What was behind Ranch Tehama Shooting?

Rancho Tehama Reserve is an unincorporated community in Tehama County California, United States. The population was 1,485 at the 2010 census. There is no reasonably priced internet service, nor TV service, cell phones do not work there, and landline phones are expensive. There is no bus service, or any form of public transportation anywhere. The closest cities are Red Bluff, which is twenty-five miles away, and Corning, which is twenty-three miles away. Both are down long curvy unlighted country roads.

For an amazing season of my life I was a social worker for Children Services in Tehama County. It took me a few months working in Tehama County before I was sent to Rancho Tehama to investigate a case of suspected child abuse. It was the middle of the day and, yet, I was surprised to observe many working-age-adults sitting on their front porches sharing bottles of alcohol. The smell of marijuana lofted up to my county car. When I arrived at the home, the young couple of parents were not happy with me being there, asking them questions. But, after some small talk I won the parent’s trust and was quickly assured that their children were safe with them. However, I thought I should get their insights into this strangely isolated community I had never know existed. They informed me that producing, selling and using meth was the main activities in Rancho. They also said that many people who were having a difficult time finding work, and paying bills, would move to this township due to the very affordable rent. However, soon after moving there a lot of people would have their cars break down, not being able to afford repairs, and thus have no way to get to work in the only places there were jobs in Corning, Chico or Red Bluff. Instead, they would turn to growing marijuana or producing meth. It was usually not long before meth use and addiction followed. They said the big joke about people who lived there was that most of them had lost their front teeth due to meth use.

I was able to leave those children with their parents. However, over the next few years I often had to go to Rancho Tehama and remove neglected or abused children, usually due to alcoholism and meth addiction.

I was blessed to become the Co-Chairperson of Tehama Counties’ Building Community Partnership Committee. We did many great small projects in Corning, where our branch Children Services office was. Then we took on the big apartment project where Children Services had the most investigations and removals in Corning. We worked with the apartment complex manager, the mayor, the police chief and the superintendent of schools, and even the fire chief. We rallied the people who lived there to put together a summer time free lunch program, all kinds of free classes weekdays in the summer. My son even volunteered to teach soccer classes three afternoons every week. We started in April and went until September. We had gotten official figures of how often police, fire-department, ambulance, Adult Services, and Children Services had been called out to this complex the six months previously. When we rechecked the figures, the numbers had fallen drastically during the first six months the program was in place. (The call-out figures actually usually increased in the summer months.)

We followed this success with using the same model in the apartment complex in the city of Red Bluff where Children Services had been called out most frequently in this area in the recent years. We did a one-year-program and the success was very measurable. It felt great. My friend and Co-Chairperson, Tomas Loarca, and I agreed to take on the counties foster child community Rancho Tehama. We agreed this area was a power keg of potential trouble waiting for the wrong match.

We got the county administrators permission – with some resistance – because it wasn’t an apartment complex, but a 1500 people town. We started organizing meetings. The response was great right away. Everyone was excited that the county was willing to do things for them. A wonderful retired couple, Lew and Marnie, stepped forward and became the community focus people. They were key people, because Tomas and I could only get there so often. Almost every class or event we offered was very successful and well attended. We formed a committee to research and make a proposal to the proper agencies to bring in a bus service. This committee worked very diligently and hard, but, unfortunately, this part of the program was not successful. It was going well in Rancho Tehama, yet, we knew this was a big challenge which would require much more work than any apartment complex. When Tomas was offered a better paying position closer to his home and pregnant wife, he departed as the county went through a budget cut, so it became more difficult for Building Community Partnership to obtain support supplies and moneys. Then my life changed, and I left my employment at Tehama County. Lew and Marnie did their best when I left to maintain the classes and events for Rancho Tehama that we had launched, but there was no longer any county support. I have kept in touch with them for over five years and am amazed at all they have done for Rancho Tehama.

