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You are here: Home Resources E-Newsletter Archive Spring 2015, Issue XII Elder Love

Elder Love

Board President Emeritus Randy Morris shares the story of his experience as a participant on an Elder Quest in 2002

By Randy Morris, President Emeritus, Board of Directors, Rite of Passage Journeys

In the late summer of 2002 I journeyed from the green forests and ocean breezes of the Pacific Northwest to the arid deserts of Southern Utah to participate in an Elder Quest, an 11-day wilderness vision fast sponsored by the Animas Valley Institute.  The experience of the vision fast was not new to me.  Starting in my early 40’s, I wanted to explore a more earth-centered spirituality, and found that the revival of the vision quest in a form that was accessible to Western seekers fit the bill.  But all of my previous five quests were in the mountains and deserts of my native Washington State. This was the first quest I had done that was on land that was foreign to my soul.   So when we arrived at our base camp, I was immediately curious about the kinds of spirits that inhabited this place.  Noticing the trunks of blackened trees that had been hit by lightening, and the long vistas of canyon lands stretching as far as the eye could see under an azure sky, I knew that the spirits of this land were alive and ready to provide an anvil for my soul work. 

I found that I was the youngest of the 7 questors, a mere 52 years old.  But I felt older, partly because my dear mother had passed away a few months before, the last of her family’s generation, and partly because I felt ready to step into the east door of my elderhood.  I knew that there were many stages of elderhood to transit and I wanted to begin my exploration.  But I also knew that first I had to engage the death of my mother.  My father had passed 12 years earlier and there had been a great need for forgiveness in our relationship.  On a previous vision quest, the burning heat of the sage steppes of eastern Washington State had provided the alchemical ground for significant cleansing and transformation.  The death of my mother presented a different set of issues.  She was kind, warm and attractive – a perfect combination of traits to bind a sensitive boy to his mother.  As the youngest of four, I craved her attention, but was doomed to be raised more by my siblings than my mother. Much to my consternation, I had to admit that I was a mama’s boy.  But we always had a respectful relationship and we made the transition from mother/son to an easy adult friendship with no problems.  But in the months after her death, I noticed a strange feeling within myself, something I had not really thought much about before.  It seemed a bit unseemly, but finally I was able to name it – I had wanted to be her favorite child!  It struck me as silly in the light of day, but there it was. Could I bring a more mature perspective to this infantile grandiosity? The other issue I was wrestling with was a series of heart arrhythmias that required me to go to the hospital several times to get my heartbeat ‘converted’ to normal.  The sense that my heart was holding the secret of my death and that this secret was about to be blurted out at any moment, left me in a state of desperation, with a strong desire to hang on to life with an implacable grasp.  These were my issues and I wanted them healed. 

As usual, a dream had visited me in the weeks prior to the quest and, in the economy of dream, stated my issues directly and succinctly. It went like this: I was standing in a lake next to my father.  A large bear came up to me and, with one strong swipe of his paw, separated my head from my shoulders.  I watched my head go bouncing across the beach as the blood spurted from my neck. The dream ended in a fountain of blood.  I knew from that moment what I wanted from my quest:  I wanted my head back!

So after trance dancing, reading our obituaries, and binding the community of questors to each other, our group gathered one last time in a circle around a mythic ‘rabbit hole’ and prepared to dive through that portal.  I’ll never forget the final words given to me by a 72 year-old woman.  She came up to me and silently placed her index finger on the bridge of my nose at the brow spot, site of the third eye. At first I didn’t get it, but she just held it there, wordlessly. Then I felt this tremendous surge of love pouring into me.  Tears started flowing while her finger remained steady on my brow spot.  She leaned over and whispered, “Each of my children is my favorite child.  Perhaps, when you get back from your quest, you can advise me on how to communicate this to my children.”  I felt like I had been both blessed and challenged, in a very deep way, by an elder.  My healing had begun.  One-by-one, we jumped down the rabbit hole. 

