I remember the first day that I took care of Tara. Anita went to class and little Tara and I went for a hike in the ravine nearby. I would learn how much Tara loved hiking in the woods and how she would spend the first 2/3 of the walk excited at all the plants and animals around her and the last 1/3 sound asleep in the Baby Bjorn. When we got back from the hike (and back into cell range), I received a slew of text messages from Anita asking how Tara was doing. I texted her back but they didn't go through (I think Mercury was retrograde) and Anita arrived home after class near panic. She calmed down quickly when she learned everything was ok. Anita then told me that day was the first day she had left Tara with someone who wasn't family. She loved her daughter something fierce. It makes my heart hurt to know that Tara will not grow up knowing from experience the ferocity of her mothers love for her.
I learned of Anita's death through Facebook, which I have to say, is one of the worst ways to learn about someone's death. It was about a year ago that I learned of another friend's passing through social networking. It's just terrible to be sitting at your computer alone and learn that someone who was in your life is now dead. We as a culture need to develop some agreements about how to hold death in the context of social networking. Because hearing this kind of news outside of the context of relationship is extraordinarily painful. But on the other hand, in the case of Anita, I'm not in relationship with other people in her life and so there's a good chance that I would not have known of her passing otherwise.
Except perhaps the dreamworld. I've been dreaming a lot. It's an intention that I've been holding in my spiritual practice--to deepen my relationship with the dreaming world and other realms. Last night I dreamt I was in a forest with many other people that I did not know. It was autumn and there were large trees and dried leaves on the ground. They crunched as I walked. The weather was chilly, but I didn't feel cold. We were camped out and we were helping Anita move into a new home in the woods. Anita seemed like she was doing well. She was happy about her new place and pleased with all the company. Her smile was sweet and gentle as she watched her friends moving her stuff.
I woke up with a familiar feeling. There's a certain texture I experience when I dream about people who have crossed. The dream often has a thickness to it that clings to the air when I wake up. The place itself--that autumn forest is often where I dream people who have crossed over. The sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet is usually an element I remember. It's distinctly different than when I dream about someone who has passed--you know the dreams where you're eating banannas or watching a tree grow out of a car. The dreams in the forest--they're the ones that I wake up feeling like the person is still there with me.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I have a new found belief that we all go to a cold forest when we die as a result of the dreams. I do believe that the forest is the way that I understand the energy of crossing over. As a pagan, I believe that the late fall, Samhain as my Celtic ancestors called the holiday, is the time when the line between the living and the dead is the thinnest. It's the time when we can reach out to the other side and they can reach us. So it makes sense that this is how I the energy between life and death comes through to me in the dream world.
And so last night, in some reality, I saw Anita again. She was in a good place. She wasn't overjoyed. She wasn't trying to convey a message to me to pass on to others. She was simply moving into her new home and smiling, enjoying the company of the people there with her. I'm not exactly sure why but there is something about knowing that, that brings me comfort. And so I honor the dream, I honor the memory of my friend, and I share with you.
Anita and Tara