You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

I’m writing this from Oak Island, NC, where I’ve been visiting family all week. It’s been super relaxing and nourishing, as the beach itself is nearly deserted and the weather here in Carolina is still warm–60’s and 70’s. A perfect pause from Covid, work, and other commitments. 

Although it’s been over a month since it happened, I wanted to share my first “real” traumatic wildlife encounter with you. On a cool 1st of October, around 7:45 AM, Molly discovered that she is not the only animal at Avalon. Walking along the perimeter trail, Molly got one sniff too close to Mr. Porcupine. 

I say “traumatic” to modify ‘wildlife encounters’ because Michael and I have experienced plenty of wildlife: flocks of wild turkey, deer, howling coyotes through the pines. I even saw a very large snow hare last winter, which I understand is rare to see. We watched bats fly out of the cupola all summer, cedar waxwings dive-bomb mosquitos over the frog pond, and an unusual antic with a bold raccoon who nosed her way into the hayloft (now my office) and, well, left her mark. We’ve seen a fisher and porcupine hanging out in the apple trees (literally) and of course tons of raptors, eagles and other birds. 

But when I heard a ‘yelp’ and looked down at my feet to see a cowering, shaking Molly, I went into EMT mode. We were probably half a mile from the house and I fast-walked her back, my heart pounding and tiny sweat beads forming across my forehead. 

I’d say she probably had thirty quills in her left shoulder and leg and twice that in her back left leg, foot, and tail. The sounds of that walk–the longest in my life–were of her doggie hassle, the crunch of fall leaves underfoot and the repeated phrase, “It’s alright baby girl. Mama’s got ya,” coming from my lips in a low but assertive murmur, over and over. Molly seemed to be crawling, not walking. She hovered extremely close to the ground but moved in step with my speed-walking. It was as if she knew she couldn’t fix the problem herself, slightly ashamed at how vulnerable and exposed her little dog-body was. 

At the house, sweat now pouring off of me, I ripped off my coat and hat and dialed the number to Michael’s work, WIndham Highschool. It was unclear whether he could leave school or not; in my frustration, I threw the phone across the kitchen. That didn’t help things so I picked it up and called a neighborhood friend who is also a dog owner and asked where the closest emergency vet was. I called the place she suggested only to be told they weren’t yet open. But they did refer me to the Maine Veterinary Medical Center in Scarboro. We hopped in the car and were off. 

If the walk from the incident back to the house was the longest walk of my life, the drive to that emergency vet was the longest drive of my life. Molly’s black snout was glued to the door frame in the back seat where she half-sat and half-lay, her general position while riding in a car (I think she gets car-sick). I kept cooing and shushing, telling her ‘it’ was going to be alright. In reality, I was conjuring up the worst scenario in my head after remembering that a dog I used to house-sit for swallowed a quill after his full-facial encounter with a porcupine. Some quills had sprayed his chest, and a quill had “migrated” into his lung, collapsing it three weeks later. He died in his sleep. 

In between comforting words to Molly, I prayed. To Artemis, the Goddess of Wild Animals and the Hunt. I prayed to Mother Mary and Jesus, and to my own guides. I needed my baby girl to be okay and I needed to stay grounded; the razor-sharp focus I was experiencing was super-enjoyable, but we were still in EMT mode. 

I arrived at the emergency clinic to thankfully see Michael waiting for us in the parking lot. We sat on the pavement, a bright, beautiful fall day overhead, Molly between us; we didn’t say a whole lot. The tech came out to get her, and Molly was going in for “Porcupine quill removal.” They did indicate that they would give her some sedation; we signed off on the consent forms and then we waited. 

My sweet Molly’s Porcupine run-in

Two hours (and $945) later, Molly was quill-free and very, very woozy. I had the vet tech help me lift her into the car–not because Molly is heavy but at that moment, she was dead weight. I babied her for several hours as she recovered, saying prayers of gratitude now. 

Then, I had to pack: I was going to an island retreat off the coast of Acadia to do dream work with a beloved mentor and two other women. I did a load of laundry, washed some dishes, checked over the must-have list from the retreat’s organizer, finished up some lesson plans so I could truly be “unplugged” for the next 72 hours. 

About three o’clock, I realized I hadn’t eaten–not since the apple & cinnamon donut from the Holy Donut around 9:45 AM. Was I even hungry?

And then it dawned on me: “Must be the adrenaline.” Adrenaline is that yummy stress hormone which is released into your bloodstream by the adrenal glands in times of panic, trauma, fear. There’s tons of benefits one feels from an adrenaline boost, including dopamine, better vision, easier breathing and an analgesic effect against pain. The buzz must have wiped out my need to eat as well. My heightened euphoric state was so noticeable I asked Michael if we could please look into purchasing some mountain bikes, remembering the rush of flying over streams and rugged terrain in Durango on my trusted Diamond Back. Speaking of Michael, I was in a near honeymoon state over him and his willingness to share the burden of a pet emergency, my soaring phone a crumpled memory. And everytime I looked at Molly, especially once she started to re-orient, shivering herself into a post-surgery state of mind, I was overcome with emotions–love, gratitude, relief. Were these heightened emotions for partner and pooch part of adrenaline’s lottery ticket? Bring it! 