It was a Facebook posting by Lew on Wednesday the 15th Facebook that inspired me to write this blog posting. This is what he wrote: “I normally respond to each and every birthday wish and eventually will get to them all, but today may be an exception. It has been a crazy twenty-four hours. We will be busy with community healing today (Google Rancho Tehama if you don’t know why). The healing must begin. Thank you all for your well wishes, comments, support and for reaching out to insure we were safe and well.”

Then when I sent Lew this piece he wrote.”

I feel terrible for the shootings and killings in Rancho Tehama and wish healing to everyone there. But, I also think it is important for us all to be aware how many people and communities in the USA and the world exist in poverty, substance abuse, and isolation. As individuals and a society, we need to make time and efforts to help more and change things, to get to the root of the problems in places as Tehama. This is the only way to get to a place where acts like the sad shooting in Tehama stop occurring.

How Do I Write a Really Meaningful Magical Book?

Since high school I have wanted and worked to be a good, widely read, writer of materials that change lives. Now at sixty-four I still struggle with this same challenge. I have written and published three books and literally many hundred articles. But, what matters most to write is always my question? I love life, the planet Earth, and to be human. I savor the feel of the wind on my cheek, the smell of leaves in the fall, the taste of good food, the sweet sound of music, and I love the sights of nature and cities alike.

I love my children, and the fact that they are two of my very best friends at twenty-eight and twenty-nine thrills me to no end. I am so blessed to have married a goddess and to enjoy life with her each day. Our love is divine.

I am looking forward to my next thirty, or forty years, to enjoy every moment of being alive and all the accomplishments and adventures those years will bring.

At this season in my life, I am drawn to write a book of living magically. I hate preachy books, I have a hard time with many New Age books, I can’t stand holier- than-thou spiritual teachers, and I certainly don’t care for people who feel their beliefs and ways of living are the only right ones. Yet, I dare to think I could bring together a book about how my wife Sofia and I have lived magically, and that this book might be different than all that. Not to show the way, not to make others feel this is what they must or should do. But rather, just for the sake of sharing works for us and how we have evolved with it, and tell fun stories of our lives along the way.

I live in the real world fairly well. I am a good business man and have built million-dollar businesses. But my main passions have since my earliest memories been spirituality, magic, the occult, the mysteries and forbidden areas of life. Why? Did I bring these passions into this life from a another one?  I saw ghosts when I was young. I studied with the Laurie Cabot, witches in Salem, Massachusetts, with Starhawk and the witches of San Francisco. I spent many months on many trips in Latin America studying and sharing ceremonies and rituals with many shamans. I founded and published an edge cutting New Age magazine named Magical Blend, for 27 years and after a ten year break find myself publishing a magazine again. My wife has called me bombastic. I do admit to being a bit arrogant, full of myself and a bragger.

None of that matters, other than that it helps me tell good stories. What matters for me is how I view life, how I live life and if I am evolving and inspiring others. I believe in most everything. I believe in magic, in Bigfoot, in many gods and goddesses, in ghosts, ghouls, demons, the Anunnaki, UFO’s, extraterrestrials, other dimensions, elves, fairies, forest folks, vampires, Tantric sex … you name it. I believe in it – if it feels fun, possible and real to me.

I believe that how we think, and what we focus on and expect in our lives is the most powerful creative force in our lives. A good friend of mine and great author Frank DeMarco teaches people how to listen to their inner guidance and how to talk to the dead. I call what he uses the “what if approach.” Say you want to talk to your dead grandmother. What if you sat down alone and began making believe you were talking to her? What if you did this until you started hearing things come out of your mouth you could not know or would not ever say?

I have always used something like this approach with almost everything. What if I could find a perfect lover? What would that be like? What if I could live the life of my dreams, what would that be like? I feel I have achieved both of these. So I continue to ask what if…

What if I could make the time, energy and conjure up the burning motivation to write and publish a book that would inspire those who read it to live more magical, fulfilling, joyous lives? How would I do this best? What would that feel like? What would I write? Many people seem to read my blog these days any suggestions from any of you are welcomed. What if?

