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Death Valley: In the Shadow-light of Grief

“An awakening towards consciousness is identical with the creation of the world…”

–Marie-Louise von Franz

This has been the longest interval between posts on this journey. But sometimes we are called just to be with ourselves, to be present to current circumstances–not stepping out of them to be by ourselves, to take time out. Afterwards, we retreat, we reflect, and finally we re-enter the world at large. The last few weeks has been one of those occasions.

I last posted about Waves of Change. But waves of change cannot begin to describe the newness that I have woken up to more than once in these last few weeks. Still on this journey, I traveled from Arizona to California to Oregon, back to California only to be called back to Arizona–to my mother’s death.

But first, let me say this: In this global time of energetic shifts, consciousness growth and expansion calling each of us to be more present, to be more aware, to feel a deeper connection not only to ourselves and to each other but to the earth itself, we are undergoing profound shifts in perception and states of being to which we literally wake up in the morning and feel and experience ourselves, as completely different, completely new. Old beliefs, old perceptions, old feelings and patterns of habit literally fall away, slough off like old skin. They come into consciousness, are felt, and then released, dissolved, back into Source through our awareness of them and our compassionate feelings towards them. And the utter newness, this new open space from their release, can be startling at times.

Sometimes, we are left standing naked with a sense of literal re-birth and are invigorated by the new energy. Sometimes, we are shocked at the newness and find ourselves temporarily ‘ungrounded,’ or ‘unmoored’. During these times, we can feel heavy, tense, or in a ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, unsure even of what is agitating us, until we breathe deeply enough and slow enough to allow whatever it is to arise into consciousness awareness. Other times, the emotions revel in our bodies–leaving us a slobbering mess of gentle, compassionate tears and laughter. But all of it is energy passing through us–shaking out the old, the old emotions, the old patterns and habits of Being that no longer serve us–and then we are uplifted into the new, a new awareness of ourselves–who we are, our connection to others, and what we are truly meant to do here while on earth, and much more.

All of this is a part of these transitioning times occurring on our planet.

All of this is part of the consciousness shifts occurring to each and every one of us, whether we are aware of it or not. That is, whether we choose to participate consciously or unconsciously, and if the choice is to experience the changes unconsciously, there can be days and hours of tension, undefined anxiety, emptiness, or a vague sense there's something more one is not touching in one's life.

We’ve been hearing about these shifts in consciousness–the New Earth–for some time–from transformational leaders, spiritual teachers, mystics, healers, psychologists, social psychologists and energy and consciousness-based scientists. Scientific evidence abounds now for the growing awareness of our energetic nature and the impact that consciousness has on our world–from an awareness of electromagnetic fields and our connection to them, to the luminous body, to energy healing, and to the spiritual awakenings occurring now on a mass scale.

Most of us, though, have been on the ‘slow-boat’ of change, in the slow growth of conscious awareness, but now that the energetic shifts are occurring faster, more frequently, many more are waking up to a new awareness of themselves. We wake up more profoundly to the reality that we are energetic Beings. Energetic beings with a physical human form, and energetic Beings more connected to each other in ways we’ve never before dreamed, and more connected to the universe than we’ve allowed ourselves to perceive. And more responsible for our lives in all aspects than we've ever allowed ourselves to see. Perhaps Einstein articulated it best:

We are slowed down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies

tuned into the cosmos. We are Souls dressed up in sacred biochemical

garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our Souls play

their music.

We are not humans with a Soul–we are Souls expressing through a human body, and we can ‘tune’ into the cosmos if we are willing to feel, willing to hear and experience that connection. Our bodies are infused with the energetic field, the luminous body, of our Soul. And as we become aware of this luminous body and clear out old patterns of dense emotional energies and behaviors that no longer serves us, we allow ourselves to be healthier, happier, more connected, more aware and compassionate human beings. Is it easy? Yes. No. Not always. Sometimes. But there’s also nowhere else to go. We are in it and we would do best by supporting each other in elevating, raising, our energetic vibration, our connection to ourselves and others, to support our own and others' well-being—physically, emotionally, spiritually, energetically.

Never has all this become clearer, more real, and alive to me than in these last weeks, these last days crossing the country, crossing the vastly different landscapes and tending to both life and death.


When I began this journey in January, aspects of me refused to allow myself to ‘know’ that part of the reason for the journey was to be out west and to be able to visit my mother this winter and spring. To be in the west, the place where the sun sets, with her…near…or not far away. And to be here for my sisters, my family, especially since my mother’s last few years had been complicated, and sometimes, often difficult.

I had been receiving intuitive messages for some time in the fall that ‘it was time’. But when I left New York, I still couldn’t allow myself to fully acknowledge these messages. I had spoken of them to two-to-three friends who I knew would ‘hear’ me, but otherwise, this was a knowing I held to myself, drove with, across the country, and carried like a piece of invisible luggage.

