This Friday, our family and friends will celebrate the life of my Brother David. The grieving and going through the process of coming to terms with loss is an unexpectedly deep one; I've written a lot about it here, to draw inspiration up and out. Without knowing what it would be like, I have been blessed with the grace of teachers who initiate me. In a very real way, David helps on his end and perhaps, as my friend and medicine woman suggested, I help him with his final rite of passage. Again and again I have acknowledged the teacher-angel who is most present for my initiation: Angeles Arrien. She passed away from complications with walking pneumonia on April 24, of this year. I am reading and studying her work, The Second Half of Life Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom. Arrien helps me to feel the symbolism of the valuable recognition of threshold work, the figurative, and spiritual work of 'treading, turning, twisting, or flailing as we do inner work." The first chapter in that book includes this quote from The Sacred and the Profane, in which Mircea Eliade writes, "the threshold is the limit, the boundary, the frontier that distinguishes and opposes two worlds--and at the same time, is the paradoxical place where those worlds communicate, where passage from the profane to the sacred world becomes possible." As I give myself the gift of this inner work, it is the imagery and the practice of recognizing the signs that tell me literally, "You are there! You are here, at the threshold(s).
Again to quote from The Second Half of Life: "Because we live in a society that has lost many traditional initiation rituals, we have lost the ability to recognize the signs that foreshadow transition. We may recognize that we are going through transition, or that we are changing. But because we are unfamiliar with initiatory rites, we do not perceive that we stand at the gate. We do not comprehend that we need to open it and do the required threshing and integrative work."I asked for help, as is always the protocol for threshold work, to do this inner work most timely during my second half of life: open the eight gates of wisdom. What do the eight gates of wisdom offer me? The Silver Gate "will urge you to leave the safety of your familiar world and approach the inner mysteries. You will be asked to summon the courage to face the unknown. The White Picket Gate, is the place of changing identities and roles. You will meet the masks you have worn preciously in life and find ways to discover your true face. The Clay Gate will teach you to foster intimacy, embrace your sensuality, and respect your body. At The Black and White Gate you must walk through with another person. Here you will be asked to burn in the crucible of relationships. The Rustic Gate requires that you leave behind the work of your life-dream as an offering to others. The Bone Gate demands your honesty and authenticity. Through the Natural Gate you will find deep contentment and satisfaction. All the happy moments of your life are found at this gate, which is flooded by natural light. At last, you will arrive at the Gold Gate. There you will embrace your spirit and learn about surrender and release. The Gold Gate will urge you to let go and trust."
When I began to receive, write and tell the medicine stories from The Safety Pin Cafe, I knew one thing for sure: symbolism would feed my soul with remedies logic could not. My mother was The Safety Pin Queen who unceremoniously held things together with the common magic of that bent piece of metal. I watched. I learned. I became schooled and initiated into the border lands. Story would fill in so many of the cracks, the unthinkable, the profane. They, all my First Family, my people of the Valley, are together on the other side of The Gold Gate. I feel the value of the safety pin as it opens, to release and then reattach to another something yet to be. My work of threshing at the eight gates will take me some time ... How much time? I'm not sure, but I have begun and commit to doing what it takes to make my way through the second half of life initiations.
One thing I feel in my bones: those medicine stories will take on a whole new meaning when I get back to writing them done. What magic this life is. What a mystery.
Photo Credit: This Old House