The Isle of Ancestors.

21 11 2006

As I stepped off the jetty, I looked back to see the ferrywoman now departing back to Duwamish Bay. 

I saw ahead of me a grove of apple trees, there was a path in the midst of them illumed by the moonlight. I followed this path wondering where it would lead. Ahead of me I saw a mound. I approached the mound and looked around to the side where I saw a doorway, at each side of the door stood two upright stones, upon them were two burning torches.

I reached for a burning torch and opened the door. Ahead of me was a passageway, which was quite dark, this frightened me a little but then I say a faint red glow at the end of the passageway, I relaxed and began my journey into the depths of the mound.

My steps led me into a shadowy great hall. In the centre was a hearth with glowing embers from a fire. Seated in front of this fire with its back towards me was a mysterious  hooded figure. For an instance, I thought of turning back but then a feeling of love and peace swept over me and I proceeded to a bench across from the hooded figure.

I sat and just looked at the hooded figure wandering who it was. In that instance it turned to face me and removed the hood. It was my dad! I burst into tears and jumped up to rush toward him.

He stopped me by holding up one hand and saying to me, ‘as much as I love you and want to hug you too, we cannot, for I am no longer of the earthly realm’.

My heart sank as I sat back down. Fighting back the tears I said, ‘I’ve really missed you dad’.

‘I know’, he replied, ‘I have missed you too but trust that I watch over all of you, as you know, you have felt my presence at times, haven’t you?’

‘Yes dad, I have and I thank you for those times, without them I don’t think I could have gone through things’.

‘Yes you could have, for you are stronger than you think you are, you must know this, believe it, trust me, I see things from a greater perspective now. This is why we are having this meeting, is there something you wish to ask me?’

‘Oh, dad, where do I begin, there are so many things’.

‘Just the one thing, something you really want to know, there will be other times we can talk’.

‘There is something bothering me dad, you know I believe in spiritual growth, practices etc. Why does it seem so difficult to connect with, see and speak to our guides, angels and loved one’s?’

‘You should know this, you use to be quite adarmant about being able to, remember? I admired your faith – you know – faith being the operative word. You tend to lack it a little when you need it the most, you allow others disbelief to shake your own faith, especially when combined with hurtful words.

You must hold firm to your beliefs and realise they know not what they say or how much they hurt you, it is them in the dark, not you. Pray for their enlightenment and shield yourself from their negativity.  Now, may I ask a question of you?’

A little shocked, I answered ‘yes dad, of course’.

‘You need to take better care of yourself. When your feeling down, get outside with nature, breathe in the fresh air, refresh yourself, energise yourself. Become as a little child.  Remember how you loved to play amongst nature?  You need nature, it inspires you, brings you peace and greater health.  You know all of this, why do you not do it as often as you can?’

‘I, I guess I just consider myself too busy like you use to dad. I don’t really know why but I do know you are right and thank you for reminding me by asking this question of me’.

Dad then handed me a gift saying, ‘keep this with you to help you to remember our conversation and my love for you’.

It was a silver cross embedded with coloured crystals that represented the main charkra’s, plus the two ear charkra’s.

 

 

‘It is to remind you to keep your charkra energy centres clear and energised, partly, by getting out in the fresh air and into nature’s energy, you know and are beginning to practice clearing meditations and this will help you to remember to do them too’.

I thanked my dad and tears began to flow again thenI remembered a crystal I was carrying, a ‘Rose quartz’, I took it out and handed it to my dad, saying, ‘take this as a token of my thanks and undying love, I know you don’t need it but please take it, I want to give it to you.’

‘Thank you daughter, now it is time you must go, your ferrywoman has returned and is waiting to take you back to Duwamish Bay.  Fear not, nor be discouraged, we shall meet again’.

I wanted to cry out, ‘no I don’t want to go’! I swallowed my words and began to follow the path out which led me behind the hearth.  As I passed by my dad, I looked into his eyes one last time and was filled with such a great feeling of love and peace, I heard his voice, not with my ears but somehow in my heart, saying, ‘remember, we shall meet again, anytime you wish, think of me and I’ll be there, I love you my child’.

By now I was at the passageway out, I could contain it no longer and ran out and back down the path through the apple tree grove and to the jetty as fast as I could. Tears were streaming down my face.

I saw the ferrywoman who brought me to the Isle of Ancestors, I boarded her boat, she did not say a word as I boarded and left me alone, which I was very thankful for.  After I had settled down, she said, ‘having time with our loved ones should bring us great blessings and happy memories, you will know this soon.

You are a little upset because you cannot hug them and stay with them permanently, know this dear one, they stay with you permanently.  You only need to think of them and they are there for you, remember this child and soothe your heart with its promise, for no one leaves the Isle of Ancestors alone…

Morgaine

Camelot Scribe.

