Shift 25: Power Walk


Ted said if I wanted I could head out in the wilderness a few days before my birthday and stay out until it felt like time to return.

He called it a “Power Walk.” From the way he talked about it, I got the impression it was an initiation, a vision quest or something.

I asked him if Deon went on a Power Walk when he stayed with him.

He said, yeah. Deon was a few years older than I am, but he had a lot of growing up to do and some discoveries to make, so even though he was a little old for it, he went on one.

“Do I have a lot of growing up to do?” I asked.

“Starshine,” replied Ted, “you are all together. You are exactly as you should be. If you want to take yourself out into the wilderness to greet the sun when it swings back around for its sixteenth return, then you do it! And if you want to keep hanging out here with old me, you do that, too. It’s up to you.”

The idea of being in the wilderness on my birthday really appealed to me.


I went to the back country, where there are no trails.


I guess part of the power of the Power Walk comes from being alone in nature–no supplies, nothing. Just one’s self and the whole of nature.

For me, that’s no challenge. I’ve done that. That whole year I lived in the desert had lots of spells of solitude in the wilderness.


I learned how to live off the land during that year in the desert. Finding food in the mountains, while still a challenge, was a lot easier. And up here, there’s water.


It felt neat to be alone up here. And it felt normal.

Somehow, I didn’t think that this was supposed to be a normal experience. If it’s a rite of passage, an initiation, a travel from one way of being to another, then it seems like it would involve some unusual experiences.


I mean, aren’t you supposed to see visions on a vision quest?


After a while, I stopped thinking about what it was supposed to be like. I realized I’d failed at the vision quest, that I couldn’t do the Power Walk, so I gave up trying to make anything weird out of it. I simply enjoyed it.

So, I’m not cut out to be a shaman or a mystical warrior or a bruja. I’m just a normal person, living in the normal world, not the world of magic. I felt OK with that.


After I gave up trying, my mind became still.


I had days and days without thoughts. My feelings guided me and connected me to the world around me.


When my period came, my cramps were bad, and I walked through the edge of the forest. Some of the plants stood out, as if they were lit up inside. I harvested a few leaves of the lit up ones. With one plant, I felt to harvest the roots.

When I went back to my camp, I made tea out of the plants, and as I drank it, my cramps faded.

I lay down in the clearing and watched a meteor shower. I think this might have been my birthday.


I woke up and saw this funny little man–he was my dragon, really. He was bent at the hips, with his torso leaning forward. He looked at me and said, “Walk this way.”

He walked off, lifting his knees to his chest, keeping his arms bent.

I closed my eyes. When I opened them, he was gone. I shrugged it off. It was a dream. Nonetheless, I got up and tried the walk he showed me.

I felt really powerful.


I stayed out there until the full moon. Then I felt that it was time to return.

I knew I’d have to tell Ted that I’d failed the initiation. I didn’t have all sorts of visions. I didn’t meet my spirit guide. I was destined to be a normal person. But somehow, I didn’t care. I felt really strong. If I can be strong and normal, then that’s OK by me. It’s only if I’d have to be weak and normal that I’d object. So I failed my initiation. I didn’t get transformed. I won’t be a bruja. That’s OK. I feel good, and that’s what counts.


<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 2.08

Dear Mom,

I took my college entrance exams, and guess what? I got accepted! Guess what else? I qualified for full scholarship in three subjects: phys ed, communications, and fine arts. Guess what else? I earned 18 Advanced Placement credits in each! I’m so excited! I’m going to college.


I was still trying to decide what major to pick when I asked Riley how she did.

“I didn’t take the exam,” Riley said.

“Well, you’d better hurry. We’re leaving soon.”

“I’m not going to take it,” she said. “I’m not going.”


“Not going? You have to go!” I said. “That was the plan! That’s the dream!”

“It’s your dream,” Riley said. “It always has been. I’ve never wanted to go to college. I want to stay home.”

“But Riley!”

“It’s true,” she said. “Remember when I was voted ‘Most likely to never leave home?’ That might seem like a joke to some, but to me, that’s my dream.”

