The sunset glowed through the virgin forest surrounding the Bear Claw First Nation Reservation in Alberta, Canada. The tribe members lounged around a bonfire while the children entertained themselves by burning sticks. Some of the men stood outside the circle drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.
John, a spirited young man with long hair, carried an armload of logs to the fire. He shooed away the children before placing the wood on top of the burning embers. Sparks shot into the air. He used a stick to prod the logs until the flames grew bolder, dazzling the little ones who drew closer once more.
A boy, Hoki, stepped away from the blaze, going over to Tom Running Deer, a headstrong man in his mid-thirties who sat beside his equally headstrong wife, Cecile Two Feathers. The boy tugged on Tom’s t-shirt, which had the words “The Original Founding Fathers” printed above an illustration of four Native American chiefs.
The man set down his beer. “Yes?”
“Uncle, tell us a story,” Hoki requested, his big brown eyes hopeful.
Tom shook his head. “No, not me. Grandmother Hausis is the storyteller.”
An old woman stopped chatting with the woman beside her, and called out, “What!? Did I hear my name?”
Tom explained, talking louder than normal, “Grandmother! Hoki wants a story! Would you do it!?”
When the other children heard the request, they aptly followed the conversation. They loved to listen to the stories.
“What does he want to hear?” she asked.
Hoki pointed at the sky. “Tell me about those.”
Everyone gazed up at the hazy opalescent plane trails that marred the darkening sky, tinged with orange as the sun left for the day.
“Those things?” The old woman shook her head. She knew the tribe had no ancient stories of this modern-day phenomenon. “Nay, why don’t you do it, Tommy?”
Hoki and the other kids refocused their eager energy on to Tom.
Cecile patted her husband on the back, smiling. “Yeah, let’s hear it, big guy.”
He cleared his throat while racking his brain. “Ah…give me a minute.”
The children settled in the dirt in front of him.
Tom tried to remain optimistic for the young ones, but, deep inside, he was somber. He had done his best to ignore the plane trails all day long because their presence meant the Earth Sentinels’ agreement with the world’s governments had been violated, and that knowledge was too bitter of a pill to swallow after five years of good medicine.
The fire sizzled and snapped. Everyone grew quiet, waiting for the story to begin.
Tom cleared his throat. “There are prophecies from another tribe that speak of the end of days. One says, ‘near the Time of Purification, there will be spider webs spun in the sky.’”
The children’s eyes grew big.
A girl pointed at the misty plane trails, asking with a slight lisp because her front baby teeth were missing, “But…how’d they get there?”
Tom was at a loss for words. He didn’t want to ruin the mood of the gathering by explaining, in the past, the government had sprayed chemicals into the atmosphere for unverified reasons. Geo-engineering, such as cloud seeding, was one possibility. He had also read the sprays might contain particles that reflect the sun to counteract global warming. However, because of the secrecy, he suspected something more sinister was afoot. Not wanting to disappoint them, he improvised, “Once upon a time, there was a giant spider that spun webs to keep the stars from floating away.”
His opening line captivated the children. Some of the adults chuckled because they knew he was crafting the tale from scratch.
“Whenever a strand was weak, the spider would climb up to fix it, keeping every star in place. And, because of her efforts, everything was good and balanced. But one night, the spider slept too long, and one of the strings broke, letting a star hurl through space.” Tom pretended to fling a star.
The children envisioned it flying away, lost in the cosmos.
“The hole needed to be filled, so the Giant Spider went after it, hoping to catch the star and bring it back.” Tom moved his fingers like a spider scurrying through space. “But while she was gone, another spider snuck in through the hole.
“Now this new spider was not like the other one. It thought only of itself, and weaved a web across the hole to keep the Giant Spider from returning. And that—” Tom pointed at the plane trails in the sky, “is the Sneaky Spider’s web.”
Hoki asked, “How will the Giant Spider get back?”
“When she returns with the missing star, its heat will burn up the Sneaky Spider and its sticky web. And after the star is in place, the world will become balanced once more.”
“Is the Giant Spider coming back soon?”
“I hope so.”
A steady downpour hit the roof of the shack where Tom and Cecile slept. The clock on the nightstand read 7:04 a.m. The dreamcatcher hanging on the wall above the bed served as the headboard. The sound of rain prodded Cecile awake. She immediately noticed the aches in her body and throbbing head. She wondered how a sickness could come on so quickly. She looked over at her husband. His face was flushed. Concerned, she touched his forehead with the back of her hand. Feverish.
Tom opened his bloodshot eyes.
Cecile gasped. “Tom! Your eyes—” She didn’t finish her sentence. A sudden urge to vomit came over her.
She tossed the covers off herself, rushing out of the bedroom, past the frayed green chair in the living room sitting under the rain-spattered window. By the time she made it to the bathroom threshold, she was lightheaded and forced to hold onto the doorframe to steady herself. What is wrong with me? She reached for the sink counter, making her way to the toilet. She sunk to her knees, placing her head over the bowl, throwing up.
Tom unsteadily entered the bathroom to check on her. “You okay?”
She shook her head.
“Me, neither. Damn, I feel—” He unexpectedly gagged. He motioned for Cecile to move out of the way. She sat back as Tom kneeled over the bowl, every muscle in his body contracting as he retched. Dizzy, he fell to the vinyl floor, lying face down and moaning.
