Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Great-Grandma Hattie’s Diary

My dad has an old metal toolbox, inside which lies my great-grandpa Royal Levant Eaton’s wallet, a true leather billfold. Inside that wallet, I found a small scrap of paper folded up. It was a page from “Our America Engagement Calendar for 1956”. On the other side of it was a brief holiday journal written out in green ink by my great-grandma Hattie Eva Smith.
By the end of 1956, Hattie had been widowed for twenty-five years. My great-grandpa Roy was a prison guard. His son, my grandpa Mark, was sixteen years old was his father was injured during a prison riot and later died. Hattie was left with three children- Helen, Dorothy, and Mark- and had to get a job. She went to school for nursing.
In the journal bit she tucked away, it was Christmas time for her and it is Christmas time again. I corrected her major spelling and grammar errors, but otherwise, I’d like you to meet my great-grandma Hattie, in her own words. She mentions her daughter Helen, who shared an apartment with her. It’s worth noting that Helen was rescued by her brother and his brother-in-law from an extremely abusive relationship. 

December, Sunday 25: Snow all gone and it is Christmas day. Went to Mark’s for the day. Had a good time. Phil’s so cute (that’s my dad!). They sure had a nice Christmas, so glad. They deserve it. Robert and Laura were there for dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Rauson [Ransom, Mark's boss] came in to call.

December, Monday 26: Dorothy came after us and we went down there and had a lovely time. Jack sure had a good time. I know I did. Helen did too and looked better in a short while after we got there.

December, Tuesday 27: Cold day. Helen went to library. Very quiet here. Looked over my xmas presents. Read. Took a nap. Washed a few clothes. They are like boards they froze so stiff. A bit tired today. So much excitement!

December, Wednesday 28: Lovely day. Dorothy came for a little while. Bertha wanted time to go to the movies. We went to Bob’s for evening and had a good time. They sure had a big Christmas. Wish I could do for mine

December, Thursday 29: Went to the movies to see Heidi also Vanishing American. Helen was mad when she found out Bertha paid for it. She wasn’t too nice about it but so it goes. She is so sore at life.

December, Friday 30: Cold. A snow squall this morning. My check came this morning. Will pay the rent 46.00 tonight. Church $10. Also $8 for Miss Schafer for underclothes; slips. Helen’s so depressed over (?)el(?)(?).

December, Saturday 31: This is the end of the year. Hope next year will not be so hard. Have done the best I could. What more can anyone do? Good bye, old year. We hope for better times.

            At this year comes to an end, I feel a kinship with this woman I have never met. After I read the small diary to my father, he talked fondly of her and described the layout of her small apartment to me. I live in my own fading apartment and have spent a year barely getting by, trying to focus on the joy that we are still getting by.
In difficult times, the love of the people in my life is my sunshine. I wonder if it was the same for Grandma Hattie. Because in that respect I am fully blessed. So I’ll borrow her words, her silent prayer, as I greet 2015. This prayer is for me, for my family, and for the world around me.

“Good bye, old year. We hope for better times.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Talking Tradition on Christmas Eve

I alternately titled this post “Love and Magic”, but I thought that might be too abstract. Or too simplistic. I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions this season. The ones I have are the ones I grew up with and I realized how strongly my personal traditions were dictated by my childhood. Can I call it a tradition then?
Somewhere in my head, tradition means something done because it has always been so, passed down through generations. But in my heart tradition means something done because of an emotional connection/response to it that it bears repetition. Or something like that.
I think something can be both a tradition and an adaptation of the original. I don’t have children, so I couldn’t do Christmas exactly the way we had or it would be less meaningful. What my parents did was to serve us a feeling of wonder and joy. I hold onto the essence of that tradition.
When I was a child, we opened up our stockings while we waited for my Grandpa to arrive. He was always there when we opened our presents. While the coffee brewed and the cinnamon buns baked in the oven, we would eat the orange from our stockings. The coffee was for my grandpa. The cinnamon buns were an annual treat.
It was years before I realized that my Grandpa got up every Christmas early in the morning with my Grandma, who always worked the morning shift at the hospital, so other nurses with children could be home with them. They’d have their Christmas morning together before she left, before dawn. Thank goodness Santa had already been there, I thought when I was little. My Grandpa would spend a quiet morning until we called him.
It was never more than eight or ten minutes before he arrived. Which is forever to children on Christmas morning. We would jump when he walked in the door, never wanting to give him a chance to take his coat off. My parents would chide us but he understood. Grandparents always understand.
I envy him that stillness he enjoyed, now too old to ignore the fast-paced world around me. So part of my adult tradition has become that we open our stockings first, slowly, to prolong the morning. We bake cinnamon rolls while we eat oranges. And before we get around to exchanging presents, we leave a sweet roll and a cup of coffee on the table near us. It’s been a decade since he passed, but my Grandpa has never missed a Christmas.
Traditions become habit and sometimes, they get lost in translation, though the heart of them remains. It stirs my creative juices and I can see an alternate future in my mind. If I had children, and they passed down the traditions I shared with them, how might that evolve? How might descendants who come after us, who could not know us, adapt such a small gesture?

Raya carried the heavy tray from the kitchen into the living room where her family waited. Her hands were sweaty but she pressed the metal against her belly for support. It was the first time her mother was allowing one of the kids to perform the ceremony. Her sister Krina said it was bad luck to even stutter or trip over a word, and Raya’s tongue was often slow. She didn’t need more bad luck. The young girl’s bare feet padded quickly across the floor and she held her breath as she set the heavy tray down.
Her family waited in the dark room around a small tree aglow with brightly colored lights and hung with small paper ornaments covered in wishes. They wrote out wishes for everyone in their family each year. Raya had spent time on her wish for her younger brother Bitt, who currently fidgeted, looking longingly at the tree.
He had dark features, like her mom and her dad, and her two sisters. Only Raya bore the pasty skin offshoot of some distant relative, freckles dappling her nose and cheeks. Their family photos were humorous.
She reached up for the shelf above the tree, where an old ceramic mug sat. Its handle had been glued back on a few different times over the years. It was the cup her mother had grown up using, cool against her skin.
She lifted a steaming pot from the tray and poured the rich brew into the cup. She held her hand steady. One seamless pour. Not a drop wasted. She raised the cup up and set it on the shelf beside faded ancestor photos.
Raya took in a deep breath once the cup was out of her hands. She bowed to the shelf and the offering, before walking to the door. She opened it out onto the street. “We invite the grandfathers and grandmothers. We are because they were. Be welcome. Be warm.”
Her family echoed. “Be warm. Be welcome.”
Winter winds swept into the house and Raya shivered. As she closed the door, the other children ran to the tree, where a present waited for each of them. Raya ran to join them but her mother caught her by the hand, pulling her into a hug.
“That was beautiful, my darling,” her mother smiled. “Happy Solstice.”

