Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My Ma Ma

I looked up from where I stand on Duwamish quay. The night is clear;
the waxing moon rises over my shoulder, and I hear the gentle rolling
of water past the barges that are lined up in the Duwamish. My eyes
fell on a worn looking barge with purple paint peeling off everywhere.
I looked up and met the eyes of a ferry woman with silver hair. She
smiled and signaled me on board. My feet moved forward and I found
myself on board the barge as if in a trance. I was soon in the middle
of the moonlit sea and under the bright moonlight, I could see the
outline of what Alice, the ferry woman told me was the Island of

Alice stops by the shore and I saw a grove of apple trees. These were
the biggest apples I ever saw and their fragrance filled the air. I
could see a moonlit path between the trees and I follow it to a mound.
In the centre of the side is a doorway made of two immense upright
stones topped by a massive lintel. There are two torches burning at
the door providing light for the entrance into a passageway. At the
far end of the passage is a faint red glow.

I was suddenly gripped by fear and I froze in my tracks while cold
sweat just poured from my paralysed body. I could feel a surge of
energy from beyond the end of the corridor. I heard a sharp sound that
pierced the still night air and the sound grew into a series of
shrieks. My mind will filled with images of all the evil that I know
in my imagination and I saw something flying towards me from the red
glow. I wanted to run but I could only stare ahead. I could not even
close my eyes... The flying object grew and split into four as it
neared me... and I start to realise to my embaressment that they were
the 2 pairs of love birds from the bay! The birds flew past me into
the night and I was immediately able to move.

I proceed down the corridor and emerge into a shadowy great hall. In
the centre is a hearth with the glowing embers of a fire. Seated
before the fire facing away from me is a hooded figure. Across the
hearth from this figure is a bench. I circle halfway around the hearth
clockwise and sit facing the figure. My grandmother looked up from the
hood and smiled. She has passed over to the other side fmore than 2
decades ago, but her smile was so full of love and compassion that I
felt absolutely no fear. I just looked into her eyes and savored the
connection and intimacy of the moment.

"You looked confused" Ma Ma said as a matter of fact. "What is it that
you want to know?"

"Ma Ma, I have rediscovered my true nature and purpose in life, but I
am so scared of the uncertainty that awaits me... ..." The words just
flowed past my lips in our dialect, as if they had waited all a long
time for this very moment.

The gentle smile never left Ma Ma face as she reached into her pocket
and took out a handkerchief. She handed it to me and I recognised it
to be my own... the smell was so familiar and I was suddendly back to
ahen I was 5 years old again. I was washed by a deep sense of peace
and joy.

"You only need to stop thinking and start living" she wispered, "Let
your inner child come out and play, you have imprisoned him for long
enough, he is a part of you, a very important part".

"Make a commitment to me now. Promise to accept and love this inner
child. Can you do it?" Ma Ma said in a serious yet calm tone.

I hesitate foe a split second before replying, "Ye... Yes".

"How?" She asked. "Tear a page from your journal, write down your
commitment, sign it and give it to me... ..."

I begin to write as emotions bubbled out of my spirits and flowed down
my cheeks as tears of life. i felt alive again as I penned these

"I promise to accept and love my inner child and be the best that I
can be. I wil not imprison myself anymore and I reslove to start
living fully every moment of my life starting from now!"
She waved her hand and I complied and finished my circuit around the
hearth, go behind her, and pass out of the mound and back along the
path. I was still crying uncontrollably and it feels so fresh and

I wiped my tears and re-board the barge to Duwamish as the first light
of dawn breaks over the eastern horizon. It wasn't long before I was
back at the Duwamish Inn feeling more complete and at peace than I
have ever been since I can remember... ...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Lest We Forget

Anna Marie's post got me thinking about grandparents :) I am a musical person, and I can relate nearly every experience in my life back to the song that described it for me. This is a song by The Waifs called Lest We Forget. It's quite sad, but it's beautiful.

Lest we forget,
your deeds as a younger man
like how when you were nine,
you fell in love because
she was the first girl
you'd seen throw a cricket ball
You knew that you'd be together
for the rest of your lives
now you sit alone in the sun,
in the backyard,
feeding the birds
reading the newspaper
thinking about
the love that you shouldn't have lost
Love that you lost,
love that you shouldn't have,
love that you lost,
love that you shouldn't have,
love that you lost,
love that you shouldn't have lost
When i was a child,
i didn't see her much
she passed away before i was five
i was so young that it barely affected my life
then one day when i asked
you told me she was magnificent
all that i had was your word
and a photograph
but that look in your eyes
told me all that i needed to know
Love that you lost,
love that you shouldn't have,
love that you lost,
love that you shouldn't have,
love that you lost,
love that you shouldn't have lost

My journey to the Isle of Ancestors

As I make my way to the docks darkness is falling. There’s a full bright moon already up and illuminating the few clouds surrounding it. I’m slightly concerned that I’m going to reach the dock and there’ll be no-one there, as I am running fairly behind, but as soon as it comes into sight I see one barge, close to the pier, with a lantern shining and the figure of a woman waiting. I quicken my step, not wanting to keep her waiting, and reach the barge puffing slightly. The woman looks at me intently for a moment, then smiles slightly and nods and steps onto the barge. I follow her lead, and am surprised to realise that the rear of it is covered with cushions and silk material. I quickly sit down, thinking it’s likely I will fall out – I don’t want to spoil the beautiful material by getting it wet, and I don’t much fancy making the entire journey across the river shivering on the wood bottom of the barge. As I settle myself in, I can hear my guide quietly singing. Her voice is pure and clear, as it weaves it way up and down, dancing around the melody of a song I do not know and cannot understand, but find incredibly comforting nonetheless. She does not speak to me across the river, but continues to sing the whole way. I nestle in amongst the silk and cushions, and as the gentle sway of the water rocks me like a mother cradles a child, I stare at the sky and listen and wonder who I will meet and try to think of what I should ask them. I am actually disappointed when I feel the gentle swaying motion stop as the barge runs aground on a small beach. My guide is already on the sand, looking at me expectantly. I step off the barge and look around, slightly bewildered.

“Where do I go” I ask her.
She smiles at me and nods her head toward a path in a nearby grove of trees.
“but-“ she gently lays a finger across my lips, telling me to hush, and nods towards the trees again, then turns and starts singing again as she moves back towards the barge.

I look at the trees somewhat hesitantly, and slowly start off. Soon I pass through a doorway and down a corrider into a great stone hall. There is a fire in the centre, and two benches either side. One is already occupied by a figure wearing a long cowled robe, it is thick, soft material and deep purple. I cautiously sidle around the fire to the other bench and sit down and wait. I’m not certain if I’m supposed to speak or wait to be spoken to, I still don’t know who it is as they are looking at the ground and the hood is shadowing what I may be able to see of their face. Minutes pass as I wait. I am beginning to think that perhaps I’m in the wrong place after all, maybe that is why the hooded figure is not speaking to me, when I hear a small noise. I look around the cave – it sounded like the growl of a small animal. Again!! Where is it coming from? The noise slowly gets louder and louder until I realise. It’s not a small animal after all!! It’s snoring!! The hooded figure awakes with a start at my sudden laughter and looks around quickly. “Papa!!” I exclaim and jump over the fire to grab him in a fierce embrace. My grandfather lets out a hearty laugh and gathers me into him.
“Oh I’m so sorry dear! I must’ve dozed off as I was waiting” he says as he kisses my head like he did when I was a child.
Suddenly he becomes serious and looks hard at me.
“You have a question. I need to tell you some things first though. I cannot tell you what you don’t already know, so ask carefully child.”
I look at him and think hard. All that I can think of is the morning he left, I was called to rush the hour to where he was to say goodbye, and I didn’t make it. The hundreds of other questions floating around my mind disappear, and all I can ask was
“You know I tried, don’t you? You know I tried to get there to say goodbye to you”
He smiles at me, his serious face suddenly gentle and nods.
“I know princess. I know you tried.”
“Now, a question for you that you must answer honestly. Are you doing all you can with all you have?”

I look at him slightly puzzled. “what do you mean?”
“Are you doing all you can with all you have?” he repeated. “Are you doing all you can to make your life what you want it to be? Are you doing all you can to make your dreams come true? Are you doing all you can to be kind and generous to other people? Are you doing all you can to be honest and truthful? Are you doing all you can to cultivate and share your talents? Are you doing all you can, with all you have, to live your life well and kindly?”
My eyes drop from his gaze. I know the answer to this, but I cannot say it looking at his face.
“No” I whispered.

His hand lifts my chin to look at him again. “There’s no wrong answer princess, only a lesson to be learnt from the question, so go and make sure you do all you can, with all you have, from now on.”
As his hands move away I realise he has put a necklace around my neck. It is a St Christopher medallion he had given to my Nona, then to me when I was a child, after she died. I carried it for years and had thought for long that it was lost for good. “We are all travellers princess, whether we ever leave our homes or not. We are all travellers, we are all students and we are all teachers.”

