An irresistable invitation arrived to venture southward from my suburban Philadelphia home to Washington, DC for what I knew would be an epic event. It has been eons in the making and I sensed that many others heard the same beckoning. It read:
“There is a Tibetan myth that when 1000 Goddesses or Taras unite, this will bring the Divine Feminine or Compassion back into our Sacred Earth. This is a Wisdom and Compassion Gathering to bring Divine Feminine healing energies deeply back into our Sacred Earth during these times of great challenges. Washington DC has never seen an event like this.”
Roll back the clock a few years and I had spoken at a women’s conference in Maryland. There I met a powerhouse author and sister speaker named Mare Cromwell, author of The Great Mother Bible: or, I’d rather be gardening…. , Messages from Mother…. Earth Mother and If I gave you God’s phone number…. Searching for Spirituality in America. I remember reading Messages From Mother while in a diner and getting caught up in the adventure of the two main characters, one a young woman named Sarah and the other….the Mother (Mama Earth herself). I wrote of a review of the book for Beliefnet. Mare was the convener of the perfectly scripted and divinely timed day of October 22, 2016. In the capital of a nation in turmoil, with violence and vitriol, but also hope and healing, was birthed the idea is that we all work together across the divide.
The previous weekend, I had enjoyed the company of two friends who participated in Hugs Across America with me here in Philly and joined by folks in 20 cities cross country. Pamela Jane Gerrand made her own southward trek from Ontario, Canada and Jennifer Stein traveled to Philadelphia. Jennifer is a phenomenal film maker who video taped us throughout the day and Pamela is an extraordinary musician and sound healer whose vocal power can be heard in this video as well. They too were part of the energy that would sweep through the area in DC known as Constitution Gardens.
I had decided to make the round trip in a 24 hour period and had the blessing after an extended 4 1/2 drive, made an hour longer than expected due to accidents and Friday night rush hour traffic in Philly and DC, of landing at the home of my friend Randy Goldberg who is a Rennaisance Man. An astrologer, healer, Family Constellation therapist and Craniosacral therapist. After a catch-up conversation, we offered each other foot massages….ahhhh…learning to receive and was delighted to do so. Deep sleep on the living room sofa, had me awakening to a wind blown morning, as I slipped out early, so as not to rouse the household. Drove 15 minutes to the house where Jennifer and Pamela were staying with nearly a dozen others and then on to the site which was by the reflecting pool. Across the grey, cloud skittered sky was the Washington Monument, that for many who feel oppressed by patriarchal values is viewed as the ultimate phallic symbol. As I gazed at it, I saw it in a different light. Instead, it appeared to me to be an arrow pointing heavenward; a directional symbol that called my to defy gravity and move ever higher. Shivering in the suddenly summer to fall weather, I sent a celestial call, asking for the sun to melt away the cloud cover, and raise the temperature and that the winds die down and make it more manageable to maintain my footing, since the gusts were so strong that I also toppled over a few times. Two out of three ain’t bad. The sun did indeed make a solid appearance, but the temperamental tempest continued unabated.
Early in the day, prior to our event officiately beginning, I wandered down the hill to an area where WWII vets were being honored. I toted with me, my Hug Mobsters Armed With Love sign and open arms, ready to embrace anyone who agreed to a hug. I was blown away; not just by the wind, but also by the response of these older gentlemen, their families and the volunteers that walked along beside them. With one exception, everyone I approached said yes to hugs. I thanked them for their service and then told some of the folks about our event that was meant to make the world a more peaceful place. Many thanked us for what we were doing. It felt gratifying; this juxtaposition between war and peace, as I walked next to the Viet Nam war Memorial wall, its shiny surface reflecting the aged faces who had seen the horrors of violence that we were attempting to quell through healing, reconciliation and love.
More hugs were shared as my Hug Mobsters Armed With Love sign, arms, legs and heart all got a great workout. I figure that I walked many miles and embraced a few hundred people from start to finish. No wonder I am feeling a bit ouchy 24 hours later.
Throughout the day, as healer, teachers, musicians, ritual makers and artists spoke, chanted, sang, created altars representing the elements, forgiveness, joy and gratitude, as well as dedication to the ways in which we intended to live in the world as peacemakers who respect the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine. In the center of the field was a carboard sculpture representing the Goddess, with mirrors embedded in each of the four images so that as we moved around it, we could see our own images reflected in them. And, of course there was plenty of chocolate. What event at which there were so many women, would be complete without it? I treasure the women and men who shared their committment to being peace, not just using the words.
