Ascension in the North Cascades
By Patricia Herlevi
I was traveling in the mountains with a man that I never thought I’d see again. And it started when I read about Lila Downs cabaret singing mother which sparked a past life memory. The mountain quest had to do with healing scarred souls if we didn’t get lost along the way. While I wasn’t good at reading maps, I understood the soul path.
“You told me to take this road,” Teshi scoffed.
“Alright, I read the map wrong. No need to get cross,” I countered. I studied the worn map. “Okay, let’s backtrack until we’ll find the right road.”
“Backtrack? I thought that’s what we were doing.”
As we drove in uncomfortable silence, I stared at the mountain crevices, swallowing hard to stop my ears from popping. I wondered if taking the ascension experience literally was the right way to go. As it turned out, we searched the mountains for an Old West town. And it felt like a quixotic journey, to say the least.
Our lives had been heading for trouble for years. Teschi’s music career crashed. I also found myself on the wrong end of the music business. Instead of performing my compositions, I wrote about the lives of fulfilled musicians. Add financial troubles and health issues to that list.
While this was going on, I remembered this old life in 1840s Oklahoma. A real beauty back then, I sang in saloons and pleasured men on the side. Living the life of a true libertine, I, Louisa often tossed my head back in hearty laughter. I wore sleek white gowns and long silk gloves like a bride of the southern plains. Similar to Jeanne D’Arc, I held my own with those men, even winning a hand or two at cards. Then he came swaggering into the saloon like a cowboy in some Hollywood western. I couldn’t have known that when I exchanged haughty glances with him, he would suck my life force then leave me dead on the ice-covered earth.
Hans arrived from Germany in search of prosperity promised to all those willing to exploit the New World. And I, the town’s welcoming wagon, permitted this man into my life. At first, I held my own, but we quarreled about the other men in my life. We quarreled about my music profession and how that wasn’t the type of work for a real lady and not the kind of woman he’d marry.
As time passed, I lost my will to live. I fought off his abuses, reluctantly mothered two children and lived my life trapped between four walls. He kept my loved ones at bay. I sang to myself to heal the bruises and broken bones. I sang with the caged canaries to stay sane. I quilted and I knitted alone like a proper lady of the plains, but deep down, I suffered.
Then one day, the big blow came. Hans made the decision to take the family to California so that he could prospect for gold. He didn’t dare go alone leaving me to the temptation to return to my former lifestyle. So we hooked up with a wagon train and endured an arduous journey. I eventually died from pneumonia during a snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Not long after that, Hans realized that he loved me and mistakes he made. He abandoned the children and locked himself away in a mountain cabin. For years he lived in the wild like some old-timey hermit. Then when he couldn’t bear his grief any longer, he shot himself in the head.
I watched this as I hovered above him. My former sandy-haired husband seemed so frail that I forgave him. However, we had already set a dark energy in motion that would haunt us in another lifetime, if we should actually meet.
Meanwhile, in this lifetime, Teshi and I wound our way through mountain roads in search of a town that I recalled from my childhood. I thought we would find it, relive the events from the past and release them. But no matter how hard we tried, the little town eluded us. The gas meter reminded us of the precious fuel and time we wasted on the crazy journey. Would our friendship even survive the strain of the holiday?
I spotted a lookout point ahead. “Hey, let’s stop there. Let’s eat lunch and take our eyes off of the road.”
He safely pulled the rental jeep to the side of the road. Taking in the alpine scenery, we hiked up a narrow trail until we reached the lookout point. I felt dizzy when I looked out at the vista, but I refrained from complaining since it was my idea to stop there. I grabbed the baguette, cheese, and olives from my backpack while Teshi laid out a picnic blanket on the mossy earth.
The pale sun danced in his olive green eyes and he brushed his chocolate-colored hair from his face. I tried not to fall in love with him again, knowing the suffering that it caused me. I silently reminded myself of the real reason for our quest.
I pulled out my raincoat and laid it down on the ground. I sat down and toss an olive in my mouth. “I have to pee. Do you think there’s a toilet around here?”
“I doubt it. Sorry, Laura, you’re going to have to squat over the earth like our ancestors did.”
“I’m a spoiled city girl. What do you think they did when they were on those wagon trains? The men could easily take care of the problem, but women were overdressed.”
Teshi chewed on a large piece of bread he stuffed in his mouth. “You’re the one with the past life memories so you tell me.”
“Those memories never went into the finer details, just the bigger picture.”
“Are you sure that you have the right man because I don’t recall this life at all?”
