Requiem for a Writer

Requiem for a Writer
By Linda Monsees Stump © 2015
08-13-2013 DebbieThe Writers’ Night Out group lost one of our own this autumn. Debbie Oxenford passed away on October 2, 2015 of pancreatic cancer.
Debbie and I were the only two remaining from the inaugural meeting of Writers’ Night Out, which was conceived early in 2001 by Llewellyn authors Silver RavenWolf and Ray Malbrough as a forum for local writers. Over the nearly fifteen years we have been meeting, Writers’ Night Out has experienced a great deal of change. Members have left the group due to life changes, personal or professional commitments, and new writers have joined to infuse the group with a fresh dynamic. But along with all the changes, something very special happened. From a diverse group with varied writing styles and genres of works-in-progress, we bonded and became friends. In addition to our writing, we shared life’s joys and sorrows – from marriages, divorces, car accidents, moving house, and the births and deaths of human and animal family members. We’ve cheered each other’s successes and consoled and supported each other during the hard times; in doing so, we became family of the heart.
Debbie was an accomplished musician who played the hammered dulcimer, a certified astrology expert, and a storyteller who loved taking part in events where she could tell stories of myth and legend. She also had one of her poems published in an anthology. One of her most popular columns for Writers’ Night Out was her astrology column entitled Pluto Rising. Her insightful readings of real individuals whose names were withheld for privacy, generated a lot of interest. Her favorite short story was one she wrote for a group project several years ago that we called “Thanksgiving at Pea Patch” – in which a family reunion took place in an Appalachian mountain campground, a scenario that provided the characters with all sorts of humorous challenges! Each writer had to come up with a character profile and incorporate the characters created by other writers into his or her story. Debbie based her character on her father; she enjoyed it so much that she was working on a longer piece incorporating the same character.
Debbie experienced a lot of difficulty in her life, yet she maintained an attitude of gratitude. Debbie was a very caring person who, while she often lacked confidence in her own abilities, was quick to praise and encourage others. She was a gentle soul who took pleasure in the simple things in life –her cat, music, walks in nature, and time with friends. She had the ability to fully be in and appreciate the moment, and she savored the memories of a day out that we shared for months afterward.
Debbie was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year and endured surgeries and chemotherapy. When she felt up to it, she would still attend Writers’ Night Out meetings and enjoyed getting together with everyone. As her condition deteriorated, I think we all found it difficult to focus on our writing. Now, as we mourn her passing, we will celebrate her life. She is no longer in pain and she is at peace, reunited with her parents and her beloved cat, Nutmeg.
The Writers’ Night Out group will be back to writing again – because that’s just one of the ways we get through difficulty and loss. Though no longer physically with us, Debbie will always remain one of the best parts of the Writers’ Night Out story.
The Scottish poet Thomas Campbell wrote, “To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.” Debbie will live on in the hearts of all of us who loved her and treasured her friendship.

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Sacred Journeys – The Song of the Old Ones

Sacred Journeys – The Song of the Old Ones
By Linda Monsees Stump ©2014

Growing up in Southern California, I’d heard the ghost stories of the Coronado Hotel, the Queen Mary, and tales of Hollywood stars whose lights on this plane burned out too soon…and who continued to delight in taking center stage after death as they had in life. I heard the stories of earlier ghosts, a Native American girl and a headless Spaniard at San Juan Capistrano, miners and those whose spirits linger in the abandoned mining towns of Calico and Bodie.

Ghosts aren’t foreign to me. As a teenager, I lived in a house built in 1900 where a former inhabitant walked up the stairs at night – stairs which had been blocked off after the big house had been divided to make an upstairs apartment. I have walked the trails where the Old Ones trod. I’ve felt the presence of those who went before in the wild places here in the U.S., as well as in haunted castles, manors, and ancient sites in England.

But those are stories for another time.

Ghosts were far from my mind one spring night in California. My husband and I, in the early years of our marriage, were embarking on a week’s vacation in Arizona. We were to stay several days with his grandparents outside of Payson, hiking the Mogollon Rim country, and finish the trip with two days in Scottsdale.

It was a Friday evening in late April, and we’d left straight from work, which meant I was still in a dress and heels, an apparent anomaly which made me the topic of conversation among the truckers with whom my husband chatted while trying out his new CB radio. This was before cell phones became the norm, and he thought it might be handy for emergencies. My husband used the call name “Tin Man,” since he worked in sheet metal engineering. “Have you seen Tin Man’s lady?” one trucker asked another. “She’s wearin’ a dress!” Much to my embarrassment, word traveled fast on Interstate 15 and before we knew it, truckers were pulling alongside us and waving.

We had dinner in Barstow, planning to go as far as Williams or Flagstaff, find a motel and then drive through the mountains by daylight. We were enjoying the high desert night on Interstate 40 between Barstow and the Colorado River, when the oil light suddenly came on.

We’d had the little blue Volkswagen bug in for a tune-up the week before we left – and the mechanic had checked the oil and topped it off – how could the oil possibly be low? We pulled over so my husband could assess the situation. It wasn’t promising. Not only was the oil low, it wasn’t safe to drive…we’d evidently had a slow oil leak ever since we’d taken in the car for service, and to compound the problem, my husband found that the oil cap wasn’t properly replaced. We were miles from an exit on an empty highway with only the expanse of the Mojave Desert around us.

We were properly stranded. My husband tried the CB radio, but no truckers seemed to be on the road in our area. All we could do was wait and hope that a California Highway Patrol officer might happen by, or we would manage to raise someone on the CB.
After about twenty minutes of sitting in the car, we decided to get out and stretch our legs.

Without the ambient light of the Los Angeles metropolis, and with no street lights on the open highway, the stars looked like diamonds on velvet. We could see the deeper shadows of the Clipper Mountains against the blackness of the sky.

In spite of our predicament, we were both able to appreciate the stark beauty of the desert night.

The breeze picked up, ruffling my hair and blowing my skirt around my legs.
And then I heard it, at first so faintly that I thought it was a trick of the wind. But it was a distinct melody, played on a flute, yet like no flute I’d ever heard before. The only way I can describe it is “organic” – this music wasn’t played on an instrument made out of metal, as on a modern orchestra flute, but upon a flute made of bone or wood. The melody was hauntingly beautiful, and old as the land.

I clutched my husband’s arm. “Listen!” I whispered. “Can you hear that?”

“Why are you whispering?” he asked, but kept his own voice low.

“Just…tell me what you hear.” My husband’s hearing has always been much better than mine. He stood still, listening.

Finally he said, “Maybe it’s only the wind, but it sounds like a Native American flute.”

Relieved that I wasn’t the only one hearing it, I answered, “That’s what I thought, too. It sounds like something the Old Ones would have played.”

The Old Ones…Those Who Went Before. In Arizona they were the Anasazi and the Salado. In California they were those who wandered the remote ridges of the Chocolate Mountains before the Mojave tribes, and who knew the ways of the coastal mountains before the Chumash came. It was said they built the rock cairns along the trail – were they offerings to the spirits of the mountains? Perhaps they only marked the trails that led to water in a harsh landscape where water meant the difference between life and death. Or perhaps they wished simply to say, “I was here. Do not forget.”