“But Riley!”


“Not everyone wants what you want,” she told me. “You go, because it would give you joy. But what’s more important? Just doing something because it’s expected, or because it’s someone else’s dream? Or doing what you want, even if it lets down someone else’s expectations, because it’s your dream?”

“Is this because of Argus?” I asked her.


“No,” she replied. “I talked with Argus about it. He was all ready to support me in going away to university. But I’d already made up my mind, even before Argus and I went out. I just didn’t know how to tell you.”

“I wish you were so afraid of me that you’d go anyway!” I said. “Just because it was what I wanted. I imagined you, after all.”


“I’m sorry. It’s just. I was so looking forward to rooming with you in the dorm, and going to parties with you, and studying all night! Now! Oh! It’s like my dream’s been torn in two.”

“I’m sorry. I hate disappointing you. But a dorm? With strangers? Who don’t wash their dishes and leave dirty towels laying around and forget to bathe? And parties? I hate parties! And studying all night? I’d hate to have to study. I hate all those things.”


Oh, Mom. It was so hard to listen to Riley. I felt so sure that college was the best thing for her. Half of me still feels that way. But I had to listen when she told me what she loves: taking care of our home, caring for Zoey and Roxy, being here for Patches and Bo. And, yes, she admitted that she was looking forward to spending more time with Argus.

“Women worked hard and fought for equal rights so we’d have a choice,” she told me, “not so that we’d all have to march to the same drummer. I’ve looked in my heart, Mari. This is what I want.”

She’s right. Even I can see that. It breaks my heart to leave alone, Mom, but I guess I’ve got to do it.

On my departure day, the shuttle arrived in the early morning to take me to the airport. Riley had gotten up with me so we could have breakfast together.

“Write me, ” she said.

“Of course!” I replied.


The kids were still asleep, and I was hoping to have lucked out and avoided having to say goodbye to them. I worried it would break my heart.

When I got into the shuttle, I looked back at the house. There was Patches, coming out to wave goodbye.


And then Bo came racing out, waving his arms and making crazy faces! I was laughing so hard I couldn’t cry! Oh, Mom! I am going to miss this nutty family.


Good thing I got advanced placement–it means I’ll only be away from home for two terms.

And when I come back, I’ll have a degree!

Oh! I forgot to tell you what program I chose! I’m going for fine arts. I figured that phys ed came naturally, and communications fits with my career–so both of those, I’ll be working on anyway. So I decided to challenge myself and major in fine arts. Just like you did! I want to be well-rounded. That’s why I chose what would be most difficult.

Oh, Mom! I’m going to your alma mater, and I’m majoring in your degree! Maybe I’ll even live in your dorm!

I’m going to miss you so much, too. I wonder if I’ll feel your spirit there on campus…



<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 1.43

The morning after Marigold’s graduation, Bobobo asks me to make another one of those orange solutions.

“Another dichromate cocktail?” I ask. “Who for?”

“For Mari and Riley, of course!” he replies.

I hand him the mixture after it’s done and follow him downstairs.

“Are you sure this is going to work?” Marigold asks him.


“Positive,” he says. “And I didn’t put in as much of the you-know-what, so it shouldn’t even burn going down.”

We see the same explosion of purple fumes.


And when they dissipate, standing there, facing Marigold, is a beautifully adorable young woman.


“That’s Riley,” Bobobo says.

Marigold and Riley share a soulful look. I feel grateful that this is my daughter’s friend.


Wanting to give them space to become acquainted in this new aspect of reality, I head back to the garden, followed by Zoey. We play tug of war.

And then, I begin to feel light.

This is different.

I experience my own transformation, as if I’d guzzled the dichromate cocktail.


When I see the Reaper, I understand.

I feel lighter and clear. This is nothing to fear! This is the removal of fear! This is freedom.


The aches in my knuckles are gone. That steel band wrapped tight around my chest since Frank’s passing has been unshackled. I feel no constriction, no restraint.

Now I understand the smiles on Chauncey’s and Frank’s faces!


“Thank you!” I say to the Reaper. “You let me see my daughter’s graduation.”

