Foreign Nationals

October 24, 2018

“When people rely on surface appearances and false racial stereotypes,
rather than in-depth knowledge of others at the level of the heart,
mind and spirit, their ability to assess and understand people
accurately is compromised.” – Rev. James A. Forbes (retired pastor)


If I remember correctly, it was around 2006 when Ireland saw the arrival of 150,000 Polish immigrants. Known as “foreign nationals,” they were welcomed by some and not by others.

A Dublin taxi driver complained to me that crazy foreign nationals were now driving taxis. They not only got lost and created traffic hazards, they took the jobs from hard working Irish men. A tour bus driver told me that soon there would be foreign nationals serving as tour guides. “Imagine,” he said, “taking your groups around Ireland with a Pakistani driver.” A friend who works in the tourist industry complained that foreign nationals were taking hotel jobs away from hard working Irish nationals.

During that window of time, when the Irish economy was thriving, I had only pleasant taxi drivers and wonderful Irish bus drivers. But I did notice a difference at the various hotels. Most obvious was a language barrier. For example, I wanted to ship a box of gifts home to Oregon so I didn’t have to lug them around. I inquired at the front desk of my Dublin hotel. After several minutes of research, a very polite Polish man told me that the nearest UPS store was in a suburb of Dublin, perhaps a 20-minute taxi drive away. I stepped outside feeling frustrated because this didn’t seem right to me. Suddenly, around the corner came my bus driver. “Hey. There’s a UPS store just around the corner. Shall I carry your box for you?” Yep, the language barrier would have cost me dearly, both in time and money. But there’s another foreign national story that haunts me to this day.

My group of 22 women was staying at a lovely country hotel in the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. Every hotel worker I met that year was from Poland. As a tour group, we were required to dine together, alone in a banquet room taking up several tables. There appeared to be only one waiter for us. A young man, tall and thin, likely Polish, tried to describe the dinner menu. I could see some of my travelers getting a little antsy. The beverage and bread course took several minutes to arrive, with a variety of mix-ups. Now more women in my group were getting annoyed. In whispered voices I heard things like:

“He can’t speak English. Why is he here?”
“This is bad business-. They should hire someone who knows what he’s doing.”
“Maybe they should stick with hiring Irish people, or at least people who speak English.”

I understood the annoyances, yet something didn’t sit well with me. Were we reducing a live human being to an ethnic stereotype? I found myself sitting quietly and just observing our waiter and my travelers. Although I knew our diners weren’t happy with the dining experience, I told them I would speak with the manager, and, they should still leave a tip. “Remember, we are guests in this country.”

When everyone had departed, I stayed around in hopes of speaking with the young man. He emerged from the kitchen, looking very sad and despondent. I apologized to him for my group’s impatience. He replied with a weak smile and shrug of his shoulders. After a long pause, I very gently asked, “Are you okay?”

Suddenly his head dropped as his shoulders drooped. I could barely make out his reply. “I got word this morning that my father in Poland died and I cannot go home to be with my family.” We both stood there in silence. All I could do was be his witness.

I see you.
I hear you.
I believe you.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be seen, heard and believed? Whether we are U.S. born, Irish born or a foreign national from wherever? I think about appearances with the immigration stresses in our country. Someone can appear one way—as a clumsy waiter—but underneath the appearance can be something vastly different—a real live human being with a broken heart. I think too about the millions of Celtic immigrants to the U.S., including my Connolly ancestors from Ireland and McKern ancestors from Scotland. Unless we are Native American, we are a nation of immigrants. As my grandfather-in-law, of German heritage, said on his death bed, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Have a listen to one of my favorite Irish ballads. Imagine what immigrant songs are in the hearts of those currently trying to come peacefully to the U.S.

Immigrant‘s Song Daniel O’Donnell – Cutting the Corn in Creeslough (County Donegal)

Are you a witch?