Whoever they were, the spirits of the Old Ones were around us. I could feel their presence; we were not alone. It was not frightening at all; in fact, it was comforting. It was as though the Old Ones had watched us and, seeing that we appreciated this land they called home, gave us their blessing…and protection.

I don’t know how long we stood there, as the ancient melody played on, connecting us to the land and Those Who Went Before.

The CB crackled, and a trucker’s voice came over the speaker. “Tin Man, what’s your 20? I can help you out.” My husband responded with our location; the trucker said he was less than ten miles out. My husband responded with thanks, and the radio went silent.
Headlights came over the rise and our Good Samaritan trucker pulled in behind us. True to his word, he had a few quarts of oil which he gave us, refusing payment. He and my husband chatted as they filled the oil tank. While the men worked, I gathered several small stones and by the light of the truck’s headlights, I built a tiny cairn, my own way to honor the spirits of the land and the Old Ones who lived upon it.

Repairs completed, we thanked our trucker friend again, shook hands and waved as he pulled his rig back onto the road.

I stood still, listening, hoping to hear the ancient melody again. The wind still blew across the desert, but the song of the Old Ones had ended. We got into the car to restart our interrupted journey. I rolled down my window, breathing in the desert air. “Thank you,” I whispered into the night. “I will not forget

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The Witch Wagon’s Magickal Mystery Tour

The Witch Wagon’s Magickal Mystery Tour

Offering One:

