I just returned from a wonderful experience at the Gathering of Circles, a camping and fellowship event held every year in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. My mom attended it for years and she was well known by everyone I visited with there. I also got to meet Carol WhiteWater Dawn, a medicine woman, mystic, and all around wise and wonderful lady. Mom had said many many wonderful things about her but they didn’t hold a candle to her personal presence. She looked calmly and directly into my spirit when Dave took me to meet her; she was totally focused on what I said (which wasn’t a lot because I was hoping to listen more than talk). I looked at her Web site and I was very interested in the fact that she quotes from so many spiritual teachings of different kinds. Obviously she is a versatile and intelligent thinker.
I’m still volunteering (helping with meetings and the wiki) with a discussion group in the 3D virtual world Second Life called Play as Being. It talks about exploring the nature of reality and perception using various multidisciplinary practices like meditation, prayer, etc. It brings together the most wonderful and diverse people to discuss things in a very open minded way.
In fact, my help and involvement with the Play as Being group may grow and my life is being enriched as a result of it. I am passionate about Second Life because I think the Internet is going to become a 3D environment before too long – maybe as soon as five years. The leader of the PaB group works at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, and I am flying out to meet him and some of the other volunteers this week to have a day of discussions on the group’s possible transformation into something bigger. I am so excited!
In addition, I invested in myself by booking travel and attendance at the Second Life Community Convention in Tampa the first week of September. I will meet many of the people I have been privileged to know in-world. I hope to learn a lot about education and business in Second Life. I am also in touch with another group, Metanomics, that runs discussions in Second Life about the economics of running a business based in a 3D virtual world. One member of this group, Beyers Sellers, is going to present during the educational session.
In my SEG job, I am working with the different departments (we call them ‘business owners’) to get changes made to their pages. The part of the site where we have total control is the News page. We also do an e-mail newsletter called the SEG Extra and help others edit and send out their newsletters too. We’re getting ready to change to a more versatile e-mail vendor and install some social networking tools on our site. Workflows are being built so that staff members can help enter new content and changes to content; the workflows help the review process happen seamlessly and efficiently.
So you could say I practically live online and you’d be right. But I did so enjoy the recent chance to be again in my favorite forest (Cloudcroft) with the lovely breezes and the rain and the nice firm earth. The people at GoC were so welcoming and kind, I felt right at home. I worried about being able to measure up to my mother’s legacy but decided it was impossible even to try. Luckily everyone seems to accept me on different terms than those they knew with Lou Dale. My first name means girl of the forest, by the way, which is ironic since I grew up in the deserts of El Paso, Texas.
One of the great things about the Gathering of Circles is their respectful use of rituals and ceremonies with Native American elements. These include sweat lodges, dances, drum circles, a womens’ bundle ceremony, feasts, and the give away ceremony. The give away ceremony allows participants to give away something that once was important to them and now they are ready to let go of. Many symbolic and emotional objects are given away in this manner. The items are placed in plain wrappers like paper bags, and laid on a blanket in the center of the circle of participants. There was a fire going near the blanket at this one. One by one, participants went to the center, talked about their Gathering of Circles experience thus far (optional), and selected an item. The person who gave the item came up and explained what it meant and why they let it go. There are a lot of really personal and wonderful sentiments shared during this ceremony and talk is formally controlled by the passing of a significant object indicating whose turn it is to talk, such as a walking stick in this case.
I talked about how Mom’s journey into the next world worked a peculiar kind of magic with me. I resolved early in 2005 to really be there when I was with Mom, and not to miss a moment of the experience, no matter how painful it was to witness such a beautiful lady suffering. I flew back and forth often to her home throughout 2005 and 2006 as we went through various stages of the process. We knew it was probably over in October 2006 but she was so brave about the whole thing. She did acts of service for others and was a warm and comforting presence at a time of great uncertainly for her. I did what I could to be her emotional support, although to tell you the truth, it was probably the other way around more of the time. When she died, we knew that she had chosen the time that was optimal for her. She gave a speech at her Christmas feast (on her birthday) and then quietly passed away in the morning two days later, after I had flown back to Tulsa. I dreamed of her several times, knowing in the dream that she was on the other side.
My husband’s father was sick with COPD and cancer in 2006 and died in Oct. 2007. He also was brave and unselfish about his journey, and I have dreamed of him, too.
Anyway, I sort of took a year off from feeling anything from about April 2007 through March 2008. Then I woke up. I suddenly realized the lesson from Mom – it’s time to LIVE and make those dreams happen NOW, not when it’s too late. I have so many things I still want to do before I die. I need to get started right this instant. And I have. I dove into making connections – personal and fulfilling friendships with others, including on Second Life. I started volunteering with Play as Being, and learning all I could about furthering the Web 2.0 stuff for my company’s web site and for other web sites. I realized I had put off plans to travel more and see the people I loved, because my husband had quit work to help care for his dad and start a business. I knew that my journey would take me out of Tulsa and to parts unknown, and that it was going to be an adventure but I would need my income to be more in the service of that. I want to go to India in less than 5 years, etc. We decided to split up amicably and are in the process of separating accounts, paying off debts, etc.
Though I have some sadness and certainly some loneliness, my life is taking off and I love the mystery of it all. I am already living part of my dream – traveling and getting to see people I care about more often, and nurturing my career path with attendance at conventions and seminars that interest me.