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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Whately Prep - Connecticut River Run p2

Early in the morning, just as the first birds begin to sing, I ease out of bed to pull on running shorts, a compression bra and socks. Between school sessions, I add my oldest tee shirt; Thompson requested that I wear it exclusively when there will be no students to read its faded letters, “Smith Women like to be on top.”  I exit our 150-year old house as silently as possible by avoiding the 13th and 7th steps and always staying on the outside of each stair-tred.  Once outside, I snag my sneakers from a basket of sneakers we keep on the porch.  I do the requisite stretches in an abbreviated fashion.  A part of me feels like I am racing dawn. The light is rising and I hope to reach the river before sun up.  
I am not an especially good runner, but I am dedicated.  I run at least five days out of the week, squeezing it in by cutting short my sleep and relying on Thompson to cover the various and sundry demands the children may have between 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.. I have been running the same circuit or a variation on it for more than half of my life.  I run around the outskirts of campus, past the library and the dining hall.  I cross Rts. 5 & 10 and head into the woods.  There is a trail that has been carved out over time; first by Indians, then by local farmers, then by the boys and girls from Whately Preparatory Academy.  Every year, they believe they are the ones to have  discovered the path.  Stay with it for less than two and a half miles, and it ends up down by the Connecticut River.  The splendor of the morning light filtered through the towering oaks, white pines and chestnuts fills me with inexplicable joy.  Even the summer rain buoys my spirits; it is warm and falls gently by the time it penetrates the umbrage of leaves overhead. When I get to the Connecticut, I am often enveloped in fog so thick, that my clothes are instantaneously soaked.  As much as I would love to swim, the sewage treatment plant is just upriver, and I have a hard time quieting the voices in my head that object to the idea. Theoretically, it is perfectly safe, but I know someone who works there, and I wouldn’t let them drive me, never mind entrust my health to them.  I resist. Thompson takes a kayak out, often capsizing, with no apparent ill-effects.  Call me silly.
The Connecticut River is one of the defining boundaries of my world.  As are Rts. 5 & 10, the train tracks and Whately Prep.  My great-grandfather’s grandfather, Marshall Dickinson founded the school.  Deerfield Academy, a prestigious boarding school less than ten miles away, had already established its reputation for excellence in education when Grandpa Marshall put his mind to educating locals.  He carved a niche for himself by becoming the school of last resort in Massachusetts.  His principal was sound; someone had to educate the wealthy students who hoped to board but were not accepted elsewhere.  He had a model for education that he felt insured success, even for the most troubled students.  The model is still in place today.  
My life tenancy at Whately Prep was not one of my own choosing initially.  My father was the one determined to respect the family legacy; he bred me to my role.  Whately Prep is the only school in the U.S. that can claim a family tradition of leadership since the school’s inception.  In this case, it was 1857.  I am the fifth head of school, the first Head Mistress.  My morning runs grant me the only part of the day that is not shared with others.  I claim it for myself.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Whately Prep; A novel of mystery, revenge and intrigue.


 Recently, someone asked me what I intended to do when I completed the year commitment I made to write a daily blog.  Having just surpassed 265 days and 8000 readers, I have been giving serious thought to this very question.  It was this line of inquiry that prompted me to consider what other writers who have gained a foothold in the literary might have done with today’s technology. 
Across decades and centuries, Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, and Alexander McCall Smith share success as writers.  Of note, each one of them used a serialized book form to publish many of their most beloved works. What is a blog if not a serialization of sorts?  For two years, I have been slowly researching and organizing my thoughts on a new project, a novel called Whately Prep.  
I decided to not merely take a leap, but plunge into faith.  I am going to begin writing Whately Prep.  It may float your boat, it may sink your ship. Let me know.  Hang in with me, readers, and let’s see where it takes us. Only when the last word is written will we know if it was a journey worth making.  
Book 1, Page 1
The drier tumbles the laundry around and around and around. I catch glimpses of colors and hints of fabrics.  Each tells their own story about my life.  I study the pattern, mesmerized by my afternoon at the Little League field with Julian (blue shirt, brown buttons) bumping up against my night with Declan (black negligee, cream lace).  Tangling together are Thompson’s jeans and Sarah’s Japanese-inspired onesie.  Darks, all of them are in this load, along with the blue and green comforter off of the Master bed on which Sarah’s bottle tipped, saturating it in lovingly pumped breast-milk.  
The light load was filled mostly with little, tiny people clothes in worn whites, seashell pinks and sun-bleached yellows.  Sarah is not yet a year old, but she is a prolific producer of laundry. The hand-stitched baby quilt that my mother made her does the spin with all the rest.  Her little sheets remind me of the Milkyway, running through a bright sky of lights.  Julian’s chinos, with holes and paint stains spin with Declan’s, indistinguishable in size: Julian wears boys’ size 10, Thompson wears size 14.  Recently, Thompson recruited their help painting the trim on the Lake House. My panties and bras, my secret vice, have never seen the inside of a dryer. Especially these big ones built for commercial loads.  The school makes them available for the students, but the laundry room is utterly deserted except for Sarah and me.  She sleeps in her stroller, lulled by the hum, thump, whir of the driers.  The students of Whately Prep have scattered for summer vacation. The summer school programs have not yet cranked into gear.  It is precisely the time I am most visited by ghosts.   


Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's A Wonderful Life

photo by Charles Stephen Frank

I saw a mother rinsing off sand from her three-year old son this afternoon.  They were on the edge of the beach on a sand and dirt road.  Her beat-up pick-up truck stood sentry to the bathing ritual.  It was apparent the boy knew the drill.  The mom had a bright orange tub of salt water into which the little boy stepped, naked from head to toe. His fair skin glowed white, blindingly white, in the bright sunshine.  His mother was wearing a green beach coverup and a tan sunhat.  The boy’s unbridled joy at playing in the makeshift tub elicited feelings of joy, nostalgia and appreciation for how fleet time moves. It has been nearly fifteen years since my son was that age.  He adored water.  Whether fresh, ocean or chlorinated water, he always submerged himself fearlessly, with eyes wide open.  My daughters would complain that their eyes stung, not so my son.  His first jump off the Big Bridge into Sengekontacket Pond on Martha’s Vineyard, he bobbed up, with his eyes open, wild with excitement. He swam to the beach and his heart was hammering visibly in his thin chest wall.  Life surged through him with every beat.  There 
are crystalline moments that a mother shares with her son, sometimes of sorrow, as when his best friend moved on when he was seven, and oft times with joy, as when he recently won an award for Best Picture for his second short film in as many years.  At age three, seven, seventeen, my son leaves me with memories, layered and rich.  He continues to surprise, delight and challenge me with his life journey.  Tonight’s surprise?  A photograph emailed to me an hour ago -- without explanation.  I am left wondering what inspired him? How did he do it?  What did he intend?  Basically, all the same questions I ask about him about his life. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lost and Found


I lost myself today.
And I wanted to.
I was ready to lay down my worries, put aside my cares.  As beloved as each child is, as special as each friend is, and as legitimate are the work-a-day concerns that lay claim to my mind, I wanted peace.  I was out for respite.
As I drove home from unburdening my sorrows on my friend’s doorstep, I did not feel the lift that usually comes from sharing the load.  My eye caught on the white caps that were kicked up by the strong afternoon sea breeze. In a moment of knowing, I gave myself over to the ocean that called me.  Parking at the town boat ramp, I left my phone in the car, grabbed my camera and turned my vision outward. I looked for scenes that told a story, shots that held meaning unto themselves. I moved, I repositioned, I stalked, The water, the grass, the sand and the sky claimed me for their own.  As this happened, they caused me to push away all thoughts and anxieties that had so recently caused me distress. 
By the time I returned to my car, I returned lighter.  I was found.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bee's Knees

A phrase sometimes used to refer to excellence is “the bee’s knees.”  My daughter and I had a chat about the origin of the phrase; it led to the oft-utilized solution of “googling it.”
I found more than I bargained for.... If we travel to 1906, the phrase “bee’s knees” showed up on a cargo ship’s manifest.  It appears in a listing of seven cases of bee’s knees.  It was used to connote a make-believe product.  When apprentices were sent to fetch supplies, they might be asked to bring a carton of bee’s knees; it was a ritual of mild hazing.  By the 1920’s, there were a string of nonsense descriptions that were popularized on the radio.  These included “the cat’s whiskers” or “the cat’s pyjamas,” the ee’s ankles,” “the elephant’s ankles,” and“the snake’s hips.” One explanation allows that the bee’s knees was simply meaningless.
During the 20’s, there was a renowned flapper named Bee Jackson.  She popularized the Charleston, a famous loose-kneed dance. One hypothesis that is bandied about is that it was her dancing that promoted the phrase. Other stories hold that the bee’s knees includes “b’s” and “e’s,” letters that stand for be-alls and end-alls...as in alpha and omega, beginning and end, the best.
Whatever the origin, it has remained an integral part of our language for over 100 years.  Now that's "the bee's knees."

Monday, June 25, 2012

The One Million Dollar Challenge


Since I am on an Island where ghost stories abound, it seemed natural to try to learn more about automatic writing.  I was researching the topic at length today.  Automatic writing is used for therapeutic as well as spiritual purposes in order to channel either the subconscious mind or a spiritual entity.  The object is to write freely, without stopping or editing.  Reportedly, unexpected messages can materialize.  The best example I found  compared automatic writing to doodling.  We can sketch an entire page of doodles without being aware we are doing so.  It is only in retrospect, perhaps when we are flipping through an old notebook and stumble upon our artistic rendering, that we recognize our work.  Often, we can see how plainly we were communicating a very specific idea or message.  
I visited about six websites trying to garner more understanding of this method and how the technique can be used to straddle the divide between the living and the dead.
The unexpected bonus came when I stopped in at the James Randi Foundation www.randi.org.  This organization is dedicated to investigating the validity of claims that paranormal activities exist. In 1964, James Randi offered to pay $1000 to anyone who could demonstrate paranormal powers exist under a scientifically controlled environment.  Since that time, just over 1000 legitimate applications were filed. Not a single one got to the second round of testing.  The challenge appears to be both stringent and fair.  The tests for each claim are designed by the claimant and a representative of the Randi Foundation.  
Automatic writing did not, thus far, pass the test.
For those of you who wish to pursue the challenge...


