My Father… And The Gnomes… He Who Preserves Himself… He Who The Earth Preserves… The Transformative Experience of Empowering Rather Than Enabling…


My Father In The Hartford Courant, One Of The Oldest Newspapers In The Country...
My Father In The Hartford Courant, One Of The Oldest Newspapers In The Country…

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself,

If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world,

Then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.

Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.

~ Lao Tzu

Understanding my father’s love for Nature came to me simply. Since childhood, I was given the chance to witness his passion for the outdoor world, the countless times my older brother and I accompanied him on his journeys. During those times, the three of us, and sometimes with my mother, went on long experiential walks, built kites together to fly in our city parks, explored the height and length of snow-covered hills with our sleds, dug our bare hands into the soft earth for bait to lure fish, rode and studied the waters in rented boats, traveled and vacationed out of state and more… It is no wonder why I too have developed a deep adoration for the natural world and travel… Much of my childhood was spent outdoors, in various landscapes, where I learned the serenity of life and the freedom of being…  The way of Nature, how it humbly influences, placates and lifts us, without our summons, is truly awe-inspiring and priceless…

The greater lessons of life instilled in my brother and me as children seemed to come mostly in the time spent outside our home… What the natural world encouraged in us, including in my father and mother, was to live in the present, receptively. Children are easily guided by their organic instincts to explore, to let go and give way to—now, therefore, losing themselves, unabashedly, in fun and fruitful activities… And because honest play and laughter are infectious, adults have a tendency to want to join in, either vicariously or in actuality… The adage, the more the merrier, truly takes on a more significant meaning when all in the family are involved in activities that heighten our perceptions, our relationships and our lives… It is taught that, those who pray together stay together… I would like to make a slight adjustment to this popular belief and say, those who play together stay together, for memorable moments are indeed everlasting…

While still quite young, my father and mother’s marriage began to embrace a new relational dynamic. Father spent less time in our home and our travels together became fewer… Our frequent visits to the park and worldly excursions continued with our mother, who too, like my father, experienced great peace and joy from nature and travel. Yet, neither nature nor travel precluded the emotional shifts caused by my father’s prolonged absences. My mother, brother and I still had fun… We still laughed… We still found tremendous comfort with each other and in nature, and we still allowed ourselves to experience our feelings as we knew how… While my father was away and when he returned to us after long pauses, it was sadness that seemed to often persuade our expressions.  Although we each, my father, mother, brother and I, expressed ourselves differently, we all honestly communicated how we were changed, individually and as a family… My brother and I missed our father’s continuous presence… My mother’s responsibilities were no longer under the titles of wife and mother, but now as single, working parent… My father’s life was being shaped by a different set of factors that did not include the family he had become most familiar with… I easily and simply understood my father’s love for nature, but I could not grasp him becoming content with a life that did not include us, his children and their mother.

I was almost thirty years old when the answers and understanding came to me about why my father had become who and what he had… Through part of my childhood, all of my adolescence and a portion of my adulthood, I allowed my limited knowledge and my father’s infrequent appearances and aloof behavior influence my perceptions of him… I found that I was defining my father by terms related to my discomforts rather than by terms related to his actual truth. A truth that would reveal to me why he was showing up in my life more like a stranger and not the father I knew early in my life… I wanted my father to show up as the man that created pleasurable moments for me, my brother and mother, not a man I felt compelled to hide from… When he didn’t show up in the way I wanted him to, my disappointments further defined our relationship… and yet, everything I ever felt about my father, or could feel regarding our relationship, remained accompanied by love… Love continued to linger around our relationship regardless of how he showed up, and how long he stayed or was gone… If I had come to know no other truth, there at least was this truth, unconditional love was indeed sustaining us… and it was inevitably and beautifully transforming my life at the perfect time… in perfect ways…

