Family Fears

by Wendy Burwell

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Wendy Burwell passed away in March. We remember her and thank her for her contributions to this journal. She was a valuable part of Rundelania and will be greatly missed. She first contributed work to the journal in the November 2017 issue, with her piece, Window on the World. She was dedicated to her writing and to her other numerous passions in life. With her partner, Peter Doughty, she co-wrote the column Ancestral Cycles for The Wedge neighborhood newspaper; and a monthly column, Planetary Messengers, at Rocmetaphysical.com. The work here was sent to the journal just a few days before her passing.

As Peter stated, “Wendy was consistently eager to support Rundelania and she was enthusiastic about teaching astrology, which she did at home, at Oasis and other venues. We pooled our skills in an astrological consulting practice that we called A to Z Astrology (A for Aeolea, her Sufi name, and Z for Zoidion, my pen name — Greek for “sign”). She also mentioned to me several times her participation in a local dramatic group that put on performances in some of the libraries. I look forward to reading the coming issue of the magazine, though it will be bittersweet.”

And we, can also, look to the stars for Wendy’s work.

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“What is wrong with her?  Doesn’t she know how dangerous that behavior is?   How are we going to knock some sense into her?”

“She’s just never met a stranger; she’ll talk to anyone who will listen. And she asks so many questions!  It’s going to get her into trouble some day!”

These words were a large part of the soundtrack of my youth.  Over the ensuing decades however, I have managed to focus on the positive parts contained there while doing everything possible to eradicate my family’s fears from my memory.  Apparently they were afraid that talking to strangers would make me too vulnerable as a young female with cute curls.  They never left any room for how it might enrich and strengthen my character.

As fate would have it, my curiosity and willingness to engage with most anyone has served me well.  For example, in my travels all over this country in my 20s, I found that engaging with others opened doors, often leading to long hours on the road toward my destination or a safe place to sleep for the night.

One such time comes to mind during my first trip to California. It was the early 70s and I arrived in San Fransisco with the name and address of a friend of a friend of mine on the back of a match book cover. I missed my friends by a few days but this stranger welcomed me anyway. I stayed for a week maybe two and then it was time to hit the road again.  He offered to help me get out of the city and asked: “Well, do you want to go the scenic route south down the coast or the big freeway thru the center of the state?” 

I had no idea. I was barely 20, what did I know?  But I was learning to let my intuition lead and replied with ‘Scenic’ of course.

A short while later there I was on the side of Hwy 1 with my little 60’s style hard-shell, green suitcase at my feet, thumb waving in the air.  I was just starting out with this form of travel and had a lot to learn.  I later developed the savvy to ask how far folks were going before hopping in. But that omission on this trip meant the first 3 rides only took me 15 miles south of San Fransisco and left me in a location not well suited for getting a ride at all much less the long one necessary. 

After what seemed like an eternity on an entrance ramp with no traffic, I decided to walk down to where the ramp met the road.  A risky, rookie move to be sure because here the cars were going so fast that if someone did see me and wanted to, they couldn’t really stop.  Even I knew that.

And no one did for the longest time until a car, with New York plates, clearly connected with me and my thumb! But they were in the far left ‘really-going-somewhere’ lane and were quickly gone.  All these years later, I remember feeling really deflated when I could no longer see their car in the distance – but when one is one the road, optimism is always the better choice, especially with many miles to go.  

So some time later when I saw that same car slowly coming down the ramp toward me, I was elated! These 3 folks, all about my age, were on an adventure and hoped I might join them. And they had done the unthinkable, they had turned around and made their way back to me!  I knew how extraordinary this was at the time and I can honestly say this never happened again in all the years I traveled this way.

The weeks we spent together that summer stand out in many ways. It was my first time in my young life of sleeping out under the stars, as well, my first visit to multiple magnificent places: Big Sur, Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, complete with 12 miles of majestic blue spruce forest. 

Being with these once-strangers and traveling where we did was wonderful and, not only unprecedented, but unique in my lifetime.  Yes, this journey was an integral part of the Zeitgeist of the times – many who were young adults at the time can attest – and yet it was also the result of my interest in, and willingness to engage with strangers.  The result?  No fear, just the pure joy of discovery that set the stage for more of the same. 

Fast forward to age 40 – with too many tales along the way to impart here – I found myself making my living engaging with strangers at a deeper level. Folks who were in crisis, folks who needed help and who, by and large, answered my questions with the sense that I might be able to help them get what they needed. 

Looking back I can honestly say that most of the work I have done in adult life has been centered around my ability to relate to strangers. I spent nearly 20 years as a Medical Social Worker in several different settings ranging from hospital to hospice with more in between, all the while honing my natural proclivity toward curiosity and information gathering into a useful skill.  I wonder what my family would say now, what would they think about their fear of strangers that they so diligently tried to share with me?  Could they appreciate how repeatedly hearing, “She never met a stranger….” shaped my life ?  I truly hope so.