notes in the time of dying

May 2012
Shadows From Soul

Dear Friends,
As with Bear I find my Self slowly emerging from Winter's Cave, testing the ground, sniffing the air, discovering "yes, Spring is arriving and 'tis time to wander the World beyond my Place of Protection and Hibernation... my Hidden World within which cubs and other forms of new life emerged... and as I move 'tis early afternoon... the time when Shadows are cast by all Beings and things...

Unlike some MotherBear, my Cave has been my home for twelve months long. So long within that the cast of Sun almost makes me dizzy, wanting to place my paws over my eyes, turn, and retreat again to Cave therein.

A major impulse pulling me forth and daring to face the so bright Light of the Sun is the longing, deep profound longing, to be in Circle with you again... for when I am writing Reflections, I am opening my heart to you... speaking not only of me but of what I have heard from many, many of you as I stayed hidden within my Cave.

Longing for walking in the Light with you...

I have missed you... I have missed the 'me' that sits in Circles with you; I have missed the me that is blessed to see, hear, and know how each of you are doing. I have been painfully aware of missing the River of Creativity that seems to flow through me when I turn my heart and Soul to Circling with you. "Why does it seem so long since I've been with you?" I wondered to myself. I traced my tracks to the last time I wrote any Reflections and discovered it has been almost exactly a year since last I wrote Reflections and a year in which my Voice has been absent in our Circling - whether through writing or through being in physical presence together.

One of my joys this Spring is to be returning to teaching and Circling with others. I am fascinated that my first 'stepping out' again will be co-leading, with Paula Denham, the Northern California SSP Conference on "Shamanism Without Borders." This is a focus dear to my heart and central on my shamanic path now. I am also intrigued for these last twelve months have been learning to 'make friends' with events and People that required new ways of seeing, behaving, and shamanic tending - the 'borders' which had unconsciously marked my path to now were blocking my ability to both see and summon new Helpers. I was exhausting myself by not moving beyond these perceptions even if they previously had served me well.

I have been on an arduous journey... in which teachings, visions, and Soul wisdom seemed few and far between---sometimes I was wandering in the Desert; other times in Wetlands created by my tears. My desire now is to begin re-turning to you... to find my way to share some of this journey's gifts. There is absolutely no way to share the wanderings of twelve months in one letter! This paring down from the much to the few; from the many to one; from twelve months to one day... in a way  that's been my journey.

'Tis Spring in our gardens here bringing a profusion of flowers. In one small area different colors yet purple sage dominates. I'm hoping I can summarize may own Garden of many months into one primary color: purple. This is the color I associate with Luminosity of Spirit.

When Your Beloved Falls...
            ...and you are left holding up your whole world by yourself!

This past September I returned from Montana and a week of teaching "BearBuffalo Medicine: Two Sides of the Same Coin." During our Circling, we were blessed day after day, night upon night, with visits from Ancestors, dances from the Animals, trans-formations within the Cave, and beauties to trans-form our Visionary Souls. We were Called and We Came; We Called and They Came----Joining Together with Spirit, we Dreamt forth the Web Repaired, Unbroken, ... coming to Know We are indeed People of the Dream; Women of the BearClan, Keepers of Buffalo.

Stepping into the DearBorn River, we re-membered our Covenant with River, Bear, and Salmon: to honor, share, and give gratitude for Each and All: to pay attention to both the Specific and the Whole. Always Sharing, sharing, sharing - may this verb propel all our actions.  Our Ancestors call this Covenant the "Agreement between River, Bear, Salmon and the People."

The final words in the Agreement are from River: "Whenever you feel the swirling of Water around your ankles, this is Me, River, reminding you of our Agreement."

Thus do we People pray for 'reminders' lest we forget, lest we forget. Give thanks for whatever stumbles our feet or seemingly 'trips' us for surely are such moments Reminders 'tis time to re-member and re-new this Covenant lest we find ourselves so fallen that rising seems nigh impossible.... Yet River also reminds us there are Others within the currents and All Together we can lift one another; lifting not just with us Two-Legged but with the Finned, Four-Legged, Winged and myriad Crawlers.

Everything is always to be shared; never take more than was needed while knowing we always had all that we need. As we came to our departing time and turned out Minds towards our other Homes, I knew this Circling at Blacktail Ranch gave me spiritual treasures I had not known before... I had worn my Be-longings; come home to Herd and Kin. With joyful anticipation, I was eager to sing these Bear-Buffalo songs to Bob and Shamana.  And thus did I travel homeward to Santa Cruz holding the Circle's week together as a sacred treasure that would give and give and give... not just to me but to all and everything I touched... give and give and give... blessed be.