October 8, 2018


“When change cometh, she will bring peace at her back. She will not bend to your will; you must bend to hers.” ― Adriana Mather, How to Hang a Witch


There’s a rumor in my neighborhood that I’m a witch. At first, I laughed. And then, for a few days, I got scared and paranoid. I wanted to hide. I wanted to move away. I wanted to feel safe in unsafe times. For many of us, these are unsafe times. Yet hiding and moving won’t solve anything nor will it protect me. I wonder, is this how our burned-at-the-stake ancestors felt? That their very lives were on the line simply because they were spiritual women living outside the box of Christianity?

Women who never married nor entered the convent?
Women who walked outside at night without an escort?
Women who gathered under the full moon to share and commune?
Women who could take away the pain of childbirth?
Women who were midwives to the newly living and recently departed?
Women who had cats or warts on their noses?
Women who were just being women living under the pressure of patriarchy?

A dozen years ago, in late October, a group of friends and I put together a ritual theatre performance titled “They Called Them Witches.” The intention was to help heal the witches’ holocaust. All involved, mostly women and a few men, were dramatically changed by the experience, as was the audience. The research was stunning and sobering. So many were put to death for ignorant reasons. The creative pieces expressing the angst of real witch hunts inspired us to carry on our vision of a world that is safe for all women, including those who identify as witches. Wise women who know, embrace and express both the Light and the Dark, free of labels and senseless accusations. Are we currently in danger of another witches’ holocaust?

According to the dictionary a holocaust is, “… a great or complete  devastation or  destruction, especially by fire.”

Use of the word in reference to innocent women being burned at the stake–or drowned or tortured–in no way diminishes what we know as The Holocaust in Nazi Germany. Yet it applies to the Burning Times. How did this all come about? According to one source, “Historians believe the accused witches were victims of mob mentality, mass hysteria and scapegoating.” I add – women who were/are victims of idle gossip and speculation.

I propose that we are again living in a Burning Time—of distrust, paranoia and judgment. Does anyone really feel safe anymore? Safe to be who you are, at home and in public. To state our opinions, whether reflecting the Left or the Right, or the Light or the Dark. To have governance over our bodies. To have a say if we want to be touched or not. To have equal pay for equal work in a safe workplace. To live without fear of condemnation for just being a woman. Ultimately, to live without fear that someone could take your life because they think you are something they don’t understand.

From the King James Bible, Exodus 22:18: “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live.”

Check out these alternate versions:

Do not allow a Sorceress to live.
Death is the punishment for witchcraft.
Put to death any woman who practices magic.
Never let a witch live.
A witch thou dost not keep alive.

Can you see why I actually felt fear when I heard two separate comments referring to me as a witch? I’m glad to say that the fear has passed. If we are living in another time of burning, then let’s burn away ignorance, distrust and separation. Let’s burn away accusations, judgments and persecution. Stop the gossip and idle conversation that diminishes rather than uplifts our spirits. Instead, let’s burn with excitement over our personal freedom and the future of our beloved United States of America. We the People. All people. Even witches. Let it be so.

For the record. I have been asked over the years if I am a witch. This is my reply. “No, I’m not a witch. But I’m also not Lutheran, but sometimes I do Lutheran things.”



Stay tuned for news of a Witchy Flash Mob coming to a corner near you!!! For inspiration, check out this video that makes the rounds every October. Doesn’t it make you want to dress up and dance?!
Wolfshäger Hexenbrut Walpurgis Wolfshagen im Harz

I Don’t Know

September 24, 2018

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”
~ Isaac Asimov 


When I was in ministry school in the early 1990’s, our class had a lengthy dialogue about what to say when called into people’s lives at critical moments. This could be the loss of a job, a severe injury, death of a pet, or the sudden or lingering dying process of a child, or parent, or partner. What do we say when the one suffering turns to us, asking, “Why is this happening?”

One faction in our group said we must explain that God is a part of this, so therefore we must put our trust in God. The other faction disagreed, saying the best response is, “I don’t know.” Because, in truth, we don’t know why this is happening–if we stay in the mental realms of thinking. Once we soften and move to the heart, the respectful response is, “I don’t know, but I will walk with you as more is revealed.” In other words, assuring the one undergoing great stress, “I’ve got your back.”

