Archive for the ‘Grief’ Category


Spiral Dance

September 23, 2008

A Rumor of Angels

September 3, 2008

I have been combing the scholarly (and not so scholarly) literature recently around the evolution of the image of the crone. I have found some fabulous works –  dissertations out of Pacifica and the California Institute for Integral Studies – both places I considered for graduate work. This film was recommended to me and after all the chaos of the last several days, I just needed to be caught up in the imaginal world. This film was perfect for the occasion.

I had just returned from talking to a woman about the death of my father and the mystical journey that was for me as he crossed over. We were talking about in the moment of death, that there is a surrender and no fear.  There is a message in the film:

The soul leaves the body as a school boy jumps from a school door, suddenly and with joy. There is no horror in death.

This was my experience with my father’s transition out of his earthly body and into the place we go when we die. My father was afraid to die and afraid to die alone. When the time came, he had no fear and he wasn’t alone – on this side or the other of the thin veil that separates us.

What struck me about this movie is the wonderful character that Vanessa Redgrave plays. She personifies a succulent, juicy crone. She befriends a young pre-teen boy who is frozen in his grief after the death of his mother. Through their relationship, the grief thaws and melts and courses through the boy and he is able to find a peaceful place within himself to feel sadness and joy in the same moment.

I love! love! love! the synchronicity of a teaching story that arrives just when it is most needed.

With gratitude for the stories and the storytellers.