Who knew I would be ready for more change while working a full-time job, completing a Master’s Degree, going through a divorce and acclimating myself in a new home and environment… I knew, perhaps not consciously, but emotionally… I was mature enough to accept my father’s truth without reservation, judgement and shame… So when my aunt, my father’s sister, sat me down and said to me, my father has been managing Schizophrenia since the age of eighteen (18), all I could feel was a deep calm covering me. Whatever confounded emotions I felt about my father previously, subsided, completely… I now felt only compassion for him. It wasn’t a sympathetic, I feel sorry for you compassion… It was plainly, I now understand and forgive you and I forgive myself… Finding out that my father’s prolonged absences were due to his inability to cope with what he was going through mentally, emotionally and physically softened me… My father wanted to keep away from his family the inner turmoil he was struggling with, but we still got glimpses of it during his short visits… As a child and adolescent, I couldn’t accept my mother’s decision to move away and leave my father in order to shield us from disturbing episodes. As an adult woman, who would only in a few years turn thirty years old, all I could do was love my mother more and respect her decisions…

My Older Brother and Me At A Park Not Too Far From Home...
My Older Brother and Me At A Park Not Too Far From Home… Hartford, Connecticut…

It is truly amazing how unconditional love and abiding faith work in accord… Having been told about my father’s state of mind, while I was going through multiple life-transitions and handling several major responsibilities at once, one might think a meltdown would be appropriate.  But instead, there was a perfect unfoldment of experiences manifesting in my life… At the time of the news received by my aunt, I was taking a creative writing course. In the course, our professor requested that we write a short story about our childhood. I decided to write about the time my father took me ice-skating on the pond, at a park not too far from our home, and the time he took my brother and me to fly our kites. I wrote about the joy and laughter we each shared with each other, and about the snow angels we created on top of the clusters of fluffy, iridescent-white snowflakes. Angels that always remained a part of our lives… I had also written that in the midst of the beauty we as a family shared, there were occasions when I was left to question my father’s displays of dispiritedness… These were the times when I wouldn’t have minded becoming one of the angels in the snow…

While enrolled in the creative writing course, I too was taking a literary criticism class… I had to remember and develop stories about my childhood in my creative writing course, and learn the fundamental meaning of reality in my literary criticism class. Our professor shared that the fundamental meaning of reality would be more understood after analyzing the writings of thirteen (13) different authors. What fun this would be… I had never written a critical analysis of anyone’s book before…  Although, I could at the time, understand, write and code computer language.  Perhaps the two are not the same, but they both surely took a whole lot of brain work… My first attempt at writing a paper for my literary criticism class afforded me a grade I preferred not to share. I then decided to push myself further by meeting one-on-one with my professor, spending more time at the university library and researching critical analysis written by others. Some of what I found and read, the thoughts shared, truly peaked my interest; yet I wanted something more… Me being me, I decided I would write a literary criticism that allowed me to express my very own perceptions about each book. I was not the least bit interested in writing anything that had already been written. I wanted to learn something entirely new about the authors and about their stories. So that’s what I did. I put away most of what I had researched and kept what I thought would help me discover my own ideas, my own unique voice and fresh insights… It was time to write a literary criticism that would get my professor’s full attention and get me a good grade… Based on my following grades, and on my professor’s comments and facial gestures, I had accomplished what I set out to do…  There was still one thing left… I had to decide, such as the principal characters had to do in each book, including “The Movie Goer” written by Walker Percy, what is actually real?  In the book, “The Movie Goer” John Bolling had to decide whether it was the movie or the life we ourselves are creating…