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Dead Woman’s Waltz

21 08 2006

One two three
Two two three
Three two three

In strange, dark, touchless world whirling. How is it I came to be here? This is not as I knew things to be. Here sight is sightless and sound is at once colour too. Pain is no longer my companion. How peculiar, as pain is a reminder that we still live.

Four two three
Five two three
Six two three

dead woman's waltz
Touchless, yet I am suspended in the arms of someone, I know it. Still no breath warms my cheek, nor does his embrace warm me. Yet this breathless warmthless entity knows me well enough to anticipate every movement. My pained, contorted body has somehow become elegant again.

Seven two three
Eight two three
Again two three

I must test this body, cautiously I allow myself to dip backwards to where my hair brushes my heel. Beautiful how this dancer knows me and twirls me round bent back, my head relaxes and my neck is as long as any swan. I spin faster and find my body upright and pulled close. The stranger has no heartbeat,. Panic. Suddenly I am aware I cannot hear the beat of my own heart.

Two two three
Three two three
Four two three

What is this strange place? Who dances with me? I cannot smell, nor taste. I search for light and there is none. The dancer holds me in embrace but I cannot hold him. I try to draw breath but there is nothing rushing in and out. I scream silently. Let me awake.

Five two three
Six two three
Seven two three

Questions rise and fall with the steps of this dance. No answers come my way. The entity allows me to stand, step and dip. I am becoming accustomed to this new sensory excitement. My body is in the old sense of what once I knew, gone. This dance is pure movement no corporeal body limits me now.

Eight two three
Red two three
Blue two three

Mauve pulses forth epiphanies. Reds swarm as I fear, blues billow on surrender to the ghostly arms, greens swirl on acceptance, golds glow as I trust and let be.. At once all I am, and have been, folds into the glow of a thousand colours harmonising ripples on which to carry me away. Away and here, forever a part of, and never apart, simply and gloriously absorbed in good.

Green two three
Gold two three
Good two three





Unknown date, Returned to Bluebird Woman and Wren Woman’s House after visiting the Island of Ancestors

17 08 2006

It was hard to leave the cottage of Bluebird Woman and Wren Woman.  I dawdled through the day, caressing each flower in the garden, inhaling the fragrance of each herb.  I worked slowly at each homey task, as if each were a prayer.  In a way I suppose it was.  After lunch I heated water over the hearth, bathed and put on my clothes.  I owed my life to these kind women, and had no way to thank them.

Each took a hand as we walked the miles to Duwamish Quay.  We walked slowly, saying little.  Bluebird Woman hummed sweet melodies, as was her wont.  The shops were closing, the streets were empty of the usual bustle of commerce.  We made our way to the docks, where the ferries were lined up. 

Ferry Women sat conversing with each other.  Some were roasting apples over a barrel.  Others sat at the bow of their boats whittling or whistling.   Some puttered aboard their vessels.  A few called to me to take their ferry across the bay.  Others ignored me completely.  I remembered what Wren Woman told me, one would be a kindred spirit.  I just didn’t expect her to have purple hair and a pierced nose. 

She ginned at me.  I grinned back.  Wordlessly she held out her hand, calloused but her nails were impeccably manicured, polished black with purple lightning bolts and tiny jewels.  She cast off, the nails not interfering with her skillful handling of her craft.  

I hugged Bluebird and Wren Woman one last time, kissing both the soft cheek and the hard.  “Thank you,” I whispered, squeezing one last time. 

“Blessing be to you, dear,” they replied in unison.  I waved and watched them until the dock was lost from sight.  Then I turned to the grinning Ferry Woman.

“Welcome aboard the Calabar Felonway.”  Her welcome was accompanied by a bewitching smile.  “I am Captain Anita Marie.  You, I understand, have no name?”

I found myself smiling back, feeling as if having no identity was nothing out of the ordinary.  “You are correct, I have no name.  But I hope I will learn it on the Isle of Ancestors.”

“If you don’t learn it there, you won’t learn it anywhere. Canny place, the Isle of Ancestors.”

“What do you know of the
Island?”

“Never set foot on it myself.  Hate to think what the Ancestors would make of me!  The Ancestors-to-be tend to be a bit conventional in their thought.  Hell, they’re rigid traditional.  There are shelves full of photographs going back to the invention of the camera of stuffy ancestors back home.”

“There must be one radical among them.  After all, doesn’t every generation have its black sheep?”

“Possibly,”  Anita Marie looked as if she was thinking about it.  “But why tempt fate?  You have a good reason to go.  Me, I’m happy as a piranha on painkillers.”

We talked about everything and nothing.  I feasted on looking at her.  Purple hair and carnelian lips.  The jewel in her nose a ruby.  She had a skull and crossed bones tattoo on her right hand.  Her Missouri River Boatman shirt, Folkwear pattern #204, was purple silk, sashed with a multicolored woven belt.  From which hung a heavy leather bag and a shrunken head hanging by its hair.  Her legs were encased in supple black leather.  Bright red boots rose past her knees.  I caught a glimpse of a jeweled hilt of a dirk peeking out of each.  Besides the nose ring, she had multiple ear piercings, each sporting a jewel of a different color.  “I have my belly button pierced,” she confided, “But I draw the line at my tongue or eyebrows.  One can be too latitudinarian.”   She wore many bangle bracelets, and interesting pendants on interesting chains.  But no rings.  “They catch on things.”  Her jewelry made a wind chime sort of music as she poled us across the bay.     