The term originated in military combat. The ones who stay behind in the foxhole shoot to distract the enemy while one soldier dashes out of hiding. Through The Anam Cara Journey, it has been revealed to me that the declaration, “I’ve got your back,” is also metaphysical. An affirmation to remind us that we are never alone. Learning to value the heart as much as the head is my life’s journey. And, I’m not talking about just the front of the heart. The heart chakra radiates through the entire upper chest, including both the front, solar body, and the back, lunar body. Both are integral for whole-heart thinking. The Sanskrit word for the 4th heart chakra is Anahata. It’s meaning is unstruck, oftentimes described as “the sound made by two things not striking.” Ponder that a moment!

I can tell you to your face that I’m here for you. But, better yet, I can show you that I’m here for you in ways you cannot see. That is, by honoring the back of the heart that is invisible to the one suffering. A gentle touch and soft whisper can help us remember that there are many sources of healing at work, always seeking our good. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So when I whisper to an anam cara, my soul friend, “I’ve got your back,” I’m reminding them that they are never alone. There’s a council of ancestors, angels and soul friends right behind them. All they have to do is remember, lean back a little, and allow the mantle of Infinite Love to embrace them.

When we embrace this as Truth, then the words “I don’t know” can bring comfort rather than strife. And, a reminder that we’re all in this together.

“I Don’t Know” 4:27


September 10, 2018

“…all bubbles have a way of bursting or being deflated in the end.”
~ Barry Gibb

Both of my feet have injuries, enough to require splints and constant wearing of sturdy walking shoes. It feels confining and restricting, as well as safe and secure. What bubbles up in the space between are lingering feelings of sadness and sorrow related to my feet.

I so wanted to be a ballerina, having started dance lessons at age five. My teacher wouldn’t let us dance “on pointe” until we were 16. This was for protection of the development of our bones. I will never forget my first pointe class. I showed up early with my shiny, new pink toe shoes. We were instructed by older dancers on how to put them on–stuffing lamb’s wool in the toe area, and then tying them correctly with the equally shiny pink ribbons.

Class began with the usual amount of warm up. I pictured myself as a member of the Joffrey Ballet, equal to the world’s best ballerinas. I remember well the moment when we faced the ballet barre, our knees bent in soft first position plie’. Our teacher called out, “Plie, releve’,” which meant rise to our toes. The bubble of anticipation burst with the first stab of excruciating pain. My hands clutched the warm-up barre in a death grip, as I tried again and again to rise with ease. Each time the pain worsened. When it was time to step away from the barre and move across the floor, I simply could not do it. But, oh, how I tried!

I struggled for a few more weeks, until my teacher asked for a meeting with my mom and me. She told me that my feet were not made for toe dancing. Although I was trim weight wise, my growing-into-womanhood body was stocky, and out of proportion needed for a ballerina. My heart was broken. I get teary remembering, especially right now with pain in both feet. The first bubble of my life’s desire burst. The sadness and sorrow was awful.

I eventually rose above the perceived tragedy under the mentoring of a savvy teacher. She helped me see that there were many forms of dance in which I could excel. Soon I became more of a “show dancer,” thriving in modern dance and musical theatre. I learned to turn the world on with my smile, and not rely on what my body can or cannot do.

I’ve come to see that life is full of desires that form a bubble of anticipation. Some of those bubbles take flight, and some just hover. In the end, every bubble will burst. What I do with that is in my hands and not my feet.

Father Ian

August 24, 2018


“Live by the trinity of what is true, good and beautiful.”
Alexandra Stoddard, philosopher of contemporary living


During my spring 2011 Ireland tour, I wandered into a contemporary Catholic church in the center of a thriving beach town in Co. Sligo. I was stunned to find the triple spiral everywhere. On the doors and the floor, even carved into the backs of every chair. Oh, how I would love to have those chairs at my dining room table! Later that day our B&B host said that she was so intrigued by my website that she invited her priest to come meet me. Now, being Irish but not Catholic, I felt a rush of fear. The priest is coming for me!!!