I had a beautiful site overlooking the mountains and valleys.  Fall weather came and went, with light rain, bright sun and thunder and lightning storms.  I was visited by images of bears striding through my site and dreams of instruction and sacrifice.  Every morning I practiced the Hopi Sun Ceremony of gathering the golden light-pollen that appears just before the sun rises and drinking it in, of holding my arms out and praying for purity of soul and clarity of mind before allowing the first ray of light to strike me in my third eye.  I clothed myself in this light to start each day.  And each day I pondered the advice I would give an elder about how to communicate this strange kind of love that loves each thing in its entirety and does so unconditionally and without favoritism.  I began to gather hints and images about how love works – the mystery of its origins, the way in which we serve as channels for the ‘otherness’ of love, the intimacy between love and death, how a singular divine love is refracted into its many parts so as to express itself in sexuality, friendship, beauty and sacrifice. 

And then, as I once again prayed the sun up and the first ray of dawn’s light struck my third eye, it hit me!  Anyone, anywhere in the world could be doing this same ceremony and would have the same sensation of being divinely chosen by the sun as it strikes their inner eye, because when the sun brings its beam of light to the earth at morning’s first light, it hits everything equally!  Everything, in its ‘eachness,’ is touched with a ray of light.  Each thing is totally accepted and blessed by the light in its fullness, without discrimination, without comparison to others.  No single thing gets more light than another and yet no one is denied.  This is Elder Love!  It doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t judge.  It spreads its elder wings in all directions to encompass the entire created order – a love so strong and fierce and wide, my fear and resistance it will not abide.  Even past aches and pains – enemies and soul-suckers of yore – are encompassed by this light and love.  And all is forgiven, balance achieved, and each one knows their place in the order of things.  Elder Love is the ‘glutinum mundi’ the glue of the world that binds things together and makes them whole. 

The revelation brings me to my knees. I hear these lines, “Elder love is a marvelous thing, coming, as it does, at the last.”  I write it down, and then more lines begin to show up, and in a kind of poetic trance I play with words and images while the most interesting rhymes magically appear.   I write them down, move a few words around, wish I were a better poet, but no longer care.  The poem becomes a marker of my initiation into a new imagination of love, one I had read about in religious literature, but could never feel deeply into my bones. 

The poem opens a portal into the spirit world because that night I see a ladder leaning against a tree and a bear is climbing up it.  I follow the bear into the spirit world and track him to the house of the Bear Clan.  It is a gigantic hall, with many bears of different sizes and colors present, and a huge throne at one end with a rack of human heads along the far wall.   The king bear’s voice booms out, “Well, look who’s here.  A man without a head!”  What happens next is part of the shamanic mysteries that I will take with me to the grave.  But in the end, I get my head back, and I am given a spirit name that seals my commitment to the principles of Elder Love – the power to bless each exquisite part of God’s creation; a marvelous gift, to have brought Elder Love into its midst. 

Poems from the West Door


Elder Love

Elder Love is a marvelous thing,

            Coming, as it does, at the last

Born in darkness, hardship and pain,

            Broken love and loss without gain.

It circles and swirls and constellates en masse

            When the spirits, in all their might,

Deem the time is right.


And when that time comes, as come it shall,

            The heart breaks open in love.

A love so strong and fierce and wide

            Your fear and resistance it will not abide.

Your petty excuses, and calendars jammed

            In this bright light are but a sham.

Priorities are ordered according to fitness,

            And all of existence becomes your witness.


Now Elder Love heals many ills,

            Some too painful to mention.

When a wrinkled hand is placed in just the right spot,

            On forehead or shoulder or anywhere too hot,

Love like a river pours into the bones,

            And the child who receives it ceases to moan,

Knowing that she is the chosen one, placed above all,

            Basking in the glory of ecstatic free-fall.


Elder Love has a countenance benign

            That belies its stupendous might.

When friends and animals and gardens galore,

            Even enemies and soul-suckers of yore,

Are brought into the circle of elder delight

            All is forgiven, and balance achieved.

Each one basks in glory that won’t leave,

            And knows the gift that each must bring

And knows their place in the order of things.


So when the heavenly choir sings your tune

            In the midst of your darkest hour,

When age seems a burden and love in the past,

            When the body is creaking and won’t seem to last,

That’s when Elder Love enters your heart

            With the power to bless each exquisite part

Of God’s creation, a marvelous gift,

            To have brought Elder Love into its midst.


Randy Morris

Four Corners, UT


September 2002

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