08. April 2016 · Comments Off on Edith Wharton · Categories: NMN. Reincarnation, O.Naming

Since I started writing down my memories, not knowing where I was going with them, I paid close attention to any signs and clues that might flesh out a narrative of reincarnation.

The psychic who long ago planted the seeds for this project at first revealed to me only one past life even though she said I was an “old soul.”

It was the life of a servant girl in ancient Greece.  She was deaf and mute and her left arm was paralyzed as though it were in a sling.

It was all very intriguing, but I didn’t think it really mattered very much in my present life and I soon put it aside.

Years later, my twelve-year-old son gave me a book to read because he saw something in it that resonated with our ongoing family drama.  The book was Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.

I had heard of this novelist and even knew someone who had written her doctoral dissertation on her.  However, I did not remember reading any of her books.

When I read Ethan Frome I found it to be strangely familiar and not only in the spiritual way that my son perceived it.   It seemed as though I knew what was about to happen in the story before reading it on the page.

Even though Ethan Frome was widely read in High Schools throughout the U.S. we did not read it at my school in Macau.

Back in the early 50’s Macau imposed a version of Legion of Decency standards on what movies were allowed to depict.  I think its standards were even more restrictive than the ones imposed on Hollywood film makers.

Movies allowed in Macau were to have no “glorification” of adultery, suicide, indecency in dress, prurient love scenes and so forth.   The nuns in my school used this standard for choosing what we read.   It even applied to Shakespeare.  In class we read two Shakespearean plays – The Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar.   Even Romeo and Juliet was banned, never mind Othello.

After reading Ethan Frome I had recurring dreams and persistent hunches that led me to ask my psychic for clarification.

That is how I discovered that Edith Wharton also had something to do with my past lives.

I looked her up.  Immediately I was taken aback by the date of her death which adjusting for time zones was exactly the day I was born.  I went on to read her biography and a few of her novels.

But I did not see how knowing more about Wharton would be significant in my life and so my interest waned.

Since I started working on this project in 2013 I went back to reading Wharton’s writings.   Fortunately for me, she has written two autobiographies, twelve maximalist novels, volumes of short stories, several non- fiction books, articles on all manner of things and scads of letters.

For those who have studied Edith Wharton’s life and her writings it is not necessary to point out the similarities as well as differences in our stories.

If I am right in thinking that desire is at the heart of the phenomenon of reincarnation and the force that propels us to return to bodily existence, then I see clues in what Edith Wharton said that she wanted.

Edith Wharton said that she wanted to be a philosopher.  Ethan Frome was her favorite novel.

She was moving towards the Catholic Church.

She was fascinated by Greece.  She wanted to go to Greece so badly that she and her husband recklessly spent their whole year’s income on their voyage.   When they came back Edith found a letter telling her that an uncle had died and left her more money than they spent on their trip.  Although Crete was not among the islands they visited, Edith wrote  “Those months in the Aegean were the greatest step forward in my making.”

She also wrote, “My husband and I were so lost in enjoyment that neither of us gave a thought to the unsolved financial problem awaiting us at the end of the cruise.  Only twice in my life have I been able to put all practical cares out of my mind for months, and each time it has been on a voyage to the Aegean.”

Edith took that second trip to the Greek Islands many years later, when she was alone.  This time she visited Crete and Santorini.   I believe that the other past life we shared was partly in ancient Greece during the late Minoan Age.   A cataclysmic Thera volcanic eruption sheared off part of the island of Santorini and caused a tsunami that devastated much of the coastal region.

Edith planned to write a book about her whole Aegean experience but she never did.

I came from the other side of the world and went for a job interview at a company in the neighborhood where Edith Wharton spent her childhood.

I felt so at home there that I took that job even though I had an objectively much better job offer from another company.

Edith Wharton’s childhood home was at 14 West 23rd Street.  The company’s offices were at 932 Broadway, just a few steps away.

I met my future husband while working there.


Edith Wharton's childhood home steps from our company offices

Google map showing the location of Edith Wharton’s childhood home and Central Foundry Company


In my story there are so many unlikely out-of-the-blue happenings, miraculous coincidences and deus ex machina plot twists in order to keep this plot within its trajectory that Edith Wharton would not approve if this were a novel.  But this is not a novel.   This a true story of a real person with a real name.

Edith once said that each of her characters shows up with a name.  Some of the names were so outrageous that she tried to change them.  In every case, if she succeeded in giving a character a new name the character vanished and could not be written into her novel.

She would understand what it took to get here.

The reading came on a cassette tape.  The significant messages were these:

You are a very old soul.

There was a conflict over your name, and you did not get the name that you wanted.

Your life is in sixteen year cycles.

You belong to a group of creative types and teachers.

In this lifetime you are to learn wealth and service.  For this reason wealth will come to you, one way or another.

You have brought with you everything you need to accomplish your tasks.

On this journey you have two guardian spirits.