I remember that I can give Papa a gift too, and let out a cry of dismay when I realise I have left my bag on the barge. Frantically I search through my pockets to find them empty.
“I haven’t got anything to give you!” I wail, tears streaming down my face.
Papa reached out his hand and caught one of my tears, and instantly it crystallised into a solid drop. “You have many gifts Lisa, for now I will take this until you come again. When you go back into the world, you can find a gift you feel suitable, but I do not want material trinkets. Every song you sing, every story you write, every act of kindness, every picture, every sunset you allow to take your breath away, every heart beat you let yourself feel, every dream you realise, every truth you tell – they will be your gifts to me, it is up to you what you give me, and how generous you are. In the meantime, you must return. You have a journey to make and your ferrywoman awaits you.”

I fiercely grab on to him one last time, trying to etch every detail of his embrace in my memory. Gently he peels me off and steers me to the door through which I entered.
“Go princess, the fire burns low and the night passes. I will see you again”

Nodding dumbly, and clutching the St Christopher pendant I stumble back up the path to the ferry, tripping and meandering because of the tears blurring my vision. I feel the ferry womans gentle hands on my arm and she guides me to the barge and helps me sit down as we begin our return journey. This time she is silent, there is only the sound of the water. I’m still not sure how I get back to my quarters at the hermitage, but when I wake the sun is shining brightly through the window and I am positive that it was all just a dream, until my hand moves tentatively to my neck and I feel the pendant. The emotion and grief of the night before have given way to comfort and certainty, and a smile crosses my face as I jump out of bed to go find a gift for Papa.


Journey to the Island of Ancestors

The meditation room in the hermitage gave me enough time to get in tune with myself and my soul. It truly was a peaceful experience and at this point I’m waiting for more. I think of myself as a complete unit- mind, spirit, body and soul –and that all of them are getting to a balance were each can leave in peace with one another. Especially my mind that is always in the clouds and not were it belong. But still I like it when she takes me to places I never been or want to be.

There was in front of my room door a piece of paper lying in the floor. I pick it up and opened it. The journey was going to take me know to another place, this time an island. But for what it is called it seems it was not going to be a regular island. You see it is called The Island of Ancestors. A chill ran down my spine for no reason I can explain. But I figure it was going to be an experience I was not going to forget. If it was an island of ancestors, maybe I might find great philosophers of old. Like Aristotle or maybe Pluto. Who knows!

I went to the stables to see Güarionex whom was waiting for me and was ready. Rob, the Horse Whisperer, was holding him. When Güarionex saw he got much exited moving his head up and down. I smiled and went to him immediately giving him a kiss on his forehead. He made a sound with his nose that tickled my neck. The Horse Whisperer climbed his horse and I climbed Güarionex. We set out as we did the first time we met going as fast as the wind like we were on a race against it. It was really lost of fun.

As we slowed down Rob told me a thing or too about the island. He explained that weird things happen to those who visited it. Some come out full of joy others are traumatized by the experience. None are allowed to tell what happened there to them. For that will decrease the curiosity in people and travelers alike who want to visit the island. But it seems it is a most popular place for the waiting list is long. Only especial invitations are granted like the one I had. He instructed me not to pass this opportunity.

“Have you been there?” I asked him curious for he spoke of it as he knew it very well.

“Yes.” He answered looking a head to the sea were you could see the Island from afar.

“How long was it that you visited it?”

“Many years ago.” His voice sounded sad and his expression changed completely. I wanted to asked but remember what he had told me of not speaking of the experience gain on that island. I wonder if he was one of those who where traumatized by it. But it seems that was not the case for if it was like that he would not have accompanied me here and would have stayed in the hermitage.

As we approach the coast a ferry was visible from the top of the hill we were standing. A beautiful island was visible in the distance. It was all covered with nature and looked as an emerald was drop in the middle of the river. I breathed deeply for I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.

We went down the hill and got closer to the port. A woman was waiving her hand to us and we approached her. She was very happy and a little weird I might add. Well this woman was not a woman and you could see that after getting closer to her. Her skin was covered with scales, green ones and she had no ears. Her hands and feet were a strange mix of fingers and fins. Her arms were like those of a human being but she had no nose and her mouth was of a round shape like those of a fish. When we got down of our horses and stood in front of her I smiled slightly. Rude of me, of course, but I was perplexed with what I saw. To think I should expect to encounter everything in this journey.

Suddenly, the fish-woman opened her arms wide and went to Rob who was doing the same thing. They both grab their hands up high and hit their foreheads. Then they laughed hard.

“It is good to see you again, Rob.” The fish-woman said but it sounded more as if she was underwater than in land.

“It is good to be here, Trucha. I’m here to take her to the Island of Ancestors.”

Trucha turned to me and did the same as before. Probably that was the way she greeted people so I did the same. The hit in the forehead was not that hard and it was a cool way of salutation for you feel like you are under water for an instant. Then just like that you feel like you are back on land.

“I have been expecting you my dear. You may live the horses here they will be taken to a place were they can relax and stretch their legs. Come on board for everything is ready for you but we have to wait until nightfall. It’s the best way to navigate for the guardian of the Island is sleeping. He gets a little cranky during the day for the spirits are sleeping and he doesn’t want anybody disturbing them.” Trucha said.

We got on board the ferry and ate on the deck that had been prepared with a dinning area. We chat, drank and laughed for hours until the stars covered us completely. That’s when Trucha got up and said to me:

“It is time. You may wait here while I navigate.” Said Trucha standing up from the table then she went up some metal stairs and got into the cabin on the second floor of the ferry were the control room was.

I stood up and walked towards the rail as I saw the elegant night covering us completely. The stars looked like tiny diamonds sparkling elegantly. The breeze was soothing but it carried a strange smell that was sweet. Maybe it came from the island were flowers bloom at night and perfumed everything around them like a special gift for those who dare to go to the island.
The journey on water took approximately fifteen minutes and the island was very visible indeed. A port could be seen getting nearer as we got closer. It was lighted by torches that help see the beginning of it for the ferry fish-woman to see her way to it. When we got to the port Trucha came to me, as I was very nervous for the time had come for me to live and start my journey into the depths of the Island of Ancestors, and said:

“We will wait for you here until you come back, we can not go any further. Follow the torches until you find an apple groove. There is a path that goes inside the groove, take it. Keep walking forward; do not take any other paths, only the one that goes between the apples trees. If you do take another path you will be lost. When you reach the end of the groove you will find a mound and there a door, you must go through it. The rest is up to you.”

“What will happen if I take another path?”

“The ancestors will claim you. I do not need to say more.”

“Very well, off I go.”

I got down from the ferry and walked to the path as instructed, always looking at the trail beneath my feet. I didn’t want to get lost and be claimed by the Ancestors of the Island. Passing the apple groove I took one apple to eat it as I walk. At the end of it I saw the mound and in it the door. Two large torches lighted the way, I made my way through.

The passage was narrow and dim, it went downward. At the end of it I saw a light like that of a fire. I hurried my pace so I could find out what was in that room at the end of the corridor. Once there, in front of a great fire, sitting on an armchair there was a person covered with a black hood. Slowly I got near the figure, once in front of it I sat down on a marble bench. I waited for him or her to say a word but nothing happen. Nervousness ran through my whole body as I stared at the person in dismay not knowing what to do. My head was trying to understand the situation but it was too complicated for it had never been in this kind of situation before.

Then, the person’s hands removed the hood and there I was looking at his face. My jaw dropped as I was astonished and out breath. For in front of me was a man that had and still is the love of my life. The person that even thou passed away many years ago still had a special place in my heart. Tear drops came from my eyes as they could not believe what they were seeing.

It was inevitable an explosion of sentiments took over me completely. He approached me and hugged me tight as he used to do when I was a little girl. His smell was already gone from my memory and I could not remember it as I smelled him when he got closer. I cried more and more trying to hold on and didn’t want to let go of his grip. I was not letting go ever again.

When he died the only person he wanted to see was me. But the doctors at the hospital did not grant his last wish for I was a little girl and wasn’t allowed to go to the rooms. I knew he was gone for his sister, my great-aunt, came down crying inconsolable. But it did not hit me until my mother explained to me what happened. Then and there I knew the Lords of Time had denied me of a moment that was mine, of a wish that might have changed my life and my healing process. Now that I was there holding him tight no one was going to deny me of that moment.

“I have missed you so much!” I sob.

“I know.” He said.

“Grandpa, I wish so much you could still be alive. Sometimes I think life would have turned so different for me if you just been there. I know I would have been someone else with you by my side.”

“But think of all the things you would have lost if our story was written differently. Think of my great-granddaughter. She reminds me of you so much and it made me so proud that you though of me when naming her.”

I laughed full of joy and looked at his blue eyes. They were as I used to remember.

“Well” he said “You are here to ask me question. What would that question be?”

“I just want to talk a little longer. I don’t what to ask questions right know. Can we just talk please?”

“You see, mi reina, we will have time for that in another life. When God sends for you I will be waiting at the entrance to greet you and for ever be together. Know we have but little time to spend and I want to answer what ever question you have for me.”

“Then I shall stay here with you. So we could have an eternity know and not later!” I exclaimed crying.

My grandfather dried my tears and his hand felt soft. Looking at me straight in the eyes he said:

“I can’t let you do that. There is too much at stake. Besides you are needed back there, Versaly needs her mother and our family too. Think of your grandmother that loves you as much as I do. Your mother, your husband and of your brother that even thou he sometimes looks as there is no hope for him there still is. But you must be there and as always be strong for them.”

