Friday, May 11, 2012

Milestones and Messages

Last Saturday, my husband Karl and I addressed the elephant in the room.  It was time.  And lucky for us, the weather cooperated on that lovely day of 5 May, enabling Karl to lug the two ungainly cardboard boxes out of our living room and deposit them onto our front lawn.  It was much better to spread Karl's clothes and sketch books, camping gear and toiletries, out onto a big blanket than do the deed in the confines of our living room.  And even though there wasn't much, it somehow felt more appropriate to give each item its "space" to nestle in the grass of Karl's home, and to allow the spring breezes to disperse the dust of a Traveler's life.

Nothing like sifting through the meager possessions of the man who was our son to mark the six month anniversary of our loss - and his rebirth.

Within 10 days of Karl's accidental death in a hot spring in California, I'd traveled with his youngest brother, Sage, and cousin Ellen, to gather his possessions, reclaim his car, and visit "the Slabs," where he'd been visiting, and the hot spring where he drowned under a full moon.  He'd only been in Niland for a couple of weeks, which was usually about as long as he could take the idiosyncracies of that place and its inhabitants.  As with many things in Karl's life, he had a love/hate relationship with "the Slabs."  He loved the avant-garde creativity and "Mad Max"-esque wildness of "East Jesus" and the performances that would be staged every Friday night on the Range.  And yet the jealously guarded privacy and professed love of freedom of its residents was often surprisingly and severely restricted by their own harsh judgments and beliefs about the world. The irony and potential for hypocrisy - even here - disappointed, but didn't escape him.

 Suffice it to say, for now, that our subsequent trip to the junk yard where Karl's car had been towed was yet another kick in the teeth, another irony shoved into the white hot fire of our grief.

The totality of Karl's life - except for the electronic music equipment and accessories that had been blatantly stolen by the tow truck company - were hastily shoved into the back of our rented SUV and then packed, the next day, into two 8 cubic foot cardboard boxes for shipment back to Pennsylvania.  And no, we didn't get to donate Karl's car, or do anything Karl would have wanted us to do with his talisman of freedom, because that very same thieving tow truck company claimed to be owed $2500 for towing the car 25 miles and storing it for less than a week.

But I digress.  The details of what transpired on our trip to California and the ironies that continue to pile upon each other will have to wait for another day to be revealed in full.

Thus, the boxes that arrived at our home in early December were more a depressing reminder of what was NOT in them, namely, and most importantly, the electronic synthesizer he'd been obsessively learning to "play," composing music with, and inputting audio bits and pieces into, memorabilia of his experiences as a Traveler both across the country and up and down the west coast of the United States.  The Korg Electribe, which had been temporarily housing Karl's artistry and creativity, which he affectionately referred to as his "girlfriend," and into which he poured his passion for cutting edge music and visionary, edge-of-consciousness exploration, was gone.  And so those boxes sat, for five and a half months, the elephant in the living room, until last Saturday, until the sixth full moon since Karl died.

In the end, it was all about us.  It was our ritual.  Our goodbye to the son with whom we'd been enchanted from the moment we met him, almost 31 years ago.  It was our farewell to the #3 of "the three of us," which we'd always uncannily felt we were ~ even after his two brothers arrived six and twelve years later, respectively.  It was our obligation to sift through his belongings and see what had really mattered to him:  tattered copies of The Holographic Universe, A Course In Miracles, a hardback book on Tai Chi that was his father's.  Sketchbooks, pens and pencils, letters and photos.  Toothpaste.  Lots of toothpaste - and hand sanitizer. 

We shed some tears.  We toasted his life with some Jameson's that a friend had given us in the days soon after Karl's death.  We laughed at the bitingly sarcastic cartoon figures lurking in all the sketchbooks, many book margins, and on loose pieces of paper in odd zippered pockets. We laughed at the enigma he was:  A Traveler ~ and yet a homebody ~ and a fastidious one at that. 

As we wrapped things up and chose what mementos to keep, at least for a little while longer, I decided to ask Karl (the Son) if he had anything he wanted to say to us.  A tarot deck, the Wildwood Tarot, a gift I'd sent him for his 30th birthday, was one of the things he'd cared enough to keep and carry with him.  From the looks of it, I could tell he hadn't been blowing smoke when he'd told me that he was, indeed, using the deck.  I was glad for that.

