Finding The Path Forward

September is here, there’s a cool nip in the air at night, a few leaves are starting to change… Summer is coming to an end, and Autumn is beginning.

For many of my dearest friends, this brings a deep sigh of relief, and a hope that the worst is over. For almost everyone I know, it’s been a difficult Summer, full of one personal crisis after another, just as it has been for my family.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see the way forward when a crisis strikes, to find the Path you should follow. You look around in confusion and see only obstacles.

“Fauna” by Charlie Terrell

When I found this beautiful image of Fauna, Guardian of the Wood, I was reminded that, often, looking to Nature will help me find the clues and inspiration I need to find my Path again.

Sometimes, it is as if we stand in a deep, dark forest, surrounded by thick trees and brush, knowing not which way to go. We have lost our bearings, lost our way, lost our Path.

Fauna reminds us that when we find ourselves lost in the dark Forest of Life, to listen to our wild Hearts, and follow the Deer’s Trail, and we will find our way.

Deer Trail by Heather L. Loyd, via Flickr

What does that mean, to follow the Deer’s Trail? Well, the Deer are creatures of habit, and travel well-worn paths through the woods and meadows. Their cloven hooves cut deep into the earth, and pack it hard into a narrow dirt trail. Their paths often intersect and overlap with the paths made by humans, and many a hiker has lost the human trail when they veered off unknowingly onto a deer trail.

But deer also go places humans wouldn’t think to go – but could go.. They go over fallen trees, instead of being stopped by them, trees you might have to climb over. They go under bushes in perfect tunnels – perfect for their size, and for your’s, too, if you’re willing to scramble and crawl through where they go with ease.

Deer who doesn’t want to get his hooves wet!

Many’s the time I’ve run down a deer trail, barefoot, hair flying, as One with the Earth, being the Wildling I am in my Heart. And many’s the times the deer trails have shown me unexpected routes through, around, over or past obstacles.

Sometimes we look for a way forward in our lives, a clear trail, and seeing only our obstacles, we don’t see how we can do it, but if we’re willing to view them from a different angle, to scramble & climb, the Path may become clear. That is following the Deer Trail.

Once upon a time, following a deer trail literally saved my life.

Many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, my husband & I were looking for land to buy, and checking out Tennessee around the Smoky Mountains. We had already looked once at an incredibly beautiful and huge piece of land, something like 2-300 acres. Before we made an offer, we wanted to give it one final, really good, going over, since that’s a lot of land to check out.

We had parked our trusty Suburu at the gate & walked in, marveling at the forests, the open meadows, large cedar trees, beautiful big rugged stones, and a lovely lake. It was gorgeous, and I just loved it.

Poly Tunnel

Then we came to an area that had a tractor sitting by it, and a large tilled spot. There were three very long poly tunnels over it, the kind you use to protect plants from frost. It seemed to me that first frost should have been past, and I could see some of the plants were just about touching the tops of the inside of the tunnels, which were around 4′ tall, but I couldn’t see what they were.

So I took a look, as did my husband. They sure weren’t the tomatoes under my poly tunnels at home! No, they were pot plants, and each tunnel had plants in different stages of growth. The oldest plants were starting to bud, and were almost ready for harvest.

We looked at the sheer number of plants, looked at each other, realised our car was parked at the gate by the road, and said in unison, “We’ve got to get out of here, NOW!” It had to have been hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of weed, street value, if not more. This was backwoods Tennessee. We knew what would happen if we were caught up there – we’d just disappear. And nobody even knew where we were.

Then we heard the sound of an ATV heading our way, and decided we would be better off to split up – that way there was a higher chance at least one of us would make it out alive. We took off, running for our lives, in different directions, on land we didn’t know at all, this only being the second time we’d set foot on it.

I wound up coming to a hill that led to the creek that bordered the property, and I knew if I got to the creek I could follow it to the road.

Greenbrier Vines

My feet flew as I followed a deer trail down the treacherously steep hill, only to find, half-way down, that the entire bottom of the hillside, as far as I could see, was covered in a giant thicket of greenbrier, 6 or 7 feet high. It looked completely impenetrable, and to my eyes, the deer trail just ended at the edge of the greenbrier… until I leaned down, and saw it went into the greenbrier thicket.

I heard the ATV getting closer, and voices, but they couldn’t see me yet, so I followed the deer trail, into the greenbrier. The deer apparently aren’t bothered by the thorns, and I found a well worn tunnel they’d made, about 3′ high, with dirt on the bottom.

I crawled thru the greenbrier on hands and knees, while it grabbed at my clothes, my arms and legs, slowing me down. At one point, I froze when I heard the ATV stop at the top of the hill, and people talking. I was completely hidden in the seemingly impenetrable greenbrier thicket.

