Friday, May 8, 2020

The Ultimate Download


Day two.
She is gone.
Mind swirls with memories
calendars and journals at my side
I decipher scribbles of the final days
Carole dying into death 
the send off.

She had visited Arizona late March
days marked with unspoken words
like final and last
we stepped naked into a hot tub
gorged on banana creme pie
made our way up a hill
above Arivaca Lake
joined good friends to
drum the rise of the 
equinox full moon.

I photographed 
Carole with
daughters and granddaughters
we watched shadows pass
across the accordion pleats of sahuaros
from a Tucson back porch
she cheered daughter Laurel on
in the discovery of 
her first home. 

Carole's Kaslo return 
to her idyllic home was tough
tearful phone calls 
followed 
soon thereafter by
one I missed.
This voicemail --

Hey Honey, this is Carole. Give me a call.

I knew what this was.
I was about to hear
the hardest words of my life.
I returned her call.
It's time she said.
I can't keep food down and I'm having horrible days. 
I want you here. 

Her date with death was set:
May's New Moon
a week away.

I arrived under
the waning sliver moon
kissed her and sat at her side
she wasted no time
of course not
she had no time to waste
what are you doing about land?
She wanted me settled
seventeen years on the road was enough.
A recurring theme
her closing goal.

I found her alone 
the next morn
on the couch
in palpable pain
I smudged her 
with the white eagle tail feather 
I once brought
her from Alaska.
We sang an old favorite
We all come from the Goddess
and to her we shall return ...
I leaned toward her face
took her hand as we gazed
lifetimes deep  
into one another's eyes.
I began to shake.
Shiver.
Do you feel that I asked.
the energy transference?
It's like ...
you are downloading into me.

The ultimate download she answered.
Her words were barely discernible.

We sat spellbound 
until her eyes twinkled 
Well, I've taken care of my business 
she joked
I'm out of here ...
before you.

Ya, thanks a lot I said
this, our final
laugh together.

She wanted another song
one we sang so long ago
we all fly like eagles ... 
she was angelic

she said 
when the time came to die
she wanted someone at the door 
protecting the space:
Death is like a birth 
someone always shows up unexpectedly.

The old moon
was taking Carole with her
into the void
both of them
thinner and thinner
disappearing into darkness
to birth anew.



Spring Tucson Visit

Add Daughters, Grand-daughters and Maya 

Granddaughter Fun 






Monday, May 4, 2020

Dying into Death: Alive as Ever





5 a.m. with my
journal and strong-as-I-can-stand-it-coffee
pajama-clad in
her pajamas
the ones she tossed  me
when she opened the package to
discover eight nightgowns and pj's
she had ordered weeks ago.
It was two days before new moon.
Are you going to change every few hours? I joked.
She laughed
threw one set at me
and chose another for her final earth-bound moments
her deathbed outfit
to match her coral-painted toenails.

It is the one year anniversary of her death.
Cancer's fatal kidnap.
Flame flickers on my altar
sage smoke curls and wafts
carries my drumbeat
into the cosmos
mixes with memory and
the certainty that she is with me this morn.
I rarely drummed without her, afterall.

The poignancy of our final hours
is seared within --
It's just my luck this new moon is late in the day
she sighed.
I smiled. Reminded her
that moon's birth time once forced me
to be married at 5:30 a.m.
She cast me a shoulda-slept-in-grin.
Come help me in the bathroom she said.
An honor.

One-by-one
we gathered around her
twelve moons ago --
husband, soul-sister, older daughter, younger daughter --
stuck like glue
there was no place else to be
except in her final waking presence
rendered complete by her admonition
stop sitting there staring at me 
with laughter-soaked tears
our tether was cutting us loose.

So I sat at her feet, rubbing and humming,
watched the woman who lived for spring
and towers of seed catalogues
raise her eyes and gaze to the sky
as if to discern her personal portal.
Bring me some dandelions she said
eschewing the explosion of cultivated blooms
in her garden beneath the window.

