Molly & Owen Climb the Mountain

“Molly, what’s going on with you?” asked Owen, stepping into her office and firmly closing the door. “You seem distracted and vague. I’ve never heard you snap at your staff the way you have this morning. What’s up, Pal? You can’t hide your energy from a Medicine Circle mate who’s known you as long as I have.”

Molly glared at Owen. He’d come to drop off his recycling and check out the pile of trim wood that had appeared from an old beach cabin somebody’s crew was demolishing. Then he’d hung around, helping sort and stack other material that had just come in. She should have known he was picking up on something. “Umm. Errrr…”

“Come on. Out with it. Something is bothering you and it’s not just the usual. You go into focused overdrive when things here hassle you….” His voice trailed off as tears began to roll down her cheeks. Reaching out, he enfolded her short round body next to his heart. The floodgates opened and she sobbed from deep down in her belly.

It was a long time before she could get any words out. “My breasts…. Raphael Turner – the new doc – is worried…. I could see it in his face though he tried not to show it…. wants me to go get checked out by a surgeon…. but I can’t get an appointment for weeks…. It’ll probably be okay. But, Owen, what if it’s not??” Molly wailed.

Owen pulled away from her and looked into her eyes, now swollen and red from crying. “There’s a lot we can do right away. I’d say some serious healing sessions are in order no matter what is going on. You’ve known for a while, haven’t you?” She nodded guiltily. “Here’s a clean hankie. Just washed this morning. I’m thinking sweat lodge, a healer’s circle, and a little time off. Hmm? Do you want to write the emails or do you want me to?”

“Can’t we just do it without telling anybody?”

“We could but you know how powerfully the magic begins to work the instant you ask for help. You’re always saying that to other people,” he reminded her gently. “It’s different when it’s your own self, isn’t it.” She nodded again. “Let’s start by climbing the Mountain. When was the last time you did that?” He knew full well it had been ages. She hadn’t even shown up for the annual Scorpio birthday climb last week.

“Today?? But, but….”

“Gabe and the others are here. It’s a quiet off-season day. They can handle everything and you know it. Healing means changing your patterns. And I say playing hooky is a great way to start!”

 

Molly and Owen wound their way up the familiar trail. There were still a few yellowed leaves on the alder and cascara branches but most were down in soggy clumps at the sides of the trail. The spruce and hemlock overhead were dripping in plops now and then, though no rain was falling at the moment. Off in the distance a raven called.

“It really is good to be have finally told somebody,” she thought, huffing a little. She was in good shape from bicycling to work and her weekly sanity-keeping yoga class, not to mention running around at ReBound, but going uphill always added a new challenge. And she was still sorta overweight no matter how much she exercised. She wished she could be like folks she knew who climbed the Mountain every morning or at least once a week. “Stop it!” she told herself. Maybe chiding herself was something else she could change. She had her first glimmer of the positive possibilities of her situation.

They stopped at the first spot where they could look out over the long stretch of the spit between ocean and bay. The layers of mountains wandered off to the east and southeast. Below them, nestled in the dunes beyond a mile or so of scattered houses was ReBound. Her dump. “Actually sort of a scar in the dunes,” she thought wryly noting the metal pole buildings standing out starkly. Though clouds were hovering over most of the landscape below, a swath of sunlight glinted off the roof and the various piles were all too obvious to her, though a stranger probably wouldn’t have noticed the detail. Her mind began to stress about all that she wasn’t doing down there….

“Molly,” said Owen quietly. “Come back. We’re here on the Mountain. The wild ginger patch is just beyond the next bend and I have another more crusty friend I want to show you.”

Molly sighed and turned to follow him. “What am I going to do? If I’m sick…. even if I’m not sick…. Something tells me this is a turning point and I can’t keep on the way I have been.”

