I have been so blessed and at times challenged by our world, yet despite the best and worst experiences, the inner song of who I am and why I came here has guided me, around the world and back again.
Many years ago I lived and worked with traditional Native American Elders. I learned very quickly that the old ones have a power, a secret and a deep understanding that only comes with living to an old age. Sadly, in the west, our Elders are not often respected but seen as burdons. I have visited nursing homes to see our Elders drugged and wheeled in front of a TV and then fed a sugar-rich, plastic diet. Yet all Elders have enormous wisdom for us, if we could get out of the way, listen and learn!
I have written three books about my "writing" adventures as a journalist in northern Canada, through to Arizona. "Wolf Trail * Kachina * Ghost MountainThe final segment of Ghost Mountain ends with my arrival in Australia at the end of 1988. I had just experienced a rather weird interview with the Libyan leader, Ghadaffi and he had his "people" put me on a plane to Australia rather than back to Canada. I landed here hoping to return to "regular" journalism, but found I could no longer fit into the role and became a freelance writer once again because I had changed internally so much.
My writing adventures in Australia in the early 1990s were not nearly as dramatic as my Canadian adventures, but I did meet some amazing people and several Aboriginal Elders. One Elder, although not Aboriginal, honoured the traditional people of this land. He was William Ricketts, the founder of the Ricketts Sanctuary in the Dandenongs. I interviewed him for a magazine article (around 1990) and he personally escorted me around the Sanctuary explaining the various sculptures.
He was 93 at the time, but still very strong and quick on his feet. The sanctuary was, and still is, amazing with the various sculptures nestled in the soft green ferns, down little meandering pathways. They are an homage to the Aboriginal people with whom William spent many years living and working. We had a lot in common and so we chatted for a while. He invited me to his home for tea and I discovered that he lived in a one-room shack inside the Sanctuary. The one room was kitchen, living room and bedroom all in one, with a small shower bathroom outside.
I sat down at his kitchen table and as he made me a cup of tea, I noticed his wardrobe door was open, I smiled to myself as I noted that every item of clothing he owned was a shade of green, clearly his favourite colour!
Like so many spiritual people, including the many Native American Indian elders I had interviewed years before, he had become a blend of "male/female" energies. You see this in all great spiritual wise-ones from every culture. When any person steps into their eternal truth, their soul reflects the profound unity with the oneness of God. This unity or blending literally transforms the body, and of course, oneness has no gender. I saw this manifestation in Margaret Olly, the great Australian painter. She too had become more masculine with age, and blended into a genderless self.
The Elders who had taught me, particularly as they grew older, also expressed this oneness. I have several photos of them up on my site and many of you have had difficulty working out who is Grandmother and who is Grandfather!
William Ricketts lived humbly amongst his sculptures. He was happy in his one-room shack with a little stove in the corner, an electric kettle and a small wooden wardrobe with a dozen green jumpers and hats. He told me that as a young man he was very lost and it was the Aboriginal tribes of central Australia who helped him find his soul. He discovered his soul in the breathtakingly beautiful Australian desert and now in the sleepy Dandenongs, amongst the tree-ferns and soft green gums he was repaying them with these sculptures and the beautiful garden.
He was content. I could see no ache in his eye or feel any striving or wishfulness in his soul. Tea in a chipped mug and his window overlooked his beloved sculptures. He was clearly in bliss because he had come to terms with soul, and this is the journey we all need to contemplate. William Ricketts died a few years later but his sanctuary is still there. If you have never visited it, I highly recommend it.
The following is the article I wrote for the Magazine: Nature and Health, in 1990. The photos (slides!) are mine, taken at the time.
"Could disasters such as Bhopal, Chernobyl and the gassing of innocent Kurds in Iraq indicate the future for mankind? We ready daily that pollution levels are rising and our forest are dying. Coupled with dire prophesies from the Christian movement and proponents of Nostradamus, it makes for a depressing future. It is, perhaps, little wonder that today's children do not see themselves reaching the age of 30.