As I watched my rapid Covid test turn no colors at all, indicating I was negative, I texted my dream mentor: “Negative! See you tom!” As I drove north, in the most beautiful state in the most beautiful season, I thought about how Covid has induced the opposite of what I had been the recipient of the day before. The “threat to safety” which forced the adrenaline to bloom was like lightning in my blood; to be sure, adrenaline has been our ticket to longevity. If you’re reading this right now, it’s because some of your ancestors way, way, way back were darn good at assessing danger, were likely familiar with sacrifice and surely knew about the rewards of risk-taking in general. 

But Covid moved us inside and we started to modulate to isolation. We reached way down to our tribal chakras and have been in a constant state of evaluation: Who’s safe? Is [fill in said activity] worth the risk? We drew in, making ourselves small, and swooned from all of the different (and sometimes contradictory) signals from the news, doctors & specialists, family members, friends & neighbors, spouses, all the while wondering What Should We Do to Be Safe? Should I go out, ever again? Is that shot going to work, or am I going to get sick anyway? 

I wonder if we could practice more “tribal instinct” that leans toward group prosperity and the survival of the collective as a whole, like our ancestors generated, instead of the seemingly never-ending drip of evaluation, judgement and discrimination of who and what is “safe”? The vigilance of Being The Decider syndrome–which we all were forced to inherit–produced a whole bunch of collective anxiety! What some of us would do for just a Day Of Adrenaline, where what YOU DECIDE is Instinctual, primal, and voracious because it lets you know you are alive. 

We’ve become engrained to a persistent separation that none of us asked for. But there comes a time when one must ask themselves: What will the cost of my long-term orienting to fear be? Can I peel some of the warning labels off of my world? If you want to explore and hopefully institute a new mindset that will hold your post-Covid self, one that allows for your safety (perceived or otherwise) and your drive to get on with the hard work of living, you’re going to need a bigger boat. I realize we may not be “post” anything. Does that scare you? If it does, will you permit the fear to be WITNESSED instead of WOVEN into the fabric of your reality? 

The last evening on Oak Island, NC…possibly some of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen!

Lean IN

I tried something different last month. Something that scared me. I leaned in, and asked my Mom to see me. And you know what? She did. 

Mama Charlotte Holding the New Moon in Cancer Prayer Bundle

The picture above is my mom sitting at my kitchen table, holding a prayer bundle. After nearly two years of long-distance connection only, Mom made the trek from North Carolina to Maine a few weeks ago. She wanted to see me and Michael, our new home. And meet Molly! 

Two years is a long time to go without seeing a parent, especially a mother. Especially my mother. My mother happens to be my #1 Fan, which I think everyone needs. Everyone needs one person to champion them, unconditionally. My mom is that person. She has always praised me, cheering me on in difficult jobs, relationships or personal struggles. As a raucous and rebellious teenager, she never judged me or told me I was out of line, out of my mind, embarrassing or dressed like a slut–which, looking back, she sure could have said those things. Mom nurtured my friends as well, and while she had her “favorites” of the men I dated, she never dismissed any of them or stated disapproval. And believe me, there were a lot. 

Naturally, I wanted to make her visit special. My mom loves baseball so Michael ordered some Sea Dogs tickets. I planned a day of planting annuals because my mom loves her some flowers! She also wanted to see my best friend, Karen Lamb, and her kids. And she wanted to see a special lady named Anne L., who I used to work with at Portland Gastroenterology. I wanted other folks to meet my mom so I planned a FOR-REAL dinner party. Finally! I’d have the sound of loud conversations and clinking glasses in my home! (Good riddance, Covid) 

Sadly, Mom was a bit under the weather while she was here. Sinus congestion with a rugged-sounding cough made us worry enough to go to Urgent Care and get a Covid test. Thankfully, she was negative. She just felt awful, tired, run down. We skipped the Sea Dogs game (too wet) and I decided to cancel the dinner party. I wanted to create a peaceful, restful environment for her to heal, recover. And she did see Karen and Anne and even Michael’s child, Charlie. 

Charlie and Mama Charlotte at Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, ME

The time that she was here–about seven days–fell over the new moon in Cancer, on July 9th. The new moon, for me, is a time of ritual “seeding”–setting intentions for what I want to grow and manifest. Normally, this ritual would look like me setting sacred space with some incense, candles and calling in the Directions. I would also journey to a helping spirit (Journeying is a shamanic technique I learned long ago to connect with the imaginal realm; the guides who help me there know much better than I what seeds to plant for my highest good!). Once the information is revealed, I may place physical seeds such as apple seeds or pumpkin seeds in a jar or bowl of dirt, tobacco or marbles. The sacred action is symbolic, meaning it is a stand-in for my intention and devotion towards nurturing what helps me grow. 

