Background Switcher (Hidden)

Spirit Light

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I wish I could convey to you the richness of having this audience of readers, of all that you bring to me. You might think that I'm just dishing out the content and you're taking it in without giving back, but oh, you do give back in so many ways. Lucy from Minnesota has helped me figure something out that has been puzzling me. Well, I'll never truly figure it out. At least I hope I don't. There should be things that pass understanding.

I remember a long time ago a reader wrote me to suggest that I take Free Will Astrology off my list of Useful Links. He thought it made me look kind of wifty, and he preferred not to see me as such. Hmm. I do believe there's something in astrology, however they've recalibrated the calendar. I feel like a Leo. I know Bill's a Pisces through and through. Liam's a card-carrying Scorpio. I love to guess people's signs based on what I've observed. I believe there are compatibilities and dysfunctions that can only be explained by the stars.  And what's wrong with any tool we might employ that helps us better understand our fellow human? Just because it's nothing anyone can prove doesn't mean it lacks validity.

The older I get, the more willing I am to believe that there are Unexplainables in this world. Things that no one can quantify or predict, results that can't be reproduced. Phenomena. For me, it's all part and parcel of listening to the little voice inside me, the one that tells me to look there right now! or get out that door before I miss my appointment with the merlin who's perched, waiting for me just around the bend. The one that tells me what a baby bird might need in its diet to thrive, or what might be going through someone else's head at any given moment. The voice that tells me what I need and how to get it, whether it happens to be a missing mineral or inner peace that I'm lacking. The more I dampen the big voices all around me, the ones that tell me what I should be doing, the better I hear the little voice, the one that connects me to the Universe.

So this churchyard has been calling to me, this building high atop a hill, one that's suffered the indignity of having a water tower plopped right in its front yard, and magnificently survived it. It stands, unheated and alone and miraculously unvandalized, year after year as unseen hands sweep it and let the birds out and mow its little cemetery and stack the unknown headstones when frost heave and mowers displace them.

I think Waxler Church has never been more beautiful than the morning of December 28, when the sun finally burned through our permacloud and set it in stark relief against a turquoise sky.

I prefer to photograph it from angles where the water tower doesn't show, but I see it bombed the photo above, sticking its face into the right margin.

The oldest stones you can read date from about 1840, and most of those are auf Deutsch.

I wander about, finding children, like six-year-old Earnest. Someone still puts flowers on his grave. Who?

I find my neighbors, who are both still alive, and am comforted that they will rest here eventually. 1974 doesn't seem that long ago. Married on DeLoris' birthday. Sweet.

I stand amazed before the stone of Lester and Linda, at the scene of bucolic (ox-filled) fields, Linda watching Lester atop his tractor, a dog by her side. I knew them both, slightly, the way one knows country neighbors, to wave to and sometimes stop and chat with. I'm touched by the intricate engraving on the stone, the way the tractor's clearly identified as a Deere. 

Linda told my neighbor Beth that Lester came home one day from working in the field, sat down in his recliner, and "his heart blew up." She lived in the little house for 14 more years, selling fresh brown eggs from the hens in the big pen beside it. I remember once when her Hereford bull got out and allegedly knocked down a mailbox on our road, and its owner brought a frivolous lawsuit against her, the way some people will, defying all logic and decency, just wanting a fight for its own sake. Yep, go after the widow who's trying to run 30 head of cattle by herself, atta boy.  Linda went, head hanging, door-to-door, asking for character witnesses. I helped as much as I could, writing a letter to the judge in her defense. None of that's on the stone, but it's inside me, and I think about it as I kneel by their stone. None of it matters now, but it mattered then, the case of the Errant Bull, the Widow and the Litigious Neighbor.

Someone has planted a landscape rose next to a stone. Wisely behind it, because those roses have growth power to burn and would soon overtake and cover the stone. Looking closely, I see the tattered remnants of last summer's nest in the upper right branch of the bush. From the materials and placement, I surmise that this nest belonged to indigo buntings. It's a classic bunting site. They usually choose a shrub so small and spindly that no predator would think to look in it for a nest. The other choice would be field sparrow, but the materials suggest bunting. Perfect. I want to come back in spring and listen for their song, confirm my hunch that a cocoa-brown female bunting sat her speckled blue eggs in this nest.

