67. From Poetry to Manic Mowing

Recent photos by Emily Kefferstan, 2017

BLOG 67: June, 2000—They met every Monday morning under the shade tree at Skimmilk Farm, Jean’s summer farmhouse in rustic New Hampshire. Dusting the old house, keeping it clean from summers of fun, was less important than Monday mornings when this serious group of poets gathered to muse over mist-covered mornings, cats, Celtic Goddesses, Vulvas, and many more themes that released their aroma into the shade tree.

When Emily, Jean’s 13-year-old granddaughter, didn’t join the poets, I was the youngest there by far, and the only one with a novel. I shared my chapters of my manuscript, Child of Duende, inviting this group, which had met like this for 25 years, to travel with me to Southern Spain, to the coast, where my character Duende was born and raised. For some of the poets, my novel brought them back to earlier days when a Boston Columnist used to write about Duende, this word that the great Spanish Poet Federico Garcia Lorca had described as a magical spirit of the earth from which all life and art arises.

Poetry Mondays were a long-held sacred ritual for Jean and her poets. But the weekends offered a different kind of attraction of sorts. That was when Jean’s other family members, like her simage2on, John, and daughter-in-law, Cassie—Emily’s divorced parents—arrived at the farm to celebrate farm life and help Jean maintain the place. That’s when they’d drive the lawn mower tractor over acres of land; clean out the pool; weed the expansive garden; and just take care of anything that needed caring for.  And after all the chores—or during that time—we’d all take a dip in the pool, relax, and then make elaborate meals from all the fresh vegetables of the garden.

On one of those summer weekends—which I will never forget—Cassie decided to get on the tractor and mow as much lawn as she could as quickly as she could. She could get rather manic, to say the least, and this day was no exception. She got on that tractor right by the nice, clean pool, started it in high gear, and didn’t seem to figure out how to slow it down. Cassie smiled broadly while holding onto the tractor with all of her might as it ran circles around the pool, cutting every blade of grass in sight, tossing them all into the pool. Soon, the pool was filled with fresh green blades, with me yelling for Cassie to stop, and her oblivious of what was happening around her as she continued riding circles on her new toy.

While that was a humorous moment with Cassie, there were others that were harder to bear. Her energy could be extremely invasive and exhausting, and I still remember nights in which I struggled with sleep because of this. She could feel so unsafe to be around, and especially given I was very sensitive to other people’s energies in those days. I was already scared to fall asleep, to drop into frightening dreams—or more clearly nightmares—as I had done nights before, and now there was Cassie to contend with.

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During one of my dreams, in which I allowed myself to sink deeper, I dreamt of my parents. In my dream, my mother kept asking me to sweep things up with the same broom that my father had used to attack me or put me down. It seemed I was asked to be with my father’s abuse while my mother tried to sweep things away, ignoring what was happening in front of her.

When I reflected on my dream, I felt I was being shown a pattern that I had carried within me for a long time—a pattern of accepting abuse, and also cleaning it up and taking care of everyone else but me, just so all could be well. It was as if my weekly energy healing sessions and Cassie’s manic ways had awoken in me an unhealthy dynamic I had grown up with and was ready to release.

My dreams, and at times, frightening evenings, and fun-filled days on the farm, seemed to all blend together to help me see myself, and to offer change—change in my aching hips and pelvis, change in my heart, and change on my soul’s path.

That summer was a summer of extremes—of being with the extremes I carried within me and those I saw around me, and learning to establish new boundaries and ways of caring for myself in loving, healthy ways. I had arrived on the farm ready to heal, ready to truly walk again, and now I was beginning to awaken to the path I would eventually take—the path of a teacher, writer, and healer who would one day help others heal as I had learned to do that summer and beyond.

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is about nature spirits, Flamenco, and Southern Spain, and returning to a place of renewed hope and joy. 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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62. Unchartered Pilgrimage of the Heart

BLOG 62: June, 2000—I arrived with my friends Carl and Molly at the colonial farmhouse that would be my summer home—my three months with God, the earth, and my broken body and spirit. The old, dark brown house stood only inches away from the cracked, New England road that epitomized what I loved about this part of the country. And on either side of the house were open fields, high wheat grasses on one end, and a large lawn and soon-to-be-tilled garden on the other.