When we are young, I believe we often know exactly what the path before us will reveal, and although sometimes we manage to lose our way amidst the wonders and challenges of attempting to do what is expected and viewed as the correct road, there might still be a version of that path still recoverable depending upon our determination to find our original footprints once more. Returning to a journey begun and then interrupted often requires summoning courage we didn’t realize existed within us and the will to rearrange matter if it comes to that. Perhaps the path less traveled was the one quietly awaiting those who would remember it was there.
This is a little story of working with the available resources around us, and of letting go of the ‘what ifs’ in life as most often they prove to be baggage and not wisdom. In the end, of figuring out we are not only responsible for ourselves and our own actions, but the ripples we create and affect others around we never considered as well. Most importantly, this is a story of rediscovering the most important of lessons that were laid before us but lost in the simplicity and uncomplicated they had contained.
The universe offered me a reawakening just few short weeks ago which now seems much like having been scooped up with a chunk of life at some distant crossroads in that forest where none of us would hear the proverbial tree fall. Thoughts and feelings of disbelief, freedom, chaos, joy, absurdity, regret, release, being cornered and labeled, bravely protesting the odds; these were just a few of effects any transition presents that becomes the threads from which the fabric of a new journey began. I had about ten days to deal with them all in total.
As I acknowledge my recent life change; hereto referred to as my new ‘Gypsy Life’, the continuation of a magickal journey and the gleaning of all lessons learned and wisdom passed. I have also acknowledged that in order to fully embrace the future ahead, it was and will continue to be necessary to reexamine the past as this journal of my future will most likely reveal. Balancing the past and the present is no slight challenge. Without it however, there can be no fulfilled future.
I should mention at this point that the title chosen for this quest honors both my family’s gypsy living style heritage, pays homage to a favorite Beatles song “The Magical Mystery Tour”, simply best describes my new world that works for me. I am taking the opportunity to perhaps offer a tip or two that has been gleaned from choosing a new way to live to the fullest on the chance it might be helpful to another. As every life is unique, so is every journey. In truth, this little chronicle will be something left behind that will perhaps uproot a giggle here or there, even convey my improbable joy at having finally found something I had longed and searched for in my younger years that had been given up in hopes of ever finding.
Naming these offerings The Magickal Mystery Tour would for some, pretty much sets the stage for what will follow. It does not follow that the future of this or any other journey can be predicted or expected. Those who understand the ways of the forces within the Universe also know that this is a part of the ‘mystery’. Yes, I am a Witch, neither ugly nor evil. I look, most of time act, and walk and talk like any other mortal on Middle Earth. I’ve made the same amount of mistakes as many of us have, learned as many lessons, desire a world that lives in peace and harmony with the earth.
Now for that bit of back story always seems to lend substance to any tale worth telling, and the art of storytelling evolves and becomes more interesting as it progresses, as I hope this one will as well. It always must include tales of the past as well. That having been said, if you manage to stay the course through the next few paragraphs, perhaps you will choose here and there to join us again to see how the journey unfolds.
For my part, I began my magickal life as a small child that was cloaked within a spiritual upbringing which would tolerate some of my mother’s beliefs not fashionable or that socially acceptable in the 1950’s. However, I will say now that my mother was so adept at weaving the magickal with the mundane that I made it all the way to college before understanding the rest of the world considered some of us ‘strange and unusual’, which you should know, I can now say I consider a compliment. My father’s work for lack of a suitable title in the day had us living a Gypsy lifestyle for the entirety of our family life together. I loved the magickal part of my life as it was natural and usually always produced positive results. The Gypsy living part; not so much even though I would come to find it was as inherent a part of me as my lineage or my chromosomes. It did however provide a comfortable living for our family, and we were loved. This is what truly mattered.
As an adult, I chose to pursue a career that both allowed me to share the healing knowledge that had been passed on to me and to find ‘my people’ (as my friend once put it), and I set out in sincerity to meld two worlds of belief and science that would work simultaneously together for the good of all. Surely some of my own kind then must have chosen this path. I would finally settle down in a more ‘normal’ life style, one which would allow me the means and time to also pursue my artistic passions as well. Such is the stardust of dreams.
I entered the profession of nursing having decided this would be the place. It seemed at the time the perfect algorithm to where I wanted to move. After all, it had been logically thought out and even verified after having taken a job as a nurse’s aide to qualify for the program when I found caring for those who were in need was fulfilling and somewhat of a challenging adventure. I, like most of us who charge into the future full of the zest and vigor of youth were ready to change the world!
Note: I will skip to a note I was saving until the end of my journal: We Cardinal Earth energies who actually are in part or whole walking ‘algorithms’, like everyone else, create change in the smaller world that surrounds us which is perfectly fine as long as it is mostly positive change. Very few of us are nominated for Nobel Prizes, work that is cherished for centuries, or any of my other childhood fantasies. And that is okay.
This world and existence measured in life times is full of obstacles, windows of opportunity that appeared to be signs of correct choices, the usual trials and rewards that we are presented. It may take more than one state of existence to cover all the ground we dreamed as children. This too is okay as well.
Continuing on, I like many around me, subconsciously and/or dutifully traded my childhood fantasies, hopes and dreams for a shot at normalcy as was expected of our generation. I did not have the wisdom or tenacity to succeed in melding the magickal healing arts with those of the accepted norm in my two decades of healthcare, as like my parents generation, it was not to be considered. Like the generations of magickal folks that have crossed the Veil, we worked silently and behind the scenes.
As far as my two successful and rewarding decades in healthcare went, I now must admit that I did not process the experience and strength to be able to fuse two forms of art and science together in my twenties, even if it would have been tolerated, which it wasn’t, and I had to make a choice to embrace one or the other if I was to remain on this path. Or at least it felt so at the time. I now know many years later, the two worlds I thought they were then could have been fused. It is change, and all things are possible with belief. I hope that changes as time moves forward. Perhaps it was neither the time nor I the person to accomplish anything other than that which I did. Everything happens as it was supposed to however, and my experience shaped and prepared me for different ones further down the road. It is possible I needed to lose and then recover a part of myself to be able when it was time to identify what was really important to me. All that is certain for me now is that I view the world in a totally different way, and I am most pleased with that, it is a good feeling.
As for the ‘Normal life’ thing; I am not sure we need use that term anymore. We have evolved and ‘normal’ wears many hats these days. I wish this lesson had come earlier in life, but all good things happen in their own time. I have made peace with myself that the first time I viewed a deadly pathogen through a microscope, the magickal powers I possessed as a child began to seek a place of forgetfulness deep within me as I accepted the ‘new wisdom’ as universal law. And that would decades before the ‘magick’ me would reawaken and I would find my people. I found a life tribe that I never believed I would, new family with which to evolve some more.
Now to the beginning of my personal Magickal Mystery Tour…
About a year ago both an epiphany and yet another personal ‘life algorithm’ collided with one another whilst I was attempting to do some mundane house maintenance of some kind or another. The result of which was that the time had come to downsize my world on all levels; physical, mental, influential, all the forces that surrounded me. As with many great ideas and plans we form in our minds and write on sticky notes or ‘to do’ lists, it would be some time before I would get the message not having been received lit up in neon lights. There are always places to be, people who need you, dreams to dream, and deadlines to meet.
My new life dreams would reveal (or resurrect themselves), and then in a very different sort of light it became necessary to address the mountains of ‘stuff’ in my garage, affectionately referred to as the Abyss; the distant hills in my head that represented my regrets, and to totally objectively lay out my mental/physical/financial/spiritual/practical assets.
Having fortified myself with a bundle of Sage and a cup of very strong coffee, I crossed the threshold of garage door to stand facing decades of hoarded memorabilia I had cared for decades. It seemed more logical then to begin with tangible Items that I believed held some sort of sentimental value be it real or imaginary. There were before me piles and boxes of physical representations that were in reality mental concepts that held some mystical future purpose that had yet to be revealed; most likely, never would be in this lifetime. I had habitually over the years rented abode after abode with attached garages, not to actually house my car, but to shin which to shelter boxes and boxes of pictures that would never become the albums I had wished them to be when there was never time to make it happen, bits of pink plastic from my married daughter’s childhood, patched up and even broken items that had meant something to my parents as well as items belonging to relatives who had passed who had probably forgotten about them even in life. I dare say petrified bodies of spiders and scorpions who age I will never recall. I thought it my duty to keep what physical energies that was my family alive. My two car garage was always filled with things I hadn’t seen for years and years that were somehow waiting for me to provide them with a new life as I had teased them about having a ‘someday’. Surprise! Someday arrived, just not in the package I had planned yet again.
Too overwhelmed to continue on my quest into the past just yet, I closed the door and turned to face the 1275 square feet of house filled with the things I actually valued enough to want to have in my world each day, and realized that minus all the actual empty space in between the physical items on wall, in drawers and closets, there was about 825 square feet of wasted space/or quantum potential going to waste I wasn’t tapping into requiring at least daily mundane maintenance that was soaking up the time and energy I could be using on writing, my magickal work and endeavors, meditation, and many other things there never seemed to be enough time to work in everyday. That damned epiphany was screaming at me again. Okay! I got it. Enough is enough and it is time to make a change.
I began exploring smaller space living in several cultures. The simplicity of flowing energy and minimalism. The ‘tiny house movement’ in progress as well as other alternative lifestyles that would allow me to not be owned by the space I wasn’t really using, and began pondering how much more rewarding the precious moments of life could be for me if a life style transition could be manifested. Trusting to Spirit and putting off the actually addressing available finances and inner worldly demands that would most likely puke all over what I would decide I wanted anyway, it was time to work from the physical restraints outward. Oh my, would I ever cease creating algorithms and complicating the crap out of something that should just be what has to be? Probably not. I accepted this trait was inherited from my father, so forgave and forgot the question.
I returned to the Abyss shortly thereafter, that time as an experiment to research what really mattered to me without the perceived social obligation I felt to be the caretaker of anything ‘family’. This was most uncomfortable and difficult for me. You should know I believe the Universe invented the glue gun so that everything can be saved and kept, and scratches, scrapes, scars and missing parts are just character and life’s way of adding patina to an object. Oh my, huh?
When I drew the yellowing box that contained a beloved pet’s ashes that had always been one of the very first things I packed each and every move for twenty years while awaiting the expectant permanent home that had yet to find, I realized there would be little in my garage that needed to remain with me, and much that needed to be redistributed in some way or another. It was not fair to me to keep restrained the energies that needed now so much to be released. As difficult as it would be, the time had come to separate what was totally precious to me alone, redistribute what was to others, give away what was still usable and could become something cherished for another, and to hire the dump truck to take away fifty percent of the garage that qualified as none of the above.
In practicality, Shadow (whose ashes had already awaited two decades with me to find what we could call ‘home) and I would never have the piece of land I planned to bury her on due to circumstances beyond my control, Karmic debt, whatever you will call it. There would in all likelihood, never be that rosebush and a chaise adjacent to it so that we might have long afternoon conversations we didn’t make or have time for in this lifetime. She should have buried with the most recent of my beloved fur kids in the yard with her own cover stone, as were they since I had realized recently it was the memories and love that counted, not attempting to bring to fruition a dream that belonged only to me.
So, amidst many tears, I made my apologies and buried her ashes as I informed all my beloveds that we would meet again on the Rainbow Bridge. I realized my fur kids had been a part of the process that brought me one step closer to where I needed to be in addition to being the loves of my life and bringing joy to my family and to each other. I had to keep moving. The wind literally was at my back this time around, and would use that strength to augment my own.
In the midst of my reworking my world, the house I was renting went up for sale just by mutual agreement just before I was to travel to join with my life tribe. Timing after all really is everything. I did what I could before traveling cross country and I returned expecting to have time to finish my debunking of ‘baggage’ to find the house had sold and there was two weeks to rock my world in reality.
The Bucket List I had begun after laying my precious Shadow to rest in the tortoise habitat with the rest of her fur family had now turned into Column A and Column B.
A: Vacating the house no matter what it took. Eight days to move, two to clean.
B: Manifesting somehow a new world for my remaining fur kids within a seemingly impossible timeline.
Both were equally unlikely considering some surrounding circumstances, but here is where I realized why I had become adept at triaging patients. I just needed to rewrite the paradigm. Spirit would need to be at my back, and obviously was for what laid ahead which were some very creative solutions I story boarded on walls and worked to death in my dreams. It was most definitely the time to merge Belief, Will, and Action with a side of Divine Intervention and seemed for a few days I was somehow signing up for a reality show where my endurance would be tested to its limits.
