Shaker Village


For most people visions of heaven include pearly gates, streets of gold and jewel encrusted mansions but not in my world. All I have to do is go to Kentucky to find my version of nirvana and it is called Shaker Village. After our lovely time at the Serpent Mound, Val and I fortified ourselves with a latte and retraced our path back to Lexington for the night. I had one more essential pilgrimage stop to make the next day. I needed a Shaker Village fix.

These days I live in my in-law’s home which is decorated in a style I would call High Ostentation but in my heart I prefer a style more like Early Convent. My Taurus/Virgo soul longs for a tidy house with white walls and simple furniture. The Shakers perfected this style and brought it to a high art.


So who were the Shakers? They were a branch of the Quakers who came to America looking for religious freedom. Lead by Mother Ann Lee, the first communities were started in the late 1700’s and formed around 20 utopian centers with 6000 members at the peak of popularity. These communities were founded on principles of equality for the sexes and races, celibacy and pacifism. Men and women lived separately but worked together and the congregations grew by recruitment since procreation wasn’t allowed. In the early 1900’s the communities stopped taking members and were eventually closed

Spiritually they believe God was both male and female and the imminent second coming of Christ. They worshiped in stark meeting rooms with narrow benches and no pulpit. The service consisted of singing, dancing and ecstatic states of shaking and shouting thus they got the name “Shakers”. They wrote many songs for their worship and the most popular tune is Simple Gifts, immortalized in Aaron Copeland’s work Appalachian Spring.


The communities were self-sustaining farms and invented many new labor-saving devises. The Kentucky Shakers were know for their brooms and high-quality seeds as well as furniture and weaving. Hard work was important to them so all the communities thrived. They believed that beautifully made simple furniture was an act of prayer. Each building and room was perfectly planned for simplicity, practicality and order and ideal which has had a lasting influence on American design.

Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is like stepping back in time. On this perfect September day the buildings glowed in the sun with a back drop of purple/blue sky. Pumpkins and corn stocks decorate the stack stone fences and there is just a hint of color in the trees that line the lane; translation—-pure joy. I wandered the buildings looking at the magnificent worn furniture, craft demonstrations, amazing circular staircases and stark perfection. We wandered into the dinning room for corn pudding and buttermilk pie, headed down to the old barn to see the friendly ram and horses and felt the gentle grace of this place frozen in time. During a past visit I sang Simple Gifts in the meeting hall where that song has reverberated thousands of times and I’m thrilled to sing it for myself.

After having our joy quotient filled by two beautiful days in Kentucky. Val and I head back to Tennessee. We don’t have far to go and on the way home we have a long discussion about beauty. We have been bathed in beauty and sacred vibration for two days which has left our hearts singing and our spirits cheerful. Our quick pilgrimage had all the joys of any exotic journey with no jet lag or expensive tickets. So this Fall find a place to pilgrimage close to home and bring beauty and joy to your soul.


The Great Serpent Mound

the great serpent

Although I have traveled quite a bit this year I haven’t gone to any traditional sacred sites. Obligations and finances aren’t allowing for an extended pilgrimage this year but that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t long to step on ancient sacred land. Fortunately for me one of the greatest sacred sites in North America is just a half a day drive from my home. So my friend Val and I came up with a plan for an equinox pilgrimage to southern Ohio where the mighty Serpent Mound holds the light between heaven and earth. We have dear friends who were in the holy land of Peru for equinox and we wanted to connect the sacred lands with our presence.

We headed out early, I waved goodbye to the luminous field full of round bales of hay, braved the early morning traffic and finally came to the open road through the lush mountains and rolling hills of Kentucky. My mother-in-law is a coal miners daughter from Hazard and her connection to this land is strong, her memory has faded but she still wants to go home to Kentucky. I can see why, it is beautiful, peaceful land and the journey is as joyful as the destination. The strong sun of the summer is starting to fade and the magic that is Autumn makes the sky a deep blue and the fading leaves glow.

Just past Lexington we head down a rural road to Adams County Ohio, past tobacco barns full of the harvest, open to let the air dry the hanging leaves. The old stack stoned fences, along side the black board fences, define the land, keeping the horses safe and the past alive. Old homes that have seen much stand next to new metal homes. The charming town of Paris is like stepping back 50 years in time.