“Tom!” She pulled on his shoulder, attempting to turn him over, but his moans echoed through her mind.
The room spun.
Cecile became disoriented.
Everything went black.
The makeshift infirmary in the tribe’s community center was divided in half by a waist-high barrier created out of blankets and sheets draped over chairs spaced evenly apart. The temporary wall offered a slice of privacy for the sick people lying on the floor. Men were on one side and women on the other of the unlit room. Most of them slept. A few moaned because of their aches and pain. All had blotches that resembled bruises covering their bodies.
Adeelah, a junior in the reservation’s high school, walked around the room to see who needed her assistance while holding a pitcher of water in one hand and a few empty mugs in the other. The girl looked much healthier than her older “patients”. The blotches on her skin were almost indiscernible.
She noticed Cecile was awake for the first time, and sidestepped the others to check on her. She kneeled beside Cecile, setting her pitcher down to check her forehead, saying, “You’re better, but you should drink something.” Adeelah poured water into a mug, holding it against the woman’s dry lips, telling her, “Just so you know, Tom’s here and he’s doing fine. He’s on the other side.”
Cecile pulled her mouth away from the mug. “Can I see him?” She tried to get up, but became woozy.
Adeelah helped her to lie back down. “You should rest. Okay? Don’t worry, you’ll both be fine.”
With her bloodshot eyes, Cecile examined Adeelah’s face, trying to detect if the temporary nurse was lying, but she found it too hard to focus. She was simply too tired and weak. Her eyelids drooped.
Adeelah set the half-empty mug next to the sick woman’s pillow. “Let me know if you need anything else,” she said, then walked away. There were others that needed her help.
Left alone, Cecile groggily noticed the teenagers were the only ones taking care of the others. She wondered, Where’s Grandmother Hausis? The elders? The children? But she didn’t have the strength to ask, and maybe didn’t want to know.
Cecile fell asleep, dreaming she was walking down a red road. The sides were lined with arching trees dotted with pink blossoms. Crows flew overhead. The fiery ball in the sky was touching the horizon. Each of her footsteps became heavier than the last, and just when she thought she couldn’t go any farther, a stag stepped out from behind the trees, standing in the middle of the road. The sunset silhouetted its strong form and magnificent set of antlers.
The totem animal had a message for her. “This will be your most difficult lesson, but you will find the strength, wisdom and courage to do that which must be done.”
The stag became waves of light, swirling around Cecile, joining with her spirit before the woman drifted deeper into her dreams.
High in the misty foothills of the Ōu Mountains in Japan, built on the grounds of an ancient temple, stood a one-room curator’s house that had been crafted out of stones excavated from the mountainside. A 200-year-old rose bush clung to its southern wall, dotting the stonework with thorny canes and yellow blossoms.
Inside the dwelling, the morning sunlight peeked through a gap in the faded cotton curtains, the warm rays falling over the futon where a man and woman lay together. The man, a Native American named Billy White Smoke, had made his living by working construction and odd jobs back in the States until he ventured across the ocean to find the woman beside him. Her name was Haruto. She was an Earth Sentinel, like Billy, but also a Miko like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before her—a tradition dating back thousands of years to when female shamans mingled with Japan’s ruling class, acting as healers, mediums and ritual dancers. Her flowing black hair, tinged with a few grays, was sprawled across the pillow. Billy held her close, kissing her forehead before rubbing her pregnant belly with his calloused hand.
Haruto wistfully said, “I wish this moment could last forever.”
His deep voice tenderly responded, “But then the baby would never come.”
“Still think it’s a girl?”
“We’ll have to think of a name for her. Maybe your mother’s?”
Billy hesitated, then said, “I was thinking, before the baby comes, we could get married.” He waited for her response.
Haruto frowned. “We’ve talked about this before.”
He turned away, lying on his back, clasping his hands behind his head, trying to remain calm.
She said, “We are in love and have a baby on the way. I don’t understand why that’s not enough for you.”
Billy answered louder than he intended, “Because I’ve traveled around the world to be with you!” He immediately regretted raising his voice. “I just thought you’d meet me halfway.”
“You know I want to be with you forever, but—”
“I just thought that you, of all people, would appreciate not conforming to society’s expectations. To its patriarchal controls—”
“God knows, no man would ever control you.”
Haruto shrugged. There was some truth to his words. “We can talk later, but, right now, I have to get ready for an appointment.”
Billy wasn’t happy at where the conversation ended, but he was old enough to know you have to pick your battles, so he said, “Fine, I’ll walk with you.” He flung the duvet off himself, getting out of bed to rifle through his clothes piled on top of the dresser, putting on a pair of work jeans and a black t-shirt. He snatched his black-brimmed hat decorated with silver conchos and turquoise from a peg on the wall, placing it on his head, adjusting it to make sure the tilt was just right.
Haruto grabbed her scarlet-colored silk pants off the chair in the corner, pulling them on, wrapping the ties around her protruding stomach. She looked forward to this small act every morning. It helped her to measure the baby’s growth as the pant ties seemed to become shorter and shorter with each passing day. She let the white silk blouse fall over her head, sliding her arms through the draping sleeves, leaving the hem untucked so it would fit over her rounded belly.
Ready to face the world, the couple stepped out of the house. They strolled along one of the stone paths that meandered through the meditation garden filled with bonsai, cherry, apple and pear trees; lavender; wisteria; and cultivated roses.
