Monday, December 8, 2008

The Sweater

It is the third of December. I sit by my Dad’s bedside holding his hand and watching him breathe, holding my breath as his stops for several seconds, only exhaling when he finally takes another faltering breath. I count: ten seconds of silence followed by a gasping breath, then fifteen seconds of shallow noisy breathing. Over and over the cycle repeats. His mouth opens and closes with a little pop on each exhale—“guppy breathing” the Hospice nurse calls it.

His left hand reaches up, as if grasping for something—or maybe pushing something away. I read to him: Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I wonder if the stories penetrate his mind, if even my voice reaches him. There is no change in his breathing and no apparent response. Still, I read because at least it feels like I’m doing something.

I see both of my brother’s faces in his, but I do not see my own. I used to see my eyes in his, but his eyes remain closed most of the time now. Even when open, the once clear blue eyes are now cloudy gray and focused on some other place and time than the room in which we sit. A few weeks ago, when he was still somewhat communicative, my Dad insisted that my brother Ray had been to visit. Ray died in August 2000. I tell my Dad Ray’s gone, he’s been gone a long time. “Gone where?” my Dad wants to know. When I suggest he may have visited from “the other side,” my Dad rolls his eyes as if I am the demented one. But this day, and for the last many days, there is no communication. Just this labored breathing.

A part of me is impatient for this to be over. This is not living. What part of him still holds on and why? I have recently been reassured that Cameron will be there for him when the time comes to cross over. I tell my Dad this—that Cameron will be there, that Ray will be there, that everything will be alright. I tell him he doesn’t have to fight anymore. He can relax. His work is over. I tell him—promise him—that it will be wonderful and peaceful where he’s going. I don’t know if my words get through. If they do, I imagine once again I’m getting an eye roll.

And then, remarkably, he rallies. For the past few days, he’s been more alert. He’s been able to eat a little. He’s been able to communicate minimally with one-word questions and answers: What? Why? Yes. No.

Perhaps I have been pushing too hard for him to let go. Perhaps he’s not as ready as I think I would be in his position. I am not expecting him to “recover”—his dementia is too far along for that kind of optimism. But maybe he’ll still be here for my birthday. Maybe he’ll still be here for Christmas. Who knows?

This watching and waiting, not knowing from one day to the next how he’ll be or if he’ll still be with us, is so draining. I wish there was something I could do that might make this easier for him.

I remember a fall evening when I was 13. I was really a wicked child at that age, all full of rebellion and contrariness. My mother and I fought constantly and I thought nothing of swearing at her and calling her every foul name I could think of. Somehow, my Dad always managed to stay out of it. I was already drinking and smoking at that age, unbeknownst to my parents.

This particular evening, I’d gone to a neighborhood carnival about a mile away from home with a friend of mine. We weren’t really interested in the carnival, but it made a good excuse for getting out of the house. I’d been there about an hour, hanging out and smoking cigarettes, when it started to get a little windy. I was just sitting there with my friend on a parking curb with a cigarette dangling from my hand when I heard my Dad’s voice behind me. “Do you need that to keep you warm?”

I jumped and dropped the cigarette. Shit! Caught smoking. And here was my Dad making some sarcastic remark about staying warm. I figured I was in for it now. I stood and turned to face him, and found he was simply holding out my sweater. He’d made a special trip over just to bring me my sweater because it was getting windy and chilly. I don’t know if he’d seen the cigarette in my hand, but it would have been hard to miss. At any rate, he never said a thing about it. Just handed me my sweater and went back home.

Somehow that evening stands out in my mind as one of my warmest (no pun intended) memories of Dad. That was his way—to gently provide simple comfort and security without getting caught up in the angst and drama of my teenage years. He was watching me make a transition from his baby girl to this wild and angry teenager. He was watching me make mistakes and bad decisions, but biting his tongue and letting me find my own way. He was letting me go and bringing me a sweater to keep me warm, all at the same time.

Oh, Daddy. I wish I had a magic sweater for you right now. Some perfect combination of holding on and letting go that could keep you warm and safe as you make this final transition. Because I can’t go with you, any more than you could go with me during those painful teenage years. I can only stand behind you, watching, and offering the warmth of my love.

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Here's Your Sign. . .

Perhaps some of you are familiar with the Blue Collar Comedy crew: Jeff Foxworthy et al. One of my favorite bits is Bill Engvall’s “Here’s your sign.” It’s the punch line he uses after telling a joke about some stupid thing somebody did – a reference to his suggestion that stupid people ought to have to wear a sign so that we’d know better than to ask them for help or advice. If you’ve never seen Bill Engvall, you might want to spend the three minutes it takes to watch this YouTube clip before reading any further. My story will make a lot more sense if you do.

I’ve been working on the inaugural issue of a monthly newsletter for The Deep Water Leaf Society. (Sign up to receive your own copy here.) Along with a short article or two, I thought it would be nice each month to highlight a book or a person or some other kind of resource that could help people journey through their grief. For this first issue, I wanted to highlight Jamie Clark, the medium I write about in my book. I am so grateful for the session I had with him about a year after my son Cameron’s death and I know that he could help others to find peace as well. So I arranged to have a brief phone interview with him a few days ago.

We spoke for about 30 minutes. As I tried to ask Jamie pertinent interview questions, like when he first knew he had a gift and how long he’s been doing readings for people, Cameron kept butting in (through Jamie) with various comments and things he wanted me to know. It was nice to know Cameron was around, and it was good to hear the things he had to say. For instance, that he’d be there to help my Dad (who is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease) cross over when the time comes. That was something I’d been asking of him for some time. But it was kind of hard to keep the flow of the interview going smoothly as Jamie would pop up with these things from Cameron every couple of minutes.

We also talked a little about my own abilities to tune into messages from Cameron and how I tend to dismiss so much of what comes to me. I confided to Jamie that I hadn’t felt as connected to Cameron recently and that even my dream state had been changing and becoming rather more chaotic and rather less clearly helpful than usual. Jamie assured me that the connection was still there and that I just needed to get out of my own way.

Toward the end of our conversation, Jamie said, “There’s going to be a validation coming soon. It’s going to be a sign and it’s going to involve a butterfly. So watch for that.”

I made a mental note, but I kind of dismissed it because usually Cameron speaks to me through dreams or through music or through heart shaped shells and stones. Butterflies have not been, or at least have not seemed to be, one of the signs he gives me.

After our phone call, I had to get busy preparing for a book selling event coming up the next day. I needed to print some flyers and gather some props for the table I’d be setting up. I wanted to display a copy of the recent newspaper article that featured me and my book. I had a copy mounted on a piece of foam core board, but I needed an easel to prop it up.

The image of a small wooden easel that I have popped into my mind. That would work perfectly. I had just had that easel in my hands a few weeks ago. I had taken it down from the picture it held on the fireplace mantel to use it for something else. I could not for the life of me remember what that something else was.

Think, Claire, think,” I exhorted myself. “You just had it in your hands. What did you do with it?” It drives me crazy when I can’t remember what I did with something, and it seems to be happening more and more often as I get older. “Come on, Stupid, what did you do with it?

I remembered that I had been cleaning and reorganizing the living room when I’d taken the easel down from the mantel in the family room. I’d wanted to use it for something in the living room. But what? I went into the living room and looked all around—end tables, bookshelves, the china cabinet in the adjoining dining room. “What did I use if for?

