To Sing with the Ravens….

“Forget about trying to compete with someone else. Create your own pathway. Create your own new vision.”
~ Herbie Hancock

As those of you who follow my Facebook page(s) may already know, I am beginning a new adventure in the mountains of northern New Mexico, where I’ve decided to stay for a while to sing with the ravens and dance with the coyotes. How long? Who knows? Maybe a month, maybe a year, maybe a lifetime. I’ve lived alone for most of the last 30 years and have always had a good sense of self, but these last three on the road solidified my determination for self-knowledge and thirst for continued discovery. I’d been aware of this resolve intrinsically for quite some time, but as I’d received dozens of invitations and agreed to do another Ride, I felt obligated to follow through. As time went on, however, I came to realize that this part of my long (so far, 3 years) trek is over – and I am to enjoy a new kind of journey … exploring where it will take me emotionally, physically, spiritually.

I truly believe that our Lives have many paths and trails, many roads and voyages we endeavour upon until our last heartbeat – and that final passage to whatever lies ahead. For most of us, our purpose changes over the course of time. No one part – or a previous direction – is “wrong”, but rather it is simply that we have an infinite number of gateways in our journey … and we enter these at different times of our lives. Some do have a singular path, an exclusive and unique purpose they are born into … no doubt true for many artists, scientists, priests and monks … but for me, I find the continual evolution both exciting and liberating. I have many passions and objectives that I’m looking forward to enjoying and fulfilling in the years ahead.

So, “here’s to” a new day and a new journey. Thank you all, once again, for having come along with me on the most amazing and wonderful “Ride” I could have ever imagined.  Be well, be happy, and as always … I’ll see you somewhere down the road.

With love,
Ravensong ❤

A Velveteen Goodbye…

“… all the knowledge gathered from your past has finally enabled you to arrive here with everything you need to begin the great work, no matter how old you are. It will take a long time;
it might take the rest of your life.”
~ Jonathan Carroll

Yesterday, Miss Gracie received another clean bill of health from my mechanic … the last one before our journey. And yesterday, I said my goodbyes to Lady Seneca. As I stood by her shores, the wonderful, wet scents of midsummer swirled ’round me … the waves were big, crashing as if ocean tides on the rocks. The gulls skreed, the herons winged their way home. The mallard couples watched their young as they learn to paddle. There is no doubt I will miss these green hills and temperamental waters, the changing of blues to greens to grays; and in many ways Geneva will always be home to my heart and soul … but there is also no doubt that it is time to strike out as my own ancestors did several hundred, and some even a thousand, years ago to find and explore new lands.

Later that afternoon, a providential moment told me all I needed to know: On the way home, I stopped at my Grandmother’s grave for one last “Goodbye.” As many of you know, she helped raise me for seven years and was the only stability I had in my young life. As I crouched by her gravestone, whispering my gratitude and farewell, tears began to sting my eyes … in that moment, I realized I’d never actually said goodbye before, though she has been gone since 1979 and I’d left – and returned – a few times. I thought I had, but I’d never truly let go in my heart. This time, 39 years later, it was different. And I knew it.

Standing up, I touched my lips to my fingers, blew a kiss and turned to go. Suddenly I saw a beautiful deep red rosebush in full bloom, just a few grave markers away. My Grandmother adored her roses … she had dozens of bushes, but most especially loved those flushed crimson ones. The ones with petals soft as velvet and a scent that lingers in one’s soul forever. She and I spent many hours caring for them when I was a child. We’d follow the horse trails, collecting the dried manure, we’d prune the bushes with love and conversation, and she’d often pick a prized bloom and gently float it in a crystal bowl to adorn our dining room table. It was her luxury. When I moved to NY in 2002, I’d promised that I would plant a rose bush at her grave … of course, I never got around to it. Time passes so quickly, and I was always too busy. But here, within a few dozen feet, stood this exquisite thicket of red. In all the times I’d visited that spot, I’d never seen it before. In deeply humble gratitude, I silently plucked two …

One for she. One for me. Thank you, Grandma.

