The coldest winter I ever spent, was a summer in San Francisco." —Mark Twain
I am not sure if it is the same for everyone or not but, for me, each month of the year has a certain feel or personality to it. Usually defined by the memories, holidays or events taking place during that particular month. I believe that they have remained fairly consistent for me throughout my life, in that they haven’t changed much how they feel, in spite of the memories and life events that may have occurred. Perhaps they are formed early on, as it has been claimed, and they become the foundation on which all else is built.
August for me will always be about going away on vacation with my family when I was in elementary school, for a week or two, and renting a cozy cabin. One of our favorite destination points was Sag Harbor, N.Y. While it was just a couple of hours drive away from us, it seemed like light years away from our usual day-to-day existence. It was a magic carpet ride of adventures, filled with fishing, swimming, boating, and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. No schedules, it seemed. Just pure fun. Often there would be visits from relatives and the tiny cabin rocked with joyous laughter. There would also be those long walks to the local candy store where my younger brother and I could unearth and discover new elixirs and old favorites. Even the candy seemed to taste better.
It was mysterious and so exciting to see what the cabin would look like each season. I loved the smell of the mildew when we first opened the doors and let in the warm rays of the sun. We would all run as quickly as possible to claim and stake out our beds and rooms. My brother and I shared one room and my three sisters shared another. I would lay my back on the creaky, old mattress and feel the coils gently press my flesh under my favorite, worn out cotton “Peace” tee shirt and stare at the ceiling. I would close my eye lids and listen intently, trying to imagine all the events and conversations that transpired there before our arrival, as new temporary tenants in a long parade of colorful characters. So exotic it seemed to me, this dwelling, locked away and closed up all winter and now coming to life just for us. Like opening a shiny present. It would fill us with warm thoughts and happy memories for years to come. One of our favorite places that we stayed at we called “the log cabin.” I am not sure if it was actually built by hand and made of logs hand sewn or not but it sure did look the part. It also had a huge moose head hanging over the fireplace to witness our entire vacation and the ruckus that was to ensue. It seemed both friend and foe.
When it all ended, and the time came to pack the car and head back to our everyday lives, I was always so sad and disappointed. This was fertile learning ground for me, that everything in life is temporary and that nothing lasts forever. Even the most jubilant laughter must subside at some point, only to return again at another undetermined place and time.
I remember finally pulling into our long driveway and it felt like everything had changed so radically in the short time we were gone. Upon our departure, the maple trees that shielded our driveway from the harsh summer sun, were lush and green. Now the driveway was littered with gnarled, dry, brown, lifeless, maple leaves. This was the official sign—summer was coming to a close and school would be starting again soon. There was a certain sadness, melancholy and sometimes even dread that began to settle into my bones, once I experienced this vision. While I always knew it was coming at the end of every vacation, I never quite felt prepared when it actually arrived. This is very similar to how it is with the death of a loved one. I can actually see it on people’s faces and I know when it has arrived for them. That is when I grab their hand, look into their eyes, smile and give a gentle squeeze. Nothing needs to be said. We both know now.
The twirling leaves would soon morph into the gentle, whisper of falling snowflakes in the months to come. The end of yet another season, fall, and the beginning of the new one, winter. And so it is. And so it will always be.
Life, Death, Rebirth.
One of my daily rituals consists of a tepid Epsom salt bath with lavender oil. It helps to soothe the mind and the nerves and clear any negative energies that may have been picked up along the way in our daily routines. There are some more challenging days that call out for clay and ginger, when a good emotional, spiritual or energetic detox is needed. This is usually following the sharing or experiencing of some very difficult personal narrative with a client who transitioned and/or the family left behind to struggle and wrestle with whatever this departure has thrust upon their lives. This is also needed on days when just a trip to the grocery store becomes much more than one had bargained for. Winter baths are very often eucalyptus and spearmint and some tea tree oil for good measure. This is especially heavenly after an early morning walk on a foggy, isolated beach. Makes the body tingle and warms the soul. It’s like coming home from school and finding a warm rack of freshly baked, chocolate chip cookies. These baths are times for me to retreat inward and review events, listen for new Universal Life Lessons and any other sacred communications that take place when one is still and very present, including those from the other side. These are part of my “spiritual tool belt,” along with meditation, prayer, song and chanting. It was in one of my bath rituals where I had the realization that the souls crossing over to the next life were, very much like snowflakes. All similar, but all very much unique. As snowflakes would gather on the corner of my window pane in my bedroom as a child, I would press my face ever so closer to try to distinguish and separate each individual little snowflake by itself and revel in each one’s own remarkable pageantry.
If ever there was a sound that I would associate with souls transitioning to the next life, it would be the sound of falling snow. Standing in the vast silence of the first snowfall and hearing this soundless sound, is nothing short of holy and sacred
The first year that I had moved to San Francisco after living in Los Angeles for 6 years, we had a “freak storm” and it actually snowed for about two whole minutes in my first August living in that jewel of a city. If it can snow in San Francisco in the middle of August, I thought, then it seemed nearly anything was probably possible there. I knew I was home and that I would more than likely be staying there for a while.
I put the tea kettle on the stove and stare at the plain, utilitarian calendar on the refrigerator reminding me that August is upon us once again. Before I know it, the water is boiling and I pour some cocoa into my favorite chartreuse green coffee mug and throw in a few marshmallows for comfort. I make my way up the stairs to my bedroom and pull the drapes open and raise the white nylon blinds to let in the sunlight where temperatures are expected to climb to 102 degrees on this warm Bay Area August day. I scope out the empty courtyard and the sun-bleached, yellow ocher grass and the cerulean blue of chlorinated water that fills the complex pool. I pull up my favorite chair to the window sill, rest my cocoa on my lap and press my face to the glass window pane. I close my eyes to see if I can recognize who and when those first snowflakes in August will begin to fall.
And so it is.