The end of the day brought with it a circle of celebration as we danced around the field, joined at the heart as well as the hands that will be put to good use to create a world in which love and not fear, peace and not violence, balance and not extremism, joy and not despair are the norm. Amen, Awomen, Aho, Ashe. And so it is.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” – Meister Eckhart
A few days have passed since my home was filled with many kindred spirts and soul friends. Some were talented musicians and their sonic sweetness is still reverberating throughout the structure as I am soaking in it. The occasion was my 58 and Life is Great birthday party. Each year, I bring folks together from the overlapping soul circles in my life. Some have been coming for years, while others are newbies. What they have in common is a zest for life and creative ways to express it. I have known some for 20 years and others far more briefly. One (my cousin) has known me all her life.
No matter, each is a gift in my life. In their presence, I feel as if I am home. I really enjoy watching my friends interact and leave feeling like those around them are ‘family of choice’. There are moments when I sit back and observe the animated conversations that occur about a variety of subjects that fall into the ‘life, the Universe and everything’ categories. Before the party began in earnest, I asked two friends who are much taller than I, to help me hang up a long sheet of paper and next to it, I placed colorful markers. I invited the guests to write what it is for which they felt gratitude. Their words invoked imagery of family, friends home, health, music, dance, God, their life, hugs, animals, nature and miracles.
My birthday itself was October 13th and was ushered in by numerous Facebook greetings that eventually numbered over 500. I did my best to thank everyone whose love spilled over me. That night, my son and his fiancee’ took me to dinner at a fancy restaurant, with the advice, to “Dress nice, Mom.” I took that to mean, “No hippie clothes.” When I arrived, garbed in a black dress and low heeled pumps, I noted that they were dressed more casually than I. His response? “I meant, just no shorts.” As if I would wear shorts to a more formal restaurant. Sighs and eyerolls here.
The next night, I swooped by the airport to pick up my friend Pamela Jane Gerrand, who flew down from her home in Ontario, Canada. A celestially infused singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and sound healer, she made the journey southward to participate in an event which I will share about shortly. We headed over to a local concert venue called World Cafe Live to hear the over the top awesome soundings of a young musician named Greg Sover. If you closed your eyes, you would find yourself transported to the 1960’s and think you were listening to the iconic sounds of Jimi Hendrix.
The next day, Pamela and I joined a few friends near the famous LOVE sculpture near City Hall in Philadelphia (the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection) for Hugs Across America. Co-created with my cross country friends, Kim Skipper Corbin and Tex Allen, it was a day designed to bring people together across the political, social, religious, economic, gender and cultural divide. When I hug people, I don’t know who they are voting for, unless they tell me, what faith tradition they practice, where they come from or who and how they love. I just hug them. I remember a wise young child who asked me a few years ago if I knew how to turn a ‘bad guy into a good guy.’ When I asked him for the answer, he responded enthusiastically, “You hug ’em!” Truth wrapped up in an adorable little package. By the end of the day, we were tired and wired. Our friend Jennifer Stein, who is an divinely driven film maker graciously documented the day.
On this day, I am immersed in gratitudes and beatitudes.
Today would have been my parents’ 60th Anniversary. They met in their 30s when at the party of a mutual friend who had returned from her honeymoon and held a gathering where she she invited those who couldn’t attend her wedding reception. For the previous seven years, my mother dated a man I would come to refer to as “on again/off again Freddy,” since their relationship was inconsistent. He had stood her up for their date on New Years Eve and she took a stand herself and stepped away from him. Turns out, he was friends with the hostess as well, so when he saw my mother there, he beckoned her over to him. She held her head high and responded, “If you want me, you come to me.” My father observed this interaction and thought, “This girl’s got Chutzpah.” (Yiddish for guts or moxy) and he approached her and struck up a conversation. Not sure what happened to Freddy, but I would like to think he learned his lesson about messing with an empowered woman. My dad drove my mom home and when she arrived, she informed my grandmother that she had met the man she was going to marry. Their first date was to a Chinese restaurant and her fortune read auspiciously, “You’d beter prepare your Hope Chest.” They got engaged a few months later and on October 14, 1956, they were wed at the home of my Aunt Edith who was my maternal grandmother’s sister (and one of 13 children), thus beginning the next chapter in their lifelong love story. My sister Jan and I were born a few years later. I used to tell people that I was born the day before my parents got married (my birthday is October 13th). I neglected to say that it was two years later.