Since my mom was here, I wanted to share this ritual with her. It didn’t feel right for me to sneak off and disappear to perform this important monthly rite in my office. And although I wasn’t sure how she would respond, I knew I wanted to invite her into my world. 

I was raised in a Christian home. Baptist (and then Presbyterian). We went to Sunday school followed by church service every Sunday. We’d leave the house around 9 AM and get back around 12:30 PM. Did I mention every Sunday? You had to be really sick to skip church, and no one in my family ever skipped church. 

I am so proud and grateful for the religious foundation the church gave me. Although I do not go to church anymore or identify as a Christian, I often pray to Jesus and Mother Mary and also to a ton of angels. Today, my church is the land, the stream, the mountain. The cry of a hungry Red-Tailed Hawk, the glistening dew on a spider’s web. I meet God in a lot of different spots these days and that program fits me, suits my earthy soul just fine. 

But my mom is still very much a church lady. She goes to her Presbyterian church in Greenville, N.C. regularly and has, at other times, served as deacon and elder at other churches. She says Merry Christmas to people at the holidays and does not apologize for it. And she reads her Bible, and prays. 

Because I wanted both my mom and Michael to participate in my new moon ritual, I decided we’d make a prayer bundle together, or despacho. “A what?” Mom asked. I said the word again, and spelled it for her. She immediately googled it on her phone! According to the website The Four Winds, a despacho is “a prayer bundle or offering…that holds symbolic elements and the prayers of the participants.”

After the package is wrapped up and tied, it can either be burned or buried. To create a despacho, you need materials. You need biodegradable items, preferably from nature. Things that will easily burn, or things that can easily biodegrade. The materials we used were: tobacco, corn meal, lavender, pine chips, salt, chocolate, dried flower petals, dried cedar, and sage. 

You also need a big piece of paper, or tissue paper to serve as the base. This time, I asked my mom to write the words, ‘All Is Well’ on a paper plate. We placed that on the paper, face-down. This “cradle” would hold all of the other offerings. 

I explained the procedure to my mom: take a pinch of one of the offerings, hold it while you speak the prayer, then place it on the paper plate. She wanted to know if we were praying for anyone in particular. I told her we could pray for whatever and whomever we wanted. 

So we prayed for our loved ones and family members, friends and neighbors. We prayed for the environment and the government, both local and national. We prayed for God’s creatures, the cleanliness of rivers, for the people who had to move out of this beautiful home Michael and I now live in. We prayed lots of gratitude prayers for the front-liners in the Covid fight, for all of those therapists out there, listening to horror stories. We asked for those who are depressed, addicted, or lonely to find just one person who cared, or could find them some help. We prayed for the “state of the world” in all of her messiness. We prayed for the little babies, those just coming onto the Earth scene, faced with who-knows-what for a viable planet. We prayed for hope, instead of fear, to trickle down to those who have hate in their hearts. We prayed for teachers, everywhere, of every ilk. 

We rotated around and around until nearly all of the offerings were gone. Mom and I both were shamelessly letting the tears roll down our faces. I think it was Michael who, when it got to his about fiftieth time, said, “I think that’s all I have for today.” Then, we thanked the Spirit of the New Moon in Cancer–the sign of the Mother–for listening and taking in all of our prayers and offerings. I tied it up, decorated it with some lavender and a piece of driftwood in the shape of a coyote’s head. It sat in my living room under the watchful protection of Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Hearth and Home, of Poetry and Healing, until the following full moon, which was July 23rd. This moon in Aquarius was appropriately named the Blessing Moon. 

Although Mom was not here when Michael and I burned it, her presence was very much with us. It is said that as a prayer bundle burns, the prayers are released, the smoke carrying the prayers where they need to go. Fire is the Sacred Alchemist, turning “this” into “that” and never going back to What Was. 

After the despacho ceremony, I thanked my mom for being willing to try something new and different. I stopped short of giving her the “this-is-how-I-worship-now” speech–a willful daughter trying to be seen, and accepted for Who She Is Now. I didn’t do that because, honestly, I didn’t have to. What we had created together exceeded the need to differentiate between Her Way of worshipping and My Way. It was important to create something sacred together, and it was really important for me to share my spiritual practice with my mom. 

Why did it feel so vulnerable to introduce this thing to mom? I think it’s because we are especially protective of the things in life that are important to us, that are extensions of our soul. Everyone harbors a fear of rejection, as it is human nature. But my mother has always “gotten me” no matter what because she has always loved me for exactly who I am.

And that is the greatest gift you can ever give anyone.  

May you show up with your vulnerable self, as I did with my mom, to dismantle the illusion of separation. 

~Mary Katherine 

In The Name Of Love

Last Friday, June 22nd, I saw U2 in Boston. A bucket list item for sure but I wasn’t prepared for what Bono was throwing down. Or was I?


As I am sure everyone knows, Bono is an activist, a humanitarian of exquisite stature. He is a Christian, too. To say he feels strongly about what he believes in is putting it lightly. Mix in a few gorgeous lyrics, the best concert production money can buy, and a crowd full of Irish descendants, and you’ve got the makings of a church, the sermon, the steeple, and I dare say it, being saved. In the old days, they called it being ‘slain in the Spirit.’ I would say that Bono missed his calling to become a preacher but then no. He did not.

