with me. Two nights ago I dreamt of an eagle.

True power is also a gift of the heart.
True power is also a gift of the heart.

 

Crow – A Trickster Totem?

Frequently, during healing sessions with my clients, animal energies will appear as messengers or totems. Recently, a crow made its presence known by appearing on a woman’s left shoulder. I felt a chuckle escape from my mouth, clearly this one was a bit of a trickster.

Often, our bird totems will perch themselves on our shoulders, and travel with us throughout our days. They offer us guidance and wisdom, even when we don’t know they are there, much like our spirit guides do. In fact, I view them as spirit guides specialized in the energetic characteristics of the particular animal they represent. As I told my client, sometimes they come and go as needed, sometimes they are with us for the span of our life-time. I think crow, in her case, was what you might call a primary totem animal. Her shoulder was even fatigued from its weight.

Although she could not “feel” the fatigue and muscle strain they way I could, it was significant that it was there. Crow as a totem animal guide can be a bit complex and mischievous, much like its counter-part appears in nature. They are clever survivors, and will go through any means of trickery needed to get to their desired goal.

Watch for crows in nature, and you will often find them perched on the top of trees as sentinels, looking for opportunities. Their black, feathered bodies evoke the energy of mystery and magic. Their piercing eyes mirror wisdom. They are adaptable birds, and find the means to survive in any situation they encounter. When needed, they work together to find food sources, even if it means stealing from another animal. Their diet is not limited, they’ll eat pretty much anything at hand. They’ll even turn on each other, if the circumstance threatens their individual survival.

At other times, crows act together, using sentinels and messengers to relay information regarding food sources and danger. Listen to the crow’s voice and you cannot help but feel its power. It is not usually a pleasant sound, like a song bird, but it holds an undeniable strength. When a crow passes overhead, even if it is silent, one may feel the impulse to shiver. Yes, there is mystery in the crow, which often pulls us to the place of magic and secrets.

Black is considered the color of creation, and the feminine energies of the universe. As Ted Andrews points out in Animal Speak, black represents the womb where new birth occurs. The crow, as a totem animal, can help us with this aspect of ourselves, showing us how to go within to find our inner magic and to pull out hidden gifts.

In the case of my client, the crow on her shoulder had been with her for some time, helping her to survive, but not always ethically. It was time to shift the crow’s energy, and I urged her to shake the crow off its perch from time to time, and let if fly around, switch shoulders, etc. Since she has already done much healing, I have no doubt my client will start working with crow in a new way, using its energetic gifts to delve into the truths of her soul, and use her intellect in ways that will bring light to not only herself, but to others.

Crow can draw us into the mysteries of the womb and stir it to life, but we must take care to ensure that we bring those gifts into the light in a means that will bring more than personal gain.