Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 10 - Dolphin Dreams

Today is 10/10/10, a date that I knew must be an auspicious one.  I find numbers and their relationships pretty fascinating (although it is a fancy, not a study), and I can never resist triple repeats of a number.

I received an email from a friend stating that today is an auspicious date for us to accept the transmission of the "Crystalline Portals of the Oceans".  I watched a You-tube video on this which focuses on dolphins and whales as transmitters of love and light and how their energy work flows to all peoples through all the oceans.  Well, I don't know anything about the Crystalline Portals of the Oceans, but I do know a little about dolphins.

I have been drawn to dolphins and whales ever since I can remember.  When I was in elementary school, our family traveled to Marineland in Florida and one of the dolphins there decided to play catch with my Mom.  It surprised my Mom, and the beach ball the dolphin tossed to her soaked her entire shirt!  The dolphin started laughing, and so did my Mom!  I wished that dolphin had picked ME to play with...

Often, my Mom would give me gifts that had a theme of dolphins: glass sculptures, small statues, jewelry, etc.  For herself, she loved hummingbirds and images of them were all through and around her home (including live ones she would feed just outside her kitchen window).

When I originally entered college, I majored in Biology Education with the thought that if I wanted to continue school after I earned my B.S. degree, I would study Marine Biology at the College of Charleston.  They had a large research center on James Island in Charleston, and I knew I would enjoy studying there.  For various reasons, I switched my major to English Education, so I never followed through on studying Marine Biology even though it still fascinates me.

Dolphins even graced our wedding weekend.  A friend gave us their front-beach house at Seabrook Island to use for the weekend and we invited friends from out of town to spend the weekend there with us.  Sunday morning -- after our Saturday wedding -- we were all enjoying a walk on the beach when a pod of dolphins began playing just offshore.  It felt like a blessing to have their joy so close to us.

But it wasn't until my 40s that I realized how closely connected I am to dolphins.  (After all, doesn't everyone love dolphins?  What's not to love?)  In 1998 I went on my first retreat to swim with dolphins in the Florida Keys. The retreat, led by Barbara Lange, was an opening for me in many ways.  We stayed at a beautiful location on Islamorada Key, visited dolphins and other saltwater creatures at Theater of the Sea, and created art of all kinds.  It was a great time!

Being with the dolphins is absolutely magical.  One can feel the joy and wisdom the dolphins hold, both physically and emotionally.  Being in the water with them, I really wanted to play with them, but the "trainers" were very strict.  (I put "trainers" in quotes because some of them just don't know what they are doing OR don't appreciate the animals they are working with.  An example:  At Theater of the Sea, one of the female dolphins that we were swimming with was in heat and was not paying attention to us as much as to the males in the area next to ours.  They were separated by an underwater cyclone fence that extended a few inches above the surface of the water.  I asked one of the young trainers why the dolphins don't jump over the fencing, and he said, "Because we teach them to jump, they don't do it naturally."  Hmmmm... they why all those joyful, playful jumps and rolls we see in all footage of wild dolphins...?  It is baffling that anyone could be that glib about such magnificent, intelligent creatures!  By the way, dolphins are the only species in addition to humans that engage in sex for the fun of it.  All other creatures do it for procreation.  At least that's what I've read; who knows how one discerns the reasons animals have sex...)  

Another time that left me scratching my head was on that same trip when we swam with another group of dolphins.  Their regular trainer wasn't there that day, but the head trainer, a German man who didn't seem to like working with dolphins (!) was there instead (we dubbed him "The Teutonic Plague").  And I can tell you, the dolphins certainly didn't seem to like him!  They pretty much ignored him... but when we absconded with the fish bucket, the dolphins were all ABOUT paying attention to us!  Again, we had a blast with them.  At one point, two dolphins used their beaks against the soles of my feet to push me around the enclosure while I was floating on my back.  I laughed and laughed and laughed!  I felt full of joy and humor... and I attribute it all to dolphins.

Right after that first swim at Theater of the Sea, I left with a terrible headache.  We were all to meet later that afternoon to discuss our experiences.  I took a short nap after returning, then wrote about my experience.  The phrase that kept nudging me in my mind was, "Light, Love, and Laughter," but as I wrote, I ignored it because I didn't know where the thought came from.  But when we all circled together later that afternoon, another woman on the retreat read that she had received, "Light, Love, and Laughter" from the dolphins!  I was shocked that she had understood the very same words that I had from our swim.  I now know better to trust those intuitive nudges.