I see love in that. We may not have known our great-great- or great-grandparents but, in some way, we do. Our grandparents raised our parents and our parents raised us. Other hands and hearts raised our grandparents. We know them in the traditions that have been passed down, the ones that have meant enough to be carried on. Whether we know the stories or not, their origins are in love.
Magic, wonder, and love are the legacy left in the wake of meaningful traditions. Whatever you practice, whatever you believe, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, that holds true. As your family gathers together this holiday, be sure to share the stories associated with them.

Many blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

From Samhain to Solstice

Spirit energy is thick in the days between Samhain and the Winter Solstice. I refer to it as the Fallow Time, when things are stilling and resting and the restless spirit lies just beyond the next breath. Spirit world isn’t something that opens to us one night a year. It’s always there. Only sometimes we don’t see it and sometimes we do.
It doesn’t surprise me that Dickens found himself inspired to write a story about ghosts haunting a miserly man at the holidays. I feel them more strongly at Solstice than at Samhain. I know I’m not alone.
Every year, I write out holiday cards to friends who celebrate Christmas, Yule, Solstice, Hanukkah, and some who don’t celebrate anything in particular, but the joy and humanity of the season. They are living ghosts, mostly people I do not see often or haven’t seen in the decade since my move. The cards are my way of reaching out to those who are important to where I have been and who I have become. It’s my way of telling them I still carry them in my heart.
While I fill out the holiday cards I reflect on those who are in my web and the changes in their lives since last year. Three of my beloved families are celebrating their first holiday with a new child. So much love! I have five changes of address this year of people who settled into their own homes for the first time. So much joy!
And where there is light, there is always shadow. I discovered a family friend had passed when his name was left off a card I received. I had known he was sick, but didn’t realize he was gone. Blessing or not, I will hold that sadness gently this holiday.
As I filled out a card to my Grandma, there was a bittersweet moment where I left my Grandpa’s name off, and I paused. He passed this last spring. I remember how frail and bird-like my Grandma seemed when I saw her in July and my heart is heavy for her and how she will experience the holidays this year.
I feel the memories of every holiday that has happened in my life overlaid in song, as if the ghostly echoes of each one plays out overtop the other... knocking on the table during scat with Grandparents after family dinner... singing carols for other Grandparents’ drunk friends... driving around to look at holiday lights... the reveal of the Christmas tree in the morning, like a flip book, as year after year unveils...
It is happening to me and it has already happened. Is that not the definition of a ghost? A spectre that you see, that cannot be because it has already been? I am everything I was and who I was is why I am who I am.
Only I am no bitter miser. I see Scrooge’s Marley visitation and I raise him the Christmas orange that vividly puts flesh on the ghostly spirit of my Grandpa Dick’s. Each Christmas morning, we would be peeling and eating them when he arrived, waiting for him so we could open our presents. A ghost brought to life with bits of my memory and a gallon of love left behind. I think of all the years as I crochet at my desk, feeling the familiar weight of a cat on my lap who cannot be there because she has been dead for four years.
At this time of year, and always, I accept what I experience as true because what else can I do? I allow my thoughts to drift to those who are no longer with me because at the holidays it’s easier for me to remember the joy of the lives that touched mine over the sorrow of their absence. So I truly cherish it. The sound of my Grandpa’s chuckle and my Grandma’s giggle warm my heart and I bid them to sit in my kitchen, in my home.
Come Yule, I will leave a glass of spiced wine for my friend who passed, an annual gift he loved. And on Christmas morning I will leave out a cinnamon bun and a cup of coffee for my Grandpa. I will take the sadness I feel for those I wish were alive still and transform the sorrow into love, for the only true answer to sorrow is love.

I mean, what if everyone fed their love into the holiday season this year? What if everyone in the world shared love and joy and good will to all men?  I will sit with the spirits and pray for peace and I will gift the world my love and joy, in honor of those who can no longer do so.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Christmas Rite of Passage

When we connect in to wonder, nature, and the living breathing web we are a part of, we see the moments in our life’s journey that were separated by rites of passages marking our progression and evolution. Some of them are large and some of them are small. And some of them pass with no notice or marking at all.

The passing of a box.

There was a year, after high school, after college, when I moved into a new apartment with my partner. There had been two graduations and a wedding, but there was still a part of me that didn’t feel grown up at all. Until my mom gave me a box of ornaments at Thanksgiving.

There wasn’t a ceremony. On one hand, it was a box of my own belongings. All my life, I had received gifts of ornaments by my parents and grandparents. And to be honest, I had forgotten about some of them. But my mom took a moment and gave me that look moms give where you understand that it’s a “moment” and you should be present and paying attention to it. She and my dad had sorted through the ornaments, setting aside a box for each of us.

It wasn’t a ceremony. It was the passing of a box. And it altered me.

My partner and I shared our first Christmas together that year, my first holiday tree without my family. Except that it wasn’t. Because I was bringing my family and our traditions into the day. And because I was starting new traditions with my new family member.

It wasn’t an ending. It was a cleaving. The ornaments had been part of the whole tree that my family dressed together. And now I was taking that energy and adding it to a new tree, starting our own little tribe.

The passing of a box.

It was overwhelming for me, hanging my old ornaments on a new tree in a new home. I shared the stories of where each ornament came from and what stage of my life I was in then. I have a small pile of ornaments gifted to me by my grandparents. Some have been broken and lost through the years but they are all the more meaningful now because both of my grandparents are gone. And every Christmas that comes is another one without them.

The passing of a box.

I think about that now. I have thought about that every year, making ornaments for my nieces and nephew that may someday adorn their grown up trees. At the holidays we decorate green branches with these small talismans. How do you connect to the items you hang? Do you know their origin stories? Do you know the tale they tell of your life?