The night was clear.  The waxing, near full moon shone brilliant in the sky.  It was no more brilliant than the innumerable stars.  I could see the Isle of Ancestors coming ever closer.  It seemed too soon that we arrived. 

Anita Marie tied her barge to the
Island dock.  She helped me out and up.  I pressed the gold coin Bluebird Woman gave me into her hand.  She clapped me on the back with gusto.  “Good luck and fair winds to ye.  When you come back, I’ll be waiting.  I’ll tell the story of my little friend here,” she tapped the shrunken head with the gold coin, “on the homeward trip.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

I laughed and waved and turned my face to the path leading from the landing into the
Island itself.   The path wended jaggedly through an ancient apple grove.  Some of the trees had fallen, some were saplings, and some were full mature.  The trees were in all stages of ripeness, some bore blossoms, others bore small, hard fruits.  Others bore ripe apples in every color of apple.   Still others were bare, perchance an apple clung here and there to the branches, while the other fruits and leaves decaying at the foot of the tree.  The moonlight filtered through the trees, illumining my way clearly.  I ate several different apples, amazed at the variety of flavors, yet all distinctly ‘apple’. 

From the rotting logs of the fallen trees grew a small white flower, odd as it bloomed at night, when other flowers have folded inward.  Its scent was like apple blossoms and roses together.  I picked a thick fistful as I followed the path where it would lead.

The path wandered gently upwards.  It ended at a lake, a green hill rising from its center…  A stone bridge crossed the water, and the path continued, spiraling up the hill.  On the leeward side of the hill, halfway up, the path ended at a doorway.  The door and doorposts alike were massive stones, carved with ancient interlacing creatures.  The door was stone, balanced perfectly to open the barest touch.  They were topped by a massive lintel, raw stone of a different kind of stone from the door posts and door.  Later I would learn the lintel was meteorite copper.

I had an inkling of where I was.  Avalon, the Isle of Apples. 

Torches were thrust into buckets of sand on either side of the doorway.  Peering in I could see only blackness.  Taking a torch I entered.   The path spiraled down in the opposite direction it had spiraled up the hill.  I descended until the path flattened and opened into a large, circular room.  There was a fire in the center.  Through the flames I could make out a bench at the farther end of the room.

I sank my torch into a bucket of sand at the opening of the room.  Slowly I walked moonwise, around the circle.  Something in me wanted to dance.  I sensed I was in an ancient, a holy place, where mere walking was not reverent enough.  Something in me wanted to break out of myself and dance.  So I danced.  As I moved my heart filled with joy.  Love over flowed as tears down my face.  In the overwhelming flood of love, was peace.

When I reached the bench I stopped, breathless and excited.  Dancing was holy here, worshipful in this place.  I belonged here.

I calmed my breathing as I waited. 

Before long, from the opposite side from which I came, a hooded figure walked toward me.  I could see it was a woman, as she neared to me.  Sitting beside me, she slipped off her hood, revealing copper colored hair flowing over her shoulders as a veil.  It glowed like molten gold in the firelight. Braids held it back from her face.  Her face was not pretty, exactly, but kind.  Eyes the color of a winter sea were framed by blond-red lashes.  Freckles sprinkled her nose.  She smiled tenderly at me, and took my hands into her own.

“Blessed be, daughter.  I am your ancestor.  I lived long ago, before the Christian missionaries came to the Isles, when we still worshipped the Goddess.  She is still worshipped in this place, for here we are out of time.  As you descended into the past I ascended to the future.  I bring with me the wisdom of all the women in your lineage up until now.  You may ask me one question, only one, about anything, and I will answer.  Keep in mind, I cannot promise you will like the answer, or understand it.  I only promise to tell you the truth.”

 There was only one question I wanted to ask.  It burst from lips before I could consider the wisdom of asking. 

“Who am I?”

“I thought you would ask me a difficult question!  Listen to the story of Creation and be answered.

“In the Beginning, The HOLY ONE created the heavens and the earth. 

There was nothing beyond the consciousness of The HOLY ONE, a void, emptiness, infinite, impenetrable dark.

The HOLY ONE spoke, “Let there be light!”  Light exploded from the center of The HOLY ONE spiraling into infinite space as matter, energy, radiance, beginning the dance of creation, the music of the spheres.

And it was good beyond comprehension.

The HOLY ONE spoke again, “Let there be order, an ever unfolding symphony of place.”

The music and dance of creation formed itself according to the Word of The HOLY ONE. 

And it was good beyond comprehension.