I did very well in both my creative writing and literary criticism classes. I was very pleased with the final grades I received… I was ready to move on and complete my other courses needed to garner my degree… Yet, I still didn’t have an answer. What is actually real, the movie or the life we ourselves are creating? Is life merely a dualistic paradigm of our existence? A dichotomous world created and magnified by our imaginations and beliefs? Is the paradox of life fiction or non-fiction or both? Maybe I needed to be less in my head and more in my heart and body to get a better grasp on what was honestly being asked and revealed, simultaneously… I continued to take more writing courses, considering my goal to become a full-time author and speaker, and took more criticism classes. I also enrolled in dance classes, including dance therapy. As a part-time dancer and choreographer, I was interested in further studying the art form, we call dance, I so passionately loved… In my dance class, I was able to explore the feelings I felt within my heart and body… I was moving through a divorce, developing a more meaningful bond with my mother, re-discovering the man who was now just my father, rather than both a stranger and my father, and being encouraged to further unearth my relationship with me. God knows it requires quite a bit of patience and spirit to sit alone and engage oneself… Sitting with myself wasn’t difficult… Connecting more deeply with my own emotions and physical feelings was… To fully engage myself meant I had to release, totally, whatever judgements I had regarding me, my life… Dance therapy was teaching me how to do this… What I was learning through both writing and dance was that, whatever I thought and felt about me… was what was creating me, creating my life… To change me… To change my life… I had to change my thoughts about me… I had to change my feelings about me… Then the manifestation of my new self-truth would evolve… The beauty in this was that my life, my story and dance, could be what I wanted it to be… And so I let go and just danced…

My Father's Family Gifted Me With This Necklace During One of Our Annual Holiday Gatherings... 2013
My Father’s Family Gifted Me With This Necklace During One of Our Annual Holiday Gatherings… 2013

In the choreography of my dance, I was facing myself in the mirror more, and seeing myself as an actual person, with actual thoughts and feelings, emotional and physical. I didn’t always like the visible blemishes that I saw, but I looked at me anyway… Another student in my dance therapy class put it this way, when I complained about having a pimple on my face, “It just means that you’re real.” I couldn’t help but appreciate her words… Yes, I am real… It took time for me to admit this to myself, but finally I did… Yes, I am real… In the choreography of my dance, I could feel this sentiment growing while my heart and body confessed out loud what, I wanted… I wanted to have my mother nearer to the love in my heart… I wanted to cry honestly and freely whenever I felt like it… I wanted to laugh more often and un-regrettably… I wanted to hold myself lovingly and gently and witness a free and beautiful dance with me… I wanted to once more wear only what accentuated the best parts of me and made me feel pretty… I learned that the best parts of me are… all of me… So I wore my smile as often as possible… I wanted to again go on long walks with my father and hear him share his thoughts about the natural world as though Nature was his best friend… I wanted to live fully, my own glorious, liberated and fulfilling life, simply because I had no reason not to… In the choreography of my dance, I wanted the truth that I live… to be one I will always be in love with…

It was time for my talk with my father, to share with him what I knew… There are many ways to have a conversation with someone… Nonetheless, to have a conversation with your father regarding the health of his mind requires a high level of empathy and sensitivity… I first spoke with my father over the phone to let him know I would be picking him up… Of course, my father was elated. He is always happy to hear from both my brother and me, and more than anything else to see us… The day my father and I would have the talk, I drove to the location where he was staying. He was anxiously waiting for me… I got out of my car, walked to him and we hugged and exchanged greetings. We then began to talk about whatever surfaced… Eventually, we drove to my place. I asked my father to work with me on a project I was creating for my dance therapy class. It was to be a children’s book regarding a young girl named Rose and the friendship she develops with her imaginary friend, the sunflower, who comes to life to change her life… The project required some drawing, coloring and cut-outs. My father, the quintessential artist, who was well known for his drawings, paintings, carvings, sculptures and more, within and outside of the state of Connecticut, and who had been recognized by The Hartford Courant and the Boston Museum of Art, among other places and media, agreed to do so. We sat at my dining room table to begin the process of putting together the book. Instead of my father drawing the subjects and objects I asked him to, including the little girl and the sunflower, he coaxed me to try my own hand at drawing… I didn’t do as well as he would’ve, but I managed to create images that would work. He watched me for a while and we made small talk, outside of our discussion about the book. When I felt there was an opening for us to talk about what I’d learned from my aunt, I shifted our dialogue toward his previous and current mental health matters… My father didn’t shy away from our present discussion, but I could tell that he was slightly distant from it… It didn’t matter to me whether or not he shared anything more regarding his mental health experiences, I just wanted him to know I knew and that I loved him…

