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 son, 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.
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.
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.