At first, as we were *pretty high up in the seating,* I thought I was going to have to leave as there was a humongous speaker right in front of us. My eardrums were screaming for mercy. But luckily that was just the first song, a techy-sounding new one that was ‘okay.’ If you were in 7th grade sometime in the 1980’s, then you too would want to hear the old stuff just like I did. Of course, the new songs worked on me, just like the sermon.

I can’t possibly (adequately) describe the journey Bono and the boys took us on: the themes of the hero’s journey, the teachings of experience vis a vis innocence (the conception of this particular tour), the light show, the tidbits of graphic novel touching on the four members respective initiations as they were coming into fame and fortune (which were cast upon a very large video screen). I can’t possibly describe to you the video of white supremacists which played during “In the Name of Love (Pride)”—not because I can’t describe it but because I can’t replay that repulsiveness in my head to get the words down. Tears of pain streaked my face by the end of that song, images of Martin Luther King, Jr. standing behind a podium on the mall in our country’s capitol flashing upon the screen.

About half-way through the show (it wasn’t a concert, it was an experience), Bono put on a black top hat and transformed into an eerie ringmaster, circus lights blinking around himself, Adam, Larry and The Edge. What else could complete this picture but a bull horn designed to look like the American flag. I’m not sure what was for sale in the concession area but if American flag bull horns were there, I would have bought one. Or 10. The message was not lost on me: Wake the Fuck Up America.

U2’s music often summons its listeners to wake up—to others’ suffering, to the environment, to the pain and joy of love and most often, to injustice. That message was no different than it’s been over the 30 years U2 has been at this music gig/sermon thing. But what struck me as the most poignant was Bono’s passionate and somewhat child-like charge: If fighting injustice can happen anywhere, it is in America. You people have the tools, and it’s this handy little thing called Democracy. A mini-lesson in The Troubles, Ireland’s fight for freedom, was projected and the preacher reminded us that nothing is given to you. Nothing is guaranteed. You have to fight for freedom and you must know the consequences of taking it for granted.

As an empath, I have to be careful how much noise I take in from the chaos-world we’re living in. Like many folks, I need to go on social media diets and avoid newspapers and television at all costs. Otherwise, my ears would be screaming for mercy one hundred percent of the time and do I want to live like that?

What I heard Bono saying was this: You might not have that luxury one day. America was a dream, it was constructed as a dream with the highest ideals of personal and collective freedoms in mind. Because I am a white, middle-class, middle-aged woman, I have (for the most part) enjoyed that dream and all it has afforded me. And I haven’t had to think too much about what life would be like without the dream firmly in place.

But the poison of falling asleep will trickle down to every last one of us. I am still contemplating and reviewing clear action steps as to how to combat the injustices I see and feel. In my gut, it feels like electing candidates who you think will fight for the freedoms you hold dear isn’t enough. Neither is calling Senator Collins or marching down Congress Street for a rally.

Or is it? The preacher-man I saw last Friday night in Boston suggests that doing nothing will only ensure a fall. Trembling in the rearview will do no one any good.

And so I am reminded of Dr. Cornel West’s summation of our dear, fragile United States: An experiment in Democracy. He wrote that description several years ago now. I had the good fortune of seeing Dr. West speak at my alma mater, Colorado State University, in 1992. Those words stuck with me, as did his erudite intellect and general charisma.

Is it a good thing or a scary thing that America-as-Experiment is still an accurate way to describe our country?

The Invitation of St. Brigid

It didn’t immediately dawn on me: the irony of having to cancel a St. Brigid Ceremony because I was sick. But who else could hold space for me, as I had planned to do for my friends, but the Celtic Goddess of Healing? Once fully writhing in my fever dreams and terminal feelings of why-bother, through hours of bleary gazing at Aiden Turner of the Poldark series, after shutting down and shutting out, and finally, of being scrubbed clean and re-introduced to myself, the glow and mantle of Brigid is the natural and ultimate gift—an end in a beginning.

st brigid
Artwork by Warwick Goble

Being a big fan of the Darker half of Brigid—the Cailleach Beara—I cherish my cave time, the silent nights, the extra dose of honey in my tea, hands wrapped around a good book. But, as anyone living in Maine might, I also welcome the Goddess’s re-birth as the Spring maiden fair. At Samhain, my friends and I celebrated the cross-quarter with a night dedicated to learning about the ways of the Cailleach, or Hag of Winter, as she is sometimes called. It was even alluded to in one of our texts that it was she, not a woodchuck, who ventured out her door to gather more fire wood. If she didn’t go seeking more wood, no more winter! Being the Dark Mistress of storms and landscapes, who would question her authority?

