When Ann Bolinger-McQuade went to get a mammogram in 1986, she wasn't prompted by her doctor or any signals from the rational world. She was prompted by pure intuition, which turned out to be correct: She had breast cancer. Due to early detection, though, the cancer was treatable. Bolinger-McQuade's new book, Everyday Oracles: Decoding the Divine Messages That Are All Around Us, delves into the personal oracles that can guide your life if you listen to that inner voice. Bolinger-McQuade will be in town for readings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Boulder Bookstore and 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Tattered Cover LoDo; in advance of those appearances, we talked to McQuade about how to recognize personal oracles, cloud formations of her deceased father, and how the invention of the sewing machine was helped along by a profound dream.
See also: - Anne Waldman on her book, Gossamurmur, and keeping the world safe for poetry - Erica Walker Adams on fantasy, Tarot and the existence of faeries - Reverend Charles Cox on mediumship, White House seances and talking to the dead
Westword: What made you want to write Everyday Oracles?
Ann Bolinger-McQuade: I had an experience back in 1986 where I had a gut feeling that said, "You better go get a mammogram," and I followed it and found out I had breast cancer. It was really early, luckily, but that engaged a real fear of my own mortality. So that put me face to face with something that I'd really never experienced before. During that time I was at a mall and I walked into a pet store and as I walked in, right outside of my ear I heard these words: "You know I'm going home with you, don't you?" I looked around and there was absolutely nobody there and it ended up being a little golden retriever puppy. We all are very telepathic with our animals, and this just happened to be right outside my left ear. My husband's the one who got him; I really wasn't going to get him and my husband kind of snuck back and got him.
For eleven years Rusty was my real beloved spirit animal, and I have a Native American background and I've always sensed that the world was alive and interconnected, and I've always received these messages that almost all of us get. They always looked random and I loved them. When Rusty got cancer and we had to have him put to sleep when he was eleven, I'd never heard that voice again, but the night he died I was laying there kind of tearful thinking, "What am I going to do?" and I heard him again and he said, "I'm still here and I could come back if you want me to." And that started me on a journey. I'd never heard of anything like that happening before and it sounded really bizarre to me, and I just quietly said to myself, if you can show yourself to me I'll get to you.
This is not that story, that's going to be a whole different book, but what happened because of that was that I started to watch how the world -- and to me it was through clouds -- everything just started to take on a new life and show me the way. Through all of that and through the time since '86, I recognized that the universe is designed to respond to our needs. It's like gravity. There's a need and there's a delivery system that resonates specifically to that individual, then there's a message, and that's a personal oracle. This book is just a fun romp of fascinating stories of how the universe has responded to all these different people's needs and I put it in a framework that really grounds it so that it's not one of those books that's like, oh, look at all those really wild, random things. I categorize it with five different types of oracles: conduits, mirrors, synchronicities, signs and symbols, and invisible moving sidewalks and how they may speak to you. It's a really fun romp of fascinating fun stories of all kinds of different people that just show you how the universe works to support us all.
Where do you believe that these messages and personal oracles are coming from?
I believe there is a divine source behind everything, and I believe that this divine source is hard to name. Some of us call this divine source God -- it goes by all different names. Native Americans call it the Great Mystery, but whatever that divine source is that set up the universe the way that it is, that's what's responding to our needs. But I believe it's set up to work that way. I don't believe that it's on automatic pilot, so to speak, but when there is a need we are tuned in. We're part of this flow of everything. We're connected to everything. Everything's connected to us. So when we need it, that interconnection is right there and it clicks right in.
How can people better tune in to these messages and recognize them?
What I tell people to do is first off: trust your gut. Your gut feeling is what is going to tell you. Be really careful of your monkey mind. What happens is we all get this gut feeling and then your mind goes, oh, come on, you're imagining things. Forget that. I always say step to the right of your left brain. Go into that intuitive self and trust that. The other thing I tell people to do is become your own person who gathers the information. Get a journal, get a piece of paper, and write things down as they occur, and you'll collect your own body of evidence that proves to yourself what's going on. If you don't want to start a journal, write it on a little piece of paper and stick it in one place. I talk about a sticky-note shoebox method. If you put all your experiences in one place, then you'll look back and go, oh, I forgot about that. That's so cool! I use a camera a lot to photograph things. You can't believe the things that you'll find in photographs when you just tune in.