He kissed my forehead gently and I finally stopped crying understanding that my time with him was limited. I grab his hands tight and smiled once again not knowing what to ask.
“I have always asked myself if you were proud of me. Of what I have become and what I wanted in life. You have always been in my thoughts when I think of my life. What would you say or do or advice?”

“There is no doubt that I have always been proud of everything you have accomplished in life and of what you want of it. I know sometimes you feel alone and with out guidance but I’m always there for you. Look for me inside your heart and feel the warmth of my arms hugging you when ever you feel alone and lost.”

We both smiled and I kissed his hand. The fire dimmed a little and my grandfather looked at it and said:

“Time is running out. Know I have a question for you.”

“What is it?” I ask curiously.

“Will you promise me to take care of yourself and our family?”


“Then, please heal your heart of my loss. Do not cry for me with sadness but with joy for I am in a better place know. A place you will be when your time comes. So no sad faces only happy ones, ok.”

“I promise.” As I said that we hugged for a few minutes and I felt in peace with myself as I accomplished one of my most desired dreams. To see him one more time before living my life to the place he is now.

“I have a gift for you grandpa. It’s a lock of Versaly’s hair from when she was a baby. I want you to have it so you could have a little of her until you can finally meet her.”

“Thank you. I see her everyday you know even thou is from afar I’m always watching over her and praying for her. Here’s something for you too. I think someone lost this and couldn’t find it.”

He opened his hand and inside it was a small image cover in plastic of the Sacred Heart he used to wear everyday. It was lost when my brother and I argued about who should have it. My heart rejoiced when I saw it for I thought it was lost for ever. He had taken it to guard it and to give it back when the time was right.

“This means so much to me. I’m just sad I have to go.”

“Me too but will see each other again and spend eternity together.”

“We’ll do that; I will hold you to it.”

We hugged again and he gave me his blessing. My heart, my soul and my spirit felt like crying again but I hold it back. I had gained what once was denied to me, a final goodbye and a farewell. That moment right there could never be replaced.

So I got up and walked away only looking back once to see him smiling and throwing a kiss to me saying:

“This is for your grandma, but don’t tell her is from me. Just give it to her.”

“I will. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

I walked away feeling the tears come down my cheeks. I kept walking toward the port just looking at the relic my grandpa had given me. When I looked up I saw Rob, the Horse Whisperer, waiting for me at the port smiling happy to see me. I stopped to look back to the trail that had given me such an immense gift hoping to see a final glimpse of him. But he wasn’t there. Smiling joyfully and content I turned back to Rob and climbed aboard the ferry.

Friday, August 19, 2005


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My grandfather Kenneth Melford Fetterly.  I daydream of him often.  All I have are pictures and stories from my mother as he passed away suddenly two years before I was born.  "Fet" as he was affectionately known to all had a wicked sense of humour.  The stories and visions of him came back to me at the Isle of Ancestors.  They always make me smile (and feel rather proud).

My mother, her brother, and parents all lived in China for many years because "Fet" was the head of Foreign and Domestic Freight for the Canadian Pacific Steamships Co..  As was their station in life at the time they had amas and cooks and houseboys to help them manage things around the house.  Fet had his routine of a pipe, special lighter, and ashtray that lived on a small table in the "throne room" for the times when he attended to his "daily constitutional" as it was politely referred to in those days.  Much to my grandfathers frustration the houseboy would constantly "clean up - and out" the things off of the table after Fet's visit.  No matter how hard he tried to explain to the houseboy that he preferred his things be left alone, his beloved pipe and such were always taken away.  Now, some of you may know that the Chinese (at least back in my grandfathers day) were highly superstitious.  Apparently it was quite the sight to see one morning the houseboy come running out of the bathroom white-faced,  and screaming in Chinese to the other house staff that the bathroom was haunted.  There was much ado and fuss as they all raced to the bathroom to see.   It seems my grandfather had finally had enough and he had glued the pipe, matches and ashtray to the table!


My other favorite story my mother told me which is rather bittersweet is of the years they lived here on the North American continent and "Fet" had a great travelling companion for a long time.  He and the gentleman took the train into the city to work everyday and it was their habit to pick up a newspaper at the train station and have a little friendly competition to see who could do the daily crossword puzzle the fastest.  Day after day, month after month my grandfather consistently beat the other gentleman much to his anger and frustration.  One day my grandfather died suddenly from a heart attack when settling a strike in England and his travelling companion came to my mothers home to pass on his condolences.  He found my mother on the front steps and sat with her for a few quiet moments.  At last my mother said to him "I suppose it would be alright if I told you this story now that daddy is gone".  She continued,  "Every morning daddy would get the newspaper delivered early here at the house and do the crossword  before he left for the train station".  "That is why he always won".  The gentleman's face grew red and he exclaimed "that cheater!"  "all these months he's beaten me"  and then grandfathers friend broke into tears along with my mother.  A bittersweet memory of a wonderful man with a cheeky, mischievious, sense of humor.  I so wish I had a chance to know him.  I know one day we will meet.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005


My ancestors are ghosts. They drift in and out of the haze. You see, I never really knew them. My grand parents on my father's side passed on when I was very young, though I do remember sitting by the river which could be reached through a gate at the bottom of his garden. This was in North Wales, in the village of Corris. I remember a man sitting in an overstuffed chair but I can't see his features. I do know that he worked in the slate quarries when he was younger. I don't recall my grandmother at all. The only women I remember seeing there were aunts that lived nearby, or were visiting.

I do remember my grandmother on my mother's side. She lived in Haverfordwest in South Wales. The Grandfather King that I knew was her second husband and not my real grandfather at all. My mother's maiden name was Rees. I think Grandfather Rees was gone before I was born.

Grandfather King worked in the brewery and, much to my mother's ire, thought it prudent to feed me a tot of hard cider now and then. He was my buddy.

My grandmother was a little woman with jet black, straight hair. I recall the smell of moth balls. But mostly I remember her kitchen with the fire always burning brightly and with a huge kettle hanging from a hook above the flame. I used to sit on the settle, a wooden seat with a high, straight back, and storage underneath, and watch her cook over the coals. The settle was uncomfortable to say the least, but it didn't bother my childhood bones.

I didn't see much of them after my father died. My mother and my grandmother became estranged and when she, my grandmother passed on, my mother put me on a train and sent me at age twelve to attend the funeral.

My father was my buddy, too, and when he passed away at age forty-one I was devastated. He was way too young to die.

I look at pictures of my father and I am as proud of him now as I was then, even though he was the one to inflict the punishment I supposedly deserved, usually on my mother's command. He was the one, you see, who wore that wide leather belt. I think it probably hurt him more than it did me.

My sister was born in 1937 but lived only seven years. She contracted TB-meningitis from the school milk program. My mother was never the same after that and as I got older we drifted farther and farther apart. My sister, you see, was her favorite, the little girl she wanted. I was a tomboy. My father had wanted a son so when I came along he promptly started calling me Sam and taught me to hunt, fix cars, and ride his motorcycle with him. Perhaps I do my mother a disservice, but I feel she resented losing my sister when she had less-feelings, I think, for me.

I asked her once when she was in her declining years to tell me about he father and mother and her childhood. She told me in no uncertain terms that she did not want to talk about it. So I am left with the ghosts who drift in and out. But, I always wonder who am I and where did I really come from.

August 17, 2005

michelle's The Summoms

Island of Ancestors
My ancestor summoned me. Seated with his back to me, he waited before a round hearth burning in the center of the stone floor. Long shadows cast by a glowing embers flicker on the stonewalls of the Abby’s great hall. A path of carved stone circled him like a labyrinth. It meandered to a wood bench, continued round, and formed the complete arc.

Cloaked in a deep blue hooded robe, his garbed arm motioned me inside and then swept out toward the bench. I turned, took two quick steps left and stopped when a voice said, ”Michelle, think. If you continue, you will walk into the future. Is it the future you want or is it the past?”

“The past.”

“Then you must move against time to find your answer.”

I walked counter to time, faced my ancestor and sat on the bench. The vague memory I have of his face is from single digit years. He was old then. He is old now, but the same, with a face not defined so much by age and wrinkles, but by experience. He pushed the hood back and his hair, a familiar sungold red of reflected fire, gleamed in the dim light. It’s a color that skips through the generations, bypassing my dad. On me, it became a red gold highlight glinting in dark brown.

My grandfather’s eyes, eyes I gaze at in a daily mirror inventory, are Sicilian blue-gray, a lit fire of amusement, and they smiled at me. His eyes are his legacy passed from son to daughter to my sons.
He is fifty-year fast forward, in face shape, personality, and coloring, a reincarnation of my oldest child, Shane.

“You give a him en a Irish name.” He laughed.

A smile lit my face. I nodded, remembering stories are rarely told about my Dad’s family.

My grandfather left Sicily as a young man. He married a girl of sixteen; one so naive she didn’t know how her pregnancies happened. He brought her and my two uncles to the promised world, land buried in the Allegheny foothills of rural western New York, the village of Falconer, home to autumn’s colorful hardwood trees and relocated Italian immigrants.

Little was said about my grandfather’s arrival in Falconer. Signs posted for employment stipulated, “No Italians need apply.” He found work because they thought he was Irish with his red hair and fair coloring. To survive, he didn’t speak at work, but insisted my Dad and his siblings become bilingual and Americanized. He emphasized the need to blend in and become citizens, except in the family home they spoke the old language and lived the old school Italian way.

