Like a womb readying itself to give birth, the cave opened. Victoria grabbed a tree to steady herself on the shaking Earth, the rocks tumbling away to reveal a small aperture near the ground. She stepped off the hiking path to peer in, drawn by the gaze of the mountain’s newly revealed eye. Once her eyes became accustomed to the blackness, she travelled deep inside, mesmerized by the beasts painted on the walls seeming to move in her phone flashlight’s roving yellow beam.
She stumbled over a pile of bones then fell, grasping an object that came into her hand as she caught herself. It was hollow, a bird’s bone, with holes in the top and one end carved with swirls and lines. She shook the dirt from inside the flute, for she realized that’s what it was, pressed it to her mouth and blew. She heard only a muffled gasp. She cleared more dirt then focused her breath until the flute sang one low, clear note.
But what about the human bones surrounding her? She was not frightened, but rather comforted, as if she had discovered a lost sister or mother. It did not occur to her that the bones were not female. A few ornaments were scattered among them, but the body had not been laid out ceremoniously. This woman had simply laid down and died, Victoria thought.
When it was time to go, Victoria wrapped the flute in a crimson scarf hand-woven for her by her sister and tucked it into her backpack. She placed loose boulders across the mountain’s opening to hide it. She was not sure if the woman within would have wanted to become a spectacle for archeologists and the media.
The flute lay wrapped in its shroud for three months before Victoria picked it up again. Her faith in her intuition that she was meant to play this invaluable relic had left her the moment she stepped out of the cave. Finally, one searing summer evening when the city was quiet, as if waiting for her to find her courage, she gingerly took the flute off the shelf. If the woman in the cave had wanted her to find the flute, what did she want Victoria to play?
I was reborn on the mountain whose seasons I had loved for the fifty years of life I had lived so long ago. I knelt on its breast and breathed in the black, musky, fertile soil, tasted its bitter groundwater and sweet stream nectar, rubbed its skin into mine. Then, when I was ready, I washed it off my body, but not my soul, and walked into the village square whose sights and sounds I still remembered from 500 years before.
During my centuries as a spirit I had chosen to stay near where I had lived, still surrounded by those I had loved. The people had since turned to dust, but I could see their features in the faces of their great-great-grandchildren’s great-great-grandchildren. I sat with them, unseen, under the same trees, turned their eyes with my thoughts to the same herbs I had given their ancestors so many years ago to make them well, witnessed the wars and movements that came and went in the outside world and saw how they touched the village, and mourned and rejoiced with each new generation. Continue reading "The Sunset on the Mountain Is Really the Dawn"
For one glorious week each year, the rose and white-showered magnolia trees lining Main Street transformed the potholed, two-lane road into a processional as elegant in its own simple way as any gracing a medieval European or an ancient city. The town did festoon the street with flags and balloons for parades with the Mayor and town council, high school band, and Boy and Girl Scouts on special occasions. “But, it goes nowhere,” Mary reflected as she drove home on a Friday evening during that magnificent week one year, and, indeed, it ended in an empty concrete courtyard of buildings long since abandoned.
As the sun warmed her arm through the car window for the first time that spring, an unexpected memory came to her of summer Saturdays when she and her mother would gather in her grandmother’s kitchen to make jellies and jams from the fruits of her grandmother’s farm. The thought “I’m almost the age my mother was then. She had my grandmother and me. How did I get to be so old and end up so alone?” came into Mary’s mind unbidden.
Tucked into a strip mall at the corner where Mary waited for a green light was Demeter’s Supermarket, a small grocery that had been established by Greek immigrants decades ago when the neighborhood was mostly families who had immigrated from there. Their children had moved out a generation ago, but a few of the original businesses still served the surviving elders. Continue reading "Buying Pomegranates in Demeter’s Supermarket"
In the garden of She Who Creates, tucked into a very remote corner, grows a small, water-blue planet whose inhabitants call it “Earth.” The soil is rich but most of what grows there appears on the surface to be only straggly stems fighting each other for a place near the dim light. But yet, somehow the most spectacular blooms emerge from the planet by the billions every day.
She Who Creates has planted Earth’s patch of the garden so that the breeze will catch its blossoms and carry them to the farthest reaches of all that is. “Like seeds on the wind,” she whispers as a cloud of them rises from the Earth to make their way across the cosmos.
Everyone elsewhere in the universe waits anxiously for Earth’s exquisite blossoms to drift for eons to come to their planet. When each one lands, it is enshrined and lovingly cared for, each drop of sap savored, every molecule doled out so that it will do the most good.Continue reading "Seeds on the Wind"
While Penelope was being born in a small fishing village in the far north, a storm ascended from the surface of the ocean herself. Howling, raging, cursing, the relentless waves scattered the frail fishing boats that had sailed out on what had that morning been a fine summer day. From that day forward, water turned her wrath on Penelope's life. The roof over her bed always seemed to leak constant drips onto her face, whether she was at home or visiting, until water became to her a terrifying living being full of unknowable motives. More than once she tumbled out of the family fishing boat and had to be rescued, though this impelled her to learn to be a strong swimmer. Finally, as a young woman she won a scholarship to a university in the south but a month before she was to leave, a hurricane ravaged the campus and it closed indefinitely. "The ocean claimed you as a baby," her great-aunt told her, "and she will never let you go."