The HOLY ONE spoke a third time.  “Let there be time.” 

At the Word of The HOLY ONE creation moved into constant orbits, galaxies around The HOLY ONE, solar systems with in galaxies, planets around suns, moons around planets, all spinning, swirling, in the dance of creation, to the music of the spheres.  Thus day and night, seasons, the wheel of the year came to be.

And it was good beyond comprehension.

The HOLY ONE spoke a fourth time.  “Let life begin in the waters.  Let life begin on the land.”

At the Word of The HOLY ONE life began in the waters.  Life began on the land.

And it was good beyond comprehension.

The HOLY ONE spoke a fifth time.  “Let life take wing.”

Life took wing and danced in the air, according to the Word of The HOLY ONE.

And it was good beyond comprehension.

The HOLY ONE spoke again.  “Let us create beings in our own image, to love and cherish.”

At the Word of The HOLY ONE, beings like The HOLY ONE were formed, beings able to feel, understand and love.  With great tenderness The HOLY ONE created these beings.

And it was good beyond comprehension. 

The HOLY ONE blessed them, and said to them, “Be fruitful, and multiply.  Replenish the earth.  Over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth, you are the most beloved.  The creatures will serve you.   Name them, know them, and tend them. The HOLY ONE said, “Behold, I have given you every herb, and every tree yielding fruit, every grain, of this earth, to you it shall be for meat.  Not only for you, but for every living creature on earth, in the sea, in the air. 

On the seventh day The HOLY ONE spoke again.  “Let there be rest, a holy Sabbath to celebrate the creation of life.”

All of Creation celebrated the glory of The HOLY ONE

The creation of human beings was like this:

The HOLY TRINITY, The HOLY THREE AS ONE, formed a human of humus, an earthling of the earth.  The HOLY TRINITY breathed into the created’s nostrils the breath of life; and the created became a living soul. The HOLY TRINITY planted a garden and there The HOLY TRINITY put the living soul, to dwell in comfort, peace, and joy. By word The HOLY TRINITY created birds, fish, and animals in two genders.  By hand The HOLY TRINITY created only one living soul. The HOLY ONE said, “It is not good for our living soul be alone;  The HOLY TRINITY caused a deep sleep to fall upon their living soul, from the flesh and bone of the living soul, The HOLY TRINITY created another living soul.  The HOLY TRINITY woke the living being to each other. The living souls looked on each other with love, “You are bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: we complete each other.”THE HOLY TRINITY called the living souls ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’, each a part of THE HOLY ONE, created by The Fashioning Hand, the third part being the Breath of Life.  Therefore shall a man and woman leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto each other, and they shall be one flesh, completing each other, becoming mother and father themselves continuing the circle of life. They were both naked, the woman and man, and were not ashamed.  They rejoiced in the wonder of their love.”

The story enraptured me.  Deep in my core, I could physically feel the rightness of the story.  But I did not understand how her story answered my question.  My ancestor seemed to understand.  She smiled and said, “I told you that you may not understand my answer.  Meditate on this story, this history of our race.  Now I have a question for you.”

I braced my self, fearful I might not be able to answer.  And my fear was well founded.

“Who are you?”

I sighed, and thought for what seemed a very long time.  Here, as elsewhere on this journey, time had no meaning.

“I don’t know.”

My ancestor smiled again.  “You will find out.”  Her encouragement reassured me.

“I have a gift for you.”  She caressed my bald head.  I felt a tingling, then an itching, then a tickling, as hair began to grow.  Tears spilled down my cheeks.  “Thank you, thank you!”

“My pleasure.  Even in your world, you inherited your hair from me.  And I received my hair from the Goddess.”

She kissed my forehead.

“What gift can I give you?”

“Ah! You are only allowed one question!” Her shining eyes let me know she was teasing.

She kissed my forehead again as she stood.  “Plant an apple tree in my honor, nurture it, and remember me.”

I also rose to my feet.

“Follow the circle moonwise until you come to your torch.  Do not look back.  Ascend the path upward to the door you entered.  Still, do not look back.  Replace your torch and return to the quay.  Anita Marie will be there.  Then you may look back.”

We embraced our farewell, holding each other tightly.  One more kiss and we took leave of each other, I traveling moonwise, she traveling counter-moonwise.  Difficult as I was, I did not look back until I was in the boat to return.  As Anita Marie pushed off I looked at the
Island.  The rising sun looked as if it were blooming out of the hill, a sea of apple trees, in bloom, bud and fruit reaching hands in joyous worship.  I could hear the sound of women singing across time, the beautiful voices of my ancestors.





Unknown Date, Duwamish Bay, wendy bird

6 08 2006

My first awareness was a feeling of heaviness, as if my skin weighed too much for my sinew and bones to bear.

My next awareness was of a rhythmic sloshing, a heart beat, the steady sound of the surf.