As they walked, Billy admired the view until he noticed several overhead planes leaving iridescent trails in the sky, hatch-marking the atmosphere. He stopped walking, and cursed, “God, damn it! I thought we were done with that shit!”
Startled, Haruto glanced back at him, then followed his gaze, solemnly noting the unusual plane trails. “Was it all for nothing?” she questioned.
“Maybe. Maybe it was a fool’s journey to even try.”
Discouraged, she let out a deep sigh before offering Billy the only advice she could think of, “Just let it go…”
He gave her a reluctant smile.
Haruto stretched out her hand, opening Billy’s clenched fist, slipping her fingers between his, leading him through the garden toward the temple. “Everything looks wonderful,” she complimented him, hoping to brighten his mood.
“Thanks. It’s coming along.” Billy was being modest. He had transformed the neglected garden into a thing of beauty by reinvigorating the trees, resetting the stone paths, and patching the numerous steps that had become hazardous. His favorite improvement was the addition of the medicinal herbs planted throughout the grounds, which introduced an element of untamed wildness and balanced the vibrational qualities of the landscape.
They moved toward the ancient temple at the forefront of the property. The three-story structure sat on top of a foothill overlooking the road below. It had originally been built for Buddhist monks, who had abandoned the place due to a lack of parishioners and dwindling financial support. Its distinct gabled roof was a combination of Chinese and Japanese architectural styles, which, at one time, were used exclusively for those in power.
The couple stopped at the rear of the temple. Here, steps led to an expansive landing that supported a wooden pergola holding an enormous bell—seldom rung these days.
Haruto faced Billy. “See you tonight,” she said, standing on her tiptoes to give him a quick peck on the lips.
Two Mikos, who happened to be strolling along a nearby path, gave them disapproving glances.
Most of the women here had not adapted to Billy residing on the grounds, despite the passing years. Men traditionally weren’t allowed to live with Mikos. But in Billy’s case an exception had been made, allowing him to dwell in the curator’s house in exchange for his gardening and maintenance services. This exception spoke of Haruto’s status—one that had risen considerably after her participation in the Earth Sentinels’ group.
Billy ignored the other women’s disparaging looks, tipping his hat to Haruto. “See you tonight.”
She went inside the temple, passing through the foyer and bypassing the stone staircase that led to the upper floors. Haruto entered the common area where a few Mikos mingled with the city dwellers, who wore workout clothes and held rolled mats while they waited for the yoga class to begin in the Great Hall. A plastic banner with the words “Sign Up for Yoga Classes” hung above the fireplace mantle, but it seemed out of place in this age-old building. On a narrow table, pressed against the wall, were jars of honey for sale.
“Haruto!” a young Miko called out, gracefully moving toward her. “A priest is here. Should I send him to you?”
“Yes, please.” Haruto always enjoyed a visit from the local Geki—the male version of their sect.
But her anticipation was squashed when a young Catholic priest strolled around the corner. The Japanese man wore the traditional black robe and white collar, and held a Bible in his hand. The gold crucifix hanging from his neck was centered over his heart. His eyes glanced at Haruto’s pregnant belly. If he held any judgments, he concealed them well.
The priest bowed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Haruto hid her displeasure at what she considered to be an intrusion, mostly because she assumed he was here to convert her as so many others had tried before. She politely bowed. “The pleasure is mine. How may I help you?” Being polite was the Japanese, and Miko, way.
“I wish to introduce myself. I’m Father Chong from Saint Agatha Lin’s church located downtown. I’m reaching out to the community, and would like to personally invite you and the others to attend our mass on Sundays.”
“Oh…” slipped off Haruto’s tongue before she caught herself, and tactfully responded, “I’m flattered you came all this way, but you see, I’m quite content with my path.”
“I do see, and your dedication is commendable, however, sometimes people are looking for…something else.”
Haruto was offended by his implication that her path was somehow inferior to his, but she chose to overlook it, saying, “I am familiar with Catholicism. I, like the others here, have studied many different religions and beliefs. It helps us to better understand those who come to us for spiritual guidance and healing, so I’m quite sure your religion is not for me.”
“Yes, I also am familiar with the Miko tradition,” countered Father Chong who, after glancing at her bulging stomach, mentioned, “but I wasn’t aware Mikos were allowed to marry.” His words were meant to demonstrate his knowledge of their traditions, not insult her.
Because Haruto believed the priest had inquired sincerely, she answered, “We are allowed to marry, but, if we do so, our status changes to that of priestess.”
“Oh…so you’re a priestess?”
“No, I’m not married.”
The priest was not sure how to respond.
To fill the awkward silence, Haruto said, “I have an upcoming appointment I need to prepare for. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Well, again, I welcome you, or any of the others here, to attend our mass, or visit, or call me personally if you have any questions regarding our faith.” He opened the cover to the Bible he carried. “If you change your mind, here’s our church address…” He pointed to the first interior page, then offered her the book. “Please take this. It’s my gift to you. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to return again, and perhaps catch you at a better time.”
Haruto graciously accepted the Bible. “Thank you.” She moved toward the entrance, encouraging him to walk beside her. As they passed by the table displaying the honey, she picked up a jar, handing it to him. “My gift to you.” This token offering allowed her to feel she had repaid Father Chong for the Bible, and thereby released herself from all obligations to meet with him again.