A few short days later, before I had even unpacked, I was sitting on the couch in our living room, watching Bob as he was preparing a meal for us.

Turning from the microwave and moving toward me, his face wore the strangest expressions. As I am asking "Bob are you okay?" his eyelids closed and he fell heavily to the floor... a loud, flat, harsh sound as his head and shoulders hit floor first. I rushed over to him, calling his name... no response. His face was flat into the floor, his mouth unable to inhale and exhale breath. I could see no rising and falling of his back and realized he did not seem to be breathing. Then I saw blood coming out from under his stomach... I tried to turn him over so he could get some air and so I could see from where he was bleeding... I called his name again and again and again... "Bob, Bob... speak to me... Bob, Bob..say something... Bob, Bob speak to me... say something"... no response, no seeming breath... no breathing... I tried with all my strength to turn him over...

Terrified he could get no air and seeing he was continuing to bleed ... I scream louder and louder "Bob speak to me"...  I could hear me pleading through frightened tears  "Bob DON'T leave me... speak to me... Bob don't leave me... speak to me.."and then suddenly there seems an explosion of air from his mouth but he still doesn't speak. Then I see some vague, confused consciousness returning to partially opened eyes.

I tell him I am going to turn him over... that he needs to help me because he is too heavy for me to do this by myself. Meanwhile Shamana has come over... she seems to know what I'm trying to do for she takes one of her front paws and starts pushing with me, trying to help Bob turn over. She's probably stronger than me and when I say "push Shamana" she understands... she plants her hind legs and then pushes with both front paws and the two of us manage to roll Bob over...  I see he has torn the layers of skin off his knuckle and abraded his face...and one thing I shall always remember is how long he seemed to lay there... somehow letting me know he did NOT want me to call 911 (emergency help) even as I keep telling him he needs help and I need help. Instead after what seems hours, he begins crawling and dragging himself towards our bedroom and somehow the three of us manage to get enough of his body on the bed so that I can lift his legs allowing him to be completely prone on the bed.

To this day I don't know how we did that for he was almost what is called "dead weight" and now I understand the meaning of that phrase. Finally when Bob sees how badly he has torn his knuckle and how profoundly confused and stunned he feels, he wants me to take him to the emergency room. When he realizes he simply cannot stand up, and I cannot lift him, he agrees we need to call the Emergency Services.

I have emphasized this 'falling and subsequent actions by all three of us for a couple of reasons. First because it was the only time in my life when I had to decide to over-ride my own primal urges and life-tending impulses to do as the 'injured one' requests.

Occasionally I still wonder "what if Bob had died while I'm trying to honor his wishes and NOT act from what I believe is essential action to take."

And there were other times over these months when I experienced that conflict so deeply within... yet each time I made the choice to do as he wished - hoping that whatever decision he finally made, and wanted my support, was one I would be able to live with for the rest of my life. There have been some occasions recently when someone was seeking my support (for a particular decision) and I didn't think the choice being made sounded 'right' or 'life affirming' to me. I am learning to reframe my thoughts and responses and to recognize, that at some fundamental level, each person is seeking Life and if I can just follow (not lead), then there are ways that may surprise me in which Spirit and various Helpers make use of whatever tending I am doing at the request of the individual. It is also a caution for how we share journeys we do for others... not to necessarily share a journey just because it is a Journey but to listen mindfully to how the one seeking support is framing 'the way and the how' of the help they are seeking..

**It is very important to support... not lead

Another awareness that came to me later: our Helpers may be using other Beings around us through which to channel resources from the invisible worlds. At some point while Shamana and I together were pushing Bob, in my frightened, eyes wide-open state, to the corner of my vision, there were simply "two paws" pushing, pushing, pushing with me. Once Bob was on the bed and we were waiting for an Emergency Crew to arrive, Shamana simply stood so that her body was directly between the doorway and Bob's body on the bed. She stood and stood and stood... I offered her the gift of lying down but standing she chose.