A Mother’s Day Missive

“We are born of love;
Love is our mother.”
~ Rumi

Something a little different today; something not necessarily pertaining to “The Ride,” but rather, a story of love from me to you, on this Mother’s Day.

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This is my mother. It is my only photo of her; it’s not the best, as it’s from a newspaper article written around 1989. But it’s all I have. She was an artist, a singer, a writer, and wrestled all of her life with many demons: Bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and alcoholism, among others. We had a rather brief and very challenging relationship – she never wanted children and I was seen as nonessential … and moreover, as the wretched roadblock between my father and her. She left us immediately after I was born, only to reappear in our lives a decade – and several husbands – later when I was 10. The following six years were incredibly difficult, and I could easily fill this blog with many stories of her abuse and hatred toward me. Our last stormy encounter was in 1973, and she passed away in 2003, having never spoken another word between us in those 30 years.

So, why do I write this now, on Mother’s Day? Seems odd, right? But, you see, there is much more to this story … especially for those who understand and believe that lifespirit, and love and forgiveness, are never-ending. Keep reading….

In the summer of 2012, I was sitting in my apartment reading, late one afternoon. I felt an ‘odd’ sensation, and looking up from my book … I saw her standing there. Or rather, her lifespirit. She was young and beautiful and healthy; and had a peaceful, loving expression on her face … an expression that I’d never seen on her before. I was stunned and silent – I’d not given my mother a thought in decades – but at that moment, and without a single word exchanged between us, I knew that beneath all of the disease and broken chromosomes and chemical imbalances she waded through all her life … she, her Spirit – the true essence of her life beyond what we know and understand in this world – did indeed love and care for me. In the passage of a nano-second, forgiveness and joy reigned. I understood completely and fully that none of the abuse was “her” fault, but rather were the manifestations of the delicate balance of our physical nature … a broken or missing gene/chromosome here and there, the learned patterns of generations prior, the on-again off-again nature of the drugs meant to “control” what we deem as mental illness. It was not she who did not love or care for me … not the Spirit or Soul of this woman who was my mother … but rather her humanness, her mortal-ness, and it was beyond her control. When that is fully realized, forgiveness comes oh-so very easily. And it did. I smiled … deeply, completely. Compassionately. She smiled in return, as she slowly faded from view.

Yes, it would have been nice to have had a different, “better,” mother … my life certainly would have been easier, and my standing joke is “Next time around, I’d like to know what a normal life is!” …. but, this lovely, emotionally challenged woman also gave me gifts I never would have had, had I not known her: Strength, resilience, intelligence, an artistic bend, a love of words, theater, art, education; and a desire to live Life fully to its last beautiful breath.

Happy Mother’s Day, one and all.

Where the End is Another Beginning

“I will find new meaning in every joy and sorrow,
in that silence, I will hear the voice of spirit, and
freed from this world, I will see another world
where the end is another beginning.”
Rumi

I don’t recall exactly when the feeling started – a malaise, almost. A feeling of discontent, disquiet, awkwardness, boredom. I don’t know when it started, as insidious as it was, but I do know it came to a head on that late April day … as I trudged out to the car on yet another cold, gray day, snow swirling, wind battering the naked trees, branches swaying in the reflection on my windows. I hurriedly tried to button my winter coat, fumbling in gloved hands and shivering as I got in the car – quickly shutting the door against the bitter wind … I was tired of it. On October 1st, or thereabouts, of the previous year, the sun had abandoned us – running away to some other galaxy, never to return. Or so it seemed. It was gone, done, over and out. And so was I.