In the psychic’s meditation she saw you as a young woman in an ancient Greek setting.  You were wearing a long, simple garment.  Your left arm was paralyzed at an angle, and a dish of olives and grapes rested on the crook of that arm.   You were “speaking” with your other hand because you were mute.  You were also deaf.

You were a servant girl.  But you were beautiful, a blonde in a place where most women were brunettes.  A prominent man fell in love with you and took you for himself, after which you lived a pampered life of luxury.   The psychic heard the song “Green Sleeves” in the background.  It is the lament of a man who gives a woman everything and is not loved in return.

You did not give back to the universe.  In this lifetime you are to write a book on reincarnation to give back to the universe.  You will not have to relive the deafness.



08. May 2013 · Comments Off on My Name · Categories: O.Naming, Out of the Blue

In numerology, the name one is given at birth as well as the date of one’s birth, are keys that unlock personal mysteries.  It seems arbitrary.  But then, too many things remain beyond my understanding.

In the psychic’s reading, she said that I (or rather, the shared spirit in a previous life) did not get the name I wanted.  I decided to ask my sister whether she remembered any ruckus over our names.

Oh yes, she said, our dad was furious at the priest who messed with her name.  Our dad had named her Gwendolyn.  At her baptism, the priest said that he had never heard of that name and that it was not Christian.   He asked if anyone objected to the name Fatima.  It happened to be a famous name at that time because of the appearance of Our Lady to the children at Fatima.  No one objected.

Our mom insisted on Gwendolyn at least as a second name.  The priest conceded, but he changed the spelling to Gwendolene so that it would be more similar to Christian names like Elena.

Our dad was outraged.  When it came time to name me, he said Doreen Cotton, and no second name to mess around with.  The priest accepted Doreen as a Christian name, but he insisted on a second name.  Our mother said to use her family name Jorge.

So I asked my sister, would there be a name that I couldn’t have been given?  She thought about it and came up with one name.  It was Edith.  Our uncle’s wife was Edith, who was widely thought of as the most beautiful woman in Macau.  He was head over heels in love with her.  Eight months earlier, Edith had given birth to their first baby girl.  My uncle had named her Edith, after her mother.  There was no other Edith in our family.  There was no way my parents would have named me Edith.

If they had, my name would have been Edith Jorge Cotton. (Jorge is pronounced George.)

Names are important.  In telling my story I try to use people’s real names.  Since this is about my own journey, not other people’s lives, wherever possible, I simply left out a name if it did not interfere with the narrative.  In a few instances, I change a name to protect a person’s privacy.  I realize that although someone may have had a negative role in my life they should not be seen only in that light.  But since this is not fiction, I do not try to go beyond my experience and speculate on anyone’s character.

There are no composite people either.  I write what I remember, as I lived the events.

Lastly, I have always had trouble remembering people’s names.  It is a fault I have to work hard to overcome.  There are people whom I remember vividly.   I can almost “see” their facial expressions and body language even now, but whose names have gone down the memory rabbit hole.

17. April 2013 · Comments Off on A Son for the Asking · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years, O.Naming · Tags: ,

My sister tells me that Ah Seem came when we were at school.  Why didn’t she wait for us?

She didn’t come to see us.  She came crying to our mom.  She is heart-broken.  She asked her therapist if she would have a boy.  He said yes.   He also said that when the baby was born she must give him a name that the therapist chose.

She was very happy when the baby boy was born.  She asked her husband to give him the name the therapist chose.  He did.

A short time later, the baby got sick and died.

Our mom said why are you coming to me for advice now?  We are Christians.  We think that your therapist speaks for the devil.   You named your son for him, and he took him.

I don’t think it’s fair what our mom said, but I don’t know why.  I just wish she hadn’t said it.  Poor Ah Seem.  Why did things get so bad?

23. March 2013 · Comments Off on A New Name · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, O.Naming



Now that I walk down the street in my school uniform, back and forth four times a day, the girls don’t come to fetch me anymore.  It is not that they avoid me.  When I have time to hang out they don’t tell me to go away.  But I have very little time.

I am at school all day long, except on Sundays.  After my classmates go home, I stay and do my homework because our kerosene lamp, whose glass chimney quickly gets blackened by smoke, does not give enough light.

The schoolmistress, a kind and gentle nun, said that it would be useful for me to learn to read and write Chinese as my second language, instead of French.   French is still the diplomats’ language, which the European girls must learn, but Chinese will come in handier in my case.  I am the only European girl there who lives in Wanchai.  The front door of the school is on a road leading to the Peak.  No one else comes to school through the back.

I get my own Chinese tutor.  Miss Wu smiles easily.   First, she says, we have to invent a Chinese name for you.  She comes up with Meen Tau Lin.  Meen is the word for cotton.  Tau means wayLin just sounds like my name.   Now we start with the First Reader.

Miss Wu teaches me how to write with a brush.  You need a lot of practice, she says.  Saturday is a half day at school.  I think I can practice at home before it gets dark.  Children crowd around and watch me wield the brush and make graceful black characters.   In the morning, all my materials have disappeared.  From then on, I keep everything in my desk at school.

KeroLamp copy