That evening I was introduced to Father Ian, a congenial fellow in his early 40s. He was a bit guarded in sharing. I thought talking about the church with the spirals would be a safe conversation. I told him that I thought it bold to have a pagan symbol throughout a Catholic church. He said it is not a pagan symbol, it is the Sligo Cross. (I had to laugh—a county in Ireland has claimed a 5,000-year old stone carving as their cross.)

I went on to say that I see the triple spiral as a more contemporary trinity, more fluid, freeing me from the traditional linear and patriarchal Christian cross. Father Ian, with hands clasped behind his back, leaned into me and added, “The Christian trinity is fluid as well.” I agreed, and then suddenly spurted out that seeing Jesus bloody and dying on the cross frightened me as a child. He was up there because of me. It was my fault because I am a sinner. And now I’m supposed to offer my prayers to him?!

After a pause, somewhat startled by my own passion, to Father Ian I calmly said, “The cross has not been comforting to me, but the triple spiral has.” I went on to say that, for me, a contemporary version of the trinity is Heavenly Father, Earthly Mother, Beloved I Am. It’s how I find my place within Christianity. I affirm this in prayer every morning. It brings me a measure of comfort that I previously did not experience with the traditional trinity and cross.

I was impressed to learn that there were three churches in Father Ian’s tiny village—his Catholic church, an Anglican (protestant) church, and the third a mainstream Christian church. Add to the mix that this priest had replaced a pedophile priest in this small parish. Father Ian had called together meetings and shared worship services with the three religious communities, with great joy and success. He urged me to let him know when my next tour group comes to his area, as he would like to host a special interfaith mass with us. Perhaps the triple spiral really is the Sligo cross!

A few years after meeting Father Ian, I took him up on his offer to bring my Anam Cara Tour group to his parish and share in worship with the three local churches. I was surprised to hear from the owner of the B&B that Father Ian had, sadly so, left the church. Seems he met a woman and they had married. I like to think that the triple spiral dialogue had something to do with that.

The blueprint for the Anam Cara Journey 9-month program for women is the Triple Spiral. Think of it as the archetypal yellow brick road, delivering you to your own personal Oz. There you find out that, like Dorothy and her friends, you had along the power within. There’s still time to register for the next circle, beginning Sept. 8th, mentored by Rev. Kathleen. All details are on under Mentoring. Be sure to scroll down and discover Rev. Beth Astarte’s next Anam Cara Journey for women exploring sacred sensuality and sexuality.


August 9, 2018

“If you’re stuck in the past, you go forward in reverse” 
― Josh Stern, author


One of my teachers in Ireland often speaks of the “causeway.” Perplexed, and with a tour group in tow, I asked what he meant.

In times gone by, the approach from the road to a bridge was often land that was marshy and muddy. This is in sharp contrast to modern roads and bridges, which usually deliver us from dry pavement directly to the bridge and beyond.

The old causeways must have been difficult to negotiate. Picture yourself on a definite path, with a bridge ahead in clear focus. You know you will cross that bridge and travel on to your destination, but first you must figure out how to move through the mud.

It is my belief that many spiritual seekers get caught in the causeway. Whether the source is ancestral beliefs, dysfunctional family patterns, or society’s idea of who and what we should be, it’s easy to get stuck. The causeway can throw us off balance, sometimes forcing us to retreat back to safe ground, sometimes paralyzing us. With a clear picture that the bridge ahead will deliver us to our spiritual destinations, what will it take for you to move through the causeway?

One time, in a dream, I found myself trying to get from dry land to a house filled with friends from my earlier days in community theatre. The mud was wet and thick, and the area it covered would require a bit of planning. I was not wearing proper shoes for such an endeavor. Suddenly, one of my actor friends came out of the house and beckoned me over. I shouted, “I’m stuck in the mud!” He told me to move through it quickly, as that would be easier. I started to follow his advice only to get sucked in deeper. I stopped and looked down. The mud was now up to my knees. My friend called out, “You’d better not stop. It’s not mud you’re stuck in. It’s shit!” With that, I picked up my feet, swiftly disengaged from the stinky poo and landed gracefully on the other side.

