by Don Adams
I am a Capricorn. Like a mountain goat, I love to climb to high places, pinnacles. For this day- of-solitude, I set out to climb up to the highest point above C.O.D. Ranch where there is a small meadow-like opening in the rocks and thorny vegetation, which I had discovered earlier. As I sit viewing the panorama, I see in the near distance huge house-sized boulders. In the far distance I see the high mountains of central Arizona. I am physically uncomfortable. It is hot and getting hotter as sun rises. The breeze is steady but coming from the east making me choose between breeze or sun as the shade from the bushes block them both. I set up on my altar an unlit candle (fire danger here) a seashell, a multilayered rock, a piece of local wood and a red pouch of blessed Indian tobacco and herbs. I wait in the “neutral zone” with no expectations.
Soon a parade of huge orange boulders seems to me to be like big animals on a long slow arduous journey. I identify a father and mother animal followed by an angry big child (my brother?) and way behind is a smaller boulder that suddenly seems to be my sister hanging back from now what seems my family making slow progress. But where am I?? Then I spy myself, another rock much further away, separated from the family, and huddled and crying. I do not like looking at all this, it all seems so trudging, sad and lonely. I move my sitting spot several times a few feet to try to stay in the shade as the morning progresses. Now as I look at the rock I had identified as me, I see that I am now (from the changing play of the light) more upright and surrounded by many smaller rocks. This is more like my adulthood, away from my first family, but then surrounded by a newer family, many needful children and clients. This brings me some peace, as I sit there. I feel, however, that this tableau of me and my family is old business, already attended to in my life and in my previous (2017) vision quest in the NC mountains with Ron and Anne. What I am seeing now is simply my past grinding along in its own pace on the horizon.
After a visit from a black buck deer with a white tail, several songbirds, and three vultures circling in the steady breeze over this alive landscape, and the passage of time, I focus in on two yucca plants with 12’ high stalks with beautiful feathery fronds on top. I am taken with their poise, and then with their nodding gently and wisely at me. They seem very happy to be here. They seem to be greeting me. Feeling a little happier, I meditate on love, connection, and spirit, and find myself longing for some sort of completion. I see puffy little clouds in the blue sky behind these fronds and remember my childhood church with murals of angels sitting on clouds and my loving minister, Dr. Schwartz. Suddenly it dawns on me that these friendly nodding yucca fronds could be ancestor spirits reaching out to me. But who? I decide I want a spiritual grandfather and a spiritual grandmother and begin wondering who they will be.
I soon settle on Grandfather Winfield and Grandmother Teresa. Can I create these myself for me? Can I invite them in? I have never met these two grandparents (my mother’s father, who died long before I was born, and my father’s mother who died 2 years after I was born). I can recall the picture of Winfield taken at age 41 just before he died of flu. He is blonde, short hair, glasses and has a wise face. I have more trouble visualizing Teresa, as there are no good pictures of her. I experience her as pretty, short, slender, with black hair, in farm-wife’s clothes and apron. I want Grandfather Winfield and Grandmother Teresa present here to help me remember love and goodness, and to recognize and minimize my ego worries and fears. I want to be able to shut my eyes and have them there as coaches, support, founts of love, and sources of wisdom to help resolve the conundrums of my life. Then I openly speak to them inviting them to me, and they nod and wave in the breeze back to me. I now have called them and eagerly await their presence. I want to feel their pervasive warmth and love and to be wrapped in their gazes and smiles. I make a sketch of the scene before me and take a photo of it so I can recollect it whenever I need it.
It is getting blistering hot here on this peak. Around 1pm, I decide to return to the ranch area for shade, water and relief from the heat. I maintain silence and separateness from others. Fearful for my health, I turn on the A/C in my bunk room, and lie down and take a siesta, a two- hour dreamless nap. I awaken thirsty, get water and a piece of fruit from the dining area, and find a shaded spot to continue my silence and solitude. Remaining in the zone, I reflect on how I wish I could live like Jesus–coming from love, protection, kindness, understanding, and a demeanor that infuses others with love, trust, and faith that goodness can prevail. I want everyone to know that being driven by fear is not necessary in order to thrive in the world.
