I know, it’s been awhile. I started a post several times and couldn’t figure out how to write about the last 6 months without a lot of emotional content. I was excited to return to trail and in May hiked a portion of the Rogue River Trail in southern Oregon. I took pictures, framed my shots so I could do another Wilderness of Women trail paintings, I was ready to rock the blog with new art and new adventures.
But, when I got home from the trip, I found out that my step-mother was in the hospital and my 83 year old Dad was home alone and having a hard time. I had been in the river canyon with no cell reception, and it had been a marvelous time on a rough and tumble trail in some epic back country, so the news was unexpected. My Dad had been loosing ground with some dementia and relied heavily on his wife; they were staunchly independent in their life and totally unprepared for this sudden illness. Neither one of them would even ask me to come down to help, but I insisted and booked a flight to California. Dad was relieved, I figured it would take me a week or so to set up some care-givers and I could return to my life uninterrupted, free to be me, doing my thing, getting back to what ever it was I wanted to do. You forget sometimes that life isn’t always so predictable and it can change and rearrange everything. Disasters strike and knock you for a loop. Fires, floods, famine, death, destitution, tragedy. Life is not always roses and laughter. We forget, sometimes that the other people that things happen to? Sometimes those people are us.
The day before my arrival, my father fell and hit his head. He was cleaning the house in preparation for my coming; he was so happy I’d be there, my stepmother’s illness was his personal disaster and my arrival would be just what he needed to get through it. But instead, when I arrived, I went straight to the ICU and learned more about his traumatic brain injury caused by the fall and the subsequent bleeding that happened as a result of his blood thinners.
I spent the days in a daze, running back and forth between their rooms, her illness was severe, I’d never seen someone so sick before. His brain injury had him confused, affected him at first like a stroke, then later, more like a coma. I was numb and put one foot in front of the other, this was a tough trail , it felt like I was climbing Mt. Hood all over again. But it also felt like a storm at sea, I was out of my element as I navigated uncharted waters through two sets of doctors, nurses, hospital staff, administration, social workers, not to mention Bay Area traffic and an empty house that needed bills paid, the trash taken out and a million and one other details left behind as these two peoples lives fell apart and sank into the ocean. Together we washed ashore in the Mountain View Hospital, surviving, but still castaways on an island of illness and tragedy. I sported the expression of one whose life is in upheaval, you see these hallway ghosts in most hospitals, they walk between their lives outside and their tragedies, inside. Now I was the one in the midst of the drama.
My father died two weeks later. My stepmother finally turned a corner and began to show progress on her recovery. She went to a care facility a few days later, and I made funeral arrangements.
I was sad and shocked and all the other words that describe the emotions of grief, but not angry, I skipped over that, I chose not to be angry. Death is a part of life, there was nothing to be angry about. I just faced it; I don’t believe in turning your back on it for even a moment. I will always be grateful I was in the room with him when he died. It was a privilege, truly. I didn’t know it would happen so fast, in the entire 2 weeks, no one had told me this was coming. I thought he’d eventually be released to a care home. I was distracted by my stepmother’s condition and unable to comprehend the seriousness of his injury. It was less than 24 hours after they put him on palliative care that he died, but I guess I must have known something because I had taken the time to talk to him and say goodbye. I reached in to his world as much as I could in those 2 weeks. I sang to him and he responded, somehow music making it’s way to a part of his brain that wasn’t being crushed and absorbed by the injury. Those simple songs were my comfort and I’m so very grateful for that last connection.
Now, I’m sure you are wondering, but who is Dr. Joe and what’s up with this Supernatural Genius stuff? Ok, hang on, I’m getting to that. Setting the stage here.
I spent most of the month of May in California, and came home as spring was turning into summer. In an effort to do something “normal” I put myself back into the studio and painted a scene from the Rogue River, from a time before the shipwreck.
Blue Lupines on the Rogue River
The Rogue River in southern Oregon is one of the last scenic and wild rivers in the country. Thousands of people float this river each year, but you can hike the length of it through the Rogue Wilderness along a narrow, often ledge/precipice trail, that hugs the northern edge. Painting this for me allowed me to leave my tragedy behind and let the creative spirit soothe my soul.
