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Because I’ve Changed

My parents visited for dinner at me and Ray’s the other night, and talk was small. Between periods of silence, there was conversation about Arthur the cat, Vixen the dog, my brother at school, their new van, and other assorted things that have been conversed about almost ad nauseum. Not so many years ago, my parents and I conversed regularly and freely about faith, religion, politics, and sex. Now those subjects are hardly breached, and when they are, it’s a meticulous, creeping dance of both parties. We’re like careful mice passing quick, awkward glances as we scurry by, watched in the shadows by rats with sharp teeth,  fearing we’ll disturb those offensive things.

My views on nearly all the topics we once discussed freely have changed, and I’m not the model daughter they had, sharing and preaching their views. I no longer believe in the patriarchal, male-figured God that they do. My conception of God is transforming with abstraction and mystery. As far as I can see, they believe in the same image of God they instituted me in from birth. They claim they’re voting for a man I cannot in any way condone for multiple reasons, but mainly for his absence of compassion, curtesy, and kindness. I moved in with my now-husband before we were married: a sin in their eyes.

As if losing connection with my parents weren’t enough, my parents are sometimes aggravatingly passive aggressive about the difference in viewpoints. When they arrived for dinner, my dad asked, “Where’s the master of the house?”

I said, “Excuse you?”

He continued to say, “Where’s the man of the house?” My man was upstairs getting changed, and soon joined us. Ray is the man in our house, but not its “master.” We are both happily equal partners, and my father’s sexist comment was unacceptable.

Then the comment about the once garden bed that Ray and I have unsuccessfully weeded this year. My dad gestured to the wild tangle of weeds and said, “We were just admiring your gardening, Sarah.” As if the responsibility to weed the garden beds were solely mine and absolutely necessary to a happy, healthy home.

I once was close with my former best friend, too. Last summer, she called me to say that I would no longer be her maid-of-honor, nor participate in the wedding, as we had, according to her, “grown distant.” I was infuriated, and haven’t spoken to her since. However, she may have been correct about the distance growing between us. Although she respects the beliefs of my church, which is Unitarian Universalist, she found the service strange and unfitting to her spiritual growth. That in itself was fine. We grew in friendship while we both were attending Christian-faith churches, and I had moved on from that faith. She hadn’t. She still stayed close with friends from high school, some of which I didn’t connect with to begin with. In retrospect, I can see that her close friends were not my close friends, and I struggled to converse with them. Some of them did nothing but gossip, which exhausts me.

I’m close to others now. While I’m saddened by the loss of what I had with my parents and Megan, I am comforted by the closeness I now have with others. At this point of departure from my childhood, the horizon of the unknown can still be daunting. The transition has been slow, lessening the impact, but the process is nonetheless painful.

Because I’ve changed, I have lost and gained. Because I’ve changed, it seems my parents are angry. Because I’ve changed, I’ve been in and out of limbo. My life is now much more mysterious than it was. I’m never lost, though. The answers are within me and appear at the right times. Do I face my fear and try to explain the new sides of me? Will my parents still love me? The answers to these questions are still covered in the mystery.

 

“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

~ from “Changes” by David Bowie

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Don’t You Know?

“Through the driving rain, I have lost the words to piece us back together, to tell you how it hurts. ‘Cause lately we’ve been breaking…There’s still a way to make it right. We’ll find the strength this time…Don’t you know, you’re standing in the way of the light?” ~ Birdy

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A week ago today, thoughts of myself and the world began to flip. A week ago was my second day at Lily Dale, New York, a gated Spiritualist community “dedicated to the service of God, Spirit, and Mankind.” Spiritualism, if you are unfamiliar, believes not only in life after death, but that communication can be and is made between the spirits who have passed on.

Of course, considering my upbringing, I was afraid I was going to be sucked up into a cult and if not, I was going to Hell for anything I may believe upon hearing at Lily Dale. Neither so. Free will is emphasized, and only principles of Love are spoken. To see some of the reactions of others upon hearing from their loved ones via a medium is enough to believe and to realize that Love is present and alive beyond what we call death. But by Monday evening, after my soul sister Jordan had left for home, I was sobbing to Ray on the phone. I had heard several messages from mediums to others at public readings, but none for me.

I told Ray I would drive home that night. My thoughts told me I’d drive into a pole or a tree. I was scared. Ray convinced me to check into the guest house as planned. After settling there, I waited in line to attend Circle Night, in which a medium sits with no more than six people and gives each a reading. My first mind-blowing reading began.