However, her action gave the priest a very different perception. He thought perhaps she was having a change of heart, and was pleased by the parting gift. “Thank you. Honey is one of my favorite treats.” He had touched on a topic they could both agree on.
She responded, “One of our Mikos loves taking care of the bees. And the taste is quite delicious, mostly because the pollen comes from our garden. There are roses and jasmine, cherry blossoms, lavender and honeysuckle.”
Father Chong salivated at the thought of eating the artisan honey later. “Nothing better than fine honey. Thank you, again, um…I don’t believe I got your name.”
“It’s Haruto.” She politely bowed.
Later that evening, dark storm clouds gathered in the sky. The wind howled through the trees, forcing the limbs to dance manically.
Haruto and Billy were having dinner inside the curator’s house. They sat at the small table next to the window whose handcrafted glass panes had been rippled by time. Candles lit the room.
She quietly chewed her food.
He wondered if she was still upset about their disagreement from earlier that morning. “Is something wrong?”
Haruto wiped her mouth. “I had a visitor today. A Catholic priest.”
A forlorn look came over Billy’s face. He set down his fork. “Really? What did he want?”
“To save me.” She stabbed at her food. “I know he meant well, but it was…umm…”
Billy solemnly said, “The white man came and killed our people, took our land, then took our children—beating them with one hand while holding a Bible in the other, trying to make them believe in his loving God. I have no taste for their medicine.”
“But he’s Japanese.”
Billy shrugged. “Same Bible.”
A gust of wind rattled the window. The candles on the table flickered.
Outside, the mounting storm tore leaves and twigs from their branches, hurling them through the air.
A barn owl crash-landed on the windowsill. Its golden-rufous breast thumped against the glass.
Haruto gasped, startled by the bird’s sudden appearance.
Unharmed, the owl righted itself, struggling to maintain its perch as the wind ruffled its plumage. The bird of prey focused its eyes on Haruto, who felt honored. Owls were considered bearers of good luck in Japan.
Billy did not have the same reaction. In his Native American culture, an owl was an omen of an impending death or tragedy. He felt a strong desire to stand between his lover and the night hunter’s line of sight, even as he knew he couldn’t save her from the harbinger’s premonition.
The downpour pelted the bird as it stared at Haruto through the rain-streaked window. Its strange unrelenting gaze caused an unexpected fear to arise within her.
Lightning ripped through the turbulent sky. Thunder exploded.
The barn owl screeched, then flew away, disappearing into the ominous darkness, leaving the man and woman with a sense of dread they couldn’t quite name.
“There are no accidents…there is only some purpose that we haven’t yet understood.” — Deepak Chopra
I was cleaning up after a workshop that I had hosted. The sangria punch had been a hit, and I was putting the glasses in the sink when the phone rang.
I walked over to the phone, but I didn’t recognize the area code and let it ring. A minute later, the phone beeped with a voice message. It was my brother asking me to call him back. Since he seldom called me, much less at 10:15 p.m., I knew it would be bad news.
I dialed the number on the caller I.D. A woman answered. I asked to speak to my brother. A moment later he answered in a wavering voice that caused my heart to sink. “Mom’s been in an accident.” He paused as he gathered himself. “It was really bad…she didn’t make it.”
How do you comprehend news that doesn’t make sense? I had talked with my mother the day before, and she spoke of her plans when she retired in a few months. She recently had begun taking violin lessons and was looking forward to playing a duet with my son when we came home for Thanksgiving. She was taking acting classes and had performed in a play over the summer. When I mentioned I would be sending her the first draft of this book later that day, she squealed with delight and said she was looking forward to reading it. But now she was gone. I began to cry and after waiting a moment, my brother continued, “She was riding a bicycle when a car hit her. The officer at the scene said she was killed instantly.”
This was a bad dream! My mother was so healthy that everyone believed she would outlive us all. The summer before she had built a block retaining wall in her garden by hauling blocks in a wheelbarrow and stacking them herself. Her efforts were rewarded when her garden was selected to be in the town’s home garden tour.
Now all of our lives had been altered. With tears in my eyes, I told my brother I would be there the next day and hung up the phone.
I stood in the kitchen staring through the window into the night. Never had I felt so alone. I delayed walking up the stairs to tell my husband. Somehow by not repeating it, she was still alive. Finally I proceeded to our bedroom. I stood over him as he slept, tempted to let him sleep through the night, but I couldn’t keep it inside any longer. I tugged on his arm until he woke up.
He turned his head and looked at me, asking, “What’s wrong?”
“My mom died.”
“She was riding a bike and was hit by a car.”
I turned and walked toward the phone in my office to call my sister. She answered after a few rings.
“Sharon? Are you home?”
“Yeah, why? Is something wrong?”
I told her of mom’s passing. She began to wail and scream. I waited until she finally calmed down, telling her I would see her tomorrow.
My husband and I decided to drive through the night. We picked up our kids, who were each spending the night with a friend, packed our clothes, loaded the dogs and cat in the van, and started toward Michigan after midnight.
I sobbed continuously as we drove through the night. We stopped for two hours and slept in a parking lot—checking into a hotel would have wasted too much precious time. I needed to be with my family as soon as possible.
As we drove there was a tightness in my chest that was so intense I could barely breathe. I truly did not know that grief could cause such severe physical pain.