Weeks, months and years passed and I continued to share with my father what I was feeling about his mental health experience. My aunt provided me with study material to learn more about Schizophrenia and I did my own research. Of course, I had plenty of questions for my father; however, I found myself sharing information with him, rather than asking a multitude of questions. I was sure he had already answered more than enough. Once I had done what I thought was a thorough amount of study, I put away the papers and began following my own intuition… My intuition led me to believe that my father’s mind was very healthy. Here is a man who is splendidly intelligent, brilliantly artistic, a lover of life and nature and is capable of achieving anything he wanted for his life…. So, does he really have Schizophrenia, or did his highly-sensitized body, and overly-stimulated mind, simply react to a child-hood trauma that was now surfacing at the age of eighteen and altering his life? My thoughts and feelings proposed to me that in order for my father to evade the experience that remained in his mental, emotional and physical bodies, that hurt and confused him, he had to distance himself from his own thoughts, emotions and material feelings. We all have done this at times in our lives in an attempt to avoid what we did not want to confront. In my father’s case, he was still quite young, had just entered into his first year at Lehigh University, a completely new environment, and still felt very uneasy about what he had experienced as an infant. The altered state my father began to experience while in his first year in college, heightened him to the point where he was tuning into multiple frequencies at once… He could hear voices in both the spiritual and physical realms. He could experience other people’s feelings and physically feel their energies, pleasant and unpleasant… He could see visions that were not only his own… This would be scary to anyone, especially someone who is unaware of what is actually occurring… It could also be disabling…

A medical doctor would say, “Sounds like Schizophrenia. Medication will help…” A natural healer would say, “Sounds like you need to sing and dance more and spend additional time with yourself in Nature…” I spent a lot of time in nature with both my parents and saw what the natural world could do for us all. Growing up, I too frequently witnessed the habits of my mother, who kept herself healthy and in-tune by incorporating into her life natural remedies and practices such as meditation, yoga, martial arts, playing music, singing and dance. So when I was feeling confident enough, I couldn’t help but say to my father, “You don’t need medication. You can heal yourself.” My father’s response was, “But the medication helps.” Perhaps it does, however, medication had yet to resolve and dissolve the experience that caused his altered state… Over the years, following the initial conversation I had with my father about the health of his mind, and my wish for him to try a new way to heal himself, I witnessed his efforts to try and to do differently. Some days were easier than others, but he continued his efforts. Alcohol had become a staple beverage in my father’s life. He was now working on eliminating it, completely. Still there were the varied prescriptions that remained, medications that invoked and brought out his depressive state.  To alleviate his feelings of dauntlessness, I would keep company with him in the natural world. Seeing how his spirits could easily be lifted whenever we were outdoors, we again began family vacations together…

While on vacation, I always encouraged my father to make use of the natural world rather than make use of his medication… He would receptively partake in the mostly plant based meals my mother and I prepared… He would go for long walks by himself, lie out on the porch and bask in the sun, sit near the water or in the grass and engage me, my brother and/or my mother in conversation regarding the natural elements. We generally discussed how one could tell the difference between the three types of rocks, what kinds of trees were in our midst, which birds lived within the environment and how to tell what direction the wind was blowing by licking our thumbs then sticking them out into the air. I loved learning my father’s knowledge regarding nature and watching his interactions with his surroundings, as subtle as they were… The adoration shared between my father and Nature truly is indescribable… I could clearly see why he is so profoundly changed, and for longer periods of time, when we are simply being, in a place that gives to us so freely, so generously and kindly—the natural world…

My father’s life significantly improved once we again began annual vacations… He always looked forward to the months of July and August. We celebrate my mother’s birthday in July and my father’s in August. For the last fourteen years, it’s usually around the end of July or the beginning of August when we pack the car with our luggage and take our drive out of state toward what we’ve made another home. There we are surrounded by a large lake, lots of green grass and trees, plenty of wild-life, friendly neighbors and serenity… I remember our trips to state parks affording my family the same experience when I was a child. The only difference between my experience as a child and my experience as an adult is, as a child, there were more people with us in the experience of freedom and play… It causes me to appreciate even more the adage I shared earlier, the more the merrier… Our tribal ancestors and those who still inhabit our natural environments, and rely on our land for healing and sustained health and well-being know this creed of life all too well… Their inclination to gather in large groups and sing and dance together, celebrate life together, pray and play together and give to themselves and to each other together, is the most precious gift bequeathed unto ourselves… By ourselves we are given the opportunity to learn life… With others we are given the opportunity to live life… In the acts of learning life and living life we are given the opportunity to be life—to be our own greatest and highest reality—the real life we want to live…now