While some of the energies and spirits may have been from the women on each side of me, influencing my reading, I did pick out some things that would have applied to me only in that circle. Such as the prophesy that I would have twins, who would answer my prayers. All the women in the circle were too old to give birth, and there was one man. Terrified, I sat. I had received a message.

What?? Twins?! I shared my fear with the medium and the circle after everyone had had a reading. She said it could be two others that come into my life and answer my prayers, and that I would not necessarily give birth. Not wishing to be alone with my thoughts, I spent much of that evening with the group from the circle, fellowshipping. My fears faded.

The following day, I met with a different medium, who I had scheduled a private reading with before arriving at Lily Dale. After he had prayed to Spirit, he meditatively began to share that he could sense my third eye wide open. Yes, I felt ready to receive. He said he could sense a mystical quality about me, that I had telepathic abilities, that dreams were involved, and that I have been given a special gift that not many have. In a sense, I could relate to these things, but not strongly. He said he felt that I would be doing what he does. He could sense how sensitive I am, and said that I could call upon Archangel Michael to surround me with the protective light of Christ so I would not be brought down by others’ emotions. He reported to me that a woman had “stepped in”, someone who died when I was about the age of seven, and that she could see then that I have this mystical gift. She knew that I was in a minor car accident as a child, he said, and I vaguely remember being told about this by my mother. As he described the woman, I could think of one or two women that could be her. (I still am unsure who this may have been.) I said that I didn’t recognize her, and he said that I may later.

I began to doubt while I tried to remain open. Our half-hour session was ending, and I had heard nothing from Gammy, nothing from Kristy, or Buddy the cat, or Ray’s dad, or anyone I recognized. The medium continued with several other details I don’t remember. Thankfully, I recorded the session on my digital recorder and he recorded a CD. Our session ended. He said he had never had a reading like mine. I guess that made me feel special.

I left his office cordially. He said something about hoping I enjoyed the session. “More will be revealed,” I said, quoting Ray. “Yes, it will,” the medium agreed. I was pissed. I had hoped and expected to hear from Spirit-side someone I knew, especially Gammy or Kristy. Instead, I received a call to service. A call to service using gifts I barely knew and greatly doubted I had. My mind began to angrily refute all I had heard, redefining it all as nonsense.

The cards read something different. For the first time, I had bought a deck of oracle cards. Sinful, I know. These cards had (and have) the opposite of devil praise to proclaim, however. After shuffling, I set up the drawn cards on my bed at the guest house that night. The first card, the one about what is happening now, was titled “Heaven Sent” and was about spiritual gifts. O-kay, God. As the cards were turned over, I began to accept my gift. I told my Higher Power that I would accept this with help and if it were the truth. The result was spiritual happiness.

My happiness grew when, in all, I attended three public sessions of the Healing Temple on the grounds. As the meditative healers laid their hands upon me, the loving, restorative energy began to fill me. Afterward, I would sit in the woods with that power and allow it to soak. I left Lily Dale joyful and excited for life ahead. As a spiritual retreat, my trip was successful. I hurt, I learned, I grew.

Today, I am no longer high on spiritual hope. I woke up earlier today than usual with ease. I kissed Ray as I sent him off to work, and engaged in my daily meditation. Then, as if under a spell, I slipped down upon the pillows of the couch and slept until noon. I awoke dazed, hungry, and increasingly frustrated. I powerlessly had fallen back to sleep, and now I was powerlessly angry and unfocused. Like the nearly impenetrable thunderstorm I drove through as I approached Lily Dale, life feels foggy and heavy again. It feels like pieces of me are chipping away again.

After writing this post, I am better, but I wonder. How long will I stand in the way of the light?

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Photo by Jordan Macosko

 

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Started Things

When I was four, I started piano lessons, then took them on and off until about junior high. In grade school, I started baseball, and when I was stuck in the outfield along with receiving a minor hit from the ball, I quit. I applied and was accepted to a program for a degree in Russian language, but didn’t start one class. In my study, I probably have around 20 notebooks and journals that are started, but not full. I won’t try to count the number of stories and poems I’ve started but haven’t finished. It’s just depressing.

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Today’s blank journal page. It has a date; does that count?