“It’s a very stressful job,” Owen agreed. “It’s made mincemeat of everyone else who works there and no one takes it home quite the way you do. I’ve felt for a while that you’ve been in denial about the toll it takes on you. What I keep getting is that Cancer often comes from the stress of needing to get out of something.” Owen spoke the C-word out loud for the first time. “Not everyone agrees with me but Uri and I have been talking about how it can be a guilt free way to ‘fly the coop.’ Like, ‘I’ve ‘caught’ this dread disease, I can’t do it – whatever ‘it’ is – anymore.’ I learned from Susan’s death that breast cancer seems to be from not taking care of yourself, nurturing everyone else first. Of course, there are environmental issues too. What about all the chemicals and shit you are exposed to all the time. I’m sure you guys handle various mystery hazards from once in a while.”

“Not often, but yeah, sometimes. And my brothers and I played in DDT when we were kids. We used to ride our bikes behind the truck when they sprayed for mosquitoes in the 50’s. And I don’t always eat very healthily.”

Her mind spiraled again but Owen, in tune, caught her again. “Try not to go into guilt about whatever you’ve done or not done. That’s not very constructive.”

They were quiet for a while moving over roots, little drainage gullies and animal holes, always upward. When they headed up along the section that turned north around the east side of the Mountain, the trees got taller and the understory more uniform in height. Owen paused at the base of a particularly large hemlock. The now leafless huckleberry and thimbleberry grew tall among the salal that never lost its leaves. Sticking out among them all right next to the path were some tall spikes with a few yellowed, particularly large leaves. Owen pointed his finger towards them and a special stillness settled over him that made Molly look at his face and then at the prickle studded stalks.

“Devil’s Club?” she asked.

“Devil’s Club,” he confirmed. “I’ve been watching some other patches a little higher up for the last couple of years but I only discovered these this fall when the leaves first fell off the thimbleberry. They’ve been disguised.”

“You’ve always been fascinated by the plant, haven’t you?” observed Molly. “But I never can remember what it’s for or quite understood what calls you about it.”

“Ryan Drum’s piece on it says he asked a native woman once and she said, ‘Everything,’ rather scornfully like he should have already known that. The books say it’s for diabetes and sugar issues. Powdered, it can even be used for a deodorant. I’ve yet to experiment with it. You know about the homeopathic Doctrine of Similars that says that there are hints to the healing properties of plants coded in their physical characteristics? I’ve been thinking about all the spines – which I understand can be really nasty – and I got ‘repels boarders’ like it keeps off infections or intrusions.”

“Kind of like my cat. You know how she is so prickly but has a lot of healing energy when she can relax and just let herself snuggle in.”

“Or maybe it is some kind of protection since I’ve also been getting that it has something to do with bringing us into our personal power. Getting us past the ways we protect ourselves (or think we are) and allowing us to move safely and courageously into the unknown of our destiny.”

“That would be cool,” said Molly. “Do you think it has something for me and this healing crisis I seem to be in?”

“I’d start by asking what you are taking on, burdening yourself with that you shouldn’t be. Who are the pirates that are stealing from you? What can you shed?”

“My first, obvious thought is ReBound and my responsibility for all that is there, but I immediately feel a lot of rebellion if this means being forced out of that. You mentioned that medicinally it has to do with food and sugars, certain aspects of digestion. The other thing I haven’t told anyone about is my stomach troubles…”

“Oh?”

“Well, my weight for one. Menopause has only increased my tendency to put on pounds and the treats people bring us at ReBound don’t help. I keep myself going a lot of the time with chocolate…”

“I can give you the essence I made the other day from the Devil’s Club root by the Grandmother Tree. I spent the night there recently and had an important journey, though I’ll be damned if I can remember the details.”

“Let’s keep walking,” she suggested.

After another turn in the trail Molly spoke back over her shoulder to her friend, “It keeps going through my mind that Seth didn’t get well – you worked with him too….”

