Mike was cremated yesterday. Four words… not even very big words ..but they are so heavy. They are present in my mind and I hear them and it is as if I am talking about someone else. I talked to him Saturday while I drove to Bandera River park. I sent him a picture of the Medina River as we continued to talk and I walked …by the river…into the woods…across the country road . Then when the beauty I walked through would no longer allow me to multitask and admire, we hung up, and I got lost in the land. I had learned to get lost in nature with unbounded freedom because of Mike. Living on the farm there were weeks I would not see another living soul. I wrote, I researched, I took classes and worked towards certifications in things that were spiritually important to me. I was allowed to have this beautiful break way out in the country with no one around …and it was … and it remains, so very special to me. I am not a Texan by birth, but unlike the clanish Blue Ridge and Appalachia’s where I spent so many years, you are not continuously met with the look and the phrase ” you ain’t from around here are you?” If you want to be a Texan … Move there. I learned that from living here and I learned it because of Mike Ragsdale.
I remember the day this picture was taken so clearly. I had been living in Texas a little over a year and I was getting ready to move to Sipe Springs , or as it is lovingly known to me now, “the Farm”. It was almost Spring and as I stood with my daughter, Amanda, and I looked out over that landscape that looked so harsh and brittle, I wondered if I would ever learn to love Texas. I moved, went to work for Hospice and had some of the most profound experiences of my life but I grew weary of the wide open spaces. I was lost without boundaries and felt the call to return to the hills. When I had moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I had discovered a comfort from being surrounded by mountains. I felt protected. So many days as I walked to class or to the hospital from my car or just around the neighborhood, I would look at those mountains and my heart would burst with gratitude to bear witness to such beauty. Texas had no boundaries, the room for growth was astounding and intimidating. After almost two years on the farm, I returned to Virginia, even deeper into the hills, in Bath County. I loved being closer to my children and seeing old friends but I soon realized I no longer felt I belonged there. I was not making decisions from a stable place when I left Virginia before moving to Texas via Louisiana. I wanted to make sure I made good decisions that were not fear based or the result of deep feelings of helpless/hopelessness. I took the time to be introspective and see what I could do to be of the most use to my family and myself.
I returned to the farm and ended up living there mostly alone for a year. I had started another journey in Virginia when I became a Reiki Master. It changed the way I thought about things. So , when I returned to the farm, I did a lot of writing and spiritual work. I learned to track animals and become even more aligned with and appreciative of my environment. I wandered over 100+ acres daily, watching the seasons, hanging out with my wolf hybrid, Sam, and staying busy with work that I loved.
Years have passed since I lived in Commanche County but I often catch myself with tear filled eyes as I look at the river, check out a new park, work in my garden or become entranced by the sound of the wind as it blows through the tall grasses. It is during these times that I ask myself , “damn Leese, when did you fall in love with Texas? The answer is always the same, “at the farm”.
An abundance of snails are filling my space. I see them wherever I look around my home. They fall from the doors when they are opened, I see them overhead on porch ceilings at night and I peel them off of my plants. Solitary creatures of recluse, they carry their shells with them, so they can always protect their tender inner selves. When snail presents, you may need to examine the walls you have built and ask for Spirit protection. Things from the past may resurface and snail encourages you to enter a place of healing to continue with spiritual growth. We are reminded of the importance of protection and trust. Know when to trust and when to retreat and remain silent. A slow steady path of patience and perseverance may be required. You are being asked to be present and manifest graceful balance.
I ran out of time for me.
But healing continued to call,
From a distant path, through the mist, up the mountain.
I heard her calling daily.
And I cried because I could not go.
Christmas season over, New Year heralded in and all rushed in and by, without really feeling it was there at all. The best part of Christmas was being around Kesey. He was 9 months old and the wonder is not quite at the fever pitch it will be in the years to come, but there is joy in the knowledge that it is his first Christmas. He is just fascinated by lights and color so my focus was on hanging little lights everywhere. His face was lit with wonder and twinkling strands that surrounded him. The Christmas day pics quickly earned title as my favorites – but most new pics of him do at some point.
New Years day I worked and honored it barely in passing as I got ready to leave the house that morning. I did not feel the pull to consider or write resolutions …but there were numerous times I thought of the future and what I wanted that to look like.
Finally today, on Epiphany, I feel the holiday season and I read that astrologers are saying the best day for New Year resolutions this year is Saturday 1/9/2016.
I open the back door and walk out into the yard with Odin, my Schnauzer. Immediately, I hear a mourning dove and look to see where it is. As I stand looking upward, into the Ash tree that provides needed shade throughout the summer, I see doves landing on the branches until there is finally seven. It is my birthday. So I think of Ash and how it symbolizes sacrifice and higher wisdom. I reflect on the meaning of numbers. The aspects associated with seven are wisdom, seeker, truth and negatively can manifest as critical or lack of faith. The tree is in the Northwest corner which speaks of teaching , trust and inner spiritual renewal. The Dove invokes hope to remind us that new life is always there for us – a reminder – let go of what has passed and look for the possibilities of the future.
I ask for guidance throughout the coming year. I continue to seek the truths of my life and ask that my feet be blessed and remain on the good red road.
By the time I moved to the mountains, I had pretty much lost all of my family of origin. My Aunts, Uncles and cousins were still in Newport News and I was not so far that I could not come home for holidays, if I needed too. Often with work and not having a lot of time off, I learned to enjoy Thanksgiving away from the family. My family was always together for holidays and when most of the key players passed away, it left a big void in my life. I filled that void with my friends in the mountains. Spending Thanksgiving on the mountain became my tradition, and even after I moved from Rockbridge County, I would drive from Grottoes to North Mountain to share the day and meal with friends and strangers at Mira’s house.
On the drive from Rockingham County to Rockbridge, we got one station, I think out of Roanoke or Charlottesville, that always played Alice’s Restaurant … which we heard… in its entirety …every Thanksgiving, until hearing those first dulcet tones became part of the tradition too !
Driving up the driveway you could see the first signs of the gathering with folks on the porch waving or talking to one another and you knew already…it was never going to be the exact same group of people, though we all wandered through that house on North Mountain, touching one another’s lives in ways that would leave its imprint forever. We would gather on Thanksgiving Day, from all over the mountains, or other states, though most from Lexington. Arriving early, to help with cleaning, arriving late, because of things we had to take care of in our own homes… walking out of our cars to hugs and kisses from old friends and new, noticing one another’s children and how much they had grown … watching through the kitchen window as folks arrived and learned of the changes that had occurred for each of us since the last time together…sharing new knowledge or joys and as we stood in a circle of love and gave thanks for all that was right in the world…we had that moment in time, where we were all of one heart.