But for all the starts and stops, I have completed things. I completed a Bachelor’s degree. I completed trips to Russia, Ireland, and Canada. I completed two sessions (thus far) as a Hogwarts professor at my church. (Yeah, I’m proud of that. Professor Regina Owlwit at your service.) I published twice to my college’s literary journal. I have won a contest or two with my writing. Sure as the sun rises, I am going to finish this iced coffee sitting so comfortingly next to my computer.

Too often I become discouraged at the incomplete things lying around in my brain, those limp, soggy scraps that slowly rot under dim, greasy lighting. Those fragments of the Russian language that I rarely practice, those notes on the mandolin, those two chords on the guitar, and that volleyball overhand serve I never learned completely. Other things block the growth toward completion. Mental illness, physical illness, a job we need to take for the money, big life events such as getting married (I raise my hand. While I don’t at all regret getting married, it was a distraction from many things.) Distractions of all varieties surround us, whether positive or negative. Perhaps some things are not meant to reach completion. Perhaps some things are impossible to complete by nature, perhaps some things are continuous. And as a former perfectionist, I can say that completing some things just to complete them is not worth the anxiety and stress.

Why do we allow our worth to be defined by our list of accomplishments or lack of completions? Aren’t these “things” just lessons? We are eternal beings; what does it matter if you don’t complete that big project because you had a melt down trying to perfectly complete all the other projects in your planner? Granted, started things give our lives drive and passion. For those of us with depression, they can be windows to a more enriched life. But started things do not define us. Perhaps that started thing that ended was a lesson in itself; perhaps it was not for you.

Started things cannot heal you. They may draw you out of your cave, but they are not an end. If we rely on started things alone to complete and heal us, they will not be completed, but instead become those limp, soggy scraps in our brains. And we’re likely to crawl back into the cave with that dim, greasy lighting.

Started things are not a waste of time or entirely lost to time. We can start again. We can pick up where we left off, even though we may need to backtrack a little. And it’s okay if you try and try and try and it is never completed. Perhaps that started thing is meant only to be started. Do your best. Your Higher Power will do the rest.

Happy Monday!

 

Of a Wedding, Honeymoon, Married Life and Such

Reader, I married him.

If you understand how excited I am to use that line from one of my favorite novels, thank you. Let’s chat.🙂

Anyway, yes, I indeed married him: my true love, who I met in a coffee house. It was not an  occasion without emotional challenges, however. The Thursday before the wedding, my grandmother’s funeral was held. Her passing and her body’s burial all occurred in the week before the wedding, while I grappled with a new way of knowing her. I can no longer see her physical smile, except in photographs of print and of my mind, or hear her chuckle except in memory. I will no longer taste the baked and cooked workings of her hands. But her spirit is with my spirit, and she can guide and help more now than she ever could in this realm.

Several weeks before the wedding, my parents visited her and set her up with FaceTime on my dad’s phone. She asked me to wear her pearls, and held up comfy blue socks she was sending so that I would not “make Ray cold with my cold feet.” In the following weeks, I am told she was delusional and violent. I am grateful that I did not see her that way, but that I will remember her kind, gentle face, offering gifts for a day she would not see with those eyes.

My mind that week and wedding day, racked with preparation after preparation and improvisation after improvisation, and joy after mourning after joy, was aswarm. Following the ceremony, I inwardly despaired at one more picture, one more pose, one more moment on my feet. But I cooperated with our photographer because she was doing such a good job and I knew we would appreciate those photos later. Then a haunting thought cascaded into my exhausted mind: I had made the wrong decision. I forced smiles. I began to become inwardly panicked and despairing. I revealed my thought to one of my close friends in the wedding party. He gave words that would have reassured me had I not been trapped in a net of compressed, panicky exhaustion. Finally, I couldn’t be around anyone a moment longer. However, I included my husband and didn’t allow myself to fight alone.

I took Ray by the hand and led him to the camp office, where it was dark and offset by our wedding garb, and sobbed before him. I confessed my anxiety that I had made the wrong decision, but he comforted and assured me. Repeatedly I stated how exhausted I was and that I missed Gammy. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or entertain our loving guests, but just sleep for two days. But I did step back into the reception and converse and eat and dance. We did. And slowly I began to enjoy it too. And I slowly recognized that I had made the right decision, that this man now my spouse would support me with all the love he has been given, as he has always before. The thought that haunted me during the bustle was false.