I wonder whose stone it might be, so I move around to take a photo.
Ada Louise Hune. She passed in 1947 at the tender age of 15. This bit of information hits me with a wallop, I with my grace-filled 17-year-old daughter still sleeping in her bed at home. I photograph the stone and linger, thinking about how perfect it is that an indigo bunting would raise its family here, with Ada below.

When I get home and upload the photos, I'm startled by what I see. Yes, I was facing into the light, and it was low early morning light, but I've taken probably 4,000 photos with this little gizmo and have never had my iPhone react to light in this way. A shimmering rainbow orb hovers before Ada's stone. I haven't Photoshopped it. I don't even own the program. This is it, just what the camera saw. As I look at it, I'm filled with wonder and joy and peace, as if Ada has somehow managed to send a message from beyond, as if she's thrilled I noticed her and her bunting nest and stopped to linger and think about her, wonder who she was. My nose starts to sting and my eyes well up at the thought. Something has happened here, but I don't know, can't say what. Something. The little voice is speaking.

And then just a few days later I get a letter from a reader, Lucy from Minnesota, who lost her husband in the last year and as it was happening wrote to tell me how much this blog and especially the antics and voice of Chet Baker meant to her and her family. She'd read his Facebook status updates to her husband Arch, and even after he lost his ability to speak, she could tell how much they brightened his day. Cavendish, their Boston terrier, still looks for Arch in his office each night before they go to bed. That's how we met, through Lucy's letter of gratitude those months ago. I was deeply moved that Chet and I, with my silly way of channeling his thoughts and desires, had had a small part in making Arch's passing a little gentler for Lucy and their two beautiful kids. You never know who you touch when you reach out. It's invisible, but it's there nonetheless. I feel it.

I hadn't shared this photo with anyone yet. I hadn't written about it, either. It was locked up in my mind. In her letter, Lucy unwittingly gave me a key to understanding what might be happening here. I'll quote  her.

" I don't share this with a lot of people, but I see "spirit lights", and sounds like you do too. (Well, I am not aware that I do, but my camera seems to!) We really miss Arch's human energy and being the family of 4 our kids have always known. Seeing lights is not the same as a warm hug or a heart to heart conversation or a shared laugh but at least you have some reassurances. 

"When you and Chet posted the blog about visiting the country church I kept re-reading it. Not only because it was so perfect, but because I saw so many sparkles and orbs on and around my phone I couldn't clearly see the words. You really woke the dead on that one. Your thoughts were wise, and sometimes funny, and the parishioners must have been delighted by Chet's return(?). Lord knows where that fella was before he chose the ZT family. I wanted to message you right away, but it was our last day on the island when I read it and we were busy still taking things in. Anyway you probably were aware you stirred things up a bit and I think they all got a kick out of it. I look forward to future visits you and Chet might make to that lovely cemetery and church and really hope the RainCrows get to play there. I think the spirits do too. "

Wow. Could those be spirit lights around Ada Louise's stone? I never even knew there was a name for them. Perhaps someone with experience in the paranormal can look at this and tell me. Lucy?? I just know that there's got to be a reason burial grounds are sacred across cultures and centuries. Something's happening here. I feel the Waxler Church and the people I know there calling out to me. Not in a spooky weird way, just in a "come see us" way. A good way. Like they enjoy the new living energy I bring to their resting place. Like they like to hear me sing in what was once their church, and just maybe still is.

Turkey vulture totem feather, mystery message from above, lit now by the morning sun. I have come here to see this, the light of this hour.

Whatcha lookin' for, little man?


Please continue to ignore the "big voices" in favor of the "little voice" from within. It will never steer you wrong. I, too, listen to that voice, and it has brought wondrous things into my life. Things it would never in a million years have occurred to me to wish for -- not material things necessarily, but interests, experiences, small things that lead to bigger things. I call this inner voice my Muse, because most of the time it leads me to some creative endeavor. Others call it their spirit guide, higher self, guardian angel. It really doesn't matter what you call it -- only that you do! I have helped a few friends channel this inner voice, and they are always so surprised that they can indeed do this. People tend to thing it's purely a talent of "professional psychics". It isn't; it is available to anyone who is willing to put down the phone, turn off the TV, and cultivate the quiet. This voice seems to thrive on creativity; the first time I acknowledged it was while I was drawing, completely wrapped up in that present moment. I'm always happy to hear of someone else I know and respect who has this experience, too.