Brigid, then, is her airy, hopeful Other who is ushered in when the ewes begin to show their fat bellies full of babies (and teats full of milk). Imbolc, or Imbolg, or Oimelc, all loosely translates as “Ewe’s milk.” Brigid is Cailleach Beara’s re-imagined, renewed Self—and they both fall under the ancient Mother-Maiden-Crone Triple Goddess of the Celts (and further back-)

Jan 30th: Night before the Full, Super, Blue, Blood Moon. I decide to cancel the Cross-Quarter celebration, which was slated for Thursday Feb 1st, and let my co-leader know she is welcomed to hold circle without me. I was zonked with chills and aches at 6:47. Little coherence about a full moon, or anything else. I was teething like an indolent child on the names of those I “may” have caught the flu from

Jan 31st: Another day in bed, another Poldark bonanza, another tepid bowl of chicken soup. More Nyquil, more batty dreams. The distraction of Facebook can’t even quell this unrest. Husband brings me juice and flowers, which I hardly notice since I am still feverish

Feb 1st: The feeling of being pummeled by any number of pro wrestlers lingers. I devilishly enjoy thinking about the weight I am loosing due to not eating much. A friend stops by with the goods from Whole Foods and I swill the elderberry syrup like it’s my granddaddy’s moonshine. I take the Flu Ease homeopathy remedy she prescribes…and sleep some more

Feb 2nd: I wake up at 7 am and actually remember that I like coffee. Not only that, but I want some and damn anyone who’ll stand in my way! I have some and it disappoints as I realize my taste buds are still dysregulated. But I pull out my journal, and I write. Now I know I’m going to make it

Later that day, I take a bath to commemorate the Feast of St Brigid. I’m not even Catholic but for some strange reason, I like calling her “St. Brigid,” as opposed to simply Brigid. I decide that, feeling much more aligned with Pagan rituals than Catholic ones, I will sanctify the bath water with a healthy dose of Maine sea salt. I dunked and bathed and toned. I called on Brigid to bless the water and asked her to leach the rest of the dis-ease out of me. The clearing, the cleansing, the scrubbing all done by her.

I could barely move I was so relaxed. But as the water cooled, I brought myself to standing and hosed off one last time. As the drain gurgled, I said a thank you to the holy water and salt—and to Brigid for guiding me to enact this ritual. I lathered my skin in—what else—lavender lotion and burned white sage around body and sick room.

And I thought I was going to miss her celebration! But if you have a pure desire to heal, Brigid—in all of her manifestations—will find you. She responds simply by being asked but the asking must come from the most vulnerable part of you. Like when you’re sick and you can’t do anything but wince and twitch and moan. If you have the voice for it, you may say, ‘Someone, please help me.’

Sometimes we are gifted with the Noble Flu or [fill in your disease of choice here]. It is a phenomena known as the Cure is in the Disease, and I felt it most acutely when, nine years ago, I was told a biopsy was cancerous, and that I would need a full hysterectomy. To truly heal, we have to be brought to our knees. To be reborn with the Spring Tide, one must be willing to be broken down, painfully scrubbed. It is a great gift to give yourself over to the power of vulnerability and it’s as simple as saying, “I’m done fighting” or “I don’t know what the next step is.” Brigid’s ears perk up when she hears those words. I feel lucky I had the flu as my excuse! To wallow in sweat-soaked sheets of pure abandon. To call for help and trust that help would come, through husband, friends and St. Brigid.

Happy Imbolc! Be open to being scrubbed.


EPIPHANY: Where are the Wise Men?

three wise men

Remember last year at this time? When those of us of a certain political persuasion were wringing our hands and knitting our pussy hats? I remember a delicious surge of focused intention to gather together, circle the wagons of faith we still harbored in our country and begin the hard work of community building in a way that we had not done before. Many of us—of a political persuasion—were still in shock from the final polls, and thus being, felt powerless. We knew what was going to happen on January 20th and we didn’t like it.

Over the last year, I did pretty well circling the wagons of my tribe and tuning out the on-going stream of non-truths from the Mad King. I also did fairly well gathering in community for support, with healthy doses of dancing and perusing my art, writing, while functioning just under the radar of rants and reactions.

I did well until I didn’t. And then I broke.

My breaking point happened pretty far into the year, amazingly. It was the removal of protection of Bears Ear National Monument. For whatever reason, this particular abuse of power by the executive branch reached into my chest and tore my heart apart, which left a vacuous opening for all of the other misuses to rear their ugly heads and take form in my psyche, things I had essentially ignored over the year.

So on this day of Epiphany (January 6th for us but also celebrated on other days in other parts of the world), a day that is recognized as one where the Magi trotted along the desert banks with the word “Messiah” on their thin lips, I am wondering where have all of the wise men gone? What about the wise women? How did we do, in 2017, working together?

The word epiphany also means “a sudden perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.” Many years ago, long before I commenced my deliberate study of Shamanism, I had what one would call a vision—a kind of epiphany—although it did not involve angels descending with trumpets or a gleaming white Pegasus carrying the secrets of the universe. No, it was what I would now refer to as a “download,” and was simply a message from beyond. Because I was very young, this is a paraphrased version, and went something like this:

“The 2nd coming of Jesus will not be a man in sandals. Jesus, the man, was simply a vehicle for Christ Consciousness. Next time, it will be a collective waking-up. The 2nd coming will not be a man, but a movement.”