But it was more than just the weather. A year ago, after my two-year, 26,000 mile journey meandering across this country, I’d returned to New York … to the place many generations of my ancestors had called home. To the lands they’d farmed and fished after their own adventure crossing the Atlantic on the Mayflower, as well as the dozens of others who came on the ships and planes that followed for 200 years. To the place I, myself, had called home for 15 years. But something happened somewhere along those 26,000 miles I drove … I was no longer the same person I was when I left. I’d been raised in a very artistic, open-minded and liberal environment – and grew to be the same as an adult – yet the myriad of cultures, vistas and people had broadened and expanded my horizons even further … far more than I ever anticipated. Two years of complete freedom to be who I was, without constraint of career or regional expectations, allowed me to grow in surprising ways. I was quite a different woman than I was on that day in June 2015 when I pulled out of my driveway … leaving friends, work and a home behind in the rural lands of Upstate NY. Yes, it was more than just the weather. I was coming to realize that I no longer “fit” in the place where I once thought I would stay forever … where I’d surmised was to be my final stop on ‘The Ride’.

It was a disconcerting revelation. Heartbreaking, in many ways. Dozens of generations had lived and died here; and fifteen years prior, I’d moved from the cities of Pennsylvania just to be among the ghosts of those ancestors. It – these lakes and farms – was in my blood. And indeed it was, but all these generations later, I guess you could say the blood was thin, and all was not – I was not – as once was, so long ago.

That evening, I stopped by the cemetery where my Grandmother lays. As I knelt at her gravestone, I quietly whispered to her of my unhappiness and how I felt guilty; after all, I’d come home just a year ago. I’d come back for the simple way. For the Amish and Mennonites, for the farmers and homemakers and teachers, for the hunters and mechanics. For the apple orchards and vineyards. I had come back to the place where I long ago promised I would return to stay. And now I wanted to leave. As I stood there, I closed my eyes and felt her warm gentle presence surround me, much as I did when she would hold me on her lap as a child.

“It was never your home,” she said. “It was mine. I loved it, and it was perfect for me. But it never was yours.”

I felt her smile. Where the end is yet another beginning. And at that moment I knew that I, too – like my ancestors who crossed the sea and began a life in an unknown and strange new continent – was about to set out to explore faraway places and discover a new land to call home. My home.

 

 

 

 

The Siren’s Song…

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”
~ Wallace Stevens

So very delighted to have had the article, below, was published in the March/April issue of “Life in the Finger Lakes” magazine … in full color, with additional photos. It speaks to why I decided to return to Upstate NY after the long meander of The Ride. What was it that called me back, in spite of having seen some of the most incredible areas of this country? Read on, to find out…

“As I crossed the invisible border between Pennsylvania and New York, beginning the final leg of an almost-26,000 mile journey begun two years ago, tears stung my eyes and blurred my vision. I eased onto the shoulder of the road, rolled down the window and smiled. Two years since I’d seen this land … these lakes, these waterfalls, these trees. This lush greenest of green! The scent of a thousand flowers filled my nostrils, and the damp air clung to my skin. I’d been meandering this incredibly beautiful country for two years; I’d photographed and stayed in some of the most amazing places from the Atlantic to the Gulf to the Pacific – and yet I chose to return to the Finger Lakes. Why? Why leave the towering red rocks and other-worldly arches of Utah, the white powder of saline deserts, the colorful striations of ancient earth upheavals, or the massive 800-foot-high gorge of the Rio Grande? Why turn around at the great redwoods of the northwest and head for the fat oaks and maples and dancing willows of the northeast? Why say not now to the craggy snow-capped Rockies … and yes again to the gently rolling hills and flat farmlands of this region?

Let me start by telling you that I am not originally from the Finger Lakes, or even New York State. I was born in Philadelphia and lived most of my life on both sides of Pennsylvania. My father’s family, however, was from the Geneva area, and after visiting once when I was ten, I told myself I would live there one day … and it only took another 37 years to reach that goal!

