73. Giving Thanks for My Life and Work

BLOG 73—(present reflections tied to August 2000 journal entries about my healing and novel-writing journey)—Long days and nights of summer mist; consistent poetry workshops on Mondays; daily walks in the woods, every day with more strength and presence; evening feasts to cicada rhythms with visiting family and friends; swimming in the pool; tending to the garden; and meditating, healing my hips, and writing my novel’s story led to a special  moment on August 18 on Skimmilk Farm in New England…

Jean Pedrick and I at Skimmilk Farm (photo of a black & white picture taken by Carl Hyatt in 2000).

… that special night I finished my novel, which back then was simply called Duende. This 80,000 word manuscript began merely as a short story with no goal other than to follow the hunger that lay inside my aching body back in 1996, yet four years later it became my novel. I let out a sigh of amazement as the stars filled the skies on that August night on the farm. And not only was my novel finished, I was also healing my hips and beginning to walk again.

“Last night I finished Duende,” I wrote back then. “I completed my book at about 2 a.m. and then sat in front of my mesa, my altar, taking in the message and love of Duende, the spirit that rests in my bones, that is my bones, wanting to speak. As I wrote the last pieces of my novel, I felt the hunger, the altogether chaos and wildness of that earth-honoring self that I was, that we all are. I sat with that part of myself that surrenders to knowing, to truly understanding; that stands in the middle of the jungle, in that space of not separating from the jungle that is my body, that is myself, crawling its vines, its seemingly chaotic and random living through me, through us…that part that doesn’t try to figure out and dissect what is (for that will kill us), but surrenders to not knowing all the answers; because to know it all would be to separate ourselves from source that is so much bigger and vaster than ourselves and

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Jean Pedrick and I at Skimmilk Farm (photo of a black & white picture taken by Carl Hyatt in 2000).

yet is ourseleves as well. To contain this vastness would be to kill ourselves, to destroy the very part of ourselves that yearns to fly and live and truly taste the truth of our existence. This, I felt, was the duende that led me to write my novel and the very story that wished to teach me and others about an essence of life that we all have access to.

Back in 2000, I thought I had finished my novel, yet there were many more layers and chapters to write. I don’t regret any of the lengthy process of it. Not one bit. Not the years with several agents who shopped my novel to big publishers with optimistic reviews but no takers. Not the years of rewrites and further rewrites. It all became a part of a journey home to duende, to this spirit inside me that I continue to celebrate every day. The end of my novel then, and the publication of my novel more than a year ago became, in essence, the beginning of my true, fully-realized life.

Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I stay home nursing an intense cold. But I’m grateful.  I am grateful that the life I live now comes from deep within me, that it comes from my spirit, my essence coming first in whatever I do. There’s a sense of peace in this, a sense of knowing there is nowhere I need to go, that the richness of each moment is here, inside me, and around me. If I honor my creative spirit and surrender that which guides me in each moment, all will be okay.

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Photo of a photo taken by Carl Hyatt in 2000.

A few weeks ago, I also offered a Shamanic Writing Workshop with Burt Kempner, a fellow author, and remember feeling gratitude for having completed a successful class. At one point I was with my partner, Gorky, and he was sharing with me how wonderful the class had been. As he said these words, I began to cry a sense of recognizing that I had come home; that I was doing my life’s work on this earth, even if it was bit by bit as I worked a so-called day job. What a gift to be with someone I loved and to share in the harvest of all that I had worked so hard to become!

On this day of Giving Thanks, I give thanks to the fact that I not only published my novel (after completing it 20 years ago!), but that I can share my work and my life’s passion with my partner, family, and friends, near and far, who have seen me grow into the person I have become (and thanks to those who dropped off Thanksgiving food to me!). What a blessing to be surrounded by love and also be guided by a vaster universe that weaves its magic through me and all of us!

Blessings to you All!