How long do you think it will take for us to comprehend the extent of this supposition? If we believed it, and I do, how hard will it be for ALL OF US, no matter your political persuasion, to go cold-turkey on the fear porn of our times and contemplate, possibly for the first time in our young history as a country, the possibility of a truly United States?

Gather In Love or Isolate in Fear. We all have a choice.

May you make the one in 2018 that is an epiphany.

Depiction of Janus, the Roman Deity of Transitions (original artwork by Tony Grist)


Grounding: A reliable deciding factor in your reality


These are exciting times. Turbulent, chaotic, surprising and, yes, even joyful. The overall effect of living through the multi-layered experience of the Earth walk can leave one feeling unsettled and even a bit anxious. But if you choose to be awake for it, the question then becomes: How can I bear witness to all of it and not lose myself?

The only way that I have been able to prevent not getting swept up in the chaotic forces at play is to stay grounded. We hear about the importance of staying grounded a lot these days but what does it really mean? First of all, grounding yourself is a daily practice; it is not a one-and-done scenario. Because we are a species who decides what is “right” for us according to our values and beliefs, we can get really triggered and fearful if we are exposed to things, people and opinions that don’t jive with our values and beliefs. Although the frequency of the triggering-response matrix seems to be especially palpable right now, this has always been the case in human history.

About a month ago, I found myself reeling in my own reactions that were essentially my ego’s response to triggers. I know I am not the only one who is struggling with managing a more compassionate response to the ills of the world. I had to ask myself: Where is your center? I had unwittingly dissolved my energy and power by taking too much in and had to be reminded that the New York Times, Facebook, and NPR were not the only means of experiencing this world! I felt inner conflict about being perceived as irresponsible if I “ignored” the news. This drama was allowed to play out to extremes because I was not practicing grounding myself.

Everyone’s practice will look different, and if I were to break it down to its bare essence, grounding would be defined as simply staying in your body. There are a number of ways to stay in the body, including yoga, exercise (preferably outside), meditation, mindful walking. Dancing is also a wonderful and fun way to return to the forces within. Although it is very subtle, making something with your hands is grounding because it returns you to the mind/body connection and brings you back to the present moment. We are all creators! Winter is also a perfect time to re-ignite the flames of creativity.

If awareness of the body is grounding, awareness of the emotional body is also grounding. Grounding means staying connected to Source, to the I AM presence within. I believe we are a manifestation of Spirit, no more, no less than the Oak, the Grizzly Bear, the rainbow, the ocean. Because we possess consciousness, we can choose to amplify that Spirit within. A natural side effect of this recognition is feeling centered. Prayer, allowing yourself a good cry, feeling gratitude and even writing your dreams down are all potent practices which align us with the Spirit of All That Is.  By your choice to amplify your connection to Spirit, you model the gift of being alive for others to witness.

This Yule season, take a few minutes (hours?) to sit quietly, light a candle and ask for guidance as to the best practice of grounding for you, something you can easily incorporate into your life. I believe there is an unknown, mysterious purpose behind the perceived chaos of the world. At the end of the day, the only deciding factor that ultimately creates your reality is how you experienced it all.

Bigelow Mountain, Maine

The Nature of Violence

This is Mount Blanca.


Mount Blanca is located in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, rising 14,317 feet into the high altitude of that region. It is one of the four sacred mountains to the Dinetah, or Navajo Indian Tribe. The other mountains are Mount Taylor in Laguna, New Mexico; San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona; and Mount Hesperus in western Colorado in the La Plata Mountains.

This is Sean T. O’Reilly.


Sean was my first husband, a man I met at a wedding in the summer of 1995. We were married the following March in Puerto Rico where we had traveled to supposedly “boat hop” in order to see the Caribbean on the cheap. We divorced on May 19th, 2000. Sean passed away on October 31, 2012. He was 44 years old.

October is Domestic Violence Month. On October 8th of 1998, Sean beat me on and off for about four hours in a small, dingy apartment in Alamosa Colorado, about sixteen miles from the trailhead of Mt. Blanca. As my right eye begin to swell shut, he threw a frozen steak at me and told me to put it on my face. The Cleveland Indians had just lost Game Three of the ALCS to the New York Yankees. Sean and I had been out a bar, watching the game, when we started to argue.

Six months later, he was sentenced to three months for assault and battery and placed in the Alamosa County jail where I went to see him every chance I could. When he was released, I was there waiting with the items he had requested: a pack of Marlboros, a 16 ounce Mountain Dew, a fifth of Jack Daniels, and a “real” toothbrush.

Our relationship was violent, tumultuous, passionate, wild, exhausting, karmic, manipulative, and filled with equal measures of fear and excitement. Before the incident in Alamosa, I had left Sean four times, often in the cover of night and twice traveling across state lines with nothing but the clothes on my back. And I loved him very deeply.

