Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Celebrations of Life & Love

Billie, friend Carol, Jack - Cave City 9/24/94
On the day of the Autumnal Equinox, my husband and I journeyed together up to the Central Sierra foothills — a 300 mile drive — to celebrate the life of our friend Jack Shields who recently transitioned (12/26/1943 - 8/29/2011), as well as to celebrate our love and 17th wedding anniversary — both on Saturday, September 24th, 2011, at the location of California Caverns at Cave City where my husband and I were married underground, with Jack and his wife Billie attending. For me this was the perfect coupling, this celebration of life and love.

The Libra energies of balance between polarities — light/dark, male/female, day/night, hot/cold, life/death — were strong throughout the entire weekend.

Jungle Room Stalactites
Late on Friday evening, after arriving at Cave City and setting up our camp, we needed a "cave fix" so headed down to the walk-thru tour side of the cavern. Once inside, we were drinking in the deep, dark, damp energy of Mother Earth as we made our way to the Jungle Room, the most beautiful and highly decorated room in the cavern that the walk-thru tours can see. The filling of our hearts and spirits and souls began, and I was "kissed" by the cave on several occasions during our walk underground. A cave "kiss" is when a water droplet from a stalactite falls on your head.

The evening sounds in this beautiful and remote valley were LOUD! The crickets, night birds, night mammals and other creatures were all singing and talking prolifically and constantly. My husband and I both wondered if we'd be able to sleep. But sleep we did, to be awoken by the morning songs of the myriad of birds in the valley. And then the breeze came through and the falling leaves of the surrounding cottonwoods showered down on us with every breath of the sky. Ah, autumn...

On this day of celebration a leisurely morning ensued, including a walk up the mountain to a marble outcropping called "The Pyramid", and also to what is known as Alley's Pit, an area that goes down to Tom's Lake. This lake is the most incredible feature of the cavern. Spelunking tours have to raft across it when they journey thru the cave. To be in the raft, floating quietly on this underground lake while surrounded by Mother Earth, and then with lights turned off — this is the most awesome experience ever! It is what I imagine it to be like when a child in-utero. Although I did not go on a spelunking tour to visit this area of the cave on this trip, my husband did later in the afternoon.

Autumn Quadrant - 2011 Medicine Wheel Collage
by Jennifer Star
What is synchronous for me is that in my Autumn quadrant medicine wheel collage, one of the main images is of a man floating in the water of a cavern with a beam of light coming through a hole in the cave ceiling right down onto the man. Not exactly like Tom's Lake, but close enough for me!! And the words next to this image say, "Interaction with the Earth changes your life." Yes indeed.

So, while my husband offered and was taken up by our former boss to be a tail guide for the afternoon spelunking tour, playing and filling up his soul underground, I stayed above ground and helped setup the Celebration of Life for our friend Jack, in support of his wife Billie.

As all those coming to honor and celebrate Jack's life started to arrive, the reunion for me began... I saw and hugged and visited with SO many people that I've not seen in many, many years. Some that went back to when I was 16 — thirty-one years ago! And in fact, that was when I met Jack and Billie for the first time.

The most special and synchronous connection was with my late mom's (Sally Dunn's) best friend from her Mountain Ranch days — a connection that I would have never even considered as happening here because this friend lives in Montana (moved there in 1984). But here she was with her husband, both just happening to be in the area because their son moved back here recently. When she saw me and heard my voice, she was moved to tears — I look and sound so much like my mom. And she said she misses my mom so, so much. It was a very moving reconnection for us both.

Jack Shields - Cave City 9/24/94
We eventually gathered in a large circle to honor Jack's life. The circle sharing was very sweet. Billie sang a cappella a song that she wrote for Jack a year and a half ago. Some of the more than 150 folks attending shared their stories about Jack, and then the eating of food began. The celebration was now really kicking in and folks were reconnecting and visiting, sharing stories, laughing, crying, playing, being. For me, many of these friends from the past had young children 20-30 years ago, and now these children were all grown up, many with children of their own. It really was quite fascinating and fun for me to witness all this.

My Jack story is that I met he and Billie Lou in 1980 when I was 16 and living in Mountain Ranch. They were new to the area. I instantly fell in love with them both. Their authentic, REAL, love and kindness and acceptance of who I was/am touched me so deeply that no matter how long we would eventually go without seeing the other it didn't matter. We always just picked up where we left off, like no time had passed.

Jack was a big boulder dropped into the sea of life, sending out huge ripples that touched many, many folks. His very being transformed the lives of all those he touched — whether they realize it or not. At this celebration of Jack's life I saw him — in the eyes and hearts of everyone there.

As dusk fell, more sharing of prayers, songs, and live music began, and the celebration continued on.

Jennifer and Craig - Winter Palace 9/24/94
My husband and I eventually wandered away from this celebration of life, going down into the Winter Palace — the underground room we were married in — to celebrate our love. It was so very lovely to be in this room, just he and I, to revisit and renew our love for each other. So, so, wonderful, nurturing, love-filled and deep...

Jack's celebration wound down by midnight, and the valley returned to all its usual evening sounds — this day of celebrating life and love complete. Sunday morning brought more bird song to awaken us, this time including a flock of wild turkeys (the day before on our walk I found a turkey feather!), and an overcast and cool sky, which stayed with us all day. After a leisurely morning in the valley, and an afternoon of visiting with our former boss and his wife, we headed back home, a gentle rain falling on us half-way there.

This Autumnal Equinox weekend is one to be remembered...

For Craig & Jennifer
poem by Jack Shields, September 1994

You enter the cavern as two
The friction of two souls
Sparks, cinders, smokes
Sweat, the oil of love
Waters the roots of
This mountain and the
Tree of Marriage
Seeded here
Joined as one
In the womb of the earth
Slide out of the dark birth canal
Newborn to the world
Of Moon and Sun
One now
New to every common bread breaking
Crust and crumb communion
All the small sacrifices
The shared secrets that
Lead to THIS
The meat of myth
Cooking in sex
Sudden seizures
And heart-ringed ceremony of the soul


  1. lovely poem by Jack for the two of you! <3

  2. Jennifer, thank you for sharing. A touching story with love, light and magic. And over time we love, we remember and we renew. Blessings VTara