I didn’t see it anywhere and I had no clue what I’d wanted it for. I gave up in frustration. I decided to go to Staple’s and get the paper stock I needed for my flyers. Maybe they’d have an easel there that would work, although it galled me to think of buying a new one when I had a perfectly good one somewhere around here.

A short time later, leaving the store with my paper goods, I realized I’d forgotten to look for an easel while I was in the store. I was feeling rushed and frazzled as it was already evening and I still had to print the flyers. “Never mind,” I thought. “I’ll just find some other way to stand the stupid article up.”

Driving home, it suddenly occurred to me: I’d used the wooden easel to stand a beaded ceramic butterfly up on my bookshelves. The butterfly is so large that the easel isn’t really visible behind it. I’d looked right at it and it just hadn’t connected. Then I remembered what Jamie had said about a sign coming up with a butterfly.

I could hear Bill Engvall’s country accented voice saying, “Here’s your sign!”

I laughed all the way home, a deep belly laughter the likes of which I haven’t enjoyed in a very long time.

Thanks, Cameron. Thanks, Jamie. I needed that!

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Navigating Change

I can’t believe it’s November! Halloween has come and gone and a historic election day is behind us, but I’m still wondering where September and October went!

October was a busy month with the release of The Deep Water Leaf Society finally becoming a reality. I attended a writer’s conference in Tucson the last weekend in September and that marked the official release of the book as I received my first box of printed copies just in time to take them with me.

Most of the workshops I attended were about marketing, promotion and branding. One of the workshop leaders began by saying, “Once your book has been written, your fulltime job is now marketing.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear as I much prefer writing to marketing. I left the conference with a list of about 50 “must do” items and a feeling of overwhelm.

Once I arrived home, it was time to ship out all the pre-orders. A GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all of you who ordered the book in advance. I had shipped out or hand delivered nearly 70 copies of the book by mid-October.

I even managed to get one or two items checked off of my “must do” list for promotion and marketing, one of which landed me a feature article in the East Valley Tribune’s Spiritual Life section.

Then it was off to the El Rocio Retreat in Mission, Texas, to present a workshop and hold my first “official” book signing event. This was really special because El Rocio is the home of the Creative Journal Expressive Arts program, which was my lifeline during my journey through grief.

My workshop, “Altared Futures,” focused on the process of transformation. Each participant created an altar in three pieces: the first piece expressing and exploring a current loss or challenge, the second piece identifying and honoring whatever means of support might help them through the change, and the third envisioning the positive transformation that would come from the experience.

The essential message of “Altared Futures” is that no matter what kind of change we are facing, and no matter whether that change was one of our own choosing, we do have a choice about where and how we go forward from the change point.

There was a point in my own healing journey, after losing my oldest son to a drug overdose, when I realized very clearly that I could choose to allow my grief to define me for the rest of my life, or I could choose to define my experience in a new light. I could choose to remain angry, bitter and depressed, or I could choose to reclaim joy. This choice is very much at the heart of the story I tell in The Deep Water Leaf Society.

Here in the U.S. we find ourselves at the doorway of change. Last night, Barack Obama, was elected to serve as the first African American president in our history. For the first time in eight years, a democrat will once again lead our nation. For some of you, this change came by choice – you voted for Obama. For others of you, this change came against your will – you voted for his opponent. For yet others of you, this change arrived by default – you didn’t vote, by choice or because you weren’t eligible to vote.

Regardless of your choice status in the election, the change has arrived. It’s up to you how it comes to affect your life. Senator McCain set a wonderful tone in his concession speech last night. Obviously, Obama’s victory came not by choice for McCain. And yet he immediately began to quiet the “boos” of the crowd and to emphasize unity, cooperation and support for his former opponent. He envisioned a positive future for himself, for his supporters and for this nation. He emphasized moving quickly past the inevitable disappointment into positive, future-oriented action.

Change is a challenge, even when it comes by choice. Obama will certainly face major changes in his personal life as he works to implement the changes he wishes to bring to our country. Serving as president is a huge responsibility to shoulder and carries with it an enormous amount of stress. Obama’s acceptance speech was equally positive and hopeful. Like McCain, he immediately sought to put divisiveness behind us and begin to envision a brighter future.

This is a choice we can all make in the face of ANY change. This is what my grief taught me. Certainly the loss of a loved one has a different quality of pain than the loss of an election. I am not suggesting that you can or should put the pain and grief of the loss of a loved one behind you in a day’s time, or a week’s time or any specific timeframe. Yet, at some point, you will begin to recognize where your choice points are. Every day, you will have the opportunity to choose between focusing on a past that’s gone or focusing on a future that is yours to shape.

Whether this election is a “win” or a “lose” for you, is totally up to you. You can make of it what you will. And whatever losses you have experienced in your life, your future is up to you. Dream big. Choose joy. And to paraphrase Obama’s tag line: YES YOU CAN.

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

As always, I welcome your comments and invite you to visit my website,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dancing with Fear

We had a great thunderstorm here a few nights ago. The flashing, crashing, wildly chaotic symphony of lightning, thunder and wind had the trees in my backyard swaying and gyrating in ecstasy. They seemed to revel in the chaos of it all, even though wind and lightning can often lead to their demise. Just within the past couple of weeks, two large parks in my area lost hundreds of trees each in microburst storms with winds up to 100 miles an hour. Our wind here the other night was not nearly so powerful, yet my trees seemed to move with frenzied anticipation of just such a possibility. It didn’t seem to me that they feared that eventuality. Instead they seemed to just dance with the amazing energy of it all. They soaked in the ion-charged rain water, which somehow greens them more quickly and dramatically than any drip system or garden hose can.

I have a Night-Blooming Cereus cactus in my front yard that blooms in profusion after each rain, no matter the season. After a good rain you can expect to see a dozen new blooms the next morning. No matter how much I water it by hand, that never happens. Only the rain can bring on that burst of growth.

Like the trees, I’ve always reveled in the rain—especially the monsoon storms here in this desert land. Maybe back east or up north where the rains tend to come too consistently it is easier to grow tired of the downpours. And obviously the hurricanes that have battered our coasts are another kind of storm altogether. My prayers are with everyone in Galveston and the Houston area as Ike bears down upon them. But here in the desert where, in recent years, the storms have been too few and far between, every drop is a blessing and a miracle.

I used to run barefoot and fully dressed into the soaking downpours when I was a child, heedless of the lightning. Now my adult self keeps the inner child in check, ensconced beneath my patio roof admiring the wet and the wind from dry safety. The child in me still wants to run out into it and dance the same frenzied dance as the trees.

I may be hiding out high and dry these days, but storms like this still energize me. Perhaps it’s the blend of Sagittarius (a fire sign) and water baby (I grew up in a swimming pool and love the ocean) in me that makes the fabulous mix of fire and water in the sky so mesmerizing. There is something so primal about a thunderstorm. It’s all sound and fury, wildness and chaos followed by the gift of rain which the hungry desert soil soaks up and turns into new life.

Sitting outside through this last storm put me in mind of an experience I had earlier this week. Each morning I walk to the park that is not far from my house. Once there, I pause to meditate for a few minutes on a bench by the playground before walking back home. This particular morning as I sat with my eyes closed, I heard voices approaching. As they drew nearer I could hear an excited child’s voice begging, “Grandma, push me on the swing. Push me really high!” Grandmother tells the child to hang on tight and soon I hear the little voice squealing with fear and with pleasure, “Oh, oh, oh! I’m going to die! I’m going to die!” Grandma slows the swing down and starts to calm the child, but immediately the child cries, “Push me again!”