Two years later, Andrew and I took our three kids to the Keys for a New Years holiday and we went swimming with the dolphins as a special way to welcome 2000.  While Allen and Paige were too young, Paul was just old enough to join the group.  When he was in the water with the dolphins, his countenance was literally transformed into pure bliss!  What a memory that is!  I remember a young dolphin nudging up to me as I stood in the water waiting for my turn.  His name was Eclipse, a perfect name for a dolphin.  And while we were warned not to touch the dolphins, I regret not petting him since he had sought me out.  I need to learn to follow my inner instructions as well as I follow external directions.

A year or two later, I went with Barbara on a retreat to Bimini to swim with wild dolphins.  We only were able to swim one time with them (there is, of course, no guarantee in the wild), and they seemed interested that we were there.  At one point, the boat we were on was creating a large wake, and the dolphins, like chariot horses of Neptune, leapt and played in the wake!  What a sight.  What a blessing.

I've never seen a whale in person, only on TV and in photographs.  I can't imagine how powerful they must be in real life!  I have a CD with humpback whale songs that I sometimes listen to when I am creating art.  I swear one of them sounds like Curly (of the Three Stooges) with its "Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck" sounds.  They make me smile... and wonder.  Their song can be heard all up and down the Pacific Ocean.  Imagine the power in that!

One of these days, I hope Andrew and I can follow the whales as they migrate up the west coast on the coastal highway from Baja to Alaska.  Maybe we could even start off in Hawaii, then fly back and rejoin them in the States.  Then spend a month or so camping and exploring Alaska and watching them feed and dance off the coast.  

I hope you have an auspicious day today, 10-10-10.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 7 - Autumn Memories

Autumn is my very favorite time of year.  I love everything about it:  the true blue sky, the warm sunlight golden on trees blazing with color, the crisp, cool air, the smell of the first stove fires of the season, hot apple cider (with butterscotch schnapps!), the harvest of fruits and veggies, the layers of clothes with nubby textures wrapping us like cocoons, the energetic excitement of Nature's dance before resting.

Fall of 1984 was an especially important time for me.  I had just started getting to know Andrew as a friend; we had stayed up all night on his screened in porch, talking as we rocked in wooden rocking chairs, and I had learned of his love of camping.  I relished camping also.  I also cherished hot air balloons.  So when I learned of a Hot Air Balloon Rally on the weekend of Sept. 21, I knew I wanted to go and see all the beautiful balloons lifting off and peacefully floating away.  And I knew I wanted to invite Andrew, but wasn't ready for a trip with just the two of us, so I asked my friend Martha if she would go with us.  Always up for an adventure, Martha said yes, and Andrew agreed to go (why not?  Traveling with TWO women!  What's not to love?).  So the three of us (plus Katie, of course) took off in my Oldsmobile Cutlass from Charleston headed for Statesville, North Carolina, packed to the gills for our camping adventure.

Andrew drove some and I drove some.  And Martha asked Andrew the questions that I was less comfortable asking (like, are you involved with anyone?), while I listened.  The first night we stayed at Andrew's parents' cabin in Saluda, NC; Martha and I slept in the king bed with Andrew across the hall in the double bed.  The next morning, we drove through Hendersonville on our way to breakfast (my first visit here, which is where we live now) and the interstate to head for Statesville.  We had a flat tire along the way, and while Andrew replaced the flat, Martha and I stood on the side of the highway ready to help.  Martha had beautiful long black hair down below her hips, and with her cowgirl hat and jeans on, she attracted a lot of interest from the truckers!  We finally arrived at the rally site outside of Statesville (there was no MapQuest back then!) and learned that the lift-off wouldn't occur again until the cooler temperatures of dusk.  So we hung out under any shade we could find, listen to music, and watched people.  I especially remember a beautiful woman in a form-fitting red dress who wandered through the crowd... and Andrew's eyes following her as long as she was in sight.  Otherwise, I only remember the heat.  Whew, it was hot!

Finally, the balloons were ready to lift off into the late afternoon sky.  I tried to take pictures of all the colors rising into the sky, but finally just put my camera down to see the panorama of color and designs.  It was breath taking!  Slow majestic beauty languidly rising into the blue sky in the autumn sun.  What a cornucopia of beauty!

