Dreams From My Father

My dad came to me several times in the days following his death. Two of those visitations were in dreams.

In the first dream two hummingbirds flew into the enclosed porch where I was sitting with him, the room he spent most of his last 11 months in, recovering from chemo and radiation treatments, and when I put up my hand for them to land on, they instead hovered above it, boring their long, narrow beaks into the space between my first and second knuckles. I writhed with pain, inside, but didn’t flinch, holding still while they…sucked out nectar? Pollinated me?

As they flew off, I turned and thrust my wounded hand in his direction, imploring my dad to “help me, fix me, I’m hurt,” like I often did in real life. As a doctor, a veterinarian, he was who I turned to when sick or hurt, knowing his gift for healing. Especially of those who couldn’t explain what was the matter.

I looked at the sizeable hole the hummingbirds made – a small marble could have fit, yet there was no bleeding, and it was deep black, the darkest color I ever saw. The closer I peered, the more I realized I was looking into the abyss. Endless, boundless universe.

In the second dream, I was alone at my sister’s house and opened the door to let her cat out. Shortly afterwards, I saw a fox leaping gracefully across the yard, playful, yet intent. Entranced for a moment, I then suddenly remembered the cat was outside, nearby, and I rushed out the door, but couldn’t reach her fast enough. I helplessly watched as the fox grabbed her, sank its claws, and rendered her defenseless. She immediately relaxed, her body slumped and stopped struggling. It happened so fast. Alive one moment, surrendered the next.

That was 3 months ago. I haven’t dreamt since.

Until last night.

In this dream, my friends Tammy and Geof were showing me their grandfather’s house and the rural hamlet he lived in. I was looking to move and wanted to be someone’s roommate, and they thought we’d be a perfect match.

On our way there, I walked ahead of them into town, searching for something. Everything was intensely magnified. The green was greener than where I live now, the surrounding mountains were higher and more thickly forested. The few houses were old, and made of stone, just like the ones I coveted as a child and still hope to someday live in. No one was one the street at all, the townspeople all tucked inside. The scene was clean, orderly, pristine, natural, beautiful.

I walked into one of only two establishments and it was filled with kids – an ice cream shop. The brightness of overhead lights was strong and the hubbub overstimulating, so I left. I didn’t go into the other place – a serious, upscale restaurant, but I knew I would eventually – the twinkling lights on the windows highlighted the warm festivities inside. When I get settled in…

Then, feeling guilty I had rushed ahead without my friends, I walked briskly back down to the park, and found them relaxing with their grandfather and their son. We reunited.

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After the first 2 dreams, I looked up Hummingbird and Fox in Ted Andrews’ book of animal totems, “Animal Speak, The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small.”

Hummingbirds represent tireless joy and the nectar of life. The most skilled flyer, they can change direction on a dime, fly thousands of miles – a seemingly impossible journey for a bird who needs to eat constantly, and are fiercely independent and revel in their freedom.

Foxes are a symbol of shapeshifting and camouflage, a sign of a new world growing and opening up, a beneficial creation in the works. They’re charming, and will distract you with jumping and leaping antics, until they pounce and capture their prize.

Now, a little back story about the small town and my friends’ role in it. Three years ago while visiting Tammy and Geof, who live in a small New England town, I listen while Geof shares some crazy thought he has that I might be happier moving out of NYC and to someplace like Vermont or Maine. I mostly ignore this idea at the time.

Months later, I’m invited to Maine, and suddenly remember Geof’s words. I rediscover Camden, where I once wanted to move, two decades earlier. It feels right this time. I pack up my life in the city, and here I am today, loving it.

Sooo…are T & G arbiters of my geography, and if so – is this about my inner landscape or the outer one? Is everything about to become more orderly and amped up?

How is my life shapeshifting? Am I about to capture my prize? Surrender to something?

Was one of my dad’s last gifts to empower me to live joyfully, on purpose, and suck from the nectar of life?