The wedding day passed. Ray and I enjoyed a quiet and intimate stay that night and the following morning at a hotel designed like a castle. We imperfectly and partially made love. We enjoyed breakfast on our private balcony with sparkling grape juice in toasting flutes. We departed a few days later for Ireland, where we hiked over bogs, photographed sheep, laid on cliffsides, met many hospitable Irish people who offered us tea, coffee, and sweets, and we struggled to navigate on the left side of the roads, sometimes with little or no GPS signal. We imperfectly made love again, but this time totally, and I shared finally with him what I had shared with no one else. I felt loss, but not for long. It was nothing like my fantasies, but it was ours.

In the loss of the past several weeks, I have gained a loving, compassionate spouse who I am growing more grateful for all the time. With hope, I share more with him and grow closer to him as we grow together like two vines weaving toward the Light.

 

Waking Up

I’ve been working at the camp again, so I’ve been waking up around seven every morning (with some snoozes), and I’ve been feeling great sticking to the schedule of going to bed at 11 p.m. and waking at 7 a.m. (or thereabout). However, today the staff was off, and my sleep schedule was too. I went to bed around midnight, as I willingly waited for Ray to get home and for us to have our phone call. I woke at seven, took my temperature for tracking my fertility, then went to sleep until around ten.

Up and moving at local coffee shop now, I’ve told myself multiple times that it’s okay that I slept in. I was experiencing some sick symptoms this weekend, and although I’m feeling better, the sleep is likely helpful. What if I hadn’t been experiencing those symptoms? Would I have still slept in? Would it still have been okay? It didn’t feel okay. Icky feelings that caused me to think less of myself were present.

This morning of low self-esteem followed my late night of fears. With around 20 days remaining before the wedding, I’ve had fearful dreams and waking fears of Ray loosing interest in me, leaving me, abandoning me. I expressed these to him last night, and he was reassuring with solid facts, such as the fact he had spent all weekend with me, and promises that he is “in this for good.” The residue of fear and self-esteem weakened by fears doesn’t wash away so quickly.

So what can I do? Write it down, like I am here. I can ask that the fear be removed and for my attention to be directed toward what my Higher Power would have me be. This fear prayer directed me to call Ray last night, and I received reassurance and love. If I continue this prayer, hopefully the residue of fear will wash away.

I pray I will continue to wake up to the life that is real. The real life that is mine. This world of shadows and monsters is the dream drawing me from the world of light and love. These two worlds blur next to each other, competing for my attention. Darkness creates the blurry space with blaring sirens of thought. The light is the gentle and still voice shining. I want to wake up to that gentle song of love to my real life. I am about to be married, and light has composed this union about to be orchestrated. The dissonance of fear cannot put the instruments and music inside me back to sleep.

When Being Helped Hurts

On the second day of my period, when I’m cramping and have an unusual headache, I’m being helped by strangers and a few friends at nearly every stop. I sip my light roast, purchased by a barista friend who noticed that I wasn’t feeling the best. In line at Chipotle, I was given a little extra chicken by the server after I asked how much extra was and turned down that option. During my taxes preparation appointment today, I was given a discount of around $70 after I stared, I’m sure, wide-eyed and frightened, at the invoice on the screen.

Why do these acts by generous others hurt me? My first answers are pride, shame, and self-pity. But I don’t think the answer is so clear or negative. Maybe I’m hurting with the weight of compassion and unconditional love. Maybe I’m overwhelmed by the complexity and rarity of these. The news stations swarm with hatred and cold violence. Corporations and corporate medical care are squeezing their fists with what money you could choke out. And there’s always that one person that slams into your shoulder or cuts you off in traffic that shades your thoughts with negativity and judgments about humanity for the remainder of the day.

Days like these, in which I notice multiple acts of kindness, are rare. Is it my perception, frequently controlled by negative thought? Is unconditional love a rarity? Is it something I have yet to understand, though I can rattle off a definition?

I wanted to tip my barista friends, but all I had in hard cash was 35 cents in mostly pennies. With slight embarrassment, I clanged my change into the hard plastic tip cup. But I feel a little better to have given what I could. I usually feel guilty when I can’t give back or that I can’t give more. It’s as if I want to out-give the person that just gave so seemingly freely and calmly to me. That’s part of my misunderstanding, that this is a competition. Sometimes, when I give to others first, and they want to give back, I manipulate until they can’t give back, not giving them time or space to give also. This is another misconception, another competitive attitude. It is as if I have created the Compassion Hunger Games, hoarding and stealing compassion for myself until I emerge the only victor. Thankfully, I don’t see many playing my games. Perhaps that metaphor is hyperbolic, but I can “kill” someone else’s joy of giving if I don’t allow them to give. And I do feel guilt for not giving enough. Yeah, yeah, what is enough?