I did a lot of self care this summer. I went to see NY Times bestselling author, researcher and speaker, Dr. Joe Dispenza at the Science of Spirituality conference in BC, Canada. He rose to fame after the movie, What the Bleep do we Know? came out and has been working at studying brain neurology and the cosmic connection for some time now. His books, The Placebo Effect, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself and Becoming Supernatural have, as they say, garnered much acclaim, and influenced me greatly in my own personal studies of the brain and personality.
Without getting too much into his work, he is currently focusing on meditation as a way to heal the body of disease and faulty thinking processes that lead one into a diseased state. Going to the conference helped me process as well as give me a respite from my life. I returned invigorated and ready to handle whatever was to come next.
My stepmother recovered and came home. I traveled down to CA again to help with the transition and to start going through my Dad’s things. It is a monumental task, these things you accumulate in your life. As well organised as my parents are, there are still so many details to sort through; it certainly gave me a new perspective on my own life and how much stuff is in it and how much my survivors would have to wade through. Perhaps it’s true what they say, at some point you don’t own things… your things own you.
The rest of the summer flew by with more backpacking trips, some major home renovations and then, just as I was getting on with life, another death in the family. Our old Dog, Hank, finally reached the point where it was time to put his body down and let him go home. I couldn’t see it for the longest time, I wouldn’t let him go. I’m sure it had something to do with my Dad, but we were going through heroic measures to keep him safe (he was practically blind and deaf), to keep him clean (he had to be assisted when eliminating as he could hardly walk), to keep him fed (he would forget he was eating and stumble away). It took considerable effort to keep this old dog alive, but I had begged him to stay alive for me as I traveled from home and he was doing it, but at great cost. I finally realized it wasn’t fair to ask him this anymore, and so, we laid our little boy down and cried some more.
Then, last month, we packed our bags again and headed back to Canada for a week-long advanced meditation retreat with Dr. Joe. We had enjoyed the conference so much, my husband really wanted the full on experience. NOW, here’s where things get interesting.
Neither one of us realized how intense this workshop was going to be. In 7 days, we probably meditated approximately 35 hours! 3 sessions a day, 1-2 hours each, with two 4-hour long sessions. In between the meditations were lectures and breaks for meals. We dragged up and back to our hotel around 7 or 8 each night, fell into bed only to get up at 5 for a 6 AM meditation the next morning. The 4 hour sessions started at 4 AM yet we were all lining up in the hallway at 3:30, eager to get in and get started.
I had amazing insights and healing; body, mind and spirit. Synchronicites abounded, every day was a new study in connection to the Universal energy of life, and I released all my angst and pain from the past few months and let my heart open to love. Every morning Dr. Joe would have us turn to the person next to us and introduce ourselves as Supernatural Geniuses. We all laughed, but we all did it because we were along for the ride and why the hell not? We all committed to the affirmation, we were there to learn and to grow.
And to top it all off, just to test us on how coherent we could remain while faced with a challenge, we rappelled off a 30 story building. Yeah, you heard me, rappelled, as in ropes, harness, bounce-and-down-you go. I decided right then and there, I wasn’t going to be scared. Fear was a choice I was not going to make. Our group went the second day right after breakfast, and I was glad I didn’t have to think about it too long. I made myself NOT think about it, much easier that way. I just focused on the job at hand, stepped over the edge and belayed myself down. I did take a few moments to look around and caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, looking like a bad-ass urban mountain climber.
Toronto Spiritual Spiderwo/men!
The conference was healing, magical, mystical and with all that meditation, a transcendent experience. It would be a whole other post just talking about what happened, but instead, I will leave you with the first thing I painted when I got home, I kept seeing this during some deep moments in the void. I’m calling it:
The Universe is Watching You.
Because, well, it is. You are a part of the Universe and you see what you do and who you are. Especially if you get some awareness and really take the time to look. Nothing like tragedy and challenges to be that wake up call. But it doesn’t need to be tragic. You can choose to awaken without it, and when you do, you too will be a Supernatural Genius!