Barbara Thomas

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Meeting the Woman on the Mountain by Mary Jane Di Piero

Presented by Mary Jane Di Piero on June 12th, 2013 § 2 comments

Sometimes, looking back after years, I am startled to see a map that leads to an outcome I would never have dreamed. The route is never the super highway one but is oddly disjointed, with little mapping points popping up here and there and long lapses when the road might seem lost.

Perhaps I stopped at an all-consuming job or dallied with divorce, or mixed in a major life map like raising a child. But then I can see how a theme picks its way through the landscape, and I am dimly aware that under the surface of events, things are happening that are not entirely of my doing. It has been so with this work I am now undertaking, as I begin a blog with and about Barbara Thomas, the Woman on the Mountain.

DSCN0075I met Barbara some 30 years ago. At first, it was not so much the woman who attracted me as it was the sacred amphitheater I discovered on the mountain.  It seemed magical, the tall no-nonsense redwoods mixing with the curved mature madrones, and both cheered from below by a sprinkling of deciduous trees and shrubs, filmy and delicate—an interweaving of different sensibilities that allowed a special spirit to filter through the space.  Barbara and Jim Thomas owned the amphitheater and Barbara led sacred circle dances there.

Coming from the other side of the mountain, from the jangle of Silicon Valley and the flurry of my daily life, I relished the dancing: simple steps repeated over and over, until my feet knew them and my body could lose itself in the haunting music and the ancient passed-down wisdom of movement dedicated to heaven and earth. And yet, I went to the dances only a few times through the years.

In 2005, when an old friend and I had both left the Waldorf school at the same time, we chose the amphitheater as the place to hold a labyrinth ceremony. With other friends we laid the Chartres form in forest debris and 1,000 tea lights.

Years before, when our daughters were in 7th grade, we had done a rite of passage ceremony for them, learning a series of songs and dances created by the Waldorf school’s eurythmy accompanist, Joan McMillan. Her beautiful music and lyrics carried us this time too:  “A magic dwells in each beginning, encircling us and teaching us to live” and “Set your feet to the path for there is no scanother way.”

Barbara was there with us that night, and at the end she declared that the fire spirits had never been so pleased or felt so acknowledged. A few weeks later, in appreciation (a more timid soul than Barbara might have vetoed the candles as a fire hazard), I brought her a photograph of the ceremony and we had our first real conversation.

I started doing small retreats at the guest cottage, spending hours in the amphitheater alone, in the rain, early in the morning, at night, sitting in tree hollows, gazing, longing, doing my best to honor the energy I felt there. I have always wanted to see angels and elementals, and I knew this must be one of their portals.

I had also formed a belief through the years that such clairvoyance or “second sight” was not my gift or my task in this lifetime. Nevertheless, this belief did not keep me from feeling a sense of loss that I had no palpable access to the extra-sensory realms I have solidly supported for so long.

On my retreats I would always visit Barbara, and she began telling me about her long-cultivated relationships with the nature spirits on her land. What grew in me was the consideration that, like other forms of spiritual discipline, the back-and-forth communication she described was a practice and a process, not a propensity that one either does or does not have. My acceptance that such “bells and whistles” were not for me shifted to questions: Why not me? Why not anyone who is willing to do the work? And therefore, why hadn’t I so far been willing or able to do the work successfully?

About a year ago, I went down to the amphitheater after a conversation with Barbara and decided to put this new possibility to a test.  I lay down on the ground and declared: I’m not going to leave until I have a message from one of you elementals!  It was a warm day and I loved being there with the sun dappling through the tree branches; I could wait. After a short time, the line came into my head: Go home and talk to your own elementals! I laughed, because, indeed, at the moment I am living in an ensouled place myself—another one of those portals—and it made eminent sense to start there. Still, definitive success on my own turf has eluded me, and so I am pleased that Barbara, the amphitheater and its nature spirits are now coming into my life in a new, more purposeful way.

 

§ 2 Responses to Meeting the Woman on the Mountain by Mary Jane Di Piero"

  • Donna Wilkin says:

    John and I loved reading these stories – Barbara’s and Mary Jane’s. They remind us that elements and spirits are in our lives, too. John asked me what a gnome is. I said I didn’t actually know, but Barbara does and MJ is intrigued, too. I’ve never had much of a spiritual life, but growing up on Grimm’s Tales taught me to believe in forest paths that alter directions without warning (usually for good if you stay with it) and secret words that can break spells. We will read more to find out who these gnomes are if you will write about them. Thank you! Donna

  • Jay Cee Pigg says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I had to LOL at your being recommended by a gnome to be blogger for Barbara. I remain curious if there is any connection between Barbara’s dream many years ago of going into a cave and her experience at the cairn.

    I too have seen patterns weaving in the lives of myself and members of my family – it typically takes many years to discern it. Reading this blog was like discovering the pattern linking many apparently unrelated connections to the lives of myself (Jay Cee Pigg) and my wife Patti. I have met you in another context, as a Waldorf High School student teacher. My wife Patti knows you through the Santa Cruz First Class. (There is a CLC at Yuba River/Grass Valley, and she hopes you will find a First Class there also; otherwise you would have to come down to RSC.) Patti was mentored as a Veriditas Labyrinth facilitator by Joan McMillan, and both Patti and I have taken classes from Anna Rainville along the way in our Waldorf teacher training. Patti also has met Joan Davis when she came to the Red Tent retreats to lead sacred circle dances.

    Sometime more than five and less than 10 years ago, I came to a presentation on Celtic mythology and magical traditions given by Mara Freeman at Amity House over a series of Saturdays. Part of her presentation was to go out into the gardens and try to connect with the nature spirits. I was disappointed to find that I could not. (Thank you for your encouraging words about keeping trying until you succeed!) Then we went to the Redwood Amphitheater and did a circle dance. Barbara told us about the gnomes there, and some of the people in the class could also see them. One weekend, after the group had gone home, Barbara graciously gave me a tour of her art studio, and I learned what they look like and what they do from her art and her explanation of it.

    I have been concerned ever since that time about something that happened. The gnomes at the amphitheater told Mara they were “concerned that people would come and cut the trees.” Mara told them they “needn’t worry, as Barbara would make sure that didn’t happen.” They told her they “trusted Barabara, but she was human and wouldn’t be around forever to protect them. Then what?” I felt that Barbara should create some sort of trust to preserve and protect the sacred site as well as to continue her artistic and other endeavors to build a bridge between humans and the spirits in nature. (And now her Healing Burned Women ministry too, which provides the missing piece, the source of the disconnect between humans and nature in our time – a time when the mutual healing of humans and of nature is so critical.) Until now I have not spoken to anyone about my concern. Now I know that Barbara has a network of people who understand and support her work, such as the sacred circle dance group as well as others who use the property for various “happenings”, and yourself in particular. I expect that members of her family also appreciate what she is doing and value the spiritual value of the land more than its property value. These would be the logical persons to carry it forward.

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    After years of stimulating Barbara
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