Give a gift of magic, spirit, and returning home with Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, for these upcoming holidays! It’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. It can be ordered at a local bookstore as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

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68. Shedding my Skin

BLOG 68: July, 2000—A month of swimming, sharing dinners, of poetry, prose, and rich dreams, had passed at Jean’s New Hampshire farmhouse.  During this time of healing, the rituals and practices remained the same. Every week, I visited Denise, my Reiki energy healer, and every morning, especially after sessions with her, I tracked my dreams in my journal. The day after each healing session, I’d feel extremely tender and weak, with my nervous system so intensely heightened that I could feel any subtle changes within me and all around me.

Those mornings I would move slowly, and always—without fail—sit on the earth, in the garden, weeding or tending to the vegetables and plants. The earth soothed me, as I let myself sink into her broad arms, and feel her rich soil sift through my hands. Then, after a day of gentle healing, I continued my walks in the woods, bowing to the trees, listening to my heart, feeling her blocks, her resistance to the beauty around, as I opened, opened, and let myself truly feel for the first time in my adult life. And each week, I walked more, further, as my heart and hips opened.

At thirty years old, I had already experienced almost four years of pain, which ha1239e65497ccec8478b425560ef538d5d brought me to this place, and I was ready for the change that awaited me. So, when nights arrived, and I visited the world of the unconscious, I invited the layers of my unfamiliar self to rise toward my skin, to show me what lay behind the tightness of my body’s pain. And with every energy healing session, I unwound more layers of pain.

The dreams were many. During one, I literally shit out a snake (seems the most direct way to say this!), and was guided to make sure it fully left my body. In the shamanic world, the snake carries a lot of symbolism, especially that of being able to shed its skin and release the past. I took my dream to be about that—about letting go. After that dream, I felt a surge of energy I had never felt before in my tailbone, and after others and intense healing sessions, I woke with tremendous energy in my pelvis, with great sexual energy moving down my legs and into my feet, and up toward my heart.

With all that was happening to me, and fun days with Jean and her family on the farm, it was ironic that one of my greatest fears was feeling empty. As I s891d6d99f266bad7a7b3c16257939e60at still, meditated, and was honest with my feelings, I realized that I had spent so many years fighting, so often struggling or battling hard to be someone, to prove myself, to protect myself from all that had hurt me, that in the end I was most afraid of being empty. I had come to identify myself as the pain, struggle, and fight I had so long lived, that I feared, as I let go of all these layers in my body, I would be left with no center, no I.

Even back then, as I wrote about this, I knew that this “I” that I had become accustomed to was my ego, was the person I had learned to be… not the one I truly was. Living on the farm and being with the earth in all her nurturing love, helped me let go of this old self, this pained way, and make room for a gentler, more giving self. As a friend had once said after undergoing a shamanic journey on behalf of my hip: this journey of pain was about learning to be my gentler self, of not needing to push forward with a scorching, yet unattended fire in the pelvis…to be this gentle love that I was, and yet had left behind, years ago, as a child in the fields of Spain. 

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is about shedding our skin and returning to a gentler place connected to the earth. It’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. It can be ordered at a local bookstore as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

      

64. My Unpredictable Summer of 2000

BLOG 64: June, 2000—My summer, 17 years ago: weathered New England roads; a two-hundred-year-old-plus farmhouse that was once an old milk farm; an elder poet, Jean, who held poetry workshops every Monday for the past 25 summers; her granddaughter, Emily, and Emily’s mother, Cassie, who spent weekends with us; Jean’s cat, Tristan, handsome, black, and both elegant and wild; a swimming pool; open fields of mowed and wild grasses; dozens of creative, eccentric visitors, including Jean’s two son’s John and Larry; arable land for growing vegetables and herbs; and a nearby creek.

My summer of 2000—akin to Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69″—would be unlike any summer I had ever had or ever would again. What began as an agreement between Jean and I—I would help her in the house and drive her places (she used to say I was “driving Miss Daisy”) in exchange for soul time in her home and on her land so I could heal my hip—turned out to be time living with Jean’s family and many eccentric visitors, celebrating life in all of its greatness and challenges.