Owen looked both pained and resigned. “I’ve never spoken about this but it’s my sense that he was caught here in a mire he could neither change nor adapt to…. and maybe he had something more important to do from the other side of the veil. You remember, don’t you, his spirit coming to you during the Hallowed Days? Do you think his injunction to do more art might be a healing clue?”

“Hmmm,” said Molly. “There might be a connection there….”

Nearing the top they had to crawl carefully up on the tricky path and as she crept from stone to stone, Molly thought about how like life this was. Upward, yet carefully, feeling one’s way one rock at a time – with tired, maybe even shakey legs, yet full of determination to get to the Pinnacle where their community spread out below them. Yet, they could only stay there for a little while. At some point they’d have to go down again into the fray…..

Owen at the Tree 2

Owen’s mind reached to the roots of the tree, down, down their hugeness…. journeying…. out onto the plain of the Underworld…. The sun is overhead here, a warm breeze blowing. A hummingbird, impossibly iridescent chartreuse and red, buzzes at eye level, then darts off, only to return again. Does it want him to follow? It hovers now over a gigantic datura plant. Owen moves towards it sniffing and feels its spirit kiss him before it sends him on his way. A cluster of tiny psilocybin mushrooms waves him over. Suddenly elfin himself, he sits like Alice in Wonderland at the foot of one, marveling at its subtle beauty, conjuring for a moment the delicate tracery of form and color that particular Medicine provokes. Before long, however, he salutes the fungi and turns again towards the sound of the hummingbird behind him. His wee guide is now looming as large as a goose over a stand of Devils Club whose few enormous spiky leaves are the browning yellow of autumn. His heart speeds in his chest. He’s been asking to make this connection. Is he ready for what these dangerously prickled sticks have to tell him? He fingers the aventurine still somehow in his pocket in this the Spirit World.

When it comes it is not at all what he expects. slide3

“I am the sharp surprise in the woods. I am Pan,” booms the plant. “They cast me as the Devil and are afraid of my power. My cloven hooves and randy ways are confusing to this world that wants to control everything – to dam rivers, mine veins and bludgeon trees into planks. In real life you can’t touch me in this form. But here in the Underworld you can rub against the brazenness of my stickers with impunity.”

“I won’t be filled with their diabolical torture?”

“They will spur you. Acupuncture for your dormant inner eye, the pineal gland asking to be awakened. Another re-membering of your body parts for the tasks ahead. No need for actual touch on the earth plane. An essence made in my presence will serve as a goad, a guide, a guardian. You are a Green Man yourself. Orion hunts with you, the Dog Star Sirius at his side. Chiron – the wounded healer – is calling for you. Listen….”

Turning towards a sound, Owen sees a centaur – half man, half horse – gallop towards him over the hill. Blood is dripping from scores of arrow wounds. “Heal me,” says the creature, “Heal me before they fester that I may heal others that they may heal still more.”

Owen stands baffled and overwhelmed.

“You know how.” Is it the Devil’s Club or is it Pan? It is hard to tell as they shimmer in and out of each other. “Puncture wounds will scab over but sometimes must be lanced to give the pus a vent. Call on me when you Journey and my Medicine will energetically find and open up the crusts whether they are visible scars or ancient and far under the surface. Do this for yourself and for him. You came into manhood in the war in the same era as the discovery of the asteroid Chiron in the sky. Your warrior wounds are the same.”

Reaching his hands towards the Centaur, Owen feels energy fizz back and forth between them, until the man/horse dashes off.

“You are one who shows the way, Owen.” The Devils Club speaks gently now. “With my lance and the Tarot’s Hermit lantern held high, you search out overgrown byways. You know how to lead your blindered compadres down the paths of this green world to find their wounded places, lost parts, their shadow selves. It is time now to grow into your power as a shaman. Be the Scorpion who knows when to sting and when to salve. You have done the background work. You need only open another degree to my energies. Let me in. Let me light the fires of seeing in your brain.” His voice booms again. “The coals of healing blaze in your hands. The sparks of regeneration smolder in your cock. No need to make more babies. But you do need to make magic and your cock is a fine tool for that. Your hands will touch and heal. Your cock will light fires of inspiration and healing as well.”