Deer Skulls, Ghosts and Unleashed Creativity

Reprinted from the October issue of The Echo World / TheEchoWorld.com

I am the son of a funeral director and the grandson of a funeral director. I have always felt a special connection to the essence of death. I have also always wanted to be a writer and an artist. It took me many years, however, to find a way to expand my creativity beyond writing.

I grew up in a funeral home with cemeteries close by. We lived on a farm in a small town in the country across the street from a large old cemetery. There were also two more large cemeteries adjacent to the farm. When I was only five, before I started school, my father took me down to our funeral home, where he had a dead corpse on the embalming table. He said, “If you are going to be a funeral director one day you have to get used to death. The best way is to touch a dead body.” I began crying and saying, “No, I do not want to.” My father had been an officer in the army, he had fought in North Africa in World War II and received two purple hearts. He was a harsh man and expected to be obeyed. Even at five I knew better than to resist him for long. I braced myself, slowly went forward and hesitantly raised my hand and touched the dead body.

Until this day I wonder if what I felt really happened, or if it was just my imagination playing tricks on me. But I did indeed feel a strong electric shock go from my fingers up my arm, all the way to my heart. That experience changed me and my relationship to death. I always feel that Death floats over my left shoulder in the form of a female entity. When I am unsure of whether to take an action or not, I always ask Death. She usually says, “I could claim you any minute. Act now, so you have no regrets the day I do.”

I spent much of my youth helping my father pick up dead bodies and embalming them. I always loved to rove in cemeteries late at night. When you live that closely to death it would only be logical that you would see ghosts. I believe there is a spirit in each of us that lives eternally and lingers around the body for days after the body dies. I also believe that some ghosts linger on Earth for a long time. I believe I have seen and even talked to many ghosts in my life.

I have been a writer for many years. Yet I always kept exploring how I might express my creativity in other ways. I tried painting with water colors and with oils. I tried throwing pottery. I tried sculpturing with clay and with stone. I tried dance, singing and even musical instruments. By the time I moved to Virginia I had resigned myself to the fact I was a good writer, and just plain terrible at all other art forms.

Soon after moving to Virginia, I found a falling down cabin, not too far from the house where I lived with my wife Sofia. After visiting it I began seeing a ghost in the house where I live. He told me that his name was George and I had woken him up. He told me many details of his life story. I told him I thought he was a figment of my imagination. He said: “You have been wanting some special items for your new home’s altar. Follow me and you will find them.” I walked behind George’s ghost, into the woods where he directed me to dig in a pile of branches where I found a large conch shell buried. How it got there still mystifies me. Then he led me with specific directions to find a deer skull sitting by itself at the base of a pine tree.

After that I believed fully that George was real. I believe that the deer skull was a way shower given to me by George. It put me on the path of what would turn out to be a very curious way of finding my very own artistic expression.

A short while later I wandered in the forest around our house and found a boar skull and some deer skulls. I brought them home, and as any good husband would do, gave them to my wife as presents. Sofia, being who she is, almost immediately started painting them. I was hypnotized.

I knew of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. I had seen cattle skulls covered in jade or topaz. But to just paint on a dead boar or deer skull was beyond intriguing to me. That night I dreamed of the ghosts of dead deer and boar. They told me in the dream that they were wandering lost in the forest around our house. They said their skulls were just lying about unattended. They asked me to paint their skulls and give them a second life. I woke after that dream on a Saturday morning. As soon as I had breakfast, I went searching for more skulls and found a fair number. I brought them back, borrowed Sofia’s paints, and began trying my hand. As strange as this all sounds, I felt I had found a new artistic way. A way that I could artistically express myself.

Over the three plus years we have lived in Virginia I have painted and crafted almost fifty skulls. Some of them have become very elaborate. Sometimes, while I am painting, or gluing things on them, I feel their ghosts are informing me how to apply the paint. I often take certain colors of paint out, and have ideas how I will paint or decorate a skull, but then I hear a voice or feel guidance. I end up painting with different colors than I had first chosen, or decorating in very different ways then I had planned. It feels to me that the ghost of the skulls tells me what they want the result to be. It is such a new and unique set of feelings I experience while I am working on a skull. With my writing, I often wonder how it will affect the readers. With my skulls, I paint only to paint. I paint for the ghosts of the skulls and for myself. It is the closest to a purely creative, detached state I have ever been in. What a gift these animal ghosts have given me.