And now my tree stands, decorated with ornaments from my adult life, my childhood, from my parents’ life shared with me, and from my grandparents’ life together, passed down after their deaths. My tree is an altar of the joy collected during every holiday I have celebrated, with many more to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Gratitude Jar

My friends and I share a common form of gratitude mindfulness, though we practice it in various ways. It’s easy to find gratitude at the holidays when our family is gathered together and we are visibly reminded of our blessings. It is often harder to feel those gratitudes the other ten months of the year.
My family and I do something for Yule, which could just as easily be done for Thanksgiving. It involves just a tiny bit of preparation, which we start around now. We make ourselves a gratitude jar.
You’ll need a jar or a canister of some kind. Tie a ribbon around it. Cover it with a collage of magazine pictures that make you think of gratitude or joy. Put it somewhere visible, but out of the way. Better yet, stick a sign on your fridge with the word gratitude on it as a reminder. Preparation is done!
Then, throughout the year, it becomes an exercise in mindfulness. I try to do one every week, one thing that I am grateful for, one thing that that made me smile, that made my life easier, that made my view of the world brighter. I have found that the true trick is not to put “family” or “work”. Instead, try to put into words what it is about those things you are grateful for, like: “I am grateful for a partner who makes me dinner when I am fighting a deadline” and “I am grateful for the editor who accepted my story.”
And watch for what I call back-handed gratitudes. They fool a lot of people into thinking they’re being grateful. You might think this sounds honest: “I’m glad my husband finally did the dishes without me having to ask him to.” And it is honest. But it’s a gratitude that hinges on an underlying unhappiness. Try not to qualify them. A better way to think of it would be: “I’m grateful my husband did the dishes tonight.”
In gratitude work, the way you say it highlights how you feel it. Gratitude comes from your center. Experiencing gratitude will change the way you see and verbalize the blessings in your life. The way you learn to convey the gratitude you feel will help you experience more gratitude in your life.
Get your whole household in on it. Write down the people you are grateful for as they help you or lift your spirits. Write a gratitude for the neighbor who helps you jump your car when your battery dies. Write one for plants gifted to you in the spring, just when you thought you weren’t going to be able to budget it in. For the day you sat so quietly in the woods that a bird landed on your head. Write down moments you have that fill your heart with joy and wonder.
And then, next holiday season, between November and January, take turns reading them out loud, a few at a time. Fill the season with reminders of your blessings.

Or, save them. And on a dark and bleak day, when you’ve hit your wall and don’t think you can survive another day of it (we all have them), pull one out and let it be a light for your soul. Let it be a reminder to you of the bright days, a reminder that the hopeful days, like the sun, return.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recipe Scrapbooking

2x Great-Grandma Emma's recipes.
While I was in college, and trying to learn to cook for myself, I started collecting recipes from my friends and family, ones they had prepared and used many times, so I could get tips they don’t tell you in a form recipe. As someone who was least comfortable in the kitchen, things that were common sense to others were not for me.
So I asked for recipes that they enjoyed making and eating, not necessarily ones that were made-from-scratch or fancy. And the project got bigger. My folder started to fill with recipes that reminded me of people and places from my past.
One of the first recipes I collected was the cut-out cookie recipe we used at holiday time. Along with the recipe came the memories I have of decorating the iced cookies on our table. For every ten cookies everyone else frosted, I would do one, so slowly, to give the Santa cookie a red suit and green bag and belt, my tongue sticking out of my mouth in concentration.
I have a good recipe for pork chops with stuffing and apple slices- cooked in the same pan (oh the horror for me then!). It was a dinner my sister-in-law made, one of those first grown-up moments I had where someone cooked a meal especially for the occasion of my visit. I quickly got over my no-food-touching rule because everything was touching and everything was delicious!
One of the things I remember about dinners at my grandma’s house was the casserole she always made. We loved it. When I first started cooking, it was a list of ingredients I could handle. Frozen hashbrowns, cornflakes, and cream of chicken soup, along with a few others.
One of my more recent acquisitions is a delicious recipe for a spinach and tortellini soup from my best friend. He made a big dinner for us, including mustard salmon and mock potatoes, which were really good. It was part of a holiday gift in a rare chance to spend the holidays together.
Another favorite that I make all the time is the tofu, lettuce, and tomato sub roll. It tastes like everything that is good about bacon. It came to me from a beloved friend, a part of our UU congregation before we moved away. It was a dish she brought to every one of our pot lucks, and I regret every dinner that passed by without me trying it.
In my mom’s recipe box, I uncovered a card for swiss steak, written out in my great-grandma’s handwriting. It prompted a conversation with my parents about her swiss steak, my dad raving about it. And then we talked about her again.
Another recipe makes me laugh every time I make it, the sausage gravy recipe I have from college. My other kitchen-challenged housemate had some fresh sausage and we were inspired to make dinner together. But first, we had to call my mom for directions. A moment of gratitude for that phone plan that allowed me to call them for free whenever I wanted to (I think it was some 800 number).
I have a chicken cordon blue recipe from a friend who came over and taught me how to make it while we waited for the results of a presidential election. I even kept the sour cream coffee cake recipe that I learned to make in eight grade home economics. It was the first thing I baked that came out perfectly.
One Yule, when we were snowed in from our community gathering, we held an impromptu one in our apartment for those few within walking distance. My good friend brought this delicious stuffed apple recipe with oatmeal and dark chocolate. Every time I make that dessert, I think about snow drifts and candlelight, about friendship and laughter.
There’s a pear and walnut salad, made by a professor friend of ours for one of my first adult fancy-dinner invitations. The instructions for the best bacon-wrapped scallops in the world, using horseradish, include memories of weekends spent with an old and beloved friend. And I have a recipe for ambrosia salad, a cold dish with fruit, pasta, and marshmallows. It was one of the first things I ever made on my own, taught to me by a friend’s mom in middle school, and my preferred dish to bring to pot lucks for many years.
Best of all, is the trove of recipes discovered in a water-damaged tote, some of them dating to the turn of the century (1900, not 2000). They were hand-written by my 2x Great-Grandma Emma, who lived in Lockport NY, and some by her daughter, my Great-Grandma Minnie. The earliest recipes are for chicken croquettes, Danish and suet pudding, cabbage salad, sour apple cake, catsup, canned beets, curing pork in a barrel, marmalade, and pickles.