A Sanctuary in stone: While many people point fingers in blame, or just submit, others look to possible solutions. William Ricketts of the Ricketts Sanctuary in the Dandenong Mountains near Melbourne, admits feeling somewhat depressed and says our present situation has been created because we have pulled away from our roots.
"Mother Earth is the ultimate healer. We only have to look at the Aborigine to see he lived in balance with the earth," says the 93-year-old sculptor. "We have to learn from all aboriginals -- they can show us how to live."
Ricketts quotes North American Indian Chief Seattle's famous letter to President Franklin Pierce in 1854: "You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the sons of man. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves." Of his sanctuary Ricketts adds: "This is where talk stops and vision begins.">
But the vexing question of our future looms...Is there an alternative? Can we create the future we want?
Native American Wisdom:
North American Indian prophecies are remarkably similar to those quoted from the Bible or other famous mystics, with one striking difference, North American prophecies indicate a choice, a forked path whereby mankind can alter his direction.
American Indian spiritual worker Sun Bear, quotes Hopi Indian prophecies recorded by church workers in the 17th century. Still practicing their unique traditions on their Arizona reservation, the Hopi say mankind has lived in three worlds and each was destroyed by flood and we are now living in the fourth world with three more to come.
The Hopi are awaiting the second coming of a "true white brother" who will bring sacred stone tablets and two other Great Ones, at least one of whom will be female. When this occurs the time of purification will be near. The powerful ones will shake the Earth twice and the Earth will fall with the second shake. Other aspects of their prophecies include strange weapons that modern scientists interpret as nuclear or poison gas weapons. However, unlike Western prophecies, the Hopi are adamant these disasters can be avoided through re-evaluating and redefining our lives.
Emily Parker, a Melbourne-based healer, works with Aboriginal methods. She says there are things we can all do to define our future and heal the planet. "So often we waste energy by opposing or hating what we see as 'bad' An example will be militant opponents of logging who scream obscenities at their 'enemies" the loggers. Why not love what there is? Hate only creates more negativity -- love the trees we have."
Another action we can all take is to dance. Dancing with music or without gets rid of inhibitions. It liberates the self and brings us all closer to the primitive and therefore to the Earth. Even when you are doing mundane activities like hanging out the washing or folding clothes -- dance! Acknowledge the inner dance.
The next step is to learn to enjoy life's changes; so many of us cling to the familiar. Take courage, be different. Refuse to use plastic bags and continue to wear old-fashioned clothes rather than consume at a fevered pace.
As you become closer to the Earth you may choose to purchase a drum and begin to thoughtfully create Earth vibrations. The drum is the most ancient of instruments. Often likened to the Earth's heartbeat. It can help centre us and make us feel more connected to the Earth.
The first step to learning lessons from Nature, says author Judith Boise, is to ask who your neighbours are. This includes all the 'none-people' such as trees, birds and animals. Learn all is one and without just one of these elements, the rest are harmed. Humans are capable of deep listening, once we overcome the conceptual barrier that language is the only form of communication.
One simple exercise to find a plant, stone or seed, anything that catches your interest. Find a quiet spot, place the object in your palm and sit quietly for at least ten minutes. Imagine your body is made of butter and melting in the sun. Feel your breath moving into tight spots in the body and release any tension. Gently focus your eyes and attention on the object in your hand. If you want to deepen the connection, visualize breathing the object in and out of the centre of the chest. The heart Chakra. When you first practice this, five minutes will seem like a long time. Gradually lengthen your listening times as you feel ready.
Do not sit back and say we are destined for destruction. Healing the planet starts with the individual. Heal yourself and you heal those around you. the future of the world lies in your hands.
Suggested Reading: The Book of the Hopi, Frank Waters.
At One with life, by Judith Boice.
The Bear Tribe's Self Reliance Book, by Sun Bear and Wabun.
First published in Nature & Health in 1991