"When he left Amanda moved to the exact center of the room and resumed her posture. Her arms became very heavy, then lighter, then very light. What a peaceful place, she thought, feeling the room all around her. She smiled at her hands, concentrating on imagining the circles of energy. Amanda was a very good person to teach something mystical to. As old as she was she could still talk herself into believing anything she wanted to believe."
~ Ellen Gilchrist ~
Circles of light, of peace, of mystical things...
When I began to write this piece, as I always do, I meditate and make notes about it for a few days, and then I find myself drawn to the book that has just the quote I need in it, and I really seldom know what that quote is when I hold the book in my hands. This is a very special book to me, and Ellen Gilchrist is one of my favorite writers.
A funny thing happened some years back. I had read and reread and taught Gilchrist's books to my students, and when I was able to go to a writer's conference that she was going to be at, I was elated, walking on air. As I arrived, over coffee and breakfast bits, I spilled something on my blouse, a silk ruffled blouse, one of my favorites, and I thought, "Oh Lord, I'm going to hear Ellen Gilchrist today, maybe even get a chance to see her up close, and now look what I have done."I was upset and near tears at the very thought.
I went into the Ladies Room to use a paper towel and water and tried to get it out. I heard a woman say, "Here, let me help you." I said "Thank you," and when I looked up it was... yes, Ellen Gilchrist herself. I nearly fainted and was sure I uttered some kind of nonsense, falling all over myself praising her books. I was in my 30's and I think I swooned. She kind of laughed, and was very kind.
Her talk to a large crowd was so inspiring that I took notes, and cherished them for a long time. I shared them with my writing students. Sadly, they are long lost, or packed away with tons of paperwork and old teaching materials, but I will never forget that moment, and she was light, and full of peace, and there was a mystical energy about her, both as she cleaned the spot out of my blouse, and spoke to a vast crowd who hung on her every word.
There is something about her novels and short stories that are down to earth and yet hold a kind of magic. She writes about a lot of the same characters in different books at different stages in their lives and different sets of circumstances. You get to feel that you know these characters, and I was changed forever that day. That mystery does exist, in her writing, in her life, and in the circle of energy all around her. I learned a lot that day, and though it was long ago and I don't remember much that she spoke about, I have a feeling when I think about it that makes me tingle all over.
Last time I wrote about being in a fugue state. It waxed and waned for a long time and I was not able to write here. I have three blogs. This one, which is truly the work of my heart, very sensitive, comes from deep inside of me, and none of the pieces can be written quickly or often. The other two are lighter, more fun to write, and I can conjure up those pieces much more quickly. If I write less here, the writing goes fathoms deep, and as it swims to the surface it has the quality of the Magic 8 Ball I had as I child. You asked a question and turned it upside down, and up from the murky depths you would slowly see an answer. Yes, No, or Maybe. And the way it worked was that it came up so slowly you couldn't even see the answer at first, and then as it began to rise it was blurry, and finally it came to the top, just under the glass, and you could read the answer. I was mesmerized by this.
I have come to see that fugue state as a Magic 8 Ball kind of time. It is a time of uncertainty, a time where there is are unanswered questions, things unknown. It can be frightening and make one feel as though they are losing their footing. I was acutely aware that my Circadian rhythms were all askew and I fought it at first and then let myself slip peacefully into it. I stopped feeling guilty about sleeping so much, and just let myself float, drift, dream, and let the answers rise. When I first started coming out of this state it was like the 8-Ball, the answer was coming from the murky depths, and couldn't be rushed.
I lie almost asleep and when I was very still, my breath having slowed to that even, peaceful place, I felt circles of energy around my body. I thought what a mystical sacred time it was. Instead of being afraid or depressed I began to feel a portal opening inside, and I finally realized what was happening... my body needed to shut down to prepare for the crossing of the threshold of new experience.
My mother is very bad this weekend, and when she passes there will be dramatic changes in my life, most of them very good, but at 55 I will have to take on responsibilities I never have had to do, and it is scary. I think part of me was trying to shut down, and part of me was in the cocoon time, resting, preparing, wiggling my way out of my old form, sitting too naked and wet to leave the cocoon. I am not, yet, all the way out, but I am drying out, less afraid, stretching and moving about and learning about my new form. I am getting ready to cross through the portal and take on the mantle of my new duties and responsibilities, and sometimes it makes me breathless, and at other times I feel a bit of excitement fluttering in the pit of my stomach.
The thing is, these changes will not happen until my mother passes and when I feel those flutters, I feel guilty. I don't want my mother to die, but I can't stand to see her in such pain, weakening, turning toward the place of reality that I'm not sure she even realizes but I have felt it in our last conversations. She sleeps more than she is awake. Just as I am coming out of my fugue state, I believe she is moving into hers. She, too, is getting ready to walk through another portal into a land unknown. She is a woman of deep faith, she is not afraid to die, but still nothing can prepare us for what lies on the other side, and we won't know until we get there.
We are both, my mother and I, preparing to cross our own thresholds, moving toward our own paths that are both scary and uncertain. As my mother moves toward the sleep that will take her to another land, my Circadian rhythms are normalizing and I am beginning to wake up. I've barely taken a nap this week, writing all day and making lists and doing internal preparation. It is a time when we will both launch into flight, passing each other as we move in opposite directions, or so I imagine, and I hope, for a single moment, we can touch fingertips as we pass. My mother is dying, and at 55 I am moving toward a kind of awakening and beginning to fully live in a way I never have. At the same time it is almost too much, and yet I come closer and closer to being ready.
We are both, my mother and I, circling around the time when we will will float toward the turning time, like a turn-style going into a building. One of us is going out and another going in and I'm not sure which one of us is going in which direction, but I know that there is movement now, and that the time is almost here.
I feel a glow like candlelight, a gentle light, soft, so as not to hurt my eyes. I squint and try to see through to what is on the other side, but it is too soon. Closer and closer I come and I feel my human form, changing and nearly ready, begin to circle and prepare to land, like an airplane approaching the runway. As I land my mother's spirit will take flight into a place I cannot know.
Watching my mother in her final days, though I am heartbroken to see her so sick and in pain, knowing that she is tiring of being so ill all the time as she said on the phone today, and yet knowing that she is ready and preparing herself to take that final step, I become less and less afraid of death, both hers and mine. But watching her near this point, it makes me realize how quickly time passes and how we can so easily squander the life we have been given. At 55 I feel more alive than I have ever been. I am getting lighter. I have lost 40 pounds. I am changing in so many directions at once I don't even have words to explain it, and it is far too private a journey to share. I have shared the outer journey, things like looking for a house and a car and preparing for life's necessities in the time ahead, but the inner journey and how it will manifest in the time ahead is the most important part. I shall not share it. It is mine alone.
And so my mother and I are in a time of preparation and grace. The time is coming near, and I believe we are both almost ready for our journeys, changed forever, and exactly where we should be.
Be not afraid. We are guided toward that perfect light. Life is illuminated by a mystical cloud of unknowing, but soon we shall both know, and we will both arrive on opposite sides of the threshold. Fugue states will come and they will go, but I am no longer afraid of them, for I see them for what they are, times of deep transformation.
I am ready. I am ready.