I cleaned and prepared her altar mid-day --
sage stick, Bald Eagle feather, Venus of Willendorf
Green Tara at the center
open eyes on Her palms
bottoms of the feet
and center of Her forehead
the focal point of Carole's morning meditation
tucked between morphine and body's decay. 
The Tarot death card sat upright in a shell.
We agreed:  it was time for it to go.

Linear time tagged Luna.
Or was it the other way around?
The moon was about to birth
our dying mid-wife was called to witness.

We final four encircled the bed
Time to smudge, Christina
cleansing smoke for the primal brain
sent oer Carole, dr-friend, daughters, husband
accompanied by the near-by heartbeat of drums
the sister's journey song.

IV drip prepared
dr speaks
the legal necessity
reserved for those
with no promise
of an earthly
healthy tomorrow

you can 
stop
the lethal process
at any time
do you know what you are about to do?
Thus
Carole's ultimate struggle
to keep morphine balanced
with lucidity
an orchestration of perfection
so she could answer
a resounding
yes.

A daughter at each foot.
Husband and Soul-sister at each shoulder
one by one
she looked into our eyes

I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
My Perfect Love

the silent slip
into death

peace


















Saturday, March 21, 2020

Land-love and Covid-19



The phone call came at exactly 1:00 p.m. No accident. One, in numerology stands for new beginnings. Every zero after exaggerates its potency. The title has been transferred, said the voice on the other end. Congratulations. Tears streamed down my face. It was happening. After almost twenty years, I was a landowner again.

All the signs and omens portended this. Astrological messages were clear, with four to six planets in my 4th house of home, at any given time. I had been looking for land for three years but nothing had coalesced. I knew the right deals flow. Spirit puts me where she wants me.

Synchronicity. I was scanning facebook and noticed a woman's post. She remarked how much she liked Arivaca and how she wanted to return and look for land. Another woman chimed in, I have ten acres for sale. Bingo! It was ten acres I knew, in a location I loved. Three interested friends had attempted to contact her the year before and their calls weren't returned.

I contacted the seller immediately. We walked the land four days later and shook on a deal. It was that fast.

Synchronicity two was the method of purchase. Before she died, Carole made me promise that I would purchase land. Twenty years on the road was enough, she said. She was not wishy-washy. She left instructions for raising funds and I promised her I would follow them when the time came. Through various means I was able to purchase the land without pulling a Thelma and Louise. I felt Carole's hand in the endeavor every step of the way, as the support of the universe followed suit. She was a pro at manifesting.

Synchronicity three was a medical procedure scheduled the week of closing: photodynamic therapy. It involved an intense light that initiated a deep burn to rid my face of cancerous cells. I happened to call the drs. office the week before the procedure to check on cancellations. It was a cold, rainy day; a cancellation had just come through. I went in that day. The aftereffects were intense pain, puffer-fish swelling and light sensitivity. Then, peeling. Sheets of thin skin shed in pieces, akin to a snake, except I couldn't crawl out of it. If I had had the procedure as scheduled, the day before closing, it would have been intolerable.

Synchronicity four was the closing date. March 20th was chosen at random. Days later I was checking my astrological calendar and was utterly shocked to see March 20th had Mars and Jupiter in Capricorn in my home sector. Home action peaks to happiness. It was the perfect day to close. This day was to give me a taste of my future and the supportive milieu. It was all systems go. Heavens to Betsy!

Would all this, however, be enough to offset the pandemic pandemonium that was overtaking the world? A low grade nervousness overtook me. Within a few days the stock market fell to pre-2016 levels, towns were shuttered and people were quarantined as Covid-19 swept into people's lungs and rendered them breathless. The global scene was surreal and nothing was certain. I wanted to stay healthy. I wanted my loved ones, my community to stay healthy. I wanted to secure this land before who-knows-what-might-happen. 