I am walking along a beach at sunrise. Someone is walking beside me, his arm around my shoulder. I cannot see his face, but his presence is comforting, his low voice soothes me. “Peace, daughter. Your sins are forgiven. Every charge laid against you has been absolved at the foot of the throne of the Most High. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I made you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Every one of your days are numbered in my book of life. Your name is engraved in the palm of my hand. Your image rests in the apple of my eye. I rejoice over you with singing, I quiet you with my love. I lay down my life that you may live. Perfect love casts out all fear.”

I was crying, pain crushing my heart. “But my love is not perfect!”

“Peace, daughter. My love is. My grace is sufficient for you.”

I am released into light, joyful and weightless. I find myself on an island off the coast of
Alaska. It is familiar, the summer home of friends. Behind me are vistas of rugged beauty. Before me is a circle of heart shaped stones, marking the grave of my friends’ child. Flowers bloom there, the most lovely a rare, blue, alpine poppy. Light is everywhere, not from a sun but simply there. There are no shadows, but rainbows where a shadow might be expected. I am utterly at peace, happy beyond comprehension.

I see a young man approach up the narrow trail along the cliff above the rocky beach. His hair is red-gold, freckles spatter across his face. He is smiles at me, quickens his steps. He is a youth, but the wisdom of ancients is an aura around him.

I know this boy! I love this boy!

“Anders!” I run to him. He swings me around in his arms like his brothers do. “I am so happy to see you!” We hug for a long time, time that satisfies my heart, time that feels like enough.

“I love you, Mama.” Anders holds me at arm’s length. Looking at him is like thirst being quenched. “But my sister needs you, and my brothers. Dad is lost without you.”

“Yes. Yes, I must go. I can go. Now I know I can go back.”

“It’s not for long, Mama. In a little while we’ll be together forever. All of us.”

“Yes. That’s why I can go. I love you.”

“I love you too, Mom.”

With that I turn and face a churning grey sea. I throw myself into the water. It is shockingly cold as it closes over me, and all is darkness again.

*

Then I am cold, so cold, retching until my every bone in my body aches. I am weak, lying limp, unable to open my eyes, my head swimming, my ears buzzing. I feel warmth being tucked around me, my head being gently lifted, my face and mouth being wiped with a wet cloth. Fresh water is dribbled into my mouth; I swallow although it is painful. Each swallow becomes easier. The buzzing stops and the dizziness subsides.

“Poor, dear thing,” I hear a twittering voice croon, as I feel I soft cloth dabbing at my face. “She’s not shivering as much, and looks less blue, don’t you think?”

Whoever she is talking to grunts.

“You go fetch a litter.” The twittery voice continues. “I can manage here. But hurry, she needs to be indoors. Shipwreck do you think?”

“Probably,” replied the growly voice.

The crooning voice softly sings a melody. I begin to feel warm and sleepy.

*

I hear birds warbling. Through my closed eyes I see the dappling of light through leaves. I am warm, encased in softness. A breeze caresses my cheek. I smell fresh bread and a tantalizing aroma of herbs. My stomach grumbles. My eyelids flutter open, needing time to focus. I am enshrined in a cupboard bed, the hearth beside me. The room before me is clean and simple. The walls are whitewashed. From the timbers supporting the roof hang baskets and bunches of herbs. Lavender is the only one I recognize. A folk painted chest sits beneath the open window, two tidy beds, covered by gay patchwork quilts, stand on either side. A mirrored sconce with an unlit candle is near the door. The wood floor wears a woven rug. A rocking chair is near my bed, a little table next to it.

A diminutive woman enters. She is plump and rosy cheeked. Blue eyes twinkle in a round, wrinkled face. Her grey hair is a long braid down her back. She is dressed in blue homespun covered by a snow white pinner apron. She wears a wreath of blood red roses in her hair.

“Ooo!” She squeals, it is the twittery voice. “You are awake! I am so happy to see you awake. Are you hungry dear?”

I cannot find my voice, so I nod. My head wobbles, and that slight movement creates stars before my eyes and makes my head spin.

The Bluebird Woman, she reminds me so much of a chipper little bluebird as she flits about to serve me, brings me broth and bread. She props me up a little at a time, careful of my wooziness. Slowly she feeds me, dipping the bread in the broth, giving tiny bits at a time. After only a few bites I can eat no more. I feel my eyelids drooping. I sink into sleep once more.

Every time I wake the Bluebird Woman is there with broth and bread. Each time I eat a bit more and stay awake a bit longer. The Bluebird Woman talks to me, but I cannot attend to what she says. I know the words but do not comprehend the meanings. Still I cannot talk, my throat feels too raw. Nor can I think of anything to say.

One day I rasp out the question, “Where am I?”

“You are in bed, dear.”

“You are in Duwamish.” It is the first time I have heard the growly voice. I follow its sound to see a second diminutive woman, this one as sinewy as the other plump. Her black eyes are sharp in a brown leather face. Her hair, as much grey as black, is pulled into a knot at her neck. She wears a brown homespun dress and a green striped apron. A wreath of dry, autumn leaves crowns her head.