If you have never been in an abusive relationship, it may be hard for you to possibly wrap your mind around why some women stay with their abusers. I ruined family relations and friendships I had had for years. I lost jobs and went into debt. I lied, I hustled. I sat and listened to the Social Worker tell me again and again about the cycle of violence and still I went back to him.

At last count, I had left and returned to Sean eight times. For whatever reason, the ninth time was the last time. I was living in Durango Colorado and a woman by the name of Sandy Cooper took me in. Two days later, a Deputy Sheriff escorted me to where I had been living with Sean. I will never forget the pressed blue suit, the shiny black shoes and the heavy gun-metal gray pistol he lightly tapped as he watched me, Sandy and Sandy’s husband Bob load my belongings into their truck. Later that afternoon, I signed the last restraining order I would sign.

I wish I could tell you that the restraining order kept Sean away from me. I wish I could tell you that I was glad to be rid of him, once and for all. But neither of those things are true. I just wanted the man I loved to get the help he needed. And I didn’t have the self-confidence or self-esteem I needed to put myself first. Nothing was above trying to “save” him.

Whenever you hear of people staying with abusers or women who stay silent after experiencing other forms of violence—sexual or otherwise—please understand that a lot of complicated emotions and feelings are flavoring their silence and inability to leave. In addition to having feelings for the person who abuses, there is the very real issue of safety, or in the innumerable instances with Harvey Weinstein, a reputation and career to think about. I also do not feel this issue can be neatly boiled down to the shortcomings of a patriarchal society, although that is a huge contributor. Little boys do not grow up in a vacuum, and patriarchy is fueled by a template of violence which has been firmly in place for eons.

If you are in an abusive relationship, or think that you might be, do not blame yourself. The blame/shame tactic is nothing more than a rudimentary form of low self-esteem (blame) and manipulation (shame). Also, abuse doesn’t always show up as television sets hurled at you or fists to your stomach. Demeaning and condescending language, rage, and jealousy all work to create an unstable environment that victims begin to think they somehow caused.

There is help and support in a variety of places. I will be forever grateful for the shelter in Alamosa, Tu Casa. And to Sandy Cooper, wherever she might be. And to so, so many others.

And may Sean RIP.

The state-wide domestic hotline for Maine is:


Or you can visit the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence at


Registration Now Open!

I am so honored and happy to be teaching The Shaman’s Toolbox at Old Orchard/Saco Adult and Community Education in the Fall! Classes start September 12th, are scheduled from 6-8 PM and run for 6 weeks, ending on October 18th. If you are curious about what a shamanic practitioner does, are interested in deepening your spiritual practice or are just starting to study about different spiritual paths, this class is for you!

Click the link below to read more and to register! Only $89!

And, as always, drop me a line if you have specific questions or suggestions! 



I was so determined to be productive. Determined to straddle myself atop of the work, to ride her bareback and send portentous messages of warning to anyone who got in the way. I wanted to dive in, to suffocate myself with this novel of mine and damn the musts, those hairy gremlins who inevitably rise up, powering their brigade with guilt and self-admonishment. Suffocation was easy under these determinants. I could not breathe. I could not sleep. I could not work. I bled out, failing to remember that I only needed to bring the right weapon, the appropriate tools to get the job done.

Don’t bring a cap pistol to a knife fight, I hear Joni Mitchell saying.

I know, it’s an odd and somewhat brutish trope for the creative process. How often are we lucky enough to respond with the right words, the right sentiment, to deliver the ego-less wisdom and the humility that certain situations call for? Conflict—inner or outer—can be dismantled neatly and efficiently with the appropriate response. But how do we know what the appropriate response is when there is an agenda in place, our agenda, that we are dearly attached to?

So there we were: Southwest Harbor, Maine. It was July 2nd, and my husband Michael and I were looking at five days of FREE room and board, thanks to a friend of Michael’s who was going out of town and offered her abode to us for a ‘retreat.’ As anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows, summer in Maine is an exquisite experience. Mt. Desert Island? All we need are groceries? July 4th week? Wow! I felt like I had won the lottery and the toaster. We secured our bikes to the Subaru and drove north, taking our time and unwinding from a busy week-end of moving me out of my old office space.

Acadia Mountain
Acadia Mountain, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Because I had closed my office to take a “sabbatical” [this word is in quotes because I feel like professors are the only ones allowed to use this term], I thought that the home of a very successful playwright would be the perfect setting to usher in the shiny new commitment for finishing my novel. Not finishing the entire thing, there in Southwest Harbor, just commencing the finishing. I was close, and as the bing-bong bell of awareness clanged in my brain, reminding me that I was approaching the anniversary of attaining my MFA, I sensed an urgency that I had never felt before.

An urgency to finish, or die.  What had I done, exactly, since I graduated?

You see, I’ve been writing this novel of mine for over a decade. Yep, I am one of “those” writers. There’s no shame in my game, especially now that I am so close to finishing. I have written and re-written, changed point of view three times, tweaked time frames twice and moved my characters from Maine to North Carolina and to some ethereal place called “the Ballroom.” And when we packed the car for our free getaway to MDI, I packed my poster board which I had designated for story-boarding, my color-coded markers for those three narrative voices, my computer, and all of the notebooks in which I free-write in, penning the tale initially in longhand, before I edit-type it into the computer. I brought several magazines and four new novels. I brought my yoga mat and my eye mask, ear plugs and melatonin. I was prepared for battle, to climb up there on that wild pony and get ‘er done.

