Wednesday, June 20, 2018


(Typical ancient Pueblo housing.)
A long-time friend from the days I lived in Albuquerque has led one of the most interesting lives of all the people I know. When I first met her, she was a pediatrician traveling to Native American reservations in the area. Remarkably, she was toting an infant carrier with her first-born child on board to all of her appointments! Ruth MacCurdy and I have corresponded with one another for the nearly 50-years since I moved back to Texas. Her life has afforded her many amazing experiences. I don't personally know anyone else who has climbed to the top of a Mexican pyramid, lived in Puerto Rico, was married to a man who worked for the CIA, or experienced such a harrowing trip as the following one she related to me in different emails...and now practices a type of medicine known as craniosacral therapy! (Correct me Ruth, if I have that wrong!) I have almost "hounded" her from time to time to write her memories about this experience. She relayed this to me in bits and pieces as her memory took hold. If I don't have it quite in sequence, it is totally my fault! 

"Most memorable was our trip back to the states on a hospital ship and I have many memories of that. For years we told the story, laughing at the lighthearted jokes my father told to keep some of the other missionaries from worrying. But in the late 90’s I was telling the story to some friends in Mexico and simply could not continue, I was so choked up with the fear and other emotions left over from that trip (that had been submerged for all those 50+ years).

"Although I was only 4-5 I do have a couple of vivid memories and the rest my mother and/or sister filled in...

"In Bangalore sirens went off for air raid practice and we were instructed to get under our seat/tables …..which we learned to do very quickly.

"In Kodaicanal the news brought total panic to the missionaries who immediately evacuated almost to a person. On hearing this (later) I was totally amazed, as Kodaicanal seemed the farthest and almost safest place to me (as Stilwell’s army was pushed back to the border of Assam/India where they held against the Japanese with the help of an Indian army).

"Since my father had been working with the Gandhian nonviolent movement for freedom in the Bangalore area, this was quite concerning to the British 'in charge' of Tamil Nadu, India. As America was an ally in WWII, their hands were essentially 'tied', but they finally sent a deportation notice (which was never found in the records after our return to the States). Our first departure date was delayed as my brother and sister came down with measles. (I have long been convinced – there are no coincidences!!  We later learned the first ship we were to leave on was torpedoed and there were no survivors!)

"If troops were being moved, there was absolutely no room on the trains, but we were soon waved over to a carriage and arms extended to get us on the train thru the windows; with soldiers moving over to make room for us.

"We departed from Bombay in a convoy of two ships (one carried orphans from Europe to Australia and we have since learned how some of them were treated), heavily guarded by battleships, submarines, etc. Our first stop was somewhere along the southern coast of Australia, but we (a mixture of Americans and Europeans) were only allowed to walk up and down a very long pier. After one or two trips back and forth I immediately returned to the ship as I was afraid it would go off without us, and there were no signs of a town or habitation whatsoever. I then worried that they would leave without my father who was not going to miss that exercise. The older boys and men were 'housed' somewhere lower in the ship and the women and younger children on the upper deck. But there were areas of the ship where we met and ate.

(Hospital ship from WWII-Not the one they took.)

"I’m sure they took on water and supplies and then headed for an Island (perhaps Guam) to take on the soldiers who had been evacuated from Guadalcanal. They filled the ship from the bottom to almost the top with wounded sailors.  And there could have even been some in 'bags'.  We ended up going through a 'hurricane', but survived quite well, even if we were sleeping up on deck – fortunately between two big guns – they kept us from washing off

"We (the children) were all watching from the top deck as they filled the whole ship with soldiers, and opened up access for the supplies to be loaded down the middle of the ship – we could see the men on the very lowest deck – looking like ants scurrying around. The soldiers filled the whole dock area and repeatedly kept shouting 'Throw down the children, Throw down the children'. This I did not understand 'til it was explained to me that they hadn’t seen children for two years or more.

"We then headed across the Pacific, not stopping till we reached the States. There were so many soldiers that the mess had to feed all of us in shifts, and all the black soldiers volunteered to be cooks. The officers and crew ate last (women and children ate first), and I made good friends with the officer in charge of the mess, often going back to see what they were eating. One day I asked the lieutenant in charge what something was and was told it was 'pie' -- 'Do you want a taste?' I had been rigidly raised not to eat between meals so I replied I’d have some for lunch. And the next day, everyone was served pie (not just the officers)!!

