Unexpected Angels

Last weekend I saw a Medicine Woman / healer.
A friend in Owen Sound had called me up and insisted I needed to come see this super-talented, up-and-coming, currently bargain-basement healer from the local reserve, quick, while the getting was good, before she becomes famous and unaffordable.
She was indeed magnificent – fun and funny and the most radiant, loving human being.
At the end of a long and powerful session, back upstairs in the kitchen, she asked me to pick a card from a divination deck. The one I chose said something about the protection of angels – a soft pale image, yellows and pinks, an image of light, illumination and feathers. As gentle and delicate and full of light and love as the image was, I felt resistance – I’m just not into angels. They have never appealed to my sensibility – they feel to me like princesses and unicorns and other girly fantasy-land entities. My own inexplicable prejudices – I try to hide it, but there it is.
So the Medicine Woman wrestled with me a bit over just accepting the concept, the idea of the angel image, as protective gentleness, as divine serendipitous light, synchronistic interventions, then had me do a 9-card spread from Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards deck – all animal cards, much more my speed.
Of course I got a whack of cats – no surprise there, I am KAT, after all…
3 cat cardsThe next day I took the bus back to Toronto and, loaded down with many heavy bags, grabbed a cab at the corner. I had this idea of killing 2 taxi birds with one stone, and before going home, asked the driver to take me out to the art supplies store, the really big one with lots of cheap deals on paints and the big sizes of watercolour paper, cause when I go there I always have to take a cab home anyway.
When I explained to him, First I want to go here and then I want to go there, he pressed down hard on the gas, and called out, Whatever you want to do, we will do it! I laughed and glanced at his eyes in the mirror – they were small with the years, not a young man. Accent African, English not first language. As his face turned slightly with a right turn, I could see several thin scars on his cheek, as if he’d been slashed across the face by a very large cat.
He was a chatty fellow, and we talked about this and that on the way to the art supplies store – Why did I only have one child, for example? Why did I not move close to my husband to get more? As we pulled into the small parking lot, he wanted to know, What is this place?
An art supplies store! Well, he was very excited by this news, but I was out the door of the cab and up the stairs and moving fast through the aisles and my list of paints and round the back to where they keep the big pads of paper. Coming back out to the front again, thinking I should have a quick look at the mediums, a man opened up his arms and waved at me. Here I am! he said with his grin.
It was the taxi driver. Looking a bit like actor Robert Wisdom –
r wisdomBut now I could see the long tribal scars patterned on both cheeks, kind of like a cat’s whiskers –
black_panther_spainI’ve never been in an art store before!
He was thrilled, delighted, in love with this newfound world.
I was so surprised to see him there, the moment was so disorienting, in my confusion I forgot about looking for mediums and simply lined up to pay for what I had in my arms. My driver was now in deep serious discussion with one of the store clerks.
Standing, waiting for the cashier I wondered, What was it that felt so disorienting, so unusual? That he seemed so open, so free, so un-servile? That in spite of being for hire he didn’t feel obliged to sit waiting in the car if his curiosity was strong?
We went back out to the car together, and driving away his delight with this world of wonder turned to concern – They have all those things out on the shelves where anyone can just grab them and put them in their bag or under their clothes!
This upset him quite a bit, the enormous quantities of goods lying out on open shelves, and he went on about it for a while, driving slowly up the street, now nearing my house, inching along at about 10km/hr, waving his hands, both of them frequently lifting off the steering wheel altogether. But soon this worry, this loose tooth troubling him was put to rest with the summing up, This would never work in the third world – in the third world, you would go up to the counter and ask for what you want, and they go back and get it for you.
This little exchange caught my attention somehow – that he had been so troubled by something I didn’t think twice about, and had had to settle himself down quite deliberately, reminding himself that the context was different. Some lesson about the importance of the need for adaptation felt nestled in the moment.
In front of my house, he practically clucked with dismay at the disarray, the strewn collection of chairs, old bicycles, unraked leaves and crumbling porch. God will help you settle down eventually, was his last fix-it pronouncement on my life.
We said our goodbyes and I trundled into the house, arms full of stuff, head full of the uniqueness of this man.
Somewhere in all of the twists and turns of the encounter I felt the hint of magic, the reminder to remain open to the possible variations on what angelic presences might look like…


blur river_mrkd

We arrived late the first night, stumbling into the lodge in the dark, into ceremony in process. Burning sweetgrass was offered from the fire to cleanse ourselves. We found seats along the outside ring of the circle.