What is it, I wonder, that continually draws us to the edge of our fear? What is it that we relish in that experience of dancing with winds that might topple us? We go to the edge and we back away, but we are drawn back to that edge again and again.

I think it may be exactly what we come here to experience: our ability to press through our fears seeking the next level of what we can cope with, assimilate, understand and grow from. When the things we fear most come to pass, we find that instead of falling apart we emerge stronger and clearer in our own Truth.

The fear of dying is on my mind a lot these days. My Dad’s health is failing and I’m watching him and Mom struggle with the letting go. It seems simpler to me than it used to, having lost Cameron and then realizing I hadn’t lost him at all. I suppose it is the biggest fear we ever face – our own mortality or the mortality of someone we love. But I am so certain that we really aren’t mortal at all. We are eternally evolving souls with so many stories to live. Like the trees, we can dance with the threat of death and grow stronger and greener by doing so. Like the little child on the swing, we can swing higher and higher until we are brave enough to just let go and fly.

When my day comes, I plan to run into the storm gleefully, barefoot and fully dressed. I will dance with my fear and awaken full of new blossoms, full of new life.

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Transferred Visions

Recently I spent a week in Dream Teacher Training with Robert Moss at the beautiful and peaceful Mosswood Hollow retreat center in Duvall, Washington. It was so great to be able to step out of the pace of everyday living and immerse myself in the dreaming for a full week. To reconnect with nature. To reconnect with my deeper self. To reconnect with friends made last year and meet new friends. And to remember and remind myself how important dreaming is.

One focus of our week was to dream new ways of healing. We practiced vision transfer, a process in which one journeys via the shamanic drum and retrieves a healing vision for another. I reconnected with my friend from an earlier dream workshop who had gifted me with a powerful vision that helped me to write The Deep Water Leaf Society. Without that transferred vision, I don’t think I would have completed the book. Here’s how it happened, about a year and a half ago . . .

I had told Lisa very little about myself or my book at the time. I simply told her I wanted to write a book on grieving. I explained that I was feeling very stuck and feeling as though during any time I spent writing I was letting innumerable other more “important” things go undone. I was conflicted about several other goals and paths and I felt that time and dedication to the book would prevent me from pursuing them. She agreed to retrieve a vision that would help me to get unblocked and move forward with my project.

As the drumming began, I sat quietly, holding the intention of completing my book. Lisa rode the drumming into the place of dreams and visions. The drumming took her to a vision of a large outdoor fire around which many people sat. She saw me sitting at the place of honor, dressed in buckskin and a feather cape. A woman walked into the circle carrying a bundle in her arms. This woman, she told me, was the embodiment of Kachina Woman (a rock formation in Sedona). Kachina Woman dropped the bundle into the fire and smoke rose into the sky. Then she came and stood by me, holding out her arms. She said to me, “My arms are empty now. I can hold for you whatever you feel you might be missing while you write. It will be in my arms, ready for you to reclaim when your work is done.”

I pulled a feather from my cape and began to write words into the smoke. Then everyone around the fire was healed by the smoke rising from the bundle she had dropped into the flames and the words I wrote in it. They came forward, one by one, and dropped their own bundles into the flame. They thanked me and honored me for the healing I had brought them.

As Lisa told me what she’d seen, I was moved to tears. The feather cape I wore in her vision was a cape I had retrieved in an earlier vision that same day, when I’d traveled into space and connected with the Archangel Raphael, protector of humanity and healer of hearts. I had not told Lisa of that vision, and I was amazed that she had retrieved the same imagery. The fire and smoke also mirrored some of my earlier journeying. As she spoke of the smoke rising from the fire, I felt Cameron’s presence with me strongly. It seemed that the fire was my grief and the smoke was its transformation. It seemed the smoke was the remaining presence of Cameron and that he would be helping me to tell our story. I told Lisa all of this and explained to her that I had lost my son and that it was the grief of that loss I wanted to write about.

She said, “I didn’t want to say this before, because it seemed so odd and kind of creepy, but the bundle that Kachina Woman dropped into the fire was a baby.”

We both sat stunned and awed by the power of this vision. When I came home, I found a photo of Kachina Woman on the internet and set it as the background on my computer monitor so that she would be there, holding whatever I needed her to hold, as I wrote the book. I held in my mind the vision of all these other people finding healing from grief, of my story somehow helping them to do that. That is still my hope.

It’s easy to retrieve a healing vision for someone else. Here’s how:

  1. Create a sacred and safe space in which to journey. You can do this by calling on whatever healing and protective powers you feel connected to – God, angels, the Light, your power animals, the directions or anything else that works for you. You might wish to light a candle or use some other ceremony.
  2. Have the person you’ll be journeying for tell you, briefly, about a situation in their life for which they’d like to receive a healing vision. Have them paint a picture of the situation with their words so that you get a sense of their feelings about it. (In the above story, I told Lisa how frustrated I felt about all the other things that wouldn’t get done if I focused on writing the book as well as my uncertainty about the value of what I had to say.)
  3. Have the person you’ll be journeying for summarize and distill what they’ve said into a simple intention they can hold in their mind while you journey for them. (Mine was, “I want help to complete my book.”)
  4. Get into a comfortable position for journeying. Either lie down or sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Hold the intention that you are journeying to retrieve a healing vision for your partner.
  5. Using shamanic drumming (either by drumming yourself, having someone drum for you, or playing a recording of shamanic drumming), allow yourself to ride the drum sound as you pay close attention to what you see, feel, hear or intuit. The person for whom you are journeying simply sits quietly holding their intention. Fifteen minutes of drumming should be an adequate amount of time.
  6. When you return from the journey, take a few moments to write down your perceptions. If you feel like you “got nothing,” then make something up!! Your imagination has been primed by the drumming and you will be able to craft a helpful and healing story. Don’t second guess yourself.
  7. Gift your vision to your partner by telling the story vividly and with conviction.
  8. Ask your partner if there is any part of the vision they’d like to claim as their own. Have your partner retell as much of the story as they wish to claim in their own words. They can add into the story any personal connections they may have felt as you gave them the story. This retelling and saying the words out loud is an important step, because by doing so your partner will be claiming the power of the story as their own. (I claimed all of Lisa’s beautiful story and added to it the idea that Cameron would be in the smoke, helping me to write.)
  9. Ask your partner what action they will take to honor the healing vision. Dreams and visions require action to work their magic in your life. (My action steps were to find a statue or picture of Kachina Woman that I could keep in my writing space and to call on her when I felt distracted by other things or guilty about my writing time.)

It was great to reconnect with Lisa this past week and to have an opportunity to let her know how powerfully her vision had worked in my life. Never underestimate the power of dreams to heal and transform. And never underestimate your own power as a dreamer and a storyteller. Your words can heal others and help them to find their way.

Thank you, Lisa, for helping me to find mine!

Lisa's business is called DreamSync and she offers counseling and support with dream circles, decisionmaking, tracking synchronicity, imaginal healing and dream journaling. I hope you'll check out her beautiful website at

Wishing you peace on the journey . . .

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pre-Order The Deep Water Leaf Society Today!