I’ll bet you are wondering what happened. If you are, then I am a decent story-teller. Because no raconteur can spew the goods if her audience isn’t wondering, hankering, waiting for What Happens Next. Well, I’d mistakenly brought a cap pistol to a knife fight.

I didn’t write one word. Oh maybe some words of self-laceration in my journal about how I wasn’t writing. I walked the yard and visited the spirits of the land, got some good advice from a young Maple. I placidly watched the Red Sox with my husband—a treat since we don’t have cable at home. We both walked to the Southwest Harbor Library one morning and discovered it was closed. This bummed me out a little since Carolyn, the successful playwright whose house we were staying in, mentioned the great nooks in the library in which to write. In classic New England fashion, we found a volunteer on the sidewalk filling the donation-only book trough with gently-used books. I purchased the ancient Celtic text, The Mabinogion, and The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos for three bucks and spent most afternoons reading. We slept in. We cooked veggie burgers on July 4th and drank Fat Tire. We went to breakfast the last day we were there and took a trail through the woods, wandering off path and ended up, seven miles later, at the magical Butterfly Gardens.

butterfly gardens swh
Butterfly Gardens, after a 7-mile “walk”

Clearly, this wasn’t a time to “do work.” And whether I want to admit it or not, writing is work. Because I enjoy it, I don’t always see it as work but it is. The trick, in this life, is to love the work you do and on occasion, be okay with wanting to haul off and smack her, hard, on her pony-behind. She’s patient, afterall. She’ll circle around the room and nudge you. She’ll whinny and whine and scratch the dark earth until you heave yourself back up there, in the saddle, packing the heat of not inspiration but dedication. If you write, you are a devotee to your madness. Does that sound harsh? If you write, you cannot be afraid of madness. If you write, you know the word, ‘madness,’ may not be quite harsh enough. I needed a vacation, not a goal, even if that goal involved my first love—writing.

If you write, make sure you bring the right tools, the right weapons that the occasion calls for. Dispense with the guilt gremlins if you skip a day or a week of writing. Trust that something else is cooking inside of you, inside of your life-lab that also requires the attention you give your work, your writing. We cannot attempt to characterize life if we ourselves cut ourselves off from our own life-pageant.

virginia woolf.jpg
An inspirational corner of Carolyn Gage’s home

My True Affections

“Oh I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?’
                                  ~From “The Layers” by Stanley Kunitz
the veil at borestone
Dear Friends-
As many of you already know, I am closing my office space at 583 Forest Ave. There are a few different reasons for this; I want to share with you the major ones.
Much like Stanley’s ‘true affections,’ my interests in this life are varied. I believe in cultivating ALL THAT YOU LOVE, and one of my deepest loves is writing. I have decided to take July and August off from doing healing work in order to finish my novel.
As I approach the 1-year anniversary of receiving my MFA, I had to ask myself some hard questions: What will it take to finish your novel, Mary Katherine? I am not entirely sure how other folks do it, but writing, for me, takes concentration and stillness. It takes saying ‘no’ to friends and family, and it takes being okay with imperfection.
Additionally, I have been curious about how my healing modality is unfolding. To be frank, an office with four walls is simply not big enough for me. I envision myself working with the sacred Earth, outside, by tress and rivers and flowers and sun. I want to teach people how to better understand their connection and heritage as stewards of the planet, and that work requires some visioning on my part. I will also use the break to work on my Urban Shaman Medicine Walks [working title!].
My astrology friend tells me all Aries folk are being “re-forged” this year (and next) due to some cosmic dance that Pluto is grooving to. Pluto is the planet of The Big Questions: Why am I here? Who am I? I find myself asking these question often these days.
Making change is hard but not making change is inviting decay. Once I started to contemplate what it will take to finish my novel, I knew I had to say good-bye to some of the other aspects of my life. Closing my office is one of them.
Of course, it is a “for now” scenario! Clan Of Origin has no intention of closing. In fact, I was recently asked to teach a beginner shamanism class at OOB/Saco Adult Ed in the Fall (first class 09/12/17, FYI). I feel very excited about this and know that teaching and sharing my knowledge of the sacred path is part of my work.
The picture I have attached was taken yesterday morning, at Borestone Mountain Sanctuary, where I spent the week-end creating ceremony and appreciating the fellowship of my dear circle, The Confluence. My tank is filled with deep gratitude and a renewed commitment to my community to BE THE LIGHT.
We all have so many talents, and are all supported on so many different levels. I wish you all the courage your path is asking of you, and offer you blessings of love for the ride.
PS. If you do desire one last therapeutic session of reiki and/or shamanic healing, send me an email. I do have some slots left for the last week of June.
And Thank You!
Mary Katherine

Clan Of Origin~Return to Source