Do you see the metaphor? When I’m stuck in the causeway, it’s because it’s a familiar place. I can see the dry land of safety behind me and the bridge of promise before me. Only I can make the decision to return or to move ahead. Remembering the dream, I remember that the poop is not my waste. It’s from somewhere else. I don’t belong there. When we realize that, it’s easy to take that leap of faith and move gracefully towards my destiny. Sometimes with the help of an anam cara, a friend of my soul.

Edges Have Ruffles

July 12, 2018

“If you’re not living on the edge,
you’re taking up too much room.”
~African Proverb


Are you, like me, feeling ruffled at the edge of all that’s happening in the United States and around the world? Our borders are invisible edges that some say immigrants have crossed illegally. The cages placed around the displaced immigrant children create sharp edges. The young Thai boys caught in the cave had to negotiate many rough edges in order to be safely rescued.

Many times in my life I have been called to “the edge,” that universal place of great discomfort that hovers between what was and what is becoming. That place where we are symbolically “living in the leap.” We have let go of one trapeze, made the turn in the air, and yet not quite grasping hold of the second trapeze. Do we want to go there? Probably not. Do we have to go there? Yes, if we are to live a fully actualized life of purpose.

One of the world’s most brilliant edges is at Dun Aonghusa, a 3,500-year old promontory ringed fort on the west side of Inis Mor off the west coast of Ireland. After the half-mile hike up to Dun Aonghusa, pilgrims are beckoned to cross through two stone walls. The inner most wall reveals a stone platform, with a 320 foot sheer drop off the edge into the Atlantic Ocean. I have been blessed by visiting this edge on three occasions, each time having a different experience.

In May of 2000 I traveled to Ireland for a month-long solo pilgrimage of the soul. Recovering from a broken ankle, it took me a while to negotiate the rocky path up to Dun Aonghusa. Upon arrival at the inner stone wall, I was met by blazing sun and strong winds. Much too unstable to approach the edge, I stood at a distance watching others perform an ancient ritual. Locals say you must crawl on your belly to approach the edge. This is for safety, and for respect of the spirits of the land. More than one cocky tourist has been swept over the edge, only to meet an untimely and visibly traumatic death. I should also note that this has been the site of more than one suicide. Not wanting to play in either of those realms, I stood safely back and just watched. This was a wise decision, yet also showed me how in many ways I have risked my own adventure by just watching others—vicariously living through others rather than living my own destiny.

My second visit to Dun Aonghusa was in May 2002 while guiding my first sacred site tour to Ireland. With 22 pilgrims following my lead, and with healthy bones this time, I enacted the ancient ritual. It was again sunny, only this time there was no breeze. It was amazingly calm, which helped steady my nerves. A bit shaky, I knelt down, crawled on my hands and knees, and took myself to the literal edge. How exhilarated I felt by looking down the steep drop-off! The water below was churning spirals of green and blue. The puffins were dancing on the air, the sun blessing us all. I even performed a yoga posture—the Cobra—right at the very edge. By first going to the edge myself, I welcomed others to join me. Some could, some could not. This time I learned that each time I take a risk, it not only and empowers me, it empowers others.

May 2006 found me once again on retreat on Inis Mor, and once again I was blessed by sunshine. My walk up to Dun Aonghusa was a brisk one this time, totally trusting where the path would lead. The third visit gave me confidence in the familiar. It was interesting to note that, although the breeze was mild, not one of perhaps 50 tourists was at the edge. I gauged whether this was for a proper reason and decided perhaps they just needed permission. About 20 feet from the edge, I once again dropped to my knees. Saying a silent prayer, I crawled on my hands and knees to the same edge I had visited twice before—the first time as a by-stander, the second time as a hesitant participant. Looking down this time felt like a welcoming home.