He changed his last name from Federico to Frederick and his first from Ignatius to Tony. Ma, changed hers from Constantina to Mary. Franco became Frank and Karl became Cross. My dad, little Giovanni, became Johnny. Later, my grandparents would adopt a daughter, Rose Marie. Ma, the story goes, needed someone to help with the household chores and the small corner grocery store they opened and operated from the front of their brick, two-story home until they were stopped by age.

He handed me a small paper bag. Inside were life lessons, messages given since childhood. Candy bars, wrapped in colorful paper. He said, “Almond Joy is a for happiness an a because some a times one should a feel like a nut. Snickers is a for laughter. Lotsa Hershey kisses for love. A $1,000.00 candy bar, success. A Heath bar, with its sweet outer coating and its hard amber core is a for adversity removed is a
inner strength. A Baby Ruth bar, life is a game an a to be a winna you must a touched all a you
all you bases to reacha you dreams.”

“Thank-you, Granpa.” I stood up and hugged him., something I don’t recall ever doing. I was so young when he died. “I wish I had something to give to you.”

“Michelle, will you a do a sumptin for me?” I nodded. “You can give a me the gift of remembrance. Honor the entrepreneurial spirit. Keep a going with the things you know are a right in a you heart even if it goes against what others say and social climate says you a no good. This a family it is a family of survivors, even if there are only a few of us left.”
I reached into the bag of candy and handed him three kisses. I smiled and said, “One for now, one for later and one for when you go to bed.” I laughed. “Oh, grandpa, so that’s where that saying came from.”

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ancestors of the Red Pavilion


This image is in honor of my ancestors
who have reminded me to be brave.
Beauty is just a by product, luckily.

My ancestors

Beaver, Maree and Gail in Ireland, 1949
Beaver built the swinging boats in the background

My ancestors
Hitched the horses to the wagons and traveled with the dawn.
At night they camped
Under the stars and lit their fires to roast rabbit or stolen pheasants.
My ancestors
Called no place their own and everywhere their home
All they owned
Was bundled into the wagons, under the beds, overhead in lockers
My ancestors
Left little trace of themselves as they moved through the world
Little but stories,
Told round the campfire and passed down through the generations.

My father
Rose with the dawn to tramp the fields looking for the horses
No room for hay
So the beasts were turned loose at night to forage their own food.
My father
Welcomed the invention of the internal combustion engine
He still often had to leg it when the motors broke down.
My father
Fished and foraged for his food, and entertained the crowds
In a tent
Lit by flaring Tilly lamps and candles in glass jam jars.

My mother
Cooked on a small temperamental kerosene stove outside the wagon
She washed by hand
And hung the sheets over bushes, and ropes looped to trees, to dry.
My mother
Was not born a traveller and she walked in two worlds
One our world
And one where the houses never moved and tea was always served at five o’clock.
My mother
Kept some of her old ways – she loved to read and write long letters
She taught me
The beauty and the joy of words caught like butterflies in the pages of a book.

I remember
Going fishing with my father, listening to him teach the ways of nature.
I remember
Exploring musty bookshops with my mother, the closest we ever bonded
I remember
Wishing sometimes I had been born in her world, so I could have an attic room
Full of books
And a pony in the orchard and a proper school with chalk and exercise books.
But I remember
Oh, I remember
Being so young and free in the world that now it seems like a dream.

Red Pavilion

The cold presses against me.
I pull my cloak tighter.
The ferry woman pushes from the shore,
She is quiet.
I wonder if the mist will clear,
it doesn’t.

We bump into land.
I cannot really tell if I am on an island.
The ferry woman solemnly nods to me.
I walk up a small hill
to a red pavilion.

The shoji screen doors are open to the night.
Inside a large fire pit gapes.
Covered from head to toe,
sits a man.
He calls me by my mother’s name,
deep from his throat, “Shinjo…”
I bow my head.
Yes, I am Shinjo, the last of this line.

I ask him “What am I to do?”
He looks up at me.
“Don’t you know?” he asks in a thick accent.
I grin. “I think I know, but I want to ask you.”

He nods his head.
“You are the last…remember us.”
“Don’t forget what the Samurai represents.”
“Call on their guidance. They will listen.”
I nod gravely.
My mother is very superstitious,
maybe for good reason.

“And you, the last Shinjo…
Will you bring honor to your family name?”

I bit my lip.
“I will try.”
“Try! You will try?!” he shouts.
He stands up and his coverings fall away.
He stands in full battle gear.
As blood trickles down from his heart.
I gasp.
“Do not try!”
“Bring honor to your family!”
“There is not other way!”

I fall to the floor and ask for forgiveness
To the floor I say,
“In this age, honor is not so valued.”

I hear the frightening sound of a sword being unsheathed.
My nose pressed to the floor.
I see blood dripping in front of me.
The sword is laid before me.
“Bring honor and do not fear darkness.”
“Be brave, be the warrior.”

I sit up in the Japanese style.
And understand.
“My blood runs through you,” he says.
“Do not fear death, do not fear failure.”
“Be brave and all will be well.”
“Be deliberate and do not regret.”

He puts the sword in its sheath.
My ancestor bows his head
as he holds out the sword to me in both hands.
I grasp it, thrilled by it weight.
I notice ornate decoration.
He looks me in the eyes,
I recognize myself in his face.

From my pocket,
I pull out a picture,
me and my mother.
I look at it and remember the day
we laughed on the grassy hill.
It is my favorite picture of us.
I give this to my Samurai ancestor.

He looks at it and presses his lips together.
His face contorts with pain and pride
as he looks at the picture,
his daughters.

I want to put my arms around him.
But instead I take his hand
and kiss his calloused knuckles.
“Thank you for this gift”
I hold up the sword most formally.
He smiles and replies,
“And I thank you for this, Shinjo.”

We bow to one another.
And I quietly take my leave.
Out of the corner of my eye,
I see him still looking at the picture.

I am oddly satisfied.
Bringing the family honor
is more than I have ever wanted.
I have wanted to escape my family
and here I am promising
to my ancestors.

Who, I understand now,
have every right to demand it.
I feel ashamed at my own brazen ideas.
To think I am without them.
They will always be with me.
I cannot escape them,
even in death.

The ferry woman helps me into the barge.
As we set back to the Hermitage
the heavy mist has lifted.
I can now see it really is an island
as the morning light turns the clouds pink.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Endings are Beginnings

I just got back from seeing my Grandmother today.

She's dieing, no way around that and I don't want her to take all those things from the past to her grave...she was glad to see us and she was very responsive and was able to talk a bit.

But she's not eating and she's only taking a little water.

Me and Doug and Esther acted as normal as possible and talked to her about the kids and what we've been doing and I could tell she liked that too. But I didn't harp on about the food...she doesn't have much time left I think and I didn't want to waste my time on that.

I had things to settle first.

When I got there, I went up to her first (she does look really bad ) and I looked right into her eyes and I told her about the good things from our past and that they meant a lot to me.

I told her not to be scared we were there and we didn't forget about her and never would and that we loved her and she said, " all my babies are here. "

Then she saw my brother and her face lit up like a Christmas tree and she said ' oh it's Duke! " that's my brother's nickname and both our Grandmothers adored Doug.

On his good days he's like one of those Douglas Fairbanks Jr types from the old movies...what do you call it...he's one of those dashing handsome lovable rogue types.

In fact, that's who my brother is named for: Douglas Fairbanks...only my Filipina Grandmother couldn't pronounce Fairbanks...it came out Frederick I guess or something that sounded like that.

So our mom changed it.

Anyway nothing could warm those two women's hearts like Doug could. It's always been a joy to me to think back on the smiles they had for him and only for him...my stern Grandmother Ignancia who only openly and with her entire heart smiled and laughed just for my Grandfather, Cypriano, and later for my brother Doug.

And for my Grandma Ginger who had a bitter and hard and sad life was able to toss all that over to smile with pure abandon for Doug too.

So it was worth going just to see her that happy...I mean it's the end for her and her life is full of bad choices and wrong words and she knows it.

If this can help her ease her heart and settle her spirit I'm glad and I'm glad I was there to see it and that I was part of it. I'm glad I was able to let go of my pain and hurt for the Grandmother who sometimes treated me with something less then kindness and care.

The nurse told Luis they're surprised she's lasted this long and they suspect she's got unresolved issues and I think we're the issues.

I really don't want her to suffer just waiting to see us.

I didn't want that to be what she felt on her last days on this Earth.

I wanted her to be happy tonight, I wanted her to have good dreams the way my Grandmother Ignancia did before she passed away.

My Grandmother was saying, the week before she died, that every night she was dreaming about my Grandfather Cypriano driving up in his army jeep and he'd call out to her to come out and take a ride with him.

She was scared when she woke up and told my Uncle she yelled at Cypriano to go away.

She died shortly after; I think she got in that jeep with him one night and I think she was laughing...I think they both were.

I want that for my Grandma Ginger too.

The Beginning-posted at the Soul Food Cafe

One of my favorite stories involving my Grandmother Ignancia and her sister involved the trips they use to take together back in their younger years after moving to Hawaii.

My Grandmother's younger sister really was a bush pilot and use to fly all over the Southwest here in the states, Mexico and before they stopped it, Cuba.