We are rolling right along with the final steps to getting The Deep Water Leaf Society in print. The cover design is complete, the back cover text is finalized and Paul is just finishing up some final tweaks to the inside artwork and layout. Not even some significant health challenges could prevent him from seeing this through. I want to publically thank him for going above and beyond to make this happen. I finally received the last of my lyric reprint licenses, so no outside forces are holding us back. We are on target for our September 15 release date. This baby is ready to be born!!

Check out the “Buy the Book” page at the website ( for links to download “sneak peek” chapters. The Preface and Chapter 1 are already available, and Chapter 2 will be posted on Saturday, September 23. Make sure you pre-order your copy of the book right away while you can still get the 30% discount! (Offer expires September 12, 2008).

And as long as you are browsing the web, check out my new movie version of “Risking Everything” (the poem I included in my last post) on YouTube.

I’ll post more about my experiences at Dream Teacher Training, which inspired the poem, in a few days.

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

Monday, August 18, 2008

Risking Everything

At Mosswood Hollow during Dream Teacher Training this past week, Robert Moss gave us a series of questions to ponder that would help us to define and connect to our Personal Truth. One of the questions he posed was, “What would you risk everything to defend?” He drummed as we each journeyed to find our own personal answer to that question.

As he drums, I discover that I am unable to answer the question. In the space where I am looking for answers, I find more questions, like, “What does it mean to defend?” and “What does it mean to risk everything?”

If I risk everything to defend something, am I not also risking the very thing I claim to defend? Am I mincing words? Is it just semantics? Perhaps it is the word “defend” that bothers me, as I have been, in recent years, so focused on letting go and practicing non-attachment. “Defend” sounds like hanging on, to me. It sounds like fighting and posturing and the opposite of allowing. Is it wimpy and ineffective to defend nothing? Does it mean that nothing is important to me? Not at all. There is much of beauty and innocence in this world that I would defend, to some degree, but not at the cost of greater potentials that I cannot see. My own sense of what’s right and important, my own sense of “how things should be,” may be very limited compared to what is possible. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it is that the bleakest of situations, those against which we kick and scream, often carry the biggest gifts if we will only open our hearts and hands enough to let go of whatever we’re holding so tightly.

The question annoys me and leaves me stirred up—and therefore it is an important question. The question holds a paradox—and therefore it is a sacred question.

The question hangs with me through the rest of the day, and on into the next. I begin to see all around me, in this peaceful 40-acre retreat center, how nature’s creatures move quietly through the process of letting go, always on the border of becoming something new, not defending any current forms but spiraling through a constant state of metamorphosis.

Eventually, the following words came through . . .

Risking Everything

What would you risk everything to defend, he asks?
An odd question to ponder
In this land of the antevasin
In this sacred hollow
Where dreamers walk between the worlds
Where mortars turn to thunder and shrapnel turns to rain
Where pond skaters dance in perfect concentricity
Balanced on the tension between sunlight and water’s deep
Where abundant lilies hang heavy with seed
Their suckling roots digging deep
Into muddy mysteries at water’s edge
Where tadpoles lazily dream their tadpole dreams
Never imagining the wonder of the legs to come
Where bees rise, pollen laden, to carry their treasure
Across the green sea of meadow to foreign shores
Where blossoms morph into berries
Which will fatten Bear for winter
Where leaves, just now,
Are trying on their richest gowns
Anticipating their date with Autumn
When they will dance,
Giddily and freely,
Into the unknown

The Gatekeeper here,
In this land of border dwellers,
Is an ancient Tree Spirit who,
Becomes the bulwark for that which will,
One day soon,
Swallow her
Even now, her piney juices
Flow freely into alien veins
Berry Vine
Their probing tendrils reach beneath her ancient bark
To harvest her deepest secrets
And make them their own

She is Life swallowed by Life
Life becoming Life
Feeling no fear in her becomingness
Savoring the cool protective verdancy
Of her cocoon
Not knowing, or caring,
If wings are in the offing

It’s not the risk of everything that bothers me
It is the word DEFEND that feels so foreign here
From what is anything to be defended or protected
When nothing is ever lost, but only transformed?

I’d rather ask,
What am I willing to ALLOW at the cost of everything?
What am I willing to risk to dream at the edge of becoming?
An antevasin, a border dweller
Defending nothing, savoring everything
With heart and hands open and ready to release
As I continually wake from one marvelous dream
Into the next

View a video version of this poem at

Wishing you peace on the journey . . .

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book News!

I have exciting news on the publishing front! My book cover design has been completed and it's gorgeous! I want to thank my designer, Kristen Ernst, who did an amazing job translating my thoughts and feelings into art. She also has a fabulous line of numerology T-shirts that you should check out at Anyhow, here's the cover (drum roll please!)

More exciting news is that I've finally resolved the lyric licensing for all but one song and I should have an answer on that one any day now. That means that the book is just about ready for release. During the first week of August, I will have free preview chapters available for download on my website, By the middle of August I hope to have the pre-publication ordering process in place. You will be able to order the book at a deep discount when you order and pay in advance. The book will then be shipped to you as soon as it's available, which should be by the 1st of September.

This project has been a bit like giving birth, and at this point I feel like I'm about 6 weeks overdue! I'll be so excited to finally get this baby out! So, help me breathe through these last labor pains and get ready to welcome this story from my heart. May it bring peace and healing to other grieving hearts.

As always, I wish you peace on the journey.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Looking through the Window to the Other Side

I just left the hospital where I went to visit my father, who is 84 and suffering from progressive dementia. It is such a sad thing to see his brilliant mind fading into that gray zone of confusion and disconnection. There is a different kind of grief that comes with this slow, daily losing of him that I sometimes feel is even more painful than was the sudden loss of my son. There is a constant waiting for the inevitable and the wondering each time I prepare to go see him how he'll be today - will he know me? I wonder sometimes at the tenacity of the body when the mind seems so ready to let go and move out of this life. I find myself drained and numbed after today's visit. Perhaps in a day or two, I will be ready to write more about this process of watching a loved one slowly fade, but my visit to Dad today reminded me of an essay I wrote last year when my mother was in that same hospital. I share that with you now:

At eighty-five years old, my mother is in the hospital for the second time in as many weeks. She is weak and tired and more than a little frightened. At the age of eighty, her kidneys failed. She’s been a dialysis patient for five years now, and while it’s given her new life it has also been hard on her body and spirit. Heart problems, pneumonia and now a GI bleed have required these most recent hospitalizations.

She lies in her hospital bed looking out the small window. The angle of the bed is such that what view there might be is mostly blocked by the outer wall of the building. She stares off into the small slice of sky that remains visible and asks me what I can see from my vantage point in the chair opposite her bed. I tell her it’s not much – the parking lot and some trees in the distance.

She tells me about an old TV program she’s reminded of. In the program, she says, two men share a hospital room. One man’s bed gives him a view out the window and the other’s does not. The man by the window is always telling the other man what he sees: children playing, beautiful trees, a grassy meadow filled with flowers. As the months go by, the man without the view grows extremely jealous and eventually he murders the other man in order to get his bed so he can see the view for himself. Having done so he finds that outside that window there is only a wall. All along, it seems, the other man was imagining all those beautiful things.

