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Magic in the Journey

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A few members of the Unitarian Universalist Community of Casper were asked to give a 5 to 10 minute speech about their “Spiritual Journey.”

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                                    —  here is what I said  —

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            I would say, I was directly or indirectly raised in the religion of Academia. My mom is a teacher, my grandfather was a university professor and I have college-educated grandmothers on both sides of my family. I was told that I would reach fulfillment by studying and working hard in school. Academics should allow me to follow any opportunity – to be whatever I want to be. Like many children, I struggled with my religion at some point. Namely my sophomore year of college, when I was barley passing chemistry-heavy classes and one professor in particular told me that I was failing his class because, clearly, I have a learning disorder. But, not to worry, he noticed this in many of his students in their 20s who had never, ever been diagnosed before.

            I began to like school again about the time I graduated and, now, I’ve even found myself considering, more and more, the possibilities of going back.

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            If there are people who don’t see a spiritual connection in academia, maybe they have never taken a Survey of British Literature class that inspired them almost daily, or an Intro to Animal Science class that included holding chickens and milking cows. Even calculus shows that, even though I have a hard time finding them, some answers in life can be concrete. That special nook in the library or at the coffee shop, a perfect spot to study in solitude while simultaneously being surrounded by the energy of hundreds of other students – there is spiritual connection in that.

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         But I have also experienced spirituality in many, many other places. Once upon a time…

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            My mother’s mother’s parents helped build a Unitarian Universalist church in Davis, California.

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           Fast forward a few generations…

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           My mom and dad were married on the front porch of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, in October of 1983, by a Unitarian Universalist minister. During the ceremony, a geyser from the Lion Group erupted. It had been dormant for several years and is considered a rare and special event that happened to be visible from the balcony of the Old Faithful Inn that day.

            If a person has never experienced a spiritual connection to rocks and to the earth, a trip to Yellowstone might give them a new perspective.

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            A number of years later, I was born – a full month early. My parents had not yet chosen a boy’s name and they had barely settled on one for a girl. It wasn’t until after I was born and officially named that my Mom found out that the meaning of Natasha is Christmas Child. My birthday is 3 days after Christmas and 3 days before the New Year. It’s hard to ignore my connection here to the giving and loving spirit of December.

            Now and then in December, my family would visit a Unitarian Universalist church in Colorado for their Christmas Eve service. It’s in one of those L-Towns in the flatlands… Longmont or Lyons or Littleton or Lafayette or Louisville. I can’t ever remember. At any rate, at the end of the service, every individual has a candle, lit by their neighbor, sharing the light of the flames. All of the other lights are turned off and the congregation sings Silent Night.

            If a person has never experienced a connection to the spirit of Christmas, a candle-lit hymn in the middle of winter might give them a new perspective.

            I happen to be an incredibly lucky person who has gotten to travel and see quite a bit of the world. I highly encourage everyone to take trips, if they have the opportunity – Even if it’s only a day trip. We are only a few hours from Devil’s Tower, Thermopolis, the Black Hills. There is magic everywhere.

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           The first big trip that my family took when my dad was hired as a pilot with an international airline was an attempt to get around the world, as far as we could go. My dad’s great aunt lives in Hawaii and we stopped in to see her.

            If a person has never experienced a spiritual connection to gods or goddesses, a trip to see the flowing lava of the islands might change their perspective. Pelé is a goddess alive and well in Hawaii and my dad’s great aunt will be thrilled to show off the tricks of the Menehune.

            Eventually, we ended up in Bali, Indonesia. Altars to the deities were everywhere, colorful and beautiful and full of wonderful smells. In fact, everything was colorful and vibrant and full of life, from the altars and the buildings and the people, to the fruits and the plants, to the monkey forest and the fish that we saw while snorkeling on our sunrise trip in outrigger canoes. There were reminders everywhere showing thanks to the many gods and goddesses that grace that corner of the world.

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            Closer to home, when I was 22, my little brother was living in Flagstaff, Arizona and I met up with my parents there to visit him. A friend of his was working at a resort and she hooked us up with a place to stay in Sedona. Artists and spiritualists from all over the world go to Sedona to feel the power of the earth. The rock is rich and red and the town itself is full of art and inspiration. While we were at the hotel in the canyon, it snowed – Feet of snow. Google says Sedona gets 18 inches of rain per year and 4 inches of snow. We definitely experienced more than 4 inches in only one night.

            If a person has never experienced a spiritual connection to the native history of a place, watching big fat snowflakes fall on the red rocks of Sedona might give them a new perspective.

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            When I was in college, I took a month-long trip to France with 50 other students from all over the United States. One of our stops was at Mont Saint-Michel – an island mountain dedicated to Saint Michael. The architectural and artistic ability of humans is incredibly evident there, and visitors would be hard-pressed to not have some fascination with this prince of angels. More than that, the island sits in a bed of quicksand that becomes completely uncovered and covered by the sea.

            If a person has never had a spiritual connection to saints or angels, watching a tide come in and cover a giant area of sand in only minutes might give them a new perspective.

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            Speaking of Christianity, my dad flew internationally for a while and his trips to Europe typically had a 24-hour layover. On a few lucky occasions, I tagged along on his 24-hour adventures. One such adventure was in Edinburg, Scotland, where we trudged through town, made it to the castle, but didn’t have enough time to go in. On the way back to the hotel, we heard music coming from a cathedral and we gently tried the door. It opened and we went unnoticed by the practicing musician.

            If someone has never had a spiritual connection to God, they might get a new perspective, standing in an empty cathedral in Scotland, listening to the full, cavernous notes of a pipe organ.

            I grew up at an elevation of 8,500 feet, up in the mountains. When I was older, the town put in a movie theater that plays one movie each weekend, on Friday and Saturday nights. Every now and then, there is matinee. A word to the wise – if you plan on watching the Bridge Over the River Kwai in old high school theater seats that were installed 30 years ago, bring a pillow (although, both the seats and movies (usually) are newer now). Many times, I would walk down to the movie and then walk back up the hill to my house when it was over. At the top of a mountain in a small town, there are very few lights to hide the light of the stars.

            If a person has never had a spiritual connection to the cosmos, the moon and the stars and the planets, walking in the mountains in the pitch-dark, looking up to the heavens might just give them a new perspective.

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            I was born under a Capricorn sky. I have seen Mayan temples and I have watered Hibiscus plants for a Hindu neighbor who lived across the street. My great-grandmother read palms. I have been to cowboy church near Saratoga, I have touched the waters of different oceans and even the Great Lake Michigan. In this very room there are Christians and Buddhists and, at least one agnostic polytheist.

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            Wise words say, it is not about the destination, it is about the journey. In my journey, the magic of spirit is in many, many different places along the way.

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P.S. – A special Thank You to Nancy, who always encourages me to share my writing with such inspiring passion!

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Journey

Cutting clouds and broad blue sky

Aboard the jet plane on which I fly

middle seat

butt’s asleep

and three more hours until we arrive

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*Daily Post – Poetry* 

*Journey, Limerick, Alliteration*

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