I stood in front of where my altar once stood in the twelve by twelve foot ritual room containing so many lovely memories that had been taken down on request of the real estate agent who had asked me to ‘take it down a bit’ which translated into get rid of all things not ‘normal’. Only my altar was now a single stone which followed me around the house attempting to tell me that having space to even work in my magical world was going to have to be reduced to just what was needed, as the physical in this realm too must change. I had learned we need only our minds to worship, pray, speak our hopes and fears. The stone had become an item of comfort I did not wish to part from.
For merely a way to release stress, I allowed myself one night to throw myself a Pity Party before getting down to business. It was day #8, and one dump truck had not been enough, even at $250 plus tip. Most of the charities didn’t have scheduled pickups left in my timeframe and were narrowing the items they were accepting. The abyss still looked like one.
I had just relocated my tortoise to his new home (although with tears of joy), said goodbye to two fur kids I was fostering, I hurt as one sixty-two year old and two seventy year old women dragged and loaded over the wall one hundred and fifteen double and triple cement bricks to house some tortoise hatchlings (you do what you have to do), as well as I had just finished reviewing what I had to work with. I ate a pound of chocolate followed by a bunch of allergy medicine as a chaser and cried myself to sleep, apologizing to Spirit the entire time. I awoke, thanks to the forces of the Universe ready to take on the world and finish the task at hand. Two days left including cleaning. With some help from my kids, this was accomplished.
Maslow’s list of mortal needs must always be acknowledged. Shelter first: What I would spend on utilities and rent and such for 28 months worked out to be exactly the cost of a 23 foot camper trailer which had been reduced and was sitting on the lot at an RV dealer up the road. Don’t laugh! It was not the Tiny Little House made of wood with the loft bedroom I had decided to love, but 207 square feet of totally well thought out space which included a ‘bunk bed’ set up at the opposite end of the bedroom which would become the kitty habitat none the less. Thanks to my kids again, who originally could not visualize me in a travel trailer or even changing out a propane tank on my own, the beginning of a dream was accomplished in an evening when we came to the conclusion together that we would trust this avenue was doable. In the frame of about twenty minutes of paperwork and some serious tachycardia, I joined the tiny house movement in progress
Note: Nothing is as easy as it is made to appear in advertisements. The challenges that follow a seemingly simple choice will be myriad, even when you are sure you made the correct decision. A sense of humor is mandatory, and you have to immediately choose to be grateful and love and enjoy what you have in order for it all to work out.
Having purchased the vehicle without the eight horses of power or two Unicorns with which to pull it, the real work ahead began to present itself. Where to pull it for a time to learn to live off the grid? Who owned a vehicle for the first move? How brave does one want to be given the choice of living on or off the grid?
It would turn out unless you owned land far enough away from neighbors you couldn’t run a noisy generator which would require more fuel than paying for electricity set down in a park, not to mention the hauling of propane tanks and pulling the thing for waste dumps and water fill ups. I was going to join a friend with room so we could have mutual company, but it would turn out the power company had made a new rule about how much energy could supply square footage, and there was still the issue of propane refills and waste dumps. You can’t travel or pull a vehicle in the desert heat with pets inside as you can’t run a generator whilst traveling. The list went on and on.
The two nights I spent on the RV sales lot loading what I could into the RV before pulling it to the spot forty miles outside of Las Vegas did not prepare me for even quasi off the grid living. The cats made it very clear that they missed the other thousand square feet of space that had suddenly been dissolved and would find ways to express their disdain. The newest of the kitties tore up the curtain liner in the bathroom and peeled all the sealant from the shower on night number one.
I would find that this type of a change would have been best done when time and physical constraints was not an issue, and if the move could have been done just a few bags and boxes at a time instead of having to dump half of what was left of my world in the little space there was to walk. But it was what it was and I was so excited to be on a new journey and have my little house and the freedom to move where I wanted without yearly leases that this time I cried myself to sleep in tears of joy the first few nights I slept in my new home. I even laughed hysterically when I fell over the boxes blocking the path to the bathroom in the middle of the night, having been lucky enough not to break anything, and the cats laughed back.
I spent a week realizing bringing pots and pans to a house with two burners and a microwave was a bit of overkill, as was the four tea pots and all my tea things. They however will remain if I have to get rid of clothing and food. Tough choices to store some food or dishes, clothes or magickal supplies in 207 square feet defied the blueprint. Toss the crock pot and keep the toaster instead? Could you store household items with the cat food and kitty litter? For that matter, could you store food over the ‘kitty habitat’ if it came to that, which it did?
The concept of what type of diet I would choose depended upon which way I went with the kitchen ware. Oddly enough, this was my first win/win situation. I am not the best baker, although I can cook. As there was no oven out went all utensils and baking ware to the garage sale pile for the neighbor as I would never be baking again. A great and long overdue release for me, and the tiny refrigerator that isn’t large enough to hold a standard cake and additional food anyway. We acknowledged my wise decision.
There was enough room for a few cleaning supplies (this was after all originally meant to be a camping trailer not a home sweet home) and some dishes, and two bins over the closet to store food stuffs in. Solution resolved. I just had to let go of my pots and pans on pickup day at the park in order to keep the tea things. Kitchen/Eating…done!
Having addressed shelter and food it was time to work on safety which also included making room for my magickal work. Fortunately a friendly Sherman Shepherd lives next door and most of the other homes our little wilderness community owns at least one pit bull. The Shepherd was friendly and with permission of her owner, I was allowed to buy her treats. Night barking upon my return solved.
I moved on to the altar and ritual space situation. The top of the mini closet which holds about twelve items on wire hangers is about ten inches by ten inches. My portable altar set up fit quite nicely and I stored my full sized items and supplies under the daybed couch for whenever there will be a time we can work outside. In all actually, since there will be little fancy cooking happening on the two burner stove, the little space there would originally held cooking herbs alone was filled with my magickal ones, which worked for me as well.
Sticky picture and towel holders don’t work on textured surfaces. Nails are not steadfast, and every wall that was suitable for a mirror or monitor screen had been chosen for wiring, smoke alarms, thermostats, whatever. The dealer did not have a schematic of the wiring system. I worked a spell, said a prayer, charged up the drill bit and cracked open a package of plugs. I was on a mission to make the place my own and magick would overcome my lack of electrical and engineering skills. Which it did!
Between drilling and pounding and hanging draw curtains I became adept at propane tanks, relighting pilot lights in the wind, leveling the vehicle which was sitting on dirt and not cement (so ‘settled’ often), and several other things I once would have decided I needed a man to do for me in days past. Not that any of my ex husbands or boyfriends were ever of any use when it came to any of these things. I was morphing into an RV Goddess! Life was good.
Some force I cannot explain, perhaps a way in which to express my joy at being once again on a path I felt to be my own, I went off the grid for a few days without the little house or the cats. Having placed them in the care of our family vet, I ventured up through the tip of Arizona, some of Colorado, and a chunk of Wyoming simply enjoying the elements, the visual beauty, the gifts Gaia offers us. I returned refreshed, renewed, having missed my little house, and most surprising of all five cats who after spending time in kitty condos at the vet were thrilled to be released into the 207 square feet once more. The attitude adjustment from the fur kids was just what the Goddess ordered for them as well.
But Spirit had much larger plans for me, not just that of becoming comfortable falling asleep to the sound of the coyotes at night and my bliss at having escaped for a bit the traffic and convenience of a twenty four hour town. I found the military base in the area bought out the other side of the little town’s highway which included the casino, restaurant, laundry facilities, food mart and gas station, and the motel in renovation. Pretty much, the part of the town I needed personally. Plan A had served its purpose of giving me time before moving back home to return at least looking somewhat competent to can handle my own RV in a proper park, and just as I was getting used to and working around the lack of most of my taken for granted amenities it was time to return to WYFI, laundry facilities, a clubhouse, and mail delivered daily and not twice a week to a P.O. Box. I will consider it a fair trade for the lack of gas and time spent driving for groceries and laundry services.
Again, timing is everything and I still have to figure out the eight horses or the two Unicorns to be totally a movable magickal gypsy life style, so I will need even more additional time to adapt. I now understand why the portable life style was a part of my childhood as it will totally compliment it being a part of my older years. Perhaps the white stone a river in Wyoming offered me of late is a part of the story to come as well, or the Raven who danced for me one morning before I returned. The time spent in boarding certainly rearranged the cat’s state of mind…the 207 square feet being so much larger than the kitty condos. They seemed overjoyed to be returned to their larger surroundings upon return, and still act as if they have found their state of ‘normal’. I
I am glad about much of that which we call mystery remains such until it is revealed. What better way to keep wondrous surprises safe until they become awe, or not so wondrous necessities from keeping us from living each day fully? I wouldn’t have been able to handle the thought or nightmares that moving three times in two months would have brought had I known this up front, I never would have thought of piling food in storage bins, I wouldn’t have learned how to reline a shower if not for a ticked off cat, and who what joy simplicity in living could offer…especially those once thought to be bothersome.
I am going to use the three weeks before the move to spiritually cleanse the entire place, finish letting go of what must be, and enjoying the fact the stars seem larger and brighter in the pristine desert. I’m sure at this point I will be spoiled by the returning amenities and will become a cross hybrid Gypsy/Snowbird from here on out. This was just the beginning of looking at what is with new eyes.
It will work out better for my spiritual family who will be doing less driving and we will be able to meet in person more often in person rather than over Face Time and renting ritual rooms from the magick stores for ritual. Another plus.
Spirit knew this would unfold and was just waiting for me to become comfortable with my new skills. It seems however, as quickly as I became comfortable; it was time to move on. It was perhaps here I embraced the fact that the Gypsy life I once did not enjoy so very much might be considered more of an adventure versus an inconvenience, as the sense of that adventure that always accompanied all of our childhood moves had returned. I realized ‘being on wheels’ was a sort of freedom never before enjoyed: I could keep my home and everything in even if it was moved to another state. Geography would never again interfere, but would become the next stage of a very familiar journey.
As I am readying the place for the next leg of our journey, let me just say I love being a part of the growing movement of tiny little homeowners who at least consider themselves ‘freer’ whilst we actually break free of ourselves first. It has been a wondrous adventure thus far, and each week unfolds yet another challenge to wake up many of my forgotten and in need of exercise brain cells, work out my unique approach to creativity, let go of my fears, and the chance to remind myself that we each have a destiny that must be constantly worked toward. My mission and lifestyle will be to improve my magickal endeavors and spiritual training, write, paint, to continue moving as close as I can to enlightenment in this lifetime.
Oh, and I finally learned that there really is a useful and practical application for that college algebra and geometry. If it doesn’t work on the mathematical plane, it’s not going to be transformed whilst trying to ignore the laws of the universe on the physical plane either. Yes, I did manage to get a round table top into a rectangle car trunk once, but learned that both the inside of the trunk and the table suffered the consequences.
In tiny house living if you have three square feet of storage to fill; you can
A: let of the need to neatly secure loose items in rigid containers and use plastic bags instead of taking for granted the physical laws of gravity and stability take the upper hand
B: Reduce, discard, and give away all but what you are okay with tripping over
C: Go through both A and B and to discover that in order to keep your seasonal clothes you can’t afford to replace you have to rotate storage with or all those jump drives you filled with memories, and rethink everything once called ‘necessary’ before loading anything into your tiny little house or wagon. Otherwise you become the mouse that moves a thing from one place to another and keeps repeating the process because that is all that can be done.
Perhaps in the end, we will all find that what we have successfully managed to manifest sometimes occurred between meaningful layers of ‘becoming’. Otherwise, many of us who lack sublime patience would most certainly have missed the opportunities were offered to appreciate the journey along the way, not to mention grasping the lessons sent to assist us in our transformation.
Life ebbs and flows within change along with the seasons. Nothing remains the same really, else it ceases to grow and move forward. We will need to learn to hold on to what is important and valuable and dear to us and it may take having to let go of some of the same to not be forced to color within the lines again.
I have immersed myself in the ebb and flow, am on board once more with adaptation, looking forward to each month ahead. I have gotten as far as releasing the physical past. Next, the emotional.
On that note, I will end this first and begin scanning those three thousand pictures which will require I learn how use larger storage than jump drives and let go of cherished concepts known as ‘hard copies’. Which wasn’t planned for this lifetime at all since I was still waiting for self cleaning closets and interactive computer systems even in SUVS and RVS: Changing my thought pattern as we speak.
I will be moving during Samhain/Halloween, but should be able to share some photos of the little wagon by Yule. In my next offering, I will share how I needed to rethink and rework some magickal tools and supply to adjust to tiny home living, and offer what I experienced on doing so this next time around. Until then, Happy Trails to you, and to all of you who have reduced your ‘living space’, remember the potential within and without us still remains as vast as it always is.
Blessings to all!

