Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Listening For Spirits

Sometimes we hear the voice of a family member who has died, or we feel their presence. Is it real?

Out of the blue, I think to send something to a friend in another state. When it arrives three days later, it’s exactly what she needed. How did I know? Is something going on beyond coincidence?

We are more connected to each other than we think, to both the living and the dead.

Soon after I arrive in Yosemite, a coyote always appears, either sitting along the road to welcome me in, or trotting across the meadow with a glance toward me. Molly says Coyote is my spirit guide. She might be right. Some people say they never see coyotes. I see them all the time.

As I hike, I feel the companionship of Nature’s spirit, and let it guide me where it wants. The wind shifts near and advises me about tomorrow’s weather. Taking a break, I fall asleep along a river in the wilderness, unafraid of large animals sneaking up, feeling that I have come home.

We are not limited by what we see.

Sometimes I wonder if my ancestors left predispositions in my genes, some trait that kept them alive that guides me like a hidden instinct. Science says this is possible, that the trauma our ancestors endured rewired circuits in their cells, and this was passed on to me.

In scientific societies, it’s easy to be skeptical of what happens after death because we can’t prove anything. It’s like trying to prove that Schroedinger’s cat is alive without looking. Everything we think we know is second or third-hand information, like something we heard from a friend of a friend. I don’t know anyone who has been to heaven, or hell, and come back.

I believe that everyone I’ve ever loved is still present inside me in some way.

When I’m hiking in the backcountry, I’ve learned to trust what I sense, like choosing one path instead of another, and finding out later that a mountain lion was spotted on the path I did not take. Often I find trail ducks. These are stacks of rocks left by hikers to indicate turns in the trail that are hard to see. Hikers leave them as a kindness for people who will come later; people they will never meet.

Black Elk believed that people were brothers and sisters to all of creation — humans of other tribes, the bison, rivers, horses, coyotes, and ravens. The Sioux believe that their Grandfathers and Grandmothers in the afterlife send messages to guide them.

Here in Yosemite, the Ahwahnechees believed that the deer willingly gave themselves up to their arrows, knowing that the Ahwahnechees had to eat.

I believe that the spiritual can be more real than the physical, because matters of the spirit are not bound by the laws that govern physical objects.

I will follow the trail ducks of the Spirit — hope, faith, kindness, love.

I will aim to say what I mean and live with compassion for all people, even those who disagree with me. I will listen for what I cannot see, because its the unseen that often changes the world.


  1. Once again, Mark, thank you for saying with eloquence, what I have also experienced. Bless You!