Desert Chicory,  like huge snowflakes in grass.
It was a FSBO deal. We, seller and buyer, signed separately at the title company on March 19th, the first day of spring. I hightailed it home, ate some ice cream, called daughter Hope and collapsed exhausted into bed by 8:00 p.m. I awoke in a dream-like daze, strangely disconnected. Did this really happen? The process was six weeks start to finish. I returned to the land for validation and awakened to the thrill. The hills were awash in birdsong. Golden poppies and desert chicory joined hundreds of spring flowers in carpets of color.  I walked the thick grasslands and gazed beyond to Baboquivari's unobstructed view. Carole and I had trekked up to Baboquivari's Tohono O'odham emergence cave years before; it was a spiritual tether.





From the ocotillo forest to an elegant horseshoe pond, I could not believe my good fortune. Dulce waded into the pond for a drink as I visualized a meditation spot in the middle of the horseshoe, surrounded on three sides by water. This was real.

There are, of course, a healthy share of Arivaca stories that came with this place. I'll share them as time goes by. But for now the path is one of healing: ceremony to heal the land, as the land heals me and all who visit. The vision for this precious place is a haven where artists and writers create on behalf of our wounded Mother planet.

The first order of business is to cow-proof the property by fixing gates. Then, plod through county regs and electric company bureaucracy to bring in the electricity. The well is excellent, but I need power to run the pump. Who knows? In the time of Covid-19, perhaps a community garden is in the works. The land will tell me what she needs, and spirit will provide the resources and people-power to make it so.

I sit here typing, picking at the flaking skin on my face. The symbolism is not lost. Snakes have long been powerful Goddess symbols that shed their old life and emerged anew. One year ago this day, Carole and I drummed together on a bluff overlooking Arivaca Lake. Our final spring together before cancer took her away.

I am shedding my skin, The terror and excitement is palpable. She's watching, I know ... swirling the energy into spirals. Face it, she smiles. I am home.



The porch that will become my outdoor living area, extension of a half-built cinder block house.

The land has varied terrain, from the high Serengeti-like grasslands to park-like wide open areas.
 This is the driveway to the house..

_________________________________

With humble thanks to those who support this dream on various levels -- prayers, real estate advice, monetary gifts, jokes, a well-timed contact. Everything is energy. Now where did I put those 3 ml clean-up bags? Yep, I ordered 100. Bring your gloves and drop by any time! 

To the seller of the land, a wonder-woman if there ever was one, thank you for your unending commitment to preparing this land to pass on to me; for honoring the spirits of the land first and foremost. Divine intervention, indeed.



Friday, March 13, 2020

Travel as Spiritual Practice


The campfire crackles, sending flames into the dawn sky. Cream-laden espresso steams, a journal is by my side. This is the beginning of my day: the distant howl of a coyote as birds awaken. No traffic. No internet chatter. No daily news. I pick up my journal and begin to write.

Quiet and stillness are the essence of creating a space for the unknown to drop in, a central tenet of spiritual practice. Think of a womb, where germination takes place. This is where you want to be. One can create a womb of receptivity in many ways -- sitting meditation in a peaceful room, walking meditation in a park, cocooned in ones uninterrupted candlelit bedroom.

Travel, however, allows for its own gateway to the soul. Theres a reason monks and saints journeyed solo to the desert to seek direction and wisdom. Indigenous peoples continue to fast and seek vision in remote, wild places. Nature informs. Emptiness invites spirit. In the case of travel, the emptiness of leaving familiar habits behind in favor of unforeseen possibility.

              NOTE TO SELF: turn off phone ringer and text alerts. Your phone is now your emergency contact, not egos constant companion. Camera and GPS okay. The less the better.


Now, the journey. Picture yourself driving down the road. Who has not cranked up the radio and sung out loud? Clenched the steering wheel and rage-screamed? Sobbed out loud or yelled in joy? Our vehicle is a therapeutic bubble. Once behind the wheel we carry on imaginative conversations; put our everyday lives in the rearview mirror. It may take a few or a few hundred miles, but away it goes. 

