I’ve written quite often of my belief in the paranormal and the origins of my belief. One thing I’ve never written about to my knowledge is my belief in past lives and not only how I came to believe, but also why and when. Then there is the effect of my beliefs on my present life.
The belief in past lives is not new nor is it something that deviates from the Christian faith as some might believe. Some 300 plus years after the death of Jesus who established the Christian church the faith was still young and fighting to survive. To be Christian and follow Jesus’ teachings was to risk being both figuratively and literally being fed to the lions. Even those among the faith quarreled and seemed not able to settle on a set of beliefs. Infighting is nothing new when it comes to religion and to this day it still exists.
In 325 A.D. the then emperor of Rome Constantine offered to officially support the Christian faith, but under one condition that they settle their opposing views and create a basic doctrine for all to follow. Thus the Council of Nicaea formed and what we now know as the Roman Catholic Church was born. In this process a number of beliefs were altered or eliminated, one of which was reincarnation. Even with this step forward there were those who refused to end their belief in reincarnation and it was close to another 1000 years before the belief was wiped out by the destruction of the Cathars and the Spanish Inquisition in the 13th century.
As I child I knew none of this, but I began noting things in my life that seemed to have no explanation. My first memory of questioning such things was around the time I turned 12. The biggest of these things was my fear of water to the point of what some might consider ridiculous. I was unable to venture into water above my knees without panic setting in and the idea of bobbing for apples (a common place Halloween tradition) made me fear for my life. Yet, despite this irrational fear I was drawn to the water in a way I find difficult to explain. It seemed to call to me, fill me with joy, and in the same breath terrify me. It made such little sense even to a 12-year-old that I asked my mother if perhaps I’d almost drowned when I was a toddler. My mother was horrified by the question.
In the same year, I attended a class trip to St. Louis where I now live and saw the Mississippi for the first time. The pull of this magnificent river seemed magnetic and familiar. During that trip I saw neighborhoods dating back prior to the Civil War and certain architecture (that with a French flair) made me long for something I could not quite put my finger on. Some might believe it was simply the imagination of a girl on her first excursion to a place so far removed from her tiny town it overwhelmed the senses. All I know is that when I returned from the trip I told my mother I needed to live there. As usual my insistence was met with a derisive snort and a pat on the head.
As the next few years passed I discovered New Orléans through photos. The first time I saw a photo of The Big Easy it felt as if I’d returned home after a long, tedious trip. Anything I could get my hands on I read. Later when I moved to St. Louis I discovered the writings of Anne Rice, first the Vampire Chronicles and later the Mayfair Witches series. When I read these stories it wasn’t the supernatural aspects that drew me per se, but rather the lush descriptions of New Orléans both in the historical and present context. I felt as if I needed to go, the draw so powerful it was like an ache in my soul. I shared these feelings with my best friend and we talked of taking a road trip when we were both single, but as it does life continued and the trip was never made. My obsession though has never faded.
During this period of my life the oddest thing happened. My friend and I attended a psychic fair and we decided to have our cards read. The reader we chose was as normal as we could find in a sea of gypsy-esque readers. As a matter of fact she looked like a soccer mom. She read my friend’s cards and we laughed the entire time and then it was my turn. When the woman set out my cards the look on her face was Oscar worthy. When I asked her what the problem was she explained she was seeing something she’d never seen before. A number of the cards involved water and she could see the water moving. She looked at me and frowned saying she didn’t understand what the reason was, but that I was connected to the water. She asked me if I understood.
That sent the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. No she didn’t ask questions nor fish for information. Until that moment she hadn’t asked shit about either of us. And honestly if she was faking she should have been in Hollywood earning every award an actress could. She seemed genuinely disturbed by the entire thing.
I could continue on, but the number of things over the years that have happened to me involving water is endless. The one that sealed the deal for me though was a weekend trip to Chicago around 13 years ago. My friend had invited me to come along with her then husband and two-year old son for a weekend visit to Chicago. Her husband insisted we stay at a hotel on Lake Shore Drive. When we pulled in front they went in to check-in and I stayed outside watching their sleeping son. I stepped out of the vehicle to have a cigarette and saw Lake Michigan for the first time. Everything seemed to come to a stand still as I stood there, cigarette forgotten, staring out at what seemed like an endless body of water that blended into the horizon. It was the first time I’d seen (in person) a body of water that large and my breath was stolen away. This was early summer and I could see the sail boat skimming across the surface, sails fluttering in the wind and suddenly I felt my eyes welling up. There are no words to describe how I felt that day. When she asked me what I was doing I smiled and said–
It’s so fucking beautiful. If I never see the ocean at least I’ve seen as close as I can get in this life.
The next day we went out on the lake as part of an architectural tour conducted on an old fire boat. As I stood at the railing staring out at the lake, wind in my face, I knew without a doubt why I’d both loved and feared the water for all those years. I believe I was a sailor on a ship in my past life, possibly a ship sailing out of New Orléans, and that I died on the water just as I had lived. I have no proof of this, only what I know in my heart and soul. Since that moment I’ve written stories set in the Deep South, one in particular set on an island off the coast of Louisiana Le Jardin de la Lumiere was awarded the CTRR Award by Coffee Time Romance back in October of 2008. Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I hope to have it re-released at some point in the near future.
This story along with so many others hold a bit of that magic I felt as I stood on the deck of that boat. My love of the South, New Orléans, and the love and fear of the water influence my writing at every turn. My belief of an earlier life paints the images I write in vivid colors and I still have yet to see either the ocean or my beloved New Orléans in this life. Perhaps I will return at some point, but whether in this life or the next I do not know.
What I do know is that the soul is eternal and genderless, it exists without a doubt, and I believe there is more to this world than just the present. Perhaps, some day we will know without a doubt we’ve been here before and we will be here again.
Until Later…Blessed Be