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Sacred Journeys – For The Love of Riley

Circle of Thyme – For the Love of Riley
By Linda Monsees Stump © 2014

Anyone who has ever adopted an animal knows that the process is a journey of discovery. And when adopting a rescue, rather than adopting a kitten or puppy, that journey becomes much more complex. But it can also be extremely rewarding, as my husband and I rediscovered with our latest furry family member.

My husband and I, with our children grown, had the “perfect” fur-kid family: one dog (male) and one cat (female). The two got on very well, in fact, Patches the cat is so enamored of Max, our Sheltie, that she cuddles up to him and it was often hard to tell where the dog ended and the cat began, so alike is their coloring! As Patches had been born feral and rescued as a kitten, she was always a bit skittish and she bonded first with Max. It took her quite a while to warm up to people and actually sit on our laps.

So why on earth would we want to upset the perfect balance and adopt another animal?

My husband and I had been talking about the possibility of a second dog for about a year. Our younger daughter and son-in-law are a two-dog family, and we’ve seen how much their two enjoy being together. We knew that Max, a very easygoing dog, would likely have no problem adjusting to a new canine sibling. We wanted another Sheltie, but we were firm on one thing: although we’d gotten Max as a puppy from a reputable breeder, we wanted a rescue dog, one who needed a good home. We’ve had other rescues over the years of our marriage, so we were aware of the challenges and the rewards.

I didn’t realize it, but my husband had been “just looking” at the ads online for rescues, and browsing the “pet of the week” columns. In March, he finally said, “You know, we’ve been talking about getting another dog for ages – we need to stop talking about it and just do it!”

That same week, we came across a listing on a local Sheltie Rescue web site for a lovely Sheltie boy. We called the number provided and left a message for Pat, the lady who was fostering him. I got a call back that morning – Shiloh was already spoken for. We talked a bit and she asked some questions about us and our dog, then said she was getting another Sheltie the next day that she thought would be a perfect fit for us. He was about four and a half years old and was being surrendered because he was “too playful”. Pat emailed us the application, and I filled it out that day, sending pictures of our fenced in back yard (a requirement) and of Max and Patches together on the couch and the wing chair.

