The sounds of crickets and bullfrogs filled in the silence of the encroaching night as we sat at the long dining room table of the old New England farmhouse, singing musical show tunes. It was no ordinary evening. My elder poet housemate, Jean, and her son John, her granddaughter Emily, and Emily’s mom, Cassie, (and maybe Jean’s other son, Larry, and some girlfriend, as far I can remember!) and I were all enjoying a great feast with a bottle of homemade and homegrown strawberry rhubarb wine gifted to me by the family who had hosted the shamanic workshop I had translated for.
One average-sized bottle of this extraordinary potion shared among us was enough to convert us into musical magicians (or at least we thought we were) and unstoppable storytelling and laughter. We took our turns marveling at this wine bottle and its light rose substance inside. Was it possible that so little amount could be so magical? Maybe the nature spirits, the duendes, of our New England mountainside were responsible for having infused every cell of those fermented strawberries and rhubarb patches with immense joy and lightness that lifted our spirits into the night.
Any concerns or stress we may have brought with us to the farmhouse—whether Jean’s loss of her husband, or my aching body and all the uncertainties of my new summer on the farm, or work stresses for those who had arrived here from Boston or New York—flew out the window on nature’s wings. Even Emily and her 13-year-old teenage angst and attitude disappeared inside the laughter and song of my new-found summer family.
Although great feasts and wine became an integral part of my summer on the farm, I continued, like clockwork, visiting Denise, who performed Reiki energy work and shamanic healing on me every week. We focused on healing the pain in my hip, sacrum, and groin that had become debilitating.
After every session, I went back to the farmhouse, altered and exhausted. I tried to go to bed early and fall into a deep, deep sleep that often lingered into early afternoon or later. Then, in a slumber of weakness and altered consciousness, I meditated and sat for hours on the earth, in the garden, sifting earth through my fingers while tending to the sprouting vegetable and herb seedlings.
I will never forget one of those post-Reiki nights of healing that took me on a journey unlike any I had ever experienced. That night, in late June, I couldn’t sleep. My stomach became agitated, my entire sacrum and pelvis throbbed in fear, and every little noise seemed to trigger a deep physical response. At one point, as my mind began to drift slightly, I screamed. I screamed out a heightened fright that suddenly gripped my body. I felt as if someone were about to attack me as an unfamiliar reality surfaced from deep within me, taking over any other reality that existed around me.
Feeling intensely frightened, I sat up and focused on grounding myself like a tree into the earth. But when I closed my eyes to imagine this, I merely felt unsafe, cut off from the earth and any sense of security. I lay back down, and called upon an animal ally (something I had been taught to do in my shamanic training). I asked this animal ally to lie between my legs, protecting my groin and pelvis, which had become very agitated.
For anyone reading this, it may seem an odd explanation of an experience that was akin to a bad drug trip or post traumatic stress. But, I had already spent almost four years, to no avail, attempting to heal from my groin pull. I had worked with almost every type of healing modality, including conventional Western medicine, but had never experienced Reiki, which is a kind of energy healing. The impact of this healing surprised me, and went deeper that anything I had tried before. It seemed to begin to move the energy, the life force, which had existed in areas where hardened, endless pain had lived for too long. When this occurred, a deeper reality that resided inside the pain, revealed itself at night, when my inhibitions where low, when that part residing in the unconscious folds of our being comes to the surface to be seen and heard.
That night of many moons ago, I allowed for my animal guide, a spirit protector, if you will, to protect me from the fright that resided inside me. I gradually fell asleep, but only after moments of drifting off and then suddenly waking to the sound of cars driving by or any other noise that felt like an immense shock through me. Imagine yourself there, your nervous system so sensitive, so heightened to everything, that every noise, every movement around you, jolts you awake. That’s where I remained all night, until the birds began to chirp outside my window, and all of me drifted into a sleep that would be so much more than sleep…that would be a nightmare, to be exact.
The nightmare that followed would offer me one important key to the door of my summer’s healing. But, I will spare the reader this story until my next blog. For now, I can say that there are nightmares that are worth having, every bit of them, especially if, in having them, there’s peace and healing on the other side.
The summer on the farm offered me these extremes—feasts of immense celebration and laughter, and nightmares, that, like an initiation through our greatest fear and fright, ultimately offer another life, another way, filled with immense hope, love, and joy. I would not have changed any of it, for all of it was necessary to have arrived at this place today, this place of gratitude and grace.
Michelle Adam is an experienced writer, teacher, and healer. She recently published her novel, Child of Duende, after twenty-plus years as a magazine and newspaper writer. Her articles have appeared in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine; Hibernia Magazine, an Irish magazine; Vista Magazine, a Hispanic insert of major national newspapers; and multiple other publications.
Michelle has also been a photographer and artist; has taught middle school students Spanish for the past dozen years; and has worked as a healer and shaman. Michelle has created healing and teaching circles of song and sound, assisting others in awakening the spirit of the earth, “duende,” within them, and creating a space for the celebration of life.