After crossing the Ohio river we are in Amish country. We stopped by an Amish market and picked up food and baked goods as well as sandwiches on fresh baked bread. A quick look in the rock shop full of fossils from the area completes the journey for the Serpent is waiting for us just over the hill. I have been here several times in the last 15 years so it is like visiting an old friend.

The Great Serpent is an ancient effigy mound around 5000 years old. Its mouth is open ready to swallow the cosmic egg and its body is 1300 feet of coils ending in the spiral tail almost like a labyrinth. The body is a few feet high of perfectly molded earth covered with a skin of grass. The curving body lays on gently rolling land giving a look of living velvet. Each of the seven coils points to a different place in the heavens. It is a living observatory of the equinoxes and solstices, moon phases and constellations.

Perfectly aligned with the constellation Draco, The Dragon, the Serpent mirrors the universe on earth pointing to the former pole star Thuban. The sacred geometry of this giant creature makes it aligned to other great sacred observatories, Stonehenge, the Inti stone at Machu Picchu and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Like the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl, another winged serpent of wisdom, it is believed to have had wings in the past. I also am reminded of the Egyptian god Thoth, god of Wisdom, who holds the entwined snakes of the caduceus. Wisdom in the message of this Serpent, knowledge of the Universe, understanding of what is timeless in our world.

I walk around the serpent, climb the near-by tower to get a birds-eye view, lay on a bench and feel the cool breeze come off of its body, look over the cliff to the meteor crater below and connect to the heavens in my mind. I thank the Serpent and leave a small offering to further connect the sacred lands of Peru and Egypt. I know I will be back again to ask for more wisdom and healing.


The Mystery of the Serpent Mound by Ross Hamilton


the lake

In August it was time for another pilgrimage. I wasn’t going to someplace exotic or foreign or legendary. I was going to my ancestral homeland, Minnesota. Not a usual place of pilgrimage for most people but, for my family, it is one of the most important places on earth.

Early in the morning I picked up my mom and headed to the Knoxville airport. We boarded a tiny plane and then changed in Dallas to another tiny plane to the even smaller airport in Fargo, North Dakota. No big planes, parking garages or long TSA lines. I was the only one at the rental car counter and the brown Civic was parked a few hundred feet away. After seeing farm equipment proudly displayed in the main terminal I wasn’t surprised to see that the grounds of the airport were vast cornfields.

We passed sunflower fields, rolling hills, lakes and small towns, all so familiar as we head home. This is my mother’s 81st summer in this land and she is so glad to be where her memories are so vivid and happy. This summer is different, vast changes in our family from last year mean we have to deal with loss mixed in with the comforts of the familiar.

My father isn’t at the table outside the farmhouse waving to us as we drive up. The farm house is now empty and stripped of our family treasures. The barn and granary are gone, now replaced with a modern metal building. The gardens are overgrown and the place lifeless. Our precious picturesque farm that was in the family for 117 years now belongs to stranger that doesn’t have the same cherished memories but sees only old buildings. It is a painful reminder of greed and betrayal.

My Aunt Sally still lives there in a little cottage by the lake that belonged to my great-grandmother Ella. The cottage has been added on to many times and now holds many of the artifacts gleaned from the farmhouse. I spent one blissful afternoon alternately sleeping and reading in a cozy little bedroom while in the background I could hear family talking and laughing over coffee on the back porch. It made me feel like a little girl again snuggled in the attic of the farmhouse.

The weather was hot the first few days so I cooled off in the lake, bobbing around in the shallow water, squishing the sand and seaweed between my toes. In the early mornings we gathered for coffee and coffeecake and tried to make sense out of our senseless losses, trying to come to terms with our lost land. One evening after dusk we went to the shore and lit Japanese paper lanterns to take our hopes and wishes and memories out over the lake. Another chillier evening we took a boat ride around the lake and admired the loons placidly bobbing in our wake and were treated to a low flyover by the resident bald eagle.


Everyday my family and I did something that was part of our cherished memories, shopped at the old department store, ate pizza and fresh corn on the cob, had breakfast in a town so small that the restaurant is also the grocery, hardware store, bait shop and laundromat. We went a few miles down the road to Vergas (population 388) to watch the Looney Day parade, complete with endless beauty queens, fire trucks and boy scout troupes from the surrounding area. Vergas’ claim to fame is a giant Loon statue in the local park. I ate deep-fried Oreos and Uffda tacos (what you get when Scandinavians make Mexican food). I reveled in the innocence of small-town American life and the gentleness of the local people.