We left the rally and camped that night, sitting around the campfire talking and laughing and telling stories (and asking questions).  The next afternoon, we headed back to Charleston, stopping at a truck stop for a shower before the long ride.  We headed home after dark, and unfortunately, we rolled over some metal sheeting in the road which punched a hole in the sidewall of another tire.  Thankfullly, we were able to drive on it, but it was a slower, longer drive home than we'd planned.  When we drove into Martha's grassy driveway, the tire just gave up the ghost with a loud, long hisssssssss.  We borrowed her VW bug to get to my house.

But Andrew said he'd never laughed so much as he did over that weekend with Martha and me.  We DID have a great time!  And it was the beginning of a lovely courtship.

Five years later, Andrew and I had been married for 3 years by the Autumn Equinox, Sept. 21, 1989:  the date that Hurricane Hugo smashed into the South Carolina coast and tore up into North Carolina and Virginia.  We were living south of Charleston in the country, but since Hugo was larger than the entire state of SC, with 12-foot storm surges predicted (and we lived on the intracoastal waterway in a cement slab house about 2 feet above mean sea level), we decided to escape to a different area code.  My Mom and brother Fred were also living in Charleston; Andrew's Dad was in the hospital -- safe but not able to leave -- and his Mom stayed with him.  So we packed up all our animals (including 2 cats and 5 dogs -- two of ours, one each of my Mom and brother, and one elder dog we were keeping for a friend) with the wedding album and other important items and headed to the mountains:  us in our car and my Mom and Fred in her car.  We avoided the interstate, which was bumper to bumper, and headed up the secondary highways which was a great idea because when we crossed over the interstate we saw cars sitting in what looked like a parking lot as far as the eyes could see.  We finally reached Saluda that evening, and the rain from the perimeter of Hugo caught up with us not long after that.

While we had electricity and phones in Saluda, our friends in Charleston didn't, so watching the news was the only way to stay connected (this was before cell phones).  We stayed in Saluda two days, then headed back to Charleston loaded with gallons of fresh water to use and to share.

When Andrew and I turned into Hollywood (the little town we lived near), we saw a long line of Florida Light and Power trucks parked in a row on a vacant lot, ready to start returning order to the chaos.  And when we turned into our driveway, our home was intact and undamaged!  While we lost 2 pine trees, they didn't hit the house, and the roses growing on the east side of our home were still blooming!  It was as if Spirit had put a protective hand over our home and kept it safe from harm.  We were indescribably thankful.

Within 3 days, we had electricity restored, which was wonderful because our water was pumped from a well.  Not having running water helped me to better appreciate our ancestors who spent so much of their energy surviving:  carrying water, planting crops, harvesting and preserving foods in order to feed their families during the winters.  Life drifts down to the basics where there are no modern conveniences, and running water is certainly convenient!

Tragedy brings out the true meat of people.  Over the next few weeks, I saw strangers helping each other out, saw community efforts to rebuild, and saw humor in the face of overwhelming destruction:  "Landscaping by Hugo" signs in front yards, "Hugo Stew" where families combined what was thawing in the freezer to feed their neighborhoods, folks helping clear each other's fallen trees, others offering someone a safe place to rest.  Friends of ours who lived at Folly Beach in a small cinder-block home still had their home, but the flat roof had been lifted off, the curtains and blinds sucked out, and the roof replaced so that the curtains and blinds flowed through the top of the wall to the outside.  We got stuck in the sand where the road used to be when leaving their home when friends had gathered to help with clean-up and repair... and everyone behind us got out of their cars to push our van onto the remaining pavement.  We all waited to be sure everyone made it through.

One family I knew from work had decided to stay in Charleston for the storm.  They had originally chosen their home because of all the pine trees in their yard.  During Hugo's wrath, the seven of them found themselves huddled in the central hall downstairs.  Trees were falling onto their second story roof; with the difference in air pressure, as the trees would hit the roof, the higher air pressure inside would cause the roof to explode.  Their house was destroyed, but thankfully all of them were uninjured.  Another couple lived on Sullivan's Island; again, their pine trees destroyed the upstairs of their brick home while flooding ruined the first floor.  They finally packed it up and left town.

While homes and buildings were destroyed, the saddest part (other than the minimal loss of life, thanks to people paying attention to the need to evacuate) was the loss of the Low Country's beautiful, majestic trees.  Trees are what gave Charleston its lovely graceful silhouette and profile.  My old neighborhood didn't even look like where I had grown up.  You can reconstruct a building, but you can't rebuild a tree.

