Prairie, At Last–“Moons” The Final Chapters

Gilles and I on our marriage day, 2002

Chapter 49

Seventh Path Hypnosis Reveals Another Piece of the Love Puzzle

Littleton was a magnet for alternative healers. Someone told me that the town sat on intersecting ley lines. There was a lot of energy available. Maybe that was why I was drawn there. Maybe that was one of the reasons that I stayed sixteen years.

A woman I met in the town invited me to enrol in a course on self-hypnosis. She claimed that to heal old wounds we needed to remove old programming. To “empty the cup.” I thought that in the three sessions of holotropic breathwork I had “emptied the cup.” Perhaps some dregs remained. I had recited affirmations for years. “I am good; I am worthy; I am loved.” Did I genuinely believe those words?

I remember asking Doctor Anne what love felt like. I said, “I know I love my children.” When they were small, I would sneak into their rooms while they slept and watch them breathe. Bellies softly rose and fell. Peaceful pink faces attested to untroubled dreams. I was filled with awe and a feeling that could only be love. I also knew that I loved my mother, even when I was frustrated with her. Now, much later, I knew I loved Gilles. I decided that love was more of a knowing than a feeling. A certainty that you cherished the person before you. But did I love myself? I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know.

I decided I had nothing to lose, and possibly something to gain. I took the Seventh Path course. First, Carol described hypnosis and the subconscious. Next, she explained how to induce self- hypnosis. However, before I experienced that state, I needed a Delta word.

The Seventh Path system was influenced by A Course In Miracles and therefore worked best if I believed in a higher power. Indeed, I did.

I had to choose a name for that power. Goodness, Goddess, Universal Love, Christ, Buddha, Allah, God. I had wrestled with the God-word for years. I was a spiritual person, but no longer a religious one. The image of “God-the-white-robed-bearded-patriach-ensconced-on-a-golden-throne-in-heaven” had evaporated. That mental picture had been replaced with a God-experience. God was the ecstasy of a thousand rainbows. The velveteen stillness of an eternal embrace. The solace of huge pink towel. I had no problem using God as my Delta word.

While I was hypnotized, Carol recited recognitions, positive statements that bypassed my conscious mind and challenged long-held limiting convictions. The first phrases weakened or removed the faulty assumptions.

The five short suggestions slid effortlessly into my unconscious mind. I remember two.

“God knows there’s nothing wrong with me.”

and

“God made me always lovable.”

After the first session, as instructed, I practised self-hypnosis and the recognitions three or more times every day. When I returned for the second class a week or two later, I was well-prepared for the experience. But not for the outcome.

After we entered the self-hypnotic state, Carol quietly repeated longer versions of the recognitions. The second part replaced the faulty assumptions with positive truths.

“God knows there’s nothing wrong with me—there never was.” Astonishing! How many times had I heard, “What’s the matter with you?” “Are you stupid?” “What’s wrong with you?” The utter belief that there was never anything wrong with me uprooted a former sense of self. It freed me to begin loving this person that was me.

The next one had the same potent effect.

“God made me always lovable—just as I am.”

Unchecked, tears coursed down my cheeks. I was lovable. Just as I was—imperfect, impulsive, passionate, insecure, and brave. At last, I knew that I loved myself, in my beauty and my brokenness. Now, I could forgive myself. Now, I could better love and forgive others.

Chapter 50

Steadfastness and Change

“You cannot change another person. The only person you can change is yourself.”

I cannot remember who told me that. I cannot remember how many boyfriends I thought I could change. “Once we’re in a relationship, he will give up smoking. He will stop his negative thinking. He will eat better. He will drink less. He will play fewer video games. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.” By the time I met Gilles, I had changed enough to know that I could not change Gilles.

Nonetheless, as long as I never tried to alter Gilles’ essential character, I thought it permissible to tamper a little with his appearance. When I first met him, a ragged bush of dark hair pruned by an incompetent barber, and antiquated black-rimmed spectacles with saucer-sized lenses, masked his handsome countenance. He resembled a tall dishevelled owl.

When I made the impromptu suggestion that he give my hair stylist a try, he readily acquiesced. Upon his return, rather than being gob-smacked by the quadruple price, he beamed at me, “He spent an entire hour cutting my hair!” Subsequent appointments were shorter.

The alteration in bifocals came about just as fuss-free. Without glasses Gilles inhabits a opaque universe. Choosing frames was a challenge. When the time came for new lenses, he asked me to accompany him to the optometrist.

As for Gilles’ makeover of me, that never happened. Gilles was better than me at the “you cannot change another person” dictum. He sometimes alludes to my abbreviated stature; however, I believe he enjoys being necessary when he retrieves “high-up” items from the cupboards. Besides, one’s height cannot be remedied by tamed and contoured hair or up-to-date eye glasses.