Later that morning, relaxing in the soft sun and warm breeze, I opened my journal to begin writing. I was stunned to read a dream from the night before:

Dream, night of 5-11-06

I’m in the driver’s seat of a car high up in a parking garage. There are no barriers around the edges of each level. I am slowly moving forward towards an edge, and cannot figure out how to stop the car. It is on a forward moving path with no option to turn. I frantically try to find reverse, while the car continues to roll towards the edge. I feel panic knowing I will go over the edge and die if I don’t find reverse. At the very last moment, with the car perched precariously on the edge, I find reverse and the car stops. I wake up not knowing if I stopped in time.

Even recalling the dream brings about a sense of dread. But, in truth, it is excitement I feel. I have the knowing and the know-how, and now the confidence to bring the two together. That’s what I wrote 12 years ago.

So here I sit today, at the edge of the New Moon and Eclipse, reflecting on the edge I visited in Ireland many years ago. What does it mean to me today with the many rough edges swirling around me? Am I just going to stand back and watch others come to the edge? Will I remember to pray and take action that is, first, a safe step, and, second, necessary in order to facilitate change? What will I see if I muster up the courage to come to the edge of all that is happening in the world? If I come to the edge, will the feeling of being ruffled go away?

“Listen to the wind,” an inner voice sings to me. “The winds of change are at hand. Let nothing ruffle you. We are ready. Come to the edge and you will see.”

John Denver, “Windsong”


June 27, 2018


“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi


A friend recently posted the Desiderata on Facebook. I hadn’t heard it since the 1970s. I was stunned by how it resonates today. Please take a moment and read these profound words. Take them not only into your heart, but out into the world. Even in these senseless times, we can make a difference by staying open—in mind and heart—to new possibilities. We are one, and we’re all in this together.



Desiderata (Latin, “The things wanted, needed, or necessary”)
Max Ehrmann, 1872-1945

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.


Desiderata with vocals

Great website to learn more about Mr. Ehrmann:

For Father’s Day

June 13, 2018

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”
William Shakespeare

We always had a dog when I was a kid, usually mutts dropped off at the fire station where our dad worked. When my younger brother Dave and I were both in junior high, he got to pick out the next family dog from a litter at another firefighter’s house. This was our first pure bred dog, a beagle that Dave named Duke. He was a sweet and feisty little dog, a perfect companion for a sweet and feisty little boy.

One warm night in September 1963, I was at home practicing the saxophone as a dutiful member of the 7th grade band. My older sister was a ballet class. Mom was cleaning up after dinner. Dad was on duty at the fire department. My two brothers were enjoying a romp through the neighborhood with their friends, and our beloved dog Duke. He was a typical Beagle, frisky and friendly to a fault, and clearly belonged to Dave.

As I tooted on the sax, I recall hearing the back door fly open and Dave screaming, “Mom, Duke got hit by a car!” I dropped the sax while mom dropped the dish towel, and together we ran outside. My older brother had Duke’s limp body in his arms. The dog looked like he was asleep, except for a tiny trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth.

“Mom,” Dave cried,” we’ve got to take him to Daddy.” Mom reminded Dave that Dad was on duty at the fire station and shouldn’t be interrupted unless it was an emergency.

Dave looked at Mom, with this own puppy eyes, now wide with terror, and begged, “Please, can’t we take him to see Daddy?” Mom agreed that this was a true emergency.

Dave got an old plastic dish pan into which our older brother, Mike, gently placed Duke’s body. We were all shedding silent tears, except for Dave. He kept talking to Duke in a soothing and supporting voice, while stroking his still warm body. “We’re going to go see Daddy. He’ll know what to do. Everything’s going to be all right. You’ll see. Daddy can fix it.”

Mike drove into the alley behind the fire station where only families were allowed. One of Dad’s fellow firefighters came bouncing out, wearing a grin that quickly faded into a grimace. He disappeared into the station while we got out of the car. Dave was carrying the turquoise dishpan that held Duke’s lifeless but still warm body. Soon my Dad came out to meet us. The other three on-duty firefighters, all family friends, stood behind him. No one said a word. It was like time stood still.