I figure my subconscious has been at work these months integrating the wisdom of my father and of the animals he tended, with my own beliefs, gut feelings from friends, and divine guidance. The unfolding ways of how I’ll live the rest of my life.

The Hardest Thing To Do

Devoting to a meditation practice reaps the highest rewards I’ve ever experienced. Sitting on a cushion, walking in the woods, gazing at the ocean ~ a practice comes in many forms, but time alone, emptying hamster-wheel aggravations, worries, conflicts…anything redundant and mindless…this quieting is luxuriously restorative.

Understanding that our outer world perfectly reflects our inner state is what we need to bring us back into the present moment and connect with stillness. Knowing all we have to do is let go and allow what will be, to be…without judgment or control is the hardest thing and the easiest thing to do. 

When I don’t meditate, I’m anxious, reactive, uncentered, and less trusting that everything will be just fine. I struggle, feel depleted, am problem-focused, and less empathetic. Miss Crankypants.

When I do sit in stillness, even for ten minutes, this is what happens:

* My natural rhythms of eating, sleeping, and being productive emerge and I feel energized.

* Making healthy choices (nutritionally, physically, and emotionally) becomes effortless.

* I see the world as resilient, miraculous, and peaceful.

* Incredibly talented, bright, and successful friends, creatives, innovators, optimists, and solution-creators enter my sphere. 

* I am increasingly recognized financially for my contribution and value I help create.

I don’t know who said this, but it’s so true: If you can’t find five minutes to meditate, then you need an hour.

How can I help you…begin to still your mind, shift you from struggle into ease?

OMG. Can you BELIEVE what he just did?

It’s madness I say! All this talk!

Be yourself.

Follow your bliss.

You can be or do anything you want.

…and then…

Did you SEE that dress she was wearing?!

Yeah, but you can’t make money at your art. You have to get a real job.

THIS is how it’s done.

I’m not good / pretty / rich / smart / connected enough.

Pure insanity! …this cognitive dissonance of declaring that we simultaneously have freedom and also must abide. Can we not see the disastrous effects judgment – certainly of others, but most insidiously of ourselves – wreaks? Is there any way out?

I wonder…

What could happen if we:

* unfurl, instead of bind

* celebrate, instead of constructively criticize

* unarm, instead of protect

* radiate, instead of compete

* affirm life, instead of deny it

* loosen, instead of furrow

* shoot from the hip, instead of prepare

* witness, instead of evaluate

* accept, instead of tolerate

* breathe

What if we stopped judging every little damned thing we see? What if we stopped deciding if everything fits neatly into either the Good or Bad column? What if that voluptuous woman wore that dress like no one’s business, painted her way into a living, and did it all on her own terms?

THEN would we shut up that petty little voice in our heads?

What if, I mean, really now…imagine if The Last Judgment wasn’t some day of reckoning, some hierarchical accounting of our sins, layered with the gross humiliation of guilt and blame and deeply rooted shame…and instead was simply…

The very last time we ever judged?

The Thunderous Clap Of The Full Moon

Kayaking Megunticook River, Maine SunsetYou are what you surround yourself with.

Lately, I can’t be still long enough to eat breakfast, write a post, a chapter in my book, or do the dishes without flitting around like a nervous hummingbird. Normally playing inside is some radio broadcast like Democracy Now or Morning Maine on WERU, or a dance-to-it Pandora or Genius playlist. I like a stimulating aural environment, yet since moving recently, I’ve been disinclined towards manufactured sound in my new space. What wafts in from the surrounding wooded hillside provides plenty of ambient chirp and chatter. When I listen closely, the rustling branches, whose sways hypnotize through wide skylights, whisper to me to turn off the computer, the Netflix, the modern technological impositions to concentration and creativity. Skittish as a dragonfly, I’m regretfully honing to a steel glint an attention span more suitable for a fourteen year old with ADHD.

Completely at odds with my meditation practice, eh?