Reassembling a sense of normalcy was difficult that fall.  But on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 1989, Nature decided to blanket the Low Country with a beautiful pristine covering of magical white snow.  It was as if she was saying, "Now it is time for peace."  Blessed Be.

I hope you have a time for peace today.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October 6 - Katie

I had a best friend for 10 years who was part-shepherd, part-lab, and part-human:  Katie.

Some folks think she was named after me, but in fact I was named after her.  Up until I was about 25, I went by Kathy (hard to believe; she is a different person than I am now), but loved the name Kate (after one of my heroines, Kate Hepburn).  So when Katie was (literally) dropped in my lap, I decided to name her my favorite name.  It wasn't until 5 years later that I made the shift myself into a Kate.  

She was a CRAZY pup... all ears and legs and a strong, independent will... and as we grew together over the next 10 years she was my companion and protector.  I was able to live by myself as a single woman, go where I wanted to go, and do what I wanted to do because of Katie.  She was always game for anything.  And she was always watching me:  ears perked, eyes alert, her head resting on her front paws as she rested relaxed but ready for whatever I was going to do, the way dogs do.

There are lots and lots of stories about Katie, some of which I will tell during this month.  But for now, I have my most recent story of Katie to share.

Katie contracted cancer in her mouth, and after two surgeries we had to let her go.  She is buried in the backyard of my former country home south of Charleston, SC.  It was Jan. 26, less than a month after the love of my life Andrew moved in (on New Years Day 1984).  I am blessed that occasionally she visits me in my dreams.  This is such a tale.

In 2000, on the Spring Equinox after my mom's passing in February, I committed to a Vision Quest.  With my fellow questers, I prepared for six months in order to enter the woods for three days and nights when we would seek our visions.  It was a powerful process that springboarded me into my current spirituality.

As is true of other questers, the closer we came to our Quest date, the more nervous I became about going into the woods:  not from a safety concern but from a fear of not receiving a Vision.  I'd worked so hard and it all pointed to this special weekend (Labor Day... in every sense of the word!)!  Two nights before the Quest weekend began, I had a vivid dream:

I was walking in a forest of beautiful, lush green pine trees along a soft path thick with fallen russet pine needles.  All was silent.  I looked down to my left, and there was Katie walking beside me!  It was so like old times when we would walk together.  My heart leapt for joy at being with her again!  I was so excited that I started running along the path, and she ran alongside me.  Then she changed into a black bear, also running along the path with me.  This excited me so much that I lifted off my feet and started flying alongside her.

I woke up, jubilant that I had spent time with Katie/Black Bear, and knew my Quest would be a safe and successful one.

Two days later I went into the woods, early on a Saturday morning, in silence.  My teacher had selected my spot under a huge, beautiful old pine tree where the ground was blanketed in layers and layers of soft pine needles.  There were small pines scattered along the perimeter of my circle as well as some fallen pines peeking through the carpet of pine needles.

I spent 3 days in the woods, just me and Nature.  Each morning, my teacher would bring me fresh water for the day and to check to make sure I was ok.  That weekend, it rained 4 inches... and I stayed snug and dry under my tarp in my sleeping bag.  I felt Andrew and our kids sending me love and strength all weekend.  It was as if Andrew was there beside me saying, "OK, first put up the tarp, now set out..." guiding me in his wise woodsmanship way.

always curious and alert
On Sunday, I was writing in my journal, recounting the dream I had had the few nights before.  I am thankful to have had the journal as I wouldn't have remembered most of my Quest experiences since I was in an altered state (which I didn't think about happening...).  As I looked up from my writing, my eyes rested on a small pine that had fallen over years and years and years before.  The base of the tree was all that was showing; the roots had been elemented away over the years, and the remaining base poked up in two soft peaks from the pine straw.  As I looked at it, I realized that it looked just like Katie did when she would watch me to see what I was going to do next.  And as I looked at it more, I realized it WAS Katie, still there companioning and protecting me.  I was -- and am -- so grateful for her presence.

I miss Katie so much.  I miss how she would howl with excitement when I would drive into the driveway; my very own one-dog chorus of joy.  Her salutations would literally lift her front feet off the ground!  Now THAT's love!  I miss her smell, the feel of her coat as I would pet her, her talking to me, the look in her eyes when she was having fun, her joie de vivre, her humor, and her undying love.