Pat called the following day to let us know she had the new arrival, whom she called Kody. This was not the name his original owners gave him, and I learned that the foster family will typically not use the name given by the dog’s original owners in case there was an abusive situation where the dog might associate the name with bad things happening. She told us he was beautiful and a real sweetheart. She said he was taller than the average Sheltie, which reinforced the idea of a good fit, as our Max is a tall boy too. Pat took Kody to her vet to have him checked out, ensure he was current on his shots and get him micro-chipped. He was limping and tested positive for Lyme disease – she asked if that was a problem for us. It wasn’t; he was on the antibiotic, which Pat said we could continue to give him post-adoption, and it wasn’t as though he had a contagious disease that could be transmitted to Max or Patches. We made arrangements for Pat to bring Kody to our house that Friday for a home visit and to see how he and Max got along.

We had already decided on a name for our new fur-kid: Riley, because as my husband says, all our animals live “the life of Riley” – they are completely spoiled and loved! It may sound silly, but we talked to Max and Patches and told them that “Riley’s coming” and said he’s their “new puppy”. I also told Max that having another dog didn’t mean we loved him less. Max is – and always will be – my “heart dog”. He instinctively knows when I’m not feeling well, or I’m going through something difficult, and he will stay right at my side. He has been a cuddle bug since puppy-hood. His loving nature healed our hearts after our first Sheltie, Skye, died suddenly of a seizure. And no matter how rough my day is, it always makes me smile to see him running for the gate to greet me after work. Somehow Max seemed to understand completely.

We waited anxiously for Pat to arrive with Kody – now to be named Riley. When we opened the door, she walked in with a gorgeous sable and white Sheltie, who wagged his tail in greeting. He was just as tall as Max, as we saw when the two dogs touched noses, tails wagging madly. Riley greeted each of us, and although this was the second new home he’d had within a week’s time, he was happy enough for me to sit down on the floor with him. We let him explore and get used to Max. Even Patches came downstairs to see what was going on – a surprise, since she usually makes herself scarce when visitors arrive! After the first excitement of greeting, we let the dogs wander around the yard to see how they’d do. There were no aggression issues, and they both came happily to get treats.
We talked while my husband made copies of Riley’s vet records for Pat. We learned that Riley had been treated for carsickness by his first vet, but he had been fine when Pat had taken him for rides. He had apparently been attacked by a bigger dog at one time. He has a small scar over his left eye – all I could think of was, thank goodness it wasn’t a bit lower, or he might have lost his eye!

Serendipitously, it turned out that Pat and her husband once owned our house! It really did seem as though everything was aligning favorably for our adoption. Finally Pat asked us formally if we wanted to adopt him – of course, the answer was yes! He’d stolen our hearts from the moment he walked in the door. We paid the adoption fee, and Pat wanted to get a photo of the new family. Max readily jumped up on the couch to pose, but Riley resisted. When I picked him up and put him on the couch next to me, he jumped down immediately. It was evident that he’d not been allowed on the furniture in his previous home. 03-14-2014 WelcomeRileyHe finally allowed me to hold him on my lap for a photo, but wouldn’t look up, as though afraid he would be in trouble. We let him hop down after the pictures so not to stress him. Pat gave Riley a farewell hug and left to look after the rest of her menagerie – her own pets, several rescue border collies, cats and horses.

We spent time talking to Riley and petting him. When it was feeding time, though, he wouldn’t eat. We’d gotten a new bowl like Max’s, metal with a rubber rim – and Riley wouldn’t eat out of it. He would take a few bites of kibble from my hand, but wouldn’t touch the dog dish. I thought perhaps he was still a bit anxious – after all, he’d been through so many changes in such a short time. I could only imagine what he was feeling, being surrendered by the family who’d had him since puppyhood, then spending less than a week with Pat before coming to us. He must have been so confused and scared – yet he wagged his tail eagerly whenever we talked to him. I started to worry when he wouldn’t drink from the big water bowl we kept in the kitchen. When I took them out in the back yard before bed, though, he drank from a pottery water dish that we put water in for the rabbits who can’t get to the bird bath. Suddenly the light dawned – he was afraid of the metal bowls! We put water in one of our dinnerware bowls and he drank. Then he hungrily ate some more kibble when put in a stoneware bowl.

When it was time for bed, he went upstairs with us, but hid under the bed instead of sleeping on his nice soft doggy bed. I put my pillow on the floor and laid down beside him, reassuring him that everything was fine, he was in his forever home, safe and loved. We both fell asleep. I awoke several hours later, stiff from lying on the floor. When I got into bed, Riley crawled onto his dog bed and went back to sleep with a little sigh.

The next morning, my husband stayed with the fur-kids while I went to PetSmart to buy new ceramic dog bowls, a leash, and a toy for Riley. He didn’t quite know what to do with the toy, didn’t chase the ball or the Frisbee, but seemed to enjoy sitting outside in the sunshine. He was unaccustomed to cuddles, but loved to be spoken to. He seemed interested in the brush when my husband gave Max his daily brushing, and was more than willing to be brushed (even if he wasn’t very still!). He quickly learned his new name, and we praised him lavishly when he came on call. I could only imagine how confusing it must be to a dog to have had three names in his life!

We found out that Riley is scared of a lot of things: thunderstorms and flashlights (he runs and hides under the bed, under my husband’s desk or behind Max), aluminum foil and other shiny metal things (explains why he didn’t like the metal bowls!), people with hats or carrying large objects, big dogs, bicyclists, rumbling trucks and loud noises. We didn’t take him for a walk for two weeks to get him accustomed to his new surroundings. He doesn’t always walk very well on a leash, but he’s learning. He barks like mad if he sees another dog – particularly if it’s bigger than he is, he tries to act tough (although he’s scared!). He will skitter behind me for safety if a big truck comes rumbling down the street. We think he must have been left to run, as he clearly sees the truck as a threat.

For the few weeks we didn’t leave him at home without us. I ran the errands and did the grocery shopping while my husband stayed with the fur-kids. When we started going out again for short periods, Riley did have some separation anxiety at first. But we always made much of him when we came home, reassuring him that we weren’t going to abandon him. MaxandRiley1

We took Riley along for a get-acquainted visit with our vet when Max went in for his annual shots. It went well, and he was incredibly well-behaved in the waiting room, even making friends with a sweet little girl who called him “Wiley.” And he didn’t get car sick, which was a good sign! He did very well when we took both dogs to the groomer about a month later. Max has been going there since his coat first grew in, so he is comfortable with the staff. Riley seemed fine because Max was there, but of course, he was very glad to see us come back for him!

RileyCuddleRiley has come a long way in his first six months with us. He has made friends with a little Yorkshire terrier in the neighborhood after Max paved the way, he has met neighbors and his “aunt and uncle” from California.  He loves it when our younger daughter comes to stay with us on one of her work trips.  He let us know that he absolutely loves his favorite treat, Beneful Healthy Smiles, and even prances around and sings when we go to the pantry to get them! He has also discovered that the couch is a pretty nice place to curl up, and he no longer has that “Uh-oh, I shouldn’t be up here” look – he has figured out that in our house, the dogs – and cat – are welcome on the furniture! Where he didn’t know how to cuddle very well at first, now he jumps up on the couch every morning to snuggle with me. It’s a good thing he’s a Sheltie and not a St. Bernard, because he thinks he’s a lap dog! We celebrated his birthday, and as we’ve done with Max, took his picture on his special day and made sure he got his favorite treat!