Jean, the owner of this summer house, appeared by the driveway to greet us. Almost 80 years old with formal blazer, short grey hair, and cigarette in hand, she reminded me of the great novelist and friend of Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein. Only thing was that Jean, a poet herself and one of the first women to establish a publishing house for women poets, carried an unusual combination of Boston formality and an unusual earthy “I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about me” look.

My eyes were drawn to her cigarette as she led my friends and I into the old farmhouse that seemed rather dark despite two floors of rooms with ample windows. Who was this woman I would live with and help out during my summer of healing? I asked myself.

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Jean Pedrick (A photo I took long ago. Beauty!) 

After all, we had never met—only spoke by phone before her son and I met in New York City to scope each other out and make sure his mother and I would be a good fit. I had never thought about there being cigarette smoke wafting up along dark walls filled with ghost-like photographs of times gone by until it reached the room I’d live in or the ancient bed made of actual horse hair I’d sleep on!

I remember looking out the window, toward the road it faced, where my friends drove away after helping me unpack the few items I had. It felt as if my parents had just dropped me off at camp (not that I had experienced this before in my life!) and I was alone in a dark house with a stranger who smoked and seemed rather aloof as Bostonians could be.

I feared I had made a mistake in trusting divine grace to bring me here, yet I eventually fell asleep to the sweet sound of cicadas surrounding the house and trees. mondaysatskimilk3-940x467.jpgThe weeks to follow were the beginning of magic, though, of discovering what’s possible when we show up with clear prayer and intention, and leave the rest up to God. Jean, who died several years later, would become one of numerous angels offering me retreat from the chains of pain I had carried for far too long.

Since those days with Jean and her family, I’ve learned that the grace of God shows her face when we finally surrender and hand over the reins of our limited longing—and when we’re truly ready to receive the gift that awaits us. The form it comes in can be deceiving—as Jean did with cigarette in hand and serious disposition—but it comes, ready to give of itself to the unchartered pilgrimage of our soul.

20170720_191044About a month ago from today, after arriving back to New Mexico from Buenos Aires and our family’s honoring of my recently-deceased father’s life, I met another angel of sorts in man’s clothing. I met an Argentinean man who appeared to me without cigarette in hand :), but with an embracing heart, passion, and laughter. Together we exchanged mystical love poems; shared—with my father’s spirit, it seemed—Argentinean songs he and I both loved; held communion on a moon-filled mesa that whispered of the infinite until early morning; and danced and laughed inside the light-filled rhythm of our newly-discovered bubble.

It’s not every day that life’s holy orchestra offers a song like this one. But it did. It came quickly, weaving these otherworldly energies with mundane realities that soon introduced their challenges to this budding relationship. It forced me to ask myself how to navigate this place where the divine and physical intersect…where tension and beauty lie and give us choice on how to proceed?

This past week, during which time I wrote less, and struggled with overwhelm and 20170720_190824poor health, I battled this reality of receiving divine grace within the limitations of this earth journey. And while I tried to contemplate, analyze, feel, reflect, and be with the tension that built knots inside my heart and that of this relationship (quite a different energy from the heart-opening magic of weeks prior), it seemed to only create more tension, more struggle.

But today, as a double rainbow spread across the sky, and stayed with me long enough to expand my heart’s awe, I felt what I needed to do. As with Jean and her cigarette, dark house, and initial formal and cold demeanor, there was more to this gift than I could see. Much more. What if, when we’ve given up trying to figure things out, and we’ve given up our limited, frightened expectations, we actually hand it over to God, to spirit—this place from which the gift originated? What if, in this case, as in the past, I give my heart much needed space and peace of mind to listen, feel, and be with what this beloved gift is here to offer—and what I am here to receive—on my unchartered pilgrimage of the soul?

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is also about an unchartered pilgrimage of the heart. It is available on Amazon at Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video