The Reaper clears his throat. “Like I said, Timing is not up to me. But also like I said, sometimes I have a certain influence. Very Influential.”


I shake his hand.

“Thank you,” I say again.

I am ready. My friends wait for me. This new form feels so much more “me” than that old stooping crickety body of knobby joints and stringy sinew.

I was given the gift of raising my daughter to adulthood, and I am ready to pass over, knowing that my son will be cared for, too.

“You could have come a lot earlier,” I say to the Reaper, “but you didn’t. And I thank you.”

He merely clears his throat again.


I notice that the sun is shining. How sweet, I think, to leave on a crisp autumn day, with frost on the ground, and the sun shining on the orange leaves.

Some say that Death is cruel. Others, that He acts impersonally. But through his influence, He made my wish come true for some reason of His own. Maybe, simply, so that my orphaned daughter might not be orphaned again until childhood’s end.


Before my senses fade to black, I hear Zoey howl. When I look at her, I see she’s calling for me. If I had a heart still within me, that keening yowl would wrap around it and twist it in two. But in this new form, the cries move through me, and I witness, as if from a distance until the blackness comes and all is silent.


<< Previous | Next >>

Wonder 50


I’ve started writing a new book. I’m not sure if it’s a children’s book or a novel for adults. Maybe it’ll be one that crosses generations.

It’s about a friendship between a boy and a man.


The boy lives with his mom and his aunt. His dad’s in his life, but not a regular presence.

Through the friendship, the boy and the man each gain something.

On my morning jog, I thought about a bit of dialogue between them that I want to write.


“How come you look so serious?” the boy asks the man.

“Serious?” replies the man. “Do I look serious?”

“You’re not smiling,” says the boy.

“Ah,” says the man. “I am a smile-saver.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s one who reserves smiles for those times when life is ripe, and when we feel, way deep in our center, a feeling like sparkling lights that travels up, and when it reaches our face, we smile. That’s a real smile.”

“And then,” says the boy, “the sparkles travel out through your eyes, right?”

“That’s right,” says the man, smiling a genuine smile with eyes shining.


I’m not sure. When I play that dialogue through my mind, it leaves such a wistful feeling.

Jake and I really did talk about genuine smiles. Will it be too sad to write that in this novel? Will it even make sense?

I wonder what forms a friendship. What was there between me and Jake, and how did we manage to stay good friends to the end?


I realize that this is a rite of passage. Mãe, Pai, and Tia Berry are all about the same age as Jake. I’m moving into a time of my life when I’ll be faced with a string of good-byes.

What’s the next step? What’s the more in my life that I want?

In the evening, Lucas called to invite me to join him at a bar in the desert.

“They’ve got this weird thing going on,” he said. “Not exactly a cult, but something strange. You’ve heard of the bear-suit people? They dress up in bear-suits and scare everybody. It’s supposed to be a riot.”


When we arrived, I saw my friend and patient Bria Louis, who’s a police officer, and down the street from her, someone in a bear-suit walked towards the bar.


“These bear-suit guys make me nuts!” Bria said when she reached us. “They’re not exactly breaking any rules, but wherever they show up, stuff happens! Like, illegal stuff! And I would be the one to pull the bear-suit duty. Just my luck!”

“Don’t worry!” I said. “Lucas and I are here. Anybody tries to pull anything, and we’ll straighten it all out. We’ve got this covered.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Lucas. “I just remembered I’ve got something I need to do at home.”


After Lucas left, a blonde in a yellow evening gown approached us.

“I can’t find my date,” she said. “Have you seen a tall guy in a bear-suit?”

“I’m sure he’ll be along,” I said. “And that’s a gorgeous shade of yellow, by the way. Like a daffodil!”


Her date showed up a bit later. We sat together at the bar.

“We’re getting married soon,” the bear said, “me and my gal.”

“That’s great!” I replied. “Fill the den with a bunch of cubs, huh?”

“That’s the idea,” he said.


And I felt that hollow feeling again, only a little more pronounced. There was something I wanted in my life. What was it?

<< Previous | Next >>