The Bluebird Woman laughs. “Of course! This is Duwamish. Not really Duwamish, as we live some ways outside of the actual town, but we are closer to Duwamish than anyplace else.

Duwamish
Bay is just at the foot of the cliff. You can’t see it from here, too many trees in the way. Of course the trees protect us from the sea winds and weather. Good thing! I shudder to think of what would happen to our dear little house if we weren’t protected by those trees! And the salt air would ruin our gardens. Simply ruin them”

“Amma,” interrupted the Wren Woman.

Bluebird Woman stopped talking, smiling sheepishly. “I do rattle on, don’t I?”

Wren Woman spoke again. “Yes, you do.” She fixed her bright black eyes on me. “Do you know how you came to be here?”

At that time I could not remember. I recalled only images of darkness, glowing fires and despair, of relief and peacefulness, deep contentment and freezing cold water.

“No.” My head ached from trying to remember more than those fleeting images. Wren Woman nodded her understanding.

“Do you know who you are?”

Tears stung my eyes. “No. I cannot remember anything beyond being here.”

Wren Woman nodded again. “You have experienced trauma. It is normal to have no memory.”

She caressed my cheek gently with her gnarled hand. “Don’t distress, dear. Your memories will return. We can help you. You are not the first waif to wash up on the shores of

Duwamish
Bay.”

I was reassured.

Each day I gained more and more strength. They gave me a cotton chemise, and I sat at the window gazing out at their gardens. The women grew herbs, vegetables, and flowers. As I grew stronger, I did small chores of shelling peas, shucking corn, hulling berries. Eventually I was able to walk about the cottage and putter, sweeping, washing dishes and making beds. Ere long I graduated to being in the garden, weeding, harvesting.

They gave me a skirt, bodice and apron. I was bald, so they made a turban for me. In the evening we sat by the hearth. I embroidered on a pocket for myself. Wren Woman spun wool and Bluebird Woman wove cloth.

They took me for walks, longer and longer as I grew healthy. Until I was strong enough to leave.

One evening, my last evening with them, though I knew not then, Wren Woman stopped her spinning and looked at me kindly.

“Tomorrow we will go into Duwamish to the ferries. It is time for you to find your memory and your way.”

I felt my face turn to wood. My fingers trembled with the last stitches of my pocket. “I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t.” Wren Woman continued. “Let me explain. One of the ferry women will speak to you. Well, they all will speak to you, but one will feel like a kindred spirit. Trust your intuition and go with her. She will take you to The Isle of Ancestors. It is there you will learn who you are, or at least where you came from.”

“Oh, Gemma, there is more to it than that!” Bluebird woman turned to me. “You must have a gold coin for the ferry woman and a gift for the ancestor you will meet. We will give you the coin. No, don’t protest. Money is one thing Gemma and I do not need. Don’t worry about a gift for your ancestor, whoever you meet is dead, and the dead have no needs. You will find you have the right gift with you when the time comes.”

“How will I find my ancestor on the
Island?”

Bluebird Woman smiled, “There is no way you cannot find your ancestor. Just follow the path from the ferry landing and there you’ll be.”

I stood slowly, my knees shakier than they had been when I first rose from my convalescent bed. “I best go to bed now.”

“Of course, dear.” Bluebird Woman cooed.

“Sleep well, dear,” added Wren Woman.

But I did not sleep at all.





Windfall

30 07 2006

I’ve given up trying to engage the ferrywoman in conversation. I’d value the distraction of talking to her, anything to relieve this sense of apprehension and impending disappointment but she hasn’t spoken a single word despite my repeated attempts. A glimmer of pity flickered in her eyes once, but then she turned away to concentrate on her task of guiding us safely to the Isle of Ancestors.

I’d so love to see Beverly again. We had a joyous visit. With so many loved ones who’ve gone on before, why do I have this feeling of dread?

“You’re not wanted here.”

I come empty handed. What do you bring when you don’t know who you’ll meet? When I reach the orchard I’ll pick some apples. Last time they turned to dancing slippers. The thought makes me smile.

“Thief, fortune stealer !”

I shiver in the night breeze and wonder why it’s so different this time. Live in the present, I think, as I struggle with the inner flaw that always threatens to split my mind in two like the San Andreas Fault. The past is gone, let what will happen come to pass.

” It was mine, not yours. to take.”

The water’s like ink, the shoreline barely discernible, how the ferry woman finds the shaky dock is beyond me. I know the path will wind through the orchard and lead to the cave; there’s no chance I’ll get lost, still, I step off the boat but go no further. “I’ve changed my mind, take me back,” I say, aware of the pleading in my tone.

She shakes her head. Her weathered face seems carved from stone, but a tear slides down her cheek as she bars my way with her pole when I try to climb back on board. “You will survive,” she says brusquely and pushes off. Within seconds the blackness envelopes her and she is gone.