A knowing–like a slip of breath breathed only in the shadow and whisper of night’s limbs…


No matter how much we know death will and does occur. No matter how much we think we’re ready, when death actually occurs it is always a shock, a shock even when it is expected.

I had just returned to California from Oregon–where my mother knew I was visiting my sister and niece–and had just landed in Santa Barbara, when I literally sat down and opened my laptop to write, “I’m coming back to Arizona…” when a message from my older sister popped up, “Call Julia, mother passed.”

It is odd, and yet it makes perfect sense that all three of us were in communication–each of us suddenly feeling compelled to speak to our mother, to speak to each other. One sister had merely left two days prior. I was on my way there, and my other sister had been calling her several times. And to all outward prior appearances, my mother looked well.

Just three weeks prior my mother had been profoundly stubborn about doing things herself, pronouncing that she’d ‘passed all her exams’–that other than her diabetes, which was managed by diet and meds, she was ‘good’.

Even a neighbor had said, “She seemed to be doing well…”

She seemed to be doing so well that while I was in Oregon, I had actually begun to feel guilty for ‘thinking’ about what I thought I knew, what I heard through my intuition. How could I be thinking about my mother’s death, that she wouldn’t be with us in June, when she was as feisty and difficult and demanding as ever?

How could I assume I knew?

But my mother knew. She knew deep inside her, and she knew I knew. She had only two days before messaged, “When are you coming back?” And I was on my way.


When we don’t listen to our intuition, we abandon our Souls.

And mostly we abandon our Souls because we are afraid the ones we love will abandon us.

And unbeknownst even to ourselves in that fear, we become ‘people-pleasers’–agreeing with the group, the culture of our jobs, our circle of friends, the culture at large; or, we become ‘people-pleasers’ from fear that our security, our well-being, will be dismantled, and so we smother the ‘still small voice’ inside us thinking this will keep us safe.

But intuition is the voice of our Souls. It is the voice of the Soul asking to be heard. It is the awareness in which the ‘still small voice’ of our guides, the voice of the Divine that lives through and as each and every one of us comes through. It is the heart’s vastness saying, “Feel this…and through this, know…”

It arrives as the gut feeling, the sudden cognition of knowing and not knowing how one knows, the image that blossoms into certain clairsentience. It is the dead-on instinct to turn right when everyone around you says, “turn left.” It’s the sequence of the same numbers showing up everywhere we turn, or the synchronicities one after the other saying, “You are on the right path.”

It is the knowing that gives one the confidence to love someone when they cannot outwardly love you. And it is the disappointment, the pain and recognition when we know and don't listen, and then we acknowledge to ourselves, we should have listened to that nudge, that sign, that feeling…

Our intuition leads us to authenticity, to our own voice, but more often than not by way of betrayal. Betrayal of the status quo, betrayal of what’s supposedly ‘appropriate’ or ‘sane’–or not in the bounds of what is ‘normal’. It is the true ‘out of the box’ movement of our hearts…

And because of all this, it can be frightening for many of us to allow it to arise when it asks us to ‘go against the grain’…to step into the knowing of our true selves.

When I first heard the call to ‘go west’, close upon its heals was the message, “Your mother will not be with you beyond June.” Except for a close friend who came to help me pack, and those few other friends, I told no one. Instead, I packed my home, I packed my car and felt hopelessly true and hopelessly knowing, even while asking myself, “What are you doing?”, and even though there have been periods of time on this trip when I have prayed daily, “Show me the way…”, for a trip seemed like the last thing I ‘ought’ to do considering I had left my prior career only 11 months earlier and was beginning to envision and begin a new business.

Who begins a cross-country trip in the beginning of January? Who packs up and leaves what they know–their community–at the behest of a still small voice that has no form.

But when we heed its call, the voice of the Soul…we are miraculously where we are suppose to be when we need to be…and we are shown beautiful things all along the way–things that we could not imagine, things we need to see and experience before we move into the next stage, phase, of our life-journey on this planet. And we are all on a journey–the journey of our our soul-lives in human form. The problem is is that we been so en-culturated to think it is primarily the journey of our physical lives, and not our hearts, our Souls.

In the last five months, I had been shown amazing things every leg, every step, every corner of the way across the country, and even when I had suddenly felt most alone, I have then too suddenly felt held by something far greater… Love itself.


When I was young, I used to frighten my mother–by the questions I asked, by the things I knew. Who was the pregnant woman who…. Who was the girl who fell in the fireplace? Who was the man who…? Why was dad…? Or it was, ‘There’s a woman in my room…’ Or, ‘I can’t wear that hand-me-down because …’ Or, in a restaurant, ‘I can’t eat that [what I had specifically pressed hard to order] because they were yelling over it in the kitchen…’ I look back now and see it was not so easy with me. I look back now and understand more readily why in various family gatherings, my mother would sometimes suddenly look up at me and burst out, “I didn’t do anything to you…” at the shock and surprise of everyone.

