The Process….

“We are no longer frightened children trying to find our way in the dark. We are adventurous souls, creating magical paths, taking risks, sometimes falling short, and still bravely stepping into the unknown with a sense of hope and purpose surrounded by love and light.” (unknown)

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Almost two years ago, I used this quote when I first wrote on Facebook about laying the groundwork for what became known as “The Ride.” And now, as I prepare for the journey back to NY State, I find it is yet still so very appropriate. In just less than 28 days all I own will once again be piled into the little Silver Backpack, my sweet workhorse of a Subaru, and I will find myself stepping into a state of déjà vu as I back out of a driveway and begin another journey. The trip itself will take a bit over a month, as I have a few short stays with old and new friends scheduled, and it will again take me to places I’ve never been. I confess, I did not think I would return east … I thought perhaps I’d stay somewhere in theimg_2309-shadow-in-the-desert-copy west; and I confess there is much about this land of endless sky, jagged peaks and smooth red rock, pinyon and sage and juniper that I will miss … but recent events tell me I am to go home. I return not the same person I was when I left – I am not even as I was just a few months ago. And sometimes I catch myself asking: Was all a dream? Like the ‘Ride’ and life itself, so much is unknown … where I’ll “land”, or live, and what I’ll do for work, I have no idea. It will be – like the original journey – a passage in faith. But is not all of Life so? Do any one of us know what the next moment will bring? One of the many things I have learned on my travels is that we are all truly brave in our own way … we all step courageously into each new day, breathing life into our dreams and hopes. Without a doubt, this is what our lives are about … journeying with love as our guide, trusting the heart of our creation to accompany us into the newness of tomorrow. February, in many ancient indigenous cultures worldwide, is joyously celebrated as the beginning of spring … the renewal of the earth and the life that comes forth from it. And so, as I begin the process once again of rebirthing to a new journey, I say simply: May it be so. May it indeed be so.

To Make a Difference

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“As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.”
~ Paul Shane Spear

Two years ago, I posted (on my personal Facebook page) the above photo and commented that I knew big changes were coming … I didn’t know what or how, but I knew. A handful of weeks later, the bus I was riding on hit and killed a woman; I sat in the snow holding her hand as she silently moved on, and I knew in my heart that life would never again be the same for me. I left Upstate NY just 5 months later, and began this adventure … a horrible tragedy converted into the spark for what became known as “The Ride.”

Last week I uploaded a new banner to that Facebook page … my shoe once again by running waters, this time perched on a rock, and quoted Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I wrote that I was standing at the river of time, ready to cross into 2017. In my heart I knew, once again, that something was going to change … but little did I know that a life-altering moment laid just around the corner.anne-christine-always-remember

Five days later, on New Year’s eve day, I woke up to learn that the body of a beautiful woman – a mother of two and daughter of a friend of mine – was found murdered … her body wrapped in plastic, in the garage of her abusive ex-husband’s. She had been missing for three weeks. As an adult survivor of childhood abuse and knowing full-well the terrifying and helpless fear of the next blow, this tragedy has reached up from the depths and grabbed me by the throat. As I sit writing this, I find myself still in a daze, heart aching beyond words … and feeling helpless once again.

It is time to stop the impotence.

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The Dance of Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse to ask for the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusory privilege and perhaps the prime beautifully constructed conceit of being human and most especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.

The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.” ~ David Whyte

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I love this writ by David Whyte. It speaks to an awareness … a deep living awareness echoing from the time our first two cells divided and we began our journey here on earth. It speaks to a human need that cries for release, and an allowing to live and breathe as surely as we do.

red-rose-inside-artistic-hdr-orton-ravensong-copyMany things have changed in my life in recent months, and as a result I find pieces of myself are shifting, rumbling and moving about, perhaps clearing space for new paths to be built. I cannot say for sure yet. I only know that the roads I have been on as of late are affecting other changes within; that the vulnerabilities I’ve felt – and continue to allow myself to feel – are creating new textures and colors in my life. Some rough edged and sharp; some very soft, indeed. Where it all will lead, I do not know at this point in time. I only know that it is. To deny it would shut myself off from my own humanity – and that of every other living being who occupies this earth with us. And I am human. I am most definitely human … in all of my strengths and frailties, all of the good and the bad, and all of the frustrations and joys that go with along with it. I am human, I am vulnerable, and I dance in the joy of that vulnerability.