It’s funny, though, how life can take us on some surprising journeys, and just 13 years after I arrived here, a friend’s sudden death along with a looming 60th birthday catapulted me into the adventure of a lifetime. Within just a few weeks of her passing, I’d decided to sell everything I owned, toss a few remaining clothes in the car and set out to meander the country. Little did I know I would wander for two years and 26,000 miles, and even further removed from my mind was returning to New York.

Yet there is a siren-song that beckoned me back … a song Seneca Lake sings silently to many of us who lived here. A magical melody reaches out from her denim depths, singing to those who listen. Her cobalt-blue waters, topped with frothy, bobbing white hats on windy days, her deep musty perfume; her endless shoreline painted with vineyards, crisscrossed with farms, dotted by thick woods. Her friendly, simple and happy people … a mix of races, religions and occupations. To drive the loop from Geneva to Watkins Glen – perhaps stopping for a sip of wine and a breathtaking sunset – is a perfect way to spend a long, lazy Sunday afternoon.

But there is something deeper. Though all long-past now, many generations of my family were from this area, and I truly believe that it’s a part of my DNA. Studies have been done recently on DNA memory – specifically regarding early trauma suffered by our Indigenous people – and they found that there is indeed a change, a memory, imbedded in the subsequent generations’ genetic makeup. If this is true, could it not be so for those of us with familial history tied to an area? Could, in essence, the waters of these lovely lakes have become a part of our chromosomes? I truly believe so.

So many I know who choose to leave – for any number of “logical” reasons – always seem to come back. A year, two, maybe a decade … but they come back, even if just for a little while. Perhaps there is indeed a magic, a bewitching spell, cast on those who take the time to walk along the shores of these captivating sirens. A magic that cannot be denied, and a magic that lasts a lifetime.”

Seneca Lake, NY

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Once again, I have to say that it truly is a pleasure and an honor to be freelancing for such a fabulous magazine. If you enjoyed this one, I hope you’ll take a moment to read my previous articles,”The Simple Things” and “Where We Love Is Home” … and perhaps take a few more to enjoy some of their other offerings. It’s a beautifully done publication filled with information, history, and photos of this incredibly lovely region of the country. 

Whispers of the Wolf…

“If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin. Go out in the woods, go out.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

One of the most important – and most painful – lessons I learned on my journey was to trust fully, completely, in my intuition and my instincts. Even when the whisper is so very small. We always seem to say, “Oh yes, we must!” But how often do we really do so? How often do we have those subtle “inklings” but choose to ignore them because of some perceived logic, or emotion … or perhaps what we think we “should” do. How often do we drown the song of intuition with our own desires?

I’d always been pretty good at listening to those knowings, but on my journey there were a few times I ignored it. Most were inconsequential and easily righted, but I came to realize there was one in particular that changed everything: A moment when I knew, as I stepped from the car – not listening and heeding the voice in my heart, asking if this really was what I wanted – that I had changed everything originally intended by the heavens. From that day on – though still yielding many wonderful moments and memories – The Ride and I were never the same.The journey that had begun in June 2017 veered from its original path, and never fully returned. There is a price to pay when we don’t listen to those quiet whispers. But, the heavens still offer surprises…..

Exactly a year ago one of the most amazing gifts of the entire journey came 9 months after that detour … an opportunity to sit with the wolves. Had things not happened exactly as they did, I would not have found myself in an enclosure, crouched low, hands buried deep in fur, my face lavished by wet kisses, being loved on and exchanging breaths with a full-blooded wolf … my spirit dancing with his far beyond the boundaries of the time and enclosure. And yesterday, for some silent reason, I picked up a book I’d put away long ago and in turning the pages, stumbled onto a story of a wolf … and of intuition. A story of the connection, and of listening. It seems ironic – or rather, not – that at this time when I am sifting through the lessons learned on my journey, and making decisions about the future, I unwittingly turn to a page that bridges past to the present, speaking to lessons learned. That day, one year ago, I believe I walked away from that enclosure with far, far more than just incredible memories … rather, I think perhaps I walked away with an eyelash……

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The Wolf’s Eyelash

If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.