Momentarily I fretted because she does not 'stand' much these days for her rear joints are so arthritic that it hurts too much to stand. She's either walking slowly or lying down... moves from one position to the other. But just as I had some strength (not really my own) to help Bob move onto the bed, so too was Shamana sourcing from some other helping Kin. Those friends who know us well and spend time here in our home, know that "Carol cannot lift much, e.g. bags of groceries" and that "Shamana cannot stand." Yet both of us did what we cannot do in our ordinary lives.

Some folks will theorize that these physical feats derived their power from jolts of fear-driven adrenaline. And certainly was my heart racing and my body throbbing like an electric hot wire while I could see in Shamana a certain vibrating strength not seen for a long, long while. Based on subsequent dreams and walking journeys, I came to realize how MotherBear was coming to support both of us as we sought to intervene with Bob. This Presence of MotherBear became clearer and clearer in the subsequent weeks and months. There is a reason that one of the oldest traditional Bear stories is tilted: "Comes When Needed... "

The three types of emergency services arrived at different times... the Ambulance services were already busy with other emergencies and we ended up not leaving for the hospital until about an hour later. When the first group, from our local Fire Department arrived, Shamana did not run to the door in her usual fashion to bark, bark, bark and alert us to someone present on our turf. She stayed by Bob's side and with a certain stare, informed these two guys that She was in charge and they were not to approach any closer to Bob. I kneeled down beside her and told her "They are Friends, Shamana, these are Friends." This is a word she knows quite well and when used, for someone approaching the house, she moves from barking to delightedly wagging her tail. But this situation was different and she had to do her own assessing of them and the space was too narrow for me to physically go in, leash her, and move her away from the bedside. After a brief while, she somehow 'got it'... how I do not know yet I have a distinct sense that 'someone' whispered to her (of her Canine Kin) to let them come through for they were here to help Bob. And she did while watching every single move they made. Finally all on-the-spot interventions were made, the Ambulance had arrived, Bob was rolled into the Ambulance and everyone else headed to their vehicles too.

At the very last minute, Shamana pushed opened the door of the house, came running out to the driveway, and I was quite touched when the Ambulance Driver said "She may want to see where he's going or say goodbye."... So Shamana and I, together, watched Bob being taken away in the Ambulance. And, of course, shortly thereafter I left too to go to the hospital. Again this may seem another of those 'unimportant parts' of the story of "The Day When Your Beloved Falls Down" but my shamanic path has taught me to pay close attention to what the other-than-human beings are doing esp. in times of emergency.

So I did... and I came to realize later how important it was for Shamana to 'give' her trust to this Emergency Crew... to be able to know them as 'friends' and, in her own way, be reassuring both me and Bob that she would keep Watch at Home while we were away getting her injured human companion treated. She understood in my daily coming and going that it was 'to Bob' I was going and there would be the tennis ball or the sock... some such item... she had in her mouth or left by the door for me to take when I was off again to spend the day with Bob.

As I was driving to the hospital, I realized I could not remember ever feeling so helpless and so afraid than in those moments with Bob on the floor, and I did not have that fear assuaged at all until the Emergency Crews arrived and began giving him oxygen and monitoring him. When they left, he was still dazed, incoherent, and obviously considerably weak as well as confused. I found myself wondering if they would discover that 'something terrible' had happened to his brain... exacerbated because I waited for him to make the choice to go to the hospital BEFORE I would call for an Emergency Responder. My only comfort during this self-questioning was that I 'thought' there was 'enough' of Bob present for him to make that choice. I have to trust that if I thought otherwise then I would have responded differently too.

But I have a much deeper appreciation for people who are faced with choices involving the care of someone they love----those excruciatingly painful times when the choices you are faced with making can involve an outcome leading to better health, lesser health, sometimes death, or faced with their dying days.

From the hospital I called a few friends of ours; one of the moments that stands out so clear is when our friend Cheryl arrived to the hospital carrying in her hands an "Owl" figure for Bob... right away we placed the Owl on this small shelf beneath the TV on the wall opposite Bob's bed. I had brought an Owl feather whose bone had been beaded wth beautiful colors... side by side did Feather and Owl sit-one to 'feather away' unwanted energies or 'feather closer' desired energies; the other Owl (figure) representing Owl being Whole and Well and Present in this very Room. Together they brought a touch of some continuity to our lives beyond the confines of the hospital bed... just a touch... but at that time, a 'touch' was just enough to breath a little more easily. Owl is a Being of great importance... for both of us and for different reasons... in that way, Owl was both tending Bob and reminding us it was going to take the two of us to find our way beyond this present moment of being stricken down.