I have always wanted to have an artistic expression beyond writing. I always felt a special connection with the essence of death but it took the special magic of Virginia to allow me to bring these two things together in a weird, wonderful and fulfilling way.

Poem of Dreams

I had a dream. I heard an androgynous voice. It said, “Begin to listen. You will be given thirty-six lines, two and two, to be coupled into an eighteen stanza poem. The lines will come from conversations and from silence, they will come from books and from nature, they will be whispered to you and some will be screamed. Some will be clear, others you must stretch for. When you have all thirty-six lines you will know. Then arrange them as your intuition tells you to. You will know. They might seem silly, even slightly incomprehensible, but this is important. Listen, write them down, arrange them and share the final poem.”

I haven’t written poetry for years. But I followed the message I am given. This morning I finished the poem.


Poem of Dreams

“Might I remind you?” he said, eating his vodka-soaked nostrums
“Life is like a campfire, always burn everything you can in a safe distance”

Leaves fall because of the season, everything has seasons
Know, see, and trust the seasons

Be loving, blissful, sensual and fulfilled
Love like nothing else matters

Love eternally, take care of yourself
Lose yourself into love

Beauty doesn’t sink or fade
Beauty flows and is eternal

The candle flickers, as do all life, as do all love
Burn, burn bright, hot and eternally

The bird songs can be invisible
The bird songs can hold secrets and exquisite poetry

To paint is to manifest inner colors
Music is often within music

Weeds are healthy herbs
Ugly is not only acceptable, it is desirable

Money does not exist
Money is only how we view it

Rocks are solid and withstand time
Sell expensive rocks

Leaves are brown and green, lives are only life
Leaves falling from trees to decay, and on their way they the dance gloriously

The shadows of leaves can be anything
Listen with the right ear. See with imagination and wonder

He played until he was bloody
Forgive yourself and the entire world

Red disappointment, blue feelings
Fear is transforming into beauty

We form things out of our imaginations, we create everything out of nothing
Without forming and creating, the real world has no meaning

We can feel presences, where there should be none
You bring back the old gods – thank you

Old gods, or new children
Creation, imagination, love …

This Is a Time of Transition!

This is a magical time for growth and change for both our planet, the entire cosmos and every sentient being in it.

My friend Maureen J. St. Germain, has written what I think is a great book, Waking up in 5D: A Practical Guide to Multidimensional Transformation. It explains the transformation that is happening on Earth and in our lives. We are transitioning from 3D through 4D into 5D. The fifth dimension leaves fear, doubts, anger and insecurities behind and replaces them with knowing, trust, wisdom, and of course, love. The fifth dimension is a state of being where time and space transform.

Maureen and her panel of twenty-two guests are offering a free online summit inspired by her book, the Waking Up in 5D Summit. Learn from cutting edge 5D leaders as they share ideas, tools, broader understanding and how to have a deeper connection to the 5D realm. Two of my favorites are Michael Grosso and Nicki Scully. Any panel that includes these two is sure to be entertaining and inspiriting.

Nicki Scully                                                                       Michael Grosso

Maureen J. St. Germain

But why am I so excited about people reading this book and taking part in this summit? Mainly because being taught the key points of the transition will make your lives so much better. You will learn so much and you can get lots of free gifts as well.
• You’ll learn about Avatars, Angels and Ascended Masters.
• You’ll learn that being 5D is a process – not permanent all at once.
• You’ll learn what being 5th dimensional is all about.

• You’ll learn how to discover how to apply the 5D understanding, shorten the learning curve and help assist everyone throughout the cosmos to consciously choose 5D – where love is the governing rule.

• It will answer how to connect with your Divine guidance.
• It will explain how you will know what is 5D and what is 3D.
• It will give you ideas on how to be proactively 5D.