Along with the happy memories of life by the lake and endless chatter with my cousins and aunts and the clean, crisp air off the lake, my sister and I had a task. We came to bury my father’s ashes in the family cemetery. We picked out the headstone and my mother also chose a new headstone for my great-great grandparents Clara and Oscar. They moved from Sweden in the 1880’s, bringing their young family from the heart of Stockholm to make a new life on a lake in Minnesota. In this tiny cemetery, nestled in a hayfield off a dirt road, 25 ancestors are at peace, the lineage that the living hold dear to our hearts. Every year we go to this familiar place and talk about each one. Their courage and fortitude to make a new life in far away land gave us all a new future. Once on the whispering wind I heard them say to me “I don’t know why you come, we aren’t here.”

Since the cemetery is small, isolated and privately owned, we were allowed to do our own burial. My sister dug the square grave for the wooden box of ashes and tidied the other graves. Early on Sunday morning my mother said a few words and I read a few prayers. My sister and I together placed the ashes in the ground and each family member added a flower to show their love. My aunt has renamed the rowboat in my father’s honor, a fitting memorial since he rowed every summer morning until he was 90.

Life is simple and joyful when we are on the lake. Coffee and conversation, cool breeze and lapping waves are the elixirs that sooth my soul and link me to my ancestors, the ones that changed their destiny and therefore changed mine.

My Aunt Ellen gave me an aerial photo of our beautiful farm as it was. The waving green fields and trees surround the charming old home and barn. When I look at that picture now hanging in my kitchen I feel the healing that I need to recover from such a great loss. Minnesota will never be the same for my family, but we have strengthened our bonds and commitment to each other in the sadness and know we are finding new ways to be together. Our ancestors are as close as our breath and forever part of our DNA.

In just a few months we will all gather in Tennessee on my farm to celebrate Christmas. Our cousins who live in Sweden are coming and once again we will have endless conversations and laughter. The farm is different but the love is the same.


Two Pianos


My house has to contain three things to be my home, a fireplace, a cat and a piano. I love the primal joy of essential and mysterious fire, linking me with my ancestors. Of course I’m cat obsessed so a fluffy kitty or two on my lap is pure joy. The piano is a great friend and comfort. I play when I’m happy, sad, bored, got a minute to spare or to accompany singers or my darling violinists.

I was raised in a very conservative religion that permitted few extra-curricular activities. Sports and dancing were out but not music so I took piano lessons from a young age. My teacher, Mrs. Harter, a lovely older lady and church organist, had a white toy poodle, Baby, that sat on her lap during lessons. When I was in high school I took lessons from Mr. Schneller at a music school. He smoked a pipe and drank coffee during my lesson—very exotic and worldly to this sheltered girl. I had the usual scales, new pieces, polishing pieces and every week a hymn to learn so I would be ready for any church occasion. My two closest friends were very accomplished pianists so we played for each other and learned duets. To this day, when my friend Melanie is driving to see her mother in Nashville she stops by and we play a Mozart duet that we learned almost 40 years ago for our 8th grade graduation. Our performance is little rusty at times but we are once again those young girls skipping class to practice our duet.

I didn’t have the talent to be a professional musician so I just play for my own pleasure. Without the standards of performance that trained musicians have, I learned to compensate for my short comings with amateur tricks like White-out if there are too many notes or just skip the really hard, tedious parts. My cats and husband don’t care, they are an approving audience. Alexandra loves having live music even if it isn’t perfect.

When Hamilton and I married, I was determined to have my dream piano, a walnut baby grand. I had always played a spinet but aspired to a bigger piano. So I took our wedding money to a piano restorer and picked out a lovely 1930’s vintage walnut baby grand piano. I made small payments for a few years until it was paid off. It took up a great deal of my 900 square foot apartment but I didn’t care. The dog had room to sleep under it and the girls played “fort” under it. I started them on violin very young and our evenings were spent playing the piano and violin together. I kept that White-out handy to be able to keep up with them when the accompaniments were orchestra scores.