Owen feels his prick shrivel with the thought. This is not what he was imagining for his future. “I’m hardly a horny kid anymore….”

“Ha!” shouts Pan. “You fear. You would stay hidden. Too late for that. Rise to your potential. Fulfill the promise you made to yourself when you were born in this place!”

Owen bows his head in acquiescence and feels the sting of thousands of teeny barbs…. His hands fall off and lie twitching on the ground. His lungs gasp, his teeth rattle and his heart pounds so hard it jiggles open the door on the locked ribbed cage it lives in. Seizing its moment for freedom his coeur, his corazon jumps out of his chest into the sword ferns where it morphs into a dove who sits preening in the moonlight. “Have so many hours gone by?” and “Not a dove, it must be a band-tailed pigeon.” His rational self asserts itself for a moment. But not for long.

His penis begins to pulse and glow with a strange blue light as if electrified from within. Snakelike, it grows and grows until it passes the moon. It stretches even further until it enters VenusIsisAstarteAphroditeInanna who is sparkling voluptuously, high in the dawn of this magical place where time zigzags about as madly as his body parts. “Welcome home,” the Goddess of Love whispers happily. “It’s been ages.” She writhes and moans as he enters her labyrinth. Who knows how long they dally in delight, hearts open and connecting, until eventually millions of dancing beings spray forth from their orgasms, their energies scattering to fertilize new generations of seers and healers. Venus whoops and Owen roars in ecstasy. He is MarsJupiterScorpio Rising, gloriously alive. His legs goat-like and hoofed. His hairy chest and taut belly heaving with emotion. Mossy tendrils curl from his beard up around his face and hair. Violets cheer and lilies bow to his presence. A grouse rises up in a whirr of surprise then spins its spiral dance at his feet. Is that a wizard’s peaked cap on his head?

As he notices the hat, his energy begins to deepen and quiet. He stands tall and clear-eyed, feeling his roots in the earth while silvery energy lines curve between him and the people of his community. The ones he grew up with, the ones he’s called in. Yes, he has called them in with the help of this Tree and the Mountain. He knows that now…. His strength is in the marriage of moon and sun in this green place…. He must find the Council Fire…. and the Others….

…..He rises and starts down the hill towards town, but before he has taken more than a few steps, sleepiness blurs his sight and his intention slips beyond his conscious knowing.

He curls instead into the lap of the Grandmother Tree. His penis nestles sweetly limp on his leg like a tired child. Cooing, the dove that is also his heart pierces his chest and roosts in his left ventricle. His hands, inscribed with strange markings, inch over like worms and zip into the cuffs of the green leather shirt he now wears. His eyes are heavy with all that he has seen. Someone covers him with fern fronds and moss…. The Moon smiles from directly overhead. The Sitka whispers sweet dreams of deer nuzzling his cheeks. He sighs feeling safe again. While the Mountain….

The Mountain’s hummm becomes louder, vibrating Owen’s newly reconnected organs and body parts. He doesn’t hear it consciously himself, but his being absorbs the love and caring of the gigantic energy of this place. Somewhere deep inside he senses welcome and thanks for his work of the night and for the long years of his tenure here, as well as for his ever-growing consciousness. It isn’t entirely peaceful however. Those energetic prickers from the Devils Club are still working in his system. His body registers the spurs as if it is a horse and rider on an urgent mission. A centaur?

 

Down at the house June wakes slightly, noting the louder than usual hummmm, and turns over to dream again.

 

Cindy hears it too and wonders what is stirring. She is often aware of the Mountain’s gentle pulse though she’s never told anyone about it. Tonight it is crescendoing like it does when something big is afoot. There are almost words to it. “Wake to the call…. Sitka, Cedar and I, we need you awake…. River and Bay need you…. Raven and Eagle need you….”