We arrived in the afternoon, in time to eat dinner with the immediate family at my brother’s home. Afterward, we felt compelled to visit our mother’s house and choose what she would wear for the funeral. On the way to her house, we passed the accident scene. My brother slowed down, asking if I wanted to see it. I felt my chest tighten even more, but said, “Yes.”
Fluorescent orange, spray-painted marks covered the road and adjacent grassy slope. Each one marked relevant evidence of the collision…a piece of a headlight here and a side-view mirror there. A circle painted around a gouge in the asphalt pavement indicated the point of impact. My brother explained the markings and finally pointed to the spot on the grassy slope where our mother had landed after being thrown from the impact. Orange letters indicated the position of her head, body and legs. How do you deal with something like this?
I crouched down and touched the grass. Anger burst forth and I thought, Why did you leave me, mom!?
Monday morning was a surreal dream of going to a funeral home to choose our mother’s casket and plan her funeral. I kept thinking I would wake up soon and that somehow, if we all held hands and clicked our heels, things would return to normal. But the nightmare continued.
Tuesday morning, I sat on the guest bed in my in-laws’ attic watching the sun filter through a window, wondering why I could feel my mother’s love surrounding me like an energetic blanket radiating to the center of my soul. Her presence offered a complete immersion of love and comfort. Yet this abundance of love was strange, because when my mother was alive, I would occasionally question if she loved me at all.
I thought to myself, Why do I know that my mother loves me now without a doubt when I wasn’t sure when she was alive?
A small voice came to me and whispered, “It’s a gift.”
I cried. It was a gift to feel my mother’s love so perfectly. It was an indescribable comfort.
After I showered and ate lunch with my husband, we went to my mother’s workplace to meet with the HR director at the state department where my mother had worked for 32 years. My sister met us there.
The HR director offered her sympathies and said that our mother’s passing had a huge impact on the entire department. The State of Michigan had just offered a retirement buyout the previous week, which our mother and many others had accepted. Most set their retirement date for the end of the year. However, the HR director said two people had come into her office that morning to change their dates and retire immediately—life was too short!
She then got to the business at hand. We were told that our mother’s accounts would be divided equally among her children, then the HR director mentioned that the pension would be given solely to my sister. Immediately I resented that my sister was given the entire pension, but I didn’t want to feel this way!
After the meeting, we were taken to our mother’s cubicle to clean it out. I was emotionally distant from my sister as we emptied the drawers. I kept battling the resentment that stabbed at me by repeatedly asking the Spirit to take this thought from me.
Suddenly my mother’s spirit descended over me. Her presence completely surrounded me and her vision became mine. Through her eyes, the whole world glowed with love while beams of light radiated from my sister. My mother’s memories filled my consciousness, and I could see my sister as the little girl, the teenager, and the young woman she had raised. My mother saw her as an innocent daughter, who would be taken care of with the pension she had inherited. I felt the comfort that it gave my mother and the love she had for my sister. Immediately all resentment left me. I knew my mother had given the pension out of love, and as I experienced that love, it became impossible for me to feel anything else.
Then my mother was gone.
I realized that my mother had sent me two beautiful gifts after her passing. First, she comforted me with the knowledge of her undying love, then she immersed her spirit with mine, and, for a brief moment, I saw my sister through her vision of all-encompassing love, which healed my heart.
Love is perfect and never dies. My mother reminded me of this basic truth.
Message from the Spirit
Your mother’s love came when you needed it most. She thought only of her love for her children, family and friends. She highly regarded her life, accomplishments, and even things left undone.
Things left undone seem to be the hardest part of letting go…yet those were the lessons that did not need to be learned. Look at those as accomplishments.
The day the world changed forever seemed like an ordinary day in the heart of the Amazon jungle where a handful of tribesmen fished along the shore of the mossy-green river.
Takwa, the tribe’s best hunter, brought a gourd to his mouth, taking a long guzzle of the fermented brew, chicha, contained within. The colorful feathers in his hair hung back. Red-and-black lines were painted on his bare chest and arms. After quenching his thirst, he let out a satisfied sigh, passing the gourd to the man next to him. It was then that Takwa looked to the sky. A passenger plane flew high overhead, leaving behind an iridescent exhaust trail. He pointed at it. “Look!”
All of the tribesmen stared at the strange flying beast. They didn’t often see an airliner this far from civilization.
Standing among them was a young man named Zachary, who was notably different from the others—tall and lanky with sandy-blond hair, and fair skin that was perpetually sunburned. He had no painted lines on his body, and instead of a loincloth, he wore cut-off jeans and a ragged t-shirt with a Pittsburgh Steelers logo on it. He put his hand to his forehead to shield his green eyes from the sun as he gazed at the plane. He frowned because he knew the exhaust fumes weren’t normal. The pearly sheen of the far-reaching trail made it obvious that something was amiss—at least to him.
Farther from the shore, wandering alone through the scrub was the tribe’s shaman, Pahtia, an older man with gray hair who was searching for the herb Pau D’arco, which, when found, would be cut and dried, and then used at a later date as a remedy for warding off infections. He stopped his quest when he noticed his fellow tribesmen staring at the sky. Curious, Pahtia hobbled through the underbrush, making his way to the riverbank where the jungle canopy gave way to the open skies. He stood behind the other men, leaning on his staff while studying the plane’s exhaust trail that reflected the colors of the rainbow. He muttered, “Bad omen.”