Next month is my 30th wedding anniversary making my piano a part of the family for 30 years too. It has brought us much joy and solace, entertainment and achievement. Now it is time for my piano to go to a new home. It is a bittersweet parting. A newly married couple is coming to move it in a few weeks. It is a big task to move a baby grand, you can’t just throw it in the back of a van. It requires special movers, strong men, equipment and then a retuning. Definitely a high maintenance instrument.

But I haven’t given up playing. In fact I’m playing more than ever on a new piano. My mother’s beautiful Yamaha piano wouldn’t fit in her new apartment so I have it and it is magnificent. It has better quality tone and touch and is truly a joy to play. Mom can come play it any time she likes but it is mine everyday. In the mean time I have what I call my “intensely first world problem” of two baby grands in my family room. There isn’t much room to walk. This is a bridge time between my cherished old piano that has brought me so much joy and my new piano that will be my companion for the next thirty years. A strange time when I say goodbye to an old part of my life while simultaneously welcoming the new. The last few years have been such a transition in my life; the children are grown, the parents gone, the old house sold. I’m ready to leave this long transition time and bid a fond farewell to my old piano and my care-giving years and welcome with open arms my next phase full of the great unknown with an amazing sound track, compliments of my new piano.


The Sun

The Sun

It has been a busy summer, too busy. My mother is now moved into her lovely apartment in a retirement community. Alexandra is settled in her micro apartment (175 sq. ft) in California and Caroline’s home is ready for a new roommate. Whewww, I’m tired so I’m devoting this month to what I consider to be a very important task, worshiping the Sun. I will see the sunrise as I have my first cup of coffee, I will enjoy the morning sun on my walk, I will spend time with the noonday sun at the pool and see the evening sun as I water my flowers and trees. I’m even going to Minnesota to see the sun have extra long time to shine in the north. I’m going to drink in the sun and store it for the coming winter.

The Sun is life, without it there would be no world. It is light, living energy, abundance. The Sun Card in the Tarot reminds us to soak in the light and enjoy life. The Sun is new beginnings, a new phase and new options.

This sun has a gentle face, just like children instinctively draw in their own versions of the sun. The rays are both wavy and straight showing the wave and particle aspects of energy. The young child is naked, riding a white horse and holding a waving orange banner signifying action and vibration.

The Sun card comes after many trials and tribulations. We have walked a long path to get to card number 19 and just have two more cards before starting our journey over on the next level of the spiral.

These final three cards hold the keys to an enlightened life. The Sun show us that when we are at higher levels of consciousness we become like a child again. Not childish but childlike with an open heart and simple joy of living. Naked—without judgment, letting life be just as it is.

The wall shows that we have built good boundaries and accumulated great wisdom, a solid and firm foundation. The sunflowers are growing in the right directions and show the fruitfulness of this phase of wisdom. The child rides the white horse without a saddle indicating inner strength and control of the animal nature. The white horse is purity of purpose for the highest good.

When you become the Sun you become the source of light, love and wisdom. You have move through the trials and lessons of life to accept your total and true self. Now shine your light in support of others for you no longer need to be in the artificial limelight. Bask in the good experiences and happy times.

When your heart is open you glow like the sun, you radiate your true self into everyday life. The wise mystic Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov said “If you worship the Sun, it is enough”. So join me in an August devoted to our true and radiant selves worshipping our glorious Sun.



It all started with Monarch of the Glen, then we moved to Ballykissangel, after that it was Big Love, Mad Men, Damages, The Tudors, Doc Martin (total schoolgirl crush) and most recently Frasier. For the last few years Hamilton and I would enjoy an episode every night just before going to sleep when we could no longer keep our eyes open reading and it was still to early to go to bed. Our shared time together is our little treat at the end of the day.

Our latest series is Frasier starring Kelsey Grammer, all 264 episodes and eleven seasons. Most nights about 9:30 Netflix will give us the next installment of this classic sitcom. I enjoyed watching the foibles of this pompous but big-hearted psychiatrist getting himself into trouble yet again because of his oversized ego. His brother Niles played by David Hyde Pierce is equally egotistical plus neurotic all bound up in amazing physical comedy. Roz, Martin and Daphne keep these brothers firmly in their place and of course I can’t forget Eddie the dog who always reminds Frasier who is really the boss.