She goes on to recall some other hospital stay long ago where she had to do physical therapy on a treadmill and a stationary bike in front of a window that overlooked a field full of cows. She can’t recall when and where that was. How odd, she says, for a hospital to be out in the middle of nowhere like that. I have no idea what she’s talking about. It could be a fantasy, a real memory, or a combination of memories from different times and places combined into one.

My mother remembers such odd things now - things from long, long ago. But she forgets what happened yesterday, or even this morning. She’s forgotten why she’s in the hospital. Last week she told the home care nurse that she moved into the Beatitudes, an assisted living facility, right after she and my dad retired and sold the house. There were at least twenty-five years of experiences between those two events that, for the moment at least, she seems to have forgotten. Time runs in circles and folds over upon itself in the workings of her mind. She doesn’t remember this morning, but she remembers that TV show about the view from the window from decades past.

As she sleeps, I read a book by the psychic, Sylvia Browne. It’s called Life on the Other Side and it outlines what the world beyond death is like, based on Sylvia’s own near-death experience, the departed souls she’s connected with, and the stories of the many, many people she’s regressed to past lives and the lives in between. She describes a fascinating place of beauty and continued learning, a place where we understand everything we’ve experienced in all our lifetimes and where we can choose what lessons and experiences we want to undertake in our next lifetime on Earth. In this place, which she calls “Home,” we can be with everyone we’ve ever loved and every other soul we are connected to. When we are Home, we have an immediate and visceral experience of God’s love for us. There is no fear, doubt or confusion. Reading her words brings me deep peace and reaffirms the conclusions I’ve been coming to since Cameron’s death. Our real selves, our souls, never die. Love never dies. Separation between this world and the next is an illusion.

It strikes me that my mother’s memory of that TV show, apparently triggered by her limited view out the window, may in fact be signaling a deeper longing in her to know not just what’s outside her hospital room window, but what’s on the other side of this life.

We never talk of such things. In my family, the subject of death is taboo. So far, I haven’t been brave enough to be the one to open the conversation. There seems to be an unwritten law that says if you don’t speak of death it won’t happen. And there seems to be a lot of fear around the subject of death. I think this is not just true within my family, but a part of the collective consciousness. Would we fear death and dying so much if we knew, really knew in our hearts, that death is not an ending but simply a transition from one living state to another?

My parents had the idea that once you reach eighty, you start to fall apart. And, like clockwork, that’s what happened. My mother’s kidneys failed a few months after her eightieth birthday. My father is a few years younger. He turned eighty a week after Cameron died and a few months later suffered a series of small strokes that whittled away some part of his previously brilliant mind and left him struggling to find the right words for simple, every day things.

We don’t expect to outlive our children and certainly not our grandchildren. My parents have outlived one of each. My brother, their oldest child, died at the age of fifty in August 2000. A few years later when Cameron died, they lost a grandson. And since we never talk about death or dying, I have no idea how either of those events affected them. As I observe my parents now, I can only guess how much their decline has to do with aging and how much with unexpressed grief and the gnawing fear that death is an enemy to be conquered rather than an adventure to be embraced.

More than my parents’ eventual passing, I fear and resent having to watch their slow collapse. It is too reminiscent of Cameron’s years of self-destruction and seems even less fair since there is no apparent level of choice or will involved. Their deterioration seems to be happening to them through no choice of their own. Once again, I find myself asking God, “Why do you keep giving me stuff that I can’t fix?”

And perhaps the answer is, so I can learn that it is not mine to fix at all. It could be that this is the true challenge of faith: to see things as they are and not judge them as broken, but know them as perfect at the level of Divine Order.

Sylvia Browne speaks of our “chart” – the plan we make before incarnating here. Others, like Carolyne Myss have called it a contract. I can believe in such a thing. I think we do devise a plan that maps out, if not the specific experiences we will have, at least the outline of the lessons we wish to learn or the difference we wish to make while we are here. It can be hard to fathom the purpose of suffering, but perhaps it is an integral part of our journey.

It can be hard to accept that we chose to experience the pain we have in our lives. But it seems to me we may have chosen it so that our hearts can be cracked open, thereby allowing more love to flow through them into this world. We can choose to react to the painful passages in our lives from fear or from love. I’ve learned to ask myself, “What would love do? What is the loving response?” The answer isn’t always clear.

I think that in this case, love would overcome fear and break the unwritten taboo. It would speak of death and dying with gentle and hopeful words. Love would speak with passion and conviction about the children playing, the beautiful trees and the grassy meadow filled with flowers that wait on the other side even though, temporarily, there may be a wall blocking that view. Love would see through that wall to the truth beyond it. Love would tear down whatever walls fear has built and expose dying for what it really is – the soul’s heartfelt and joyful homecoming.

As always, I wish you peace on the journey.

Please visit my website, for more information on the upcoming release of my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society: Harnessing the Transformative Power of Grief.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Creating Meaning

I’ve been listening to a set of CDs a friend of mine loaned me. It’s a recording of Bill Harris from Centerpointe Research Institute presenting information at a retreat. Harris is the developer of Holosync® audio meditation technology—a system that promises to have you “meditating like a Zen monk” in no time at all. The technology works by delivering two different sound frequencies, one through each ear, as the listener relaxes while wearing headphones. The “binaural” signal stimulates the brain to create meditational levels of brainwaves—alpha and delta. I haven’t used the Holosync® CDs, so I cannot vouch for their effectiveness, but I am finding that Bill Harris has some very interesting and profound things to say.

While taking my morning walk earlier this week, I was listening to the Harris CDs when I suddenly heard him saying that “nothing that happens in our lives has any inherent meaning.” That really annoyed me, and for a moment I wanted to argue that if nothing has any meaning, then what’s the point? It had been a very crucial part of my healing process after my son Cameron died to search for the meaning in his life and his death and our often troubled relationship. Finding some meaning in all of that seemed to be the only way for me to make peace with my loss. If he just lived and died and there was no meaning in that, then why did he have to suffer so much in his life and why did I have to suffer so much in my relationship with him? For me, the only satisfying answers to those huge WHY questions involve meaning. I have to believe there is meaning.

Just as I was getting mentally worked up about this, in the span of just a second or two, he then said, “and so we get to create the meaning.” I had one of those “Aha!” moments. Through all my ups and downs, through all the journaling and soul searching, through all the amazing experiences I was drawn toward and into and through in the years after Cameron’s death, I had thought I was searching for meaning, but I was really creating meaning. And somehow, that’s even more powerful because there’s so much more freedom in that. If we create the meaning behind and around the things that happen in our lives, then it is our choice what meaning to create.

As I mulled that over I realized that’s exactly what I had done and exactly what my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society, is about. We often have no choice at all about the things that happen in our lives. Shit happens and we have to deal with it. But how we deal with it defines who we become. And there is always a choice in how we deal with it.

I actually think that’s the great gift in traumatic loss: we get to decide what it means; we get to decide who we are in the face of it; we get to choose whether to become a victim to loss or claim our personal power and freedom from it; we get to choose between pain and peace. We get to choose.

As always, I welcome your comments, here on the blog or via email. Please visit my website, often and watch for news on the release of the book.

Wishing you peace on the journey…

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Self-Publishing Blues: The Headache of Lyric Licensing

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I’ve been out of the country, traveling to South Africa where I saw zebras and giraffes and elephants up close. I even got to bottle feed a 6-week-old baby lion named Shamba, which was amazing!