Thin clouds veil the moon blurring the outlines of the dirt road that leads to the orchard I remember so well. The trees sway, as though daring me to pluck their fruit, as I hurry past. I stoop quickly when I reach the end of the grove and gather two windfalls, then run the last hundred yards to the cave. I am inside before I stop, grateful to find a torch to light my way down to the main chamber.

The flame crackles in the dank air, offering neither a welcome of love nor acceptance this time, only mistrust and hatred. Shadows assault me, my legs grow heavy with fear and I continue only because the light ahead, despite what it will reveal, is less terrifying than the dark.

A cloaked figure sits, back to me, crouching near a blazing fire in the center of the room. I approach and wait in resignation and submission.

“So. One of you has finally come.” The voice is old and bitter and cracks like parchment.

“Forgive me Ancestor, but do I know you?”

“Forgive!” she roars, “Well you should ask for forgiveness, but you won’t get it from me.” Her ancient eyes spill such hatred, I take a step back. The apples fall from my hands and land at her feet.

“An offering of apples. You steal all I own and offer me apples?”

“There’s been a terrible mistake. I’ve never taken anything that didn’t belong to me.”

“Nothing from Nelly Porter?”

The name cracks into my brain like a whip and I drop to my knees. “I’m so sorry. Oh, Nelly, we didn’t ask–it just came. My parents were both ill and they took it with such gratitude.”

“It was meant for David,” she said, her mouth a grim straight line. “He helped me after Chester passed. He was a fine young man, like a son to me.”

“I’m sure he was. We knew someone was contesting, but we never learned who. Aunt Martha needed George’s share for a car. It was totaled in the hospital parking lot while he was recovering from a stroke.”

“Who are you?” she asked sharply and for the first time looked me in the face.

“Barbara.” My name meant nothing to her, so I tried to explain. “Walter’s daughter. My grandfather was your cousin George, and grandpa’s mother your Aunt Mary.”

“Aunt Mary was your great-grandmother? The money traveled three generations?” she asked in disbelief.

“It was an old will, you must have forgotten to make a new one,” I said gently. “Great-grandma died, then grandpa. Then it got split among the three brothers, at least on our side,” I added, “I didn’t know the others.

“I remember now, I left it to three, but I meant to change it,” she said.

“It was divided among almost twenty.” It was some time before she spoke.

“I hated you. I meant it for David.” Then as if remembering a bad dream, “he cursed me, you know, when he didn’t get the money. I saw him walking through my house swearing, damning me to hell for all the time he’d wasted helping me.” She began to cry and I reached for her hands and held them. “He hated me and he shouted and threw things and said my Chester would call me a fool.”

“Hush, now, it’s over, Nelly. I’m sure Chester loved you. He wouldn’t be angry.”

“How long have I been here?” she asked with a start. “When did it happen, how long ago, what year?

“It must be thirty, no thirty-one years, I think.”

I have never heard anyone wail before. The cry she made pierced my heart like a sword and all I could do was keep holding onto her and telling her it was going to be all right. She cried all night. How we knew when the dawn came, I don’t know, but we both did.

“Come, Nelly, you need to leave this place.”

She shook her head. “Too late for me. Go.”

“We each get a question, you know, that’s how it works.” A flicker of a smile cross her wrinkled face. “You asked my name; now it’s my turn.”

“I am a foolish old woman who spent thirty years hating others for my own mistakes. What more can I tell you?”

I try to think how to buffer the harshness of it, but all I can do is ask the truth. “Do you want to see Chester again?” Her face nearly breaks from the pain of it.

“Yes.”

The apples still lay at her feet. I pick one up and place it in her palm. Red fades to yellow, the round fruit withers and flattens into a ferry ticket with today’s date.