Zachary overheard his father-in-law’s comment and felt he was right, but, at that moment, a fish nibbled on his bait. The young man jerked on the line, swiftly sinking the hook into the mouth of an impressive-sized Pacu—one of the best-tasting fish in the Amazon. The fish fought for its life, wriggling out of the water, shimmering in the sunlight before plunging back into the depths.
The other men salivated at the thought of roasting the delicious Pacu, wrapped in banana leaves, over an open fire.
“Careful!” one of the men shouted.
“Not too fast,” another advised.
Takwa tried to steal the line from Zachary’s hand. “Let me do it.” But Zachary resisted. It was his fish. Takwa gave up, but stood nearby, disgruntled.
The Pacu flipped and flopped, desperate to free itself, causing the line to spin off the stick that served as the fishing pole. Zachary rewound the line, trying to exhaust the fish. His amateurish technique frustrated the other men.
The stakes were raised when a fourteen-foot Black Caiman noticed the commotion. The prehistoric creature slid into the river, gliding toward an easy meal. Although caimans, like alligators and crocodiles, were not usually a threat to grown men, preferring smaller game and fish, one could never be too careful, so Zachary kept an eye on the encroaching beast as well as his fish.
No longer a passive bystander, Pahtia warned his son-in-law, “Hurry up! Or you will lose it!”
Sweat ran down Zachary’s forehead. Too fast. Too slow. He tightened the line.
The caiman swished its tail more vigorously, closing the gap, its primordial eyes and ridged spine cutting through the rippling waters. Then the reptile submerged.
The tribesmen knew the caiman would attack from below.
“Pull!” yelled Pahtia.
Zachary yanked the line, causing it to cut into his fingers. The fish flew into the air, bounding toward the shore. Everyone’s eyes followed the glistening Pacu. The line slackened as it soared. And as it did, Zachary envisioned himself being the one to bring in the prize catch of the day. However, his dreams of grandeur died a quick death when the caiman lunged out of the water, opening its tooth-riddled jaws, consuming the entire fish and cutting the line before splashing back into the river.
The men groaned.
“You will never fit in,” Takwa said.
Pahtia sighed and shook his head, but then he noticed the blood running down Zachary’s fingers. The healer knew the cut could fester in this hot humid rainforest, easily turning into a life-threatening infection. Not wanting his daughter’s scorn, he reluctantly offered to help the young man. “Come with me.”
Zachary hung his head low with indignation. He hated relying on Pahtia for anything, but it was better than staying here among the other men. Takwa’s contempt was obvious even with his back toward him.
Pahtia shuffled along, his staff steadying his gait as he led Zachary down a narrow path that meandered through dense foliage, tangled vines and ancient trees, heading toward his hut on the outskirts of the village. Few tribe members visited the shaman there. Most only came to see him when they were sick or needed guidance. His powers scared them a bit. After all, if he had the power to heal, didn’t he also have the power to make them sick? Or worse? But this arrangement suited Pahtia just fine. He was happiest away from the others. He liked being undisturbed while hunting for herbs or journeying to the spirit realm. He knew that one could only clearly hear the spirits’ voices when the mind was quiet.
As the two of them neared their destination, a flock of blue-headed parrots scattered. From an overhead branch, a toucan studied them, its observant button eyes peering past its enormous black-tipped orange beak. Squirrel monkeys, hidden in the trees, hooted.
The shaman’s thatched-roof hut came into view. Its walls were made out of bamboo slats spaced evenly apart. The gaps let the breezes flow through. They also allowed Pahtia to detect if anyone was approaching, yet still gave him some measure of privacy. Inside, dried wild flowers, roots and herbs were tacked to the walls while others hung from the ceiling. Some fresh gatherings were spread across the worktable.
Pahtia instructed Zachary to sit near the ash-filled fire pit, then walked to the back of the hut where he rummaged through his assorted botanicals, selecting a few leaves and roots, placing them in a stone bowl. He added a splash of chicha, then began grinding the ingredients together.
Meanwhile, Zachary sat staring out the doorway, thinking about the ill-boding plane trail. “Pahtia?”
The old man stopped mixing, looking up. Deep creases surrounded his eyes.
“Why don’t we visit Bechard and ask him about the plane?” Zachary asked.
“Never again! That spirit tricked us.”
“He meant well.”
Pahtia shook his head. “He holds a darkness in his heart.” He tapped his chest to emphasize his point.
With a touch of irritation, he answered, “Yes?”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about the plane.”
“I know.” The shaman walked toward Zachary carrying the stone bowl. He sat down to finish mixing the compound.
“What should we do?”
“I am not sure. I will visit Maka later. She always has good advice.” Pahtia was referring to his spirit guide, who helped him with healings, divination and guidance on physical, mental and spiritual matters. The man gathered a clump of the smelly herbal remedy with his gnarled fingers. “This will go on your wound to keep it from getting infected so Conchita will not be mad at me.” He added, “You can die from infection, you know.”
Zachary sighed. “Yes, I know.” He hated being treated like a complete idiot.
Pahtia shaped the clump into a ball, casually mentioning, “When I die, I will shapeshift into a great caiman.” His eyes gleamed as he imagined reincarnating as this noble beast. “Maybe next time, I will take your fish.” He let out a rare chuckle, annoying his son-in-law, and then hummed while applying the fresh salve to the young man’s injured fingers.