• Every author has contributed a free gift.
• Maureen has multiple gifts and bonuses for the book.
• You will get the chance to learn how to “Wake up in 5D!

Ok I read this book twice. I got tons out of it. I will be attending the summit and am excited about it. If it speaks to you go to Maureen’s sign up page.

Waking Up in 5D Telesummit

The Art of Living Life Magically

The Art of Living Life Magically
Okay, so this month is June. I seem to have been confused about that last issue, but I am pretty sure this piece of writing will be printed in June. It is easy to get confused when you are working on three issues of a magazine at once. Believe me.
As I write, I think of magic as I often do. For me magic is a way of viewing reality and moving in the world. It can have moments like those we imagine the magician Merlin had in the legends of King Arthur, or similar to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and even those experienced  by the characters in Harry Potter. But usually, it shows in the simple things.
There is no TV in our home. We don’t watch it. Occasionally we watch a downloaded movie for relaxation. But usually, we try to spend our time savoring our lives, rather than escaping into the make believe and far-off dramas of mainstream media. We try and keep our food intake simple and healthy. We are hardly purists, but we eat lots of vegetables and greens from our garden and drink many homemade herbal teas.
Real magic, I believe, has lots to do with intent and expectations. If I intend my life to be filled with magic, it is more likely to be. If I expect magic to exist everywhere in my life, it is more likely to.
We are taught in countless ways that reality is only what we can see and touch. What if the material world we live in is only one slice of the reality of existence?
I often ask “what if?” questions: What if other dimensions and expanded realities not only exist but parts of us already exist in them? What if we can use the possibility of these other realms as a source of magic? What if I could do magic, what would bring me and those I love the most happiness, love and laughter? What if I could talk to gods and goddesses, what might they say? What if there were forest folk living around our home, and what might their reality be like? What if I could talk to the dead, what might they tell me I need to hear? These questions open me up to possibilities that because I choose to try them out, become realities.
When we do watch movies, I enjoy them. I mostly choose movies which uplift and inspire me. I have found, however, that my personal imagination becomes kidnapped by the memories of the movies. This makes magic more difficult and challenging for the next twenty-four hours, or so, after we have watched one. I’m still not sure why that is for me. I’m not sure if TV and movies affect most people this way. But I do advise people who want to live more magically, to take a two-day or longer break from media and see how your imagination changes.
While doing this, I encourage any who are interested to play with magic. Start by giving gratitude for all that is good in your life. Let the forces that be, know you want more good of the things you enjoy in your life. Then ask for something specific. Start small. You can pray for more magic or for something to occur. You can pray to God, or to Christ, or to any spiritual being you prefer. You can walk and repeat affirmations of what you want, or visualize all the details. Or you can write down what it is you want, and place it where you see it all the time. It is your ceremony, so set it up so it feels right to you. If you need inspiration on how to perform ceremonies, I speak of some ways of doing them in my books, as do many authors. There are also many sites on how to perform rituals and ceremony on the internet.
I have found any of the above techniques to be great for simple things – such as to bring old friends I can’t find back into my life. They also work well for finding lost items. Once you begin having small successes, build up to a better job, or a great relationship, or major life change you want to manifest.
I still cannot fly, or translocate, but I will let you know if I manage to. Or, as my wife would have made me say it: when I manage to. In the meantime, Happy Magical Life.

