In August of 1991, the three of us traveled up to Seattle for my younger brother’s wedding.   Amidst all the drama of the forced family gathering, I was trying to balance the person I knew that I was becoming with the person that I been, and keep Kyle’s and my balance in the throes of Mike pulling farther and farther away from me. I remember sitting at the picnic the night before the wedding, watching Mike schmooze his way through my aunts and uncles and feeling as though he were fading from my view even as I still heard his voice. There is a photo somewhere of the two of us laughing as we were dancing at the reception; it is the last time we ever really smiled at each other.

I am pretty certain that Mike was having an affair with his boss’s daughter, and had been for a long time. Try as I might to engage him in sharing activities with Kyle, coming to the drumming ceremonies with us, joining us in family activities or story times in the evening, he was consistently distant. Even at Kyle’s fifth birthday party, he was barely there. Mike developed a way of slipping out of the room, any room, when I walked in to it. If he couldn’t get out gracefully, the window became his best escape and he would stare out of it until the path to the door was clear. He left notes on the kitchen counter with cash for groceries, and wrote his schedule on the calendar so I would know whether or not he would be home. He hadn’t slept in our bed for months. Even in the couples’ counseling sessions that I arranged, he sat silent and sullen. He was more active with Kyle when I was out for the evening at class. As upset as I was when I would come home after 9:00 PM and Kyle was not bathed and asleep but still playing with his dad, I was at least happy that they were sharing time together. Of course, I was then put in the position of being the heavy-weight and getting things back on track. It was a cycle that would continue for most of Kyle’s life.

It was in this cloud of pain and uncertainty that I traveled once again to the desert of Arizona and another week-long workshop at the Retreat Cneter in November. As Mike and Kyle gave me a ride to the air-porter, I saw a single cloud formation against the clear blue California sky. It looked like a huge eagle or hawk with wings raised to take flight. Kyle said that he loved me. When I replied that I loved him back, I heard his mind-voice asking me if I loved Daddy, too. I answered in my mind-voice that I did love Daddy, but that I didn’t always like what Daddy does. Kyle became very clingy as we got out of the car, and he said that he didn’t want me to go. I reassured him that I would be in a safe place with his godparents, and that he would be in a safe place with his daddy. I turned to say good-by to Mike, but he was away from us, hanging silently around the edges of my leaving.

When we gathered for the initial cleansing ceremony, I was entranced by the stars. The autumn sky was clear and fresh and the stars, shining bright like diamonds strewn upon black velvet, took me back to the stars over the open fields of my childhood. As we each were blessed, we lit our candles. Again, I was amazed at the softness of voice and strength of emotion in the prayers. The autumn workshops are more introspective than the summer ones, and we talked about allowing ourselves to be open to the spirits of change. I felt soothed, and a bit apprehensive (it was always quite common for me to feel both sides of an emotional coin with the teachings). I did not feel scared, though at times I wondered if I should have been. This workshop was going to lead me to some very deep canyons in my soul and I needed to have the strength to look over the edge. We were in the dark time of the year, and under the dark of the moon; I knew it would be a time for me to face my own dark side. I felt excited and strong within myself and knew there were no better guides for me. I always felt protected, and was more than willing to learn what the ceremonies had to teach me.

After one ceremony, in which I heard the voice of the wind and felt the loving presence of my spirit guides holding and rocking me, I looked out to see the four main stars of the Big Dipper rise above the trees. They seemed to be the only stars in that part of the sky. Sitting by the fire, waiting others to have their turns, I stared in to the fire and saw many stories in the burning coals. I saw a bison staring back at me with eyes that glowed from the embers. I prayed to the Unseen Ones around me: I honor your presence. I am here that you may see me and know my sincerity. I feel so small, like a pebble on the beach, or a grain of sand. I am insignificant in the grandness of All That Is. I am so young, and you are so ancient. I felt warmth on my back, just behind my heart. I had been feeling a hole in that spot for months. I was the emptiness caused my Mike’s pulling away from me without any explanation. I had been wondering for a year or more if I would ever be held again, and at that point I accepted the knowledge that I would not be held in the physical world, but that I was blessed and held by the Ancient Ones. I held my Precious Totem, and I heard: Honor the Sacred; use it to heal, and it will teach you the Sacredness of Yourself. I looked up to see a light sitting in front of me. I saw such beauty there, more gentle than any flower. A voice told me to follow my design and surrender the rest. I knew it knew me better than I did myself, and I trusted it. It was clear that I would have to make choices that might not be the most comfortable in the moment, but that would be for the higher good later on. I had been touched and made pliable and formless by the spirits, re-forged and molded by the fires; I saw a little deeper in to myself, and knew I could walk my path with greater courage. Kyle’s godmother touched the palms of my hands with her eagle feather, and the purity and the power of it made me tremble and brought tears to my eyes.

The next day we climbed the red rocks in silence until we reached an outcropping. As I approached the edge and sat down, someone called out “Be gentle with yourselves!” and her voice brought me out of my place of solace and reverie. I felt that I should move back from the edge, yet I felt frozen. I was certain that if I moved at all, I would fall forward and fly from the edge like a Redtail. Immobilized, I was starting to feel panic when someone saw my predicament and offered a friendly hand to support me as I moved. We all stood and shouted the things we wanted to release from our lives. I yelled out my pain and frustration, using Mike’s Sanskrit name to try to reach his spirit. Then, we called in the positive things. I called out for courage and spirit.

Once we’d broken the silence, we settled in to quiet talking while we snacked on fruit and juice. I was sitting near some close friends and found the opportunity to talk to them about Mike. He was very angry and full of pain, much more than just physical pain. I said that he felt unreachable to me and I didn’t think that there was any hope for us as a couple. Someone took a photograph of us as we were talking and when I look at it I see this moment when I was so full of sorrow and pain; some are intently listening to my sadness and others stand next to me in silent witness. That night, in ceremony, I placed the coals from Mike’s and my wedding into the fire and watched as they were relit and then consumed by the flames.

The night before I left to return to Napa, I was overcome with pain and sadness at having to go home. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t talk with anyone. I went out on to the patio to be alone, and to cry my pain. I cried until I had no more energy and then went to lie down. When I awoke before dawn, I was still crying. I showered, went back to my sleeping bag, and cried myself back to sleep. I was afraid that now that the floodgate of my held-in pain and sorrow had been opened, I would never, ever, stop crying. I had been so strong through so much for my lifetime; this, the loss of the love that I knew was so important to both Mike and me, and now Kyle, was worse than all the other sorrows in my life. I went to the meditation hut and cried more pain. I prayed for the strength and courage to deal with the day-to-day ordeal of being around Mike’s anger, of having to live in a house filled with strain and silence, of having to protect my son from the ravages of what was going on around him, and to essentially be both mother and father to him while Mike was his playmate. When I came back in to the house, godmother hugged me and said, “I wish I could keep you here, but you have to go and be there for Kyle.” I knew I couldn’t stay there, but it was enough to hear her say it. I began to feel my strength again. I used the plane ride home to gather my internal resources and ready myself to re-enter the reality of my life.

The night I got home, I had a lengthy dream: I was walking up a steep hill and I knew to not go past a certain point. I had received some sort of warning. Then, I received permission to go on. There was an Ancient One there, and I asked for guidance concerning Kyle and I, and our living situation. I felt full of light and my heart was full of loving energy for Kyle.

I woke up knowing that all I had to do was keep Kyle’s highest good as my goal, and everything would fall in to place.