The Foundation is committed to providing reliable information about paranormal claims. It both supports and conducts original research into such claims.
At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant."
To date, no one has passed the preliminary tests.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blue Skies

The Shenandoah sets sail.

On days when the breeze blows steadily from the WSW at 10mph, and the sky is cerulean blue, it is easy to believe that life is good.  I enjoyed such a fine day today; it brought to life all the very best of life on the Vineyard.  
I hosted a small mid-morning brunch with eight women; we gathered to eat and share stories.  As it turned out, our tales were ghost stories. An Island with haunted inns and lighthouses, with lore of mad women and sea-captains and accounts of adventurous fishermen served as fine grist for the conversation mill.  With the natural cadence of born story-tellers, three of my friends kept us hypnotized by the antics, both loving and malevolent, of spirits from the other side.  
My daughter and I made an early morning run to Edgartown to the Edgartown Meat and Fish Market.  I picked up some bagels and pains au chocolat.  When I first arose, I make a banana-almond loaf.  The generous spread of pastries, breads, eggs, bacon and fruit salad served as a centerpiece to relish at our brunch.  As everyone took their leave, I pulled out zip-lock storage bags to send care-packages home with my guests.  I shared some of what was left, packed some for a beach picnic and STILL had leftovers.  The Edgartown Meat and Fish Market is relatively new.  Usually, I shop at the Black Dog for baked goods, but life is about trying new things, after all! 
One of my friends asked me to join her and her friends at a predesignated spot on Eastville Beach. I appreciated how openly the women received me and how naturally, without apparent effort or strain, enveloped me with their caring, humor and wisdom.  As I lay on the warm sand, feeling the quickening breeze toss my scarf and tease my hair out of its braid, I was infused with a bone-deep feeling of well-being.  These women,  whom were new to me, shared their worries and their questions about life, marriage and motherhood.  These were some of the same questions with which I have wrestled.   Under the deep blue umbrella of a broad, cloudless, summer sky, we were united by our stories and our love of this Island.  
outside of Black Dog Wharf

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Beach Chair

Spectacular view from the beach chair.
In 2006, I bought a beach chair.  I was on Martha’s Vineyard, and I had left my favorite beach chair landlocked and inaccessible over 150 miles away.  I loaded my new chair into my SUV, happilyly hauling it to the beach each day.  The chair provided a perch for me to read, to people-watch, to ..eat my lunch and to soak in the transcendent peace of the ocean. It served me faithfully; it served me well.  Eventually, the inevitable happened; it was time to head back to the Mainland.  I offered the chair to my mother, with the understanding that if I needed a beach chair, I knew where to find one.  Basically, I put my beach chair up for adoption, until such time as I could come back and claim it.  
I completely forgot about the chair over the ensuing years.  Life had a funny way of intervening by redirecting and, frankly, reducing my plans for beach time.  This year, I set to work emptying out a toolshed that adjoins my parents‘ house.  It was on my third foray into the shed that I uncovered the chair.  The price tag of $30.99 was still on the tag.  It was purchased at Phillips Hardware. A lot has changed since then. A For Sale sign graces the front lawn of my parents’ house.  My mother’s ghost lingers, rising from unexpected corners and unexpected junctions.  (There was the $.60 in library fees I owed on an overdue book my mother returned for me three years ago. That one felt like a quick, sharp, jolt to my stomach.) Finding the chair brought out an apparition of mother, laughing over our deal, and the bright promise of sunshiny days. These days, I eschew chairs -- for the most part -- because it is painful to sit.  However, when I found this beach chair I hoped to erase that particular take on reality.  I lasted less than ten minutes before throwing myself prone onto a jumbo beach towel.  My beach chair would need a new chair-worthy inhabitant. 
She arrived on a Delta flight from New York City. Four out of the past six days, my daughter has put the chair to use. Long days in bright sun have been spent while sitting in that chair.  When it comes time to pack up my SUV and head to the Mainland this year, I have identified a likely prospect to serve as its caretaker until I next return.  I plan to propose an arrangement tomorrow when my parents’ next-door neighbor, and my best-friend, comes over for breakfast.  This time, I will reserve chair privileges for any, and all, of my progeny!  

My daughter and the beach chair.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Rose Compass

There are moments when I have wished for clarity and insight.  In a kind of remarkable handbook for the lost, I have found exactly what I have needed. It seems that there is something about carrying a camera around that changes how I see the world and my role in it.  
it started with a plain, yellow road sign that served as a marker for my state of mind.  In a term our family coined years and years ago, I was confuzzled; it is a derivative of confused and puzzled. Trying to make sense of things and determine a meaningful direction has been my mission recently.  At moments, I have felt lost without a North Star to guide me.  The first guidepost appeared. Along came a sign.

Two weeks ago, I went to a function in the Tabernacle of the Methodist Campground Meeting Association.  I was reflecting that I could certainly benefit from a spiritual advisor and there, like a flashing neon sign, was one word, printed in capital letters on a rolling cart.  GUIDANCE.