When Altars Cast Their Shadows...

After about three weeks in the hospital, Bob was transferred to the Dominican Rehabilitation Center that has terrific indoor facilities and also an outdoor lush, Zen-like Koi Pond with bridge, miniature temples, and benches. It is adjacent to the physical therapy room so patients can go and quieten body and spirit after asking their physical Vessel to stretch, trans-form, and be the Vessel that can carry them through the rest of their life's journey. I was so humbled seeing the many ways in which people's bodies had been traumatized and the incredible courage so many manifested while 'working themselves' in this area of the Rehab Center. It reminded me of the 'wounds of war' we see in many of the men, women, and children who are living or fighting in war-ridden areas throughout the world. As I heard some of the stories from patients there, I was also reminded how various wounding will always be an aspect of being human... and true of other creatures too. How senseless then to engage in acts whose very intention is 'to wound the other or others.'

From time to time I wondered how might I integrate my shamanic practice with the kinds of tending being done in rehabilitation centers. Actually, this whole journey with Bob has made me aware there are various areas, multiple places and a variety of people who might benefit from integrating shamanism with other therapies whose focus is on healing and re-membering. At the moment I am still occupied full-time with Bob's healing and full recovering as well as tending our home and all the tasks involved in nurturing home, gardens, critters, and Shamana too. I literally don't have the time now to take on some new major project but it is with anticipation that I jot notes, make lists, and dream regarding "where to begin once some time becomes available." My first desire is simply re-turning to my larger shamanic community, some teaching and writing... and then as we recover here at home, extend myself further into these areas that are now on the back burner... later to be moved to the front ones.

One way I can track where future 'bridges' might be created is through recalling and sharing with you where I experienced and/or witnessed the intersecting places of spiritual practice and hospitalization. One such bridge did Bob's Altar in his rehab room become for everyone: patient, therapy staff, nurses, doctors, and visitors. It probably started by simply putting on a corner table the Owl and Feather that we brought from Bob's room in Dominican Hospital.  Here at the Rehab Center was a longer and wider surface. Owl and Feather simply seemed to be Calling for Other Spirits and Helpers... we simply responded to their Calling.

So the second day there, I brought a cloth, two other shamanic objects, some flowers and thus did Bob's altar begin unfolding. We would talk about what might wish to come to his room... it was not a matter of "more" but of "what"... and the first item to come was a necklace of Prayer Ties that had been made the year before by the ElderBear Sisters during our Spring retreat.

Since the first day he received that Circle of Prayers, he has kept them right to the left of his computer in his 'office' room at home... I called it the "Command Center' because when it was first set up, it housed all our computer monitors, modem, printer, scanner and his electronic keyboard along with his wall of Flutes. He had not spent as much time in there for several months because his falling and 'his falls' had begun last year and occurred with increasing frequency in the five months prior to this 'last and most serious fall' in September. Seeing this Circle of Prayers became a wonderful, bone-seeping reminder of the many who care for him and for me... the reminder that he is held in love and prayer by this Circle of Women. At some point, two of his Buffalo Brothers came to visit and one of them had made a carving with the letters: LOVE... and, indeed, Love walked in the room with these two Brothers and their time with Bob cheered him immeasurably.

When I speak of the Shadows Cast by the Altar, I'm referring to how many personnel at the Rehab would inquire regarding the meaning of the objects and 'why' this table was 'set up' this way. From that perspective, they did not walk consciously under the Sun seeing what Bob sees when he speaks of his shamanic path. Yet the objects themselves seem to cast their own shadows that invariably would lead to someone asking, "what is it I am seeing?" Over the weeks in the Rehab Center, with increasing frequency various staff would come to Bob's room just to see if anything had been added to the Altar and, if so, 'what does it mean?' And thus a Bridge of Conversation, regarding Shamanic Altars, began that was absolutely delicious and sometimes very funny.

Even the use of the term 'Shamanic Altar' needs some explaining when you are situated within a Catholic-founded facility. And yet there is the joy of discovering that we share more in common spiritually than are their differences. And this type of sharing makes so evident that how we language ourselves; how we speak and describe our shamanic world, can be a bridging or a disconnecting. We were fortunate that Bridging occurred. I happen to think that those daily moments were part of the Medicine that fed Bob; and there was something so marvelous about inquiring of the Altar as well as "and how do we feel today?"