Does that mean she should be doing something or is the message for another? Plural or singular “you?” She suspects with a feeling of dread that it is for all of them and that she needs to share the message. That is way too scary a thought….

 

Startled awake, Uri hears the hummm for the first time. Is it an engine starting up? A log truck downshifting on the highway? He glances at the clock. 2 am is an odd time for any of those possibilities and it is going on way too long. The Coast Guard rescue helicopter? The refrigerator? He can feel it deeply in his body now and as he settles into it he realizes the sound is coming from below him. From the earth itself. He tunes in another degree, calming his rational brain from its tentative explanations. Words begin to form in his mind. “Welcome Home…. What took you so long? Now get to work….”

“I’d better talk to someone about this. I wonder who.” He knows that Michael, snoring gently beside him, is not a good candidate for hearing about the weirder stuff. It is time to find some allies in this new place in order to bloom that side of himself. Finally connect with Ursula? He’s been putting that off. Or Cali…. Things they’d said at Harvest Fest had made his ears prick up….

 

Owen opened his eyes with the first bird chirps. Robins even this late in the season, and a flicker. A gentle rain was falling on his sleeping bag. He didn’t remember getting into it. He lay there still warm inside, feeling the glow of his connection with the tree. There had been more but he couldn’t quite recall…. A dream about…. Pan? Seems like he should take on some clients for shamanic journeying work. And maybe he’d collect the last of the rosehips and make some necklaces to sell at Bear Essentials. Was it time to make a Devils Club essence? It would surely strengthen his green self.… He felt strong and clear…. If only he could remember the wisps of the dreams teasing at the edges of his consciousness.

By the time Owen arrived back at Sitka House he was soaking wet and ready for a shower and some breakfast. He hoped that Cali or somebody had dropped off eggs. He needed the protein. As he stepped in the door, he was greeted by June at the kitchen table, sipping her tea from a delicate Limoges cup, her wispy white hair all a-tumble about her shoulders.

“I dreampt about you,” she said without preamble in her straightforward way.

“Did you now?”

“It was a Capital Letter dream. The kind that says, ‘Listen up!’ I saw you in a glade dressed all in different shades of the forest like an elderly Robin Hood, but with a strange blue light coming from your crotch. You morphed into a stag and winked at me before dashing off. It felt all merry-merry-in-the-greenwood. I followed you and found a maypole in another clearing with the ribbons woven and nobody around except for some ravens peering at me from the trees. I wondered if it was the ravens themselves who wove the ribbons or if it was some of us. Or us in raven form…. Oh and there were owls there too.”

“Did you take any meaning from the dream? It feels rather phallic for an old Lesbian like you.”

“Not for you though. What’s stirring there, Mister?”

“I did have a wild Journeying session last night up at the Grandmother Tree where I saw Pan and Devils Club in the underworld but I can’t remember what they told me except that they are linked somehow.”

“Pan. Robin Hood. Peter Pan. The green playful ones want you to join them more often. You need to be going deeper, Owen. The ravens want us to play with magic and owls call us both to see into the shadows – maybe even into death. The gates of Shamanic death anyway. And they want you to open your heart, to let the community have more access to you. No more hiding your gifts of connection and healing. I just remembered there were vines coming out of your hands, and runes. Sure signs of healing energy.”

Owen grunted, increasingly uncomfortable with the conversation. “I’ll do some journaling this morning to see if anything more comes up. If it stops raining by this afternoon I want to go back up and make an essence from the Devil’s Club root near the clearing while the moon is still full.”

June watched him leave the room, thinking there was something different about him. Some change had happened during his night in the woods that he wasn’t entirely aware of yet. He smelled intriguingly of magic and rue. Had he been dancing with the Goat Footed God himself? About time.