Seems I’ve got my feet on the brake and the gas simultaneously and if I remember from Ms. Ewanciw’s ninth grade math class correctly, [ + times – equals -], which means I’m a poor conductor of electricity – that creative spark every writer needs for propulsion. What good are rituals and discipline if I’m training my mind right out of focus?

Kayaking Megunticook River, Maine Island Sunset

So last night I go low, low enough to be eye level with the water – that surefire conductor, and paddle up the hyalescent Megunticook River. My savage beast is quietly tamed by rhythmic paddling and harmonic birdsong. That one music turns off while another turns on is the Rx for all that insanely eddys and ails. Outside of time, I ponder lily pads and heron flight and the splashes of just-missed fish feeding on the bugs of dusk.

So sublime. Ahhhhhh…

The boil thus reduced to a simmer, inspiration glides near, throwing golden coins into the water around me like I’m the fountain, a wellspring, the bestower of wishes. Seduced by the setting of these rippling sunstreaks and mesmerized by the coquettish moon peaking behind a wash of clouds, my relaxed and fertile mind receives the planting of a new seed.

Kayaking Megunticook River in July, Maine Island Full Thunder Moon

I drift back to the sandy shore, pull my kayak out of the water, and pause before heading home. The discovery of such a lovely spot minutes away feels like being baptized; I am submerged in deep appreciation. How have I let the falsely urgent crowd out the important? This natural beauty taken for granted! Such foolishness…

Back under darkened skylights, in centered calmness, I sit and write. And write and write and write – outlining chapters and anecdotes, developing theme and tone – any and all jumbles merely sequences and friendly tangents that will illustrate and illuminate this freshly waterborne idea. Only a few days ago I was distraught over my riches: having so many good projects…how could I ever choose which to cultivate? Too many sometimes is just that: too many. What I longed for was THE ONE. The one that would propel me out of creative logjam and launch me, like Tigger, into joyful action.

Yes! Clarity emerges. Focus and Direction hold hands, winking slyly at me.

To refine this new germination, I consult the I Ching, an ancient Chinese method of divination and guidance. I throw 3 coins, resulting in 54, Changing, and my changing lines lead to 51, Shock / Thunder. Curious, as tomorrow is the full moon (in July often referred to as the Full Thunder Moon), I put the burgeoning project into the reading’s context:

    “The shock of continuing thunder brings fear and trembling. The superior man is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of god; he sets his life in order and searches his heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of god. Thus reverence is the foundation of true culture.” (~from the 1950 Wilhelm translation of the I Ching)

Anew, I surround myself with fluidity, with natural rhythms, with less 21st century madness. I bring reverence to the well, not to the chariot of technology, so when the thunder comes, I will not be deterred.

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Want more? Here’s a post I wrote on the I Ching: a poem of engagement.
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xo Kellie

Once In A Lifetime

I was driving from Warren to Camden the other night when it washed over me: I feel like I’m living inside a David Byrne song: as if some large bird swooped down 10 months ago, lifted me on its back and deposited me squarely in this new life.  Or maybe just the opposite – not in a midlife crisis kind of way, but in a finally! all is well, but how did it happen so effortlessly kind of way?

Who ARE these people? How DID I get here? (and, strangest of all, why does it feel so much like coming home?)

   “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
     And you may find yourself in another part of the world
     And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
     You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
     You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Too often, men (never women, make your own conclusions here) ask me: “Soooo, how is it that an attractive woman such as yourself has never been married?” Statistics trumpeting the benefits of marriage to our esteemed male population aside, I’m often stymied as to what they’re really asking. Am I lesbian? A radical feminist? Unlovable? A runaway bride, perhaps? A maneater? Or maybe too choosy or demanding?

I always find this question partly annoying (why am I not asked if I’ve ever run a business, had children, or, even been in a long-term relationship?), and partly amusing (it gives me a chance to don my contrarian outfit, poking around to find out how much they’ve really given the venerable institution serious thought). I guess I’ve just heard one too many stories of someone walking down the aisle like it’s a plank.