09-17-2014 Riley 5 Years OldThe journey with Riley continues as he experiences new things with us. He truly seems appreciative of his new life. As my daughter reminded e, Max has only known being with us and having a good home – he’s never known that not all dogs have that kind of life. Riley does; and he shows us every day that he’s as thankful to be with us as we are to have him. He has brought so much more love into our lives. We are treasuring every step of this journey, for the love of Riley.

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Circle of Thyme – Of Fireflies and Faith

JourneyCircle of Thyme – Of Fireflies and Faith
By Linda Monsees Stump © 2014

“Thank you for caring,” my friend said before hanging up the phone. Her words hit home. Sometimes in today’s busy world, where overwork, multi-tasking and stress seem par for the course, it’s sometimes difficult to make time for the things that really matter. How often do we neglect telling a loved one how much the mean to us, or let a call from a friend go to voice mail because we’re too busy, too tired, or simply can’t face one more external demand on our energy?

While there are certainly many legitimate reasons why we can’t always answer the phone every time a friend or family member calls, I’ve heard too many colleagues say, “I can’t deal with So-and-So right now, he’s driving me crazy!”

I reflected on my friend’s words that night while sitting on my back porch watching the fireflies flit in the warm summer air. I honestly didn’t feel as though I’d done anything special. I’d just answered her call and helped her talk through something that was bothering her. It’s what friends are supposed to do. But the emotion in her voice was humbling, and as I watched the blinking faerie lights of the fireflies, it brought to mind something I’d written several years ago and I thought I would share it again here. Our Writers’ Night Out theme this year is Sacred Journeys, and friendship is certainly a sacred journey in life. I hope this will remind all of us to be mindful of those around us – those who need our time, our strength, our compassion. We truly are all connected.

Of Fireflies and Faith
By Linda Monsees Stump © August 2005

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. The light flashed in the warm summer darkness near the edge of my back porch at regular intervals as I stood in the garden watching the puppy make his last round of the yard for the night. Our LED flashlight blinks in a similar way so you can find it when the power goes out, and I wondered vaguely what it was doing outside. Then I realized the color of the light was gold, not green…it wasn’t the flashlight. I turned on the porch light to investigate.

It was a lightning bug, a tiny firefly, who had gotten trapped in a spider web. His regular blinking was like a silent call for help. I couldn’t see the spider in the web and had nothing against it, but I rather like lightning bugs, and after seeing his SOS I couldn’t stand by and let him become dinner. I didn’t have lightning bugs to add enchantment to a summer night when I was growing up, as the climate was too dry for them out west. But I have special memories of summers in North Carolina with my dad’s family, and sitting on the porch watching the fireflies sending their signals across the “back forty”, and hearing again the story of how my mother, newly arrived from England, saw lightning bugs for the first time. She’d never heard of fireflies and thought she was imagining the tiny lights flickering in the southern dusk.

I got the trowel in an effort to extricate the lightning bug without hurting him. I managed to free him from the spider web, but the silken strands were still stuck to him and he couldn’t fly. My husband came to the door and, seeing the predicament, went back in for the flashlight. Since his close-up vision is better than mine (I didn’t have my glasses on), I held the trowel and kept the light steady on our hapless friend while he gently eased the spider web from the firefly’s body. The little bug stopped blinking and for a moment I feared the stress of capture and having two “giants” hovering about had been too much for him. Then he moved, very slowly. I held my breath.

The lightning bug flew up off the trowel and then blinked at us – once, twice, three times in what felt very much like a “thank you” before being lost among others of his kind. My husband and I exchanged a glance and smiled. We’d made a difference in the life of one small being. I went to bed that night feeling a deep sense of satisfaction.

Still, the experience gave me much to ponder. How tuned in are we to the world around us and the creatures with whom we inhabit it? I wondered if, while the firefly blinked away in the prison of the spider’s web, he believed that help would come or, thinking himself beyond rescue, he was warning his friends of the danger. It may seem a bit anthropomorphic to attribute human thoughts and emotions to a lightning bug, but there was something about the tiny creature that touched my heart. Sometimes a cry for aid isn’t audible – and we have to be paying attention to hear or sense it. And, once we do become aware of the need, what do we do? Do we take the time and expend the energy to make a difference? Or do we walk away because we’re too busy and can’t handle the added stress of another’s problem? Somewhere around us, a person or animal needs us. They are waiting, just like the firefly in the spider’s web, calling out in the darkness of whatever difficulty they are experiencing and keeping the faith that somehow, someone will come and help. Will you?


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In Search of The Sixth Happiness

S. K. Watts 2014

I have very fond memories of being a child and allowed to stay up late on Saturday nights and watch movies…and yes, we are talking about the ones that once upon a time were in black and white!  One of my favorite of these was the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.  It was based upon the life and time of Gladys Aylward, an English woman who knew in her heart somehow that she belonged in China despite having never been there and  repeatedly told she would be considered ‘unqualified’ as a missionary.  Tenacity and courage would trump protocol and experience, and as a result, many lives were touched forever by her selflessness and compassion.  Only recently have I come to understand how the story of Gladys Aylward has touched my own life throughout the years, even though movies are now streamed and too many people believe films in black and white are pure fiction.

For what is true magick if not something that creates a change in yourself as well as others around you?  Memories might even be the little tidbits that glue the magickal thoughts together.

It was the missionary Gladys managed to find, Jennie Lawson, who ran a mission that doubled as a stopover for the traveling mule trains and who explained (at least for the sake of the movie) the meaning of the ‘Sixth Happiness’.   Five of them are named:  “Good Health, Prosperity, Virtue, Long Life and a Peaceful Death in old age”.  (1) When asked what is the ‘sixth happiness’, Gladys is informed that “That you will find out for yourself, each person decides in their own heart what the Sixth Happiness is.” (2)

A very dusty synapse that perches fearfully near forgetfulness has reminded me every decade that I had yet to identify that Sixth Happiness for myself.  Having always considered my life a ‘work in progress’, I apparently (and mistakenly) thought that someone sometime after my own passing would decide what that must have been for me, just as we all were left to decide Gladys’s final choice for ourselves.  It has only been recently that I have come to the conclusion it would be best to identify and embrace whatever my own choice of this final happiness is to be.  Let’s face facts, we aren’t getting any younger and time really does seem to move faster as we progress onward.  So I just most recently did.

I have to say in all honesty that I still haven’t given up on all those things we decided as children were important enough to fill those coveted six slots. Even though those sands through the hourglass have seemed to scurry to diminish more quickly, believing in reincarnation has increased my odds.  The sixth happiness turned out to be the easiest one of them all in the end.  The other four turned out to need just a bit of tweaking.  Anyway,  For me they were/are:

1st.  Finding Mr. Perfect.  I think we can scratch that one out for me, and I am okay with that.  I will meet my life’s partner in the next one.

2nd.  Being nominated for the Nobel Peace Price.  Doubtful.  But I am only 62 years young, so you never know.  Ha ha!