“After I met you, I felt this horrible chill in my body that wouldn’t go away.” I showed him my goosebumps.
“So what does that tell me? We might just be on a wild goose chase and waste expensive gas in the process.”
I stretched my legs. “It happened. Recently when I was reading about quilting, I found this story about the pioneer women leaving the Midwest against their best wishes. Their husbands decided to take the family out west and the wives were forced to leave their loved ones.”
“So what does that have to do with me?”
“When I read that information I saw your face in my mind’s eye.”
“So then you called me and took me away from my work.”
“What work? Your career had just about ended. Your bands were striking deals behind your back.”
He chewed on the remaining bread and stared off into the distance. “Maybe we did live that life, but what does it have to do with us now?”
“You can’t see the patterns repeating themselves? Here you are again prospecting in the United States, but of course, your search for a new type of gold. What about your tantrums of jealousy when other men glance at me?”
He folded the picnic blanket while I grabbed my backpack. We ambled back to the car as he reflected on my question.
“I don’t know what to say, but I have questions not just about our relationship, but relations between different cultures, people, and nations. Why do we play so many games?”
We climbed into the jeep and drove off to our destination. Like two bloodhounds, we believed that we would sniff out the “cowboy” town. Perhaps the smell of barbecued animal flesh would have sent us on the right course. What a chilling thought for us vegetarians.
“What games were you referring to?”
“What about the passive-aggressive behavior of those Native Americans we met recently? Why do you think they were so polite to us in person, but caused us harm behind our backs? I still live in Europe so why would they blame me for genocide at the hands of someone else’ ancestors?”
I gazed out the window at the snow-capped mountains. I unroll the window and gulped in the mountain air.
“They don’t have access to the real power holders so… My ancestors came here in the middle 1800s as miners. They too were mistreated, but only took that out of themselves and their families instead of complete strangers. I don’t understand any of it. But I think that all the peoples of the earth are due for an enormous healing. And that we’re responsible not for what our ancestors did in the past, but what we do now.”
“Precisely. So, if I play games with others, then I’m accountable for the people I hurt. So why is it different for oppressed groups? Are passive-aggressive behavior and subtle ways of revenge considered self-defense? And why hurt the nice guy when it’s the ones in power that cause the most damage? What good comes out of that?”
“I know. It seems to me that those in power want none of us to get along. How can we ever reach a place of peace when we still are in the throes of a divide and conquer mentality?”
“I have no answers.”
“I don’t either.”
I spotted signs of civilization ahead. “I think that’s our town!”
“Are you sure? What are we suppose to do when we get there?”
“I don’t know.”
“Great, I come here from Europe and you don’t know.”
I laughed. “Lighten up, we’ll figure something out.”
I recognized Winthrop because the main part of town had not changed since my childhood visit.
“Yep, partner, this is our cowboy town. It’s Howdie Doodie Time!”
Teshi parked the jeep near a western saloon and he looked around. “Wow, this is just like a movie set. Do people actually live regular lives here?”
“Yes, they do. Strange place, isn’t it?”
We climbed out of the jeep and walked the streets. We saw a slim man dressed in black wearing a large cowboy hat. He reminded me of Hank Williams, but he possessed an unreal aura.
I whispered to Teshi, “I think we need to talk with him.”
“I don’t know, but I think he has something important to tell us.”
“Are you reliving scenes from The Celestine Prophecy?”
“Call it women’s intuition.”
“Okay, I’ll indulge your women’s intuition, but what do we say to the cowboy?”
“Maybe you can ask him if there are any good vegetarian restaurants around.”
He looked around at the western storefronts and laughed. “Do you think we’re going to find that here?”
We strolled up to the cowboy. “Excuse us, but how has the weather been around here lately?”
The cowboy touched the brim of his hat and he stared at us. “About time you two showed up.”
“Were you expecting us?”
The cowboy winked and then he pointed to a wooden bench not far from us. “Why don’t we have a little conversation over there?”
Teshi glanced at me nervously. We followed the cowboy over to the bench and we all had a seat.
Teshi asked, “How do you know about us?”
“I don’t. I’ve met many couples seeking solace from those wagon train years, or pains they endured living in the Old West. They come to this small town to heal themselves and some succeed.”
“Are you a mind reader?”
“No, but I pick up information in the wind. I know that in order to move onto the next realm of being, each of us must atone for what our souls did in the past. It would be no different for you. And you ask how do I know that you have come on a healing quest?”
He pointed to a big quartz crystal that hung on a leather strap around my neck. “Your new age good luck charm gave you away.”
I laughed. “Are we so transparent?