While in Africa, I was disconnected: no cell phone service, no Internet, no email. It was kind of nice, actually, as I have been spending an inordinate amount of time on the computer lately. Most of my recent computer activity has revolved around the publishing of my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society: Harnessing the Transformative Power of Grief.

I made the decision to self-publish mostly because of my normal state of impatience. When I discovered that the traditional publishing process would mean a minimum of 18 months before my book might be in print, I decided that was far too long to wait. I wanted to get the book out yesterday!

I found a great consultant, Paul McNeese (see, who knows all the ins and outs of self-publishing and hired him to help me get my book out. When I hired him in March, I was thrilled with his assurance that we could have the book in print by July. And it was absolutely possible. Except for one thing. . .

While he worked on the technical aspects of layout and formatting, I got to work on a task that I thought would be simple: lyric licensing.

My story, as you may recall, is about my journey through grief after losing my son, Cameron, to substance abuse. Very shortly after his death, I began to get messages from him through music. At first it was the songs I’d played at his funeral service that I would hear playing at odd times and in odd places. Usually the songs came either when I’d been thinking about him or when I’d been doing something that was self-nurturing. After a while, I began to suspect that he was communicating with me and I started to ask him things and listen for the next song on the radio. Often, the song that played would bring a clear answer to my question. This musical conversation became a key connection between me and Cameron and made me feel he was always near me.

So, my book is littered with snippets of song lyrics in the context of my healing journey. As I wrote the book, it never really dawned on me that I would need to obtain permission for each and every lyric I had quoted. When Paul explained that I would need to contact the publishers of each song, I still figured it was a simple formality that would not be difficult.


Out of a dozen requests that I sent out on April 8, I have received one flat no and two easy yeses. The rest are all still in limbo. For one song the artist’s lawyer wanted me to agree that all promotional material for the book would require the artist’s 30-day advance approval. That would be a major bottleneck, so I’ve decided to remove that song’s lyrics from the book. The publisher for another artist, from whom I’d quoted three songs, requested a fee of $150 per song for the first 500 books sold, with a renegotiation required after that. Three requests are just now being reviewed, two months after my request was sent. The final two requests have not yet received a reply of any kind.

I have always been a proponent of protecting intellectual property. I believe in playing by the rules. Whether it is music, movies or software, I am opposed to pirating on principle. However, it seems to me that a simple crediting of the source should suffice when a song lyric is an integral part of a non-fiction story. After all, one can quote a small passage from a book without asking permission as long as the quote is referenced accurately, giving credit to the original author and publisher. But for lyrics, it’s a whole different ballgame.

I tried searching the Internet to find what the industry standard is for lyric fees, to no avail. My experience so far is that there is no standard. I have had everything from no fee to a free copy of the book to $150 quoted for the right to reprint lyrics. And the time it takes to get a response has been, with a few notable exceptions, ridiculously long. So long, in fact, that the publication date for the book has been pushed out to September. I am seriously considering rewriting all the sections of the book that contain lyrics, but the problem is that the lyrics carry the message and without quoting them it would be hard to convey the feeling and meaning as clearly.

When I write my next book, though, you can bet that I won’t quote a single lyric. It’s not worth the headaches and delays. You would think that the artists would appreciate the exposure, however small or large it might be, of being publicly acknowledged in print as having been a great source of healing during a time of deep despair. Maybe someone who had not heard their song before would want to hear it and buy the album. It’s not like I’m trying to pass their words off as my own. I have included them because I want to honor them for the role they played in my healing process.

The problem is, I think, that it’s not up to the artist at all. It’s up to the publishing company and their lawyers. I doubt that the artist ever sees any of the fees collected for reprint licensing. My experience so far is that it is the bigger publishing houses that want the large fees and take the longest to process the request. In the few instances where I was able to deal directly with a representative for the artist, the process was quite simple with few strings attached.

I almost wish I’d just gone ahead without asking permission and then claimed ignorance later, when and if anyone caught me out. But I’m too much of a rule follower for that. My husband tells me I’m being punished for doing the right thing. I’m beginning to think he’s right.

As always, I welcome your comments, here on the blog or via email. Please visit my website, often and watch for news on the release of the book.

Wishing you peace on the journey…

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Four Years Today

Today marks the four year anniversary of my son Cameron’s death. Just a month ago, he would have turned 30. As each of these four anniversaries has passed, I’ve been struck by how different each has been. They’ve been different because I’ve been different.

On that first anniversary, I was still coming to terms with the new state of our relationship. I was still carrying a lot of sadness and guilt around the loss. I felt that I’d been getting messages from him—through music on the radio, through my journaling, and through signs in the natural world—but I wasn’t sure I could believe it was true. On May 3rd that year, I released a white balloon with a message to Cameron that I would try to let go of a little more pain and to reclaim a little more joy. Shortly after that anniversary, a powerful meeting with a psychic medium ( convinced me that Cameron was, indeed, still around and still talking to me all the time.

By the second anniversary, I’d progressed from an empty longing to a certainty that Cameron and I were still bound by love and that we could still heal whatever needed healing between us. I’d done some powerful regression work in the past year and discovered that everything I saw as “broken” in him was really something that needed healing in me. I looked back on the past two years and saw that I’d come a long, long way.

After three years, I’d incorporated body work into my healing journey and released significant fear and trauma at the cellular level of my being. I’d cleared a lot of karma with Cameron and vowed that, should we be together again, it would be without all the baggage. I’d also made an amazing trip to Egypt during that year and rediscovered the truth of my being. It was an awakening in which I remembered that love is the only power. That experience allowed me to release my attachment to fear and worry.

During this past year, I have become a grandmother for the first time, and I’ve recognized once again the beauty and perfection of the cycles of life. I spent much of the past year writing The Deep Water Leaf Society, a chronicle of my healing journey. The writing of the book clarified for me the tremendous gift that the loss of Cameron carried within it. I know now that without having experienced this loss I would not be who I am today. I would very likely still be mired in drama and dysfunction, constantly worried about what might happen next.

Today, I am in the midst of self-publishing the book. Even though the release date is still a few months out, I feel like it is a kind of anniversary present to Cameron and to myself. So, in honor of Cameron and in honor of this anniversary, I’m releasing a small sneak peek from the preface and first chapter of the book here on the blog.

From the preface…

My purpose in sharing this story is to show you how grief can become the doorway to awakening. The breaking of your heart can, ultimately, lead you to greater wholeness. The Universe is constantly communicating with us and drawing us forward into better and truer expressions of ourselves. Sometimes it takes the shattering of our known way of being to open our eyes and ears to these messages of hope, healing and growth.

Imagine a leaf floating gracefully down to kiss the surface of a deep still pool, creating gentle ripples that radiate outward. The leaf may appear to be small and alone as it drifts along. But, in truth, it is supported by the vast body of water beneath it. Our lives are a little bit like that leaf. We skim the surface and are tossed about by life’s currents. We rarely take the time to look deeper. We begin to imagine the flat plain of that surface existence is all there is, when all the while we are resting upon a deep well of mystery, magic and eternity. As long as we’re living the life of a Surface Leaf, we may never tap into our deeper Truth unless something comes along and shatters the surface, pulling us down into a deeper reality. That is the initiation of the Deep Water Leaf.