Doors

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“I have always knocked at the door of that wonderful and terrible enigma which is life.”
~ Eugengio Montale

And so I have. I suppose one could say that I’ve knocked on many of Life’s doors, and have gone in, looked around, found myself a comfortable chair for a while, tippled a glass of wine and broke bread with whatever existed behind those doors. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried; I’ve loved and I’ve been loved; I’ve sung with the Spirit of Life, and I’ve danced in the boxing ring with the challenges that came along. I admit that there have been times I wished I’d made some different choices … perhaps listened to my instincts a little better … but I have no real regrets, for the road I’ve traveled these almost-62 years has been one of living from the heart. And in that, there is no remorse. The colors of my life have been many and I’ve peered out from behind many windows and walked through many doors. I have to be honest, it’s not always been easy. Sometimes the challenges take my breath away and knock me down to the floor. But I truly believe that I – and you, and all of us – are not born just as physical beings, here to live and then die … but that we are also a living eternal breath of existence, with depth and spirit and soul beyond that which we can see. So in those challenges, I work to find the lessons. Sometimes it’s simply the reminder to listen to that heart from which I choose to live.

Such as it was in Taos. While Taos was indeed beautiful and held a spirit like none I’ve ever experienced, it was not good for, or to, me. It consumed far more of my being, of my life, than the brief three months I was there. And so … the journey found me once again looking at the map, asking “where shall I go?” As my fingertips scanned the thousands of towns and cities and hills and valleys, plains and mountains, they came to rest on southern Colorado … an area that I’ve always loved, since I first dreamed of traveling west over 45 years ago. As they continued to circle the map, they stopped on Durango. And so here I am for now. In Durango, Colorado. I moved, so strangely, the day before I ended up in the ER with a horrible jaw/tooth infection. And though this last week-and-a-half has indeed found itself mired in its own challenges, it is good here. The area is incredibly beautiful – a very wonderful mixture of the deserts of northern NM and the high snowy peaks of the San Juans and Rockies – and once I am back on my feet, there is much more opportunity for work to be found. My heart sings with the pines and the deep greens of the thick forests here, my soul flows with the ever-moving Animas River, and my soul – and body – will heal in time.

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Looking ahead, I feel a movement, a change perhaps, within … as if Life is preparing a new path for me. What it is yet, I do not know. This is the limbo stage, the quiet, the waiting … the Winter. I look forward to Spring, and the rebirth of newness to come. Peace and many blessings to you all, as you gather together with your families to celebrate the holidays. Enjoy the moments, enjoy and cherish each other.

The Whisper of the Alabaster Chariot….

There is a voice in the desert, a whisper from the spirit of the west, and they say he rides an alabaster chariot…

It’s a whisper that I have now learned I cannot ignore.  Oh, I do so love that Life is filled with surprises, and along the way we – if we allow it – can hear the whispers of the wind, beaconing us back.  Sometimes that means a complete about-face … whipping our heads around so fast, it gives us whiplash.  Then, all we can do is laugh and ride that wind!

OK, folks, drum roll … and I do so hope you’re sitting down! Today begets a HUGE change in plans for this journey – but one I am tremendously and ridiculously excited about, and one that in many ways is the proverbial dream come true for me: I’m moving to Taos NM! Yes, moving there. I know, I know … say what??  I can hear the thoughts and all of the jaws dropping … but …. but … “I thought you were on your way back east?”  Yes, yes I was, and I’m writing this from what was to be a short stop in OH on my way back to Upstate NY.  But as those of you who’ve been following along know, last winter I stayed for a while in Santa Fe NM … a bit south of Taos … and while I was there, I grew to love so very much about the entire area.  As a young woman, I began to dream about “living in the west” – collecting and pouring over dozens of picture books, flipping through pages of colorful desert photos, falling to sleep dreaming of mountains and trails filled with the scent of sage and ponderosa pine. And the time spent along The Ride last winter in Colorado and Santa Fe, and then this spring in Utah, solidified that dream even more. The landscape defies easy description, the high altitude air is clear & crisp, the slower pace of life is sweet, and I feel welcomed and at home in the wonderful blend of Native/Mexican/Hispanic culture, art and people. Many times I thought about settling down somewhere in southern CO or northern NM after the Ride was supposedly done, but could never find a reasonably place to live (remember, I’m living on what little savings I have left) – and I’d pretty much given up ……… until the other day. On a whim (intuition, perhaps??) I checked Craigslist for the umpteenth time, and up popped a perfect way to begin a new life – a furnished room-share in a big house – at a very nice monthly cost. A flurry of email messages and phone calls later, I’m in!!  IMG_9207 Rio Grand Gorge 3 HDR signed

Taos is an incredibly beautiful place … the weather is fabulous – dry warm days, cool dry nights, it’s bordered by the Sangre de Cristo – there are mountains and deserts and forests and wildness all within a very short distance. And it is a perfectly, wonderfully artistic place for a writer/photographer to be.  There is indeed a spirit of the west.  Maybe, just maybe, there WILL be a book written.