After one such trip my Grandmother and her sister weren't on speaking terms for about two weeks, I'm told. Finally one night at the dinner table my Grandmother's sister dissolved into hysterical laughter and nearly fell out of her chair. My Grandmother calmly got up, excused herself and went to Confession.

True story, one of my favorites because sometimes we forget our Grandmother's were once young women. When I think of my Grandmother and her sister ( We called her Tia ) I don't think of them as older maternal figures.

I see my Grandmother as the gutsy young woman she was; she left the Philippines to get away from an abusive husband as well as a Church she felt had far to much control over her life. She took herself and her daughter to Hawaii.

I see my Tia, which isn't hard to do because I look exactly like her. I can see her in my mind's eye flying planes, smoking her beloved Cuban cigars, playing cards and shooting coconuts out of the trees for the hell of it

I'd like to say my Grandmother was a calming sweet old woman, but she wasn't. She was tough, strong and independent. She wasn't the warmest person in the world, but my God you could count on her to be strong no matter what came her way.

Until the last week of her life she was working her garden and keeping up on her hobbies. As for Tia, she passed away a few months after my Grandmother did. I was told the day she lost her driver's license wasn't as big of a deal as the day she realized she could no longer fly ( which had happened many years before ). I think that broke her, because it was then she stopped being the spitfire she was before. I think all she had after being 'grounded' was my Grandmother and when she was gone...that was it.

Even as they aged they still traveled and saw much of the world, two old ladies taking off for trips to Mexico. Sometimes they'd see someplace on TV and decided to fly there for no other reason then...why not? It looked good. And just try to stop them. You'd have better luck trying to change the rotation of the Earth and I'm not kidding. This was when they were in the 70's for Pete's Sake.

HOWEVER! I think you all are very lucky to have had the women I've read some of you write about in your lives. The women in my life...well...ha, they belong in an adventure movie. No kidding and they'd take THAT as a compliment!


A young girl sits upon the bench, leaning slightly forward. Her cape is white wool and illumnated by the glow from the slowing burning fire. I smell oak and hear the hissing sound it makes as it warms the room. The girl of about thirteen removes her hood and it falls in soft folds around her shoulders. Her hair is cropped, all one length to just below her small ears - it is the color of burning flames. Freckles cover her soft complexion.

I know in a moment searching her eyes, the color of a lake on an ice blue winter morning, this is my Grandmother. I know from old photos, brown with time. Her hands are folded, held tightly together in her lap.

I don't know how to address her, this child girl who is my father's mother. I want to run and embrace her. I am afraid she will disappear once again into the flicking shadows on the wall behind her.

I watch as she gently takes my hand. The warm love flows through my body, which I miss deep in the recesses of my heart.

Words are necessary - our eyes meet. I ask her where she has been. I tell her how much I miss her. I tell her she was the constant in my life, you always knew she loved you. I thanked her for teaching me the art of sewing. For making my clothes long before I could sit at the treadle machine that belonged to her mother. Black, shiny shoes come to mind, as each Easter and Passover occurred. New ones always appeared upon my feet, along with white Buster Brown socks. I thank her for the summer trips I took, tooling in a color box, green rambler. How special they made me feel - just the two of us.

I know I am running out of time. She takes a small box from the pocket of cape. It's wrapped in white tissue and tied with a yellowing bow. I unwrap it carefully and find one black shoe, cracked with age. Tears are streaming down my face as I hold the shoe to my cheek.

She begins to speak - I came to you as that of a child of thirteen. The reasons are many, but most important is I want you to embrace your inner child. Acknowledge her presence. She needs you to accept her and all her mistakes. You can learn so much from her - who you were, who you are and where you might be going. She points to your future - the first step is acceptance. Listen to her whispers. Calm her fears and guide her into the woman she so longs to be.

I make this promise to an older woman who now sits on the bench. I give her a book, tied with twine. These are stories, my stories. Contained in the pages are the contents of my life.

Ms. Lovelace ( Patricia )

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Isle of Grandmother's

I had let the others go to the Isle ahead of me, had deliberately lingered in the Tavern of the Inn, sharing a night cap with the old woman who ran the place. We talked about the group I had bought to Duwamish and she marvelled at their implicit trust. "You do have a gift child" she said as she poured me a smooth musket. I laughed out loud and cynically told her that I most certainly had a gift for waxing lyrical. She looked at me with knowing eyes and said that she thought I needed to take the trip to the island instead of sitting here by myself trying to avoid truth.

So I got up from the bar stool and as I rose I heard footsteps behind me. As I turned I gasped. There, right before me was Dad, looking just as he had looked when he last stood at my door with his basket of homegrown vegetables in his hand. I dropped my glass as I stepped forward to greet him and glass splintered across the floor. I hugged him and held him tightly for ages.

"Come Heather! I have come to take you to the ferry woman. My grandmother will take you across to the island."

"But Dad! Can't we spend some time together?" I pleaded.

"Shush little one" he smiled, putting his finger to his lips. "There will be time for that later, after you have been to the island."

With that my father led me to the quay to journey to the Isle of Ancestors, led me to the boat my great grandmother steered. It came as no surprise that her boat was shaped as, was in fact a black mare.

Dad gave me a leg up and my great grandmother and I rode bareback without speaking to the Isle of the Ancestors. I knew that she would be by my side while I completed the journey, that she would witness a rebirth. She smiled, nodded in agreement with my thoughts and led me through the moonlit apple orchard towards the stone doors, carved curiously in the shape of a vagina.

The doorway was open and we walked together down the labyrinthine passage way. Memories of Chartres Cathedral swarmed back. Memories of walking the labyrinth gripped me.

On we walked, my great grandmother and I, her warm hand guiding me until finally we entered a space that looked like it had been woven by a raven. A raven's nest? But then, as we circled and approached the hooded figures who were waiting for me, I realised that this was the womb I had lain in all those years ago. For a moment I thought I could hear my mother's voice, feel her movements, hear her feel the quickening as I moved. But then there was silence and I looked at the women who had gathered to greet them and gave them the raven feather I had had tucked in a pocket for protection.

As I sat tears welled and I began to sob in the arms of my great grandmother. The tears I shed were tears that I have resisted shedding. They came in torrents, flooding, drenching us.

"Why?" I blurted almost incoherently. "Why have I had to carry such a burden of grief and loss? Why can't I know unbridled joy?"

The women rose as a collective, revealing themselves to be my grandmothers, dating back centuries. I had never known one of them in my physical life yet I knew them to be my grandmothers. These women embraced me, as a collective and held me until I stopped crying. No one spoke. I felt their empathy, their knowing and I knew that they knew my agony of isolation.

It is a blur now but at some point I realised that they had wrapped me in a cloak of their collective knowing, that they were the cloak, that they had transformed themselves and were a part of me. My great grandmother, the Ferry Woman, sat me on a throne, wearing my specially woven coat.

Bells sounded, announcing that it was time to lead and my grandmother led me out of the throne womb, back up the labyrinthine passage, through the stone vulva and we rode on her mare back to Duwamish.

I held her warm hand briefly, pulled the collar of my new coat up to block the dawn chill and, singing with joy danced towards the inn. The Innkeeper told me the others had been down at the bathhouse and hadn't noticed my absence. So I slipped quietly to my room and slept, still wearing my coat, a coat that will always distinguish me and name me wounded healer.

The agony of isolation is over. Praise be!

Ursa Major

I enter the great hall, one torch in my right hand, held high,illuminating my path. I sense that the chamber is round, and proceedcarefully clockwise, touching the wall occasionally with my lefthand for comfort. It seems to breathe into my hand, a sense ofancientness diffusing across the gradient into my skin, and I feelmyself rooting into the earth, even as I step lightly. I am becomingpart of this chamber, which I dimly recognize, by scent and sound, afaint pulsing that seems to come from within my own chest. I see afire, glowing embers with the remnants of small flames licking theair. Seated before the fire is a figure, draped in a magnificentrobe of many colors, some snaking through with a metallic gleam,some dull and homespun. The figure is large and powerful, and I seethat it faces not only the fire, but a crude bench which sits on theother side of the fire. I cautiously approach, feeling my way aroundthe cavern, and seat myself on the bench after placing my torch in agnarled tree trunk obviously meant for the purpose. I sit quietly,waiting.The figure in the robe stands, towering above the fire.Suddenly, the hood is thrown back and I behold a large bear, afemale. She stares at me, and I, humbled, bow my head. I recall thisbear from a dream I once had. She had stood beside my bed, through along and dark night of fear. Some time passed. Finally, I speak."Hello, Mother," I said. "I know you." She smiles,exposing strong teeth. Her eyes shine. In that instant I feel mythick pelt against the bench, hear the slight whisper of moth wingaround the torch, smell the ferry woman still at her post on theisland's shore. I feel stirring within me bear essence from timeimmemorial,feel my heavy paws running across mountain ridges,forested hills, and boggy riverbanks. I breathe, my breath harsh,fetid,powerful."Help me, Mother. What is my path?"She lumbers around the fire, coming quite close to me, and Ifeel the immensity of her body. I feel the longing to reunite withher, to suckle her rich milk, bury myself in her thick fur. I smellher essence, smell the same essence on my own pelt, my own skin. Iam of her. She places a powerful paw on my head. The weight ismassive, bowing my neck. I feel the subtle prick of her claws on mytender nape. The feeling is nearly indescribable, a rush of bearknowledge, bear instinct, bear lineage, all passing through me,flowing like lifeblood through my veins. I see my fur unravel,become fiber and cell and DNA and atom and subatomic particle, seeall of my matter swirl into the air and join with the universe,becoming tree, plant, river, stone, star. All paths are one, alllead to the self, all are bear. I gasp with recognition, the simplebeauty of it. In a powerful motion, she wrenches one long claw fromher great paw, and hands it to me, still dripping with her warmblood. I take it and hold it in my hands as though it were a livingcreature, tenderly cupping it.I sense her curiosity, her need. Once again she touches myhead, this time gently laying her bloody paw on my forehead. Bearsfill my vision, all female, all powerful; all dear, known, andbeloved. My sisters. They look to me, eyes searching, questioning."I will help them come to you, Mother. I will show themthe path."I reach into my pocket and pull from it a smooth stone. Jetblack and shiny, it lies in my hand like a glittering eye. It is astone from my homeplace, one I held throughout many sleeplessnights, working it over and over until the oils of my skin hadburnished it. It contains all of my hopes, dreams, fears, andintentions. I hold it out to her, my eyes barely meeting hers, myother hand clasping her powerful claw. She looks at my hand, and atmy face, with great tenderness, takes the stone, and swallowsit.She moves back to her seat, wraps herself in the robe, andappears to sleep. Pulling the lace from my boot, I wrap her claw andfashion a pendant, tying it round my neck. Anointed with her bloodand protected by her gift, I rise and make my way slowly from thecavern, walking fearlessly through the darkness to the shore. Mybear senses are keen and I sense millions of tiny presences in thedark, creatures moving below the earth, fish whispering below thesurface of the lake. The ferry woman appears concerned when she seesmy bloody face, but my calm,confident gaze stills her speech. I stepaboard the ferry and we start for Duwamish as dawn breaks over thewater. The wind is in my face, I smell the earth, the water.