I enjoy receiving recipes, and will often request specific ones that remind me of special occasions. And then comes the fun of trying them out, and sharing in a taste of that moment of friendship. The bits of my friends and loved ones in my recipe scrapbook also serves as a timeline of my life, and all the love that has rolled through it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

For Donna

In the highlands,
where blue and smoky mountain peaks meet
along a streambed of mimosa and wild thyme,
a great white owl shared space with me.
A slip of wind with unblinking dandelion-colored eyes,
feathers brilliant against the dense and fragrant greenery.
She appeared as clouds crept the silent streets at twilight,
far removed from the crumbling factory town,

the small home along the canal offering little to children
waiting for day trips to the field of golden-yellow blossoms,
grasshoppers, and crickets across from grandma’s house.

In the split-ranch with Arizona white walls
greeted by a braided macramé owl,
perched on a stick of stripped wood.

Owls filled her home,
where I had chicken pox.
Her nurse’s hands soothed me,
the smell of baking soda in water.

Donna was birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Sunday dinners,
card games and warm summer days.
She was tilled earth, petunias, tomatoes and cucumber plants-
My second mother.

I never knew she was not blood,
the only of three grandmothers who laughed with us,
passed time with us,
who stole kisses, holding squirming and giggling grandchildren
against her soft skin.

“You would not have wanted to see her this way,” mom says
“sick and fading. I told her how much you loved her.”

It is my heart she is thinking of,
but I am lost, trying to remember
if I ever really told her myself.

Her skin is bleach cold in the funeral parlor. Cold 
like plastered owl bookends made by thirteen year-old hands.
I can smell the powder she wore but cannot see her beneath the lacquer mask
Donna of southwest fire and sunshine would never wear.

I want to scrape the pink rouge from her cheeks,
to scrub the Broadway gloss from her lips.
I want to scream at her defacement,
So that I may pretend she is only waiting,
playing at death, until I arrive-

But I am here. And she is not.

I cannot touch her, cannot bend to her,
because the kiss I want to give will not wake her,
will not raise her lids,
will not show me her glittering, witty eyes.

I cannot pretend I am dreaming.

In a future place,
my heart begs to bend
to plant itself in warmed earth,
to grow and open and burst into life,
where she might be waiting,
barefoot and darkened beneath the sun,
where her hands might wrap around me,
arms pulling me from the earth,
where we would be laughing together again.

I am pulled back into the bright green grass
and thin air of the North Carolina peak.
The white owl blinks-

gone in a silent gust, the ghost soars above me
disappearing into the mountain sky

as the clouds roll away.

For Donna McDonald, my beloved grandmother who died on Mother's Day 2001. I wrote this after her funeral to process through the grief and hold onto the love. Today is her birthday. Not a day goes by where I don't hear her laughter in my head. She loved owls and Elvis Presley- and I loved her. Happy Birthday, Grandma.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Family Veterans

[Post updated from last year, including members of my family tree newly discovered who were veterans.
My grandfather, Mark Dutcher Eaton, didn't see battle, but he was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII, already married and a father. I have had the privilege to read the letters he wrote to his beloved sister Dorothy about his time there. He was released from service when the war wound down, something I am grateful for, or my father might not have later been born.
War is in our history. It’s in every rise and fall of culture. The ghosts of battlefields long forgotten are littered with the blood of our ancestors. On Veterans Day, I honor my ancestors who both waged war and stood defense, in service, so that I might be here.

Early Settlement
  • Capt. Roger Clapp (1609-1690), born in Salcombe Regis, England, sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1629 on the Mary and John. In 1665 Capt. Clapp took charge of the Dorchester Company stationed at Castle Island in Boston Harbor, the oldest fortified military site in North America. He held the post for 21 years and was given a nine gun salute upon retirement.
  • Sgt. William Pond (1622-1690) of Dedham, Massachusetts, of the colonial militia, was the first generation of his family born in the new colony.
  • Lt. Peter Wolfe (1606-1675), an immigrant from England, of Beverly, Massachusetts, served in the colonial militia in 1646, in defense of Salem, Massachusetts.
  • Sgt. Jeremiah Gillette (1650-1707), another immigrant from England, was the first generation born in America. He served in the colonial service of Connecticut.
  • Isaac-Etienne Paquet dit Lavallee (1636-1702) arrived in Canada, at age 28, in the Compagnie de LaMotte, Regiment de Carignan-Salieres in 1665. These first French regular troops arrived to aid the colonists of New France in dealing with the Iroquois. They were responsible for construction of the forts of Saint-Louis and Saint-Therese, as well as the roads between them. In the spring of 1666, Isaac’s company built Fort Saint-Anne at Lake Champlain. They were dispatched into Iroquois country in September of 1667, but could not rouse the Indians into battle. The Iroquois brokered peace and LaMotte’s famous regiment was disbanded. Isaac was one of 400 soldiers who elected to stay in the colonies.
  • Sgt. John Parker (1640-1699)… it is assumed he took part in the Indian Wars, probably King Philip’s War (1675-1676) in MA.
  • Francios LeSueur (1625-1672), a French civil engineer who immigrated with his sister. He moved to Esopus, NY in 1663 where he served in the Second Esopus War.

1754-1763 French & Indian War
  • Lemuel Lyon (1728-1781), of Stoughton, Massachusetts, served in Timothy Walker's company in 1755. He is on muster with Capt. John Carpenter’s regiment in August of 1757. He saw action in the 1758 Battle at Fort Ticonderoga, where he kept a 35 page journal, which has been published in, Narratives of the French and Indian War (2): the Diary of Sergeant David Holden, Captain Samuel Jenks, Lemuel Lyon, French Officer at the Siege of Quebec.