Too embarrassed to return to the river, Zachary went home to his wife, Conchita, who stood in their hut cradling their infant son. Her long black hair hung over her face as she gazed down at the baby while singing a traditional lullaby. The moment Zachary saw them, he forgot all about the failed fishing incident.
Conchita smiled at her husband, but her joy quickly faded when she noticed his hand was bandaged with leaves and bamboo twine. She asked with concern, “What happened?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” he answered, wanting to forget the whole thing.
“Let me see it.”
He reluctantly held out his injured hand for inspection by the shaman’s daughter.
She balanced the baby on her hip, then used her free hand to examine the patch job, sniffing to detect which herbs had been used, flipping his hand over to study the other side, finally conceding, “Father did a good job.”
“Yes, he did.” Zachary glanced around the hut. “Where’s Eva?”
“Outside. See.” Conchita pointed out the doorway at the sunlit center of the village where the young children were having fun with a Capuchin monkey, which jumped from one child’s shoulder to the next, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can. Four-year-old Eva ran toward the scampering rascal with her hands outstretched, only to have the monkey leap over her sun-bleached curls, landing on top of another child’s shoulder. The children squealed with delight.
Zachary laughed at their antics until he glanced up at the sky. Remnants of the shimmering plane trail still lingered.
Conchita noticed his troubled expression. “What is wrong?”
Zachary decided to shake off his worries. After all, what could he do about the plane trail? So instead of answering, he smiled, brushing his wife’s long hair away from her face, kissing her neck, softly saying, “Nothing’s wrong. Sit with me.” He sat down on the palm leaves that covered the floor, patting them with his uninjured hand to encourage her to join him. Conchita handed Zachary the baby, then settled beside him, giving her son a quick peck on the forehead to assure him that she was still nearby. The infant gurgled with elation.
It was times like these that caused Zachary to remember why he had come here.
During the night, Pahtia hobbled through the rainforest using his staff to steady his steps. In his other hand, he held a burning torch to light the way. The moon and stars were hidden behind the dark storm clouds forming over the jungle’s canopy. Thunder pounded in the distance, causing the old shaman to quicken his pace.
He made his way across the quiet village where everyone was safely tucked inside their huts, sound asleep. He peered inside his daughter’s dwelling, past the lattice gate made out of bamboo poles that protected the doorway from night-roaming predators. Pahtia whispered, “Conchita…” She stirred, but did not wake. He held onto the doorframe, poking his staff through the gate, nudging her.
Conchita opened her eyes and saw a silhouetted figure standing outside the hut. She wondered if she was dreaming. It wasn’t until a gust of wind threw the torch flames past Pahtia’s face that she recognized him. “Father?”
He tersely responded, “Come with me.”
She drowsily got up, quietly opening the gate, stepping outside, careful not to disturb her loved ones.
Conchita trailed behind her father, passing the outskirts of the village, continuing down a barely visible path. Branches and vines, flailing in the storm’s gusts of wind, hindered their progress. She glanced behind herself, feeling an overwhelming urge to return to her children and husband. The farther she went, the stronger the urge became. She came to a standstill, asserting herself. “Father!”
Pahtia stopped walking and looked back at her.
She said, “I am not going. Not tonight. I will come tomorrow.”
He solemnly responded, “I have something to share with you, but it must be tonight.” He continued along the path. Lightning crackled, flashing through the trees.
Against her better judgment, Conchita followed him. “Why not morning?” she asked, her voice nearly drowned out by the rolling thunder.
Without turning around, he declared, “Morning is too late!”
They reached Pahtia’s hut. The flames in the fire pit burned brightly, welcoming them home. Conchita sat near the fire in her usual spot, combing her windswept hair with her fingers while observing the storm brewing outside, its ardent breath huffing through the slatted walls.
Pahtia went to his workbench, reverently picking up a leather medicine pouch. He returned to sit beside his daughter. With sentimental eyes, he said to her, “You have been a good apprentice. Learned all I had to teach.” He set the medicine pouch on his lap so he could use both hands to remove the amulet that hung from a leather cord around his neck. “This was my father’s, and now it is yours. Shaman to shaman.”
Conchita lowered her head to accept the gift. It was a great honor to be declared a shaman. She looked down at the amulet resting against her chest, picking it up, holding it between her fingers, still not believing the shiny stone her father had worn since she was a child was now hers.
He continued, “I will ask my helper spirits to be your helpers. All that I have is now yours.” Pahtia opened the medicine pouch’s drawstrings, reaching inside to take out an amethyst cluster. He held it up between his bony fingers. “This has magical powers. Hold out your hand.” He placed it securely in her palm. “This stone holds the vibrations of Mother Earth. Keep it safe.” He pulled out a jaguar’s curved claw. “Not Taslia,” he clarified, referring to his totem animal, which also happened to be a jaguar. “This was my first kill. I was brave and used only a spear. Very dangerous. Very strong energy.” He handed it to Conchita before he once more dug into his bag, removing a dried plant root. “This is a wise root. It knows the secrets of the rainforest.” Pahtia placed it in Conchita’s hand beside the other sacred articles. Next, he extracted a human tooth, staring at it as if he was remembering how he acquired it so many years ago, then, without an explanation, he returned it to the pouch.