So, after a short weekend visit with some dear old friends here in OH, the tired little Subi and I are turning around and heading back west yet again.  Yes, it means another long, hot 4-5 day trek … oh but so worth it. Upstate NY will ALWAYS be my ancestral home – no question – the Seneca blood & waters will course through my veins as long as I draw breath on this earth, and I’ve long said that I’ll probably die there … but for now, the Great Spirit of the West beacons me to go back once again. Perhaps there is something yet I am to do there. One of the unquestioning lessons I have learned on this journey is to always be open to the heart and to the calling of the spirit. To be open to change, to listen to the joys and desires deep inside, and to dance in delight with them. This Journey here is too short to do otherwise. Ah yes, the Ride of Life continues……

 

To Retain a Piece of Unity

“The real reason why human life can be so utterly exasperating and frustrating is not because there are facts called death, pain, fear, or hunger. The madness of the thing is that when such facts are present, we circle, buzz, writhe, and whirl, trying to get the “I” out of the experience. We pretend that we are amoebas, and try to protect ourselves from life by splitting in two. Sanity, wholeness, and integration lie in the realization that we are not divided, that man and his present experience are one, and that no separate “I” or mind can be found.
To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.”
~ Alan Watts

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I ran across this quote this morning as I made my final preparations for the long drive back east across this amazing land. I am so profoundly grateful for every moment of “The Ride” – grateful far beyond what any words can ever convey. For 14 months, I was not split, I was not divided, I was not separated … I lived, breathed, cried and danced as one with all that I saw and experienced. Truly a gift beyond measure. And now as I begin the road back, my prayer is that I may retain just a tiny piece of this. Not just memories, but of the deep union between all that is. Nya:weh, thank you … skies, earth, heavens, Creator … for allowing me to be a part of this. I am truly blessed and grateful far beyond anything I can ever say.

The Return….

“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours – long hallways and unforeseen stairwells – eventually puts you in the place you are now.” ~ Ann Patchett

Sometimes our journey – our own personal “Rides” – take us in a straight line from point A to point B without detour or diversion. We motor along with few cares, delighting in the ease of the view. Other times it zig-zags in hairpin curves though the hills, crossing deep valleys and taking us into the dark canyonlands. And sometimes it goes in a circle. Sometimes the road takes us to a place we never thought we’d see … and sometimes it takes us back home. Such as it is with The Ride now. Early Monday morning, the Silver Backpack (aka: the little Subi) and I will leave summer Geneva Seneca Lake bench signedthese jagged mountains and high dry deserts that I have come to cherish, and begin the long drive back to Upstate NY. Though I absolutely adore – and thought I would possibly settle somewhere in the western states – a myriad of factors, like factions of fractions in an equation, have shown me this not to be so. At least not right now. And the winds that blow have said it’s time to return to the land where my Ancestors lived … to the knolls where those ancient voices still sing to me, and their life-blood courses beneath my feet as I walk the land and sit by the denim waters of the Finger Lakes.

Oh, this “Ride” of mine has indeed been most amazing and wondrous – a gift beyond my wildest dreams in so very many ways – and I have a feeling that it’s not over yet. There are many Journeys in life … and many kinds of journeys … perhaps this one is just changing. It will be a long and demanding drive: 2500 miles from the canyons of Utah across the Rocky mountains and through the Great Plains of Wyoming; from the rainwater basins of Nebraska, through the plains of Missouri, the farms and flatlands of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio before turning north and heading through western Pennsylvania and finally into New York. I’ll descend 7,000’; cross 3 time zones, the Continental Divide, the great Mississippi and the mighty Missouri. 2500 miles, a scattering of motel stops along the way, and a visit with a friend or two before I unpack the burly bag I bundled 14 months ago. Where exactly I will land, I do not know yet … the heavens have only said that I must go back now.

Well, there is much to prepare for the journey ahead, many things to arrange … and I must get to it, so I will bid you adieu for now. Back soon as the Circle continues and this Raven flies on…….

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