"Our deck had access via stairs to the lower decks, and it was soon clear that I wasn’t going to stay put on just our deck (and the open deck above). There were MP’s at all the stairways, and they assured Mom that someone would grab me should the ship be attacked (I refused to wear the life jacket everyone was required to wear), and that I would not be harmed! At the end of the day I would return for the night loaded down with candy bars, minus the hair ribbons from my braids. When they were all gone my mother told the MP’s she had to have them back, and they slowly filtered back up the stairs, although a bit shorter.

"Being a doctor, Mom was occasionally consulted re some medical problem (they had medics, but few MD’s), and was taken 'below' to help. I remembered her saying there were two decks of cages, with one man in each so they wouldn’t hurt anyone, and could be monitored so they didn’t hurt themselves. Needless to say, I wasn’t allowed on those decks!

"Two other incidents I remember clearly. A submarine was detected by our convoy and depth charges were 'dropped' – making our ship lean way to one side and then way over to the other side. We happened to be in an area where the civilians could visit, and all the chairs and tables went 'flying and sliding', with a few of the occupants falling over backwards."

What kind of memories do you have from your early years? I have a few from the World War II era, but nothing so dramatic or exciting.

Peace and prayers we never have a WWIII,

Saturday, June 9, 2018


As my regular readers know, (and many of you are accompanying me on this journey) I am an aging grandmother of seven. Lately, I spend much of my time "reminiscing". I love to muse over my favorite life events.. even though I sometimes need a little help with my memory.  I am attempting to recreate some of the stories for my grandchildren, and someday, my great-grandchildren. A lot of my favorites took place in the decade of my fifties. Here are two of them: 

(Joe Sohm/Getty Images)

"I crawled out and fell on the cool earth like a newborn child on the bosom of his mother. . . . Despite my physical depletion, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of peace. I felt like I had gone to the other side of death and returned renewed, refreshed, rebaptized. It was like all the sacraments rolled into one, rising up whole and inseparable from the very center of the earth."...Ken Nerburn, from his book The Wolf at Twilight..An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows

The above quote describes the author's experience in a sweat lodge ceremony. These may be "purification ceremonies" or simply a "sweat".  These were originally used by Native Americans for religious purposes only. Made of simple items, such as branches of trees, they are sometimes covered with animal skins. Inside, water is poured over a hole containing heated stones from outside the hut. Thus, the "sweat" from steam rising up. 

A good friend, Mary Smith Hendricks, who had trained with a local shaman in the methods and rituals of conducting a "sweat", and in  possession of some Native American genes, was to be our leader the night we planned to hold a sweat in the country. She lived at a commune-type place called Rainbow Valley. This was a delightful small community of earth-sheltered homes where some used solar electricity and practiced other methods of living "green". Mary's house even had a compost toilet! 

At dusk, women from our local church, after donating a gift of some kind, gathered in a line outside the tiny entrance to the lodge. It was summer, and I had on a brief cotton romper sunsuit. (We were told in advance that clothing was optional. I thought my outfit would be "cool". So much for understanding a sweat!) My friend behind me asked if I were going to wear that when I went inside. I said, "Yes, why?" She answered, "Marilyn, this is a ceremony of "rebirth". (The lodge represented a womb.) Do you want to be reborn with clothes on?" I quickly looked around and immediately stepped out of my clothing. After all, this was not a co-ed sweat as I had heard some were.

Many experiences were felt by those of us in attendance.. all were meaningful, and even mind-expanding. I don't recall any expressing their experience with such eloquence as the above quote. Some could not take the heat, and even had to lean on another.. but none wished to exit before the others.

As I recalled the memories of that night, I contacted Mary for a little more information. (I wish I had a picture of the lodge.) Mary is my go-to for lots of esoteric information, and even for some of her herbal concoctions when my skin is in need of healing. She and her daughter Heather are both herbalists, often appearing at Renaissance Faires and such to sell their wares. In the intervening years since our sweat lodge was held, Mary has joined FEMA as a disaster assistance employee, and met and married her husband Jaye. She answered my latest request thus:

"George (her son-in-law) and I built it. We covered it with blankets and then an old army tarp. Normally a lodge has four main ribs going across each direction and four around to the opening. And then smaller branches to fill in. Somehow, we ended up just putting three ribs around and a circle at the top. I was told by a shaman friend that we had joined the forces of Indian and Celtic traditions when we did that!