In any case, I’m hurting with the throes of unconditional love and compassion, and I hardly know what to do with myself. Who is this Higher Power that I’ve heard is the heart of the selfless, perpetual spirit of love? And what am I supposed to do with such a force of love as this?

 

Nearly

Nearly every morning I grumble at myself for sleeping over eight hours, usually around nine to eleven hours. Nearly every morning, no matter what time I set my alarm for, the snooze is pressed repeatedly for at least an hour. Nearly every afternoon, I lay upon the couch for a nap I try to set for no more than an hour. I usually nap for two to three hours. I set a schedule in my planner for tasks to do the next day nearly every night, but by the time I awake the next day, I don’t have enough time to complete all the tasks for that day without scurrying myself into anxiety (which typically prompts more naps).

I am powerless over sleep. I am powerless over my growing apathy. I am powerless over my fears. I have little sense of my Higher Power, and that, along with my various forms of powerlessness, is frightening. If I could control myself in these areas of my life, hell, I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t be afraid. I would be the image of perfection, seeming perfection, that I created in my mind, and my mind would be my powerful ally with which I could conquer all obstacles. However, the mind is so small and finite, and so narrow and weak, prey to itself. Granted, the brain can do wonderful things for society. Without brains we wouldn’t be sending rockets to Mars, making music with strings, reeds, and wood, or sipping lattes in light-filled buildings with cold or hot air blowing on demand.

But the brain is different from (although perhaps sometimes connected with) “the mind” in my understanding. The brain is the logic center that helps us create, engineer, and maintain structure. But our existence is more than the “the mind” and the brain. It takes spirit. Spirit is what drives us to our highest peak. Spirit gives us life to insert into our creativity, our accomplishments, and our relationships. Spirit is the will to live until death and that Spirit takes us to another level of living. Spirit is the energy.

What is this ethereal, nebulous Spirit that I hear is everywhere and only feel in brief moments? I seek and I sometimes barely find. I grasp and the water expels from my hands. Energy, life, comes to me in spurts, and after it has blown back into the ether, I am left seeking again with wounds still trickling.

Perhaps I should accept that I have a limited amount of energy each day, an amount that seems less than a lot of others’, including my future husband’s. Perhaps I am not a failure, but different. If I were just different, wouldn’t I have the spirit to live those waking hours? Perhaps it is just acceptance that I need, acceptance of what is now, that the Spirit is not fleeting, but here waiting. Perhaps I need to abandon “the mind” and surrender to the Spirit. Oh. But that is beyond my power.

Struggling for New Year Hopes

Today has not been a day of hope for me, and the hopelessness I feel from it clouds my new year. I awoke around 11:45 this morning, much later than I had expected. The past weeks have been filled with similar mornings. When I arose from the bed, I felt unbalanced, staggering from a strange, disturbed equilibrium, as if waking from a severe hangover. I had not a drop of alcohol last night. I carefully decended the stairs to find Ray, and when I did, I slowly began to cry. The depression made me weepy for awhile after.

Although we had an unexpectedly pleasant time with Ray’s former sister-in-law at lunch, and a good supper with my parents, brother, and his girlfriend, anxiety has within the last hour been pressing in. Tomorrow, Ray’s license for his business expires, and he has not yet achieved the education requirements to renew it. So all the jobs I have scheduled for him this January could be cancelled if Ray’s former business partner does not sign off on the job reports generated by Ray. He reminded me that in less than two hours, the invalidation will be in effect. 

I’m scared for us. My job is with his business. If he can’t do jobs, I can’t do my job. Where will our money come from? I’m so disappointed in him, especially since he’s had years to complete his education requirements. I love him, and will stay, but it is difficult to look at the upcoming joys of our marriage, honeymoon, and going back to college, especially since these will cost money. Thousands. 

I have to believe we will get through fine, but with an emphasis on fresh new starts on the day to come, it’s difficult to imagine a good start to this year. 

May you have more hope than I tonight, friends. Peace and joy.