Later, when the questions weren’t coming from a naïve child, but a young teen who could simply ‘see’ emotions, feelings, experiences that people did not necessarily want to have be seen, I was the one who knew too much for her own good–I was the smart ass–the one in the end who was supposed to simply keep her mouth shut no matter what she saw… the one told to ‘just be quiet’ when our parents fought, when someone was lying, when someone couldn’t see into their own pain and spoke at cross purposes, or when two teachers were having an affair and it was so obvious to me I spoke of it as if it were a commonly known fact, but others around hadn’t seen it at all, especially their respective partners.

Don’t get me wrong–I wasn’t and am not special. There are, I’ve come to learn, a lot of us in the world. A lot. I just didn’t know this when I was young. And my mother didn’t know it. Instead, it more often than not made her anxious, made her unconsciously push against me, made her at times simply and quietly say, “You ask too much of me...”


The morning after I received the message, I got into the car and drove. No sooner had I arrived in Arizona and fifteen minutes later, my sister who’d just left returned with her husband, unable to yet ‘grasp’ that our mother, who seemed well, had gone.

Where does one begin with death?

There is no beginning, no ending. There is no death. It is somehow simply a moment of departure.

But regardless of this knowing, my sisters and I still had questions: What had occurred? Had she fallen? Was there an accident? Why had she not pressed her medical alert button? Had she died in bed? Her deepest wish was to die at home in her own bed. Not in a hospital, not in hospice, but in her own bed. And who had found her? My sister had just been present two days earlier. Her caregiver had just been there the day before. The cleaning woman had just been in and commented as always, “She’ll only let me do a few things…”

It turns out, my mother did exactly what she wanted: she died in her own bed, in her own home, in the night. She was determined all the way. In fact, my mother had made her own arrangements for her burial–had years earlier bought a specific burial plot next to one of her brothers, requested a casket that was simple and clean with a beige interior, and had asked for irises and roses–two flowers full of meaning for her. She did not want to burden us with guessing, and she wanted what she wanted.


It turns out it takes longer than what you’d think to get a death certificate. It turns out, you need more of them than you would actually imagine. It turns out too, if you die in one state and want to be buried in another, it takes even longer between the actual death and the burial–because you have to meet two state’s transfer regulations and requirements for burial.

My mother did not want to be cremated. She reminded us of this tirelessly in the last two years, “Whatever you do,” she’d say, “I don’t want to be cremated. I don’t want to be burned.” Her body was to be laid in the ground to rest for eternity. And as a firm cap on her request, she’d end any conversation with, “I don’t believe in cremation, I don’t believe in burning the body.” “And I want to be buried next to my brother,” she’d quip, “My grandparents, not my parents.”

Hers is a small family cemetery where her grandparents and other family members had been laid to rest. She’d bought the last burial space in the family plot there. It looks out over a small community, and in the distance, you can see the summer fields of the Willamette Valley, fields she knew well growing up at her grandparents, and fields that ran deep in our family lines. It was fields or the ocean. She chose fields. Her other family members were buried in another cemetery–not far from her childhood home–with a panoramic view of the Pacific.

While we waited for the paperwork to find its way through the bureaucracies of transitioning from life to death, my sister and I busied ourselves with planning for her memorial-graveside service. There were also many ongoing home-care services that had to be terminated, which also meant speaking to a lot of people and letting them know she’d passed on. It is shocking how our lives are entangled in so much bureaucracy. It is shocking that one needs ‘the state’ to confirm a death. It is shocking how far we’ve removed ourselves from the trust of the human, from the simple words, “My mother is dead. My mother died.”

For days, as we seemed to wait in silence, we’d wake, have coffee, then head over to her place, patiently waiting for the death certificates so we could know when we’d be able to fulfill our mother’s request–to get her body back to Oregon to be buried. By the sixth day my sister and I found ourselves saying aloud, “Oh Mom, we’re working on it…” or just, “Oh, Mom….” As if our voice could assure her, us, that the journey would indeed happen. My sister would go through papers while I started the necessary tasks of closing her home, planning her memorial, and choosing photos for a video.

At times in the day, one simply has to walk away–the 'too muchness' of it all suddenly upon one like an avalanche of un-graspable emotion–the inability of the human mind to grasp the physical non-presence of another. At moments, I found myself thinking of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, a novel about a poor southern family’s journey to get their mother, Addie Brunden, buried, and how the obstacles kept surmounting–a river flooding so as to make the crossing a travesty in itself, the body fermenting in the week’