Dave broke the silence when he held the dishpan up to Dad. “Daddy, can you fix him?” Silence. Complete silence.

“Daddy, isn’t there something you can do? Anything?” More silence. The wind even stopped. No one dared speak.

Arthur “Bud” McKern, second row left

“Please, Daddy, please. Can’t you do anything?” Silence ruled again, until a small bubble welled up in Dave’s throat, unleashing a wave of sobs. That’s when I saw the first tear fall from my father’s eyes.

He stood in stillness; one hand on Dave’s heaving shoulder, the other touching Duke’s lifeless body. Dad’s tear-filled eyes were on Dave’s face, now contorted by the ravages of grief. There was nothing my father could do but stand as Silent Witness to the harsh reality of life. His little boy’s heart was breaking, and he simply allowed it. No fixing. No rescuing. No miracles. Just witnessing—in silence, in gratitude, in love. We all belonged to the moment.

My older brother gently took the dishpan out of Dave’s hands, as Dad welcomed the sad little boy into his strong arms. There they stood, that warm September night, father and son, weeping together in recognition of the joys and sorrows that come with life. I saw the other three firefighters wipe a few tears, a supportive back-up team for everyone present. Dad was there for Dave, and would always be there for him, and for all of us. We belonged as a family that night, sharing a common loss. Mom was silent as well and knew that she had to be strong for all of us, especially Dave.

As Father’s Day approaches, I again reflect on the bittersweet story from my childhood. For me, it reflects the essence of why the church fathers called the supreme being Father God. They imbued in Him the highest qualities of all fathers. God doesn’t fix things. God simply witnesses and reminds us that we are loved, cherished and supported, and that we are never alone. Thank you, Dad, Dave and Duke for reminding me.


May 29, 2018


The horse is an archetypal symbol which will always
find ways to stir up deep and moving ancestral memories
in every human being.

~ Paul Mellon, American philanthropist and an owner/breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. 

The year 2006 was my third Ireland tour and my third post-tour pilgrimage to Inis Mor. It’s the largest of the three tiny Aran Islands hovering off the West Coast of Ireland. I encountered a horse there that would reawaken in me an ancient memory of who and what I am. A woman of power, strength and dignity.

Each evening during my solo retreat I took myself on a walk down a narrow, rocky path to watch the sunset. I wanted to witness the ocean swallow up the sun, imagining what my ancient ancestors thought of this daily event. My seat for the sunset show was atop a very old and rickety stone wall. I recall my senses being startled by the many shades of grey in the sky and water, the many shades of green in the lush grasses, and the many sounds of birds heralding the end of yet another day’s work. Sensing that I was not alone, I looked down and to my right. My eyes spied a beautiful grey horse standing proud, almost regal like, revealing an innate sense of power. Never one to pass up a mystery, I hopped off my perch and walked the winding downhill road until I was at the gate to the horse’s small pasture.

What a fine horse this was! Full grown yet retaining a sense of youthful playfulness. Its body was dappled shades of grey, and its mane a sturdy steel color. Its eyes were dual portals to a reality I did not fully recognize but found compelling. I was intent on gazing into the horse’s eyes and was amused by the dilemma of which eye to look into since they were so wide apart. “Ah ha, look between the eyes,” a mystery voice whispered. There I discovered a beautiful white starburst pattern. It is into that “third eye” that I gazed.

An unpleasant childhood experience with a horse triggered a wee bit of fear in me. Then I recalled spending a day with a trainer who taught me how to approach a horse—directly, from the front, so that the horse would know my good intentions. There we stood that May evening, face to face, gazing deeply into each other’s souls.

I spoke softly to this horse in human words, letting it know I came with good and pure intentions. Who are you? What are you doing here? What do you ask of me? I’m not sure who was asking the questions, the horse or me.

This first visit was casual, kind of like a first date. But when I said goodbye and started to walk away, the horse followed me along the fence line. I sensed the horse did not want me to leave. I promised to return the next day, which I did right after breakfast.

