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 companion, 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 has 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 . . .
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.