Perhaps I was reading too much into things, but then, not three days later, I was stepping out of my car from the driver’s side. I noticed an emblem emblazoned on the sidewalk.  I burst into a grin that stretched from ear to ear.  It was a compass rose.  
No risk that I would be lost.  

My next epiphany came when I happened to pay attention to which way the wind was blowing.  A very good practice to have regardless of any kind of spiritual morass. I was focused on the lines of the vessel, the Shenandoah, without giving any real thought to the kick-ass breeze that was blowing.  When I finally noticed the banners flapping gaily aloft, I heard the sound of the waves gently breaking against the wharf beneath my feet.
Proving again that we will find what we give our focus to.  Have questions? Find answers.

A couple of days ago, I was walking through the Manuel Correllus State Forest.  The wind-battered scrub oaks were stunted and gnarled. Unexpectedly, the forest gave way to a neatly-ordered farm of towering pines.  They showed the effects of competing for overhead light; most of the growth on these old trees was near the peaks.  To take in the trees, I had to arch my neck backward, then literally, step back.  Then, it struck me, sometimes, to really appreciate life, it is best to step back a pace or two, then look skyward.  Light shines down, but there are times we have to look up to find it.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's All Good

While awaiting my daughter's arrival,
I shot Adirondack chairs.

Taking a break.
The sun is too much!

Beach walking.
A pause in a busy day.
"It's All Good."

A Beach Bathing Beauty.

 The camera turned on me.
When my daughter arrived at the Martha's Vineyard Airport, I was waiting for her.  I had warmed up my camera on some colorful Adirondack chairs that caught my eye.  I realized that I have grown a lot more confident of photographing inanimate objects than people.  I have a friend who is a professional photographer.  I marvel at her ability to make light bend and to use shadows to enhance a subject's image.  I aspire to learn how to look through the view finder and finding the person, not just their image. That is what my friend succeed in capturing the spirit of the person in one particular moment in time.  Digital photography makes photography significantly more accessible than ever before.  However, there is still no shortcut to talent.  Nor is there one to experience.  My idea is that what I lack in talent, perhaps I can remediate with experience.  I have taken over 2500 photographs his year.  Almost all exclusively of nature and objects. Rarely, do I point my cameral in the direction of people. I simply do not have the confidence.  I decided that the way to change that was to dive in.  An apt analogy given the days I have been spending on the beach!  I recruited my daughter to be my model.  She agreed to do so for the six days she is with me.  However willing the model, I still need to work on my camera settings, my use, and awareness of, light and the composition.  My daughter has been kind enough to keep her assessments to herself. She, herself, is a fairly accomplished photographer and has taken courses in school to update her skills.  Join me on my learning curve!  There are two things I celebrate most due to this experiment.  First, I have time to spend with my daughter this week.  It is a blessing to be with her. Second, my health allows me to be out and about with her taking photographs and learning new techniques.  As I heard a young woman say to another young woman in Mocha Mott's Coffee Shop this morning, "It's all good."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My Volvo nosed into 33 Tia Lane at precisely 7:20 p.m.. My daughter was timely in delivering me to my meeting.  Just as I opened my car door, a tall. fit-looking man, emerged from a modest cape-style house. 
“She’ll be done at 7:50 - you can get her then.” 
I waved good-bye to my daughter, and moved toward the unknown.  I had arrived on Dave Merritt’s porch via the recommendation of a close friend.  She had a severe health problem than had stymied doctors in Boston.  Her time spent with Dave challenged her understanding of medicine and healing.  She believes that he was instrumental in her recovery.  Dave is a healer.
With little introduction, other than hellos, Dave led me through his kitchen, down to his basement.  It was dark as we wended our way through a warren of walls toward a dimly lit room.  In it, there was a round coffee table with some kind of memorial in the center. Surrounding the table were eight or so chairs, two of which were redlining leather chairs, the other were were wooden table chairs.  The set-up resembled a camp-fire.  Outside the circle, I saw angels and religious artifacts whose purpose I did not know.  I came to Tia Lane having opened my mind and heart to this process. I had to suspend my tendency to deal clinically in a Western-mind set.
Mike introduced me to the two women who were seated in the circle with me.  Both of them were concluding their studies with him so that they could become healers themselves. This was their healing apprenticeship. I volunteered to be a subject on whom they could practice. The only information, absolutely the only information, they had about me, my health or my life was my name and that I was present in the room with them.  I did not offer that I had arrived with a raging migraine, that I had Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome or that I had been on the Vineyard for a period of reflection. Dave explained that they were on a tight schedule. They had another healing at eight.  Getting right to it, I would be asked to stand for a period of five minutes, if I was able. They would each, individually, do a reading on me and assess my electomagnetic state as well as my energy.  Then, I would be asked to recline on massage table.  Once there, they would continue there exam and begin the healing.  He asked if they might, if led to do so by either their medical guides or angelic healers, touch me lightly through my clothes. “Would that be alright?” I acquiesced willingly.
I chose to stand with my eyes shut during the entire exam. Honestly, I felt the hint of a giggle attack coming on.  I was stuffing down my tendency for humor and quick-witted repartee that I employ in situations that I find uncomfortable.  This was one.  I keep my eyes shut and stood still.  After the first couple of minutes, I settled in.  I noticed the cool air blowing on me. I felt the presence and could hear the healers breathing as then moved around me.  Gradually, I felt something else entirely, I felt a strong magnetic like pull of them toward me. I felt their hands. My eyes were shut tightly, but I knew at all times exactly where their hands were and which of the people where in my presence. 
I was conscious of my head pounding, but was grateful the room was twilight dark and not exacerbating my headache. 
Dave asked me to lie down. They were exceedingly respectful and thoughtful to position me in such a way that I was comfortable. The blanket they placed over me was a surprisingly welcomed touch.  The healing began with me lying on my stomach.
First, I felt hands moving, scanning my body. After less than a minute, the hands landed; two on my neck, cradling my head, two on my hips, two on my feet.  We all stayed in that configuration for several minutes.  Then, as if choreographed, the hands moved, on my knees, on my ankles, on my shoulders. Then held. This placement, holding, movement continued for about fifteen minutes, then I turned over.  Again, my head, my hips, my feet.  My stomach gurgled loudly, resonating in the quiet room.  I noticed my headache wasn’t hurting as much just before I fell asleep.  A quiet voice pulled me back, “Dawn, when you are ready, you can sit up.  Go slowly.”
I joined the healers in the circle.  We sat together without talking for about thirty seconds. Dave apologized for the brevity of my session because they are typically longer.  It was already eight o’clock.  I thought that was it.
I was okay with that, hey my headache was better.
Then Dave asked the healers if they would like to share their experiences with me.  
The first one spoke,
“I feel deep, deep bone pain. I can feel it through out your entire body. There is some kind of toxicity that is very powerful in your bones.”  I kept my words to myself, but felt my mouth open.
The other healer say, “You have an imbalance in your head, in the cochlear region.  Your balance would be a problem, you must have trouble with your equilibrium. I get something systemic with connective tissue.  It affects all of you. You need to use hot baths with epsom salts my spirit guides told me. The healing properties of the ocean would be very good for you, if you can tolerate the cold. You wound benefit from very gentle massage, especially in your hamstrings and achilles tendons.”
Back and forth, two of the healers shared their impressions, findings and advice.  
“You are remarkably emotionally balanced. I get that you have just come through an emotional hump of some sort, but you are good now. You came through stronger.”
My mouth had found a new, fixed position, open. Finally, they turned to Mike, as if deferring to his skill. 
“Do you have anything to add?”
In addition to the catalogue they had iterated, He felt I had something going on in the upper left quadrant of my abdomen. Maybe a parasite or an unresolved infection that was interfering with the proper absorption of food, maybe affecting my nutrition.  He told me he had the same impressions about bone, balance and recent emotional release. Finally, just as I started to express my unmitigated astonishment at their insights, Dave interjected, “Oh, she told me to tell you,’ You will be better.’ You will be better than you are now.”
I was flummoxed by all the information they shared with me. They had identified the EDS, the problem I had with using Reclast, my balance issues, that I had been through a tumultuous period emotionally.  They got that I had frequent headaches that I had plantar fasciitis and that oh, man, give me hot epsom soaks three times a day!  How?  Who were these angels and guides that whispered to them. They regretted that the time was cut short, they had more to offer, but they had to keep a phone healing session scheduled for someone from Texas.  They offered to work with me more when I next return to the Vineyard.  I was touched.  ‘The healing we have done will work over time,” they said. “We prayed for you before you came and we will continue to pray for you.”
My hugs were theirs’ -- and I departed.
My ride was not out front when I left, so I headed in the direction of home, buoyed by hope and bolstered by their encouragement.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Direct Experience part two of Walking Through Walls