And from the first chapter…

Since childhood, dreams have filled and shaped my life. Sometimes the dreamspace feels more real than waking life and often waking life feels like a dream. Or a nightmare. Where does dreaming leave off and waking begin? What does it mean to wake up, really? How often do we sleepwalk our way through life, missing the extraordinary meaning enfolded in each ordinary moment? It may be that we are more truly awake when we can sense, during our waking hours, the creative magic of the dreamspace all around us.

This is a story about dreaming and about waking up. It is a story about how thin the veil really is between waking and dreaming, between living and dying, between loving and everything else that only masquerades as love. It is a story about letting go and the fullness that comes from doing so.

This is the story of losing my son and finding myself. It begins with a dream. . .

My four-month-old baby has died. I am filled with grief, utterly devastated.
At the funeral, I come to a decision. I will create the “Deep Water Leaf Society” so that others won’t have to go through this same grief. For some reason, that comforts me.
Later, there is something to do with the number seven, and I wake wondering if numbers equal people in my dreams. Seven equals my sister because she was born in July.

At the time, I had little idea what the dream might be telling me. I only knew that it shook me to my core and left me profoundly sad and profoundly hopeful all at once.

The name, Deep Water Leaf Society, was quite clear in the dream. It puzzled me; it was such an odd phrase. What kind of a club would that be? How could creating it help me to feel better? Why had the number seven come up? And why had I assumed that numbers were people?

After recording the dream in my journal, I reread it and noted that if seven represented my sister, maybe the four-month-old baby represented my eldest son, Cameron (no longer a baby, but a young man of 19) since he was born in April. It gave me an uneasy feeling. Was I destined to lose him?

As it would turn out, the number seven was both the clue to the identity of the four-month-old and the timeframe in which the dream story would play out in my waking life.


As always, I welcome your comments, here on the blog or via email. Please visit my website, often and watch for news on the release of the book.

Wishing you peace on the journey…

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's the point?

Okay, so what’s the point of The Deep Water Leaf Society? Believe me, I wondered that myself nearly the whole time I was writing the book. It is a true story, of course. I had the content for it in my journals. I knew I’d had an incredible awakening in the years since my son’s death by drug overdose in 2004, but I was still fuzzy on what it all meant and how it had all unfolded. As I wrote the book of his life and death and my journey in the aftermath, it became clearer and clearer to me that my journey had been an amazing gift—that my son Cameron’s death had been an amazing gift.

Before writing the book, I felt uncomfortable saying that to people. I can see you right now rolling your eyes and wondering what kind of trip I’m on. Or how selfish and heartless I must be to say such a thing. But I’m not. At least, I hope I’m not. I leave it to you to judge.

The thing is, for Cameron’s whole life I wondered what we were doing here together. There was so much drama. So much pain. We loved each other deeply and completely, but it seemed like all we could do was hurt each other. We lived a battle of wills. The more I tried to control him, the more out of control he became. It was, certainly, a dysfunctional relationship. I’m pretty sure they call it “codependence.” But there was no shortage of love, even if it was poorly expressed.

Through it all, I couldn’t help thinking that we must be working out some major karma. I had a feeling, though, that it was more than just the balancing act of karma. I felt like we must have agreed to something – made a contract with each other to do something together. Okay, by the end of this post you’re going to think I’m a classic psychiatric case, but I was convinced we’d come here together to do something big.

So when he died in a most inglorious manner at the ripe young age of 26, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was we’d come here to do and how badly I’d screwed it up. My editor, after reading and editing my manuscript, asked me if maybe what we came here to do together was write this book. It’s true enough that it couldn’t have been written without everything unfolding just as it has. And I think that if the book helps other people through grief, if it helps other people experience transformation and awakening the way I did, then maybe we did good, despite all appearances to the contrary.

Going back to the opening question, what is the point? I think it boils down to this:
  1. Grief is transformational, for better or worse, whether you want it to be or not.
  2. You can let it happen TO you, or you can let it work THROUGH you for awakening and personal growth.
  3. There is great power in choosing to ENGAGE the process, making choices all along the way for healing and empowerment rather than victimhood.
  4. We are WAY BIGGER BEINGS than we think we are and this lifetime is just the tip of the iceberg.
  5. LOVE is all that matters, LOVE is all there is, LOVE never dies.
I welcome your response, here at the blog or at my website:

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What's YOUR Ground Zero?

I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and there’s a part near the beginning where he talks about how often great loss precedes an awakening. And this afternoon I watched a movie called The Moses Code, a Drew Hariot/James Twyman film about the power of the name of God - "I am that I am." It’s filmed like The Secret – interwoven bits of interview with several different and recognizable New Age, self-help voices. One of the messages of the film is about how we’re all connected – all One.

There’s one gentleman in the film who talks about his experience of being at Ground Zero just moments after the Twin Towers fell and how that experience was completely transformational for him. Despite the horror of the moment and the days to come, what he took away from his presence in that place and time was a transcendent experience of Oneness that completely changed his sense of purpose and place in the world.

So these two intellectual inputs – the book and the film – coming to me in the same day hammered home to me that Cameron’s death was my own personal Ground Zero.

When I learned of his death, everything I thought was real and important – all the drama of our relationship, my identity as “Cameron’s Mom,” all my beliefs about what was fair and just, my notions about how life was supposed to work, all my hopes for the future – were completely stripped away. My orientation in space and time, my ego, my carefully constructed sense of self were all suddenly and totally gone. What was left in that moment, in the very instant after the jail death detectives told me he was dead, was a sense of unbelievable peace and unquestionable certainty that all was well.

It didn’t take too long for the moment to collapse and the pain and all the questions to fill the void left by the stripping away of my known universe. But somehow that underlying peace remained with me even through my most painful struggles to reconcile myself to the new world in which I found myself.

Today, after a few years of working through this loss, I have a much deeper understanding of connectedness. I understand how much more powerful love is than I had ever previously imagined. I have moments when I can wrap my mind around the concepts of everything being One and all time being Now. I know things now, viscerally and unquestionably, that I didn’t understand before.

My connection to the world has shifted. I spend much more time now feeling at peace than feeling worried. And when worry does rear its ugly head, I recognize it for what it is and I am able to release it much more easily than before. I can let go of things more easily – whether they be tangible, physical things or beliefs and perceptions. I am more willing to live with uncertainty and to take steps into the unknown with trust. I have discovered that my Ground Zero experience, the stripping away of everything, offered me the great gift of seeing beyond the illusion, the maya, the constructed reality in which we live. The stripping away of all my “givens” allowed me to choose how to recreate myself or, more accurately, to remember who I am.

So, I’m wondering, what’s your Ground Zero? Has anything ever happened in your life that stripped you so down to the bone that you had to begin to re-member yourself one limb, one muscle, one cell at a time?

I can tell you that the experience hurts like hell. I can tell you that it’s also an invitation to a far greater expression of yourself than you could ever have imagined. I can tell you that, despite the pain, it is a gift beyond measure.

Wishing You Peace on the Journey. . .

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Visit With Cheech

When Cameron was 19, he left to serve in the Marines. I was never too keen on the military, but it was one of the few goals he’d ever had that he stuck to. Ever since he was a young boy, he’d wanted to join the Air Force and learn to fly. In high school he joined the Air Force ROTC. It was touch and go because his grades were poor, but somehow he managed to keep his grades just high enough to stay in the program. Then, when he took the ASVAB, his scores were too low to qualify for pilot training. So he decided to be one of the few, the proud, the Marines. I think he just loved the macho image.

