The blizzard hurtling down the pass caught me by surprise as I slowly made my way across the frozen tundra. My face, although sheltered by the parka’s fur-lined hood, stung from frostbite and my hips ached from the spread-legged gait required by the wide snowshoes. I was tiring quickly and desperately needed to find shelter. Knowing my only hope for survival lay within a thick pine forest barely visible across the open plain, I plowed in desperation towards it, lost, alone, and fearing for my life.
Finally, after an exhausting struggle I made the tree line and entered the dark interior of the forest. The wind beating angrily against its tightly packed foliage became but a whisper as I slipped between the pines and crawled beneath a snow covered bough. I released the snowshoes from the heavy clumps of frozen leather and flesh that had long since lost contact with my brain and slumped down against the massive tree trunk.
All I needed was a moment of rest to catch my breath, and then I would start a fire. I needed to thaw my freezing body . . . to regain my bearings . . . only a moment . . . then I would start the fire.
I must have fallen asleep and dreamed I was flying. I soared like an eagle across my dream scape free and unencumbered, but as I reached the upper limits of eagle-flight I found myself being drawn quickly beyond the earth’s atmosphere. I looked back and noticed the silver chord floating behind me that anchored my body to the bright blue ball of Earth. As the chord grew taut and broke I felt a strange tingling throughout my body and a rush of unspeakable joy. I was free! Shooting through a myriad of luminous colors surrounding the brightness of the sun, nearing the end of my destination . . . I awoke.
Crawling from under the protective boughs of the tree I noticed first off my feet were no longer frozen. I then also realized I'd been delivered from the pain that had racked my body. What a pleasant surprise it was. I wasn’t even cold anymore. Amazed by what a little rest would do, I took stock of my situation.
A few yards before me lay a trail of hard-packed snow. I hadn’t noticed it upon entering the forest, but knew if I followed it, sooner or later I’d find refuge and food. No longer needing the snow shoes, I packed them up with my other gear and prepared to move on.
Minutes later, as I lifted my vision from the trail in front of me, I found myself staring into the yellow eyes of the largest wolf I’d ever seen. Being not much different in color than the snow surrounding him, he was practically invisible as he stood silently behind the trunk of a tree, head lowered, observing me. No movement, nothing. Seconds passed before he raised his massive head, turned and bound effortlessly on snowshoe-sized paws up the trail. He stopped after going about thirty yards and looked back.
I felt he was leading me somewhere and had a strong compulsion to follow. I must have gone a mile or more before the trail emerged from the trees and led straight to the doorstep of a one-room log cabin sitting in the center of the small clearing. A small column of smoke rose into the still air, straight up, as if the wind had forgotten the clearing as it passed over on its mad dash to the sea.
On the front porch lay the white wolf, his head now rested on his forepaws as he watched me approach the cabin. Feeling no sense of danger I stepped onto the porch and knocked on the cabin door. "Hello!" I yelled into its quiet interior.
A chair slid, I heard footsteps as someone rose and walked towards the door. It slowly opened and I found myself staring into the riveting steel-blue eyes of a very old man with a bushy white beard. Long silver hair fell to his shoulders from beneath a woolen cap, the kind sailors wore when on watch in cold climates.
"Hello Jim, I’ve been expecting you," the old man said in a soothing voice that resonated throughout the interior of the small cabin.
"Expecting me?" I asked feeling a bit apprehensive.
"Yes my friend, my name is Jacob. I am your spirit guide, and a very old friend." He smiled warmly. "I’m here to help you during your transition."
"Transition? What transition?" I asked, suddenly beginning to realize why the pain had ceased. "Am I dead?"
"No, nothing dies in the Creators entire universe , Jim," Jacob said. "It's just recycled. Death only exists in the minds of those living the earth dream. Here, we refer to your death as an awakening. You have awakened and now it is time to analyze the life you’ve just lived. I am here to help you, if needed, to sort things out."
I stared hard into the old man's eyes trying to figure out which one of us was crazy, while at the same time knowing what he said was true. I’m dead! It was just so different than I had been led to believe. Where was the bright light? Or the dark tunnel? Was I in Heaven? Hell? Could it possibly be this simple? Is this what I've feared all my adult life? To fall asleep and awake in a land not much different than the one I'd left behind?