From some far-off and distant place, I sensed someone said, “Have John come over.”  I could not feel the ground where I was lying, I could not feel my body, I could not hear.  I
was aware of light. Warm, yellow light. I was part of the light, but separated in some way. There was a brighter, more enveloping light ahead of me that drew me as if it was a magnet and I was composed of magnetic filings.  There was no thought. There were no words. There was knowing.  This part sounds verifiably crazy. I have not ever discussed this experience.  The light of which I was a part was universal, infinite and all-consuming. All cares ceased.  This place was a place of love. It heralded peace, it was peace. In my understanding of this place, I was one with God. I was also one with all the spirits of all the souls who did not inhabit bodies.  While I was there, I was filled with a joy like I had never known. I resisted returning to my body, which I could see beneath me, far below on the ground. However, my instructions - or my understanding, since words did not have meaning and communication was in a language of light - were to return and carry the message. Of love, of light, of hope.  It was more than a message, it was more than a commandment.  In a realm of knowingness and light, everything was clear.  There were no ripples upon the pond of perfection. With a profound sense of sorrow, I felt pulled back, as if by gravity, into consciousness of my body and into my life.
John, the leader of the Leadership Intensive Workshop, was beside me, holding my hand, taking the pulse in my wrist. He was murmuring softly to me, but I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying. Gradually, like fog lifting, I was oriented and John was saying, “You gave us quite a scare there, Dawn. Where have you been?” My eyes welled up because I had left behind all of that glory. My eyes welled up because I didn’t know how, couldn’t imagine how, to explain what had happened. I felt a loss like no other. I had been present with those who had gone on before me and, once again, I lost them. I did not recognize them by shape or form, but by spirit. It was a profound diminishment to return to my very human form, full of its foibles and frailties and uncertainty. I had been witness to perfection and had communed with God.
My time at the Leadership Intensive changed me. I do not know if I was the only one to have had a direct experience of God.  John told me I was special. He quoted Matthew 22:14 of the Bible, "Many are called, few are chosen." He told me that somehow, while meditating, my respiration dropped to five per minute, my pulse was down to sixteen.  Since respiration of somewhere around 16 and a pulse of 72 is considered “normal,” something took place during my meditation. John Thompson told me that the workshop was designed to maximize the opportunity for participants to have a deep and meaningful experience. We were seated crossed-legged on the floor. Each of us had a moat of pillows surrounding us. In my case, the pillows prevented a head injury when I toppled over.  After that initial experience, I was able to have brief glimpses of that gloryful light during subsequent sessions.  Never for as long, never for as an intense period. My knowledge that there is an omnipresent and omnipotent power was forever fixed. 
In the twenty-seven years since that time, I have kept virtually silent about my direct experience of God.  It has been a deeply personal and private knowledge that has been a gift.  Two things precipitated my willingness to speak at this point.
Last summer, after my second hip replacement, things went awry.  There were about six hours that I was in the most intense pain of my life. Childbirth was a distant second.
At a time that I felt most cut off and alone, when I was out of my head with agonizing, intolerable pain, I found myself back, bathed in that light.  It was a joyful reunion with God and all the many people whom I have loved and who have died.  I was conscious of both worlds simultaneously.  When I left the encompassing light of God again, I understood I was to carry the message of love, of light, of hope to others.  
Anita Moorjani is a writer who delivered a salient, succinct and inspiring account of a near-death experience she had in 2006.  She was declared hours away from her death by her doctors.  After surviving what was deemed her death, Anita returned to  describe a much more elaborate and detailed account than mine in which she was healed from terminal cancer overnight.  It was her delivery of this account to Wayne Dwyer’s PBS audience in May, 2012 that served as the final catalyst for me to talk about my direct experiences of God.  Wherever, however and whoever faces a healing energy so vast and unimaginable that their lives are inarguably altered must speak up. This brings to mind  one of my favorite childhood church songs; This Little Light of Mine. My favorite verses tell it all. 