1775-1783 American Revolutionary War
  • Oliver Lozier, also Delozier, (born 1747) was a Bombardier, a noncommissioned officer, in Capt. John Doughty's company, in Col. John Lamb's regiment (2nd continental artillery). He was on the muster roll for April 1781 at West Point. Oliver enlisted for the duration of the war and was discharged April 4, 1783.
  • Capt. Freeborn Moulton (1717-1792) of Massachusetts, was charged a company of Minute-men of Monson. They were part of Col. Danielson’s regiment, which marched at the Lexington alarm of April 19, 1775 to Cambridge, where they remained until May 6, 1775.
  • Thomas Riddel (1739-1809), an Irish immigrant, was a Private in Capt. Issac Colton's company, Col. David Brewer's (9th) regiment, enlisting in 1775.
  • Joseph Riddle (1759-1847), son of Thomas Riddel and grandson of Capt. Freeborn Moulton, enlisted young and served almost the full duration of the war. He was a Private in Capt. Isaac Colton's company, Col. David Brewer's (9th) regiment enlisting in 1775. In 1776 he moved to Capt. Joseph Munger’s company, regiment of Col. Robert Woodbridge, the “Massachusetts Line.” By 1777 he shows as a Fifer in the 4th Massachusetts regiment under Capt. Caleb Keep and Col. William Shepherd, and later as a Drum-Major in Gen. Glover’s brigade. He was at the battle of Burgoyne, guarding the road to Albany, as well as the battle of Monmouth, NJ in 1778. A year later he served the Continental Army in the 9th company for Col. John Bliss’s 1st New Hampshire regiment. He was discharged from the Continental Army in June of 1780. Pension records list him as a cripple, so he was likely wounded.

1801-1805 The Barbary Wars
  • Peter De Lozier (1786-1849) was born in Connecticut. He joined the Navy and was on board the USS Philadelphia in 1803 when the government moved to end piracy on the Barbary Coast. Comm. Edward Preble commanded the Mediterranean Squadron into a blockade in October. On Halloween, the USS Philadelphia ran aground on a coral reef. The entire crew, with their Captain, William Bainbridge, was captured and the ship was used by the opposing Navy as a gun battery. Peter De Lozier and his crew spent 30 months in a Tripoli jail. When the conflict was over, he mustered out of service and claimed residence outside of Lockport, NY. He married, took up cabinetmaking and had a daughter, but eventually left his family to return to the sea. He died of cholera in Connecticut without ever seeing his family again.

1812-1814 War of 1812
  • Martin Dutcher (1796-1872) was a Private in Capt. Andrew A. VanDerzee’s “New Baltimore” company, Col. Barnabas Carver’s 61st regiment in the War of 1812. He fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, 1814. After the war he retired to Somerset, NY.
  • Joseph Riddle (1759-1847), though older, served in the War of 1812, as well as the Revolutionary War.
  • Pliney Wicker (b.1781) was a Private in Sumner’s Regiment in the Vermont militia.
  • Elizur Lusk also served in the War of 1812, from Lockport, NY.

1861-1865 American Civil War
  • Adam Art (1836-1896) immigrated to New York from Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, and served in the Civil War under Capt. Levi Bowen, 29th Congressional district.
  • Thomas Burke (b.1835), of Lockport served under Capt. S.F. Bowen, 29th Congressional district.
  • Marquis DeLafayette Riddle (1825-1898), of Pendleton served under Capt. S.F. Bowen, 29th Congressional district.
  • Three of my 2x Great-Grandmother’s brothers, Daniel Raymond Whitcher (1831-1914), George Harrison Whitcher (1841-1863) and Orville Bailey Whitcher (1843-1864) served in the Civil War. Both George and Orville gave their lives in service to the Civil War. George died at Cemetery Ridge on the field of Gettysburg, fighting with the Michigan 7th. Orville was 21, and a painter before the war. He died of a gunshot wound to the left knee in battle at Alexandria, Virginia in June of 1864. Daniel served as full Sergeant in the Batty B company of the Michigan 1st.

1914-1918 World War I
  • Royal Levant Eaton (1873-1931), a New York state prison guard, served in the National Guard during WWI.

Honoring Roots and Freedoms
I believe in peace and practices of non-violence. I know that I am able to believe in peace because I have known peace, and that I have known it because of the sacrifices men and women made to acquire it for our country. Soldiers are men of principle and purpose who believe that the side they are fighting for is a just cause, no matter what history will later decide.
My ancestors were farmers, ministers, soldiers, crusaders and Norman invaders. In all of our histories, our ancestors were defenders and colonizers, pawns and pillagers, and brave men and women facing uncertain futures. They faced those futures for us, whether they knew it or not and we can honor them today by learning from our own history. They are more than regiments and companies. The most important thing I can remember is that an army of fighters is made up of men and women who have names and families. They are men and women who are husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They are people of flesh and blood, of dreams and desire.

I am,
that they were,
that they are,

that they will be.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Assisted Dying

Considering the kind of work I do, I feel the need to acknowledge the passing, a week ago, of a young woman named Brittany Maynard, years younger than myself, diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and facing a death sentence. She went public about her disease and her decision to move to Oregon, where assisted death is legal, so that she could end her life on her own terms. It was courageous of her to talk about something we don’t talk about. It was a topic that seemed to trigger a lot of people’s personal opinions about her choice. And it revived an old conversation in the medical field about death.
A friend of mine tells a story about how she pulled to the side of the road once where a man had hit a deer. It was suffering but still alive, dying slowly. And she told me that as women, our bodies know how to gift birth. And we also have the responsibility to know when to gift death. She knelt by the deer and spoke lowly to it before slitting it’s femoral artery with a knife. It was dead in seconds.
And I think about that story. She didn’t kill a deer that might otherwise have lived. She gifted a being dying a painful death a kindness.
What if our medical field was like my friend? Not doctors deciding that patients are done with their lives and a drain on resources, which is where science fiction always jumps to. I’m talking about doctors who give their terminal patients all the options for care and treatment, including assisted death. They can always go get a second opinion.
The problem is that when we say assisted death, people hear assisted suicide. People hear “unwarranted euthanasia”. That is fear and grief talking. Not rationality. There will always be people who abuse a system. But if we assume that everyone is going to, we don’t leave room for the system to breathe and work.
I get the fear and grief. I have lost many to actual suicide. As a culture, the thought of the loss of someone we love is hard enough. They thought that they might choose to leave us, to hurt us through that loss is unbearable. And that is the filter most people discuss assisted death through.
I can set aside the grief and rage I have for those who I loved who have taken their own lives. I can see how the choice they made was their own choice and I had no right to expect them to suffer just for the selfish desire, on my part, to see them once in a while. Though I think my life would be the better for having had them in it, I am aware that I wasn’t going to make their lives better. I wasn’t going to be the one to shepherd them through their dark places.
It is that compassion that opened my eyes that there may be people who make that choice out of a practical place. For instance, when pain makes a terminal patient wish for a swifter death, we cannot brush it off as “the pain talking.” It is the pain talking. It is our loved ones telling us they are done.
If someone is considering ending things on their own terms if they find themselves with a terminal diagnosis, isn’t it more compassionate to offer them a medical end? Especially when they know the end will be painful and body-consuming, and the only measures available to them are to be kept comfortable through it. We hear doctors say that they are meant to save lives, not take them. And I believe that each patient loss weighs heavily on them. But when a patient is going to be lost anyway, what does it matter if it comes a month earlier than it would have? Even six months?
Our bodies are our sacred temples. How we care for them shows how we value our lives. What we do with them at the end does, too.
Maybe it’s easier to put it this way. If it was you, and you had been fighting, and your doctor finally came to you and said there was nothing more they could do, what would you want to hear?  That you could still have unknown weeks or months with the aid of pain medication? That you had the choice to decide when you wanted to end it without having to resort to suicide? Wouldn’t it be a better world if you were given both?

