Voices of Valley Women 2013

The Beach is My Home

 Small and insignificant
It was a shining surface that caught my eye.
A rock so polished with the sun’s enhancement
I knelt to pick it up.

How quickly the comparison came to mind
We start out with big plans
We get roughed and tumbled by life
And then we land in a safe place.

I crossed the mountains as one goal
I conquered a city or two
But now I stroll the widened beach
Searching for tiny miracles.

I will settle this polished gem
In my home where I will place it
The same sun will enhance its beauty
The same sun that will keep me warm.


© Mary Ellen South

(Note: Mary Ellen is home and doing well after two major
surgeries this fall. She now lives in Lewes, Delaware.)



by Siggi Hepp-Dex

(Excerpted with permission from a longer piece) 

 After a glorious month in India, I want to share with you the highlights of my trip. The purpose of this trip was mostly spiritual i.e. a pilgrimage to the big Kumbh Mela that takes place every twelve years near Allahabad at Prayag, the place where three holy rivers meet: The Ganges which is brownish, the Yamuna which is greenish, and a “mythological underground” river named Saraswati which is white (the color of purity?) Another purpose of the trip was to take my Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) soul-sister Yvette Gellis, an artist and a painter, to India. The organizer of this adventure was another SRF soul-sister Bonnie Uppal who lives in Delhi and is married to a very special Indian soul, plus I wanted to visit very dear friends whom I have known since the years when I lived in India.

First a little bit about the Kumbh Mela: Mela means fair, in this case a spiritual fair and kumbh refers to a water pot or container. In Hindu mythology, a long long time ago, the gods were losing their powers. So they went to the God Vishnu who advised them to churn the ocean of milk and they would find the nectar of immortality that could restore their powers. The gods were not strong enough by themselves to do the churning so they went to the demons who agreed to help them in return for half the elixir. When they had succeeded in retrieving the nectar, the demons changed their minds and wanted to keep it all. One of the gods grabbed the kumbh and ran, pursued by the demons. The chase lasted 12 days (equal to 12 human years) and at certain places drops of the nectar from the kumbh fell to earth and those places became holy places of pilgrimage. And that is why the Kumbh Mela takes place every 12 years. 2013 marked the “Maha” (great) Kumbh Mela because it was 12 times 12years. It draws millions of people (120 million as of March 10 when it closed) including saints and sages from all over India, the curious, average people like us, and anyone coming because of the belief that a dip in the sacred rivers will yield life transforming blessings.

The goal of pilgrimage is of course spiritual, to more and more manifest the divine qualities of our soul (love, peace, joy, bliss). As much as the experience of traveling to India to experience the Kumbh Mela is fun and exciting, in SRF we believe that it is the “dip” into the living water of spirit in daily meditation that actually draws us closer to God, so we of course did both: In our SRF/YSS (called Yogoda Satsanga Society in India) tented encampment we had a large orange and purple meditation tent with an altar where everyone did their morning meditations and in the evening, meditations were led by our YSS monks. There was also a dining tent where delicious Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner was served, and there were separate colorful ladies’ and men’s sleeping tents. Bonnie, Lauren, Sandy, Yvette and I slept in sleeping bags on mats and a blanket placed over straw on the sand. We bundled up in thermal underwear, sweat suits, wool caps, socks, gloves and shawls to keep out the cold wind that blew from the river at night. We looked like large caterpillars all in a row. At 5:00am we would be awakened by beautiful chanting wafted over loudspeakers coming from neighboring encampments. What a way to wake up! There was an open area in the back of the tents with corrugated tin walls enclosing Indian and even western toilets that we flushed with a bucket of water. The bathing enclosure was directly below the elevated railroad line, so if we happened to be taking a cold bucket bath and heard the train whistle, it was amazing how fast we managed to get dressed since we were in full view of the passengers.

Most of the tented encampments are built on sand, on the largely empty riverbed during winter because by summer, when the Himalayan snow melts, the riverbed will be completely covered with water. They build temporary elaborate and very colorful tented cities on the sand with electricity and basic plumbing for just two months and then it is all dismantled and disappears. This is the magic of India. 

Having arrived on January 21st, on the morning of Jan 22nd we took our dip as it was an auspicious day. Everyone in the SRF camp walked chanting to a place from where we got into boats and were rowed, as we chanted, to a place in the river where there was a bathing platform. It was misty and there were seagulls accompanying us. We all had on our “dipping suits” i.e. a full Indian kurta pajama (long tunic over baggy long pants). The water was not too cold but cold enough to require a mind over matter approach. When one had dipped (most of us went in up to our neck) the others formed a ring with towels so we could change into a set of dry clothes.

Whether it was the visit to India, the Kumbh Mela itself, the fact that everything felt sacred, or simply that we had ample opportunity to “Practice the Presence of God” so richly manifest everywhere, whatever the cause, since this trip my spiritual life has changed in some very beautiful ways. Although India has a long, unbroken tradition of pilgrimage in the context of sacredness, God’s presence can be found everywhere. That sacredness extends to all of the earth “as mother and guardian of life.” I personally know that includes Front Royal/Greenfield, and all other sacred places. One can board a boat on the Ganges, or “one just might board that boat anywhere. Each river, somehow, contains the waters of the whole.” Pilgrimage is a place of the heart and can be found “where the rivers meet, where the hill rises, where the temple flag waves.” The magic of God’s presence is all around us, everywhere, in our own front yard.” Pilgrimage is simply a way of life.


An Arbor of Autumn

 Mary Ellen South
September 19 , 2013

An arbor of autumn
Hung high above me
As I drove briskly along the Shenandoah
Myself aglow from the glory of seeing old friends.

An arbor of autumn
With just a hint of color
No full glory yet
Promises of so much more to come.

I journey back each fall and spring
My favorite times of the year
Autumn with its burst of color
Spring with its promise of continuation.

An arbor of autumn
Hung high above me
Creating a sense of security
Reminding me full color awaits us all.

 © Mary Ellen South



Voices 2013