Thank you for writing your blog. It always stirs some emotion within me -- mostly joy, sometimes sadness -- but it always affects me deeply.

Posted by Anonymous January 9, 2014 at 3:43 AM

Yes, yes, yes, keep doing what you're doing. Keep tuning into the little voice and sharing what you see. It is a balm for not only your soul, but those of your readers as well. As for the orbs, and what they mean? I love science...I love spirituality...I see no reason whatsoever why they can't be a function of both. Lately I've become obsessed with out-of-focus shots (in my own photography) and what they might mean. Not to be self-promotional, because Ick, but this is a recent-ish post from my (languishing) blog that has some cool shots of what I can only assume are dancing fairies.

Inspiring, encouraging and a sweet reminder to be in the moment. Thanks Julie.

Posted by Fritzann January 9, 2014 at 6:08 AM

This post reminds me why I blog every day: to see what's really there, now.

In one of my favorite books (not just in childhood), Pooh asks, "What day is it?" and Piglet squeaks, "It's today." "My favorite day," says Pooh.

This ruminative entry, filled with meandering wonderings reflects the way my own mind often works when I walk to write (even posts that do not sparkle with "spirit lights"). I write to celebrate "today."

This post reminds me why I do it, and I thank you for that.

Julie you have tuned in more than you realize. Chet is not looking for something in the last picture though. Chet is looking AT and visiting WITH someone who long ago cherished sitting in that quiet little church and finding their smaller voice there. Animals are notorious for tuning into the spiritual side of our world. You have a truly special one, in Mr. Baker, that is certain! Bless you both for sharing this blog and your FB posts.

Oh Julie and Chet this is so touching. Thank you. The two of you continue to give us such gifts. I was so impressed what your camera captured. Wow,Ada certainly was reaching out to you! I also wouldn't be surprised if it was a collaborative effort. You have so much respect for the other individuals who were represented at the cemetary and I think they wanted to acknowledge how much they appreciate you, but Ada stood out the most and they helped her shine. Even though I have been connecting with "the other side" since I was a young child there are so many things about this spirituality stuff that we will never know until we pass on ourselves. What I trust the most are the lights I see,things that give me a sense of peace, and coincidences or hunches. Spirits are never there to judge us or to creep us out. They were once human themselves and you don't even need to go to a cemetery or see spirit lights to feel their presence. I don't consider myself a psychic but I wonder if Ada is presenting herself to you at this time to perhaps help you get through a transition. You made the link between her and your sweet daughter still sleeping at home. Several months from now Phoebe will be off at college. Ada left her family at a young age,(and yet she never really did leave.) Just like in human life we never know what person/spirit is going to cross our paths. Julie Zickafoose and Chet Baker, Boston Terrier came into our lives coincidently at a time when my husband needed some humor and diversion. With our BT Cavendish at his side I would read the latest escapade from Chet and it always made him smile. I am not sure who arranged that but I thank them. Spirits know about human loss and letting go of the familiar because they were once human themselves. They know some of the challenges and changes are big and blunt and hurtful like human death,and they know other changes are bittersweet. Those may not be as painful, but they still take away the comfort and familiarity and rhythm of what has defined us as a family or the role of the confident and involved parent for so many years. Ada may have picked up on some of your recent musings and reflections about how things will be changing for your family and wanted to help. You can always tell a spirit if you want them around or not and they have to respect that. I truly think Ada Louise is hoping to become more a part of your life. (Have been seeing some lovely lights as I write this.) Spirits make themselves known for a reason and have wisdom and comfort to share. It seems you have become quite fond of each other. Look for the coincidences and enjoy her company. Love to you and Chet ~ Lucy from MN.

