Born Again Pagan

Acrylic on Masonite
Framed in Sticks 15”x16”

Trees have been a hugely important part of my life since I was a child – my best friends in a way.

They often show up as guardians and guides in the paintings. Whether in everyday life or in ritual they both comfort and give power. They ground me in ceremony, anchoring me as I reach for the stars. This is what I look like in those moments being birthed into new worlds.

The trees in this painting are not Oregon trees. They are the wintry trees of my childhood back east – the way they looked sledding out under the stars on a snowy night. Oh my gosh! The way I must have felt as I smashed into an ash tree tobogganing at the age of four and soared out of my body through its branches up to Orion. I’ve explored this with Dana Zia and had healers work on the bump I still have on my forehead from the accident.

Journal 9/26/00: A powerful connection made in a Dana massage yesterday – Energy in my head focusing in on my fractured skull bump. I’m suddenly back in the wing chair in Rose Valley – the little girl in shock. Mother on the phone to the doctor. Granny (my great grandmother) poking at me. Shiver. Realize it was Granny poking at me that brought me back – it was so tempting to check out entirely. Leave the stuffy 1950’s and stay in the stars of Orion that were so much lovelier. Coming back would sever that connection for a long time. Coming back meant taking care of Mother. Granny poked me to bring me back – to remind me of my promise to stay and care for Mom – a promise made previously to her at my birth when I almost backed out. I resented coming back. Was angry and the worst of it was I couldn’t talk about my experience. Had to file it away. Thought no one would listen. Or perhaps I tried and no one listened – “She’s babbling, Doctor.” Too scary for Mother.

Being in this place with Dana’s encouragement, I felt the chill of shock, the anger at my predicament. Suddenly, I thought of the book I am reading, Richard Bach’s Bridge Across Forever, where he influences his younger and older selves by dreaming back and forwards in time. Messages and signposts of encouragement. And perhaps even shifting the balance. What if….? So I imagined that I was not tongue-tied by conventions of the time and culture, but could, in fact, tell of my vision and journey. I had leapt into the tree …. I saw my connection with Gaia, my love for this place and my/our ability to shift the balance back to her worship and stewarding. I felt the connection with Mother Earth, wind, fire, water and spirit. And then I shot out of the outermost branches of the tree up into the stars and felt the cosmic connection with the sky spirits – out into the universe. I visited old homes of other realms. It makes me homesick now to think of it.

So what if now I were to recreate that scene and this time my first tentative words gather everyone around me. Mother hears I’ve had a vision or Granny does.

“What is it, my child? Where have you been?” (“I’ve been to London (or Orion) to visit the Queen.”)

“I saw the soul of the tree, Mommy, and it was connected to all the trees – and to the rocks and roots and worms and grasses. I was cradled in the ash tree’s arms and it told me stories of the Earth and the people who lived and loved on this spot. The little girls who played here and found ways to toboggan down this hill as I do. I could understand their language and learn their medicines and plants. I heard them talk to the animals they hunted to ask permission. And I saw them talk to their ancestors and their descendents – me! – about their lives and faith and connection to this world. And then I floated up into the stars – tossed out of the branches to hear the music of the spheres. To see myself as stardust and to visit places where they touched the star on my chest in recognition (I always waited after that for somebody to do it again.)”

As I talked, my sister and cousins gathered around. And Uncle Bill who let the toboggan get away. Instead of fading out into unconsciousness I could tell my tale, relate my vision. They drank cocoa in the elephant cups and ate popcorn, while I, cuddled in Mother’s arms, remembered more and more details. Messages even for some of them. Stories of people met – “Your Grandmother Harris sends her love, Richie. You have a tough assignment in a few years. Hang in there.” “Oh, Christine, no need to deny your own journey and grow bitter with frustration. Tell us your stories too!” “Cathy! You are here, little one, we love you. You belong. You will be our most potent journeyer – in touch with so much that many of us get too busy for.” “And, Bill – save yourself for one who really loves you. Or unbend and love her who you do find. Spare those girls… or not. Who can tell why the pattern weaves the way it does.”

Part of the vision was of the work and play that we could do – Rose Valley, both school and community.Trees and plants to be cared for. Rivers to be cleaned. Love to be shared.

And Granny would be there to answer the questions. “Yes, they look like that on Orion. I once visited….” “Did you feel the tree’s heart beating? Ah. That is good.”

How incredible to recreate that time. To have the journey not be remarkable but sane and loved and respected. Unusual but believed. Or commonplace and encouraged (a la Malidoma Some in Africa).

What message can I send that 4 year old Lane who visits me in this present? “Mommy, I saw myself sitting in the sun with a green skirt on and animals embroidered on my shirt. I could hear an airplane buzzing and the waves and the gulls and crickets. I was almost a grandmother myself, writing in my journal. That me told this me, “You will remember this moment, young Lane, green Lane. You will live at least one alternate life where the story plays out differently because you were listened to. And even in this present where it all got stuffed inside for so long, you, little one, with your aching head, will be a catalyst.”

“What’s a catalyst, Granny?”

“Something that makes something happen, causes a change.”

And Elder Lane said to younger, “Yes, you will be a catalyst for more journeys and more connections to this 51 year old Lane. Thank you. The bump on your head will stay there as a reminder, a clue, a messenger.”

So now I sit here in the sun. My necklace today is the Eye of Horus and the gold heart from childhood. The eye says, “See, I told you I would help you see when you took me into your forehead bump a year ago in Edfu in Egypt. And the connection with your childhood will continue to bear fruit. That locket was no doubt on your neck the day of the toboggan accident. It usually was for most of those childhood years.

Thank you, Godmother Charlotte, for the connection that has lasted. And thank you, Uncle Bill, for the “accident” that has meant such strong medicine for me. And thank you, Granny, for bringing me back and guiding me still. And thank you, Mom for being exactly who you are as we journey together in this life and many others.

Written for the Living Out Loud Show,November 2004.