They moved on, and I eventually emerged, scratched all to heck, but the deer trail had saved me. I met my husband at the car and we took off, and passed on Tennessee entirely!

There is always a Path for us to follow, although at times it’s hard to see. For those of you struggling, who can’t see a way forward, listen to your Heart, and try looking for your Path from another angle. The way may be found in an unexpected place… and you might have to crawl through some briars first. But you will find your way again!

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In Memorium: My Father’s Passing

My Dad, Feb., ’06

Today my father, Joseph L. Collins, passed away, but just moments before he did, I had a great and rare blessing, and I would like to share it with you.

My father was 84, and had been in the hospital a week, before being moved to rehab. However, he took a sudden turn for the worse early yesterday morning, with pneumonia and organ failure.

I spoke to him yesterday, and told him goodbye, and that I loved him, over the phone. I could hear him trying to reply, thru his oxygen mask.

My brother, Clay, flew down yesterday to be with our father, in Tampa, and hold vigil.

I spoke to my brother about 10am this morning, and he said that my dad wasn’t really conscious, but the nurses said that my dad was aware of those around him, and to keep talking to him.

I asked my brother to hold the phone to my father’s ear, intending to tell him that it was okay to move on, and that I loved him. The arrival of doctors & nurses interrupted this, and my brother said he would call me back.

The minutes turned to hours, and I heard nothing.

But, I felt a strong call to the porch, to sit & rock & survey the Woods.

Almost immediately, I very strongly felt my father’s presence.  I didn’t know if he had passed away already or not, but I could feel him standing there in front of me, and that there was a Divine Presence there with him, as if it was behind him. He was just radiating great Love.

I could not exactly see my dad… it was as if he stood in front of a very brilliant Light, so I could only see my father’s silhouette. That Light, I knew with absolute certainty, was the Light of God, and it was so bright I could not look upon it. But it was much more than Light… it was tremendous Love, Joy, and Peace.

My father spoke to me, then. I could hear his words, in his own voice. He said he loved me, and then he gave me an incredible hug: he enveloped me in Love; he wrapped me in Love like a warm blanket on a freezing cold night. It was such an amazing feeling, and really, there aren’t words for it.

We often say, “God is Love,” and the few times I have been so touched in this way, it has brought tears, as it did today… but they were not tears of sadness at the realization that my father was passing away, but tears of overwhelming Joy & overflowing Love. My heart was so full of Love that the extra Love came out as silent, effortless, tears, and I found myself smiling, to see my father with the Divine. I believe, and my experience has been, that God, or the Divine Presence, is Love, is Joy, is Peace… it is all those, and much more, and those were with my father, because God was with my father, when he came to say goodbye to me.

I told my dad I loved him, and always had, no matter the distance that had been between us. He asked for my forgiveness, and I told him he’d had that long ago. He said he was sorry for the past, and I said I was, too. He asked what I’d done to my shoulder, and I told him, and he said I lived in a beautiful place. I told him he was welcome anytime.

Then he scolded me a little, noticing how very ill I am, and saying I hadn’t told him just how sick I am. I asked for his help then, explaining that my work here is not finished yet.

“God is with you now,” I said, and I asked him to touch me with healing & strength. I closed my eyes, and felt him touch me, touch my heart, and my heart & soul overflowed with radiant Love & Joy again. Tears streamed down my cheeks, and I felt myself smiling what I know must have been the most transcendent smile of my life, because when my dad touched me, I felt God touch me, too.

We both said that we’d always Love each other, and that Love never dies.

I could feel him being pulled away then. It was time for him to go Home, to go with God, and I could only feel peace and joy to feel him go.

I was still filled with the “afterglow” of this experience, when, within just a minute or two, my brother called. Our father was still alive, but just barely, and my brother was going to hold the phone up to his ear as he’d said he would.

I hesitantly explained that I no longer needed to talk to our dad, as I already had, and a bit of what I had experienced. I explained that I’ve had other experiences like this, since I was a child, starting with my grandma’s passing.

Within a few minutes, my father passed away. The nurses said they’d never seen anyone go so very peacefully.

My heart aches now for my brother & sister-in-law, my niece & nephew, and all those who will be mourning his passing.

But, because he stopped by here on his way, I got a rare glimpse of the Loving Arms of the Divine that are now holding my father tight. I know that he is now wrapped in that same Love and Joy that brushed me briefly, and he is experiencing it in a much, much deeper way than I did. I cannot be sad for him.
He has gone Home.

– This post is dedicated with great Love to my nephew, Clay, Jr., and my niece, Erin, who are mourning their Pa-Pa very deeply. He will always be watching out for you, and he will never, ever, stop Loving you. Neither will your Aunt Kelly.