Finally the Altar just seemed to call for Flowers from Earth's garden and being a gardener myself, I took special delight in discovering just what Flowers wished to join Bob in his room on any particular day. Yet the Flowers were always in service to the Spirits of the Altar... luring Spirits with fragrance sweet, colors to delight, and forms that soften corners of eyes and mouth. Often did I see certain Beings on the Altar seem to change their own colors and textures as though showing how affected were They by the Flowers brought to them that day.

I'm so glad that Cheryl and I just followed our impulses to bring 'something' that very first day of Bob's hospitalization. Had I 'thought about it' I might have been timid to set up an Altar in a hospital room... had I thought about it, I might not have re-membered how natural to me, to us, is this Altar Way of Living, of Centering, of Calling and Thanking Spirits. Without following any assumptions about proper etiquette, Altars bloomed in both Hospital and Rehab and relationships, seeded by Altars, came to flowering in the larger Healing Garden that includes office staff, cleaners, therapists, nurses, and doctors... really a quite magical process spreading its fragrance throughout the building and beyond.

The Shadows of Friends Cast Light

From the day Bob went to the emergency room, and weeks later, after he returned home, the seeming darkness within which I walked was illuminated by friends who came to be with Bob and with me. I carry this various snapshots of Cheryl listening to Bob's stories, Carmen leaning forward in quiet concentration, Buffalo Brothers bringing both compassion and humor as they came to the rehab to let their BuffaloBrother Bob know he be-longed to a Herd that was keeping watch even though they lived some distance away. Henry, Bob's Walking partner of 20 plus years helped interpret for us some of the medical terms yet his primary effect was to give me the knowing that we both had a wise, loving friend whose medical education created bridges between the impersonal and the intimate. And every day there were phone conversations with Susan... times when I had opportunity to catch me up with my own Self as well as her.

And then there was our dear friend, Gretchen who is also Shamana's best friend in our extended family. Gretchen came to help me with Shamana those first three to four days - taking her for walks, feeding and comforting her. Then at my suggestion she spend one night there, when I knew I would be getting home very late and Shamana would need some late night support, Gretchen took that opportunity to just move right in with us and stayed there every night until Bob came home weeks later from Rehab! Whether we talked or ate any meals together, it was simply a profound Comfort to know that Gretchen was in our home, was sleeping in the Guest room, and my house never again felt so haunted as it did those nights alone with just me and Shamana. I feel just so blessed with our friends here in Santa Cruz.

And there were friendships formed in the hospital and rehab facilities themselves... how these will continue is not of concern for the length of a friendship sometimes is not the issue: it is what a friend can offer us when our world seems to be tumbling down... and it is a staggering weight... made possible to carry because of both new and old friends.

I had occasion during these many weeks, to peruse websites that were focused on 'Caregivers or caregiving' -- both in times of serious illness and when one's dying was the theme.

There is some excellent, informative material at these websites but I find them lacking in focus on the Power of 'distant' friends: that is, friends who live far away yet are some of the very threads with which one has woven one's life. There is also lengthy attention paid to "Caregiver burnout" and red-flagged cautions as to how Caregivers can themselves become ill, depressed, withdrawn, and simply over-burdened. I recognize that there was a recurring theme regarding Bob-and-me that seemed to persist between us as well as surfacing with close friends. Ostensibly the theme was "Carol's health, well being and sleep deprivation (because I had an exceptionally hard time being able to let go and sleep during the weeks Bob was "in some institution" and our bed felt just too big without him beside me.)

First, let me acknowledge that 'yes' this was an unbelievably hard time for me; I forgot to eat; I got up early in the morning, had some coffee, grabbed another cup of coffee at a mini-market I passed while going to wherever Bob was at the time.  Often I would take a break late afternoon, rush home, walk with Shamana, fix her dinner, and then rush to my car and back to be with Bob. This pattern continued for about five weeks and though there were times I just had to stop the car, pull to the side of the road, and simply sit staring or crying or listening to music, I also seemed to find some resources within that allowed me to get stronger and stronger as the days passed.

In retrospect, I have this strength be derived from the depth of my love for Bob. This was... and is... my Beloved Life Partner who's facing and experiencing all kinds of hurt; who is experiencing the seeming 'failure' of his own body, his own Self... almost a form of self-betrayal... and who was hearing from a couple of his doctors: "Would you choose to have surgery now or rather go home and spend what time is left under the trees with Carol?"  How could we NOT think that Bob was dying... his life was coming to closing... Our life was coming to ending. It wasn't until weeks later during the second week of his stay at the Rehab Center that it became apparent Bob wasn't 'leaving life" any time real soon... he was slowly, slowly recovering some strength.