I had already begun my daily ritual of walking meditation in the woods and meditation in the mornings and evenings when Emily and her mother, Cassie, arrived at the old farmhouse in Brentwood, New Hampshire. I was slowly becoming familiar with my poet f1308e701ca3ff87135070d529836a11companion, Jean, who had invited me to join her Monday group of poets outside under the shade tree. I began sharing segments of my Child of Duende manuscript, and listening to other poet’s poems. But meeting Emily posed quite the challenge at first.

This thirteen-year-old girl seemed the epitome of a true teenager: a better-than-though attitude; a tendency to put me down even though she didn’t know me from a hole in the wall; a moody disposition; and a great capacity to manipulate her mother and get all the attention she needed. To add to that, she moved into the room next to mine, with a door between us that provided easy access for us to connect, for better or worse (I later discovered the real person she was).

Unfortunately, my first impression of her reminded me of my father, who had also been good at putting me down and making life miserable as I had tried to heal. And here I was, determined to heal from immense pain, yet having to deal with a moody teenager next door! Fortunately, my intention for the summer was clear, and Emily or anyone else wasn’t going to stop me from healing.

While I negotiated the family situation I had moved into, I visited my shamanic teacher and Reiki Master, Denise, for healing sessions. I had already begun studying the Medicine Wheel with her (she was a student of Alberto Villoldo, who had learned indigenous, shamanic teachings from the Q’ero people of Peru), and was now seeing her for private Reiki sessions (hands-on energy healing) with one goal in mind: I would heal my hip by the end of summer.

Without getting ahead of my storytelling of the Summer of 2000, I can say that that summer I learned how important it is to hold intention and trust in the gifts of the universe that don’t come in clean, predictable packages. I learned that, in actuality, these gifts arrive inside unpredictable and chaotic moments rich with healing and life.

A recent gift for me—a relationship that a9e0c8f4a29fc802cfb351a7243d6757has also proved to be anything but clean and predictable—offered itself to me earlier this summer. It arrived as the bold red flowers of the Mexican sage plant outside my house offers its nectar to my fluttering hummingbird friends. Sweet love, tender, passionate, alive, is what it has been. But it’s not what I could have predicted. This relationship has had its own reality filled with human limits and frailty, and has required I receive this gift while honoring my own intentions and truth.

But this summer and that of seventeen years ago have clearly shown me the importance of staying true to our heart and intentions, even if those gifts that show up do so in ways we don’t expect. . . that just because something doesn’t fit our perceptions or vision of what is good and right in that moment, doesn’t mean it’s not a gift for us to receive with great love.

My Summer of 2000 didn’t turn out to be what I had envisioned. Truth be told, it was much more than I could have ever imagined—with all the eccentric, unpredictable, and chaotic energies dancing together to unravel great love and healing. Maybe, just maybe, that will be also hold true for this new relationship and many more of life’s gifts . . .

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is about discovering life’s gifts. It’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. It can be ordered at a local bookstore as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

 

49. Capturing Love Inside these Butterfly Wings

BLOG 49: Feb. 15, 1999—“Love spreads her ashes on my bed tonight, the nightingale calls a sound of surrender. The feelings in my heart are distant cries, unavailable to myself,” I wrote eighteen years ago in my journal as I lived in my parent’s New Jersey home at age thirty, inside that place we perceive as stuck, when, in actuality, we are growing deeper, and becoming more grand in our love.

“I fear what I love is lost, lost only in that is it not mine,” I wrote. “A line of sweet perfume inches across my heart, a love so sweet, so divine, the creating of it hurts. It is a deep knowing that all I have is now, and tomorrow may leave like a butterfly leaves its cocoon…that in order to love, I must surrender to myself, believe that the tales will weave their threads into the world, and be humble to spirit that moves through me and knows better.”