To additionally support my father’s affirmative growth and developments, I shared with him an informative and inspiring article I read. It speaks about the way of the shamans as they work with what others have called, dispirited, bi-polar or schizophrenic persons. Shamans and other natural healers do not consider these persons to be ill or out of sorts. They are individuals who are seen as those experiencing a transformation in consciousness… They are receiving awareness and healing from the spiritual world that helps them to fulfill their greater purpose while in the physical world. If the person receiving the higher awareness and healing does not understand what is transpiring, they can become confused, and therefore, unreceptive and out of tune with the energy coming through. This might cause them to as well become out of alignment with themselves, mentally, emotionally and physically. In essence, the altered state necessary to receive the higher awareness and healing that is coming through, is a temporary state of mind induced as a spiritual transitioning is occurring within the mind and body of the person. Because shamans and natural healers are familiar with both spiritual and physical dimensions and energy, they are able to assist the person going through the spiritual transition back into themselves to become whole and grounded again. This is normally done via ceremonial practices and rituals which include dance, song and prayer. Once the ceremonial practices and rituals are done, the individual is completely healed and in full alignment once more with themselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically… The spiritual and natural worlds are then experienced as one dimension, one reality… Some of us might say, we then experience our heaven here on earth…

My father began his rites of passage, it appears, at the age of eighteen, when at the time he was being offered the gift of a new life… Yet, like me, he nor the others in his life had the answer to the question, “What is actually real? The movie or the life we ourselves are creating?”  Perhaps both are real. The movie offers to us a world mixed with both fiction and non-fiction. When the characters within the dimensional field we view as separate from our own lives, re-enact for us what is already familiar, whether we directly lived the experience or not, we call this non-fiction… Seeing what is already familiar, we are given the opportunity to re-examine our lives and to decide what we want to keep and what we want to let go… Fiction brings us toward another or new way of existing. An existence which we will either choose to emulate or to bypass… Whether we emulate or bypass the experience, we are still invariably creating and re-creating a life that will please or dis-please us… Off screen, the world is like our movie, with the exception that we each are principal characters… As principal characters, the role(s) we play will either be chosen for us; or we’ll have the chance to choose for ourselves… Once we’ve chosen the roles we’ll play, we then begin the act of living out a story; but whose? Will we take the initiative to modify the story scripted for us, if it doesn’t reflect our own perceptions of life; or will we accept the perceptions of another that have been handed to us?  As principal characters, what are our freedoms? I believe our freedoms are, to live the story as it is, how someone else has written it; modify the story to reflect more closely what we actually want to tell and to demonstrate based on our own beliefs and perceptions; re-write the story, entirely, or plainly throw away what has been given to us and write a brand new script…

We all are given many scripts throughout our lives, such as my father has. I can’t tell you how many scripts were given him, but I do know at least one allowed him to view the world as a dichotomous reality, where voices, images and feelings, emotional and physical, were experienced as both familiar and unfamiliar, friendly and un-friendly… And one of these scripts was able to endow him with the gift to experience a temporal, altered reality meant for the purpose of revealing a higher state of awareness and way toward complete healing… As I think about this latter script, the words of Tyler Knott Gregson come to mind. He says, “Oh what we could be if we stopped carrying the remains of who we were.” Being one who is also inspired by Dr. Seuss’s wisdom, these words, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out,” moved me to create my own slightly modified wording, ‘Why fit it in when you were meant to toss it out.’ We can interpret my father’s life in varied ways. We can say that he accepted scripts that led him further away from himself, rather than back to himself, more whole, more complete, more perfect. We can also ask the question, how would he have known which script to choose? Perhaps, at first he didn’t know where the scripts handed him would lead him, but each step forward revealed something more to him. Whatever and whoever it was, showed up as either a reality that he could easily live with or not…