“What does it matter so much at this point? You’re two city slickers who seek to heal and you’re not sure where to go for it. You think that if you recreate the scenes from the most painful parts of your soul journeys, you might find lasting peace. Am I correct?”
I fidgeted with the strap on my over-sized backpack. “I thought that if we crossed a mountain pass and visited an Old West town, we’d conjure up those energies and heal them. But I never came up with an actual plan after we made it to our destination.”
The cowboy chewed on a toothpick. “And so you went through an entire tank of gas, got lost, and now that you have reached your destination, you feel stumped. You might feel foolish.”
Teshi guffawed. “I don’t feel foolish because it was her idea.”
I nudged Teshi on the shoulder. “I don’t recall you coming up with any better ideas.”
The cowboy gazed at us through his smoky gray eyes. “Once again, the woman is correct. You can heal yourselves and I’m going to show you how.”
Moments later, we found ourselves following a complete stranger along a path that took us behind the town. We hiked up a slight incline and towards a small stone structure with smoke sifting out of the chimney.
I wondered if we made a mistake. We didn’t even know this man. Why did we trust him? And we failed to tell any of our relatives about this sudden trip to the mountains. I wondered about the cowboy’s intentions. He smiled reassuringly at us.
A golden retriever barreled out of the house and was followed by the most beautiful blonde woman I had seen in my life. Her green flowing gown lifted slightly in the breeze as she glided towards us. She took Teshi’s hand.
“Greetings my dear ones.”
I stared into her clear blue eyes. “Who are you?”
“You know me. I’m Clara. Don’t you remember me? I was on the journey with the two of you. I held your hand when you died in the snowpack. You weren’t alone. I was there by your side. Of course, your fever was causing you to feel delirious.”
I took a deep breath as tears rolled down my face. “That’s right. There was a woman by my side. I remember your woolen hand touching my forehead. You whispered some words to me just as I was ascending from my body.”
“I sent you the memories from that life. I’m not sorry I did that because healing that life is the only way to remove black clouds from your lives now.”
“Why can’t Teshi remember?”
“He does in small ways. His subconscious is aware of that life and the roles you played. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be here with you today. When you got lost in the mountains this sent a chill through his body.”
Teshi faked bravado. “Oh, no, I’m fine with the mountain roads. I was concerned that we’d run out of gas.”
Clara smirked. “He’s always been a man concerned with small details. But my dear, you must now look at the bigger picture. Your friend here has already done that, but your stubborn attitude has log jammed the healing process for both of you!”
Teshi smiled sheepishly. “I try, but I don’t remember it.”
The green lady and the cowboy lead us to a shady spot under an enormous cedar tree. She beckoned to Teshi. “Come, lie down on the grass.”
Reluctant, but Teshi obeyed her. I wish that I could work up such magic with him.
Clara placed her hands on Teshi’s forehead and heart. Within minutes he fell into a trance.
“Who are you?”
“Where do you come from?”
“Why did you come to the west?”
“I was wandering through Europe and not doing so well. I heard rumors about the New World and all the success I could find there. I came across some money to board a ship and I headed to the west.”
“Have you found what you seek?”
“Not until I saw Louisa singing in a saloon. I never saw such a beautiful and wild thing in my life, but I also wanted to tame her. I wanted her all to myself. I needed to possess this woman.”
“And you possessed her alright. What did you hope to get from that?”
“I hoped to be charmed by her beauty and that we’d start over somewhere else and she’d finally be happy.”
“Happy? How did you expect Louisa to feel happy when you stole her family, friends, her music career, and any hopes she had for her future?”
“And now what do you say for yourself?”
“Isn’t it enough that I took my own life? What else do you expect from me?”
“Why don’t you ask her that now? Try apologizing. And helping her to get her music career back will release both of you. You know, whether you notice it or not, she needs you in this way. And she still has talent.”
Teshi nodded in silence. Tears rolled down his face and down the stubble on his neck. I felt compassion overtaking my heart and released from bondage.
Later that day, Teshi and I checked into a quaint bed & breakfast. As we strode through the dining room, we noticed a cabaret singer performing “old west” songs. I chuckled to myself. The Universe pulled all the stops that evening. The next morning, we awoke bright and early. We sat in the jeep watching the sunrise over the mountains. I felt a sense of power rising in me, an at-one with the universe. I winked at Teshi.
“See, it wasn’t a Quixotic Journey.”
Teshi ignored me, started the engine, looked over his shoulder at the mountains, and let out a huge sigh.
Copyright Patricia Herlevi (2003)