All paths are one. I am Ursa Major.

Full to Overflowing

[I apologize for the length of my post. My visit to the Isles was nothing short of miraculous. I could not contain it in a few brief paragraphs.]

This adventure has brought amazing sights, visitations, lessons, and joy beyond measure....and it's only just begun. What an exciting side trip the Enchantress has arranged for us...a visit to the Isle of Ancestors. As soon as I am told of the magical place, I am certain I know who is waiting for me to arrive. Not wanting to risk a tumble on these rocky lands, I asked the Hermit to prepare a horse for my journey to the river dock.

Midnight, the horse the Hermit so graciously allowed me to use, arrived at moonrise. She glissened in the evening light, even though her coat is pitch black. I stroked her soft mane, gave her a juicy apple, and asked her, if she please, to take me to the river dock. I was prepared to travel as fast as she felt was safe.

Midnight took off like a lightning bolt. Thankfully I had my digital camera bag firmly in my grip, but I did lose my hat. We sailed through the forest and over streams until the dock came into view. Midnight gradually slowed her pace and came to a stop at my dock mere minutes from the moment we took off from the Hermitage. What a ride! I caught my breath, stroked Midnight thankfully, and fed her another apple. I asked, if she wouldn't mind, if she would wait for me at the dock until my return. She neighed and nodded that she would.

My barge and Ferry Woman were waiting patiently for me. I gave Midnight another stroke and a kiss before boarding the barge. I sat on the barge soaking in the moonlight as a vain teenager soaks up the sun. I breathed in the cool, musky air in great anticipation. In a few deep breaths and a blink of an eye, my Ferry Woman had stopped at the Isle of Ancestors.

"Wow! I'm really here!" I thought. I disembarked the barge with great hesitance. I was thrilled to be on such magical lands and excited about meeting an ancestor. But...all of a sudden I felt my body pause. My feet stick firmly to the ground. I felt hair rising on the back of my neck. Fear? But why? I KNEW who would be waiting to see me and couldn't wait to see her. What was there to fear? Maybe it was just the chill of the night air, the anticipation, or the path that lie ahead of me with no guide.

I see a light shining on the path. Though quite dim, I can see far enough in front of me that I know I won't be walking into a tree with the next step. Plus, my walking stick helps feel for subtle dips or hills. I found the mound just as the Enchantress described. I paused before taking the path to the entrance. I took a deep breath and thanked the gods for whomever I would be visiting. I asked that my ears my be open to hear the message I needed to hear and that my memory would be as a sponge soaking in every moment so I wouldn't forget it. Though I had brought my digital camera, I knew I wouldn't be taking photos. I knew in my soul this was one of those moment that could never be captured electronically.

I swiftly made my way to the entry. The door exuded warmth, the glow and scent of a wood fire, and a sense of security and joy. Walking slowly so as to soak up every image, every scent, every vibration, I made my way to the hearth that was the source of the warming light. A hooded figure sat waiting, but did not move. The sacredness of the surroundings entered my pores and made me feel as if I had stepped into another dimension.

I walked to the other side of the hearth with my head bowed out of honor for the being wearing a monk's garb. I sat, without sound, on a stone bench, with my eyes cast down to the table. I waited for the entity to speak first, out of deep respect.

"Welcome! I have been anxious to meet you . . . even more so than you have to meet me. Look up, dear child, I want to see your beautiful face. I am certain of its beauty for I have seen your heart."

The voice I did not recognize. I knew immediately it wasn't the one I expected, though I wasn't disappointed. While I would have been thrilled to see Olive again, I knew this feminine being was here for a much deeper reason than reliving memories or telling me what it was like on the other side. I slowly raised my eyes and was astounded by beauty. The being who faced me was so much more than human and beyond any sense of beauty I'd ever experienced.

"There you are, my dear. I have known your heart for a very long time, but I've never had the chance to see your face. Such beauty and honesty reflect in your eyes."

"Thank you," I stammered as I tried to take in what was before me. I felt an odd sensation, almost like butterflies, flitting through me.

"I sure you are wondering who I am. Your soul knows and it is leaping for joy. Can you feel it?"

"Yes! I can! I wondered what that sensation was."

"Listen carefully, for your soul will whisper my name."

I tried to steady myself and focus inward. It was hard to pay attention to me with so much beauty and warmth and amazing detail surrounding me. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and heard, in a still, soft voice, "Mother Nature -- Goddess of all the Earth." I gasped in shock and lowered my eyes again. How could I be worthy of meeting Mother Nature herself?!

"Don't turn away your eyes, dear child. I know of your humble and deep respect for me. You do not have to show that now. Don't waste this time we have. Look into my eyes."

Again I slowly raised my head, still astonished by beauty. I looked into her eyes and felt relaxed and at home, as casual as if I were talking with a close friend.

"There you go. Now isn't that better?"


"Now, you've come to ask me something. What would you like to know?"

"As I'm sure you know, I have a hundred questions fighting within me to be chosen. There's so much I want to know about the amazing miracle of a world I live in. I guess the hows and whys aren't as important right now. What I most need to know is . . . what can I do to care for the amazing gifts you have bestowed upon us humans?"

"I knew you would choose that question, though I think you know it wasn't necessary for you to ask. You are such a gentle soul. Every time you have the opportunity to care for any of my creatures, you do it. I shed tears of compassion this afternoon when I saw you with the bunny who passed on. You did what you could to care for it and send it off on its journey on a ray of love.

"Maybe you asked the question because you need to be assured. This I can tell you with complete honesty -- you are a compassionate and loving woman. I know that you are doing everything within your power to care for creation. You know in your heart when you could be doing more, but those times are few. I also know that you are impatient. You want to see everyone caring as much for the planet and for others as you do. They will . . . some day. Know that it is by your actions that people will begin to see and will carry on the wave of compassion you send out to the world.

"Your heart is certainly aching to know what happened to the loving animals who have died in your presence recently. Tinker's spirit is within me and I can tell you that she's radiant with joy. She, like you, is very tender hearted. She welcomed the bunny on its arrival and took away its pain and fear. She knew the bunny, in its last moments, had captured your heart. She did for you what you could not do for the bunny. She held it, caressed it, and gave it the compassion you showed.

"Just like Tinker learning from and passing on your compassion, others will do the same. And just as you can never fully understand Tinker's feelings and actions, especially now that she has passed on, you will never know the feelings and actions of those who are touched by the ripple of your compassion."

Tears flowed down my cheeks as rain down a pane of glass. Some were tears of joy, as my body was filled with joy knowing that I was on the right path... knowing that I was doing everything I possibly could without even realizing... knowing that my actions were having some affect on someone, somewhere. A few tears were tears of loss, of knowing I would never see Tinker, my first puppy, ever again. I was so choked up I could not speak.

"Dear child, I know you are overflowing with emotion right now. It's ok. Drink it all in. I know this is an amazing moment for you. So that you never forget this moment, I have made something for you.

From your tears I have formed this ocean wave. May it forever remind you of the ripple affect your compassion has on the world."

I no longer have words to describe how I felt. My body vibrated joy in a way I had never felt before. I was so grateful for such a precious gift, and yet speechless. Without knowing what I would say, I opened my mouth and words tumbled out.

"Thank you for this gift. I will cherish it and let it remind me of you, your beauty, your radiant love, this moment, this feeling of joy, and, most especially, as a reminder never to give up . . . to always know that my actions have a life of their own. They ripple forth and I will never know who they will touch. I'm grateful to know this of my positive actions, yet I know this is also a reminder that my negative words, thoughts, and actions have a life of their own. I will try to control them as much as I can so that their ripples are few and their affect only on me."