My father chose to keep going forward… Some steps were easy to take… some were hard, but he kept going anyway… Eventually, his journey would lead him back to nature, where he discovered the subtleties of life and how nature so easily preserves itself… Eventually, his journey would lead him back to the mind of an artist, who could use his own imagination to envision and manifest in form greater and higher realities… Eventually, his journey would lead him back to his family, who would remind him of the power and potentials of unconditional love and abiding faith… Eventually, his journey would lead him back to his own heart, where dwells the sanctuary of divine presence and the music that inspires his freedom of being, serenity and fruitfulness of play…  Eventually, his journey would lead him back into his own body, a body that exhibits for him the stature of a man who constantly stands courageously, strongly and enduringly… Eventually, his journey would lead him back to himself, where he would learn that the most precious gift ever bestowed on him was the gift of beginning anew… A gift that is given time and time again without our requests, and can never be taken away…

My Father Carved These Gnomes Out of Mahogany Wood, I Was Told Before I Was Born...
My Father Carved These Gnomes Out of Mahogany Wood, I Was Told Before I Was Born…

Today, I am excited to say, I am witnessing the greater and higher life, the new life, a consciously chosen reality, of the man who I am blessed to call, my father… As I watch him mature in his awareness of himself, and gain a fuller understanding of what caused his past life experiences, I too grasp a more complete and fulfilling answer to the question, “What is actually real? The movie or the life we ourselves are creating? The answer for me is this… What is real is what we choose to make real… Whatever I thought and felt about me, was what was creating me, creating my life… Whatever I think, believe and feel about life is what continuous to create and sustain that life… In nature, like in ourselves, there is an organic symphony of life that forms us and births us… It is why we are invariably drawn to nature… It is why we are inevitably drawn back to ourselves… Silence is music… Thoughts are music… Feelings are music… Life is music… There will never be a time when we are not drawn to life’s organic and beautiful music… I remember when I first received a handful of Gnomes from my father’s aunt, my great aunt. My father carved them out of mahogany wood. When I found out what Gnomes are, I could only smile… They are preservers of the earth… Within these many years of my father’s life, some of the shamans who have appeared for him, whether by his own hand, or otherwise, have come in the form of these tiny, wooden people… They come with the gift of music… for it is the only life that can preserve the earth… the only life that can preserve us… Go inside… Go inside… the earth, the natural world… Go inside… Go inside… yourself… there is the music that causes us to live…

In the freshly scripted stories of our lives, written by either ourselves or others, how will we see and experience our world… Will the world for us be as God’s sanctuary, our glorious playground, our heaven on earth, where we are moved to create un-ending joy and laughter… Or will the world be for us a dichotomous reality, a world that both pleases and dis-pleases us, therefore, causing us to dream dreams for something more and better…  Who will be the next to write our scripts…  Father, I thought about a script for you… It contains only this title, “The Dance,” and only this question, ‘In the choreography of your dance, what will you do?’ Besides the title and the one question, the pages are blank… But if you’d like, you can begin your new story, your new dance, with this…

Every child has known God.

Not the God of Names,

Not the God of don’t do this,

And don’t do that…                                                                                                

Not the God who ever does anything weird,

But the God who knows only four words, and

Keeps repeating them over and over, saying:

‘Come dance with me,

Come dance with me,

Come dance with me,

Come dance…

~Hafiz, The Gift

This story was inspired by Chapter 4: Trust Yourself, within my book, “Rise & Reach: Life and Leadership.”   To purchase copies of any of my books, there are seven (7), visit: www.amazon.comwww.barnesandnoble.com … or www.partnersingoodwill.com … To learn more about me, Dana Rondel, the author of this blog, please visit: www.windinc.org

Stay tuned for more informative, inspiring and uplifting blogs on danarondel.com … I love sharing with you all whatever keeps you lifted in spirit, soul, mind, heart and body… biashedo™ ~ My Universe Is Friendly, Inside and Out… And So Is Yours… Life is Good…

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