Blessings to Brittany Maynard, that she is free from pain. Blessings to her family in their time of grief and healing. Blessings to all those in need. May we found our ways to compassion, for the dead, the dying, and the living.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Samhain Prayer (and samhain links)

Blessings to those who have gone before.

Blessings to those who have gone before.

I call to the ancestors who lived and died before I took breath,
to all the mothers and fathers who created life,
who created life,
who created me.
Walk with me tonight.

I call to the ancestors who lived and died in my lifetime,
my beloved dead, my family, my friends.
Those who made me laugh and shared in my tears,
who shared this journey with me,
who shared their journey with me.
Visit with me again.

My breath is your breath.
My bones are your bones.
We are all relations.
I drink water for you.
I take in food for you.

Together we light the beacon…
Together we stand in the doorway…

We call to the recently dead.
We offer your names to the air.
We offer your names in prayer.
            Paul Slomba… William Luke Dalone…
All of my ancestors,
all of our relations,
wait to greet you.
Safest passage to each of you.
You are loved,
you are remembered.

Be at peace.

(Sarah Lyn, 2014)

Links to Previous Posts about Samhain:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Basic Ancestor Altar

It’s that time of year in the Northeast, when the leaves turn, fall, and litter the ground, crunching beneath our feet.  Among such volume of nature’s skeletons, it is easy to understand why our thoughts turn to our dead. Halloween may be a commercial American holiday, but it has its roots in the pagan holiday of Samhain. At this time the veil between worlds is thinnest, and we can feel the nearness of spirit as it co-exists with our world. The easiest way to connect to that energy is to build a bridge to reach them, something I do with my ancestor altar.
What do I mean by veil? Not an actual veil. It’s a metaphor for a doorway, a place where two planes intersect and a way opens between them. It doesn’t just happen at Samhain, but it happens strongly and consistently at Samhain. If you have ever felt like someone has been in the room with you, or something has run past you, but nothing is visibly there, you have experienced a moment of intersection. I know it scares some people, but it gives me great comfort.
There are basic tools important to creating that bridge of communication in my work. What I am going to talk about are the ones I use, but that does not mean it is the only way to do it. I do believe that before you can learn to substitute, you have to understand the purpose behind the original recipe.

1) First you need a dedicated space for your altar. It can be as small as you have room for, but while using it for an altar, you should not use it for anything else. It is not a space to set a cup or pen down, even for a moment. It’s a lesson in commitment. I like to put a cloth down to formalize it, to remind me of its sacredness.

2) Place a candle on the altar. This is the beacon you are burning, like a lighthouse, to attract their attention. You can pick one candle that will burn through the season. If you are using a dedicated candle holder, tea lights are fine. I used to use Goya candles in jars, until I found a fossil tea light holder at a rock show that I lives on my altar now.

3) The last thing necessary for the bridge is a glass to hold libations for the ancestors. Plastic is not an energy conductor, so I try not to use it on my altars. Water is the best offering. It is what we need to survive when we are alive and comprises a large part of our physical bodies. Spirits are attracted to things that remind of them of their physical lives. Tend to the glass every day; watch the water level and keep it full.

4) If you have any photos of your ancestors, you can add them to your altar. You can also include photos of those you have known and loved in your life who have died, including animal friends. The only thing that is taboo is to put images of people who are still alive on your altar. If the only photo you have also contains living people, you can use cleverly cut post-its to cover the living image.

5) If you have any objects that belonged to the dead, their energy and familiarity will help pull their spirit energy to your altar, especially if you have items that have been passed down. If you know that someone had a favorite flower, you can a bouquet. If they had a favorite drink, set one out for them. It doesn’t just have to be items they held, but can be items that might entice them to come.

6) I also include an offering bowl on my altar as a place to leave candies and small food offerings to sweeten the draw to feed the spirits. Food is not just important to us, it was important to our ancestors, too. As with Dia de los Muertos celebrations, I find items with pungent scents or flavors work well.

These are all things that will help call spirit to your altar. You can also add items that will help you connect to that ancestral energy. If they are allies for you, bone items, stones, or fossils are good aids. But this is the chance for you to put your own touches on the altar, and truly make it a bridge between spirit world and you.
Start tending it a week before Samhain. Light the candle at the same time every day and take moment to think of your ancestors. Take a moment to call to them, either silently or out loud. It’s about dedication and desire. Remember to let your recent dead sleep and rest. Do not call them for your grief is too animal and too frightening for those in transition. Honor their memory and wish them peace. Ask those you call to your altar to watch over and guide them.