Even though he was quite frail his own courage rose up and he pushed himself to extend a little further each day as he tried to get in and out of bed... to be rolled in a wheelchair to the Koi Pond at the Rehab Center..and later tried to move using some type of walker.

Yet in those first weeks he put upon himself the worry that he was, and would be, a "Burden-to-Carol"... to me. I just winced when I would hear him refer to being Burden. For me, a Burden is something unwanted and to be released or dropped as soon as possible. I could assure, and reassure, him that he was NOT a burden to me... I wanted to carry him, in that sense, as long as needed. The issue was not Bob... it was Me learning how to train and shape myself for the long distant run while previously being trained for the Sprint. To use that metaphor, I think I have been a Sprinter for large portions of my life. My teaching, going away, designing workshops, and then leading retreats or workshops has some quality of the 'sprinter' in it. In a relative way, in terms of time, to "go away and teach or Circle with others" was short-term work, requiring the training of all short-term events. I had these muscles developed quite well... but I had not consciously trained for any long-distance running. I don't use the word 'race' on purpose because I am not in a race but I am in a certain type of running or moving activity.

Being able to move differently, to sustain my Self over weeks and months became possible largely due to the support of friends and my  spiritual Helpers. I am always thanking the Spirits that sustain me yet I also want to acknowledge you, my friends, whose persisting support has enabled me to keep moving, and not get stuck---whether directly, by email, or in some remote healing activity, your holding me enabled me to stand when otherwise I, too, might fall heavily to ground.

At first I tried to respond to you, friends, and to other people... keep them abreast of Bob's situation and thank them for caring. As there were increasing requirements on my time, I tried to cull down my time on the computer or the phone to our closest friends here in Santa Cruz and/or to Bob's sons both of who live and work in Europe. At some point I couldn't even do that corresponding and when I would try to catch up with someone on the phone, those are the moments when I would dissolve into tears. It was almost as if were I to pause, stop and share, I'd just feel the weight of my sadness, my missing of Bob, my concern for him, and I'd dissolve into tears and be unable to resume my tending again.

As the days and weeks continued, with Bob in some medical facility, I realized I was simply unable to write even the briefest of note. This was quite hard for me to acknowledge. I am someone who thrives in conversation with others. I treasure my letters and emails from others - whether I know them or not. I recognize the written word as a form of "word doctoring" so language is held in my heart, moves through my fingertips on the keyboard, and inevitably there is 'doctoring' occurring... as though "words" are the Healing Bridge between me and others... and even the Bridge between parts of my own inner Self (mind to heart; heart to mind; vision to words; words by which to envision.)

I am sharing this issue of writing, of letters received, and of correspondence because I really want you to know that I read every email sent to me or emails written within a Circle. For example, the correspondence within Circle members, following the September retreat at Blacktail, were both comfort and food for me. I delighted myself to hear how Circle Sisters were re-membering those days in Montana and also sharing the impact of those days on their lives back home. There are other Circles in which I participate... and within those Circles, there are written sharings from time to time. There is our Circle at this moment, composed of those of you to whom I am writing... and whom I have written previously over many months before this last September.  And individuals wrote whom I don't know that well yet they had heard 'Bob was ill" and wanted me to know they cared, they were holding both of us in their prayers as well as their hearts.

I cannot stress enough how important were, and still are, these emails. I would manage, about every two days, to print them up, put them in a folder of which the label said "Letters in the Dark Days"... I even fussed about what to title this folder - this is but another example of the 'doctoring' power of words. I was literally feeling that I was walking in the Dark... not only was Sun casting less and less light as late Fall arrived but so much of what the Doctors were saying left me less and less clear about just what was "wrong with Bob." Of course, they didn't know either but rather they say flat-out "We don't know," various diagnoses would be proposed resulting in less and less clarity for me. I simply learned to take all my cues for how Bob was feeling and doing from Bob --- he can describe him Self quite clearly and what he is experiencing; the 'feedback' from his own body, and his thoughts about his situation were finally all that mattered to me... and all that I could trust. This is not to say that the medical staff were unhelpful or that they were obfuscating their diagnosis... it's just that they did not really know either.