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, no! I'm gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel, no! I'm gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel, no! I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
My direct experience of God is my light. I intend to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Walking Through Walls


I remember when I discovered that  I could walk through walls.  I knew enough not to mention it to anyone.  Anyway, who would have believed it?  My parents were engaged in chasing demons of their own.  The claim, by their seventeen-year old daughter, that she was able to move through the house, unrestricted, by physical shape and form, would have sounded self-aggrandizing or preposterous.  Either way, not in my favor.  WhileI had grown accustomed to practicing a form of selective denial with regard to my prophetic dreams, this was an entirely new dimension to my "quirkiness."  I discovered early on that my high school friends did not want to listen to my glimpses of their futures -- unless the reports were wholly fun and promising. One girls scolded me, “Don’t you know better to keep your crazy dreams to yourself?  We don’t want to hear them.” I understood that it was in my best interest to remain quiet.  
The first time I was aware that “I” -- the spirit part of me -- was looking down at my incarnate form I was puzzled.  I was acutely aware that I could move, unencumbered by my body, while it seemed paralyzed.  I drifted down the hall. I was able to understand, not really listen to, my parents as they spoke, With practice, I started to go afield more broadly but panicked that I wouldn’t be able to return to my body.  I raced back and, in a motion that felt like I was being dumped, landed back in my body.  I did this again and again.  The leaving and returning became more seamless.  I became less afraid of not being able to return. Though I never was completely freed from this concern, I ventured farther afield. I went to my best-friend’s house, I went to Martha’s Vineyard. I went to Paris (where I had never visited.).  I could do this body-free traveling at times when I was deeply relaxed and had just started meditating. Earlier that year, I had taken a couple of classes on Transcendental Meditation and found the techniques lent themselves to achieving the deep relaxation required.   Even the distracting sound of a water drip was sufficient to keep me grounded. I found books that described my activity as astral projection. Apparently, I was loosing the ties that bound and had taken to simply wandering.
Eventually, the inevitable happened. I saw and heard things that I didn’t want to see.  I have thoroughly repressed much of it.  Suffice it to say that I was disappointed in humanity on both personal and global levels.  I tried to talk to my friend about the whole matter, but when she cocked her head and stared at me, I knew I was not making sense to her.  
Over the next six years, I did it irregularly, but I wanted to see if I could still accomplish the seemingly impossible.  With the demands of college and a new relationship and then, a new job, it was more difficult to stay fully present and to let my spirit separate from my body.  I started to try to rewrite the experience; I decided it had all been a result of an overactive imagination.  Yet, though I didn't feel I was being altogether truthful with myself, it was an easier, more acceptable explanation.
At 23,  was looking for a job and found what seemed like the ideal job in a newspaper Help Wanted listing.  I was jubilant when I landed work for a training company named  Human Factors, a West Coast-based concern. I was hired to help in the East Coast expansion. My job was to sell companies on Human Factors’s services and to recruit individuals to attend three-day leadership workshops.  One of the perquisites of the job was an expense paid
trip to their premium Leadership Intensive.  Enrollees were secluded and, under the tutelage of the company’s president and founder, John Thompson, were offered a series of lectures, meditations and exercises.  The ten-days of workshops took place annually at places of spartan and natural beauty: a spa in the Grand Tetons, a retreat in Hawaii, and a mansion on Lake Champlain.  I was shipped to Lake Champlain so that I could participate, and therefore, better understand the product.  It was a thrilling prospect because it was more expensive than any trip I had ever taken.  Even more importantly, I was promised that I would learn the secret to becoming a successful leader.  Whether I was going to practice leadership in business, in a religious arena or within my family, I was told that the skills that I would study and assimilate would be life-changing.  It was at Shelburne Farms Vermont that I learned that I could walk through walls and, what was more, I could move between worlds.
To be continued tomorrow.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brain Frontiers