“Don’t go out in the woods, don’t go out,” they said.

“Why not? Why should I not go out in the woods tonight?” she asked.

“A big wolf lives there who eats humans such as you. Don’t go out in the woods, don’t go out. We mean it.”

Naturally, she went out. She went out in the woods anyway, and of course she met the wolf, just as they had warned her.

“See, we told you,” they crowed.

“This is my life, not a fairy tale, you dolts,” she said. “I have to go to the woods, and I have to meet the wolf, or else my life will never begin.”

But, the wolf she encountered was in a trap, in a trap this wolf’s leg was in.

“Help me, oh help me! Aieeeee, aieeee, aieeee!” cried the wolf. “Help me, oh help me!” he cried, “and I shall reward you justly.” For this is the way of wolves in tales of this kind.

“How do I know you won’t harm me?” she asked – it was her job to ask questions. “How do I know you will not kill me and leave me lying in my bones?”

“Wrong question,” said this wolf. “You’ll just have to take my word for it.” And the wolf began to cry and wail once again and more. “Oh, aieee! Aieeee! Aieeee! There’s only one question worth asking fair maiden, wooooooooor aieeeee th’ sooooooool?”

“Oh you wolf, I will take a chance. Alright, here!” And she sprang the trap and the wolf drew out its paw and this she bound with herbs and grasses.

“Ah, thank you kind maiden, thank you,” sighed the wolf. And because she had read too many of the wrong kind of tales, she cried, “Go ahead and kill me now, and let us get this over with.”

But no, this did not come to pass. Instead this wolf put his paw upon her arm. “I’m a wolf from another time and place,” said he. And plucking a lash from his eye, gave it to her and said, “Use this, and be wise. From now on you will know who is good and not so good; just look through my eyes and you will see clearly. For letting me live, I bid you live in a manner as never before. Remember, there’s only one question worth asking fair maiden, wooooooooor aieeeee th’ soooooooool?”

And so she went back to her village, happy to still have her life. And this time as they said, “Just stay here and be my bride,” or “Do as I tell you,” or “Say as I want you to say, and remain as unwritten upon as the day you came,” she held up the wolf’s eyelash and peered through and saw their motives as she had not seen them before. And the next time the butcher weighed the meat she looked through her wolf’s eyelash and saw that he weighed his thumb too. And she looked at her suitor who said “I am so good for you,” and saw that her suitor was so good for exactly nothing. And in this way and more, she was saved, from not all, but from many, misfortunes.

But more so, in this new seeing, not only did she see the sly and cruel, she began to grow immense in heart, for she looked at each person and weighed them anew through this gift from the wolf she had rescued. And she saw those who were truly kind and went near to them, she found her mate and stayed all the days of her life, she discerned the brave and came close to them, she apprehended the faithful and joined with them, she saw bewilderment under anger and hastened to soothe it, she saw love in the eyes of the shy and reached out to them, she saw suffering in the stiff-lipped and courted their laughter, she saw need in the man with no words and spoke for him, she saw faith deep in the woman who said she had none, and rekindled hers from her own. She saw all things with her lash of wolf, all things true, and all things false, all things turning against life and all things turning toward life, all things seen only through the eyes of that which weighs the heart with heart, and not with mind alone.

This is how she learned that it is true what they say, that the wolf is the wisest of all. If you listen closely, the wolf in its howling is always asking the most important question – not where is the next food, not where is the next fight, not where is the next dance? – but the most important question in order to see into and behind, to weigh the value of all that lives, woooooooor aieeeee th’ sooooooool? wooooooooor aieeeee th’ soooooooool? Where is the soul? Where is the soul?

Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin. Go out in the woods, go out. Go out in the woods, go out. Go out in the woods, go out.

~ Clarissa PinkolaEstes, Ph.D.