The horse was munching on the luscious grass when it noticed me. The grey beauty sprang into action. It was like having a long-lost friend greet me at the airport. I spoke softly again, standing directly in front of the horse. This time I put my hand out and slowly raised it to eye level. It was a moment of awkward trust, for both of us. Would I hurt the horse, or would it hurt me? Slowly I touched the magnificent white starburst on the horse’s third eye.

The moment of contact was like lightening, a precise bolt that illuminated a deep recognition. I didn’t know the history of this horse, its name, or even its sex. But I knew I was attracted to it on many levels—body, mind and spirit. It felt a bit like sensing a past life with another human, one that was erotic, sensual and profound. Was this horse my lover in a past life? This was too much to grasp, so I said a quick goodbye and left.

Later that day I came for another visit. This time the horse sauntered up to the gate and put its massive head over the top. I read it as an invitation to come closer. I reached out and touched the magnificent face. With each gentle caress I again felt that sense of deep longing and recognition. I stepped back a bit, still looking deeply into the horse’s face, and asked aloud— Who you are? What are you doing here? What do you ask of me?

Suddenly the horse stepped back, bowed its head, and pawed at the earth with its left front leg. I was stunned by this and had no idea how to comprehend the answer to my questions. So, again, I said goodbye and walked away. This time the horse did not follow me, but instead stood very still. When I had traversed the hairpin turn in the road, I looked down and saw something that both intrigued and embarrassed me. Here was the horse in a stance that demonstrated it was male, now in a state of full arousal. Horse owners sometimes refer to the stallion’s erection as a ”fifth leg.” It’s that obvious. My five-legged friend stood there in all his glory, now oblivious to my presence. I turned a few shades of red as I looked around to see if anyone else saw this. It’s a small island, with few people. I didn’t want to be a source of gossip.

On my final night on the island, more was revealed about this horse. He was not alone this time. Someone was feeding him. I soon learned that it was the owner’s cousin. He thought the horse’s name was Mayflower, which seemed way too wimpy for what I saw in him. Stud-flower would be more appropriate. That’s when I learned he was a valuable Connemara Pony, used for stud services rather than riding. The man warned me that this horse bites and proceeded to demonstrate. I said I had had a different experience. For my demonstration I slowly reached my hand to the horse’s cheek. As he stood still, I gently patted his face. There we stood—the horse, the man, and me—an odd little trio.

When I returned home from Ireland that year I sought guidance from the friend who studies horse. This was her reply:

Hi Kathleen,
How fascinating to hear of your “encounter”!  I wish I could have seen you two!!!

Here’s my insights as a student of horse nature:  You were VERY CENTERED IN YOUR OWN POWER!!!  It sounds like the horse was literally attracted to your power.  Horses love centered power in people, as then it makes them feel safe.  That is a HUGE compliment to you!!!  However, it has to be balanced with love and affection, or you’re just scary.  As you know, when personal power isn’t balanced with love, cruelty can be felt in a person’s energy.  Horses fear and hate cruelty.  Yet even more they disrespect when a person isn’t in touch with their own inner power, it’s how they pick their leaders within the herd, because they inherently know that the horse that is most in touch with his own inner power can keep the entire herd safe.  You were in that perfectly balanced place with both power and love – and as you found out, it is irresistible to the horse.  And they only bite those they perceive as being lower on the “pecking order” than they are.  Congratulations.

Would I have had the same experience had I known the horse was a biter? Would I have approached the horse differently if I’d known up front that it was male and valued for his stud services? Would I have been so bold if there were people watching?

I will be forever grateful to the beautiful Connemara pony that stirred in me ancestral memories of my innate and authentic power. In the absence of fear, I felt only love. Now, in moments of self-doubt, all I have to do is call upon my beloved horse and re-member what he saw in me, and what I saw in him. Power, strength and dignity.

Ancient Celtic Folk Song (In Gaelic)
Lyric Translation in description
This hypnotic and mysterious song tells the tale of a young girls’ encounter with the ‘each-uisge’ or water-horse.