Ayahushca Shaman

Ayahushca Shaman
I was not long ago in Latin America for six months. I usually am Leary of Shamans in tourist areas especially a place a popular as Cusco, Peru. In Cusco, however I became friends with Roberto. He is a native Quechuan who grew up in a village high in the Andes Mountains. I had done Ayahuasca and San Pedro along my journeys through South America with a wide range of results. Roberto was so enlightened and I felt that he would lead me places and depths I had yet not unveiled.
I met up with Roberto, and two other people who where to participate in our ceremony, Lauria and Hadasa .  Together we drove up past Sacsayhuaman and a ways further into the mountains. Then we stopped in the middle of nowhere. Roberto led us on a hike on a trail to a clearing. There he spread his shaman’s blanket and donned his shaman’s hat, and took out amulets and ceremonial tools. We were all given three coca leaves and he lead us in asking permission, blessings, and giving gratitude for the day we were about to share. The sky was threatening and rain had been predicted. Roberto called in Father Sun to aid our experience. He then explained the medicine, a Ayahuasca and San Pedro cactus mix that was prepared ritualistically yesterday with the four of us in mind. He stated that it should supply just what we needed for the next step of our emotional and spiritual evolution. He said he was not one for limits or rules, however, to make the ceremony worthwhile we must all drink a minimum of three glasses of the medicine.
After that it was up to each of us how much more we wanted, but no more than seven glasses. As he assisted, each of us drank the first glass. When we did this the clouds vanished and the sun came out bright. After drinking the medicine, we sat in a circle and he gently guided us through what the results of the first glass usually were., which was a wide range of possibilities.  Then he apologized, and said he did not sing or play instruments very well, so he had recordings of his two masters singing traditional Ayahuasca and San Pedro ritual songs, on his cell phone. He turned on the music and told each of us to walk and find a separate spot not far of and just meditate on our days purpose. We sat for about half an hour. He checked in with each of us twice in that time, so sweetly and caringly. Then he brought us together to share purposes and focus in ceremony. Then we hiked more.
We came to the first ruins. They were still fairly intact ruins and no one was there at that time. We stopped and Roberto lead another in depth ritual and poured us each another glass. Then he told us of different Inca wisdoms.  After this he sent us each off.  This time to revisit our lives and forgive and give gratitude to ourselves and everyone we felt we had wronged or who had wronged us. He left us with this for a bit over half an hour. We regathered and shared our personal experiences and insights. Roberto spoke of each of us doing spiritual work and healing for millions of others; that the ripples we sent out would help transform and heal the world.
We then entered a tunnel in the side of the mountain. And climbed down for what seemed like forever. We eventually came to a large open space and Roberto said this was our destination. He lit candles and we all drank our fourth glass. Roberto did a long ritual which was sprinkled with teaching us Inca wisdom and telling us stories of the Inca pasts. Then we drank our fifth glass. We each took a candle to a different part of the room to meditate on the secrets of the Inca hidden wisdom and the underground tunnels.
I sat as near as I could to where the tunnel progressed lower. Roberto apologized but said that we all would need much more training and practice and preparation to be able to descend deeper into the tunnels and emerge again. If we progressed lower than we were, we would not be able to remember or explain what we saw. He said that odds were it would make us insane.
I meditated and immediately flew to other dimensions. It was a kaleidoscope ride through lives that I might have lived if I had made different choices in my life. These were lives I might have had, maybe even lived in other realities.
Finally we climbed up and out of the hidden cave. When we emerged he made us climb out backwards, almost having to do somersaults. This was to make our rebirths symbolic and real! I did feel born again. I felt  renewed, my heartfelt bigger than my chest and my aura felt a mile wide.
After what seemed like a days’ hiking we arrived at a Waqa or Huaca. This is a sacred large rock that has been carved and shaped into sacred forms. It was almost overgrown but had paths and shelves and carvings all over. There were now beautiful clouds in the sky and hawks flew overhead and it seemed there were butterflies and humming birds everywhere.  Roberto said we had to celebrate and move to the next level our rebirths. We all lay in a circle and he had us repeat Quechuan magical terms. As he told us that we had to feel both the burning hot of the sun and the ice cold of  the snow, it began to gently hail with the sun out and rainbows became visible. He had us stand on a sacred spot and explode into the Universe. When I exploded, I felt as if my heart expanded miles wide and my spirits traveled for light years.
Eventually Roberto called us together for the closing ceremony on the mountain. As he did wild horses came running by us. Roberto explained that over the years many horses that were used to sell rides to the tourist had escaped and lived here in the wild. The ceremony was strong and powerful. Then we each returned to our lives reborn.
The contact email for Roberto and a great tour guide is Laura Ines Huaman lalyhuva@hotmail.com or lalyhuva1@gmail.com