What have you found?These spirits can show themselves to me in cloud formations, and I have one that's the very last picture in the book and it's of my father. I have a picture of him in life and then I have a picture of him over the labyrinth that I was walking ten years after he passed. I have a labyrinth in my yard in Tucson and I was walking it with a labyrinth guide who had been to one of my seminars and I could just feel his presence; I took the camera that I had over my shoulder and I just clicked a photo, and it's just like a holographic picture of his face in this cloud. The very first picture in the book is when my father died. The morning after he died I was making arrangements to ship his body back to Kansas and I had this urge to go outside where my husband was washing his car and say something to him, and as I walked through the garage I could feel my father and I looked up -- and right above my husband there was this profile of my father. My husband looked up and said, "Oh, he's even got his beard!" Once we recognize that these things are around us, we feel them or we see them.
There's no one way that it happens. Sometimes you'll feel something and you'll look around and go, what is it? Some people recognize the spirits of their loved ones through smell. Some people get messages on car radios. You name it. And this isn't a book just on connecting with spirits that have passed, this is guidance for your everyday life, uncovering the gamut of all the different ways the universe is supporting us all the time.
In the book you talk about famous people throughout history using the messages of oracles. What are some of your favorite stories?
My very favorite one is Elias Howe, the man who invented the sewing machine. He had this idea and he just couldn't quite get the whole thing. He had a dream one night and in the dream he's being boiled in a big pot with cannibals dancing around him, and he looks up and sees the point of the spear, and he sees that it's open at the point. And here he is being boiled in oil and he looks up and he goes, "That's it!" That's one I dearly love. All kinds of different inventors have gotten the messages through dreams.
Here's one that I think is really bizarre, even to me, and I don't think too many things are bizarre. Telly Savalas used to go around on television telling about this experience that he had, and early one morning he's run out of gas and he's in the middle of nowhere and he gets out of his car and he looks over and there's a man standing by a big Cadillac and the man's got on a really fancy suit and the man says to Telly Savalas: "I can take you to go get gas." So they go and get gas and Savalas doesn't have any money on him and the man goes, that's okay, and he pays for the gas and takes him back to the car and he writes his name and phone number on a piece of paper and says, just call me back and pay me back. The next day he calls this phone number and he gets the man's wife and he tells her about what happened and the wife said, you know, that sounds exactly like my husband, but he's been dead for quite a few years.
I remembered that I had an aunt who was my hero, and she told me about a time where she was delivering a wheelchair to somebody and she'd been out kind of in the country and she opened the trunk of her car to get the wheelchair out and this man said, "Let me help you," and he got the wheelchair out and she turned around to put it down and the man was gone. So that helped validate that story for me -- and I hadn't thought about that for years. Because here was somebody I really trusted that told me a story that I also thought was kind of out there.
Everybody's out there is in a different place, but that sounded really out there to be able to materialize into a form and then disappear. The things that are happening to so many of us are so exciting and we're not sharing them, so that's part of what I'm trying to do: get us all to start talking. Because once you start talking, people will go, yeah, and you know what happened to me? And you're off and running.
What else do you want people to know about the book?
It will speak to everybody the way it needs to speak to them. The universe is designed to respond to people very specifically because we're all so different. They'll read it in the way that has real meaning for them. I took the things that appear to be just mysterious happenings and I ground them in a practical reality. Maybe we don't have to have a scientific basis, but for those of us who do, I've connected between the ancient wisdom and the string theory and I just show that look, this is not "Woo woo" -- this is practical and it's grounded in something just as solid as gravity. And I encourage people to prove it to themselves.
For more information on Ann Bolinger-McQuade, visit her website, Cloud Speak: Everyday Personal Oracles.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.