Communing with my Community

July 6, 2008

All around me are my ancestors,
my unborn children.
I am the tear between them
and both sides live.
~~~~~(Linda Hogan)


Kaya McLaren’s Church of the Dog: New edition on the way!

February 1, 2008

It is impossible to encounter this book and not have your heart expanded. I can count on one hand the books that have affected me this way. The books I read over and over and over and over until they fall apart. Women Who Run with the Wolves is one of those books. Soulcraft is another. Church of the Dog is another. This is the book to give to a friend who is suffering. This is the book to give to a friend who is feeling hopeless. This book contains phrases and passages that read like pure poetry for the soul. I even had Salmon boy read me passages from this book when I was lost in my grief. This is the book that lets healing into the hearts of both the newly bereaved and those with calcified grief.

I picked up my copy in June 2004 from Moonlight Books in Pagosa Springs, CO. Several weeks later, when I returned to Colorado with my family, I bought “On the Divinity of Second Chances.” Another enchanting story. Then the books became scarce and hard to find and I became reluctant to loan out my copies. Now, the angels have worked their magic and made sure these stories are going to find their way out into the broader world. The world needs stories like these.

I have written more at this site about Church of the Dog than just about any other book – it affected me that much. Fortunately for me – all that yearning for connection with the author – Kaya McLaren must have reached her because she found me singing from my soap box about how her book changed my life and saved the life of my mother.

Today, I have on my reader’s table, an Advanced Readers Copy of Church of the Dog! I am so tickled, honored, pleased and excited! Thank you Kaya and Kendra! Fed-Ex delivered it to me this morning.

The house is now quiet and everyone is out and about so I am going to make myself a cup of tea, curl up by the window, watch the ice continue to form on the trees, and enter the holy sanctuary of the dog church. Lucy Good Dog will be curled up at my feet – alert to every emotion that passes through my heart. I am so excited to see how Kaya will sing flesh onto the bones of the original story.

Stay Tuned!



December 5, 2007

Last night as I closed down the computer and prepared to go read – the phone rang. I heard my husband say – she is going to want to talk to you! I wondered who it might be – and it was the woman of the lake surrounded by timbers calling me by my true name.

Reminding me of my gifts, gently guiding me back to the unmarked path that is mine to travel. Hearing her warm voice, her laughter, her deep wisdom I could see her in the eye of my mind and her eyes were twinkling.

Crowded close all around her – were her guides and companions who she had introduced us to in the spring during our Deep Imagery gathering at Seven Oaks. Some perched on her shoulders, others stood behind her, still more were in the shadows – not hiding – just watching and witnessing – creating and holding sacred space for our conversation.

Sometimes a person comes into your life and transforms you in ways that change your life’s trajectory. Dianne Timberlake, my mentor, my guide, my mirror is one of those people for me. Even though a continent’s width separates us and our contacts are infrequent – knowing that her soul walks the path of the Rainbow means she is always with me.

I first met her at an AVI program that she co-facilitated with Bill Plotkin – Sweet Darkness. I was deep in my mourning process and wasn’t sure I could be in a group setting. What I found was a “safe enough” holding container that allowed my full and complete expression of all my selves. For the first time, I was able to touch my deep sense of loss and feel the unbearable pain. No one comforted me or tried to fix me. Allowing me the space to find my own path in my interior wilderness. Towards the end of the intensive – I ran straight into joy! My heart was light, the weight of sorrow lifted, I emerged from the underworld blinking into the bright moonlight and later greeted the dawn. This intensive (Sweet Darkness) is where I learned to flower ecstatically in the garden of my soul.


Female Rain

October 27, 2007

When I was ten or so, the winter rains came to southern California and over stayed their welcome. The streets and arroyos and creeks all filled with water. The water rose and rose and rose and rose and in time, filled up the golf course and surged over the highway. My parents worried that the flood control dam might burst. We were down stream. Had my parents been steeped in the ineffable, they might have looked at me, and wondered about the way they dammed me, and damned me. Memories of their own emotions of joy and ecstasy, and of great sadness and doubt might have rose up as the waters rose. Perhaps they would have spilled over the banks, gathered momentum and taken out every dam that tried to hold them back. And in their weeping, they would hold me close and tell me of their sorrows and hold me close as they rocked me for comfort.

About twenty years ago – I wandered alone down in the flood plain – noticing the footprints in the dry wash. Finding mattresses hidden in the trees where those who don’t live inside sleep at night. I walked up to the big dam and then walked across the top of it. It held no water on either side and seemed superfluous. I am not a big fan of dams and levees and our attempts to control the flow of water. Our attempts to control the Mississippi intensified the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This winter when the rains come to southern California – the landslides and mudslides will try to remove anything that stands between them and the ocean. We are all trying to flow to the ocean – back to Yemaya – into her embrace and nothing can prevent our returning.

Last spring as I worked on my masks at the Masks of the Goddess intensive – Lauren had the CD ReTurning playing in the background. I wasn’t really aware of the words – other than turning, returning, but I was deeply aware of the feeling of peace and wholeness that infused each of us as we worked the leather to create our images. The first mask I did I named Emerging – and she is copper and earth toned. The second mask I did I named Flow – she is opalescent and pale blue and gold and of the shallow, surface water. Each day as I pass them, they ask me to finish the series… There is the need for a representation of Fire, and Air also. Perhaps that will be something that keeps the winter nights filled with meaning. I wonder what will emerge and flow if I remove my interior dams?