"Yes, dear child, you speak the truth. I can assure you send out far more joy than sadness, but you are not perfect and can never be. But you can improve. My question for you today is if you feel you can try to focus on sending out good. If you can focus on the positive, the negative will become smaller. The positive will surround you."

"I am certain I can try. I know I can improve. In some areas, focusing on the positive comes easy for me. In others, I know that I settle in, in fact I almost wallow in the negative."

"Being aware of this is the key. Please use my gift as a reminder for you to dig out of the negative pit quickly. The longer you stay in the quick sand, the more it will suck you in and the bigger the ripples will become. To give you some hope, I can tell you that negative ripples move more slowly and travel shorter distances than joyous ripples in the same amount of time. You can turn around negative ripples and insure that they don't affect anyone but yourself. The key is to have a buffer of joyousness about you."

"Thank you for all you have shared with me. I will do my best to do what you have asked. As a token of appreciation, I want to give you something. I know you don't want my digital camera." I giggled out of nervousness. I searched my pockets and my heart. The only things I brought with me were my camera and my walking stick.

"I have a walking stick. It is of your own creation and is blessed by Wisdom. Is there anything you can do with this?" Mother Nature stretched out her hand and held my stick at a point just below the Wisdom carving. When she released the stick, the image of her face appeared where her hand had been. I felt the fine detail of the carving with my hand. How blessed I was to have thought to bring this simple stick with me. It would carry the gifts of the journey for me and protect me at every turn.

"Again, you have given me a most precious gift. I am indebted to you and will never forget your favor upon me. I am so overflowing with emotion and image and experience that I cannot think. I know I do not possess anything as priceless as the gifts you have given me. Is there anything I can give you?"

"You can give me a promise. I know you would agree to anything I say right now in your heightened state of joy. But listen and make sure you want to make this promise before you agree. I want you to promise that you will care for my creation by continuing to be the gentle, compassionate soul that you are, by elimination as much negativity from your life as you can, and by taking care of yourself -- just as precious a being in my creation as any other. You know that making time, making good choices, for yourself is harder than giving to others. It is the hardest thing you've had to do in your life. You have given up at times and put everything and everyone else first. Now, I'm asking you to promise you will give yourself what you need. I need you to live for a very long time so that your compassion can reach many generations."

I thought about the ways I harm myself, how I limit my life by my choices, how I don't spend enough time on things that would bring more joy into my life and others. I have been making better choices recently, but they've been hard. They've required a lot of time and attention. Could I promise to continue making better choices?

"Yes! I will make this promise. I do not take this lightly. I know I need to take better care of myself for my own sake. Knowing that it is also for the sake of the planet makes it all that more important. I will double my efforts to limit negativity and to treat myself the way I would care for a dear friend."

"Thank you, dear child. That's the best gift you could ever give me."

"I know that it is time for me to go. I enjoyed meeting you, Mother Nature. Allow me to soak in your radiance for one more minute, and then I will go."

I set the ocean wave on the table between us. Mother Nature place her hands on top of my own. As we held the crystal, it glowed as if in a fire. I could feel Mother Nature's waves wash through me. Her love, compassion, and creative energy fused into my being and into the glass momento. I bowed my head once more out of honor and respect and thankfulness, and then I took my leave. The glass wave continued to glow and light my path. I walked as if I was in a deep trace, gazing at the glowing glass. It led me to the barge where I was transported back across the river. The glowing wave in my hand was the brightest star in the sky. Midnight waited for me at the docks, and for this I was grateful. In my tranced state, I would have wandered for hours before making it back to the Hermitage. I mounted Midnight and, before I knew it, Midnight was cantering down the halls of the Hermitage. He nudged open the door of my room and took me to my bed. I slid off his back, put my precious gifts on the window sill, and fell into bed.

Ancestors and Apples

The others have been shopping, or celebrating yesterday's triumph, or resting from it, while I've been standing nearly the whole day on the dock overlooking Duwamish Bay just opposite the Inn. From time to time one of my friends waves or calls out for me to join them but I shake my head and turn away. They probably think me unfriendly, I know, but I can't be with people right now.

I got very little sleep last night; my dreams gave me no rest. They weren't nightmares in the ordinary sense, no monsters chasing me, or fear of what lurked under the bed, no endless descent through a pitch black hole. But there was an empty field with a gate leading nowhere, and dark steps plummeting down to an angry sea. There was a shell on the windowsill in my cell at the Abbey that whispered and wept to be set free, and a green woven basket back in the grotto that shook and trembled at the fierce fluttering inside it.

I look up as the water of Duwamish Bay begins to froth and churn. A fleet of boats approaches the dock, flags fluttering in the soft summer night. I strain to find the one that will take me to the Island of Ancestors but they all look much the same in the dark. The traveller next to me chuckles and mutters something about worrying too much then confidently boards a ferry. How did she know? The flag on the one nearest me, appears to show shafts of wheat and baskets of corn, no clue there, perhaps it's a boat meant more for farm produce than for passengers. Then in the dull glow of running lights I read Trefoil and remember my shamrock suite at the grotto. As I come aboard, the ferry pilot nods a greeting then goes about the tricky business of extricating her boat from betwixt and between the other boats and in a few minutes we are plowing through the starry night toward our destination.

Twenty minutes later the faint outline of the island appears and despite the fact that there are no lights to guide her in, the ferry is soon safely tied up and I find myself walking toward the grove of trees the enchantress told us to find. Apples are in season and I pick some (Braeburns--my favorite) and throw all but one in my tote bag. I walk the moonlit path munching on the tangy juice-filled apple, while I try to quiet my rapidly beating heart.

The stones that lead into the mound are easily two stories high and as I pass through, heading toward the faint red glow, I feel the warmth of the torches and hear them sputter and spit in a passing breeze. The well-worn path leads me downward until I finally emerge into a great hall of shadows whose only light comes from a small fire in the center of the room. My ancestor sits by the fire, cloaked and hooded, facing in the opposite direction and with my heart already overflowing with love, I circle around and sit on the bench opposite.
"Hello Bev." My birthday twin-almost-sister from long ago lowers her hood and smiles at me and I forfeit the question about myself to ask, "Do you walk now, Dear Heart?"

"Not too often," she answers, her eyes shining, "mostly I dance!"

How I long to stay and talk with her but there are rules and reasons for this meeting and I've already broken the first. She draws something from her pocket and presents it to me. It's a cylindrical object four inches long in black and gold. She waits patiently, watching in amusement as I try to make sense of the riddle.

I turn the spyglass around in my hand in bewilderment, wishing I could ask why. Finally it comes to me. "Ah, to see in the distance, to study details--to focus on my stories," the words tumble out and she gives me a thumbs up sign. "You always gave the best presents," I admit. "Okay, Bev, your turn."

"Are you doing what you love?"

"Every day," I assure her. I reach into my tote for the apples and place them into her outstretched hands. We both watch as they flatten and lengthen and turn into the prettiest pair of ballet slippers either of us has ever seen.

Dawn is breaking as our fleet of ferries makes its way across Duwamish Bay. Looking back at the island through my spyglass, I can almost see a slender figure in red and gold slippers dancing among the apple trees.


The Ferry Woman who took me to the Island had tattoos on both her arms, the patterns reminded me of the sun, but I think they were actually dieing worlds; worlds that I felt I should know.

She didn't face me, she didn't speak to me and I was glad for it. There was something ruthless and determined in the way she guided the barge across the Duwamish. She was fighting the tide all the way there and she was winning.

She brought us to shore and motioned for me to leave.

As I stepped from the barge to the Pier I saw she was pointing away into the darkness and I was able to see more tattoos on her arms, I saw trees etched into her skin and on the trees were little red apples that looked like splotches of blood.

I don't remember hearing the sound of the tide or the winds or of my own footsteps on this Island.

There was no air here.

" What is this place? " I asked and before she turned her head to answer I hopped off the barge and away from the pier. I realized I didn't want to see her face or hear her voice.

I felt I'd almost made a serious mistake and ran blindly up the path and away from the black waters behind me.

When I came to the cave with the torches out front, I took one down and carefully stepped into the darkness.

The figure waiting for me was wrapped in its death shroud. That didn't surprise me, that didn't bother me. What scared me was the fact that I knew who was under it and they wouldn't show me their face.

I could see the figure turn its head away from me, as if it didn't want me to look at it.

" Who are you? Show me your face " I said.

The hands lifted the shroud away from its face and it was my Aunt Sharon.

I could hardly recognize her because this was the face of my Aunt who should have who should have been.

The one I never got the chance to know.

It was not the face of a woman who died in hopelessness and despair. This was not the face of a woman who drowned all of her pain and torments in alcohol.

" I don't have much time, I'm afraid of the Ferry Woman, I think she wants to leave me here. "

My Aunt nodded and she smiled. Clever girl, the smile said, that's my girl.

