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by Hedgebrook Guest

Shoe started it… (We are extremely lucky when we have a friend like her.) She knew I was working on memoir.

Her: “Do you write poetry?”

Me (without hesitation): “No. I’m not a poet.”

Her: “You really should give it a try.”

She had planted a seed. Then, our lovely Bonnie Stinson announced her zine “Radicle” and tossed out the initial theme “Queer.”

WTF, I thought. Why not give it a go? I invited my inner muse to play along. She did not disappoint. “I Am Queer” appeared in “Radicle’s” first issue.

Muse then whispered, “What about those poems you wrote…?” and I recalled the reflections and meditations from ten to fifteen years ago that for some reason I’d saved. Re-reading them now proved a powerful experience of cellular recall, gratitude for the journey from there to here, and new appreciation of myself as a lyrical writer. Once gathered, some eighty pages sat before me. They, along with several new pieces, now live within Liminal: Poetry from the Depths of Transition, a volume I have just published via CreateSpace and now available on Amazon and Kindle.

In 1998, I was attending a Catholic seminary, working on a Masters degree in theology and a certificate in Pastoral Ministry/Spiritual Direction. Stacey Bakula, one of the younger cohort of students, asked me to be her spiritual director. What I did not know in that moment of accepting her request was that Stacey had a terminal neuro-degenerative disease. By the time I learned this several weeks later, something in my soul had already recognized our profound, impossible to explain, existential connection. Such a seemingly simple “Yes” would open for me a portal into acute awakening, root-stirring personal growth, and intense soul synthesis. That is a portion of the story I strive to recount as I write my memoir.

The pages of Liminal comprise a poetic memoir of moments in and movements through periods of deep transition—profound disorientation, heart-wrenching letting go, never- failing love and compassion, and radical spiritual evolution.

I am continually amazed at the journeys our souls navigate through our human lifetimes. Again and again, I sit in awe at the apparent randomness of our experiences, often recognizing only in hindsight how surprisingly appropriate the timing and content of encounters with others, chance meetings, and apparently spontaneous occurrences have been. Before I could even recognize what I needed in order to take my life course to its next level, the ingredients had already shown up. How many time might I have missed these openings, those invitations?

It doesn’t matter. I now know with certainty that I can trust the Universe to offer opportunities anew. She is infinitely more patient than I. I had to start with small things. Perhaps we all do. And not all of us will have to encounter the seismic upheavals I went through as a result to that “yes” to Stacey. But I now have no doubt that however it took place, I had to go into those tremors in order to follow my soul’s path.

My level of trust in the Universe’s wisdom, and my appreciation of her humor, continues to expand. My antennae tune in faster and more sharply these days. I rejoice when I observe friends and acquaintances experiencing their AHA! moments as well. Most of all, even in the midst of difficult times, gratitude and joy are ever accessible and intimately tangible. Language is such an inadequate vehicle for describing all of this.

My sojourn with Stacey ultimately led me to Whidbey Island and thereby to Hedgebrook. What a treasure this magnificent resource is. The voices of women, along with others who have been historically sequestered on the margins or silenced altogether, produce healing and transformative change in our world. How exciting it is to be a part of the Hedgebrook energy, to have access to the beautiful and powerful work of other women writers, to be able to encourage and be encouraged by such warm, supportive spirits.

Deepest gratitude, One and All!

 

About the Author:

Rebecca ClearyRebecca Cleary is a freelance memoirist and poet living on Whidbey Island, Washington.

Insatiably curious intellectually since childhood, Rebecca received a bachelor of arts degrees in mathematics and secondary education with a concentration in psychology from Lindenwood College, St. Charles, Missouri in the spring of 1969. Marriage followed that December and three daughters arrived over the next six years. Her oldest daughter’s learning disability shifted her aspirations for a teaching career into research and advocacy for her daughter and others with learning differences. She tutored and supported her daughter through grade school, high school, and college. Volunteer work at her daughters’ Catholic high school brought her into dissonance with the Catholic bishops’ refusal to allow HIV/AIDs education to Catholic school students and launched her into an activist feminist role within the Church. Her unquenchable desire to learn led her to a search for the historical Jesus, in-depth historical/critical Biblical studies, ongoing psycho-spiritual exploration, and graduate studies in theology at a Catholic seminary in Washington, DC. The constant bass rhythm to these activities was conscientious and unflagging support over the thirty years of their marriage to her husband’s career path, from junior auditor to president of a major hotel and hospitality company.

While at seminary Rebecca became spiritual director/companion to Stacey, a young woman living with a terminal neurological illness. Thus began another learning curve into body-mind connection and healing as well as the spiritual dimensions of health and transformation. Following a reluctantly requested divorce in 2001, Rebecca embarked upon PhD studies in Women’s Spirituality at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. In 2004, Rebecca became committed life partner to Stacey, who by that time had defied all odds and survived into her fifth remission. Stacey left this physical incarnation in March 2014. Rebecca’s adventures of ongoing transformation and awakening continue to this day

Passionate about our human life journeys and her profound belief that each of us is a spiritual being having a human experience, Rebecca seeks to recount and share significant moments of life out of a deep desire to strengthen the web of interconnection and engagement with all life in the Universe, empowering women’s voices and agency in particular. Memoir and soul-centered reflective poetry are her tools.

 


 

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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

 

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