 

Owen at the Tree 1

Owen had never known how to describe the giant Sitka Spruce before him well up in the Logan Family Forest, across the highway from most of the houses in the north end of the community. Always he was filled with awe at the powerful presence of THIS GREAT-GREAT GRANDMOTHER OF THE FOREST. The roots and branches – even those several stories above – were themselves the size of most large trees. The ferns growing way up overhead on her thick branches were the size of a VW bug. She was like an elephant, or rather, a whole tower of elephants. Huge legs. Massive body. One could almost see her wise eyes beaming and sense her enormous beating heart…. Yet, none of these images sufficed to express the power of her physical presence. The reverence she engendered was as boggling as a giant cathedral. Her connection to All That Is…. An ancient, gigantic force….

As kids he and Gordy had climbed into those branches. He could still see the frayed ends of the ropes they’d used to pull themselves up, ropes probably strung by their father and his brothers. They had even spent the night there on occasion, but it had always been spooky somehow and by the time they were teenagers Gordy had become disinclined for that particular adventure. Owen had continued on solo for a few years but his dreams while there had become disturbing, and soon his travels away from the community meant that he too left the Sitka behind.

Since his return twenty-five years ago, he hadn’t neglected the tree entirely, but he came up rarely and not to spend the night. The Medicine Groups held ceremony here from time to time. It took at least a dozen people, hands outstretched, to reach around it. He’d also brought Robin and the Illahee children over the years, but he’d been disinclined to share the place with many. It was too special.

He wasn’t quite sure why he had chosen this particular evening, but he sensed that September’s Equinox Labyrinth had woken something in him. Ever since then he’d been feeling a strong call to journey inward, to spend a night in deep listening to the Tree and the forest as a whole.

Owen settled into a soft mossy place in the crook of the Grandmother Sitka’s mammoth roots. He could feel the tree embracing him, loving him. It was almost as if she was congratulating him on following his inclination to choose this spot on this night. “OK, I’ll take that affirmation,” he whispered.

His thoughts as he centered in were full of Daniel Giamario’s Shamanic Astrology idea Pia had talked about the other night in the Medicine Circle – how Rising Signs are what we are here to learn this time around, while Moon Signs are the expertise we bring into the world from former lives. His own Cancer Moon explained his innate ability to care for others, his mothering of Robin after his wife’s death, and even his strong on-going connection at Illahee, both to the group as a whole and to the some of the needier children there. It was so easy for him to reach them through nature. Kids that were having trouble reading, especially those coming discouraged from other schools, thrived when Illahee got them out in the woods. Finding a newt or an animal skull could spur an interest in looking it up and it didn’t take much nudging for a drawing and eventually a little writing about it…. He knew he was also inclined to be something of a worrying mother hen. Maybe that was the shadow side of his Cancerian expertise. His Libra Sun gave him balance, but he could get fretful especially about details and young people.

His mind’s eye flickered over times when he’d been overly fussy about the children’s safety. It was hard to listen to Celeste’s sage advice that huge learning leaps often occurred right after a kid had climbed high in a tree or scaled a rocky incline. It seemed that mastering a physical challenge often meant immediate advancement of an elusive academic skill. Brain-mind connections. Somatic learning. Illogically, he still fretted even knowing his own and his brother’s tree born adventures, perhaps because of those escapades.

His Scorpio rising sign was intimidating. A wizard? He didn’t think so. Although lately the Green Man archetype had been moving him almost to tears. Green Man. Pan. That wild ultra-masculine forest being, the uncontrollable aspects of Nature – floods, typhoons, lightening-set fires. Spring growth. Procreation. Rampant sex.