" Did you mean it when you'd said Dreams never come true? " I asked, " Did you really believe that? "

" That wasn't me Anita, you know that. You've known that all along. And I don't believe it. I didn't believe it then either. Every time I saw your face and heard one of your stories I didn't believe it...I couldn't believe it. "

My Aunt motions me over and hands me a Tiger's Eye stone. " It's just for luck you know, to remind you I'm always watching you. That's all it is Anita, a token. The real token I'm giving you, that's inside of you now... in your heart. Remember that. "

" Do you forgive me? " she asks as she hands me the stone, " can you forget what I said, and can you let it go? What I said about dreams and hopes? Can you forgive me for saying that? "

" I miss you every single day Auntie, " I tell her, " and I'd never let one word or moment we had slip away into nothing. They're my memories and I love them all. Okay? "

She's smiling at me as she puts her shroud back over her head and I step forward and with a Mortician's Hands I wrap her again as gently and softly as I can. I adjust it over her shoulders and smooth it around her waist and hips.

That was my gift to her… my goodbye. The thing I couldn't give her before.

The ferry woman is waiting for me on her barge and for my Aunt as I step aboard I look it in the face and say, " take me home and don't screw with me. "

The ferry woman laughs soundlessly and as we sail back towards Duwamish we sail with the tide this time...with it.

Journey to the Island of Ancestors

I stand on the quay, the barges lined up with a ferrywoman ready to greet her passenger. I am apprehensive about this journey, the journey itself and who I will meet on the Island of Ancestors, what they will ask of me and what answers I will come away with. I have my thoughts about who it is that I am to meet and what I will ask – I hope I am not disappointed.

The ferrywoman steps forward and beckons me to the barge. She is familiar – she could be my guide. “Yes” she says, “it is I.” The barge is lit by a single lantern and the moonlight. My guide senses my apprehension and encourages me to use my ipod and listen to some music if that will help.

The barge is enveloped in mist, I can no longer see the barges for my fellow travelers nor can I see Duwamish. Out of the mist the island emerges. The ferrywoman brings the barge to a stop at the shore; she then helps me to disembark. I ask her if she will be accompanying me and she replies “No you must go alone, for it is your journey.” She turns and tends to the barge.

I follow the moonlit path that winds its way through the grove of apple trees. Ahead is a mound, its doorway two massive stone uprights and lintel. It is lit by two torches burning brightly. As I approach I notice that it is a passageway. I enter and walk towards the faint red glow.

As I walk the passageway opens up to a large open area, with a hearth at its centre. It was the fire that provided the glow that had lit my path. Seated before the fire is a person in hooded robes – the person I am here to see.

I walked around the hearth and sat on the bench opposite this person. As I sat down, he removed the hood. It was Kirk (my cousin who died when I was 18) he was as I remembered him. I greeted him with tears streaming down my cheeks. He said “I know you have many questions, but I don’t want you to waste the opportunity, so I will tell you that all you ask after are at peace and waiting for you when it is your time to come.”

There were so many questions that I wanted answered, there were many that I know who had questions. He spoke again “It is your journey, you must ask for yourself and not for others.” So I asked “Why, why did this happen to us, our family, why me?” He responded “Everything and everyone has its time and its purpose. It is all predetermined and you will understand in the fullness of time.”
He then gave me a folded paper boat – “A token from me to help you weather those stormy seas.”

“Now it is my turn to ask a question of you, Megan. Why did you not come home?” I thought this may have been the question and have had more than a decade to think about my answer. “I didn’t come home because I was scared. I wanted to remember you the last time I saw you, before I went on holiday. I didn’t want to see you lying in a coffin. I wanted to remember you as you. And I have regretted the decision ever since; even more so since Brendan died. Please forgive me.” “It isn’t necessary, you need to forgive yourself. It was lesson you had to learn.”

I felt in my pocket for a tissue and there in its place was my rose quartz heart pendant. I gave it to Kirk with my love and my thanks. He hugged me and then returned to his bench covering his head again with the hood.

I rose and walked around the hearth and back up the passageway and out onto the path, surrounded by apple trees. I returned to the barge. I was helped aboard by the ferrywoman. She turned the barge and headed back into the mist. Duwamish emerged out of the mist; before I knew it the ferrywoman had secured the boat at the quay and waited to help me disembark once again. I thanked her.

I looked around the quay, some of the other barges had returned, others had yet to return. I walked back to the inn with my little paper boat in hand.

In the halls of my ancestors

I found my ferry soon enough, “Dark Ferry Woman row me across the river, row slowly so that I may see the distance spaces, the edge where sunset meets the sea, the golden clouds that grace the summer sky. I want to feel the wind that pushes this small craft, this boat with rainbow sail that billows full and freely. As we reach the further shore I wave farewell and ask you to be ready at end of day to take me back to the pine covered mountain for I have been asked to report.

I wander slowly up the dock into the island centre where a great golden gate is lit by the rising sun, this gilded gate carved by the centuries of finest workmen opens before me and I find myself able to dance again, to carry the silver torch, to trip as lightly as I did in childhood up the long stairs, into the sacred hall. There is hope in my step and in my heart for this is the place of my own people, these are the hallways walked by all who walked before me through all time.

Here in a deep forest by a lake I find a small log cabin surrounded by a kitchen garden. October colour everywhere, deep crimson leaves fall from above and crunch beneath my feet. I knock. A soft voice calls, Is that you, my dear, I have been waiting here that we may talk.” The accent is familiar, just a hint of old East Anglia, the dialect my father knew and was forbidden to use. “ I met your dad long years ago, he passed by on his way to his own family shore. He was from Norfolk but not Norfolk born as I am for I am your mother’s people. Come tell me, why this quest for your time has not yet come although I see your aging as I watched your childhood.”

A thousand questions, questions, questions too personal it seems to ask this woman with the bright eyes that see into my mind. What made you grandmother-twice-back-and-more cross the great ocean to this place in deepest wood? Why bring your sons and leave a daughter at home? “So many why’s my dear.”

“Did you not move across an ocean? leave a son behind? stay in a country where the accent was not yours? We have much in common you and I. I crossed the sea for love, for a proper place for sons, for their father’s sake we built and grew. My daughter was well cared for, her father claimed the child. She would be safe, safer than a yeoman’s child and learned. “

“ My sons grew tall, broke their own land, and made their way no longer laboured in the fields of some descendant of King Williams thieving clan. I taught them well, my daughters too, those younger ones, and all the others too in the tiny school we built. Dear Dr. Strachan, dear old kirk where learning was allowed for all who came.”

“ Did you see our school house ? We had four rows of benches, a board my husband painted every September. The Bishop was generous; every child had his own slate, a bible and a first book. My pupils learned to read, and write, and, on the winter’s nights lit by fire and candle taught their parents too. When harvest came our sons, all of the sons, could count and claim all that was rightful, and give thanks for freedom and bounty.”

But all this does not reply, I see that one question too intimate to ask.”

“Why? I’ll try to answer. I was a gentle cousin in his lordship’s house, kin without status, a pretty girl I think. We touched, we loved, a child was born. I lost my place within propriety. The child was taken, I was given to wife to my yeoman. My great fortune, we brought four sturdy sons to the new country. You have his blood and thus most dear to me.”

“Now tell me”, she asked, what have you done, to make me proud?”
I thought for a moment and said that I had loved to learn and tried
to teach my students honestly.

“You have your answer. “she said, and laughing, “We’ll have a cup of tea, share stories of those children we have known, and fill the time until the ferry woman calls you home. Don’t be afraid for you will come again. We will be friends.”

I give my gift, a tiny book of poems as I wave farewell

Visiting the Isle of Ancestors

The Central Mystery: The Journey to the Island of Ancestors

In this meditation, you will journey to meet an ancestor. Remember that an ancestor is a person from your past, who is no longer living, who has helped shape the person you are today; an ancestor may be a predecessor from your bloodline, a previous incarnation, a person who has given you a meaningful tradition or philosophical basis, such as an adopted relative, a teacher, a mentor. You will not choose who will appear to you and it may be someone you know or do not know. Now prepare for a journey. (Pause)

You stand on Duwamish quay. The night is clear; the waxing moon rises over your shoulder, and you hear the gentle rolling of water past the barges that are lined up in the Duwamish. Board the barge and you will be carried over the sea to the Island of Ancestors by a Ferry Woman. (Pause)

You see an island emerging before you. The ferry woman stops at the shore and you see a grove of apple trees. There is a moonlit path between the trees and you follow it. Ahead is a mound. In the centre of the side is a doorway made of two immense upright stones topped by a massive lintel. There are two torches burning at the door providing light for the entrance into a passageway. At the far end of the passage is a faint red glow. Proceed through a corridor inclining downward. (Pause)

You emerge into a shadowy great hall. In the centre is a hearth with the glowing embers of a fire. Seated before the fire facing away from you is a hooded figure. Across the hearth from this figure is a bench. You circle halfway around the hearth clockwise and sit facing the figure. This is one of your ancestors. Greet that person. (Pause)

You may now ask your ancestor one question. It may be about his/her contributions to your life or your family, it may be to clarify something about yourself, or about your future. (Pause) When you have finished, your ancestor gives you a token of help and guidance. (Pause)

In a fair exchange, your ancestor now asks you a question. Answer as best you can. (Pause) You find that you have a gift for your ancestor. Look at it and present it to your ancestor with thanks. (Pause)

Finish your circuit around the hearth, go behind the ancestor, and pass out of the mound and back along the path. (Pause)

Boarding the barge, you return to Duwamish as the first light of dawn breaks over the eastern horizon. At your own pace, return to the Duwamish Inn bringing your experiences and token with you.

The Enchantress