Spirit

The iconic view of Yosemite Valley and the magnificent El Capitan in a storm from Tunnel View in California, USA

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

Out of the blue, I will think to send something to a friend in another state. When it arrives three days later, it’s exactly what she needed that day. How did I know? Is something going on beyond coincidence? We are more connected to each other than we think, both to the living and the dead.

I believe that everyone I’ve ever loved is still present inside me in some way. The compassion of my wife Evelyn continues to encourage me, the wisdom of father-in-law Stan continues to guide me, and the creativity of mother Martha continues to inspire me.

What is real is not limited to what we can see.

As soon as 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.

Black Elk believed that people were brothers and sisters to all of creation—the bison, rivers, horses, coyotes, and ravens. The Ahwahnechees believed that the deer willingly gave themselves up to their arrows, knowing that people had to eat. The Sioux believe that their Grandfathers and Grandmothers in the afterlife send messages to guide them. 

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. 

Religions around the world have rituals and observances that seek to preserve the bonds with those who have died. The Japanese maintain altars in their homes to keep the lines of communication open with their ancestors. On Samhain, the Celtic people believe that the wall between worlds thins to a veil and we can see and talk with our dead. Some of us try to communicate with the Beyond through séances, psychics, tea leaves, tarot cards, and Ouija boards.

Do you hear the voices of your dead?

Ghosts of my departed don’t dance around my bed at night. There’s no screaming, rattling of chains, or dancing with flaming swords, although that would be cool. Yet there have been enough events I can’t explain that make me think that contact from the beyond is possible.

One evening, six months after Ev died, I was in Yosemite sitting by the river, watching the sunset fade to a canary yellow sky and waiting for the stars and their constellations to emerge. Off-handedly, I asked Ev to give me a sign, if she was still around, that she was okay. And in that instant the sunset turned heart red. I was stunned, and sat still for ten minutes, yet I wrote it off as a strange happenstance because what are the odds? 

When I came back to camp, someone asked if I had seen the sunset tonight. She had worked in the valley for eight years and had never seen a sunset like that.

So, you know, this door is staying open.

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