Over the years with Gilles, I have come to understand another important truth about change. Everyone changes. No one stays the same. Initially, we may notice the physical transformations—the first grey hair, then more grey hairs, then not so much hair; the wrinkles around the eyes, then the mouth, then the elbows and knees and bellies and bums. Next come the mental modifications—the memory lapses; the seniors’ moments; the effort to find a word that sometimes arrives the next hour or the next day or not at all; a former pastime—swimming or chess—replaced by woods-wandering or puzzle-solving. Old love demands courage.

Chapter 51

Illness and Recovery

After that first remarkable kiss, Gilles and I chose to be partners in an exclusive, monogamous relationship. Twenty months later, Gilles relocated to my house.

Even though I had attracted into my life a man who loved me unconditionally, prepared succulent dinners for me almost every night of the week, and planted twelve hundred periwinkle shoots in my front yard because I didn’t like grass, did not mean that all my problems vanished. What it did mean was that a devoted and supportive companion would travel with me on the next leg of my becoming-Prairie journey.

Over the previous few years, tumultuous changes had taken place in the field of education: burgeoning class sizes, a substantial increase in independent learning plans, slashed preparation times, teacher re-evaluations, and complex computer-generated report cards. My penchant for perfection did not pair well with these innovations. In spite of having diligent and helpful co-op assistants, the workload remained onerous. Early in 2002, mononucleosis infected me. The only person I kissed was Gilles. He was healthy. Perhaps a stressed immune system and daily exposure to scores of wheezing, coughing teenagers were responsible for my disease. In spite of the fatigue, I made it to the end of the first semester but was too ill to begin the second one.

Father died on Thursday, February 8th. The previous Sunday he phoned to remind me, “You are the disgrace of the family. You are the only one to get divorced and you are living in sin.” Whether my illness made me too weak to challenge his assessment or I had grown in compassion, I simply said, “I’m sorry you feel that way because I have never been happier.”

Before I could return to the classroom, viral bronchitis decided to befriend me. I slept separately from Gilles. Sat up in bed to keep the air passages open. I arose several times at night, turned the shower dial to its hottest setting, then crouched in the corner of the stall so steam could restore my breathing. My doctor could not help me. I sought out a German-trained physician in another city. He prescribed a number of homeopathic cures, none of which cured me. As the illness dragged on I decided that a massage might make me feel less miserable.

Audrey was an experienced massage therapist who also practised manual lymphatic drainage. Further, she was a doctor of osteopathic medicine. A friend drove me to her office. When Audrey came to manipulate my legs she noticed the swollen lymph glands behind my knees. I never knew I had glands there. She checked the rest of my body. All my nodes were tumid. She asked if I had had mono. With adequate rest, the debilitating symptoms of that disease usually disappear on their own. However, months and even years, later lymph glands can remain enlarged. Audrey suggested that I return for three manual lymphatic drainage appointments. After the first session, I felt better than I had in two and a half months. After the second one I drove myself home. After the third, I returned to teaching. A miracle.

The other miracle was that, in spite of my illnesses, Gilles chose to marry me.

Chapter 52

Prairie

Let there be space in your togetherness.

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love;

let it be rather a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Kahil Gibran

Gilles and I resided at 27 Pine Street. We met on the 27th of August. We shared our first dinner on the 27th of November. A few years later, on the 27th day of June a retired nun officiated our union.

I am a list maker. When I complete an item I obliterate it with heavy scratches or mark it off with an exuberant tick. The physical action magnifies my sense of accomplishment. I had never entered marriage on any list. Nevertheless, even an extravagant ink flourish could not sufficiently express my joy.

Each Valentine’s Day, the day that my name became official, I enumerate fourteen reasons why I love Gilles. Each one is accompanied by a vibrant red check mark. Over the years, some things have never changed: a weird but lovable sense of humour, an impish smile, a brilliant and unusual mind, emotional calm and an overabundance of tolerance, loyalty and generosity.

Missing from the February lists but perhaps the thing I love most about Gilles is the way he says my name—like Line’s melodic French pronunciation of Geraldine, with a softly rolled ‘r’. Yet so much better—Gilles has never known me as anyone but Prairie. Besides, Prairie has two r’s.

When I give my name to a clerk or am introduced for the first time, a frequent response is, “What a lovely name.” I meet the speaker’s eyes and reply with genuine warmth, “Thank you. I have always liked my name.”

The end

Moons–memoir–chapters 1 & 2

These Many Moons Magnificent

A Memoir

Part One

Slivers

five to thirty-five

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Maya Angelou

Chapter 1

Geraldine

When I was nine years old, I was convinced that I had the wrong name. I had suspected it for a long time.