I held the deck to my heart, blew my breath into the cards, and asked for a message.  And this is what I chose on the 6th full moon since the night of his departure:

Position on the Wheel
The World Tree sits at the heart of the cycle, in the quadrant of Fire.
It encompasses all the different aspects of the Wheel
and the human aspects of the Major Arcana

"Description:   The great World Tree marks the end of the Wanderer's journey...

Meaning:  As the symbol of the conscious bridge between the living macrocosm and the inner universe of the human psyche, the World Tree marks the end of one journey for the Wanderer and the beginning of another.  The Wanderer began the journey around the Wheel with an innocent and childlike curiosity, but the subtle growing process experienced on the way has brought inner gifts of wisdom and awareness.  The final step is to follow the path through the living maze and enter the heart of the World Tree to become one with the wholeness of the universal mind.

Nothing is hidden and no misleading or cunning diversions are set to lead the unwary off the path, but to gain access to the tree one must walk the path and complete the journey.  The unicursal labyrinth has no dead ends or false routes but leads on one wandering pathway from the entrance, inexorably to the centre.  Perhaps symbolizing the passage of the sun or guarding the souls of dead ancestors and spirits in their place of repose, it remains a pathway to the core of the mysteries and an easily recognized image of the human journey.  Though the doorway at the base of the tree is clearly visible and nothing stops the traveller from directly approaching it, walking the labyrinthine pathway is a ritual requiring patience and insight and enabling contemplation and meditation on the meaning of the journey.

What may be found beyond the door is both individual and universal, for encompassed within the branches of the World Tree are the four seasons of the cycle of life.  Through the restful healing of winter to the fertile freshness of spring, the power and joy of summer and the wisdom and maturity of autumn, the cosmic light of universal  understanding shines from the heart of the tree, creating a bridge to the source of all consciousness and life.

The World Tree represents all individual life and all knowledge in one holographic field of consciousness and, paradoxically, remains as one entity, whole and complete.  This complex concept is not only stranger than we think; it is stranger than we can think!

Reading Points:  The universe and all its blessings are available to everyone who seeks knowledge and wisdom with a sincere heart.  On every level, the cosmos has a generous bounty and gives freely of its rich nourishment and fulfillment.  No matter how long the journey of life may be, however many twists and turns the maze may offer us,in the end, if we persevere, we will reach the point of fulfillment.  This may relate to material gain and wealth or to spiritual happiness and emotional security, but after the long process of learning, responsibility and rebirth, it is now time to bathe in the light of renewal, attainment and personal triumph.  Breath in the rich air, drink of the sweet water and rejoice in the warming fire of the universal life force." (emphasis added)

Could we have asked for a more personal or thoughtful message from our son?  I don't think so.  And the coolest thing about all of this is that this is only one example of how Karl does continue to speak to me.  His "death" has only confirmed for me that there is so much, much more than our limited view of "reality."   And that's what we're going to continue exploring - together.

Oh - and as a last little nod to "the three of us" that is no more (at least in the physical), the card that was on the bottom of the deck when I chose The World Tree was this:

Rather than the keyword associated with this card, the image instead - to me - acknowledges not only our pain, and the pain felt by Karl's brothers, but also that our family's heart, which encompasses a profound love for each other, is on fire.  And while we bleed tears over our separation, these same tears ultimately feed The World Tree.


  1. Wow. I'm continually impressed by your strength as you deal with your grief. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to go through his things.

    Also, it's amazing what wonderful messages you got. I see that this deck has "jealousy" associated with the three of arrows (swords), but my more traditional book has the keyword "heartache." It signifies that you have something to mourn or cry about and can indicate a loss through death. It is a card for grief-stricken persons.

    Can't get much clearer than that.

    Love you.

  2. Lisa,
    I was directed to your link from a friend Renee Baribeau from face book. I thank you for sharing your intimate story of loss, and how you explore its meaning. I suffered the loss my mother when I was a small child. It changed who I was. I love the World Tree and all of its meanings, It helps me on yet another level to capture the mysteries that are cradled in death.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Tresa Martindale

    1. Thank you, Tresa, for taking the time to read my post and share your own thoughts. I'm sure the loss of your mother changed who you were and continues to inform who you are.
      I hope your loss has not closed your heart, but rather given you even more reason to love those around you.
      The World Tree really is an amazing concept to contemplate, isn't it? Especially in the context of our journeys...