Back then, I couldn’t have imagined how much I’d grow inside the prison of my pained body and life. But today, when a friend shared with me how stuck she was, I found myself 92e75215218006444b25b7f037b11c25telling her that her “stuckness” was a gift. We come into this world and learn to be a certain way, it seems, only to get so-called stuck because we need help putting the breaks on our life, on our old ways, so we can slow down enough to make a drastic change and finally see and walk our soul’s path.

Most recently, my father had numerous operations in his fight against cancer and pain. He too is experiencing being “stuck”, living almost daily pain and uncertainty as the butterfly that he is prepares to leave the cocoon of this life. I pray it’s not too soon, but I also know that every minute we have here is to share our love, and for me to honor my father’s presence and that of my parents before it’s too late. After all, my poem of years ago still holds true: “All I have is now, and tomorrow may leave like the butterfly leaves its cocoon.”

*Check out my new YouTube Link on DUENDE, and the spirit of the earth that we are. Also, my novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474233011&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+duende  or at www.michelleadam.net

35. Writing Our Way Home

WHAT PART OF YOURSELF SHOWED YOU THE WAY HOME?

Blog 35: Dec. 1997-April 1998—Have you ever discovered, after multiple attempts to run and hide from where you are, that you end up, once again, with yourself, wondering what to do? 

When I lived in Berkeley, California, crippled from pain, and yet still trying to find ways to escape the state I was in, there was one way I consistently came back to myself. It was through writing. Writing became my way of listening, as later my novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, became one long listening experience put on paper. It became a soothing way to come home and discover myself beneath the layers of false existence I had learned to become.

In my small room in Berkeley, with a one plant in the corner I’d sit in front of and meditate (or try to) and below a small sunroof that sprinkled light-filled hope into my day, I would write. My right hand asked the question, my left answered. The premise of this approach was that my non-dominant left hand would answer like a child, innocently, and without all the excess verbage and layers we as adults had learned to wrap over our feelings.

I started simply: “How are you feeling now?” my right hand asked, and my left hand wrote: “I don’t want to go on anymore. I want to hide.” The conversation continued:

 –What do you want to hide from?                                  il_570xN.439727466_pj80
–The World.
–Why do you want to hide from the world?
–Because I am scared I will not be loved and seen.
–Why are you scared you will not be loved or seen?
–Because I am so much more than these people see me as.
–What are you that they can’t see?
–I am a river, a stream. I am grass dancing in the wind. I am love, I am alive.
–What do they see you as?
–They see me as little Michelle who can’t do anything practical in this world.
–Why do they see you as that?
–They need me to be able to fit into their little boxes.
–So what are you, Michelle?
–I am a part of an indigenous world. My roots have always been from a simpler place, a place of giving love.

As I got to the end of my writing, my left hand—that of the child—was the one that carried the wisdom for my adult self. “You are trying to bridge two worlds,” she wrote, encouraging the adult me to trust my heart and not give up hope.

It seems ironic, yet so true, that it is the part of us that is most vulnerable and scared that carries the wisdom to bring us home. The famous mystic poet Rumi once wrote in The Lame Goat: “You’ve seen a herd of goats going down to the water. The lame and dreamy goat brings up the rear.”  But, “There are many different kinds of knowing. The lame goat’s kind is a branch that traces back to the roots of presence. Learn from the lame goat, and lead the herd home.”

As in Rumi’s poem, the lame goat that I was led me home …though my writing.

WHAT PART OF YOURSELF SHOWED YOU THE WAY HOME?

 

19. Crawling on my Knees

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

 BLOG 19: July, 1997—Life has never been the same since my ballet class in San Francisco. I’ve been in perpetual pain, despite the help I received from the chiropractor. When I walk, my hips swell up, becoming inflamed and making it too painful to dance, let alone move around. My injury that began as a groin pull when I stopped in New Mexico for eight months on my way to California has now become a chronic hip problem with little remedy.

Given that I’m in Northern California—the land of every kind of healer—I try them all. From regular doctors, who claim that my x-rays and MRIs are perfect, to the most out-there psychic surgeon visiting from the Philippines. I receive no relief, and in many cases, I only get worse with each treatment I try.