Now after, 7 pm, I am sitting alone in the warm evening in a fire-pit patio. I have my candle safely lit with my altar items placed on the retaining wall around this area. No more desert wilds for me. I have wounds, scratches and barbs on my arms and legs. “Stigmata”, I think to myself. I want to know more about Winfield and Teresa. I wonder if their wisdom has grown beyond my parents’ childhood memories. I make a note to research their historical realities some day later. Right now, I need to form a face and voice for these special elders. I want them to be present to me. I write down in my journal my new intention: “Find a way to bring form and access to Winfield and Teresa to become allies upon whom I can draw.” I noted to myself, “I am open to dreams, surprise experiences, flashes of intuition and even messages left in crotches of trees.”
So, I reflect, what do I know about them? I recall that Teresa brought music, poetry, literature, and love of learning to my father, her only child. Winfield brought missionary zeal, education, science, botany, and botanical art to my mother. Each married rather ordinary, practical partners. Teresa married Herbert, a steady reliable farmer. Winfield married Grace, a competent, kind, but uninspired wife and mother.
I first reach Teresa: dark hair, pretty face, but the image in my mind blends with the feathery stalk of the yucca plant. She tells me (I can hear her voice in my mind), that I am very special, that she had died before meeting me, and that she had been watching me and loving me all my life. She had loved Alfred (my father and her only child) and treasured his brightness and his love of both nature and the spirit. She tells me that she is excited to have me reach out at this precious moment, because she had gone many harvest seasons to the Arizona desert for fresh air because the pollen and dust in Ontario made her breathing impossible. She had hoped I would reach out to her while in this beautiful, warm, dry place. She tells me she had wished my dad had been less serious and more playful and imaginative. She then she tells me that she watched me grow up, and that I was her joy on Earth. I melt emotionally to hear this. She explained that she lost her family as a child and had been shipped as an orphan to Canada from England and was adopted by a good family in Ontario. She married Herbert, she said, because he was a serious, down- to- earth man with whom she could feel secure. She went on, “I was pleased when Alfred did well in school, went to college and became a scientist, yet I knew he was always concerned about God and spiritual truth. He was too logical at times, but on the right path.” She adds, “My big regret was that I never met you on earth. And now that you have opened this door for us, I am feeling squeaky (her word) with delight to be here with you.”
I look up (in my mind) at the other yucca frond and see that it is indeed Grandfather Winfield, my mother’s father. He looks fortyish, crew cut blond hair, glasses, and handsome. “Grandson.” I hear him say, “I never met you either. I died many years before you were born. I was not ready to leave that plane. Grace and I had such joy and tragedy in our life. We lost dear Robert, who was so bright, fun, and had such a brilliant future, to a terrible accident when he was 10. I tried to give Ruth, who was only 7 then, the love and father-child partnership that I had had with Robert. Ruth was a bright student, a lover of nature, and a superb artist. As a teenager, she trekked in the Himalayas with me as we discovered new plants unknown to the Western world. I wrote up the botanical descriptions and she drew pen and ink pictures of all the plants’ parts for inclusion in the World Encyclopedia of Botany. I was so proud of Ruth. She went on to live and prosper and she was so wonderfully competent and sensible.”
Winfield smiles broadly, “I was thrilled when she married Alfred, a kind gentle scientist, and lover of nature like me. “But,” he sighed, “I had died before any of Ruth’s children were born. Your brother Gordon turned out to be my “nature protegee”, whereas you turned out to be my “budding missionary”. I am so proud of you and of all the help and solace you have given to hurting people and their children. I am also proud and delighted with your own family, especially your marriage with Jo whose love for family is very much like my wife’s, Grace’s. “
Around me night is falling. Winfield pauses and then goes on. “You know, there is a reason why they gave you my name as your middle name. Your parents were hoping my spirit would reach you someday, and today is the day!” Tears well up and I feel flooded with joy. He goes on, “I am thrilled, as if a spirit can be even happier, to have you reach out to me. I have been with you all your life and saved you from accidental death many times. I remember that little garden of woods-plants you made when you were 10. But people’s souls were more important to you than plants. I always thought you would teach, but you went for emotional health, not just intellectual knowledge. I respect you for that. If I had lived longer, I would have done much more helping the poor, broken, sad people. Oh, and I am glad that you got to know Grace in her later years. You, with your cheery personality, became the Robert I lost so long ago, and you become the Robert that Grace lost as well. Your bouncy spirit, love of play, and friendliness gave her back some of the boy-child she lost. You were a comfort in her elder years.”