I love the gentle and sophisticated humor, no need for put downs or crassness. I don’t get the wine jokes but I love the opera jokes and the literary references. Most of all I love the great stories and lessons in each episode. Poor Frasier manages to get himself in big trouble every time because of his ego and quest for love.

Although it is fun to watch Frasier’s life being unconsciously run by his egotistical antics it shines a spot light on the big ego in all of us. How many times have we all gotten ‘too big for our britches’ and got caught in a brag or a lie. That old ego is so sneaky and subtle that we don’t realize what control it has over our lives. Even when we are feeling like we’ve tamed it and have it under control or acting altruistically, there it is again working behind the scene to puff us up and make us desire to be important and self-serving.

There seems to be two spiritual schools of thought about the ego. One is that the ego needs to be annihilated, the other is to tame it. I tend toward the taming philosophy for those of us that live in the Western cultures. When used properly the ego can help us navigate the choppy waters of modern, crowded society without being walked over. The ego can be made a tool to get things done rather than a tornado wreaking havoc everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed my months of Frasier and will really miss him as we move on to the next series. I have found that watching his foibles helps me see my foibles and reminds me how wylie our ego is. Funny enough another great thing about watching Frasier is it has helped me conquer my insomnia. I’m wide awake when it starts and 22 minutes later I’m relaxed and falling asleep, sometimes when I can’t get back to sleep I go downstairs and put an episode on and finish the night on the couch. Maybe since I’ve missed so many endings I should start all over again. I’m up for suggestions for the next series so let me know if you have a favorite.

—–Warning: when Caroline graduates next year with a physics degree my parental ego will be totally inflated –I’m already planning on several more lifetimes to overcome it.

A Year


Magnolia blossoms from my yard.

It has been a year now since Alexandra and I finished our grand adventure/pilgrimage on the Camino in Spain. And what a year it has been. You know how certain years stand out in your mind, I have a few: 1994 when I moved to my first house, 1999, the year both girls learned the Bach Double Concerto back to back, 2006, the year Caroline was 16—need I say more, 2013, the year I moved to the farm. A lot of other years are just a blur with nothing note worthy.

My 50th year will go down as a year I won’t forget. Just days after my birthday I headed to Spain and walked 12 miles everyday for 5 weeks until I reached Santiago de Compestela. Each day was a joy and a gift to walk where millions of pilgrims walked with devotion along with great saints like Theresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi. We all walked along the Milky Way path for Compestela means way of the stars.

My prayer everyday on the path was to be strengthened, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I don’t think the people in my life would call me weak but there were life lessons I had not faced and was afraid of.  I wanted to come back a stronger person so I could start the next half of my life ready to take on new challenges and make it as wonderful as the first half. My daughters are grown now and I will forever miss those wonderful years of having them home but I want to keep growing and be productive.

There is a saying on the Camino, “the Camino starts when you get home”. I wasn’t home six weeks when I needed to call on the strength I had so prayed for. In fact I was faced with the very situations that frightened me most—-confrontation and death. First I had to confront a family member who was using the family for their own gain. Somehow I became the front line to protect the family. I’ve never confronted anyone in my life but there I was and the family started calling me Ninja Nancy (my first name). The betrayal went on for months and finally ended badly with the vengeful selling of the family farm in Minnesota. My efforts didn’t change the outcome but I walked away knowing I had fought hard, done my best and there was nothing more I could do. Now there are relationships that are forever lost but many others were strengthened and the bonds even tighter. I still don’t like confrontation but I now know I can do it when needed.

While I was in Spain my father was diagnosed with skin cancer with no available treatment options for his age. We thought he had a couple of years but by January he was getting sicker quickly and so my home turned into a hospice. My father’s mind was so sharp and his will to die consciously so strong that it was my deepest desire to keep him home with his family. With the help of hospice nurses and my brother, who stayed with me a month, I was able to keep him home until he died. Never in my life did I think I had the emotional or physical strength to face such a difficult task. The last few days were incredibly hard but I was able to pull from the strength that I had ask for. I faced what was a truly frightening task for me.

Loss and betrayal, two of the great themes of the human condition. I’ve had both in my life before but never like this past year. I’ve learned to be present with strong emotions in myself and in others. In the past I would run at the least bit of unhappiness. But it is ok that happiness isn’t in every experience, sometimes the courage to face the loss without losing oneself is all the spirit and soul wants.