Rosemary Altea communicates with the dead -- The author of ''The Eagle and the Rose'' feels we have much to learn from spirits

Rosemary Altea, the spiritual teacher, New Age messenger, and author of The Eagle and the Rose, which details her path from English housewife to psychic healer and liaison to the dead, has something less than divine inspiration to share with me.

”A man is tapping me on the shoulder, wanting to talk to you,” she says, describing someone who could easily (or not) be my late godfather. ”He’s saying something about renovations to your house…about your bathroom, a horrible rattling noise. Not in the tap, I think, but down in the pipes. It’s driving him crazy.” Only someone with an intimate knowledge of my plumbing — or someone who realizes banging pipes are common — would know of the jackhammer noise that clanks from the pipes. ”I have to tell you,” Altea says, seeing me flush, ”when I realized how much they could see, I started using bubble bath. Not that it makes any difference, but it makes me feel better.”

And that, after all, is Altea’s business: comforting those who are sick or mourning with assurances of an afterlife — albeit a very nosy one. While some may balk at the idea of her spirit guide, Grey Eagle, helping her in her work as well as in the kitchen (offering up recipes when in need), Altea understands the doubts. ”I’m probably one of the most skeptical people you’ll ever wish to know,” says the woman who spent 34 years thinking she was just plain batty.

In fact, Altea’s message is more motherly than otherworldly: ”There are so many people who are afraid of death and dying. But there are so many people who are afraid of life, too. I hope to teach those who will listen that we can be anything we want to be — if we dare.” As for the spirits, she insists there’s nothing to fear. ”They are here to guide us,” she says reassuringly. Even, it would seem, to the bathroom.