Journey to the Isle of Ancestors

29 07 2006

It was a warm night. The moon graciously shone it’s gentle light across the path that led to the harbour where the Ferry Women waited upon the barges lined up against the side of the wharf. The sound of the water lapping against the sides of the wall and boats was calming, adding to the dream-like qualities already present in the scene that was unfolding. Walking slowly past the group of women, and glancing questioningly at each face that peered out, I walked the boardwalk, until one Ferry Woman leant forward, reached out her arm and beckoned me to come on to her boat. Within minutes the silent journey had begun. The Ferry Woman steered her boat into the reflection of the moon across the water, following its path until we arrived at the Isle of Ancestors. Thanking her I turned in the direction her fingers pointed to. A grove of trees stretched ahead, at the end of which there was a garden with a pathway winding through it. Following the path, I soon came upon a circular area enclosed by the most beautiful, fragrant rose bushes that continued to bloom openly, even though the night had long since cast its darkness all around, calling the rest of their floral companions to sleep and rest. There was a strong and palpable sense of magic in the air, an aura enhanced by the rays of the moon which seemed to shine with a bright luminosity upon the circlet of roses. Though everything beyond this secret garden was shrouded in darkness, here the colours were as vivid as in daylight, with petals of yellow, deepest blood red, pinks light and dark, and of course white. The white and red rose bushes were placed side by side. But then, what other way would they be? My favourite fairy tale was always Snow White and Rose Red, and it has long been my dream to have a red rose bush and a white one growing outside my kitchen window. Standing in the centre of this enclosure, and breathing deeply in the scents, I turned and saw a light filled being standing ahead. Without being able to see the figure clearly, yet still I knew that it was a she, a her, a woman. She looked at me and smiled. Immediately I knew who it was. It was Nana, my maternal grandmother. Nana died when I was only 6 months old, so I have never known her in the usual sense that one knows somebody. Hence she has always been a shadowy figure in my past, someone whom I have never considered ever to have played any sort of a meaningful role in either my life or my sub-consciousness. As I moved nearer to her, I saw that she was standing directly in front of the red roses that she had loved when she walked this earth. She was holding something in her arms. It was a tiny, light-filled being, a baby. It was me. Then suddenly, without any premonition of what was about to happen, I fell to my knees and wept long shuddering sobs that seemed to emerge from the very centre and depths of my soul. And without uttering a single word, Nana conveyed the message to me that the path I was walking was a good path to be on. Then she disappeared. No words were spoken either by me or her. Yet she had answered the question that was uppermost in my mind, although I had not yet verbalized it, nor even thought it. Still I recognized it when it came. My gift to her was to tell my mother, her daughter, that she had come to me in a vision. My mother was not surprised in the least, which surprised me. Obviously there is much I have to learn about my female lineage. Methinks much wisdom awaits.





Gertrude

29 07 2006

Though I never knew you, I feel a strong connection with you. I don’t know why, but you pop in and out of my thoughts. So, I feel it’s fitting to visit you on the Isle of Ancestors.

I grew up hearing your name only occasionally. You were the beloved sister of my father….the sister he loved so dearly he never fully recovered from the heartbreak. I’m sure you know that his time here is shortening. Please be there for him to welcome him home. I know you will be. I only wish I could witness the reunion. He will be happier than I have ever known him to be in the presence of his baby sister.

The few things I have heard about you make me think that I may be like you. It’s a silly thing to remember, but I have a complete film-like memory of one Christmas day we celebrated at your sister’s house. I was sitting on the couch by myself. I was too young to be with the adults or the teens. I noticed that my nose was cold, so I put my hand up so that the tip of my nose touched the center of my palm. I don’t think I’d ever done that before and probably since. I don’t know what made me do that then. Your sister noticed from across the room, even though she was in the middle of an active conversation. She said, “Look at Shari! Gertrude used to do that!”

Your life and mine have been very similar. You were the unwanted child. Your parents only wanted two children. You were the burden. I, too, was the unwanted child. Your brother only wanted 3 children…the same number of children as your parents had. Maybe by having 3 he could make up for the error his parents made in only wanting 2. He didn’t have a choice when the third birth resulted in twins. He had no one to blame…no one to be angry with. But, the fourth birth produced someone to label as the “burden.” Oh, he never said that. No one did. But I felt it everytime I tried diligently for his approval and was met only with dissatisfaction.

You died at the age of 18. That’s where our lives differ. You could stop trying to gain approval, whereas I’ve continued to strive for approval most of my life. I’ve seen glimpses of approval, or at least a sliver I can hold tight and name “approval” whether it truly was or wasn’t. You didn’t have the opportunity in your life, though I hope you have in the afterlife.

Like your brother, I can have a hard exterior. Like you, I can be cheerful and friendly. Maybe I’m a mix of both of you…it’s just up to me to make the best of the qualities I’ve received.

I am very proud of how far I have come with your brother. I moved away from a town I loved to come help when his memory was declining. I found a doctor who could take good care of him and provide some comfort for the family. I encouraged him to sing and he forgot that he refused to sing. I will always remember that as my crowning moment. I am so grateful that singing has returned to him and that it brings him such joy.

On the other hand, I feel now as if I have abandoned him. I know I haven’t. It was time for me to move on. It was time for me to get out of the way and let my siblings have their crowning moments with him. It just feels bad because I know he doesn’t understand. It breaks my heart to remember him saying, “Everyone is leaving me.” Please, if you have any say in the matter, don’t let those words be the last words he ever says to me. And help him to understand once you are with him again.

In September I may go home for Jane’s wedding. When I see your brother again, I want to tell him I love him. I’ve never said those words to him, as he’s never said those words to me. I have shown him that I love him, but I need to be able to say it. I could call before then, maybe even tomorrow, but I don’t know if he’ll hear me. I could try. It wouldn’t hurt.

Thank you for your spirit-presence in my life. I know you are around, just out of reach, maybe even keeping me out of harm’s way. Thank you, Gertrude! Please continue to be there for me. If you so wish, make me aware of your presence, your guidance, your help, your wisdom.