Things seemed a little different here. The serenity of this place was beyond description, but I was still me, I talked and felt and breathed. The greatest difference I noticed was that the pain in my body had been replaced by a strange euphoria. There was lightness about this place, the difference between a hot, humid jungle and a cool mountain meadow. I felt invigorated.
"No offense, Jacob, but you certainly don't look like an angel to me."
"I'm not an angel, I'm your guide. I’ve been with you since the very beginning of your life on the Earth. I chose to appear in this form to ease your transition, but I could have chosen another. As your memory awakens, you will remember. Come in", Jacob invited.
I walked into the interior of the dimly lit cabin as Jacob closed the door. The large room was hidden in shadow except for a small wooden table and two chairs sitting near the only window. These were bathed in opaque streaks of bright sunlight. Jacob led me to the table and slid a chair out from under it. "Have a seat," he said, while he took the one across from me.
"In the beginning, before you were born into the Earth, we discussed the goals and desires you wished to accomplish while on your journey. You had created for yourself a pathway of many obstacles, in hopes of obtaining a deeper understanding of the three principles taught upon the Earth: Love, Mercy, and Grace. Our job today, is to review your life and see how well you’ve learned your lessons. You and you alone are the judge. Our Creator has made it so; we judge ourselves and have no one to blame when we've taken the lower way, except ourselves. Do you remember any of this yet?"
I tried to understand what he was talking about, I thought of laughing at the silliness of it all, but I could not. "No."
"Don't worry, memory will soon restore itself and you will see, once again, the many lives you have lived and the many paths you have taken to bring you to this point. Think back to the beginning. What was your first emotion as you entered the body growing within your mother’s womb?"
I closed my eyes and concentrated. I began to remember. "I'm sad, I don't want to leave and I may change my mind."
"What do you feel as you exit the womb of your mother?"
"I am alone, cold, and angry, this is not what I wanted. I have been born into a family consumed in bitterness. I regret taking the negative path. I want to abort and come home. There is no love here."
"Exactly what you planned for," he said. "Your first lesson was to learn the necessity of love. You chose within the earth dream to experience a life without love. Do you remember yet?"
Strangely, the life I had left behind began unfolding as a vision within my mind and I began to understand how miserably I had failed the test. "Yes, I'm beginning to see my life, it's open before me."
"Good. I’ll return when you’ve finished." Jacob arose, donned his parka, and left the cabin. I watched him through the small window facing the table as he walked down the path. The white wolf pranced by his side.
Moments later, I returned to the mental image. As I observed scene after scene of failure and missed opportunities, I became depressed. During the first two years of life, I had absorbed the negative energy that surrounded me and lost my way. Instead of using the darkness as intended, to strengthen my spirit and brighten the way for others, I had succumbed to its influence and added yet another layer to its depths.
It was a strange experience as I sat at the small table viewing scenes that had taken place in my childhood. Little things, that at the time meant nothing at all, suddenly magnified before my mind’s eye and I saw how such a small seed, once planted, opened a pathway in opposition to my life’s goals.
One such scene showed me about six years into my childhood. I had crafted a slingshot out of the crotch of a tree limb and an old inner tube. I practiced hitting tin cans until I became very good at knocking them over. When I became bored with the cans, I began shooting at live targets. Now I visualized the day I hid in the weeds behind my house and stalked a bird. As I neared, I raised myself slowly from the earth, pulled back the heavy rubber band and let the stone fly. I hit the robin square in its red breast and killed it. I was elated as I stood over my prey.
As I now relived the scene, I felt deep anguish rise from within me. The robin was only the first, the slingshot, one day became a gun, and the joy of killing ran unabated throughout my life cycle. It was justified as war, or sport, or necessity, but always, regardless of the wording, a living creature died as the result of my pulling a trigger.
Now I heard the voice speak to me from the depths of my conscience asking why. I remembered how easy it became, once I had learned to silence the constant nagging. Now I felt deeply ashamed for all the creatures I had killed, but most of all for the robin, because that was where it started, where the seed had been planted.
I remembered how, before entering the earth, I desired to be a caretaker and friend of the lower life forms, to communicate and learn from them, to heal and feed them. And yet, my last day found me trapping and ripping the hides off these very animals I had sworn to befriend and protect.