Community doesn’t stop when we die. The web doesn’t dissolve when we are no longer physically part of it. We are all relations, all part of multiple overlapping worlds that are both visible and invisible. They exist whether we perceive them or not. So light your beacon, invite your Ancestors to enter, and open yourself to their visitations.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leave the Recent Dead to Rest

This is the time of year when neighbors decorate their yards with fake cemetery stones, when cobweb-covered skeletons hang from trees and porches. Leaves around us dry, fall and die, leaving the bare branches visible, and our minds wander to thoughts of loss. It is this time of year when those we have recently lost are close to our hearts and in our thoughts.
In my Ancestor practice, I talk a lot about actually working with your dead. For my purposes, there are three levels of dead. There is your Ancestral Dead, comprising those of your family line you never knew in life. Your Beloved Dead are those you knew and loved in this life that are passed, whether of your bloodline or not. And then there is your Recent Dead, those who have died within this last year, or since last Samhain, if you regularly wish your recent dead rest. Just remember that time is not consistent, for us or them.
I spend a lot of time honoring the Recent Dead in Samhain rituals, lighting candles for them and wishing them safe passage. I shepherd lost souls across to whatever comes next. I know some spirits wander because they do not know where to go. It’s like standing at a subway station and the train comes and the door opens and all that exists beyond it is space without firmament. The spirits who are still attached to their physical bodies don’t know how to move through that space, thinking in terms that no longer apply, so they don’t.
Mostly what I want to tell you about is why I don’t do work or call upon my recent dead. And why you shouldn’t either. It’s not about them. It’s about you.
Not all Recent Dead cross over, but mostly they do. Still, sometimes a part of them stays behind because they’re not ready, or they have unfinished business. And even if they do, that business can wait. Because you need to take care of you.
When we grieve, we are walking in two worlds. The world of the mundane, where life revolves and continues despite our sorrow, and the world where every moment is a reminder of how our loved ones are no longer with us. That’s the world where every time you reach out for them or you turn to talk to them, where every one of those moments is sharp and it cuts. And no one is in that world but you, existing slightly outside of the one everyone else is in.
Sometimes we forget that others around us don’t feel the pain we’re feeling. Sometimes they forget we’re still feeling the pain we’re feeling. So we are not in a stable place, even if we’re functional. That is extremely important. We use our intuitive bodies to do magic. Our intuitive bodies and our emotional bodies are not the same, though they overlap. And our emotional bodies are grieving.
I do not call on my Recent Dead for help or aid. I do not ask them to visit me in my work, in my meditations, or in my dreams. Because it would be too hard if they came. It would be too hard to open my eyes in the morning, after experiencing them, and re-remembering that they are gone.
A decade ago, friends of ours let us stay in their empty house while in town for holiday with my family. They were out of town for Christmas, as earlier that year my friend had taken his life in that house. His wife and son were recovering, choosing to spend their first holiday elsewhere. I woke in the middle of the night and he was standing at the end of the bed. He wanted to know where they were. It was Christmas. He came to be with them. Where was the tree? Where was his son? I took a deep breath. His eyes were so clear and bright, so much like the man I knew before his illness.
I told him he had to leave them alone. I told him it was too hard for them, because of what he did. I told him his being around made it hard for them to move forward. I told him he made his choice and he had to own it.
He was sad. But he disappeared. And I fell back to sleep. The human part of me wanted to ask my friend questions. But even spirits rewrite their own stories. It’s what holds them here. In hauntings, it is always the truth that sets the ghost free. And as a healer, as an Edgewalker, that was all I had to offer him.
Afterwards, my friends’ lives improved. The queer sensations that had been haunting them in the house stopped. Magic is real.
Magic isn’t safe.
So we don’t work with the Recent Dead. At Samhain, we ground that grief with flame and fire and we hold that light in our hearts. We know that peace of sorts will find us. And that we will accept the inevitable nature of death, even as it applies to us. Eventually. And that hope sustains us.

On All Hallow’s Eve I will offer the names of my Recent Dead and I will wish them peace. But I will not open myself to contact. I will not ask them questions. I will offer them tears and reach back to my Beloved and Ancestral Dead for comfort. Until next year, I will leave my most recently deceased to their rest. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Autumn Tree

As a child, I thought that the splash of autumn color was the final death cry of the tree, screaming against the end in red, orange, and yellow defiance. I believed every fall was a little death for each tree, except for the pines, the immortals of their world. I used to hug the trees, bare of their leaves, and whisper comfort to them, telling them it would be all right, that their leaves would come back in the spring.
There was a lot about death I couldn’t perceive then, but even in my misunderstanding, I created rituals designed to comfort the living.
It is in these last weeks before they die that the leaves are able reveal their true selves to men who might otherwise bow too humbly beneath their splendor. Could we stand against the awe and wonder if our world was painted so vibrantly around us every day?
As they die, as their chlorophyll drains, the true skin is revealed and the leaves fill our world with wonder. We honor them as they burst and burn and fall to the ground. We trample the bones of them beneath our feet, reveling in the crisp sound cutting through the air that signifies autumn. We make pyres of their dead, careening into piles, giggling as they crunch beneath our weight. Even in death, we can also find joy.
The pieces of them we crush and scatter underfoot nourish the ground beneath the trunk of their tree. Their bones are meant to be left to mulch and feed their mother, just as our dead are meant to be buried beneath the earth, exposed to the elements, to nourish the world around it. Nature shows us how to live within the pattern of the larger world, but we can’t perceive it from our square cities of cement and asphalt.
We don’t bury our dead unfettered. We bag up the leaves from our yards and take them away from their home. We do it because death isn’t pretty. Because we do not want to see the crisp carcasses decaying before our eyes, as if it taints the image of their beauty.

But all beauty fades. Should that make what remains less beautiful? Is it not beautiful that each tree sees multiple generations of humans come and go, just as we watch a generation of leaves bloom, grow, and die for each year that we are alive? Is there no beauty in death's place in our cycles of life? I stand in wonder, gazing at the mountains around me. I watch as red, yellow, orange, and russet fire meet their end.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Ancestral Parade of Pictures

The store my 2x Great-Grandpa Hiram Wicker and his brother William owned, late 1800s (L), Lockport, NY.
The ancestors who came before us were people just like us, struggling to get by and chasing their dreams. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that about people we didn’t know. So I like to go through the pictures that I have of them, looking for small glimpses into their lives. May they guide my dreams and live on in my deeds.
 My Mother's Side
My maternal grandparents, Patricia Art (living) & Richard James Riddle (1931-2004) 

1x Great-Grandparents Harold Lafayette Riddle (1903-1975) & Elsie Elizabeth Durant (1904-1994)

2x Great-Grandparents Lafayette Riddle (1873-1938) & Frances Ann Gillette (1877-1963), front center two. That's my great-grandpa Harold in the light suit in the back row.

