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Life of an American Woman Pioneer: My Grandmother's Legacy

Updated: Mar 1




My grandfather, me, my sister, my grandmother in Nebraska.

Dear Ones All…


My Grandmother used to start all her letters with this greeting. I remember as a little girl her words always made me feel like I belonged, it was a juxtaposition for me. I often felt like I didn’t belong. Why was I so different than other the kids? Why was I born into a family of so much dysfunction?


After my mother died when I was 8, I was a lost child. I spent most of my childhood starving for love, looking for love and acceptance. I was the motherless child.


I would sooth myself by delving deep into my imagination and by the daily practice of spacing out, it strengthened my intuition. I was a highly sensitive child. I felt everything deeply. It was hard to filter out the unfairness’s of life. I felt everything and as life moved on, I started to react to the hard opinions of others especially when they were pertained to me.


I didn’t know then, but this deprivation would be my greatest gift. I didn’t realize that by staring off into space that I was meditating. I was creating a road map for my future. This practice was often noticed by teachers and not rewarded. My self-esteem really suffered.

At 9 years old, I made a promise to myself I would make a difference in the world. I had no idea how, but I knew I had to be of service, to help others.


Mom, me on Mom's lap, my sister, my father

The summer after my mother’s sudden passing, my father sent my sister and me to spend a few summers with my grandparents in the Pine Ridge of Northwestern, Nebraska.  I would count the days until we would leave. We lived in suburban New Jersey and summer camp wasn’t an option. I didn’t realize it then but those summers would be the foundation of my work, CinergE.


I secretly never wanted to come back to the empty house that represented loneliness and disciplinary actions. It was the mid 60’s and going to Nebraska was like stepping back in time. A more simple way of life, away from cities, suburbs, traffic and I loved it. I could spend my time in the barn yard, sitting in the dirt studying the animals. The animals and nature were so important to me. I felt like I belonged. The barn yard was full of agates, crystals and rusty nails, you could scrape the earth and there would be a beautiful stone. I would hold them in my hands and close my eyes. I felt such a strong connection with them.

 

I would stare out into the golden fields or up into the crystal blue sky and let my mind flow. I would watch the grass ripple like water, I’d look up into the sky and imagine I was looking into the universe. In the evening, the night sky was an endless expanse of stars, a spectacular display of light. My soul was soothed by the magic of the universe. I was healing myself with mindful moments.

 

I first became aware of the energy in my hands while I was playing with my grandfather’s farm dog.  A voice inside my head said, beam Tippy with your hands. I think it was my mom’s voice, helping me to find my way.  I didn’t know what the words meant, but I did it. Tippy leaped into the air and grabbed my hands with his soft mouth. It was a game we would often play.


I also found that the energy in my hands was soothing. I would study the feral barn kittens. When they got comfortable with me, I would scoop them up in my hands. I would coo to them. It’s okay, it’s alright. My hands would then heat up and they would fall asleep, breaking into purrs.


camouflage child

I felt like my body and soul blended into the prairie with my blonde hair and blue eyes. Blonde like the tall prairie grass, blue eyes like the sky. I was naturally camouflaged. I was home.


My grandparents were pioneers. They farmed land that was often times very unforgiving. A storm could fiercely pound their wheat fields into the ground, they would watch their crops rise from the ground only to be blighted by drought, and then there were grass hoppers who could move in without notice and take anything green right down to the ground.


The howling wind blew over the decimated fields blowing away the top soil. You could taste the dirt in the air, we would stay inside and wait it out. Eventually the farmers were paid to grow grass and tree blocks to protect the soil.


My grandmother had no running water, she carried water to the house every day. Her freezer and root cellar were always filled, just in case. She worked right beside my grandfather when he needed her help, no matter how hot it was or how frigid she was there for him.

 

In the summers she always had her garden to tend. She had her system down: poke the plant with a hoe to make such there were no snakes, then check for harvest. If there was a rattlesnake the hoe was unforgiving. Her favorite farm dog Bob saved her life and lost his to a rattlesnake, when he found the snake first as she was getting ready to reach into the beans.


There were a lot of rattlesnakes there when I was a kid. The prairie dogs moved in, the snakes came with them. It was a great lifestyle for the snakes. Grandma hated rattlesnakes.

 

Grandma would pickle and can her way through the hot summer months from the bounty provided by her garden. She was the master of the pressure cooker. I remember summer family gatherings, they were always a feast of fresh harvested foods. The kids all took turns churning the ice cream from fresh cream from the cows.


Grandma took care of her house chores in the morning. She tended to the chickens, collected the eggs and carried in gallons of fresh water from the windmill. She always had dinner (mid-day meal) for my grandfather and the men who worked the farm with him. Dinner was never late. I loved these dinner’s.

 

I would listen to a crowed table of weather worn cowboy’s talk about the animals and the land that they loved. One of the cowboys entertained me by rolling cigarettes with one hand. He’d then strike a match off his thumb nail and take a deep drawl, he’d blow smoke rings. I remember trying to put my fingers through the rings. 


After lunch they’d all grab their white straw cowboy hats, which were all soaked in sweat and tractor grease. I thought there must have been a competition of who’s hat was the most broken in. They’d then head back out to the fields. I really wanted to be a cowgirl.

I never heard my grandmother complain about all the work, from day break to sunset. She would work the farm with all the love in her heart. It was not an easy life. Nature could quickly erase their efforts in the blink of an eye.

 

They had no modern conveniences, no electric washer or dryer, no bathtub or toilet. Life was challenging to say the least. Yet I don’t remember them ever complaining. I felt their disappointments, but they always found their way, together in partnership and love.

  

The most important lessons that have sustained me throughout my life have come from my grandparents. They always had so much love in their hearts, for their family, their children, the animals who lived on the farm with them. They respected each other, I rarely saw them disagree. When they did disagree, they were always forgiving.


Grandma

They were devoted to the land, to each other, to their way of life. They took my sister and me in, another chore for my grandma, but when we got there I could see by the love in her eyes that I was wanted. I don’t think she realized all of the life lessons that I learned from her.

Nothing was wasted and everything was reused until the object was unusable and then it was repurposed for another use. Everything had value. Nothing was discarded without serious consideration.


My Grandma prepared me for life. I don’t think she knew how much she imprinted me with her goodness. The strength and love that she shared with everyone she knew, she helped me to negotiate all of my life’s journeys, I owe my survival in my early years on knowing that she was in my heart.


I share my grandmother’s strength and her many loves. She has always been my angel cheering me on. If you want to sustain a wonderful life you need to have a work ethic. When people shake their heads and say what I’m doing is impossible, I have worked harder.

 

I love what I do, I have followed my passion. I feel love to feel the earth beneath my feet and I cherish the energy that is shared with me. My family worked with nature, they accepted that things don’t always work out the way they planned. Most important they shared the love, they shared their wisdom, they shared their passion with others, they never quit, and the sun may shine tomorrow.


When I started my practice over 30 years ago I shared my work with my grandma. I told her about the energy in my hands, about how I was helping the horses to heal. She was getting older and I wanted her to know that my love of earth and animals came from my farming pioneer heritage. I think she understood. She smiled at me when she saw how much I loved helping horses.

 

I knew she was proud of me. I try to live up to her standards of sharing kindness, compassion and helping others in a world that is always unpredictable.


Without her wisdom I could have spun out of control many times in my life or given up, she is a part of my foundation, a part of my soul. I live to help others and to teach them how they can heal themselves, their families and their furry family members. My love for the earth and nature sustains me and feeds me.  I channel the energy of the earth and sky to help others.


This is my journey and I’m so proud to be the granddaughter of an American pioneer.

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