I ask Winfield how I was meeting his spirit and Teresa’s spirit both at the same time. He laughs, as if a spirit has lungs to laugh, and explains, “I guided your mother to your father because Alfred was both a scientist and a deeply spiritual person and Ruth needed that in her life. I regret that I never was able to hold you as a baby. I have watched you as you have grown up. You remind me so much of my lost Robert that I sometimes even confused you two. You became the symbolic son I never saw to adulthood. Teresa joined in my vigil over you when she died when you were only two. She grieved not meeting you, and our grief linked us, and we have been watching over you together for all these years.”
The next part was a bit overwhelming to me. Winfield added, “Teresa and I became spiritual friends and now that you have reached for both of us to become your spiritual ancestors and guardians, we will draw even closer and form a celestial family for you.” As he tells me this, I see Teresa’s frond nodding at me. I reach for them with my heart, and they together beam to me the essence of their long association, their wisdom, and their patience with the world. In one voice they tell me that I have nothing more to prove and that it will be my task to be present to our descendants (my large family). They ask me to pass on the love and wisdom they will channel through me. I feel deeply seen, loved, beheld, treasured, safe, and overjoyed. I am brimming over with tears of joy. I am no longer alone with just myself.
I promise myself to write up this experience of my newly discovered Guardian Angels. As I commit to visiting with them regularly to keep them alive in my heart and mind, I wonder where they might dwell in me, — perhaps in my vagus nerve that connects my mind and heart. I no longer feel the shadow side of self-doubt. I am illuminated from within. I am thrilled to observe that all my negativity and self-deprecation goes away in their presence. At the end of this experience, I write this journal entry: “I am reassured of my worth. I want to feel their presence in my life all the time, and to wear them like a sweater on a cold day. I have little need now of my fear-based chatterbox, nor of my dark defensiveness. I feel that I have reached the pinnacle of being. I doubt that I have many more mountains to climb. I feel that I have been to the top and gathered up the golden fleece. I tell myself: “Simply be! Listen deeply! Speak from my heart! Love! And keep breathing! Visit with your ancestors regularly. Now, at last, there is time for everything!”
It is now the next morning in Arizona, I look inward while our group outwardly witnesses and drums in the gorgeous sunrise. I see Winfield and Teresa and hear them say to me, “Thank you for being our eyes on earth, as we can only actually ‘see’ through the eyes of someone who has called us and makes us present. By your seeing it with such awe you make this sunrise even more beautiful for us.” I make one more intention: I will experience wonderful earthly features with awe for these two ancestral spirits to experience though me, because they, themselves, left this earth much too early.
Later, as I prepared in January 2020 this abbreviated account for the Center for Conscious Eldering newsletter, I checked inwardly regarding this experience. I still can feel, see, and converse with my spirit grandparents. Winfield and Teresa live in the “mountains” around me and remain available for me to restore love, kindness, and joy back into my day. While I do not have them block my every negative thought or reaction, I am blessed to have them immediately accessible whenever I reach for them. I know they are with me for the rest of my life and beyond. Amen.
Don Adams is a 79-year-old retired Child & Family Psychologist who lives in Cary NC and who has dedicated his senior years to human service and personal enlightenment. He is the Leader of Sage-International ‘s Education Team, an avid personal legacy writer, the loving grandfather of 17, a life-long seeker, and an explorer of his own gerotranscendence This is an account of his experience in his third Center for Conscious Eldering program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org