“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…”
“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…..