The Blue Serpent

“Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again.”

–Gautama Buddha

When I was a little girl, just barely 7 or 8 at the oldest, I met a snake at the local wildlife center during a field trip. I had seen snakes before, and had been told they were dangerous. In fact, many a serpent met its end at the mercy of my grandfather’s garden hoe. My grandmother often spoke of snakes in terms of the biblical snake in the Garden.

“Never trust a snake,” she would say in her thick, French accent, “they are all bad, even if they don’t poison you, they will squeeze you dead! Always stay away from the snakes.”

So at that moment, as the handler came up to me and offered for me to pet the snake, I gazed at it with a little fear, and a whole lot of wonder. That moment may have every well been my first act of rebellion. I remember thinking, just before my fingers shakily reached for the snake’s coils, that it must be so smiley, and oh, how my grandmother would be so upset!

And the surprise that it was not so was even more delightful. Fingertips touched smooth, cool scales, instead of slime. So soft, almost like velvet, with the exception of the slight ridges of each scale. And even more, it did not poison me, or squeeze me dead. Right then, in that moment, I knew that one day, I’d have a snake of my own.

And very soon, that knowing moment will come true. But before then, a snake came to me in a dream …

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A Summer of Wanderings

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.

Augustine of Hippo

Since I was 5 years old, I’ve traveled almost every summer. Most of the summers of my youth were spent in France, but as I got older, I tried to get out into different parts of America as well. In my teens and early twenties, I managed to hit up every state on the East coast from Florida to Maryland, and then westward into Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, and eventually, Nevada.

And then it all stopped.

I could get into all the whys and hows, the excuses and the arguments. But the end result was the same, regardless of how it happened. For 9 years, travel was not an option, and my house was more cage than home.

Then the tumult and chaos of last year happened, and I was travelling again out of nowhere. Savannah (multiple times), Charleston, New York, Augusta, and, at the end, Oak Island. All were whirl-wind trips of only a couple days here and there, but all were meaningful in some way. A part of me that was suppressed for so long was returning.

This year, with my life officially in restart mode, I was able to pull off some longer trips, both alone and with Liam as my little travel partner.

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Sturgeon Moon

“When the snow falls and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

–George R. R. Martin

Full moons have always held significance to me, throughout my lifetime. From the awestruck gazes of childhood to the more spiritual tones of my adulthood, I have always made sure to take a few minutes each full moon to acknowledge the beauty of it. There is something pure and good to be seen in that alabaster light. Despite the consensus that the full moon brings out the wild and crazy in people, it has always been a calming, grounding force for me. Then again, I might just be crazy.

Meditation has become a ritual for me at each new and full moon cycle, and this one was no different. Truth be told, I meditate nearly every night before sleep, but without much intent. I allow thoughts to flit here and there through my mind until I nod off to sleep. With these moon meditations, however, I try to put some purpose or intent into it. Usually some sort of letting go, or goal. And since I haven’t written about a dream in some time, I thought I would share one from this most recent full moon.

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Brave

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

–Nelson Mandela

This is a post I started over a month ago. In truth, it is nearly 11 years over due in many ways. This story, this journey, is one that I have never told in its entirety. Before, I have only given it in bits and pieces to a select few people. Now, it is time for the telling, so that I can truly let go of some internalizations that I have held onto for over a decade.

This will not be a beautiful piece like I normally strive for. It’s ugly at turns, and raw. But a very real part of me that has been 11 years suppressed. This is my cancer journey.

When I was 21 years old, I was told that I had pancreatic cancer. I had to come to terms quickly with my mortality; far quicker than I think I was emotionally prepared for at the time. But I didn’t have a choice, really. I had to be brave. For my family, my friends. Above all, for my mother, who was not handling the situation well at all.

As strange as it was, I was not entirely surprised that I was sick. For months, I had been having dreams…

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Bonaventure Dreaming

Bonaventure is called a graveyard, a town of the dead, but the few graves are powerless in such a depth of life. The rippling of living waters, the song of birds, the joyous confidence of flowers, the calm, undisturbable grandeur of the oaks, mark this place of graves as one of the Lord’s most favored abodes of life and light.

–John Muir, Camping Among the Tombs

As of late, I find myself deep within the trappings of my own mind again. Considerations of times past, and the way forward, flash in scenes various as I mull over the meaning and the beat of my life. And most times? I find myself in my mental eye in Bonaventure, wandering its near-endless avenues. In dreams, too, she calls to me with her many residents paying me a visit here and there. It seems I can never quite escape her, as even in sleep, Bonaventure finds me in dreams.

I first came to Bonaventure at the end of March last year, though I had been drawn to her for some time. In fact, an entire trip had been planned months prior just for the pilgrimage of reaching Savannah and Bonaventure’s gates. When planning then, I knew in a vague way that it would be a life-changing experience. As with most of life’s lessons, just how life-changing this visit would be could only be revealed later.

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The Glass Chapel

For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.

–Martin Luther

I must confess that as of late, I have been more the meditative soul than the dreamer. This has been due in part to a two week long battle with the flu, the resulting medications of which continually knocked me into dreamless and fitful slumber instead of my normal nightly wanderings. What dreams have come between have also been, frankly, too personal to share.

After what has seemed like forever, my brain has returned to its routine and my midnight mental conjurings are beginning to return again. The first dream since my febrile fight (during which I somehow managed to successfully write 3 lengthy posts about mourning!) came to me in the dark delirium of a Friday night, and boy it felt good to be back!

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Mourning in the Digital Age (pt. 3/3)

I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead- . He is just away!
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand
He has wandered into an unknown land,
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.

–James Whitcomb Riley, Away

In late June of 2008, a mere three weeks after I underwent lifesaving surgery, I arrived at the local college campus to meet with someone I had only spoken with on the phone, a man named Jonathan. I was determined to completely derail my career and switch majors from elementary education to veterinary medicine, and he was the last roadblock standing in my way. I had filled out all the forms, dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, but there was the problem of me being wait listed, as the program only had 64 seats. This “Jonathan” was going to get me into the program whether he wanted to or not.

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Mourning in the Digital Age (pt. 2/3)

There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandchild.

–Victor Hugo

After grieving for Sammy throughout most of my childhood, death, at some point, became merely a distant threat again. I thought of him most days, admittedly do even now, but tears had subsided into smiles as painful thoughts became fond memories once more. Plus, going through puberty and then my high school years? I had more than plenty to keep me occupied.

I took death, in, yet again, an abstract sort of way, wrapping myself up in the communities that were Goth and Geek culture in the early aughts. This was not an embrace of death, not fully. More of keeping an enemy at arm’s length. Using the fear as a shield, and then escaping into a digital wonderland when things got too “real.”

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Mourning in the Digital Age (pt. 1/3)

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

–Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dirge Without Music

Winter has always been a season of loss for me. The three most impactful deaths in my life all occurred in winter, after all. On a historical and spiritual level, the season is inherently tied to death to begin with, given that for our ancestors, a harsh winter could spell doom. So I suppose it’s only natural. Lately, as I think back to those three I’ve lost, something has struck me in how I’ve processed each one, and how the digital age has changed how I’ve mourned them.

My first exposure to death, true death, was the loss of my cousin Sammy at the age of nine. I know that prior to his death, there were a couple of pets here and there that had crossed the bridge, but my grandmother and mother kept me insulated from what death truly was. It was an abstract concept to my child’s mind. People and animals lived, and then they went away. Less a feeling of loss, and more an absence, and I was already used to people being absent in my life. In that hopeful, childlike way, I thought little about the difference, and overlooked that while absent people may return, the dead do not. At least not in any conventional way…

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