At 17 he pre-enlisted. I signed the papers with mixed feelings. It wasn’t long after that, that things started going to hell in a hand basket. He was ditching school, failing classes, hanging out with gang bangers. I’m sure, looking back, that he was already doing drugs at that point. He nearly didn’t graduate. But graduation was a requirement to be a Marine. They won’t take you with a GED. And he really wanted to be a Marine. So he finally went to an alternative night school and managed to graduate about a semester late. Then, off to boot camp.

Just before he left, he came to me with his cat, Cheech, begging me to take him. He said he couldn’t find anyplace else for him, he couldn’t take him with him to boot camp, and he didn’t want to have to take him to the pound. I already had two cats and I really didn’t want another one. And this was a male (I had females). And yellow (not my favorite color). And not quite a kitten, but a gangly half-grown thing (much harder to fall in love with than a tiny purring ball of fur). And not yet neutered (here come the $$). And he had a kink in the end of his tail that made him look like he’d got caught in a door at some point (who could love a cat like this?).

Cameron swore he was born like that, but I wasn’t sure I believed him. Cheech’s brother Chong had met with an unfortunate demise (the details of which were not disclosed to me) way too early in life and I figured that Cameron and the guys he lived with had probably not been the most conscientious of pet owners.

Sigh. What can I say? I’m a pushover for cats. Reluctantly I agreed to take him in.

It took me about five minutes to fall madly in love with him.

Cheech was the coolest cat I’ve ever had. He was very affectionate and loved it when I turned him on his back in my arms and scratched all those sensual places around his ears and under his chin and on his chest. That cat had a purr motor that would put a Harley to shame.

I took him to the vet and had him neutered and brought him up to date on vaccinations. Very quickly he became part of the family. When Cameron got back from 3 ½ years of service (not 4, it ended badly, but that's another story...), he wanted him back. No way. Cheech was mine and that’s all there was to it.

When Cameron died in 2004, Cheech was going on nine years old. Both of my female cats were now gone, and Cheech was my only kitty. In a way, I felt like he was my one remaining connection to Cameron, too, and I dreaded the day that I would lose him. A couple of years later, I got a new kitty, Scooby, because I didn’t want to have a house empty of feline company for even a day, and I knew Cheech was getting up in years. Plus I figured when the day came for Cheech to leave us, getting a new kitty at that point would feel too much like I was trying to replace the irreplaceable. So, Scooby was a kind of insurance package – a pre-emptive strike against grief.

Scooby is a great cat in his own way, too. He’s very long-legged and has extra toes on his front feet. He towered over Cheech, who had a shorter, stockier build. And his tail seemed to be about three inches longer than Cheech’s crimped and broken tail. They got along pretty well, but I think Cheech knew that soon it would be okay for him to go. I think he knew how important he was to me, and he knew that Scooby was an indication that I’d be okay when the time came.

In August 2007, I finally had to have Cheech put to sleep. He was 12 years old and his kidneys failed. The poor thing couldn’t even get his feet up under him. It came on very suddenly. The vet didn’t think there was much that could be done. There comes a point where medical intervention becomes too much like doing something to them rather than doing something for them. I held Cheech and stroked him and told him I loved him while he gently took his last breath. I looked up at the ceiling in that empty, sad examination room and I said, “Ok, Cameron. You wanted him back. Now you’ve got him. You’d better take real good care of him!”

Some months later, I had a dream.

I’m upstairs in the bedroom and Cheech comes walking in. “Oh, Cheech!” I exclaim. “I’m so glad you came home.” It seemed like he’d been gone an awful long time, and I wondered why I hadn’t realized he was missing. Then I remembered putting him to sleep and burying him in the backyard. I got a little puzzled, but I went to pet him and talk to him. Scooby went to see him, too. I called to my husband, “Look who’s here!” But my husband couldn’t see him and didn’t know what I was talking about. I realized then that Cheech was dead, but his spirit had come for a visit. I was so happy about that! Then I noticed he seemed a little taller. And his tail was straight as an arrow.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

So, What's the Deep Water Leaf Society?

On May 3, 2004, I lost my oldest son in the most heartbreaking way I could imagine. He died in the county jail of a drug overdose. It was my worst nightmare come true. He'd struggled for years with addiction and for a lifetime with ADHD. Since his adolescence, I'd found it hard to expect anything but more trouble for him in his life. He just couldn't seem to function the way the world expected him to. As much as I believed in and understood the Law of Attraction, it seemed I could not keep my thoughts positive when it came to his future. When he finally died in the worst way I could imagine, I felt tremendous guilt. And I felt the most overwhelming pain and sadness. I could not imagine how a friendly Universe or a benevolent God could allow such a thing to happen - not only the tragedy of his death, but the tragedy of his life. It just seemed so senseless to me.

So, imagine my surprise to discover, over time (a LOT of time), that his death - the most painful thing I'd ever experienced - was also the greatest gift I'd ever received. Somehow, his death opened up a door for me. Always a dreamer, I suddenly found my life taking on the quality of a waking dream. Magical coincidences (aka: synchronicities) became an almost daily occurrence. I began to walk with one foot in the waking world and one foot in the dreaming.

Almost from the very beginning, I began to receive messages from my son. At first they came in dreams, and then through my artwork and journaling, and then in songs on the radio. Occasionally, they even came in very physical form - like the heart-shaped shells and stones I began to find everywhere. I doubted the messages at first. I felt it might be just wishful thinking.

An incredibly powerful (and accurate) session with a medium ( about a year after my son's death set me straight on that. My son was talking to me. He was talking to me all the time. All I had to do was listen - and trust.

So I started listening in earnest. And I did a lot of work. I journaled. I expressed myself through art. I explored past lives. I did body and energy work. I did a lot of dreamwork and continued to study ways to explore dreams. I did hypnotherapy. I practiced forgiveness. I allowed myself to feel everything I was feeling and I explored those feelings in depth. I even went to Egypt, where amazing healing took place. And every step of the way, something or someone was laying the path out before me. All I had to do was continue to take the next step as it appeared.

Through all of it, there was a single, simple, powerful message that kept coming through: love is all that matters - and it never dies.

My son and I are still connected by love and always will be. He is not really gone at all. We are closer than breath - no more than a dream away from each other. Life is meant to be lived with love and joy, not fear and worry. He helped me to understand that. What a gift!

Oh, so what is the Deep Water Leaf Society? It's something that came to me in a dream. A dream that I had seven years before I lost my son. A dream that told me I would lose him. A dream that held the answer to healing from that loss. The dream told me that after losing my baby, I would create the Deep Water Leaf Society and it would not only help me to heal my own grief, but would help many others as well.

So I wrote a book about my loss, but mostly about my healing journey. I called it The Deep Water Leaf Society. The writing of the book lifted the last of my guilt and sadness. It brought me closure. It left me knowing with the deepest certainty that everything is now okay and always was okay and always would be okay. "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." (Julian of Norwich)

If you want more information about the book, which will be released in the Summer of 2008, you can visit for release dates and other information. Beyond the book, though, my hope is to create a community of the same name. A community of hearts and souls bound by the shared human experience of grief and by the knowledge that we are so much more than just lost, lonely souls experiencing a few brief years on this planet.

We are like leaves floating on the surface of a very deep pool of mystery and magic. I invite each of you to take a deeper look.

I welcome your response, here on the blog, or via email at

Wishing You Peace on the Journey. . .