3rd.  Having a work of art hanging in the Louvre for a hundred years after I was gone.  Please note, I haven’t given up on this one yet.  I will however, settle for one hung in the MOMA.

4th.  Writing a best selling novel.  Ditto here too.  It will take working with my writing partner, but all good things come to those who get going and make it happen.

5th.  Becoming an angel at some point.  Hopefully after having lived to be 100 years old.  I made a directional change in later years; I wish to achieve Enlightenment.  Wings would probably not become me anyway.

6th.  I didn’t have that one figured out even though I thought I knew what I wanted without doubt.  Who knew?  I do now, and that is all that matters.

The further we grew away from our precious innocence, the more excuses we made why we couldn’t have what we desired when our hearts were young and excited about each and every new day.  Why is that do you think?

Quick!  Without leaning on the state of the economy of an excuse, all the things that went wrong in your life, the fact there are never enough hours in any given day, all the time wasted on whose responsibility the fact you didn’t fulfill your list was, or any other reason time and resources were squandered on those who did not deserve your blessings…name one reason why you couldn’t now spend five minutes in each day doing reaching for what it is you still want, need, and desire?

I couldn’t this week, even though I wasted much of my life doing so.  But I did come up with the following few reasons why I could still accomplish some of my childhood dreams, so perhaps that will achieve some of the balance we all seek.

Visualization is free.  Call it day dreaming if it makes you feel better.  But carry it to the next level and map out a way to get there…

What you think you really do create; work with quantum physics, not against them.  If you stand still and not move with the Universe, you will gather dust.

Remembering what brings you and those around joy and happiness is a responsibility you owe yourself and others, not something that only happens twice a year.  If you can’t find twenty minutes a day to change the world, then you need to begin with your own.

We are allowed to make time for ourselves without guilt, and making time and sharing what is important to us with each other is also passing on blessings…the whole reason we are supposed to be learning the right lessons in life anyway.  They may not like what it is you are sharing, but should at least appreciate the fact you thought enough of them to do so.  Right?  And yes, children and significant others should come first, but should also understand that just like them, there must be others in your world as well if you are to grow.

If you don’t take a stand to create change, who will?  Those who won’t usually fall away from your life tribe; those who do will follow you to the very end.

And lastly, and most importantly, figure out who in your world you love and are your family.  For many, as it turns out to be for me, this might just be your Sixth Happiness.  As it turns out, I may have arrived at the same conclusion that Gladys did.  Those I love are my life and what has brought me the most happiness in it; these are the memories I will carry into the next one.

If you still aren’t able to identify your Sixth Happiness, you probably have some reflection and experimentation in front of you.  But you owe that to yourself and those around you.  The sands in our hour glasses move more swiftly than we can possibly know.  Your Sixth Happiness must be yours alone.  And you don’t have to share.  Just work on identifying it so that you may enjoy it sooner versus later, or at the very least, understand you may already be doing so.

A challenge, should you choose to accept it, would be to begin this day pondering what your own six happinesses would be.  Forget the excuses, fight off the dismay, remember there will always be things you cannot change and sadness that seems to block out the joy and awe we knew to be truth when we were young.  Your mind however is a blank canvas and you are the master of your own work in progress.  Never let anyone tell you otherwise or to steal your dreams.

Take one month, the cycle of a full turn of the Moon, one page on your kitchen calendar.  Find at least five of your Six Happinesses.  If you take this challenge seriously, you may even discover the sixth.

Dreams that turn into what is real begins with honesty and hope, is fueled by love and being faithful to what it is that you honor, and continues along the road of Enlightenment.

Happy trails.

(1, 2) Twentieth Century Fox Studios, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.  1958.

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Sacred Journeys – The Magic of Music

Sacred Journeys – the Magic of Music
By Linda Monsees Stump © 2014

The first Sunday in May saw me making my annual journey to the beautiful Spoutwood Farm near Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. It is part of the Community Supported Agriculture movement and each spring hosts the Spoutwood Farm May Day Fairie Festival. It is a time when the earth is awakening from its long (and in this year’s case – very long!) winter sleep.

For several years my youngest daughter has been making this trip with me. Now that she has moved to Pittsburgh, she was not able to make it this year. So I went alone. Although I missed being able to spend time with my daughter, the atmosphere at Spoutwood is so welcoming that, even if you attend on your own, you aren’t lonely. Driving off the highway back to the farm, a raven swooped down in front of the car in greeting. I spent time with my horse friends and I was able to chat with some artisans whose work I greatly admire. Jane Starr Weils is an amazing faerie artist; Leah Odom, with her husband, Shane, craft incredible mythical leather masks that bring green men and dryads to life. They also make amazing leaf jewelry, hair cups/clips. After taking part in the beautiful and meaningful Earth Healing Ceremony, I was blessed to visit a little with Rob and Lucy Wood, the owners of the farm. Rob and Lucy are such a wonderful, loving couple and they make visitors feel like honored guests. It is a rare gift.

I always end up rejuvenated by my visits to Spoutwood. It is a welcome break from my current busy corporate life. My creativity is sparked by the wonderful artists and crafters, even as I yearn for more time in which to follow my muse. At the same time I am grounded and deeply comforted by the connection with the earth, for the ability to walk upon the land rather than concrete.

05-04-2014 Spoutwood14What I didn’t expect was to be taken on a musical journey to sacred places I’ve known. There are amazing musicians who bring their talent to Spoutwood, but this journey came about in a rather unexpected way. I decided to attend the Chautauqua session by author Charles de Lint and artist Charles Vess, who have collaborated on such books as The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, Seven Wild Sisters, and Medicine Road. The two gentlemen spoke of their collaborative process and took questions from the audience. Charles de Lint and his lovely and talented wife, MaryAnn Harris, performed songs written around some of his books. The music immediately took me on a journey into my own past. The Appalachian flavor of The Apple Tree Man sent me into the Great Smoky Mountains and travels with my dad to meet relatives who lived “back in the hollow”. Medicine Road and Cherokee Girl sent me flying on the wings of a hawk to the Arizona desert, the Rincon Mountains and the long road between Tucson and Sedona. The sense of place in each piece was so spot-on, it brought tears to my eyes. I had been missing these special places and to be taken there through the magic of song was an unexpected gift.

05-04-2014 Spoutwood13cropThrough the talk and the music, Charles Vess worked on an illustration patterned after the characters of Aunt Lillian and The Apple Tree Man in The Cats of Tanglewood Forest and Seven Wild Sisters – only with the characters pictured as Lucy and Rob Wood. I was fortunate to witness Charles Vess present the completed drawing to Rob and Lucy – who truly are the Lord and Lady of Spoutwood.

Although I love my home, I always leave Spoutwood Farm with a certain reluctance. I want to take with me the peace and beauty of this place – along with the love and example of its owners and caretakers. Photos taken are often my sanctuary when the corporate grind gets a bit much. A hawk wheeled overhead as I headed homeward, keeping me company on my own personal “medicine road.”

If anyone is interested in the artisans I mentioned, please be sure to check out their web sites:

Posted in Charles de Lint, Charles Vess, Jane Starr Weils, Leah and Shane Odom, MaryAnn Harris, Mythical Masks, Sacred Journeys | Leave a comment