Posted by Lucy from MN January 9, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Julie, I have chills after reading the comments for this latest blog. And what a blog. Brings me to tears. This church really has something to share with you, tell you, teach you--in the best sense of the word. And the individual gravestones you wrote about--especially the 15-year old Ada's counterpoint to your Phoebe. Well, the Lauer one too. I miss the richness of life closer to the country. Cities hide so much. And thank you for the reminder about listening to our inner voice. Just a quick story--many years ago I was visiting Madeline Island in northern Wisconsin and was respectfully visiting a cemetery where Native Americans were buried. As I knelt to take a photo of a gravestone a young and quite thin Native American man appeared and told me not to take a photo of the stone. It would steal that person's spirit. I apologized and stopped, even though I had snapped a few shots before he appeared. I left that little cemetery and later discovered there was NO film in it. To this day I know there had been film in that camera (when my brain was younger and healthier & I could remember things!). This is NOT to say don't take photos of the cemetery and its gravestones. I believe the spirit stealing is specific to the indigenous population of America. You're the best. And BTW, ha, I'm a Scorpio. Good luck with Liam!

I think there is still so much we don't know.

You might be interested in a wonderful novel that touches on this subject. A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds. Almost guarantee you'd love it.

Posted by Stefanie Graves January 9, 2014 at 10:39 AM


anyway (re: astrology),just curious Julie if you were ever into the writings of Linda Goodman, a very popular astrologer and gifted writer as well, now deceased, from my college days (a wee bit ago ;-) She had quite an unusual/interesting life.

While prowling around an old cemetery in upstate NY, I took photos of a family plot from the late 1800's. Parents and several children. On a whim I looked for the family on I found them all on someone's family tree... all except little Elery. He was born and died between census reports, and had been forgotten by the living. I couldn't bear that so I wrote to the family tree's owner with the information. Gone but not forgotten now.
Thank you Julie for reminding me of things I need to remember.

A beautiful post, Julie. Thank you for writing it down. I love the idea of "spirit light"-- that thing that calls to me everyday to run outside and look up. Sometimes it's an iridescent cloud, sometimes it's Cooper's hawk on the bird feeder, or an arc of rainbow light high in the rainless sky.

Cemeteries remind us of what it means to be here now, on earth, taking a breath of air, in the moment... remembering all those who have come to their rest.

"I have come here to see this, the light of this hour." Ah yes, thank you. A life without mysteries and Mystery would be a thin life, indeed...

Lovely - thank you.
Aunt Weezy in TX

Posted by Anonymous January 10, 2014 at 2:01 PM

That little voice speaks more loudly than the big voice if we learn to quiet the noise around us. Julie, I work for a cemetery and I understand your thoughts, sensations and lights. I feel and see things like that all the time. I remember a Killdeer resting peacefully on a baby's headstone shortly after she died. I didn't have my trusty iPhone with me at that moment, but I wish I did. The red tailed hawks visit the grounds frequently and even the bald eagles like it there sometimes. Birds know. Nature knows. And we can know, too, if we stop for a moment and tune in.

Lovely, Julie. Just today someone sent me a photo of two Snowy Owls perched on the roof of the house we lived in on Nantucket for so many years. My mother died at this time in January many years ago. Her totem and favorite creature was the owl and I chose to connect the Snowy owls today to her because owls have come to me in odd places at odd times through the years. 30 years ago after her memorial service I drove on a whim to the house we had lived in during the war in Brookline, Mass. and there in a big conifer overlooking the house was a Great Horned Owl in broad daylight looking down at me. I just said, "Hi Mom."
Whatever is happening here, it is we who make the connections
with our minds, our memories and our needs. These visitations
are telling us to pay attention, to what is not always easy to discern...but as Hamlet says "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Posted by Jane Alexander January 11, 2014 at 3:29 PM

Thank you for sharing this story with us Julie. I believe when you are kind and respectful of those who have passed, they do have the ability to reach out to us in their own way. We only have to be open-minded to receive their messages.
Here's my own similar story....My dad was the principal for over 50 year at a parochial school whose mascot was an eagle. After Dad was buried, Mom reported that there was a bald eagle who flew over their house almost every day for a year (for reference, their house is right across from the cemetery where Dad is buried.) The first Christmas after Dad died, Rick and I went down to put a little Christmas tree on Dad's grave. While we were out there with Mom, a bald eagle flew over and to this day every time we're down there, we see a bald eagle. Coincidence? Yes, maybe since bald eagles are now more common in the area, but I choose to believe it's my Dad's spirit reaching out to me.

[Back to Top]