How do you mash almost 50 years of a life into a page that isn’t too long for anyone sane to want to read?
I received my first call to shamanism at age nine, when Spider, my first ally, startled me into a fall out of a 40-foot oak tree (which I walked away from unharmed). My second call came at age 18, when I was aware and old enough to accept it. I have been working as a shaman for most of the 30+ years since. I’ve worked with the spirits to heal people, places, and the planet’s energy webwork. I’ve lived in ten U.S. states and two countries, moving over 40 times since 1996 to do the spirits’ will. I’ve drummed, danced, taken entheogens, dreamed, and taken the physical ordeal path through shibari suspension to reach the Otherworlds; and incorporated my later training in fofo and energy healing into my shamanic practices. Today, I’ve begun closer work with my ancestors and other spirits of the dead.
My first call to writing came at age nine, as well, when I was given a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes and was floored by it. All I knew then was that it made me want to write — which I did, badly, throughout grade school and high school. My second call, specifically to poetry, came when I was a freshman in college; as you may have guessed, I was 18. A professor played a recording of Wallace Stevens reading his poem “The Idea of Order at Key West,” and I went from wanting to write to wanting to write poetry; I wanted to make someone feel the way I felt in that five minutes. I went on to get an MA in Creative Writing and to publish two books (non-vanity press, both now out of print after the economy ate the publisher). Today, I continue to write and refine my craft, but my publishing all happens here; I’m off the submissions carousel.
- Energy Worker
I had been working for some time with energy in a completely intuitive way as a shaman when I encountered first reiki and then pranic healing in my early 30s. Both gave me theory to go with my practice, as well as some useful techniques, but in the end they were absorbed into how I already worked, rather than the opposite.
Fofo — the word is used for both practice and practitioner — is traditional Samoan healing. It combines herbal medicine, massage, and counseling. I was taught in my late 30s by my adoptive father, who was himself a fofo. It is a very inclusive practice, gladly embracing whatever works in its context, and it has merged well with my other skills and drawn them into its circle at the same time.
I do counted cross-stitch. I was taught by my mother in 1989, and with a couple of breaks — one after her death and one because I was traveling so much — I’ve been stitching ever since.
- And what’s the deal with that bowl?
The lovely pattern on the bowl is made by an ancient Japanese ceramic repair technique called kintsugi, or kintsukuroi, in which lacquer infused with powdered metals is used to repair cracked or broken pieces. The goal is to honor the age and untility of a piece that was damaged while being used for its intended purpose. The repair isn’t hidden, but instead beautified and even highlighted, and the piece is usually made stronger where the damage is repaired, as the metallic lacquer is very strong. To me, this is the perfect symbol for the shaman, whose calling comes through being “broken,” and whose entry into the new and stronger nature of the shaman comes through repairing that breakage with the help of the spirits.