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Rivers of Love and Becoming Marina

Dear friends, thanks for joining me on this healing journey and celebrating my 3-year anniversary on the Ramblin’ Anne road. In Part 1 of this 2-part tome, I awaken in my own bed, under my own roof, for the first time in three years and realize: I’ve made it FULL CIRCLE. And, oh, the foes I’ve battled on this topsy-turvy heroine’s journey – most particularly, the enemy within. Read P1 here.

Now, on to Part 2, Rivers of Love. Hope you like a happy ending!

Into the Depths of Sandstone Canyons

From Arkansas onward, everywhere I went, I sought healers – or they sought me. Austin, TX, Santa Fe, NM, Durango, CO, Escalante, UT, Sadona, AZ, Joshua Tree, CA.


Sound bath healings and core energetics therapy, past life regressions and myofascial release, yoga asana and insight meditation, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tarot reading, blood-letting.


Everywhere I went, I opened myself to all of it.


Everywhere I went I wrote, releasing old, dark memories onto the page.


Everywhere I went I found water – rivers and lakes and springs where I swam and soaked the old, dark pain out of me.


Slowly, gradually, one taught muscle, one adhered joint at a time, my body started coming back to me.


In NM, I made my first ascent, one mile to the top of Sun Mountain, bracing my core, panting through the pain every step of the way.


I was only beginning to get the idea that, yes, I had a crooked, twisted spine – but the contortion was in my mind. I had to hike and pray and write and chant and sing and sob it out of me.


I had to go deeper, into the depths of million-year-old sandstone canyons of Southern Utah where the ancestors lived, to get to the freedom. No western doc could give it to me – nor could any mystical miracle shaman – only me. On one such hike, I fell for a tree – a handsome old Cottonwood whose bony limbs embraced me.


I joined an international society of witchy women and, over zoom, across time-zones and cultures, we faced and burned our fears – of loss, unworthiness, homelessness, lovelessness – transmuting darkness into dreams. Oh, how I dreamed of a cure for my crookedness. Though, as I got stronger, a secret dream begin to reveal itself – the whispery longing for love. But I shook the foggy fantasy away. I’d been flying solo for 15 years – I cherished my independence!


Cali Dreamin’ and Taste of Love

By May, six months into my go-west trajectory, I’d landed in San Diego. The view of the Pacific, from the Mira Mar cliffs, was breathtaking. I couldn’t contain my tears – this time of pure joy. I celebrated with a plunge into the sea. Pisces the fish, I was out of the desert and in my element, splashing, swimming, riding the waves.


I could have stayed in Cali forever. But I couldn’t. I had to be in Rhode Island for a dance festival by Labor Day. I had four months to make it back east, venturing through some of the most stunning landscape in the country – the High Sierras, the Ruby Range, the Sawtooths of Idaho and Bitterroot of Montana and buffalo plains of North Dakota.


Amidst all that majesty, it was easier to put my minuscule self and her chronic pain in proper perspective. Amidst all that majesty, up at 10,000 feet, it was easy to fall in love. And I did – this time not with a tree but a strapping skier man. We hiked to glacial lakes and soaked in hot springs at sunset and danced amidst the Cali Redwoods - and some other things.

Though, after a week of bliss, it was time for me depart. Tears glossed my eyes as this pony-tailed lover packed my car, then planted a passionate farewell kiss on my lips. Cruising out of town, thrill of the road churning in my belly, I couldn't help but wonder if I was still running from the intimacy for which I’d yearned.


Island and Mountain Sanctuaries – Going #Slowmad

I made it back to Washington. But standing before my stately rowhouse, a whisper of fall in the air, the place didn’t quite feel like home anymore. My distance, like an old, faded love affair, felt bittersweet.


Grateful to the renters for their amenability, I extended the lease on my house, then drove east, as far as I could, to Chincoteague Island, VA, where I would spend six off-season months with the laughing gulls and wild ponies. There, I found a yoga sangha and a little sprite of a Kundalini guru named Gail. I found healing in community. I kept writing. The maritime air was conducive to the muse: I completed a full draft of my memoir manuscript.


I’d got even more intimate with my scoli spine; she had a name: Caroline. I studied John Sarno’s work, the mind-body prescription. I walked the beach daily, pausing every 100 paces to rest and move through my ocean salutations. I was still in pain, smiling through the tears as I trudged through the sand, wind whipping my hair, grateful as I remembered: I wasn’t living inside a steel cage.


As Summer approached, Ramblin’ Anne was antsy to get on the road again. This time I drove south, drawn into the Blue Ridge mountains of Western Carolina. I found a perfect little house on Chicken Hill in the Arts District. It had a desk and good light and was walking distance to the French Broad River. I kept writing.


I found Purna Yoga and Scroth Alignment Therapy. I learned how to breathe in a new way to open the space in my tight convex side and unwind the spinal twist. This took concentration – I couldn’t think about the pain or anything but my breath.

