Where do I start? As I look back along the path of my life there have been dozens of moments when the sets of footprints have been many. I know that God has been with me all the way, even when I have chosen to ignore Him. So I know that there has been at least one set along the sands of time when He was carrying me and, when I was “in a state of grace”, then we walked side by side leaving two sets of prints.
But those other times when more feet left their mark are when some very special people walked with me. People who loved me or at the very least cared about me enough to accompany me through difficult times. Sometimes these people were professionals whom I sought out for specific help. Other times they were special friends, the kind that leave footprints not only on the path of life but also across my heart.
If I were to be honest, even though I did not recognize it at the time, I would have to say that my mother was my first mentor. It would probably be even more honest to say that I was not capable of recognizing her in the mentor role. But with the wisdom that age eventually gives us and with the passage of time, I am able to understand and admit that she did indeed give me many of the values that I hold dear today.
My Aunty Polly was another mentor in my young life. She was not a blood relative but someone my parents knew from before they were married. She had an amazing ability to make me feel loved and cherished no matter what I may have done. She always had a compliment for me and she always smelled of some divine French perfume, and when she hugged me I wanted to stay inside her arms forever. As I struggled through my teen years her love and support never wavered. She was always ready to be my champion.
Sad to say I remember no particular mentors in my life during my upper school years or college years, although Aunty Polly was ever available if I bothered to approach her. This barren period of my life stretched into my marriage to my first husband. But the barrenness was of my own creation as I slid further and further into isolation.
It was not until a few years after I separated from my him that I began to seek help and became aware that there were some very compassionate people available if I but looked. Dear Fr. Hill, the Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Navy in La Maddalena, Sardinia was the first of those. His laughter filled the corridors of the Navy base and filled my battered heart with hope. In turn he introduced me to a young woman called Lou Ann who was to mentor me through the first few months of struggling out of my “dark period”.
As I took my place among my fellow citizens on this path of life I slowly understood that there was no stigma in seeking help from professionals. Since then I have been blessed with help from many psychologists and spiritual advisors: Dr. Lockart, Dr. Fernandez, Dr. Werbel, Dr. Boger, Chaplain Gerry Smith, Chaplain Steve Jensen, Chaplain Wendy Bausman, Chaplain Rod Kelley, Chaplain Terry Robertson, Chaplain Paul Witt, Chaplain Robert Church, Chaplain Mark Logid, Chaplain Greg Gillette, Chaplain Larry Smith. I know there were others. I can see their faces but my memory is being unkind and not allowing me to remember their names.
My dear friend Herm del Prato in Naples, Italy was another soul with whom I shared many personal stories and struggles. His ear was always willing and he was never judgmental. And how can I forget my “soul sister” Cawne who came into my life in 1987 and, in her own woundedness, opened up a whole new path of spiritual possibilities to me. Despite a large geographical separation we are deep friends to this day.
As I think of my life today I realize it is full of mentors in the unique friends who I choose to surround myself with. Men and women who are all questing on their own paths and yet willing to share and give of themselves to me. My beloved Mavis, who is also a substitute mother-aunty-sister-friend and who teaches me to remain teachable. Cathy and Lorelei in St. Augustine who help me stay true to myself.
Kathi, Paige, Tish and Robin who all help to keep me “right size” and show me how to live by going out there and living life themselves. Michael, who massages my body and through his skills, talents, knowledge, and experience helps me to get nearer to myself. Linda who helps me care for my garden and teaches me lessons of genuineness like no other.
And there are many more, too numerous to name, who through their actions and the way they live their lives, fill me with gratitude for their presence, for their friendship. They enrich my life with love, with compassion, with humility, with joy. They nurture me along my path. I am truly blessed.
It has taken me a long time to”go public” with my writing. About two weeks ago in my posting Poetry- Words Painting Pictures, I shared how I have always been fascinated and influenced by the written word. Even as a child I would write poetry and, as I progressed into my teens, I wrote funny “ditties” for friend’s birthdays. I even wrote a skit or two that we used in high School.
Diving into the “dark period” of my life I isolated from the creative Muse. But as I approached the end of those troubled years and was close to breaking out into the sunshine of true living, it does not surprise me that the first sign of her return was in poetry – even though it was somewhat depressive. I think the expressing of my feelings as I came through that difficult period helped me to walk out of the darkness and into the light.
Shortly after the poetry came the painting. (Art classes were second favorite to gymnastics and outdoor sports when I attended the Ursuline High School for girls.) I lived in Sardinia at the time and I was blessed to have a wonderful artist in my life at that time. His name was Santiago (still is, he lives in Puerto Rico with his wife Josefina), and he was an engineer who worked in the same set of offices as I.
Santiago was one of those many mentors in my life that I will write a posting about soon. He was a quiet, slightly built man with a round face who looked more like a studious professor than an engineer; not that I know what an engineer should specifically look like! But one thing he was passionate about was the creative and artistic process. And I am happy to say that he enjoyed sharing that with others as much as he indulged in it for his own delight and personal satisfaction.
To go to Santiago’s house on the island of La Maddalena, Sardinia was like going to an art gallery and attending a concert at the same time. Every wall in every room was covered with his art work. He produced paintings prolifically and painted every corner of the island from every angle possible. He used oil paints as well as water colors and his work was magnificent.
He also played the guitar, and many glasses of wine were consumed as he shared his passion for painting and music. Josefina was a very patient hostess who probably did not fully understand this strange English woman who kept appearing at their doorstep. But I wanted, needed, to be steeped in the creativity that permeated their household (Josefina was very artistic in her own way too), although I’m afraid she may have thought sometimes that I just wanted to be steeped in wine!!
It was exposure to Santiago and his love of painting that influenced me to go into town one day and buy all the basics to start painting again. Of course, being somewhat obsessive, I then began to paint in every free moment possible, sometimes working until two or three o’clock in the morning even though I had to be in the office by 8am. But it was wonderful to be in the grip of the creative Muse, and to watch a painting unfold and develop was an incredible experience.
This all happened in the early to mid seventies. I married my husband Richard about ten years later and although I stopped painting I continued to be involved in some form of creative art. We met in a little theater group and our relationship developed amid the smell of grease paint and the magic of the spotlights. Over the years I recouped my love of calligraphy (the art of beautiful writing) and created and printed many pieces for sale.
Today I create cards with the help of Stampin’ Up products and my teacher Mary Gillette. For me it is so exciting to see a piece of creative work develop and then hold the finished product in my hands. To share that with someone as a Birthday card, a Thank You card, or a Christmas card adds another layer of pleasure and satisfaction to the process. It also gives me great pleasure and joy to share my writing with others in the hope that someone, somewhere, will find their own pleasure and perhaps a little enlightenment in the words that I write.
Over the years I have discovered that God has blessed me with many gifts and talents other than a sense of the artistic. As my life unfolds and I continue to be open to whatever path He leads me on, it seems that part of my life’s mission is to be in the right place at the right time with the right words for specific people. To this end God has blessed me with the gift of compassion for others, especially those who are travelling their own dark path or are struggling with hardship and tragedy.
I think this is why I am able to do the work that I do as a volunteer with Community Hospice of North East Florida. It also helps me as I volunteer at my own church in the Ministry of Consolation. And then there are all those individuals who seem to cross my path “by chance”, but when we say goodbye and continue on our individual journeys, I understand that I have ministered to them in His name.
As I read back over this article, I realize that it is not at all what I thought I was going to write. But that is often the way it is for me. I start off in one direction and end up going totally in another. I think it has something to do with that “meandering” quality that God instilled in me. But I also think it has more to do with inviting Him on the journey with me as my fingers start their journey across the keyboard.