My Dad & I, Feb. 2006

Acceptance: Clarity Comes In Darkness

Clarity, that feeling of peace inside, of comprehension, of acceptance of what is and what will be, often comes in our darkest hour, or in darkness itself. It hides from the light of day, and waits for the dark of night, before revealing itself to us. We grasp it gently, lest it be lost, and hope to hold onto it, inside, hold on to the peace of mind, of spirit, that comes with that singularity that is clarity.

There has been much darkness in my life of late, in a very literal fashion, as increasing sound and light sensitivity has driven me to hide myself away in my room. There, in the dim light, but with eyes closed against even that, I have been working the beads for a necklace. My bed smells of the gently sanded amber, a sweet smell, the smell of the ancient, forgotten and lost world of millions of years ago; the scent of trees now extinct, but who live on in the shining golden light reflected in amber.

Alone in the dark and quiet, alone with the amber, I have come face to face with myself, with my life, my body, my health, and some things that I did not understand, or been able to accept, have finally become clear.

Clarity. Peace of mind, of heart, of soul. Acceptance of the illness that has ravaged my life and my body for many, many years. For two decades.

I knew acceptance was the key to living well despite chronic illness; you read that everywhere, and wise people tell you that, but how to accept the loss of so very much, how to do that, has eluded me. I could not make the body-mind-spirit connection.

At first glance you might think acceptance means “giving up” and waiting to die.

That was my stumbling block – how did I accept without giving in, giving up? That sounds like a very bad thing to us, who are taught that illness is somehow related to mental weakness, and that we must fight fight fight to the very end, to the very last breath.

But I now understand that is not the case at all.

Acceptance is simply knowing, inside, where it really counts:

This place, where I am right now, today, with my health or lack thereof, is where I am today, and that’s okay.

This place may be the best there will be for the rest of this life, and that’s okay. Things might get worse, and that’s okay, too.

This place, this day, this moment in time, may be all there is for this life, so I had better relish it, pain or no pain – relish it all.

This life could end in the space of a heartbeat, for anyone, whether healthy or chronically ill, and whether I think I am ready for it to end or not, so I may as well get myself ready: make peace within & without, and everyday tell the important people in my life that I love them, because I might not get another chance.

Who I am is gonna be okay, no matter what happens.

Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It doesn’t mean you stop looking for ways to return to health.

It means you stop fighting, stop struggling, and get on with the business of living your life, even if you have limitations you didn’t expect or want.

Acceptance is saying “I’m okay,” and really meaning it.

Ten or so years ago I had my first massage session with one of the few people I’ve ever met who I would ever call truly wise. His name is Karl, and after working on my knotted & tense body for an hour or two, he left me a limp puddle. When I could bring myself to move again (I could have floated in that amazing place of relaxation forever), I got dressed, and he met me at the door on my way out.

Karl gently told me two things I never forgot, as I left that day.

The first was that he gets feelings & impressions when he works on someone, and he thought the first thing I should do was decide if I wanted to be here or not – that my soul was only loosely attached to my body because despite being around 40 years old, I’d never quite decided. I was absolutely shocked & astounded, because this was absolutely true, and yet was something I’d never dared tell anyone, and never even really admitted to myself.

The second thing he told me was that he had many clients with chronic illness, but the ones who did the best were the ones that accepted that they were ill and may not get physically better. Those who could come to the point of acceptance sometimes had incredible improvements in their health, though some did not. Either way, they were better off, and acceptance was the key.

It has taken me ten years, nearly, and as usual, I had to find my way to true understanding on my own. No articles ever helped – they sometimes just confused me more.

Remember that amber I told you about sanding? That amber was my key. I did a meditation and journey with the amber, and “visited” the world where it was formed. Amber is tree resin – that obnoxious sticky stuff you get on your hand when you reach out and touch a pine tree (I bet you thought that was sap since I did, too, but resin differs in that it’s on the outside of the tree).

That sticky resin became amber over the course of 20 to 200 million years. The trees it came from are long extinct. And yet, the amber continues.

Why did this matter? Because I believe there is no life that does not have a soul or spirit to animate it. Not a blade of grass. Not a dog or cat or caribou. Our souls go from one life to the next and the next and the next.

True life – the life of our soul – never ends.

This life, this one where I have struggled & fought against chronic illness for 20 years, is but one of many. A precious gift, not to be wasted – instead, I needed to see it in perspective, see & feel the immense and grand sweep of time that life has existed on our beautiful Mother Earth, and see this one life for what it really is: a classroom. A place I came to learn important lessons as my soul evolves & grows.

Lessons like acceptance, and finding clarity in darkness.

Finally, I understand.