A Christmas Bloodletting

Christmas is considered a time of peace, joy, and giving. I don’t frequently hear of Christmas as a time of purging. Ray and I gave blood to the American Red Cross on Christmas Eve, and what was at once a gesture of giving to those in need, was also a spiritual lesson and release for me.

I had only once successfully given blood before this Christmas Eve. Usually my iron count is too low by a few tenths. This time, it was five tenths over the lowest required. Instead of just under 12.5, it was exactly 13.0. I rejoiced in this small triumph; not only could I give blood, but apparently, my daily iron supplement and healthy(ish) diet had brought my body out of anemia.

Excitedly, I hopped onto the table where I was to give blood. I watched the nurse rub iodine rapidly over my inner elbow for a minute or two, then watched as the wide needle pierced my skin and hot blood rushed in the tube draped over my arm. (I watch the needle, because I dislike the surprising prick and want to know exactly when it’s going in.) The feeling of that warm life-force rushing to help another was satisfying.

However, as I lay propped up, I felt a sense of warning and an urge to lie down. My nurse had left for somewhere else, but another nurse was close by, her side turned. I asked to be laid down, and she saw my face and hurried into action. Later, when she told me the color had returned to my lips, I knew I was visibly ill initially. I was laid down and waves of nausea began to ebb and flow. A black garbage bag, already hooked to the table, was opened and held for me. My hands began to tingle painfully and stiffen my fingers into immovable claws. Cold cloths were laid upon my forehead, neck, and stomach. I was instructed to plug one side of my nostril and breath deeply, to keep my legs moving, and to not close my eyes.

As my body slowly relaxed and my blood continued to flow into the bag, the nurse who rushed to help me continued my care, instructing me to meditate, and to think about who I was helping. I attempted this while continuing to move my legs and rub my hands together. I realized that if I did not breathe, I would not get better, and that I had to let go, not only of my blood, but of my wellbeing to those caring for me: the nurses and my Higher Power.

The procedure was completed after a time immeasurable to me. My blood filled the bag and it was packaged up, and the needle removed from my arm. I gratefully accepted the apple juice and fruit gummies given to me, and rose, movement by slow movement, from the table. Ray, finished giving blood also, came to my side with his snack of cookies, and helped me to stand. We both felt refreshed as we left the hospital. He remarked that this was probably why, in older days, bloodlettings were used to heal people of diseases and impurities. The body seems to heal itself when refreshed in this way, at least temporarily.

Refreshed too, was my spirit. Not only did my body feel lighter. I was grateful I could give the gift of life to someone at Christmastime. Additionally, my spirit had come to a brief place of surrender. It was a purging I had not experienced at Christmas before, a physical and spiritual release, a giving up that brought peace and joy.

A Beloved Question

What better Ohio outdoor excursion than a hike through Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills? My recent trip there, on October 24, 2015, was better than any could be.

Ray and I hiked up and down the open cavern that is Old Man’s Cave, pressing our hands against rock carved by erosion and man. We admired tiered ledges where thin streams of water fell into shallow, leaf-littered pools. And while climbing a hill with stone steps placed for countless travelers, we stopped before a wide, antiquarian pine.

I was drawn to her first. I placed my hands on her bark and felt the love of thousands of grandmothers, and it felt like she was loving me like a grandmother I had known and loved all my life. I thought I heard her say to me, “You belong here.”

“Please help me.”

“I will.”

And taking the sacred energy, I began to climb the hill again.

Ray stopped by the tree, and I turned and said with peaceful conviction, “Touch her trunk.” He did, and stayed so, meditatively. He then turned to me and said,

“I want us to be married the next time we’re here.”

I agreed passively, as we had talked of marriage many times before, saying, “Sure.”

“No,” he said, serious. “I want us to be married.”

He drew himself to his knees on the steps, and revealed a white box that illuminated with a bright light from within the ring made for me. I had not seen the final product, but I was only distracted by it for a split second. My eyes swiftly returned to him while a multitude of emotional waves washed all over me and I was giggling in spurts, my hands to my mouth, and my body bending almost uncontrollably (thankfully, there was a stone wall). The moment began to settle into the atmosphere, and at last I could speak. “A thousand yeses,” I said, then bent quickly to kiss him.

Full of love, we have thanked our Creator, the God of our understandings, and Grandmother Pine. I am sure all the loving spirits were encouraging us on. Ray told me later that, while his hand were on the trunk of Grandmother Pine, he asked the Universe if it was behind him. He said he heard, “We always have been.”