Two lane highways are the best. They allow for a slower pace and follow the contour of the earth the hypnotic road takes over. We soft focus and take notice of the natural world. The distant waterfall. A field of purple lupine. A horse in the field, rump to the wind. An old prairie cemetery. It is easy to pull onto the shoulder, exit the vehicle and take a deep breath of crystalline air. We smell the arid desert; the damp pine forest. Our body chemistry begins to change as stress levels dissipate.

NOTE TO SELF: Travel light; leave the heavy baggage behind, i.e. drama, toxic relationships, whatever does not bring out the best in you.

The natural world, the real world, is the backdrop. What allows for spiritual revelation, however, is our nakedness. Naked because we have left our roles behind. We are no longer defined as mother, girlfriend, wife, waitress, real estate broker or pickleball pro the roles that defined and supported us are gone, rendered mute in a novel setting. We come face-to-face, spirit-to-spirit with our core and begin to ask, Who am I, outside of my roles?

If one seeks to integrate travel and spiritual practice I suggest the following:

·       Travel alone. There are no distractions, no chatter, and it allows optimum freedom to choose your route and stopping places.

·       Carry many maps. I prefer to park on public lands away from other people. Your GPS isn’t going to get you there. I carry a Benchmark Map book for every state I travel. The more detail, the better.

·       Tune into the senses: witness, smell, listen, touch.

·       Never, ever override intuition. If you feel uneasy or in danger, leave. If you sit by a lake and something doesn’t feel right, leave. Don’t analyze the feeling. If you hike a trail and feel uneasy, turn around. I once pulled into a rest area with my travel trailer prepared to spend the night. I turned off the motor, relieved to have found a pretty, treed spot. I sat quietly and began to feel edgy. Despite being exhausted I turned the key and continued up the road to a casino that offered free overnight parking. Not my preference, but it was there when I needed it. When I mentioned the rest area to the attendant, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Good you left. There was a murder there last night.” Our bodies and bones “know” before our brain registers.

·       Trust signs and omens; pay attention to dreams. They are a secret language. Note repeating themes. There are no coincidences. If a stranger at a gas station happens to mention a hot spring nestled into sand dunes, follow up! There may be something very special there for you.

·       Travel without an itinerary to allow for spontaneity. A necessity for signs and omens. Even if you have a destination in mind, say, a favorite camping spot, try to keep a flexible travel schedule.

·       Keep a journal and write in it every day. Do not edit. Let your inner feelings and thoughts flow onto paper. Pen to paper is multi-sensory. It takes you into the right side of your brain. This is one of the benefits of journaling as opposed to using a laptop which lights up the left, linear side of the brain, and removes you further from emotion.

·       Discover the time of day when you most connect with your muse; kiss the crepuscular. Early morning is my most creative time of day, when I am most receptive to messages and insights from other realms. Find yours.

·       Find a private sitting spot and return every day. Witness nature. You will be amazed. The longer you are there the more wildlife will trust you and come forth. My sitting spots are usually under trees. Trees actually produce a chemical that lowers blood pressure and changes body chemistry. Buddha and his sacred tree shared many secrets. Buddha knew that smiles change body chemistry.

You can personalize these points in myriad ways. To the spiritual traveler, however, all roads lead to the same place -- the pursuit of awe, that all-encompassing experience that lifts one from our little ego selves and into contact with spirit, that which is beyond and unexplainable.

NOTE TO SELF: Trust the unfolding.


Old growth near the River Styx in Tasmania  

__________________________

Lots of new in my life and it includes my website. Take a look! Womad slide shows, videos, books and articles. There's also a surprise around the corner. Stay tuned!