We are guessing the man behind my Great-Grandparents Elsie and Harold is her father, my 2x Great-Grandparents George Francis Durant (1871-1934). It's the only picture we have of him.

3x Great-Grandparents Levi H. Gillette (1845-1911) & Jane Berry (1841-1901) and their children. The girl on the left in the back row is my 2x great-grandma Frances.

4x Great-Grandparents Ezra Wheeler Gillette (1819-1849) & Mary Ann Boots (1825-1899)

4x Great-Grandparents Francis Berry (1816-1900?) & Elizabeth Ann Hill (1825-1899)

My Father's Side
My paternal grandparents, Mark Eaton (1915-1982) & Ruth Ruston (1916-1959)

My father’s mother’s line.
1x Great-Grandparents Frank William Ruston (1888-1971) & Minnie Estelle Wicker (1890-1964)

2x Great-Grandparents Charles Evan Ruston (1847-1933) & Ruth Ireland (1861-1940). They're the center two in the back row, surrounded by their children and their children's families.

2x Great-Grandparents Hiram King Wicker (1844-1908) & Emma Angeline Whitcher (1845-1929). Hiram and Emma are the center couple. This photo was taken before they had children. All the little ones belong to Hiram's brothers.

3x Great-Grandfather Bailey Harrison Whitcher (1799-1865) & Ordelia DeLozier (1810-1888)

4x Great-Grandmother Lucy Raymond (Lozier) (1789-1874)

My father’s father’s line.
1x Great-Grandparents Royal Levant Eaton (1873-1931) & Hattie Eva Smith (1882-1969). They're with their oldest daughter Helen.

2x Great-Grandparents Bennett Eaton (1847-1909) & Theresa Cordelia Tenney (1850-1930). In the photo Theresa is holding their son Hubert.

2x Great-Grandparents Silas Parker Smith (1851-1896) & Hattie Eva Dutcher (1857-1882).

3x Great-Grandparents Ammi Smith (1824-1918) & Sophia Sears (1829-1909)

3x Great-Grandparents Reuben Feagles Dutcher (1831-1908) & Eliza Marsh Bird (1837-1926)

May we all remember the many who have come before us. Whether we know their names or faces, may they live on in our hearts. What is remembered, lives. What is remembered never truly dies.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Evolution of Spirit

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” ~ Nelson Mandela

I talk pretty on my blog about kindness and compassion. My words are honest and I work every day to live by them. But I wasn’t always this person. We are born with open hearts, and then the world happens and shapes us and we spend the rest of our lives fighting to get back to that original place of faith in humanity. Every year I get closer. But I like people to know how different I was, to understand how much I have changed. Because if they do not perceive my change, how can they believe themselves capable of the same transformation?

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” ~Brené Brown

I used to be an anger ball. By that I mean I was very quick to anger. I was angry at the violence I had suffered. Angry at the people around me who found relief by taking out their pain and insecurity on others. I was angry at the hardness of a world I did not seem to belong in. I was no better. I curled in or lashed out, always one of two extremes, as a way of taking what I needed from the world to survive it.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ~Mark Twain

I didn’t know there was another way. I was a heavenly body on the inside of the circuit, the sun that the solar system revolved around. I didn’t see that the world was smothering me because I put myself at the center of it. All I saw was that I was suffocating. And I couldn’t see a way out.

“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” ~Buddha

I was at a crossroads, my own personal Equinox. I was disconnected from myself, from the earth beneath me, from the sky above me. I could see the forest of trees but not the roots of them entwining and holding each other up. I didn’t know how to bend. I didn’t know how to flow. Everything was fire and lava. I wasn’t living in the world, I was burning my way through it.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

When we feel lonely we push out at the world, keeping it further at bay. I pushed everyone away before they could leave me, before they could hurt me. I thought pain was inevitable and that was the face I gave the world.

“Listen—are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ~Mary Oliver

It wasn’t what I wanted. I was at a crossroads and I made a choice. I turned away from chaos and insanity, from trying to fit in and struggling to breathe. I let go of the anger that was eating me from the inside out. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just released it in small breaths. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I gave it up to the universe. I rediscovered faith and turned my attention to finding a path that felt firm beneath my feet. I took the time to get to know myself.

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” ~Danielle LaPorte

I had defined myself for so long by what I didn’t like, what I didn’t want, and what I thought I was supposed to want, that I found I didn’t know what it was I did want. What did I like? Who was I? I first heard an answer in a ritual in the dark in the mountains. Deep in the core of you, what are you? I quieted my soul and listened, and the word that came from my mouth surprised me.
“Light,” I said, with tears in my throat. And later, the overwhelming answer I found was kindness, goodness, compassion, and joy. When I removed the protective layers from my heart, I discovered the brightness I had been searching for all along within me.

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” ~Brené Brown

The world I live in is a better place for having me in it. I feed it my hope and my optimism and my compassion. It does not mean I am perfect. It does not mean my heart is not weighed down by the violence and evil that men do. It does not mean that I do not cry in the quiet nights within the safety of my walls. But I cry because I am connected now. I do feel the part of the earth beneath me and the sky above me. I feel part of the roots connecting the trees beneath the surface.

“Softness is not weakness. It takes courage to stay delicate in a world this cruel.” ~Beau Taplin

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” ~Iain S. Thomas

Do not be ashamed of the ways the world has tested you. Do not be ashamed of the times you have fallen, of the times you have failed to get it right the first time. What matters is that you picked your head up. What matters is that you picked yourself up and you kept going, even though you did not have faith that what lay ahead was better. It is not our perfect moments that define who we are. It is the moments we are imperfect that shows the spirit that lies beneath the flesh and bone. It is how we carry ourselves through those moments that reveal the soul of us.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~Buddha

We are meant to follow our own paths. It is never too late to change tracks and find your way back to you. Our original state is harmony and peace. The world is hard but there are others in it, lighting candles in their hearts against the dark, struggling to grow despite the resistance. Every action is a choice. When you stand at the crossroad, open yourself to compassion and hope. You just might be surprised where you find it.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” ~Cynthia Occelli
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