At one point, an orthopedic doctor explains to me my problem: “You’re too strong,” he tells me. You were able to push through your pain and not feel it, he says, and then goes on to explain that most bodies can handle up to 80 percent not working before hitting a tipping point. At that point the body breaks down completely and it’s hard to turn any damage around, he adds. I had done too much to my right hip by ignoring my groin injury, and this doctor, who works with professional football players, amazingly tells me that my biggest downfall has been that I’m too tough. I have never been accused of that!

I don’t consider taking drugs of any kind to lessen the pain, and instead, I begin living out of my bed, which my housemate suggested I move into the livingroom, one floor below my bedroom in our shared house in the Oakland Hills. It hurts so much to move that I crawl from one room to another—a sight that devastates my friend Jane, who, when she sees me, tells me I remind her of beggars she saw in India who crawled because they had no legs.

I do what I can to survive. I try working, but sitting for more than an hour is extremely painful. The muscles around my hip tighten so much that I want to sit on a small tennis ball all day to break up the tension in my butt.

The man who lives in the loft across from my work sees me in my new crutches and pain and gives me a piece of his Martial Arts wisdom. He tells me that any time he gets injured he gets real still with himself, for days if needed, and becomes clear on the lesson he needs to learn. Once he does, the injury heals. What is my lesson? he asks me. There may be one for me, I think, but either I’m too oblivious, too determined, or it just too late for awareness to change my fate.

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

18. The Last Dance: The Last Straw

WHAT WAS THE LAST STRAW THAT BROKE YOU (or said “enough!”)?  

BLOG 18: June-July, 1997—I am sharing dinner with my friend Jane and her girlfriend on the patio of my new home in Oakland, California. With good wine, food, and a view that looks out over the entire San Francisco Bay, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be. We are living in paradise, I think. The water and the outlying mountains feel like a tropical Asian land far away from the Americas.

I am excited to have finally made it here after an eight-month hiatus in New Mexico. I am back on track with my original plan to relocate in this dynamic area of the country. Despite my injury that slowed me down in the desert lands—and my calves that feel as hard as surfboards from having moved all of my belongings up four flights of stairs—I’m now taking modern dance classes in San Francisco and Berkeley. I surrender my body to the music, and move through the pain and tightness in my body, and my limited training among dancers with many more years of experience.

I begin my work as at a temporary agency for artists, helping artists find jobs in creative industries. It’s a nice part of town, along Berkeley’s bay, and in a loft area shared with other artists and residents. When I’m not working, though, I’m in dance studios where, especially in San Francisco, I feel out of my league. Fit, trim, elegant dancers move across the floor with much more grace than I feel I have (or a lot more training to make it look easy).

My passion for dance inspires me to keep going, though, until I take a ballet class. As I am lifting up my right leg and pivoting it around my body, my legs begin to weaken below me. It’s only one movement, but just the perfect one to break my innate strength and stubborn disposition that has kept me going so far since having pulled a tendon or ligament, possibly off the bone, in my inner thigh eight months ago. When I finish the class, I sit on the studio floor and stretch my legs along with other dancers. But I feel it. My body is crying what my eyes dare not show. This was the last straw. My body has had enough.

For weeks after that class, I walk as well as I can. But something is wrong. I feel as if I am walking over my right hip joint. My femur is not moving correctly in my hip socket. The more I walk, the more inflamed my hip becomes, and the less I am able to move. I begin walking with crutches and become desperate to find relief from my pain. I seek out healers, but little helps until my friend Geri drives me out of the city to a highly recommended chiropractor. After looking at my condition, the chiropractor jerks my right leg and returns the femur bone to its correct position.

I was out of alignment; the bone was stuck in the joint. He fixed the issue and my hip feels better, but it seems it never quite returns to the hip I had taken for granted for almost thirty years of my life.

WHAT WAS THE LAST STRAW THAT BROKE YOU (or said, “enough!”)?