The token gifts were to honor spirit and to support the lodge. Kinda like what one does when one gives money at church.

Technically, we had 13-virgins in that lodge (womyn who had never been in a sweat lodge) plus two that had. So, to bring in that type of energy was a blessing. 

Heather was the keeper of the fire, and George was our guardian (at a distance). Plus, we had two drummers to hold the heartbeat."

This took place in the 90s. I told my children about it, and my daughter seemed to be shocked that we went into the lodge in the nude. For some reason that stuck in her mind. 


Not too long after, this same group of  women met at my "cabin in the woods" that I called The Barn. We gathered indoors in a circle, with Mary again being the leader of what is known as a "smudge"...another Native American ritual used to "purify or bless people or things" with burning herbs such as a sage bundle. After the burning sage was passed around, we then passed around a "talking stick" for each to add their own blessings or needs for purification. Although Mary is of Native American heritage, and is very devout in her use of such rituals, it is a controversial thing to hold these circles. To call our experiences "New Age" would be a more accurate description.

(The Barn)

We had gathered at The Barn this night to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of our members. In attendance was a woman who practiced Wicca. (Another New Age ritual practiced by some.) Even though the majority of us were Christian in practice, this was a "croning" ceremony, designed to invoke spiritual reflection, dignity and wisdom. It is an ancient pagan rite of passage to honor older women. Croning ceremonies have become nearly extinct, but they're making a comeback. And they were going mainstream as there were so many "baby boomers" reaching age 50 and older.

After the smudge, we grouped outdoors in a line. The birthday girl sat in the center of the flagstone patio surrounded by trees, while our Wicca celebrant, wearing a crown of English ivy and a flowing dress, circled her, chanting "Magic is afoot". She invited us to chant along with her as we entered the patio and circled around as well. For most of us this was a new (and only) experience of this sort. Some of us even giggled at the site of middle-aged women "dancing in the moonlight".

Though I lived in the middle of woods, I had neighbors who were close enough on the other side of my drive to hear our chants. Since they had a two-story house, they could look down upon our celebration. I noticed their lights coming on, and knew that they were watching. I wondered what on earth they might be thinking. I had lived there many years before they built their house. We never became good friends. After this night, that surely wasn't going to happen!

We returned indoors where we held a guided meditation to a video tape I had made of the late John Bradshaw's series "Healing the Inner Child" on PBS. This particular meditation was titled "Finding Your Wild One." I tried to locate a copy of the music, and Mr. Bradshaw told me I was correct that the title of the song was "Thunder Drums". He said, "It is one of the most powerful backgrounds to certain meditations." Since that time, many who attended have asked me about the music. It was, indeed, powerful. And a perfect way to end our celebrations that night. The following video is the closest I could find to the rendition we heard. I am not certain if these are the same artists, but it is a great performance. It is rather lengthy, but listen to even a portion of it and be transported!

Afterwards, some described their experiences during the meditation. One woman manifested "goat feet" so she could climb a mountain! Another shared that she "had a very wild-looking African banshee as her wild inner child". After all these years, I can still hear the drum beats as they got faster and faster. I was dancing around a campfire, going as fast as the drums, until my body glistened with sweat. Was my inner wild child still longing to be a dancer? "...Dance was not merely corporal movement, but also the connection between humans and the gods. They danced for the harvest, fertilization, fun, thanks and most especially for communication and understanding among members of that society..." The Representations of Dance: A Sociological Analysis by J. Medina  Aha!
Of course, I had to tell my curious daughter about that evening as well! Many years later something brought up those experiences in a conversation I had with her. She said she repeated stories about this last night to her friends through the years, saying that all of the women at The Barn participated in the outdoor ceremony in the nude. I nearly choked laughing at this. When I could speak again, I corrected her. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed, "I've been telling that story for years, and I always said you all were dancing in the nude!" She had confused this with the "sweat lodge" story.

No wonder my son Craig always called me his "hippie Mom"!

Peace, love, and good memories to you all,