One evening after dinner, I set out to visit my friend Elise. I remember feeling particularly calm and at peace. (I am not a particularly calm person, by nature!) Rolling down the road past dusk, Lorcum Lane was dark and richly fragrant. Shadows of rhododendron and rose bushes danced by, as I drove the windy, poorly lit road, enjoying the beauty of the landscaped houses and the funny feeling of my stomach leaping over the hills. Although my newly installed stereo was commanding a fair amount of my attention, my eyes were alert to the road. As I started up a steep and dramatically curved hill, suddenly in my mind’s eye appeared the image of a muted white and crumpled mass lying by the side of the road. I knew it was (or had been) a woman, though I saw no features or bodily outline. A car had apparently hit her. The impression vocalized itself in the form of a question, could I have hit someone? Although the question was ludicrous, I turned to snatch a glance at the roadside behind me. Of course, nothing was there.
Woman in White
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I slowed almost to a stop, wondering whether I was seeing a ghost or if it were some kind of sign. Looking all around me provided no clues. Not wishing to cause an accident myself, I began my descent downhill, moving slowly and carefully. Suddenly, I saw a woman wearing white walking down the middle of my lane. Had I not been warned by the vision of a woman in white, I would surely have run over this real, live woman whose presence was totally blocked from my view.
I have often wondered why this woman had put herself in such jeopardy. Although we did not talk together, her aspect struck me as sad. Either she was so much into her own thoughts that she was oblivious to the danger or intentionally sought the danger. I do not know which. I am grateful not only that this woman received a second chance, but also that I did not have to suffer the agony of having hurt or killed another human being.
Almost every year for the past ten or fifteen years, my mother has had birds make a nest in the sconce that hangs on the outside wall of her sixth floor condominium. Baby birds learning to fly at this height have only one chance.
Baby Bird Learning To Fly
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One day as I peeked inside the nest to see if the last “baby,” now quite large and fat, had finally summoned the courage to dive off the balcony. I couldn’t blame him for his timidity. My toes tingle as I look through the glass barrier down to the ground.
When the baby bird saw me approaching, he got all nervous and began flapping his wings. I stood back to let him know that I didn’t mean him any harm, but he was already flustered and flapping about. He hopped onto the glass rail and recklessly plunged. His form was not good.
“Oh no,” I thought, “I’ve killed the baby bird!” Helplessly, I watched the bird go down, down, down, make a half attempt at testing his wings and then continue to plummet. All of a sudden, two adult birds raced toward him. Chirping loudly and rapidly, each flew to a different side of the baby bird, keeping him equidistant between them. They swooped as he swooped. It looked as if he were going to crash into a nearby tree. The birds’ cries grew even more rapid and shrill. They flew right next to him, only inches away, never ceasing their chatter, which struck me as urgent vocalizations of instruction and encouragement.
Finally, the baby bird managed to raise himself a little bit and clumsily crash-landed into the tree. The other birds (Mom and Dad?) had saved him.
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Sometimes there are answers without questions. While attending a meditation that my friend Lonnie was guiding, after sitting there blankly for a while, mostly feeling tired and ill, I noticed hands fluttering around my neck. At first I was confused. Lonnie was suggesting the visualization of a particular color. Instead, these hands were strumming the air around my neck. Then I realized what was happening. They were healing my sore throat. I was trying to see purple, but that wasn’t my most pressing need at the moment. I had been working very hard and getting too little sleep. Right then my body needed a little attention. That time I could recognize the need.
I’m afraid that sometimes I’m still looking for purple and failing to see what I really need, the “purple” already present, which may, in fact, look green.
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Although we are taught there is no such thing as ghosts, they have the pesky habit of appearing and reappearing across the boundaries of time and culture. Curiously, even some people who claim to have seen ghosts simultaneously claim to not believe in their existence. Disbelief in ghosts leads to a comfortable, secure feeling whereas acknowledging their existence shatters not only one’s illusion of being able to control one’s world, but also one’s basic construct of the world. In other words, seeing ghosts is scary.
I have seen ghosts on four separate occasions, all of which occurred in my bedroom while living in Streamwood, Illinois. These visions simultaneously terrified and fascinated me. On the first occasion, I was startled out of my sleep by the feeling that someone was watching me. Immediately, my eyes met those of a woman with long, wavy gray hair. Footless, she hovered, as if standing, six to twelve inches above the floor directly in front of the doorway leading to my bedroom. I blinked my eyes, believing that I was still dreaming. She did not disappear. I closed my eyes and opened them. Still, she remained fixed both in her position and her intent gaze upon me. That was when the fear flooded in, with the surety that she was real. Not only the fact that she could not be dismissed as a dream, but more importantly, because of her intent, detached scrutiny of me, I felt in danger. In response, I closed my eyes and prayed for God’s presence both to protect me and to release this woman from whatever bondage she suffered. After a little while, I squinted a peek at the doorway. The woman had vanished.
On the second occasion, I either hadn’t yet fallen asleep or was in that very light, wake-like, semi-sleep, when I felt…