Trees and Leaves Everywhere


Trees and Leaves Everywhere
Now in the May issue of TheEchoWorld.com
       It is May and greenery has leafed full blown all over Central Virginia. With this, trees and forests have reclaimed their major role in our lives. I read recently that new research estimates the numer of trees to be over three trillion trees on planet Earth. Can you imagine what these trees do for the health of all our lives and the entire planet on so many levels? From when I was very young, spending time among the trees always made me feel right with the world. Now I believe that tree and plant energies realign and reset our personal energies. I have lived for prolonged periods of times in cities with few parks or trees. In those places I often became depleted, depressed and confused unless I made time to walk in parks, or went hiking and camping in nearby forests. Nature works in such healthy ways for most people. I notice the differences living in cities, or in a forest as we do now.
Over a year ago, Sofia wrote an article for Echo, about the trees in our Magic Land valley, where we live. In it she shared that the trees began speaking to her, when she first arrived in the USA, and that the trees helped her to adjust to Virginia. Well, those trees have been speaking to both of us, giving us guidance for over two years now. This might sound strange to some, but trees require a certain kind of listening. In the children’s book The Little Prince, it states sublimely: “Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” I think this is how we must listen to trees as well. Trees have a different kind of wisdom. They can speak directly to our hearts and souls. Our trees advise us on how to view things, they clarify many difficult issues for us, and even tell us how to plant and tend our garden.
I encourage all of you to try to hear the trees anywhere, even in parks or on city streets. They all have much to share, if you listen right. Our trees introduced us to garden and plant elementals and growing spirits.
Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird wrote a book titled The Secret Life of Plants. In it they discuss at length how attitude towards plants usually affects how they grow. Kind words, seeing them as sentient beings, even encouraging music, increases garden plant’s growth and yields of vegetables. By envisioning, even praying, for a bountiful garden the yields can be wonderfully increased. Elementals and plant spirits are real and help plants grow. Reach out to them. We all can experience them.
Now it is May, the trees are full of green leaves, the gardens are kicking into high gear.  Let’s all go forth and give thanks for the beauty of nature all around us and maybe communicate a bit closer than we usually might.
By Michael Peter Langevin