Cindy, the master of ceremonies and Contrary leading the event was speaking.  She was dressed in a kind of shredded brown burlap sack.  A hood with the eyes cut out and a long cloth nose attached was thrown back over her head while she spoke, but brought down over her face when she began the active ceremony.

We sat with tobacco in our hands, as offerings of thanks to be burned in the fire. Cindy would come around to each of us, singing and shaking her turtle rattle inches in front of us, the eagle wing resting on our heads.

In the dark of the lodge, lit only by the big fire in the center and a few lanterns, I’d steal glimpses of her standing so close – the piercing strength of her voice and the trancelike power of the drum, the rattle, made her feel like a huge powerful brown presence in front of me.  Among the necklaces around her neck was a very large claw.  I asked her later – grizzly bear claw, she said.  Of course!  That was what she felt like standing there – a massive grizzly bear.

blurred claw_mrkd

Bears are known as powerful healers, and healing was the purpose of the ceremony – four phases of it.  First the mind is cleared, restored to the Good Mind to allow the healing of the spirit, source of vision, that which should lead.  Next the heart and finally the body.

Cindy spoke about trauma – said we carry it in our DNA.  That we carry all the heartaches of our own personal lives, but also the agonies of our ancestors – that it weakens the body.

She spoke of releasing the hurts we’ve received from others – of being able to see them as lost souls stumbling and hurting in the dark just as we are – to take pity on them, to allow our hearts to soften.

She said the heart that heals from grief and hurt becomes a place of great generous love.  Reminded me of Hiawatha and the Condolence Ceremony, how his life was moved from a place of deep grief to one of healing others.

The second night I had a vivid image of an eagle coming at me, talons forward, grabbing a loop of the barbed wire from around my heart like some kitsch Mexican art and flying away with it, yards of it ripping out of my heart until I thought of Eustace in the Narnia series, when he’s turned into a dragon and one night has the layers and layers of dragon skin peeled away from him by the lion with deep painful gashes until a fresh-skinned boy steps out of the leathery husks.

blurred heart_mrkd

Air and expansion rushed in to the newfound space.

And a sensation began of an animal inside my skin about to burst out like the Hulk bursts out of his clothes – the sensation of fur and claws and ferocity coursing through me so overpowering I thought I might spontaneously shape-shift and slink away into the night.

blurred stars, tree_mrkd

More rounds of the drum, the tobacco.

Later a feast was held in the kitchen.  New friends were made.

blurry trees, sky_mrkd

No mind

Early this morning a dream of a deer, come to the door of a house I was just leaving.  I  thought he was an unusual sighting in a suburban neighbourhood as he turned and ran away revealing a fox tail rather than the little white cotton puff.   Excited, I turned to my host, who seemed non-plussed, as though deer were frequent visitors in his neighbourhood.  But when I went out again to the street, the deer was back, his expression deliberate, gesturing with his head for me to follow him around the corner, where it turned out an old friend was giving birth.

Today on Facebook, I see that a photo I took up north weeks ago is featured on the Ontario Travel page.

I took a lot of photos while I was up north.

I loved the experience of it.  Of getting up early, heading out into the morning light and feeling a kind of no-mind creative process – different from writing. Different because it seemed like the best way to connect with my surroundings was to be empty, to just be present in my body in the space…..waiting, feeling, breathing, sensing.

Riding and walking the trails around Collingwood, I found it easy to get very quiet inside myself.  I’d heard in the past about “walking with your power animal”.  It sounded faintly pretentious and I wasn’t sure really what was meant by it.

But I started to feel it.  I started to feel like that’s what I was doing.  Walking as if.  Walking inside the animal.  Walking AS an animal – listening, smelling, feeling the light shifts in the air.

Rustles and snaps of twigs in the brush, in the forest made me stop and listen, waiting to see who was there.  All senses poised as carnivorous predator, hunting for the next shot.

Strangely enough, sometimes it seemed as though the hunted waited, wanting to have their picture taken.