We were raised in an environment of love and dedication to family. My parents adored each other and it was evident in all they did and said. Rarely did I hear them argue and when they disagreed, they were able to resolve their differences, or at least respect them. They went out on dates; courting each other daily. Hugs, smooches, hand holding and dancing in the kitchen, calling each other sweet names and writing mushy love notes were part of their rituals. Not sure how my mom was able to make sense of my father’s scrawly handwriting, as she would tell him teasingly that he should have been a doctor, rather than the milk man and bus driver that he was.
My parents saw each other through the eyes of love, since as they aged, my father would proclaim that my mother was the “most beautiful girl in the world.” He viewed her as if she was the strawberry blond statuesque lovely who captured his heart and she gazed at her curly haired, blue eyed, dimpled, cleft chinned handsome prince. He passed in 2008, and she joined him in 2010.
Jody, my cousin has said that they were a hard act to follow, since they set the bar so high. I have yet to emulate what they had and am willing and open to it. Were they perfect? Of course not. Perfect for each other? Yes, indeed.
He passed in 2008, and she joined him in 2010. Today I celebrate with them as I imagine them dancing in Heaven.
During the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; which are also known as The High Holy Days in the Jewish tradition in which I was raised, we contemplate the year that has gone by, as well as the one stretching out before us. As I type these words, I am experiencing another beginning. I will be turning 58 tomorrow. Entering a new cycle in every respect. Turning the calendar pages and turning over my life. The Hebrew term is Teshuvah, as in turning over a new leaf. Also fitting, since here in the Philadelphia area, leaves are turning scarlet and golden and wafting into the air and swirling to the ground where they will soon form a blanket pulled over the earth as she prepares for a winter sleep.
They are also called the Days of Awe. To me, awe is a response to the ineffible, which is how the God of My Understanding appears to me. The exquisite beauty of a sunset, a star sparkled sky, an arching rainbow, the smile on the face of a loved one. I was listening to an interview on NPR yesterday that Terry Gross conducted with author Jonathan Safran Foer about his book called Here I Am. The title comes from the words Abraham was said to have uttered in response when God called out to him, “Hineni” (Here I am). As the author shared a passage about an interaction between the main character and his son, they were beneath a darkened sky and the son asked the father why people whisper when they are in that place. Ineffible. Awe and wonder. It is how I choose to live my life on a daily basis.
We are instructed that if we repent for misdeeds, we will be ‘inscribed in the book of life for a good year’. The reality is that people get ill, have accidents, experience loss and eventually die, because that’s life getting lifey, not because they are ‘bad people’. A good year might contain those events as well as joys and gains. I live that way, so as to celebrate each moment to fullest, leaving fear behind.
In this past year, I have maintaned my health, working out at the gym 3-4 times a week. I have improved the quality of food with which I fuel my body. I have rested when needed (naps have become part of my self care routine). I have traveled more, meeting new family of choice wherever I go. I have stretched comfort zones with my writing and speaking, sharing vulnerably about my inner workings and what makes me tick. I have recognized what resentments, anger, frustration and sadness I have been holding onto that really have been holding on to me. I I have ‘gotten feisty with the Universe,’ as I have questioned what I need to do to change aspects of my life that aren’t unfolding or opening at my desired pace. I even wrote a ‘Bratty Letter To The Universe’ in which I explored my own impatience with the Divine Plan for my life. I have forgiven and asked for forgiveness. I have been more conscious. I have learned to receive all of the blessings and miracles with my name on them.
That brings me back to the whole being inscribed thing that feels like “Let’s Make A Deal”. If I put in the right number of coins , then the sublime slot machine will pay off magnificently. Is the machine set to deliver after a certain number of handle pulls? Does our ‘luck change’ after a pre-set period of time? Has it all been cast in stone, etched on a table; is it signed, sealed and delivered even before we take our first breath in this incarnation (and if you believe, in others before and after)?
If you could know in advance how the year would unfold, would you want to? There are times when I wish I could and times when I am glad I can’t.
As my year comes to a close, I know the rest of the story is still unwritten. This Yom Kippur, I am taking pen in hand and consciously co-authoring with the One.