  3. Katie,

    I'm so glad you shared what you found when you looked up 3 of Arrows/Swords in another resource. I think that's what I'm learning to enjoy most about the Tarot...which is to trust what my intuition brings to my attention when I look at the images. "Jealousy" did not ring true to me in the context of when and about what I was choosing cards. But the image itself spoke VOLUMES. And beyond what I wrote in my post, I did have a sense that it was Karl expressing his sorrow and heartache at having left us, as well.

  4. Profoundly moving, and inspiring. Yes!

  5. It is Mother's Day in Australia. Today I missed my daughter Melanie who was a mother herself. Melanie passed with cancer on Christmas Day 2000. Her son Tate is nearly fourteen now. As I read your beautiful words I felt such a connection with a mother like myself. I am a professional Tarot Reader,so the link to the tarot deepened my sense of empathy for you. My son John who has just become a father has never come to terms with the death of his sister. He is about to follow my footsteps into the world of tarot. I found myself gazing at the World Tree and thinking of John's emotional journey. I have found the tarot deck that will speak to my son. As you gave a gift to your son, I will also gift my son the Wildwood Tarot. Thank you from the depths of my heart.
    xxx Dawn Alice

    1. Dawn Alice,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I'm sorry you can relate "only too well" to our situation. I'm sure you miss Melanie, in some ways, more now than ever, especially as you watch Tate grow into becoming a young man.

      I'm grateful that my post may have helped you discover a portal for John to recognize and appreciate a deeper connection with both you and Melanie. It's amazing what healing can take place when we open ourselves to the knowledge that there truly are more dimensions to our reality than the few we assume are the only ones. Just because Melanie and Karl are no longer embodying their physical forms does not mean that they have ceased to exist.

      It's my ongoing experience that we are being strongly encouraged to accelerate the cultivation and honing of our abilities to "see" and "hear" communications from and renew connections with those whom we thought were lost when they "died."

      How lovely that John is about to become a father!

      Happy Mother's Day, even though it's probably late in the evening for you. Sending you and your family much love and compassion.


  6. i love your writing, Lisa....
    You reveal the depth of your grief, but also tremendous strength. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability and what you are learning through this process.
    Reading this blog after what was posted on Owl Medicine for May 11 in the Mayan calendar about forgiveness...well, there is a lot on which to ruminate, isn't there.

    1. Thanks, Ellen. Yeah...forgiveness. Ruminating.

  7. Lisa,
    Once again your beautiful words have touched me deeply. I will say more in person about that. YOU amaze me!
    You have also inspired me with these words, "The universe and all its blessings are available to everyone who seeks knowledge and wisdom with a sincere heart. On every level, the cosmos has a generous bounty and gives freely of its rich nourishment and fulfillment. No matter how long the journey of life may be, however many twists and turns the maze may offer us,in the end, if we persevere, we will reach the point of fulfillment. "
    Reading that today made me realize that I can and should go after what I want to is available for me...even when my brain gets in the way! I will make that call today.
    Thank you Lisa....Thank you Karl........
    Love, Lizard

  8. A beautiful telling. Thank you for this.

    In the Mayan world, the First Tree, the original tree, the world tree is the ceiba. The yaxche. It is said that at the end of the world journey, those who have done life well dance under its branches. May it be so.

    1. From your Karl's spirit. Here's hoping he's dancing.

      And thank you, David, for sharing the Mayan perspective.

  9. Wow :)

    I sometimes scour the internet in hopes of finding something about Karl I haven't seen, as if he is still here: making news. I did that this evening, and saw that you had written this. I loved reading it, and am so thankful that you share your stories here.
    Here is a quote I wrote down from the series Six Feet Under yesterday:

    There is no death,
    there is only birth,
    and birth,
    and birth,
    and birth.
    Consider the trees
    that allow the birds to perch
    and fly away
    without calling them back.
    If your heart can
    be like a tree
    you'll be close to the way.

    Remembering him every day, Courtney

  10. Courtney,

    Thank you so much for sharing this quote. I can only aspire to be as welcoming, yet detached, as the trees are to the birds who visit them. Even when the birds build their nests in and share their lives with these trees, often their relationship is transitory, the intricate interconnection intense but brief.

    Every day I'm reminded that I must not "call him back," no matter how much he is missed, no matter how big the the void he's left in our lives and hearts.

    I am grateful for the people who loved Karl who have either maintained or initiated relationships with me. Love really is the most important legacy any of us can leave, and it brings me great joy to see that he loved and was loved...and that he is remembered with love, too.

    Sending you big hugs.