“What’s your name, honey?”

No response.

“Don’t you have a name?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what is it?”

Reluctantly, “Geraldine”.

“Oh, that’s a nice name.”

But it wasn’t a nice name. Not to me.

I preferred being called Gerry. It had only two syllables and somehow sounded better. Not so harsh as Geraldine. After I learned to read, I looked up the meaning of Geraldine. “Mighty spear-thrower.” Oh, how awful! I was tiny and could barely hold a tennis racket. How could I possibly hurl spears?

My grade three teacher announced that we’d be learning how to do cursive writing. How exciting! It must have something to do with cursing. Only grown-ups were allowed to swear and grown-ups wrote with joined-up letters. When I mastered this new skill, I too could say words like shit and damn. In 1956 only dyed-in-the-wool sinners used the F-word.

Preliminaries first. How to unscrew the cap from the ink pot. Some of the kids spilled the blue-black gunk all over their go-to-school clothes—a transgression just short of spilling it on your go-to-church clothes. But I had already opened my jar and set it into the perfect-sized hole drilled into the top right corner of the desk. The marred wooden surface bore inky testament to the hundreds of children who came before. Speaking of desks, mine had to be imported from the grade one classroom. I might have been humiliated; instead I was all delight—my feet touched the floor.

I inserted the sharp steel nib into the just-right slots of the slender red holder. Dip, wipe, write. Disaster. Nib legs splayed. Paper ripped. Miscellaneous blobs and illegible words decorated the page. Achieving the just-right pressure was impossible. I wondered, briefly, how the left-handers were faring. What numbskull decided that needle points and flimsy paper made good partners?

Day after day, I practised. I seldom gave up on anything. Certainly nothing this important. At last I got it.

“Gerry” I wrote. No blobs, no tears, perfectly readable. I peered at the name. Something was wrong. It didn’t look right. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t even smell right. I wrote, Gerrie. Jerry. Gerri. Geree. No matter how I spelled it, an inner voice whispered, “That’s not you”.

Chapter 2

The Near Death

Too young and too little, I didn’t know what to do with this knowing. For the next five years I simply accepted my name. Once or twice I did wonder if the wrong-name feeling began in earnest the day I almost died.

On a perfect summer afternoon, I clambered up to my assigned place in the family sedan—the ledge beneath the rear-view window. My much older sister and two older brothers filled the back seat. My parents occupied “the thrones”. Father drove—always.

We were going to the beach, not Peace Haven with its quiet water and jumping-bridge, but a lake so big it had no further shore.

My body didn’t work like other people’s. I was often cold. Lying in the heat of the window shelf was one of my most favourite things. Bathed in sunbeams, I closed my eyes and dreamed. Peaceful dreams. I smelled the sea first. Always I awoke just as the car crested the very last hill. Before me lay the water—a corduroy of moving ridges, white and blue.

A zillion colours crowded the shore. Beach blankets and umbrellas rich in design, bathing suits of every description, people pale or black or some colour in between. Mother, eagle-eyed, spied the ideal plot of sand. We children raced to claim it. Plaid blankets were duly laid down, picnic baskets and cooler set off to one side. Swim first. Eat later. My towel claimed and deposited nearby, I headed to the water.

I stand and watch. Over and over small waves slap the shore. They arrive on an angle and retrace their paths in their retreat. I wade in. Not too far. Bliss. I close my eyes. Warm water invites me further. I laugh. A gull, I spread my arms and fly above the sea. Walk on. One step more. Into the trough I fall. I flail and gasp. Can no one see me? Beneath the surface I sink. Into darkness. Into forever-ness.

But I refuse to die. Perhaps I pray. I don’t remember. A miracle. My foot touches sand. Up I climb. Out of the hollow. Find the sky above the sea. Gulp the air. Sob.

Shoreward I turn. Scan the beach for my parents relaxing on plaid blankets. Find them at last. Proceed with great caution. Arrive. Enfold myself in the huge pink towel. Sit.

And say nothing.

very young Geraldine

Why Write A Memoir?

A little more than a year ago when I finished my memoir, I sent a query letter and a few sample chapters to a publisher—one that promised to respond within sixteen weeks. No acknowedgement arrived. Further, research pointed out that only one in 300,000 manuscripts by “unknown” authors gets accepted by a traditional publishing house. These Many Moons Magnificent was my new-born daughter, albeit, a tiny one. Four years of writing culminated in a book of only 34,000 words. Who would print such a paltry thing? A more important consideration, however, was my reluctance to share my past with strangers. I put the pages in a purple folder, inserted the folder in a plain brown envelope, then secreted the package at the bottom of a deep drawer. Next, I continued to write. Once I had began, I could not stop.

