A Life and a House to Rebuild

In mid March 2006, our normally below-the-snowline valley had been visited by a rare and un-seasonal storm. And although awesomely beautiful it was equally devastating.

Seventeen trees had been brought down by the weight of snow on early leaves and weakened limbs, blocking the only road in. Numerous other trees had toppled within our acreage. The most consequential had been an immense oak with roots extending beneath the front portion of one of the two houses serving family and guests. Standing at the kitchen window in the lower house I had watched, as in slow motion, the mighty oak had fallen forward and downward, and in so doing lifted the foundation and the entire front section of the upper house, pulling it away from the rest of the house and leaving it suspended in mid air.

Some days later Bob would tell me that when the oak went down he knew it signaled his own impending departure. I think we all did.

Bob’s Surprise Visit

For several years I had been putting off knee surgery, waiting for a more convenient time. Once Bob’s memorial service was over, I knew what I needed to do and asked Anna to take me home with her for knee surgery. A nurse and well-connected to the medical community where she lived, I knew this was the ideal and best possible choice for the new beginning of my life. Each of the children had tirelessly been on hand to help since the onset of Bob’s health crises the previous July. Similarly, each would now under gird my physical healing and lend their emotional support as I met the challenges ahead. I knew surgery and recovery would be painful, but necessary if I wanted to regain mobility and step back into an active life. I also reasoned that the physical pain would help me bear and even offset some of the emotional pain. I understood, or perhaps intuited, this as having something to do with a transfer or a sacrifice of energy on one level for that of another. And so, a few days later I headed with Anna for what would be my home away from home for the coming year, culminating with our trip to Scotland.

Arrangement for my surgery fell into place in a remarkable way and on April 7th, my 77th birthday I found myself in a hospital bed behind a partially drawn curtain in the surgery staging area. Of a sudden and taking me totally by surprise, Bob was there; his presence palpable and unmistakable. I expressed or thought appreciation for the effort I assumed it would have taken for him to be so tangibly present. To this he telepathically replied that of course he would be with me. Not only for my surgery, but wasn’t it also my birthday? I was overwhelmed with gratitude at his presence, and I felt deeply at peace and confident all would be well. Again, in the operating room and just before going under the anesthetic, he was again there and just as palpable as before. With this I lost consciousness, but the memory sustained me throughout my stay in the hospital and the coming weeks.

Back at Murray Creek

In the meantime, back at Murray Creek a friend in need of a place to live moved into the lower house “to hold the space and honor the vision of the sacredness of the place.” While three hundred miles away, with Anna and her husband Jim, a building contractor, plans began to take shape for using the storm-damage insurance to rebuild the front portion of the upper house. Before Bob’s transition I could not have imagined my life at Murray Creek without him. But now I began to embrace an image of myself living out the remaining years of my life in this house on a hill overlooking creek and valley. And in my journal dialogues with Bob he insisted this was where I needed to be for what lie ahead.

Jim, with lots of help from sons, grandsons, and even neighbors, began the project of rebuilding the broken house. Moreover, with the demise of the great oak, a magnificent view of the valley and mountains opened up.


About ann

When Bob and Ann Elliott purchased their sixty acre Murray Creek property in 1974 their purpose was to establish a retreat center for Inner Healing. This was the beginning of Creative Living Center and later the home of CLC Press which gradually evolved into an on-line means of sharing what they were learning and experiencing about the processes of becoming whole. Ann was born in 1929 in Holden, Missouri. Her parents were both journalists and co-published the local newspaper. They had met in Mexico City where her father was on assignment for a Washington DC newspaper and where her mother was doing advanced studies at the University of Mexico. When Ann was six they separated and she moved to Kansas City where her mother began a long career in radio and television. In high school Ann was sent east to Penn Hall in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. And that is where she met Bob who was attending Mercersburg Academy, the nearby boy's prep school. Bob was born in 1927 in Washington, DC. His mother had been a librarian in Hammond, Indiana before coming to Washington during World War I where she met his father, a young Marine who became an attorney when the war was over. Bob attended Sidwell Friends School in Washington through eighth grade and went on to Mercersburg, and from there, near the end of World War II, into the army. The war over, he began pre-law at Northwestern where Ann was studying journalism and doing secretarial work for her mother who was then Woman's Editor of American Broadcasting Co in Chicago. In the fall of 1947 Ann and Bob were married and the following spring left for Stanford University where Bob finished his undergraduate and went on to earn his law degree in 1952, by which time they were expecting the second of what would be their six children. During Bob's years at Stanford Ann studied and worked in the field of design. This led to her interest in symbolism, and the study of symbolism awakened her interest in spirituality, a combination that led to an interest in Jungian psychology at about the time Jung's writings were beginning to appear in English. It was through the writings of Christian Jungians such as John Sanford and Morton Kelsey that Ann became interested in the psycho-spiritual approaches to inner healing. Eventually she would connect with the three grand women founders of the San Francisco based Guild For Psychological Studies, all of whom had studied with Jung in Zurich. Together the three--Elizabeth Boynton Howes, Sheila Moon, and Luella Seibald--had established the Four Springs retreat center in Northern California where they conducted seminars based on "The Records of the Life of Jesus of Nazareth" according to a modified Socratic method. Ann participated in the Records and other related seminars at Four Springs during the 1980s. In the meantime, Bob was equally involved in pursuing his special interest in music as a means of furthering and deepening meditation. He was also studying shamanism with Michael Harner and the Institute for Shamanic Studies, and with Ira Progoff through his Intensive Journal Workshops. All this time, of course, he was carrying on a busy law practice in Lodi, California, some forty miles commute from Murray Creek. From 1984 until his retirement in 1998 Ann served as Bob's legal secretary. Ann, with both of her parents writers, had been writing off and on for a number of years, with numerous writings on symbolism published in magazines and journals, as well as two books on the use of symbolism in Christian education. In 1996-7 Parts I and II of Return to the Whole were published on the C G Jung Web Page, and this was the beginning of web publishing for Ann as a means of sharing the synthesis of ways to inner healing and wholeness she and Bob had experienced and been sharing throughout their years at Murray Creek. With their retirement in 1998 Ann began writing and editing full time, with her in progress "opus" being the series titled Return to the Whole, and including the full length book titled Higher Ground, offered here in its entirety. In 1992 Ann learned she was eligible to "test her vocation" as an Anglican Franciscans and after an inquiry and formation of some five years was, in 1997, professed. These are the TSSF initials that follow her name--The Society of Saint Francis--and for which order she now serves as a formation counselor. Additionally she is a Benedictine trained spiritual director and serves in this capacity also to whomever is willing to make the narrow, winding trip out Murray Creek Road.
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