I wonder sometimes if I am simply dreaming this life, or whether I am being dreamed, instead.
In the past weeks, England has been heavily in my mind. At unexpected moments throughout the day — washing and cutting vegetables, walking the dogs, taking a shower — I suddenly see myself there, back in places familiar to me. A feeling and affect suddenly washes over, sometimes a scent as well. The odd bit is that sometimes I see myself in places that I don’t yet know, though it is clear from the landscape that these too are England; the look, feel, and sense of them is unmistakeable for one who has lived in the UK. It’s difficult to explain, really.
As someone with clairvoyant, clairsentient, and clairaudient abilities — gifts which in the past I have resisted talking or writing about, but that have long supported my healing work with others — such experiences as these England episodes are not unusual for me. Yet mostly such “impressions” arise when I am in a quiet, meditative and receptive state (as with working with clients, or immersed in wild nature), and I find it curious that suddenly Britain, and to a lesser extent France, is suddenly so prevalent in my everyday consciousness.
For a long time, I’ve wrestled with how much I want to reveal of these “gifts.” They tend to be misunderstood by others and easily attract projection. I do believe that we all have the ability to perceive in such a manner, it’s simply that, for most people, the sensory gating channels are habitually narrowed to a very small range. I’ve been highly sensitive since childhood, yet despite an innate aptitude, over the last twenty years I have learned to be this way — or perhaps better to say, to more fully open these channels and to trust what comes through (which is actually the most difficult part). Coming from somewhere beyond, this non ordinary way of knowing arises mostly from the heart and via open senses, entirely non-rational and deeply somatic, and is thus at odds with the linear, deductive, mental mode so prized in our society.
People often imagine that such abilities would be a great boon. I assure you that this type of knowing also comes heavily loaded with challenges, not the least of which is that when you live with channels wide open, the modern world can be utterly overwhelming. Unlivable, even. Hence my deep need for the solace and healing of nature’s wild places, the soft touch of a million invisible strands that cradle and support as they wordlessly remind me what is true.
Yet in censoring my writing about experiences that others may not understand or find challenging to accept or believe, I withhold part of my essence from the larger story. None of us serve the world by choosing to remain small or “safe” (especially because safety is mostly an illusion).
I wrote a few weeks ago in “The Shaman of Stars,” dare to tell the truth, even if others won’t understand. So be it. Here on the central California coast, I’ve been slipping in and out of an ongoing stream of being in Europe, almost as if I am two places at once.
Tucked into the fog pocket of Carmel, the past four months have passed with perhaps ten days of sunshine in total. It was a few days ago that I felt the first, early touch of autumn approaching: a slight shift in the air and its taste/scent, accompanied by a barely perceptible weakening of the light. Driving over the hill to Whole Foods Market in Monterey, I noted the first trees gilded with gold, and I thought, oh my, autumn is on the doorstep and we never even had summer.
Yet not long afterwards, as I stood outside on the deck, gazing up at the Grandmother Monterey cypress, watching her hundreds of lacy green hands dance slightly in the gentle breeze, feeling the first brush of autumn upon my skin, my despair over the endless summer gloom suddenly vanished. It was as if a small golden key turned in its lock with a soft, audible click and a gate swung open, inviting me across the threshold into a hidden garden that I know and love.
Here in the northern hemisphere, as the harvest moon wanes from its partial eclipse, the autumnal equinox (called Mabon in neopagan traditions) looms just days away, and we will officially drift into Fall, my favorite season.
I celebrate each cycle of the year for what it brings, but the painted melancholy of autumn never fails to strum harmonic chords in my soul. My appetite and cooking both change, spiraling back towards warming stews and something simmering fragrantly at the rear of the stove — au coin du feu, the French would say, a certain nostalgic expression — filling the house with a sense of gustatory goodness. As if on cue, I find myself ready to bake fresh apple tarts with shatteringly crisp, buttery pastry, and craving my seven-day duck confit, a labour of love (and good taste) that always catapults me back to life in France.
In a familiar ritual, the other evening I found myself reaching to take The Kitchen Diaries III from the bookshelf, one of several works I adore by Nigel Slater, Britain’s best food writer, and reading through the recipes for September with a cup of Palace tea beside me. Later, standing by the window, I felt the soft tug at my heart to go for a long walk through misty woods and fields as I used to in Sussex, a charcoal cashmere scarf wrapped around my neck, threading along footpaths strewn with burnished leaves, occasionally kicking the green, spiky hulls of horse chestnuts (“conkers,” the Brits call them) with my boots. And I recalled the goodness of returning to our cottage after such a countryside ramble, there to curl up with a handmade mug of spiced apple cider, its steam heady with notes of cinnamon and clove.
I cannot adequately explain this strange tug of Europe I’ve been feeling, seeing, and sensing; neither how it arrives nor why. It is decidedly different than daydreaming or merely imagining. The curious flashes and images continue unabated; indeed, they seem to be intensifying as autumn approaches, and as I roll along with a sense of nostalgia, I can only wonder what it all means.
Maybe it has simply to do with the fact that this is the first year since coming back to America in 2011 that we have not returned to the Old World for a visit, and I am simply missing it. Or perhaps something deeper and more mysterious is afoot, part of the expansive, healing shift I’ve been going through these past months.
Visions aside, what I do know is that most evenings this week have found me wanting something very French to eat, like a perfectly roasted, organic chicken swaddled in a rich sauce of white wine, cream, and shallots. Mushrooms, perhaps. (Admittedly, as much as I miss the UK at times, or appreciate Nigel Slater’s food writing, my culinary preferences dwell elsewhere. You can take the cook out of France, but his heart remains.) In years past, this change of season would be about the time that I shift from favorite summer white and rosé wines to Pinot Noir (Oregon or Old World), but as part of my healing path I haven’t had a glass of wine since March, and even more strangely, I don’t miss it.
Each season brings treasures and trials, rolling away into mists of memory just before we tire of its offerings. In an endless cycle of birth, maturing, and passing away, the wheel rolls on and something new arrives. Autumn approaches (while Spring is waking up for those Down Under), bringing a timely shift and the endless offering of goodness that we too easily take for granted. Already I am dreaming of crisp, rosy-skinned apples, of squat orange pumpkins and hearty winter squash, glistening chestnuts and milky sweet walnuts, and the earthy allure of wild mushrooms.
Friend, a liminal time descends upon us, a bountiful harvest amid the painted, graceful dying to what came before, a perfume of woodsmoke lingering in the cool air. It is naturally a season for memories and nostalgia, of slow turning inwards. The time comes to let things go, mirrored so eloquently for us by the noble trees and our beloved gardens.
As summer bows out and autumn arrives, open the doors of perception. Cast them wide as you simultaneously unlock the heart, and welcome whatever comes through, surrendering to the shifting nuances of light, scent and feeling. Memory, perhaps. Or a future sense. And through those unbridled senses, may you feel the soft but indelible touch of the world, reminding you to pause and appreciate its staggering wonders. For despite all the chaos, madness, and troubles that clamor too loudly in harsh, angry tones, we are simultaneously immersed in a natural world and larger story that is achingly beautiful. Mysterious and magical, too.
I wonder, are we dreaming or awake? Perhaps if the heart is unshuttered and ajar, they are really the same.