Sandy Penny, my web creator! https://writingmuse.com/contact.php 







Thursday, March 5, 2020

The E-bike Grin


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I resisted for a year. A friend kept insisting I would love an ebike but the price, in the thousands, was impossibly beyond my budget. Then the bike company made the changes he deemed necessary. I paid attention. He was an ebike wonk, afterall. He'd researched them for months and had a couple thousand ebike miles under his belt. The company he recommended sold direct. No middleman and much lower prices. As the saying goes, timing is everything. I was assisting my dying soul sister into the next realm, as well as my dog-companion of twelve years. In desperate need of an energy diversion, I took the plunge. I purchased a step thru ... new name for a girl's bike since men are buying them too ... SO much easier than hefting a leg over a bar.

I never anticipated the changes this bike brought to my life. From the moment I straddled the bike and took off I felt pure exhilaration. First of all, it has a throttle. It launches from a standstill position with no effort which is waaay fun. Once riding, it has five levels of assist. Technically speaking, there are no more hills. Come to an incline, press the button and go into assist 4 or 5. Up I go, pedaling at the same rate. Throughout my life I'd had road bikes, mountain bikes and cross bikes. I stayed in the shape necessary to ride them. In my sixties I didn't ride enough to stay in shape to take on big hills. With an ebike this was no longer an issue. The bike can go 50 miles on a charge, depending on wind resistance and hills. Battery life is excellent and it is a powerful 750 watts. The speed tops out at 20 mph. except for coasting down hill when I've reached 37 mph. To top it off, the bike folds, convenient for womad life. It has four inch tires for stability and is as snazzy as can be.

My odometer has hit 1200 miles. Here is what I have learned from nine months in the saddle:
  • It is age resistant. It has given countless seniors a new lease on life.
  • It is excellent physical therapy. One gets the motion and flex without the pressure and can easily bike many miles. My hip pain has disappeared. When I broke my fibula and ankle last year the bike was key to quick recovery and no need for formal PT.
  • It is NOT a regular bike. Take time with it. Respect the speed. Learn to interact intuitively with the assist levels and gears. 
  • It's an attention-getter! Expect to be stopped. People want to know about it and it's a far superior man-or-woman magnet than a dog! No poop bags needed. 
  • They carry weight ... groceries, camping gear, library books ... perfect for errands and adventures.
  • Saves on gas while improving health. Studies show that calories burned are only slightly different for ebikes compared to a non-ebike. 20% less on an ebike BUT ebike riders ride longer, further and more often. Soooo....
  • Be prepared for the most fun ever.
Negatives:
  • It's heavy. Sixty-eight pounds with battery; sixty without. I can't comfortably lift sixty pounds onto an elevated bike rack and I'm not about to wrench my back. Even if I have a friend to help, my solitary life demands I can go it alone. I bought a ramp and roll it into VAN-essa. Easy Peasy! 
  • Ebike racks are expensive in order to support the extra weight.
  • Ebike service isn't readily available, but as ebikes gain in popularity, it's better all the time. I've not had trouble getting tune-ups, etc.
  • Price. RAD ebikes top out at $1500. Other brands go beyond $5,000. RAD's customer support is excellent and RAD customers have a FaceBook page if you want to get an idea of ebike realities, pros and cons. Their only US showroom is in Seattle. RADS are only available online but you can find RAD owners on the FaceBook page for a test drive.  
  • Once on the bike, one can't wipe that grin off your face.
Occasionally I hear "Cheater" erupt from a gawker's lips. I look at them and smile wide: "You betcha, I'm cheating death!" 


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Panniers/saddle bags are awesome. The bike effortlessly carries weight. 


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Sonoran desert rides are a dream. Baboquivari Peak in the distance.




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Lil Pony on a Wyoming back road. 

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Devils Tower (Mato Tipila) WY, my last NPS Ranger assignment
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Devils Tower Monolith


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Back Road's Babe

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Lil Pony and Rainbow. 
_____________________________

If you decide to go with RAD, mention me as a referral (first and last name) when you order. You get $50 off and I get a $50 gift certificate. Cool, eh? I'm happy to try to answer your ebike questions.