There are just light sprinkles and dense fog as I look out the window – and frost is forecast for tomorrow morning. Unless it clears, I suspect frost won’t come until Sunday night – but it means that sometime today, the last of the shiny red peppers need to be harvested. The basil that I cut to the ground and protected from the threat of frost several weeks ago has regrown and I am ready to harvest the last of it for early autumn pesto. When the rain stops, I will be able to weed and put the vegetable garden to bed for the coming winter.

After writing about my uneasiness of the dark nights of winter, it seems to have already eased a bit. As I look out the window and imagine the landscape covered in snow and resting, dormant, I feel a quiet sense of peace. And a renewed desire to downsize from this large four bedroom house into a smaller dwelling with more stone and glass and fewer bathrooms to clean. The other day I shared a story with a woman about some friends who lost their home to a wildfire in 2003. They rebuilt because the insurance pays only if they rebuild on the same location. They lost everything. It burned completely to the ground. There is a part of me – that could lose everything in this house – and the house – and feel relief in the parting. The woman I shared this with told me “No! don’t even say that! You shouldn’t feel that way!” Her reaction was so intense that it jarred me from my reverie and made me wonder what it is that a loss like that would be for her.

After losing my father and allowing myself to grieve all the losses of my life and of those who never were cried over – I realize that there is a central core of me that will always be safe – no matter what the exterior experience. In my theories class – we are reading of existentialism and I am reminded of James Hollis’s premise – that there are basically two existential wounds – overwhelment and abandonment.

My unmothered mothered swore I would get all the things she never had as a child.

No one ever stood up for her – she stood up for me and I never learned to resolve my own childhood conflicts – my mother sent them home.
No one ever held her. She held me on her lap as I wriggled to get down. Whose need for closeness was being honored in those moments?
No one knew if she came in at night or where she was. She waited up every night I was out and when I lived 3000 miles away, alone in an apartment, she planted the fear that I would not come home safely if there wasn’t someone at home waiting for me.

I always assumed that my mother overwhelmed me… It was through therapy that I came to recognize the abandonment. Her needs for social approval were so immense, that her outer focus centered on climbing the social ladder. She helped found the Muckenthaler Cultural Center and was its first president. She spent day and night there at the mansion – preparing to turn it into an art center.

If I needed to be home sick from school she just took me with her. I didn’t appreciate it as a sick child, but I do now. I look at the virtual tour and realize what a gift it was to have free roam of the house, the outbuildings, and citrus the avocado orchards. In that wounding – there is the gift.

What I wonder though as an adult is could my mother have done something that made me feel cared for when I was sick and she had to take me with? Could she have created a safe nest for me to lay down and be sick and come back to check on me? Probably – but her need to do this volunteer work outstripped any ability to empathize with a whiny, needy, sick child. More and more the memories of being abandoned flooded over me as I dove into this work with Salmon Boy.

Sometimes I feared I would be stuck forever in the role of unmothered child. Even with the work of creating an internal mother, the pain remained. It was after reading the Heroine’s Journey that I realized there were whole areas of my experience that had not yet been asked to speak. Leaving my job after the boon of success was my entry into spiritual aridity. At the time of my father’s death, I plunged into the underworld. Emerging from the depths, I felt a deep hunger to connect with other women and to bring the goddess to light in my life. Healing the mother – daughter split still challenges me.

At some point, part of that mending was saying, enough, “you have done enough” for now and it is ok to set this work aside. You don’t have to be perfect and this doesn’t have to be complete. All the work I did to work through that split was dwarfed in the recognition that the work in that area of wounding is about being gentle to myself – accepting myself as valuable and accepting that I didn’t have to do a perfect job on my first try. I learned to be a “good enough” mother to myself in the surrendering of the work.

I am fully engaged in healing the wounded masculine of myself, the men in my family, the men in my community, and the devastating aspects of the masculine which are unfairly and pejoratively labeled as THE PATRIARCHY.

It was Clarissa Pinkola Estes who taught me the difference between people who dominate and oppress others and the unfairness of the label of The Patriarchy. If you haven’t yet been exposed to her voice – get a copy of Theatre of the Imagination and listen to the twelve volumes of teaching stories. The stories helped me on multiple levels. Her voice speaks to that wounded part of me in my unconscious and lets it know it is safe to emerge. The stories can be heard as stories and they are interesting and thought provoking. In time, the stories burrow under our skin and lodge in our hearts and become a reservoir where we can hold buckets of compassion to share with others.

So now as I look at my window, I realize I have been here for two hours – musing and ruminating – remembering and lost in reverie – and in that two hours, the sun has risen and the fog is lifting.

What gifts does the rain bring you when it comes? What dams are needing to be breached so you may flow to the sea?


End of October

October 26, 2007

The post below is the type of work I typically do in the privacy of the Divine Feminine Wisdom group – but as I reflected on it – I decided to share a piece of it here. I ask that you listen with the ears of your heart…

As I drove to Salmon Boy’s in the rain on Wednesday, I had a flashback to my time in northern California – before I met my first husband. The lyrics of this Dan Fogelberg song popped into my head as I watched the leaves dripping with rain.

End of October
The sleepy brown woods seem to
Nod down their heads to the Winter.
Yellows and grays
Paint the sad skies today
And I wonder when
You’re coming home.

The skies don’t seem sad to me – and the ground is eagerly drinking in the rain – we have not had a soaking rain in months – but that imagery of winter coming is settling into my bones again. The long nights are my time of introspection and the last several winters have been hard on me. I asked Salmon Boy – what is it about October? Do I have to be fucking depressed EVERY WINTER? I had an excuse the last several years – the death of my father, the grieving, the inner work, integrating my vision fast…

