The rain is finally returning to the Pacific Northwest. I feel as though the land, plants, animals and humans who call this place home can all take a big relaxed breathe of cool air now. This home. This what what home feels like to us. It’s crispy morning air, damp but not humid. That earthy smell of humus makes me think of mushrooms, pumpkins and roasted root vegetables. I love Fall! We are sweaters and jeans people. The style of the Northwest is very casual compared to other areas of the U.S. We’re not sloppy though. Only rarely do I see someone noticeably wearing pajamas to the grocery store. Even then they are often a clean set of relatable, quirky pants and shirt combos.
We take our children into fine dining establishments, pubs and music venues. We want them to share in the best of what life has to offer which for us is often centered around food and friendship. We’re the birthplace of Starbucks, Dale Chihuly, Bruce Lee, Bing Crosby, Jimi Hendrix, and Grunge music (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains to name a few). I moved here for the rain and creative energy. On the other side of the state, where I come from, it’s drier and people spend more time doing than thinking about things. I’d like to believe I’m a balanced blend of both.
What do you like about the environment where you live?
On this day twenty years ago I was an American Red Cross Volunteer in Seattle, WA. For three days I jockeyed phone calls connecting stranded airport passengers to hotel lodging, vital medication refills, and other services. I triaged panicked callers who urgently told me, “My husband/ wife/ daughter/ son/ mother/ father/brother/sister was supposed to be on Flight xyz.”
I had a copy of the passenger manifest lists. For many I could assure them their loved one’s name was not on the list. For six people I had to put them on hold saying I would “check”, but I’d already memorized the names on the passenger lists. Instead I was ringing a Counselor to say, “This person’s loved is on one of the manifests.” Then I patched the two call together so that the Counselor could break the news to them, while I continued taking the next call until the flood became a trickle.
We lost one of our own in the following weeks. Linda Johnson, who traveled to New Jersey to help in the coordination efforts collapsed and died as she was returning to her hotel with other Red Cross volunteers. She had helped numerous people throughout her life. She had a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education. She worked for the Red Cross as a full-time employee as an Instructor and Administrator, then “retired” so she could volunteer to be deployed on field assignments. She made three trips to Puerto Rico after hurricanes, deployed to Florida and Kentucky after floods, provided earthquake relief in California and assisted in the Philippines after an eruption of Mount Pinatubo. I didn’t know her very well personally. She was there during two of my training courses before I became the Newsletter Manager. I do know that she loved her family and she loved helping others. I keep a copy of that September Newsletter to remember her and how all of our lives changed after that event
In 2004 I would go to India and meet a woman who lost her sister in the South tower. My presence seemed to help her in her journey towards healing. She felt as if her sister were beside us as we talked about that day. I do believe healing is a journey. You have to be patient and kind with yourself. It’s like physical therapy for your heart. You have to re-learn to take small steps before you can walk again.
When you hear the wind but don’t feel it, it’s magical, like spirits who have chosen to tousle the high leaves on the trees but not your hair. It’s within that absence of presence that a nature-led person can find a new awareness. Does the wind have a mind of its own? What does it mean to be in possession of a mind in the first place?
The “mind” of a human consists of two parts, the physical brain riding around at the control center of our meatsuits and the spiritual mind that connects the conscious and unconscious rhythms to our soul. Physic law: Energy is neither created nor destroyed. We are made of energy, as much as we are of blood and muscle. Our synapses fire, we are alive! What happens when our synapses fail to fire? Are we dead in a way that we no longer exist? But we are still made of energy, right? Our body may die, but I don’t believe that we, “the conscious self “, dies. We only become untethered from this mortal suitcase.
I could tell you that I’ve seen and heard people after they’ve died, but then your logical brain will tell you I must be crazy and now I’ve become an unreliable narrator. So here’s Carl Jung who says it beautifully in a way I hope you can feel.
At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons. There is nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked. Here everything has its history, and mine; here is space for the spaceless kingdom of the world’s and the psyche’s hinterland.
Carl G. Jung
Joe and I got along well. We met through a mutual friend. He owned a pub a block down the street from my apartment. We were all taking Network Administration courses at the local community college. Where once “plastics” were the future, we now knew it to be computers. We waxed poetically between beers about man and machines. Then I saw it. Joe with his body sitting, but his spirit standing behind him. He was consciously preserving the moment, capturing the memory with his mind. He’d be taking a trip soon. This was his way of pocketing a snapshot within his conscious mind.
The group decided to move off to somewhere else, maybe another pub, maybe a jam session in Jason’s basement. People who like playing with computers also like trying to make instruments sing. I prefer to be a heartbeat that keeps time and melts into the background. I like to fade in and out of the peripheral. The inference- the spaces in-between- is where I can most often be found. Sometimes I pick up a shaker egg, or tambourine, but it’s the hand drums that often call me out. I used to be part of drum circle. Few things are sadder to me than the idea of a drum circle of one. Not much of a circle then, is it? If I’m an echo of call and response, then asking me to reverberate off myself sounds hollow.
I made lame excuses about why I had to ride with Joe and no one else. I said it was because I wanted to listen to Bach instead of Def Leopard and I wanted those warm heated-leather seats (which was also true, because it was bitterly cold that night.) He was the only one of us that was a real adult with actual adult things like a house he owned, a long-term relationship, and a car that wasn’t older than him by necessity. He’d been a successful day trader who’d exited right before the dotcom bust. Now he was dying.
As Joe pulled out of the parking lot, I asked him how long he had to live and what he was dying from. He was visibly taken aback, side-eyed me for a moment then focused back on the road. “Pancreatic cancer, maybe nine months, but probably two.” He said. “How did you know?”
“I saw you taking pictures with your mind. You were capturing the moment as if to take some piece of us with you.” I said. “I’ve been around death long enough to know when someone’s checking out of Hotel Corporeal.” He laughed, then told me not to tell any of the others. I argued profusely. His long-time, live-in girlfriend didn’t even know! “Don’t make me sit on this.” I begged. “Give them a chance to say Goodbye!” I complained. He wouldn’t hear of it, he thought maybe their anger would help them through the pain, but more than that, he didn’t want them looking at him with pity. I felt that.
There was a time when I was young. I had a lot of pride until my innocence was violently taken in shame. It wasn’t the act itself that devastated me so much. In fact, had there been no witnesses I likely could have flushed the memory into a mnemonic blackhole, but there were witnesses. When those who had seen what happened turned away from me with pity in their eyes, something broke within me. I found only blinding rage for solace. My face was hot and red, my vision was colored red and my body worked itself into shades of back and blue. In my raw anger I saw only myself and attributes I felt need to be fixed. Pride turned to judgement. I became a nihilistic hunter of knowledge.
The power within you is the power of knowing what you’re capable of. I trained to be faster, smarter, and stronger than everyone else around me. I siphoned knowledge like everyone else was a sieve. I created. I destroyed. I manipulated. I sacrificed. I took from some and gave to others. I don’t believe we are made in any gods reflection; they are made of us. Their stories reflect the human experience. We file them down into digestible components of virtues, parables, and chapter books as teaching tools. We are the gods and like the stories I learned temperance through age.
So here I was, many years later riding with a dying man who doesn’t want anyone to look at him with pity in their eyes. He died roughly two weeks later. I never said a word. You can’t pity him now. He was seen, but also heard and that’s one less hungry ghost to worry about.
What is he thinking when he plays in the wind? When he refuses to mess with my hair? In that space of absence, the known spirit says, “I am here.”