In late December 2019, I published my first blog, “Perfect Meatballs”, a glimpse into my determination to overcome perfectionism. On the next four Sundays, I posted four more tales. During those weeks, I realized I was ready to blog Moons.

Why? Not for imagined riches. I ignored WordPress’s promise that I could earn, earn, earn if I included ads in my blog. A good story is its own advertiser–naive but I want to believe it is true. Further, and gratefully, I do not need money. Nor fame. I am content in my modest life.

One afternoon at the Writers’ Group, I was struggling with a difficult piece of personal history. I said, “Sometimes the writing is painful.”

A member pounced on the admission, “Then why do you do it?”

Before I could formulate a response, a woman answered for me, “Because she has to.”

There was that. But, why did I have to?

Finding Your Answers Within, a book by Dick Sutphen, had found me decades earlier. I decided to look inside—myself, not the book. Quiet moments when beach-walking, forest-bathing, bicycle-riding, or highway-driving provide fertile ground for answer-seeking. On the way home from Writers’ Group that day, auto-pilot kicked in. My mind returned to the aggressive question. Why was I writing a memoir? Before I thought them, three words sprang up—a final expiation. I chuckled. I didn’t know the meaning of expiation. Even so, I remembered a solo winter walk where I asked myself why I blurted out nonsensical words every now and then. Emotional repression spontaneously emerged. The inner wise woman was right then. She must be right now.

Once home, a dictionary pronounced:

expiation (noun)

the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement.

Similar: atonement, redemption, redress, reparation, restitution

For what did I need to atone? One atones for sins. Real sins or imagined sins? Perhaps both.

I knew I had injured people through Emma-like precipitate remarks, an inflexible stand on negotiable issues, and the acting out of fantasies and delusions. But, I had spent years forgiving myself for such transgressions and, where possible, had sought forgiveness from those I had hurt. When painful memories arose, I recited Louise Hay’s mantra,“I did the best I could with the knowledge, awareness and understanding I had at that time.” And similarly “S/he did the best ….” Maybe, there was some deep-seated guilt, real or imagined, that yet plagued me. My response to the message was to keep writing.

A first reader suggested that I publish Moons because it would help others on their self-realization journeys. Certain fragments may inspire some people to embark on Vision Quests, study astrology, participate in Breathwork, or dialogue with a witch. Perhaps. But, just like wealth and fame, self-help was not my motivation in broadcasting the work. For whatever reason, I was now ready to share my story with more than a handful of friends.

In the final analysis, perhaps passion or pleasure propels people to write. Memoir is the most accessible and the most intimate subject matter.

Postscript

Tomorrow, the first two chapters of These Many Moons Magnificent will be published. The book is short; the chapters are short—only one to four pages in length. Even so, as one reader told me, “Prairie, you say a lot with few words.”

Raku moons, Prairie Wakerobin, from a 1994 exhibition

The Story Behind My Blog

First, thank you to everyone who read my first post and to those who took the time to share personal insights, support my endeavours and share the blog with friends. My heart is happy.

Here is the back story to the blog.

In early September 2015, just three weeks before her 98th birthday, my mother died. I am still surprised by the hugeness of my missing her. Even so, her death allowed me to do something that had been incubating for several years–write about my life. I had tried before, in 1994. The book that resulted was dreadful; it met an early demise. I came to realize that I could not write about my young life while Mom lived. Now was the time.

I signed up for a writing course. Over the next few months the “container” for the story emerged. It would be a “journey to a name”, the story of how a baby named Geraldine evolved into a woman called Prairie.

The going was so slow that I enrolled in another writing course in the spring of 2017.

At my request, the instructor read the opening few chapters of my memoir. After calling the writing “punchy”, she asked, “Is there more?” Magical words to a fledgling writer! Not yet– but there would be.

That fall, I joined a writers’ group. My hands trembled as I read to the members the first time. The astute observations and the genuine encouragement that followed erased my reservations and propelled the work forward.

A little more than a year later, in mid-January 2019, I finished the book. I encased a hard copy in a purple folder, then buried the folder at the bottom of a desk drawer. I will know when it is time to make it public.

I became restless. Stories bubbled up. I committed their details to paper. Each month I would read one to the writers’ group. At our most recent meeting, I wondered about sharing them via a blog. Yes! And so it began.

I have eight finished pieces. My plan is to post one each Sunday for the next two months. In fact, I considered calling my blog “Two Months of Sundays”. But, the memories and their stories continue to emerge. I have the skeletons for several. I’ll see how things progress. In the interim, I hope you continue to read my posts and find something in them that resonates for you.

Coming this Sunday “Creamed-Shrimp-On-Toast–the Magic of Memory”.

Thank you again.

Love,

Prairie