Spiritual Traveling in Bolivia

Spiritual Traveling in Bolivia
Anytime is a wonderful time to visit Bolivia. It is autumn now  in the southern hemisphere and the number of tourists, unlike our summer which is their winter, are not overwhelming.
 If you shop around you can get a round trip ticket from Washington D.C. to La Paz, Bolivia for as low as $450. The value of the dollar is amazingly good in Bolivia. Just a few years ago, I spent six weeks traveling around Bolivia, staying at middle range hotels and hostels and spent $1200 for those six months total. More so than many countries, Bolivian people are very friendly and it is easy to meet native people, as long as you give it a bit of extra effort.
I began my trip by bus, arriving at Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. From there you can visit the Isle of the Sun and the Isle of the Moon; both are where the Inca believed the gods were born. You can also visit the Uru floating islands, where generations of native people have lived near the middle of Lake Titicaca.
From Copacabana, I went on to La Paz. La Paz is located in west-central Bolivia forty-two miles southeast of Lake Titicaca. It is set in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River. It is located in a bowl-like depression, surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano. Overlooking the city is the towering, triple-peaked Illimani. It is thought to be one of the holiest apus, or mountain gods, by the native people. Its peaks are always snow covered and can be seen from many parts of the city. At an elevation of roughly 11,975 feet above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. La Paz has an unusual subtropical highland climate, with rainy summers and dry winters. I stayed by the bus station up by the high rim and to go down town had to walk down the steep streets. After exploring the city each day I had to climb back up the steep streets in that high altitude thin air. My favorite place in La Paz was the Witch’s Market. It extends for miles over many city streets. You can find whole streets of shirts, cosmetics, under wear and shoes. My favorite part is the shaman stalls where you can buy any magical supplies from potions that will improve your love life to llama fetishes, which are traditional offerings to the gods. If your Spanish is even marginal you can get the booth owners to explain how things are used in rituals and ceremonies.
My favorite trip from La Paz is to take a bus to Tiwanaku and Puma Punku. These ruins are not well known or very well visited by tourists. Yet they are ancient and more impressive than Machu Picchu in nearby Peru. There is an ancient wall of carved stone heads which have facial racial features that can be interpreted as being from every race on earth. You can also find a stone sun gate which has an ancient accurate twelve month solar calendar and a carving of an elephant on it. The first archeological finds of llamas, corn, potatoes and quinoa were also found near here. There are those who believe that these ruins were part of the sunken Lemuria.
I went on this trip, as well as other trips, by bus to the Amazon rainforest. You can take the bus down the road that is estimated to be the most dangerous road in the world – North Yungas Road (but I cannot with a good conscience recommend this). I took this road by mistake and it was breathtaking. The worst thing that happened, however,  is that we got stuck in the mud for twenty-four hours. This allowed me to become friends with everyone on the bus. The road ends at the town Rurrenabaque, on the edge of the Ichilo River. Rurrenabaque is a quaint fishing town and the entry way to the Amazon. I stayed there in a fifth-floor hostel overlooking the whole village for two dollars a night. Each morning I would go to the market place and have a big bowl of great fish stew and a coffee for seventy-five cents. Near noon I would walk to the river and watch the fisher people catch fish from their boats. They would then bring them to their booths in the market place, clean them and fry them up for lunch.
From there, I went up the river and stayed for free at a big game preservation compound for almost a week, in return for helping out. You can go many places into the Amazon River basin from here. On previous trips there, I explored small villages and met authentic shamans. Up the river you can find the Mididi National Park. After a report from Conservation International in 1990, that recognized this area as Bolivia’s most diverse eco-system, the Bolivian government declared it a national park. It is recorded by National Geographic as one of the world’s most immense biologically diverse reserves on the planet. There are so far recorded about 988 species registered as well. This is truly a wonderful place to visit.
From the Amazon, I took a bus to Sucre. Sucre is also known as the “White City,” for most buildings are white. It is the Constitutional capital of the Republic of Bolivia. It is home to the Supreme Court and is the central axis of judicial power in the country. Situated on a hill top surrounded by low mountains, it’s a beautiful city. It has a great climate. Its population is estimated to be about 100,000. It has wonderful cathedrals, museums, restaurants and many old colonial buildings. I met some great local people who showed me many of the local favorite spots.
From here my trip by bus led to Cochbaamba. This city’s name originates from the Spanish sound derived from the Quechua name Kochapampa, which speaks of an area subject to flooding – literally “The Plain of Chacos.” It is in the heart of Bolivia, halfway between the large eastern flatlands and the high plateaus. It was tropical hot when I was there, but the market places and restaurants were very unique and worth sweating for. Sipping iced lime aid, while watching the local inhabitants shop, was wonderful.
From here, I was on to the city of Potosí. Founded in 1545, the city enjoyed a period of time where it thrived. Due to “Cerro Rico de Potosí,” meaning, the rich hill of Potosí, which was a mountain mostly made of silver, it is said that the Spanish shipped enough silver back to Spain to make a bridge from there all the way to Spain. At its high point, it was transformed by European architects and artists. They made the city into a symbol of riches, luxury, and splendor. Now mostly it is in a state of decay. You can imagine the ghosts of the children who died in the mines roaming the streets.
From there, it is easy to get to the Salar de Uyuni. They are the world’s largest salt flats, located in the Daniel Campos Province in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes. They extend as far as you can imagine in every direction.
Seeing huge flocks of  pink flamingos on the salt flats at sunset was one of my picturesque memories before I headed back to La Paz and onto Peru.
I love Bolivia. It is so colorful. One of my favorite things about Bolivia is that a large majority of the native people still wear the traditional dress. I strongly advise a  trip for anyone wanting an inexpensive but exotic holiday. This piece first appeared in The Echo World Magazine  www.TheEchoWorld.com