But again? Encore? I can hear my ninth grade French teacher saying “encore” – still, yet, again, more. And I am having a bit of a flash to the fall before the winter that I was 18. I was living alone in an apartment and working. I think I was between boyfriends and life was pretty much working and sleeping – anything to have some independence and control over my own destiny. I remember going out one evening to shop – not because I really needed anything  – or could afford to buy anything – but because I was lonely. Winter was coming and the heady summer days of living on my own, enjoying my own space, suddenly felt like they were collapsing in on me. Winter was collapsing in on me. Time to do the descent – visit the underworld – muck around in the darkness of my soul’s unexpressed riches.

Woke up one morning
The wind through the window
Reminded me Winter
Was just ’round the bend.
Somehow I just didn’t
See it was coming
It took me by surprise again.

My first trip to the underworld was an abduction – literally and metaphorically – and it wasn’t voluntary. Like Persephone – I was surprised and unlike Persephone – there was no Demeter to grieve for me. My Demeter had not been grieved for as a child, nor had she done her own grieving, my abduction reminded her how unsafe her childhood had been and she despaired that she could not keep me safe.  In my descents since then – I have been more aware – but still not a volunteer.

Last autumn I went willingly – like Inanna – stripped, bowed down, I went in service to my sister Erishkegal, my shadow self. I was ready to hang on the meathook and let my flesh rot away while she watched me suffer. Now she is calling me – asking me to come visit again – and I just want to drink cider, read books, and stare into the fire. Can’t I send someone else in my stead?

And I hear you’re in San Francisco
Living with your sister who’s a mother to be.
And her husband’s way down in Georgia
And I’m still in old Tennessee…
Wishing you’d come home to me.

The work that Salmon boy and I did this session centered on my reaction to my exam for the theories class.  <snipped for reasons of confidentiality>

Suddenly, I wanted to hide – to not excel where others failed. I felt ashamed of my excellence and talent. Salmon boy asked me – why are you afraid to lead, to be seen as a leader, to be the one who knows. We revisited some of my ancient wounds of standing up for social justice and being cut down – particularly my experience in graduate school the first time – a ratio of about 15:1  – men to girls – and my willingness to take on the faculty and ask that they call us women – not the diminutive – girl. I was burned at the stake for that one – and the women who were my colleagues watched in silence as I suffered. They were the Erishkegals of me. Unable to risk their own PhDs to support me. In many ways this was the most traumatic event of my twenties – standing utterly alone – one woman against the entrenched power dynamic of a traditionally male university. How dare she question us?

This would not be the last time I risked my life to be She Who Names Things – and in some ways it has become easier – and often it is deeply appreciated. But this session took a turn toward safety. What feels dangerous about being the one who knows and names things – he asked?

In this moment – my reply is – other than having my throat slit and left to die for having been the one who kept the old healing ways alive?

But in that moment – I allowed myself to feel all the times I stood alone, unprotected, and vulnerable – sometimes at great personal cost. I felt that pain – the sting of rejection – the powerful attempts to silence me.

Salmon Boy looked at me and said “One day it will be safe to be She Who Names Things.” I know he is right. He held up his fingers and gave me the Vulcan Greeting and I gave him the finger and then he gave me Scout’s Honor and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Then I walked under the maple trees, raining leaves on my head, drove to the cafe, and drank hot chocolate – starting into the fire – writing in my Four Fold Way journal – going around the wheel – warrior, visionary, healer, teacher…. warrior, visionary, healer, teacher…. warrior, jealer, visionary, teacher… And then I knew the wound of this summer with the prof who tried to silence me.

I had a sudden clarity – separating the “real” failure of him as a professor – with my projected wound – and in that moment I forgave him. <snip>

Life here is easy
I’m sure you recall
How it’s so warm and breezy
In the Summer and the Fall.
But Winter’s upon me
And I’ve got no heat here
And I miss your fire so sweet, Dear
I miss your fire so sweet.

And in the dream that we worked on – traveling light – I lose my cellphone (ability to communicate), wallet (my identity), and iPod (instrument of distraction – information coming into my head) – stripped of all these things – losing the persona, leaving the outer trappings and false self – like Inanna – stripped bare – there is a part of me that tries to keep me safe and small by berating me for losing these valuable middleworld possessions. Yet the wise interior part of me blesses me, vouches for me, and puts it in writing. For Salmon Boy – the part of the dream that had energy was the willingness to walk away from the false self – letting it be stolen. A few years ago – I had a similar dream – but I left my purse on a bus and the bus left without me – I was left alone, with no ID, phone or money – and on foot. Leaving the conforming communal way of traveling with others to set off on my own course on foot. Same theme this time – but a much more conscious surrender of those parts of me.

And I hear you’re in San Francisco
Living with your sister who’s a mother to be.
And her husband’s way down in Georgia
And I’m still in old Tennessee…
Wishing you’d come home to me.

The lover that he longs for in this song is perhaps a literal lover – but for me right now – she is that part of me that is midwife to the unborn, incubating energies that will emerge as the days grow longer after the solstice. All the wishing in the world cannot speed the process – these things require the protection of darkness, the long winter’s nights, the solstice tales told around the fire on that longest night.

End of October
The sleepy brown woods seem to
Nod down their heads to the Winter.
Yellows and gray
Paint the sad skies today
And I wonder when
You’re coming home
I wonder when you’re coming home.

What parts of yourself are swelling with possibility, safe in the dark womb of lengthening nights, ready to emerge as the sun returns?