Once, I learned a man was asking because he was on the way out of his 8 year marriage, claiming he’d just been riding the wave of … isn’t-this-what-people-do-when-they’re-in-love? … “We met, dated, moved in, and next thing you knew we had a wedding, a mortgage, and … there I was, wondering, My god! How did I get here?” I think he was desperately seeking permission to leave, and that it would all be okay in the end.

     “Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
     Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
     Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
     Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Looking back on my childhood in the 70’s, there weren’t many successful models of happily ever after around me, so I never idolized some future wedding, frosted with buttercream and white lace. There was nothing I particularly wanted to be when I grew up, either.  Those pressures of today – prepping at preschool for the Ivy League – were absent. Instead, life then was much like it is now, like all good spiraling cycles do, coming back around and placing happiness in the form that we learned it first, at our blessed feet. I learned young to be content and interested and make my own excitements;  the independence that followed led me on grand adventures both far flung and romantically. For that, I am thankful my (divorced) parents left the big picture choices for me to paint, never imposing their successes and failures, but granting me the wherewithal to navigate by pointing out the moon and the stars and the sky above.

    “And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”
     And you may ask yourself, “Where is that large automobile?”
     And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house”
     And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife”

When I was eighteen or nineteen, underage at a local bar, I chatted up a guy who’d graduated a few years before me. I had a crush on him in high school, and now that I was all grown up (in my mind), I wanted to impress him with my college sophistication. But right out of the gate, in answer to my eager and bouncy greeting, “How ARE you?” he replied, “Same old, same old.” Regrettably that was not the last time I heard those words. Disappointment crashed like a Ming vase.

     “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Perhaps I only entered into relationships that had an expiration date, for fear I’d end up fighting and married, despondent and divorced, or like the sad sacks at the bars I tended. If I wasn’t heading into the mystic, nevertheless, I had love and lust and sweet guys and bad boys and romance both lengthy and fleeting, but I always knew deep down that I wasn’t a keeper.

     “Water dissolving and water removing
      There is water at the bottom of the ocean
      Under the water, carry the water
      Remove the water from the bottom of the ocean
      Water dissolving and water removing

Or was I? Whenever accused of being noncommittal, I resisted the notion. I’ve developed decades-long friendships, deep loyalties to my workplace, and a steadfast curiosity about the world that I indulge with vigor. Yes, I had my Houdini moments; I could bolt with the best of them. But over the years I explored the wheels and dials of my inner timepiece and discovered lasting commitment to truth, freedom and aliveness. Socrates, Jefferson, and Emerson left nourishment and I ate at their examined table. Once I put myself first, deliberately instead of haphazardly, peace reigned.

     “You may ask yourself, “What is that beautiful house?”
     You may ask yourself, “Where does that highway go to?”
     You may ask yourself, “Am I right, am I wrong?”
     You may say to yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Recently, a charming and itinerant man asked me how I ended up here. Believing he might understand why I’d move somewhere not knowing anyone, I described the complete reliance on intuition and seizing of the right moment. Instead, he pressed me to ‘come clean’ that I was, in fact, running away from some uncloseted demon or such. Are we so accustomed to fight or flight behaviors that we are unable to recognize a step forward, a Constitutionally protected pursuit, an embrace of beauty and destiny? Is drowning that common?

      “Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us
       Same as it ever was, same as it ever was
       Same as it ever was, same as it ever was
       Same as it ever was, hey let’s all twist our thumbs
       Here comes the twister”

My oldest friend once said that given my propensity for the obscure destinations I head off to and unexpected life choices I make, that the only thing that would surprise her would be if I were to settle down with a husband and raise a gaggle of rugrats. At the time, we laughed at the absurdity, but wouldn’t that be the kicker, the ultimate rebellious move?

     “Letting the days go by
      Letting the days go by
      Once in a lifetime
      Let the water hold me down
      Letting the days go by”

What is true is that I’m at my best in the company of those I care about, especially when in a loving and mutual relationship. I thrive in the sunshine of security. It may just be that I have always believed in only doing it once. And, watch. That’s what will come pass.

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