from Prevention.com

Cognitive Fitness has been proven to be a way to ward off aging, cut car crash risks, improve response to visual information and increase confidence.  Getting older and staying youthful can be managed with positive outcomes. The brain is not a muscle, but it needs exercise and it requires stimulation to stay fit.  I learned much of this while watching a show on neural-plasticity called Brain Fitness Frontiers.  Before seeing this fascinating documentary, I had my suspicions.  This was exactly why I embarked on my own version of mental brain workouts this year.  I started to read in French again.  This fall, I will be meeting with a native of France for tea and conversation to practice the language orally.  I started playing games online on a website called Lumosity.com. They have a free program, and if users desire, they can opt for my sophisticated play by purchasing a package.  I started using Ancestry.com. Following the little leaves that hold clues to my family’s past is lot like being a detective and collecting clues.  I made the commitment to write a daily blog, pushing myself to learn, read and articulate ideas.  I returned to piano lessons with gusto, if not talent. I expanded my reading materials, pulling into the net things that, in the past, I might have overlooked. All the while, I have felt like I am turning the edges of puzzle pieces, flipping them this way and that, aligning colors and patterns so that I can drop them into place.  I am not altogether certain what the puzzle I am solving is, but I feel like when I am successful at doing so, I will be able to surge ahead with clarity and direction.  
One of the renowned doctors from UCLA closed the show on Brain Fitness Frontiers with the comment that, “The more the struggle, the more the brain improves itself.”   
If that is true, I am on a assured path of self-improvement. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Long Bus Ride

View from the Nantucket, the boat to Martha's Vineyard.

I am making the trip from Providence, R.I. to Oak Bluffs, MA, on Martha’s Vineyard.  This trip generally takes -- generously -- three hours.  Thus far, five hours have elapsed and I am still on the journey.  It was a trip I made often in my youth.  I remember now that the only way to manage the trip is with tolerance, forbearance and forgiveness.  At one point, a woman, whom, I want to believe was trying to help me, told me I was on the wrong bus altogether!  When I squeezed my way up front to ask the bus driver, she said, “Who took your ticket?” 
 I said, ‘Why, you did.”  
“Exactly.  I can read. I read where you are going or I wouldn’t have let you on. You tell that woman to mind her own business.”  
When I got back to my seat, the instigator asked me what the bus driver told me. I said “She said I am all set.  Thanks.” 
Meanwhile, I have noticed the bus is late in taking its leave.  The minutes add up when, at each of the stops, there is yet another delay.  Finally, we reach Bourne, where those of us who are headed to the Vineyard dismount to await another bus that will get us to Woods Hole.  It arrives late. It arrives full.  There are five of us waiting and three seats. With some juggling in which loners are forced to forfeit the seat they reserved for their luggage, we are underway.  Finally, the bus driver calls out, “Woods Hole, this stop, Woods Hole.”  Because we have been running so late, we missed our ferry and must wait an hour for the next boat.  I wait in the cold, raw, wind, wishing I had winter gear. 
I welcome the snug warmth once I am on the ferry.  The passage seems long because I am so tired and simply want to be home.  When I disembark, I am grateful that my sister  
is there to greet me and she offer me a ride home, as well as dinner.  My mind flits back to some of the people I met on my trip and my reflection that tolerance, forbearance and forgiveness makes for a saner passage.  This is as true for life as it is for a bus ride. 

Friday, June 15, 2012


Dead Sea hand products that were a gift from a vendor that I met by chance.