I began to slow down. I sat on river banks. I slithered into the cold water and swam with the currents. I wrote poems about primordial beings of me. If dreams of simplicity and freedom had lured me onto the road, it seemed I was beginning to realize them.


Everything in Asheville felt effortless – as if Divine forces were leading me to places and people I was meant to see. The weight of gravity on my body was lifting. I could stand, now, to cook a meal without so much pain, and lean before the mirror to do my makeup and comb my hair. The strength was returning to my glutes and legs; I went out to dance honky-tonk at the Cork and Keg, two-stepping through a muted version of the pain.


Rivers of Love in Asheville

Then, one fine fall day, down on the Swannanoa, I met a guitarist who swam the rivers, too.


Well, I didn’t actually meet him, that day; from afar, I saw him perched on a log playing his guitar, foot swinging over the water, when his friend came up and introduced herself.


“Haven’t see you here before. My name’s Jo.” She reached out her hand.


I smiled, peripheral sites trained on the guitarist, as we stood in cool, ankle-deep water. “I’m Marina.” My middle name rolled spontaneously off my lips. I was becoming someone else, in Asheville, a fluid, flowy version of me. I wanted to claim her.


“Who’s he?” I asked boldly – or maybe that was Marina – pointing, trying to hear the music over the rush of currents.


“Oh, that’s Hank Bones, finest guitarist in Asheville.”


I felt my face light-up. “Where does he play?”


The next night I met Jo at The Champagne Bar to see Mr. Bones’ jazz duo.


He was good. Extremely good - and seemed to have an endless repertoire of songs – Djengo to Jobim, Beatles to David Cassidy.


Jo affirmed. "Yep, literally thousands.”


I felt my body tingle as I sipped my cava and let the music infuse me.


On the break, the guitarist approached and laid a flower on my palm. “Plumeria.” he said. “From the tree in my kitchen. Too soon to move it outside.”


Gazing down at the perfect, pale blossom, inhaling its sweet scent, I thanked him. But he turned away so quickly, I’m not sure he heard me. When I got home, I placed the flower on my altar amidst other treasures from my travels – river stones and seashells, slabs of silvery mica, sprigs of lavender, a cup of my mother’s ashes, Goddess Kali.


Mr. Bones and I orbited each other for six months. I saw him perform at various venues around town and admired his talent from afar as I sipped my wine and sometimes found a partner with whom to dance.


But, truly, I reprimand myself: I was not interested in love. This was my healing journey – a heroine’s journey – no room for romance in that.

I was busy finalizing the next draft of my memoir and preparing to query agents.


I was dancing and hiking and meeting new people. I was dating here and there - just for fun.


Two and a half years into my nomad journey, I was beginning to love my life. I was living into the freedom I'd dreamed of.


I extended my lease on Chicken Hill. I had become a #slowmad.

Sweet Sixty aka A Kiss to Build a Dream On

Then, on my momentous birthday, March 7th, Mr. Bones showed up with his guitar.


He was the last act of Open Mic night at the Story Parlor venue where I held my birthday party.

Perched on a stool, on stage, he strummed the opening notes. Over the rapt silence, his fingers plucked up and down the neck as his milky voice crooned: “Give me - a kiss before you leave me - and my im-agi-nation…”


My girlfriend nudged me. “Marina, he’s singing to you. He’s serenading you.”


I shook my head, cheeks turning from flush to fuchsia in the dark. It was my 60th birthday. I’d long since packed my heart away in shoebox, like memorabilia. I hadn’t had a love for 15 years – dates, fling-things, but not love. I ignored the breathlessness in my chest, veins coursing with teenage adrenaline, as my heart thumped to Mr. Bones’ beat.


“Sweetheart, I ask you only this…”


I was a goner.


In the parking lot, after the show, party balloons stuffed in my car, we stood beneath the streetlamps, and he leaned in. Just as the song foretold, he planted upon me a kiss to build a dream on.


It’s been only 12 weeks - we have many rivers yet to swim. But what joy it is to have a person in your camp, your kitchen, your heart, your bed.


What’s more, in that time, my healing has moved to a new level. The numbness in my legs has all but disappeared, as has the gripping in my low left lumbar. I go days without even thinking of my crooked spine or the pain. I hike miles, now, powering up mountains with hardly a worry over a flareup. I am stronger, lighter, spriter than I’ve ever been.


And even when I do feel some pain from overdoing it, here’s the thing: I know I have the tools to bring my body back to equilibrium.


I hesitate to say: this just may be the healing power of love. 


Of course, I am love already – and so is he – and you are too.

But sometimes it takes another gazing into your eyes reflecting the truth back to you – when you’re ready to see – when you've taken a journey and battled foes and, finally. arrived home to the love within you.



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