Well, I still feel her undying love.

There have been other puppies, but there will never be another Katie.

I hope that a memory of a loyal and loving animal will fill your day today.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Month of Story

I just returned from a full weekend at the SE Womens Herbal Conference at Camp Rockmont in Swannanoa, in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Swannanoa... what a beautiful word!  It conjures peace and light to me.

I met Ramona Moore Big Eagle there, and she offered a session entitled Finding Your Story.  While I am a writer with lots of stories, I love to listen to and learn from others.  Ramona is a tall, graceful, powerful Legend Keeper, a storyteller of the Tuscarora Tribe, with dancing eyes and a welcoming, open countenance.  Everyone in our group of at least 60 ended up telling two stories about ourselves to someone in the group we didn't know.  We were all energized and excited about our adept ability to tell stories, even though that's what women do... we are all storytellers.  It's our legacy, and our universal way of teaching and leading.

After returning home, I read an article in Waverly Fitzgerald's October Living in Season e-zine where she writes about Curating Her Life.  There's a lot in that issue.  Waverly points out that October is a month of memories, stories, and ancestors.  So I have decided to do one of the things I love best (but seem to let slip to the end of my "to do" list) and write one story a day this month about memories and ancestors to honor this time of year.  All Hallow's Eve (or Samhain) is traditionally the time of honoring the dead, being thankful for our harvests, and slowing down in the cold and darkness, returning to the cave and the fire, and telling our stories.  So I will honor that ancient tradition.

Memories abound with my participating in a recent Small Book Exchange through Asheville BookWorks.  Memory Palaces was the theme, and each of the 15 participating artists interpreted that in her/his own way to create a rich cornucopia of miniature book art.  My book, entitled Rooms with a Clue, traced my connection to and passion for art and creative expression throughout my life (so far).

It all started with my Gaga's button box, and continues through many wonderful memories of art created with my hands and heart.  One of my very favorite memories as a very little girl was sitting at our kid's card table (just the right height for littles) in our pine-paneled den with my Mama.  She and I drew and traced pencil marks all over a page from the newspaper, making swirls and circles and intersecting curved lines over that generous expanse of newsprint.  Once we were finished drawing, we found shapes that reminded us of fruits and vegetables and colored them as such with our crayons.  I remember watching her color a green pear, wishing I could color as beautifully and regularly as she did, and also relishing the time we were spending together.  It was so lovely, nurturing, and just plain FUN!

My Mama was a fun lady who loved to laugh and put others at ease.  She was a Libra, and it showed; everything was about balance to her: relationships, bank accounts, give and take. People were the most important thing to her; she was the essential extrovert.   And she loved creating, too.  A needleworker (I still sleep under afghans she crocheted and have sweaters she knitted) she taught me to embroidery, knit, and sew as a girl.  I grew up surrounded by lace tablecloths, bedspreads, and handmade baby clothes which adorn my home today.  Holidays brought out major efforts in decorating:  the tabletop decorative Christmas tree she created with hundreds of hand-wound roses made of dark red crepe paper strips and attached to a cardboard cone that fit over a small table lamp so you could see a little bit of light every now and then through the roses.  And then there was the time that she created two huge (well, probably 3 feet tall) styrofoam bells shapes that she covered with hand-cut green felt leaves for props for one of our annual Christmas cards that showed how much my brother Fred (11 months older than I) and I were growing.  It was the 50s; the debut of the picture Christmas card.

She had a beautiful handwriting and always tried to write in green (she had a fountain pen she used all the time that only held green ink) because it was her favorite color.  Today, it is also mine.  Whenever I would ask her for her autograph in one of my autograph books (another 50s fad) or school annual, she would pen, "To my understudy."  And while I understand that now, it didn't satisfy my youthful daughter's need for superlatives about who I was... at least I didn't think so at the time.  Today, I am proud to be her understudy, to continue the creative self-expression that she nurtured in me, and to quote her wonderful, unique sayings.  Of course, we've all heard "This too shall pass" which was NEVER comforting when you heard it, but which I have said to my children as well.  My favorite saying of my wise mama is, "The sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time."  Now we call it Karma, but we didn't know that term back then.  Course, with her Charleston Geechee accent, it sounded more like "De sun don' shine on de same dog's ass all de time."  I can enunciate it exactly as she did.

I hope you take the time to savor a great story today.