I confess. The stories I’ve told about Seattle haven’t included the “shadow” side — what I’ve gone through during this sacred family time that’s not so easy to tell. This “shadow” is aptly named. For it feels like a subtle, ghostly, miasmic presence, an icky, yucky gunky substance that colored my life as a little girl when my Dad was gone to war in the South Pacific and my Mom so depressed that she could not mother me.
I took on her depression. It sat there, unloved and ignored, for much of my life.
In my ’40s I started to work with this child, this “Orphan Annie,” having devoured Alice Miller’s classic and remarkable work about German child rearing practices, “Drama of the Gifted Child.” That healing journey took seven years. And still, it was not done.
The primordial miasmic gunk surfaced again in Seattle while caring for Mom after Dad’s death in August, 2012. I didn’t notice it then, but when I returned to Indiana afterwards it settled in, like a heavy, greasy, grey cloud.
Simultaneously, as an astrologer, I noticed that Mom would undergo some kind of drastic change in late October 2012, and wondered if this would be the time of her death. (She’s 94, and since Dad is gone, wants to go, too.)
But no. Instead, I “took the fall” for her. (See Fractured Wrist Chronicles in The Grieving Time). And especially this:
I took the fall, yes, and that “accident” broke the spell of the miasmic cloud that had held me, once again the child yoked to her depressed mother, since my return from Seattle.
This month, again in Seattle to help see Mom off to Baton Rouge (see this and this and this), I spent Mom’s final night in the city that she and Dad had moved to over 20 years ago, at Mount Saint Vincent with her, on a cot in her room. And felt the yucky fog descend again. The next day, when my siblings and I cleared what remained of her stuff (having been winnowed over and over again with each move during the last ten years), the gunky fog remained, heavier as the day went on. Exhausting.
I knew I had to get away, get off on my own, let go of everything familial and familiar. I needed to break the spell again, and not have to break my wrist or anything else in the process!
So I took off the next day in my little red rental car, and ended up on the Olympic Peninsula, at a sweet victorian B&B in Port Townsend. Crashed on the bed in my tiny wallpapered attic room and didn’t get up until evening, when I crept out for a salad and on return, wrote up this account of our final three days in Mom’s presence, the celebration, blessing ceremony, party, and so on.
The next day I started to wander slowly back to Seattle. Spent some time in the rain forest, in rain, and marveled at the hidden life springing up above and below. Here are a few photos:
After that, I drove awhile longer and then found myself walking into a little information center for the Olympic Peninsula. There I was met by an old man (about my age) who, we discovered, had also lived in Jackson Hole during the ’80s! We talked about the four seasons there and elsewhere. And he said, all of a sudden switching metaphors: “Yes, and the fourth season holds many dangers.” Huh?
“The fourth season of life,” he explained. Ah yes, that. Or rather, this!
I returned to the car, and though startled by his remark, was still driving in a kind of daze. Pretty soon, I found myself on the road that passed by “The Suquamish Museum.” What’s that? I stopped at that corner stop sign, my eyes automatically boring off to the left, searching for . . . what? What? Some kind of sign to tell me what’s next. Some way to ease the old Orphan Annie pain that I was still suffering from.
Aaaah. There it was, a sign, a literal sign! —pointing down that small road in the direction of the grave of Chief Seattle. OMG!
I turned left.
The grave is in an old hillside cemetery with views of his namesake city across the sound.
A few decades ago, it was vandalized, and rebuilt, this time with a suitable memorial.
I started to walk around the memorial. Engraved words caught my eye. First in Suquamish, then in English.
Even the rocks thrill with memories of past events.
The very dust beneath your feet respond
more lovingly to our footsteps,
because it is the ashes of our ancestors.
The soil is rich with the life of our kindred.
Somehow, on that walk around Chief Seattle’s memorial, something in me changed. The spell that had fused my inner child with my young mother’s early depression dissolved. What dissolved it? Those very words. Those words from Chief Seattle that point to what’s below what happened after I was born to what upholds and supports all of life. The soil, the stones, the bones, the dust of all the ancestors that we need to remember to walk reverently upon.
Afterwards, I toured the simple, tasteful little museum, shaped like one of their winter long houses.
And what struck me there, especially, was a traditional carved tree trunk boat carried by three sets of people: animal people, aboriginal people, contemporary people.
I learned that in the Suquamish creation stories, the whole universe is alive, and that in the beginning all the forms were interchangeable, easily shapeshifting from one to another, animal to rock, to plant, to river, to mountain, to people . . . And I learned that in this culture, so richly endowed by nature with abundance from the sea, all winter long they had time for singing, dancing, stories in their long houses (200-600 feet long). So they would tell their stories to each other, at their leisure, to keep the spirits, and their memories alive. And the spirits still teach them. They know that man is the latest form of creation, that he is not yet wise, that he must learn from the animals and the plants and trees and rocks and rivers and mountains.
Chief Seattle (or “Sealth”) was known as a “crisis leader,” one whose time as chief spanned the years when the white man was beginning to take over the Suquamish land and way of life, to make treaties and not keep them. He was known as a friend to the white man, and yet he also knew just who he was dealing with. His famous speech, made when he was about to sign one of these treaties, has gone through many iterations, and no one knows the exact words that he really used that day, but here is one version.
Needless to say, the ferry trip back was uneventful. A sense of completion enveloped me. In 24 hours, by following my gut, I had moved an old stuck energy out, into the sky, the water, the universe, where all forms are held, where even now, what we think is solid, shapeshifts.