Owen grinned. It was hard to imagine that part of himself going wild. What would a goatish rampage look like in a sensitive widower tuned into children and plants? Unpartnered too. No easy outlet there. He’d certainly never felt like casual encounters. Was there somebody to play Green Woman to his Green Man self? Goldberry to his Tom Bombadil? For a minute he wallowed in a longing he rarely admitted to himself. He loved Tolkien’s image of the cozy, wooded cottage and imagined a Northwest American version with Tom’s magical appearances here and there to spur the furious growth of a coastal spring and summer – blackberries and Old-Man-in-the-Ground, those vine beings that curled relentlessly, reaching for sun and nutrients. Butterflies. Bees. Pollen. Sex.

Yet right now was the opposite season. The dying back. At sixty-four, his life matched this October season. He listened to a couple of raccoons chittering in the distance, almost a quarrel, but not quite. The bats swooped low. The full moon was hidden at the moment but its silvery light gave an eeriness to the density of the forest. Suddenly he felt a little spooked. All alone in the woods…. on the Mountain…. He could almost hear a hummm, a low throb of the life within the Mountain. He’d forgotten about that pulse. Hadn’t heard it for a while….

He opened the thermos of tea he’d packed. Chamomile, catnip and salal from his garden to ground and calm, with a pinch of lobelia to heighten his sense of adventure, but also to help with any lingering PTSD upwellings. He’d tossed some motherwort in too – its scientific name, Leonuris cardiaca, lionhearted, speaking to courage in transitions which is what he was really asking for. His Libra self liked the balance of all those opposites. An aventurine stone was in his coat pocket. He used to think it was “adventurine” with a “d” but had recently learned that it was about growth, especially opening and clearing the heart chakra which he figured also means it’s about courage for making shifts. “Coeur” meaning “heart” in French.

Leaning back he settled the orange and brown Peruvian woven wool blankets he’d brought a little more comfortably behind and under him, his thoughts drifting to more prosaic topics. His upcoming conversation with Gordy about finances was sure to be unpleasant. An article to be written for the Conservancy Trust newsletter about making peace with invasive species. His nagging question about the importance of Devil’s Club…. He looked towards the stand of Devil’s Club he knew was just outside this clearing, but it was now too dark to distinguish one plant from another. This would be a good place to Journey with it….

Held in the arms of the Great Grandmother Sitka, he mused about all the people who had come into his life since his boyhood days in Mahonia and Nekelew. He had been lonely then for others who loved this place in the way he did. So many of his growing up peers either lived here without noticing or had been set on moving away. He had left too….

The Vietnam War had been calling as he graduated from Nekelew High School and going had seemed the right thing to do. For sure he didn’t have any other options lined up for himself. He wasn’t exactly the studious type. Nor wanting to learn a trade…. The War. Now there was a topic he didn’t want to think about. These home woods were so different from the tortured jungles around Duc Pho.

On the other hand, his visit to the Amazon Basin a few years ago had been all too similar a landscape. The sensory overlap of sound and smells of the two jungles had given him flashbacks of terror in the midst of learning about traditional healing plants on Peru’s Madre de Dios River, making it a truly heroic shamanic dismemberment journey. It had felt like a blowing asunder of his body parts like his recurring flashbacks of others’ deaths and dismemberments. However, the vision medicines had shown him some clear distinctions of time and place that allowed him to make peace with the differing energies. The war was then. The medicine plants were so very NOW. The war and its aftermath had tempered rather than broken him. He had been lucky – neither physically wounded, nor so psychologically scarred that he had fallen into debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Alcohol had been an issue, as had pot. But thanks to his higher powers for AA, he was now clear of those substances. He knew they could be sacraments, but he had overused them and they had taken over for a while. Drinking and smoking too much had worked to drown out the shrieking demons haunting him from the Asian jungle but he knew he had become too deadened to be useful to this world and his deep connection here in the temperate Oregon rainforest.

The people now in his life had shown him the possibilities of a spiritual pursuit and after the Amazon he had studied far afield with different teachers to learn about the sacred inward paths with no further need of outside hallucinogenic infusion…. Thus his thoughts led to the typical drumbeat for shamanic journeying and he began to hear it in his head….