The first time our fingers touched it was like butterflies – profound. I was busy crawling towards something, a new job…or something irretrievably forgotten on the shopping list in my jacket pocket in the lockers that sweat behind the fake palm trees near the lifeguard.
And she came through. Feet churning, hips like a belly dancer, face alabaster, a trail of flames for hair and bubbles streaming from her mouth – five beautiful elements in the fast lane. I was disconcerted, floundering slightly and swallowed a little chlorinated water, enhanced with the sweat of my community and the faint odour of cheap perfume perpetrated by a plump lady keeping her chin well above water to safeguard her permanent wave. I’m always impressed by anyone who puts on mascara before entering the water.
My festival is Imbolc ‘in womb’ time, so besides being the Maiden, I am also the Mother who bears the burden of the coming spring.
This is my lineage. I am the daughter of the Dagda, the Good God, king of the Tuatha de Danaan, the faerie people. With them I came, blown in a magic mist across the sea to Erin . But the mist was the far-furled smoke of our ships as we burned them on the western shores of Connemara . For we pledged ourselves to that land and swore we would never turn our faces towards the sea again. And so we shared that land with the Fomorians, the ancient giant race who lived there.
In Joan’s time, tranquility, prosperity and contentment were as newly abundant as the ocean while kindness and compassion were as commonplace as air. Still, Joan dreamt over and over of a tormented woman staring through hazy torchlight into the sanctuary of a cave held deep inside a mountain. Painted horses raced around the walls, unchained from the stone, while Paleolithic dancers circled round and round an altar in the center, their heels pounding grooves into the stone floor.
The woman stood apart from them and wept, her hands covering her face, holding herself back from running into the realm of the ecstatic celebrants. Finally, the woman faded into nonexistence, the horses leapt back onto the wall, and the people’s dance unwound until they, too, dissipated. As the last dancer dissolved into invisibility, she revealed someone else in the cave, a woman shaman who was just finishing a painting of a female figure whose radiant eyes knew the beginning of human time. When the cave was empty, Joan awoke.
Joan knew from the standing woman’s clothing that she was from the dreaded, revered, almost mythical 21st century and she shared her consciousness, as one sometimes does in a dream. When the woman’s adrenaline spiked in Joan’s veins, Joan understood that the woman’s distress was not simply a momentary anomaly, as it most often was in her own time, but rather was a constant layered state of being suffered by everyone all the time in that era of the past. Violence, repression, environmental disaster, disease, and hunger were always only a few steps away in the woman’s everyday life, so present that she was usually not aware of her constant anxiety. The woman did not yet know that her generations’ vision and courage had won the people of Joan’s century a lifetime of waking up each morning knowing that today everyone would be safe, fed, sheltered, and free. Continue reading "Remember Who You Really Are"
If you stand on the shore long enough, the ocean’s waves and the pulse of the blood in your veins will synchronize. Go to the water’s edge. Wait and be mesmerized by the ancient unstoppable rhythm until you no longer hear the waves as separate from yourself. That moment is the beginning of the story I have to tell, and that of all of us.
Forty years ago, my mother came to this New England beach where I now stand because she had begun hungering beyond all reason for seafood. For weeks she had consumed pound after pound of fish, mussels, clams, shrimp and seaweed. She had sought the ocean’s edge hoping for salvation from her compulsion, but instead she found that she wanted nothing more than to annihilate herself under the waves. Distracted by the sound of an ambulance siren just as she was about to take the first step towards the deep, she ran a half mile back to her family’s vacation cottage, locked the door behind her, and vowed never to go alone to the shore again.
She and her father had finally decided to sell the cottage, and my mother was clearing away generations of summer vacation debris to get it ready to show to buyers. They had stopped coming there years ago when she was ten and hankered for more glamorous vacations. The two of them were the only family each had since her mother had died giving birth to her before having other children, so the cottage was abandoned when it no longer interested her. Continue reading "Our Souls between Earth and Sea"
A tiny ray of sunlight caressed the arm of the Goddess of Compassion as she lingered for just one more moment by the open window of her cottage. Though a deity universal and known by many names among Earth's religions, she chose to dwell among the humans she served in humble places closest to those most in need of her. She had only a few seconds to savor the solitude of her tiny one-room dwelling that was not quite in, not quite beyond the forest, wonder at the meaning of the sparrow's constant conversation with its companions, and lose herself in the pungent blooms from her herb garden before a human cry of despair filled the space between the walls and she once again rushed away to where she was needed. Early in human history, the number of humans was small and her life was leisurely, but now the voices crying for help were so legion that she could rarely tell one from the other anymore, though each was still uniquely beloved. She was drowned constantly by the never-ending wail of despair. Continue reading "The Shining of the Sparrow’s Eyes"