Dictionary.com defines Munificence as the quality of showing unusual generosity.  This is a word I know well. Recently, the Universe, that cohesive field of energy that holds the world we imagine and infinitely more together, has shown munificence toward me.  It would have been easy to think, “Ah, coincidence.”  But, I, even a person with cynical leanings such as myself, was forced to reconsider this explanation for the recent, peculiar goings-on in my life. 
Let me share just a few examples of the Universe’s gifts to me.
In the Cottage where I am staying, I have been without a tea kettle.  I went to Stop and Shop grocery store and asked if they had any. No. I went to three other stores and the price was too much for my budget. Next time I went to Stop and Shop, I asked a different person. “Ahhh, I don’t think so,” he said.  I went home and googled a tea pot. With the cost of shipping, I might as well buy one on the Island. A few days later, I had to go to Stop and Shop for milk. I did not ask again. I went to where I would have stocked tea kettles if I worked in the store. Yes, there was a tea kettle. One, wayyyy in the back on the top shelf. Triumph.  I was excited by my find.
Simultaneously, I was trying to stretch the meager budget my father gave me to spend on the house in order to replace the dated curtains in the master bedroom (so-called because at 12’ by 14’, it is larger than the other two).  I looked at cannibalizing sheets. I thought it might not look very finished.  I looked online, but with shipping, it was still three times what I could spend.  I knew the fabric, color and length. Thank you J.C. Penney.  However, I did not push the “purchase” button.  That night, I decided I would head to the Hospital Thrift Shop in the morning. When I arrived, I moved straight to the back of the store. Okay, who can guess?  There were the curtains, unused, at ....$3/panel.  I reeled, giddy with delight and gratitude. 
I drove home, arriving at a time that coincided with Senior Class Day on the Vineyard.  Hundreds of cars were parked randomly all over the road I live on and in adjoining areas.  Wait for it.  Not a single spot to be seen as I drove closer and closer to my house.  I wondered what I would do for two hours while I waited for the program to end.
There it was, an opening, one and only one opening, directly in front of my house. 
I hoped to spiff up the side yard of the Cottage. I found two containers of unusable paint in the shed.  I also found 1/4 gallon of five year old paint that had been repeatedly frozen and thawed.  It worked.
I went to Mahoney’s -- a popular garden center on the Island. My mother worked there.  I resemble her enough that people recognize me as being related to her. It was touching to meet some of her friends.  In particular, one of them has cancer and his health is spotty. I was honored to have connected with him about my mother and to hear his memories of her.  It was healing for both of us.
I was on the beach, reading. A woman on a neighboring blanket and I struck up a conversation.  It was like she had been beamed into place at just the time I needed to talk to her. She saw me reading a book by Iylana Vanzant (In the Meantime). She suggested that I stream Oprah’s Life Lessons Series.  I was amazed how relevant it is to my own experiences.  I have never followed Oprah, but for this, I make an exception.  It is important stuff.
I was trespassing on a small stretch of private beach in Edgartown. A tall, stately, older gentleman came striding purposefully toward me. With his white hair, and fit physique, he cut quite a figure. I thought he was going to ask me to leave. Instead, we stood and talked for fifteen minutes. He shared information about his home and his family dynamics and I shared some of mine.  He passed on several suggestions that he thought would put me in a financial position to buy the Cottage.  He told me under any circumstance to try to obtain it.  As I left, I turned back to him, and asked with playful curiosity, “Are you a banker?”
He smiled, shook his head and said, “A financier.” In Edgartown, that could mean a lot of things.
A couple of days later, I had worked extremely hard on yard work. It was physically more than I should have, would have done normally, but I was motivated. I kept wondering who I could see for a massage on the Island. By the end of the day, I was nearly staggering with fatigue and discomfort.  I went to check the flowers I had planted in the front then came around to the back door to stash my gloves and tools in the back shed. A colorful piece of paper fluttered in the back door.  A masseuse had come by for the brief moments that I was out front.  She was offering massages. She was available and made home calls.  I looked skyward and mouthed a silent thank you.
The day before yesterday, it poured. I was in Vineyard Haven making a few minor purchases.  When my phone rang, I had ducked into a little shop decorated in the spirit of Provence.  I was alone with the shopkeeper. I went back outside, trying to exercise proper phone etiquette. The drumming rain made it difficult to hear. However, the gist of the conversation was that my insurance would not cover the wheelchair for which I had been recently fitted because it was for outside use. My doctor recommended that I use one for big outings because I tire so quickly. She realizes how much I miss socially. I was professionally fit by an occupational therapist who specializes in helping people get mobile.  The vendor who was to have provided the wheelchair felt terrible because he could see how much it would improve the quality of my life and increase my ability to have social interactions. The entire experience showed me how much I try to be like everyone else. I am not. The fact is, we are all different. Accept it. Some days I can paint a five foot fence. Some days I barely get to the bathroom. It is a reality. It felt like such a blow because I had worked so hard to frame the use of a wheelchair in a positive light.  Then to be told, (my interpretation) “You can move independently in your house, that’s enough” was a tough pill to swallow.  The manual wheelchair would cost me over $2000 out of pocket. I pushed it out of my mind.  Yesterday, I received a call from the occupational therapist who had fit me.  I was listening to him explain how disappointed he was that my insurance was not supporting me properly and how hard it was to see. He went on to talk about a program of donations at the hospital. I just wasn’t registering what he was saying.  Finally, I caught his drift. There was a donated wheelchair of the type I needed at the hospital. The seat would be slightly too short for my height, but we could adjust that with a cushion. Was I interested. I inquired what the price was. “That’s the thing, Dawn. It would cost you nothing!  It is a donation and I would like you to have it.” Okay, now let’s talk about the munificence of the Universe.
Or maybe, it is the power of the Mind.  I am VERY careful about what I hold in my thoughts.  So goes the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.”