The lofty goals of love had been perverted by self-serving lust as I quickly became the center of my private universe. Mercy and Grace were signs of weakness. I lived by the law in which I had been raised, and hid my fears behind a wall of callousness. Throughout my life cycle, I had justified my own actions while condemning others. I had no trouble striking out, but to ask forgiveness was a strange language, one that seldom found its way to my tongue.
As I finished, and sat quietly contemplating the deeds of my life, Jacob returned. He hung his parka on the hook beside the door, walked to the table and sat down. "Well, how did it go?" he asked.
"I think you know the answer to that," I said, feeling miserable.
"What do you plan on doing?"
"I must return and make amends."
"Perhaps, you should remain and rest for awhile."
“I will Jacob; I need to rest before going back.”
Exert from the Memoirs of Sean Cahalane
Foundation for Peaceful Co-existence
In Northern Ireland
The war had ended, Ireland was busy rebuilding her economy after Hitler’s chaotic rumble through Europe when my father, John Cahalane, met and wed the former Mary O’Reilly in Belfast. Not wanting to raise children amongst the violence and religious intolerance that engulfed the city, he bought a secluded farm that sat above the misty, wind-swept cliffs along the northern coast of Colarine. I was born in a stone cottage that overlooked the sea in 1946.
Although my father possessed a temperament within his short, powerfully-built body, that matched the ruggedness of the rocky soil he sought to subdue, his presence perpetuated a relaxed peace within our house. Neighbors would often visit, to sit by the fire and listen as he shared wisdom that no book could teach. He spoke of deep things, making them simple to understand. He believed all men had access to the face of God and all those proclaiming to be His spokesmen were merely obstacles clouding the vision. To him it was simply a matter of listening and observing the natural world around him.
The earliest memory I have of him, was of awaking early one morning and watching as he sat atop the cliff staring out to sea. If I woke early enough, he’d always be there. I remember once asking when he came in for breakfast what he was looking at while he sat there. He said, "Everything, Sean my lad, everything." He then smiled, and said I would someday understand.
My mother later told me this was how he talked to God. His church had no doors or windows or priests, he just talked to the wind as it blew in from the ocean and took the sacraments upon the cliffs of Colarine. Sometimes when playing along the cliffs, I’d stop and try to talk to God like my father did, but He never answered. I figured He didn’t much care to talk to children.
My mother was a poet and a singer of songs. I still hear her sweet voice when she sat before my bed playing the guitar while singing to me in her soft, lilting, brogue. Ours was a loving, peaceful home, and much of what I've taught through the years, I learned by listening to, and observing my parents.
I lived a sheltered life during those early years. It wasn’t until public schooling that I began to hear stories and realize the extent of the hatred and violence encompassing our homeland. I remember one evening asking my father if we were Catholic or Protestant. I hoped we were Catholic, as most of my school friends were. He said, "We are on Gods side Sean, and He has nothing to do with either of these."
Had it not been for his watchful eye and the nurturing of my mother, I would not be writing my memoirs this day. I would have succumbed to the pressure of my peers and, by now, my body would have been placed alongside the many of my classmates who joined the IRA and were buried long before their time.
The discipline of those early years strengthened me, enabled me to help form the small movement that grew swiftly until its membership numbered in the thousands and spread throughout our homeland. That message of oneness overcame the ancient hatreds and formed the union of peace and mutual respect in which we now live.
The one great lesson my father taught me when I was a child, which is today the corner stone of the Foundation for Peaceful Coexistence, is this: The river of Life is available to all men, and all men have the power to choose, but only those willing to shed the garments of religious dogma and immerse themselves within her sweet waters will ever truly experience her fullness. Today, I can declare that Northern Ireland has done just that, and the river of Life flows strongly across our landscape. For this I am deeply grateful to our Creator, and to those who have chosen to stand and make a difference.
Although I am a father seven times over and the husband of a beautiful and gifted poet in her own right, my crowning achievement in this world, that which gave my life purpose, was the signing of the Declaration of Unity between the religious factions that were destroying our country.
I’ve lived a long, fulfilling life, and have but a short time remaining until I must depart. My only prayer is, as this old man goes to the grave, others will step in and fill the gap, that you will not forget.
By my hand,
Sean Cahalane -- July 2023
Jacob knew the time for Sean was close at hand, and waited patiently for the day when the friend he’d guided these many years, these many lives, would be amongst the family once more. He had finally grown beyond the necessity for, and would soon be freed from, the karmic law of cycles and return home.