So rather than trying to integrate the "opinions of today" with the opinions of yesterday, I started listening more and more to Bob; and it was then that I realized, too, that his situation, his own poor health was being exacerbated by being so long in rooms allowing little Sun Light; and that he felt himself being undermined by the prolonged experience of dependency on others and being 'treated' as unable to do for himself. This is the point at which I spoke with my BearSisters who were at his side during some part of every day; and, in our different ways, we called forth from Bob his own stories that depicted the able, resourceful, creative scientist, story teller, and humorist... features of Bob that are aspects of the Essential Bob. And I began sharing with him more of the letters I was receiving from others, from you, from our extended shamanic community. All this is another way of saying: "You have not disappeared from our world;  here are some wonderful memories I have of you; and we are eager for your 'return so we can together more experiences and memories create."

I now think it is really important to let each..and us as a Circle..know that writing... continued writing... when you receive only 'silence' from the one to whom you are writing, is ever so critical.

I helped my Self survive through your writings; Bob used them for his surviving; I still have my "Letters in the Dark Days" folder... even with Bob's returning Home, there were more weeks for us when any real recovery seemed far, far away... days when even having 24 hours coverage did not seem enough... I still felt I was doing long distance training.

It has only been in the last two to three weeks that I have seen Bob truly Coming Home... Home to himself... Home to me... Home to Shamana and Home to the Land we share with other Creatures, Kin and Spirits. 

This 'arriving Home' is such a monumental Delicious experiencing. It is almost as though we have been abundantly rewarded for surviving in the long Shadow-casting days.

I still have not the time to do much correspondence yet... PLEASE KNOW, however, that I treasure the letters you continue to send me or us... they are still being printed, tucked in my folder, and read various times in the day... esp. late nights and early mornings. My eyes tear in gratitude for your continued writing despite the Silence from me... not even a 'thank you' did I send... and yet you write and this is TRULY shamanic community for I think that somehow those of you writing KNOW I need to hear from you and know I am reading your letters. This is not an indirect request to 'please keep writing me... and us. This is a straightforward Thank You for your thoughtfulness, your kindness, your comfort, and persistence.

I chose to write this first Reflections... after 12 months of silence... because it is my way to share as fully as I can and share with my shamanic community... for as I write, I see us sitting in Circle together and I am sharing with you the Story of My Life... derived from the last twelve months.

And actually it has been longer than 12 months... that is, these 'falling times.' I had to cancel my workshops in 2010 because Bob had started falling and his health precipitous from the first month of that year. I managed to teach one or two retreats with the understanding that "I may need to cancel at the last minute.." and, of course, that can place a real burden on someone coordinating and/or individuals making travel plans. I made sure that wherever I taught, there would be refunding by the retreat center (and certainly refunding tuition by me) but that still doesn't take into account travel plans, airline tickets, leave from work and all the other details for someone taking 'time apart' to explore our Shamanic Path together. At some point, it just felt more respecting of everyone to simply not make any plans to teach or any commitments that had a time-line to them.

Now I am thrilled to be returning to Circle-work; to be co-leading Shamanism Without Borders in Petaluma, CA. My birthday is June 2nd... the weekend retreat takes place Friday, June 1st - Sunday, June 3rd. I cannot think of a finer birthing-day gift than being able to step out and Circle with others focused on the topic of Shamanism without Borders. I can do this gifting to myself because, and only because, the Borders of the hospital, the rehab center, and other confining places have been removed from Bob's life and he, too, is able to take small steps and walk where the Road takes him and he takes the Road. 

Two other items before ending this letter: I will write of other gifts from our journey later, esp. how singing, drumming, and rattling became the Pathway in and the Road out from Shadows into the Light.

I have also learned of a website from one of our neighbors. She has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She invited me to read her Journal and to write in her Guestbook. These are labels the website gives for different forms of support-giving. I only learned of this website three weeks ago. I wish I had known about it while Bob was in the hospital and rehab.  Using that website would have facilitated ongoing conversation with you and continuing support for Bob. The website is called Caringbridge.com
You might want to visit this site and share it with your friends.

At the same time it might have facilitated our conversations,  I cherish... and will always cherish the vocal and silent conversations we had, and have, in our Shamanic Circle. Thanks to every single one of you.

I close with a Mary Oliver poem that one of you sent me... it seems so perfect an ending and beginning:

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue
like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her -
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Love and blessings,


Please make note that my email address has changed. I no longer receive at my old AOL address
My new address is:

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