I know this post is longer than usual, but I wanted to share further ripples from my retreat with the signs and synchrony I saw. Human beings are pattern makers. We connect dots of everything from stars in the sky, to the implications of Chinese fortune cookies. We may or may not take them seriously, but it seems to be a way that we endeavor to make personal sense out the vast impersonal universe in which we find ourselves. I no longer question, “Where did this come from? What does it mean? How did this happen? Is it real?” The experience of honoring my response is enough. It takes me out of the logical concrete world and opens my intuition and imagination alongside my left brain dominion. I don’t know that there are answers to those questions, or if there need to be any. I more easily allow myself to be tickled or touched or grateful as “messages”appear before me.
July 4th, with backyard fireworks taking up airspace all day and into the night, was when animals at the retreat center began to show themselves to me. Because I could not traverse their territory out of doors, they had to make themselves known to me through windows. That day, I had a conversation with Richard; my first. I have not sought out such communication, it simply arose in my mind and I chose to listen. He teased me by saying, “What? Did you think that just because you have a body and I don’t, that we are separated? Remember what Emilia wrote down for me to give to you when I was still in the hospital, when I could hardly retain coherent language, let alone hold what I had just said?”
This is what he dictated for her to put down on paper: “Adoration for my Beloved, I am always with you. I will always be with you. Forever. Thank you so much my darling. I’m here with you forever.”
I told him that, no, I hadn’t forgotten. I keep that paper and its sentiments as a treasured gift. He replied, “ Well, it is real, I am here with you and always will be. I know you can feel my love right now.”
I put down my pen and sat still again. There it was, a warm, visceral sensation in my heart. The sensation of warmth and heart feelings expanded and swelled until my whole body felt like I was immersed in a warm bath of love. I thanked him for this physical reminder and we went on to speak of other things. He said he had been learning how to appear as animals in the embodied world, and assured me he was going to visit me soon. Speaking of bodies, I told him I was having a hard time with my body at this retreat. It was also unpleasant to be the only one who showed their infirmities, whereas at the Care Center at Kendal, I am one of many. Here at the retreat, people would wince as they saw me struggle to get up from a table and were always rushing to open doors for me or take my food tray to the kitchen for cleanup. My pride was a little aggravated by all this solicitous attention.
Richard reminded me that I owed my life to the kindness of strangers. When I was born eleven days after my father died, my grandmother took me to live with her on Long Island for a year or so. My mother, with my three and five year old brothers, returned from Kansas to live in Woodstock, N.Y., the summer home of her teenage years. My grandmother had poor health and the neighbors across the street, in the upstairs apartment, and friends across the hall, often took care of me each time she fell ill. Richard’s reminder helped me to readily thank those long gone strangers by more graciously receiving the help of those who were caring for me in the present.
When all was quiet within me again, I went downstairs to sit before the open windows of the library room outside the dining hall. I still felt embraced by Richard-love and sat quite still until I had a nudge to open my eyes. Immediately one of the resident does ran across the front of the building and away into the woods. I closed my eyes, and again came the nudge. A squirrel ran up the trunk of a tree and out on to the end of the branch directly in front of me. I chuckled as he stared at me for a few minutes before he turned tail, ran down the trunk and ran back up to stare at me all over again. “OK, Richard, I see you,” I thought.
I went into our silent dinner, and afterwards did a double take as I saw something large and brown outside of a glass door on the way back to my room. It was a doe, lying on a patch of tall ornamental grasses, planted to block our inside view of two electrical transformer boxes facing the parking lot. She also stared directly at me, poised for flight. But she didn’t stir. I tried not to have predatory eyes in gazing back at her. Then I saw her mouth was slightly open and she was panting. I saw her entire belly rolling and realized she was in early stage labor. Her teats were swollen, and when not staring at me, was lifting her back leg up to lick at herself. Richard and I had birthed enough lambs together to know a laboring ungulate when I see one. I kept telling her, over the ten minutes we were communing, that she had to find another place for giving birth. “I know there are fireworks going off all around here. It seems safe behind those boxes and on this grass, but this is also a place where many humans traverse every day. It is too exposed for you. Please move on now.” She looked at me intensely, shook herself, and bounded off into the woods.
Touched by that encounter, I went back to my room. Immediately, as I sat down in my meditation chair by the windows, a female cardinal perched on the closest branch and looked at me, one eye at a time. When she flew off, two American goldfinches alighted next. Their feathered sunshine danced and flittered together until they both stopped to gaze back at my laughing face. When they departed I felt thoroughly in touch with Richard.
I only looked at my phone now and then to check the time and eliminate too many emails from piling up to answer on my return. To cap off these these animal encounters, there was an email from Dennis, our good friend, and a Jungian oriented sand-play child therapist, sending me a chapter that he was dedicating to Richard from his new book. This chapter was about encounters with Pan, the wild element in us all, and how Dennis works with panic attacks that he has helped so many children resolve.
Dennis and Richard had gone on a trip to Tuscany together years ago. I think he said to me they had climbed some hills and crossed fields to find a spring burbling up. They were delighted to happen upon it until they realized that the hoof-prints all around it were those of wild boars. It was, according to Dennis, “the hour of Pan”, and they beat a respectful retreat. Make of it what you will, but for me, these overlaps of my world and the animals around me deepened my sense of physical communion with Richard.
In my second floor bedroom, there were two, side by side 3’x8′ windows. They looked directly into a cluster of very tall Balsam fir trees, maybe 80-90 feet tall. Two different thunderstorms invoked such intense downdrafts that they set these giant standing people into visual chaos before me. I felt seasick as both the vertical and horizon planes of my ordered world were thrashed violently with the arms of massive green carwash rags on my windshield. Accompanied by rollicking thunder and lightning, I could not help but regard these trees with awe.
One night, just before I climbed into bed, I was thinking those trees were like Christmas trees with post doctoral degrees. Not only do balsam firs have that classic curved-up bough design, but instead of tinsel or glass icicles, these had slender green pinecones hanging down to decorate their branches. Just then, a firefly slammed into my window with a single blip of light. I looked out, and there were a dozen fireflies zooming up into the deepening dusky green depths. Now the trees were completely decorated with blinking lights. A Christmas treat delight in July.
Miracles? No. But surely a result of slowing way down and paying attention to my one amazing world.