“Father, why are you giving me these things?”
“I had a vision, a prophecy. And in this vision, I saw blood-red skies and a snake slither out of its hole, standing like a man with a gold crown on its head. I heard the moaning of men, women and children in pain, lying on the ground. Too many to count. The snake took joy in their sorrow, eating them.”
“Stop it. You are scaring me.”
Pahtia became angry. “No daughter of mine is afraid!” His harsh tone made Conchita regret coming here. His demeanor softened. “Forget what I said. I know you are strong. Let us journey together one more time. I need to ask Maka for guidance.”
Outside, the storm unleashed its heavy rains.
Conchita believed in her father’s prophecies, but that didn’t mean this one would happen tonight—maybe not even in their lifetimes. However, he was more riled up about this one than usual. All she wanted to do was return home and sleep with her family, but the downpour made her hesitant to leave. Besides, she knew her father would prod her until she relented, so she reluctantly said, “I will journey with you.”
“Good. Let me get the herb.” The shaman used his staff to stand up, stiffly hobbling across the floor.
Conchita noticed for the first time how much her father had aged. His frame was frail, and his hair was almost entirely gray. She looked away before he returned.
Pahtia sat beside his daughter once more. He said a prayer while bringing the herb close to his face, honoring it before dropping the sacred leaves into the fire. Smoke burst out of the flames, billowing all around them. The pair closed their eyes, breathing deeply, letting the smoke fill their lungs.
The shaman called for his totem animal, “Taslia, please come!”
From out of the storm, an ethereal black jaguar padded through the doorway, entering the smoke-filled hut. The ghostly feline stood there swishing her tail, her golden eyes reflecting the flames.
Pahtia acknowledged Taslia’s presence, “Thank you, old friend, for coming. I need to speak to Maka. Will you please take us to her?”
Pahtia’s spirit rose out of his body and climbed onto the jaguar’s back. Conchita’s spirit joined her father’s, sitting behind him. The totem animal carried the pair out of the hut, entering the mystical realm of the jungle. Rain dripped from the shadowy leaves as they moved through the trees. Conchita held tightly onto her father. Even if they weren’t in mortal danger, she knew spirits surrounded them—most were benevolent, but some were malicious. Pahtia, on the other hand, was enjoying the ride as if it might be his last, listening to the jungle sounds and taking in the sights. He breathed deeply, smelling the humus aroma the rain brought to the surface. The faint sensation of wet leaves dragging across his face and exposed skin didn’t irritate him as it normally would have, instead the cold austere contact made him feel alive.
They moved through a blanket of fog, and the rain stopped.
The totem animal strolled out of the trees. In front of them was a roaring waterfall. The cascading water reflected the moonlight as it fell into an ebony lake. Pahtia dismounted, then ambled through the dense ferns. He stood at the edge of the dark water with his daughter by his side, calling to his spirit guide, “Maka, please come!”
A ball of light appeared from out of the starry sky, hovering above the lake. It expanded into the form of a beautiful woman, who wore white-fringed animal skins decorated with colorful feathers and beads. Her black hair hung down to her knees. She gave the visitors a warm smile. “Greetings! It is good to see you again.”
Pahtia bowed his head out of respect. “Greetings to you as well, Maka. Thank you for answering my call. We need your help. I believe the end is near.”
“The end of what, dear Pahtia?”
“The end of this life—for me and my tribe.”
“Pahtia, you know there is no death. Only change. Why do you falter now?”
The shaman bolstered his chest, touting, “I do not falter! I came for help.”
“I understand your concerns, but keep this in mind: That which seems to be the end is always the beginning. Remember, for the caterpillar to become a butterfly is a difficult process—one that requires a tremendous amount of trust before the metamorphosis completes itself. But never does the butterfly mourn the loss of its former self, although, for the caterpillar, the transformation feels like death. To take away the impending change would hinder your spiritual growth. This I cannot do.” Maka stopped speaking. Her body glowed brighter and brighter until she was lost in the brilliance, splintering into a thousand sparkling lights, dissipating into the night.
Savannah bolted upright in bed, shaking from a bad dream. It took her a moment to realize she was safe in her own bedroom. Relief flooded over her, but her heart kept pounding. She glanced at her husband, who was sound asleep, before getting up, grabbing her robe from the foot of the bed.
She left the bedroom, heading down the dark stairwell, reaching the living room decorated with rattan furniture that mimicked the tropics. The overhead palm-leaf fan slowly spun.
Savannah pulled open the sliding glass door. The sea breeze rushed past her, rustling the vertical blinds. She stepped outside, walking across the deck. The ocean roared. She stood by the railing, watching the waves ebb and flow under the moon’s glow. The salty mist settled over her, layer by layer, slowly creating a vaporous cocoon. Savannah didn’t mind the dampness. It made her feel connected—like an old house being overcome by the elements, metamorphosing back to its natural state. In the distance, thunder rumbled. A storm was brewing.
Someone opened the sliding glass door, startling Savannah, who turned to see her husband, Steve, coming towards her.
He reached her side, asking, “What are you doing out here?”
“Just getting some fresh air.”
Steve didn’t believe her. “Something wrong?”
Savannah appreciated his concern, however, thinking about the nightmare sent shivers down her spine. Not wanting to talk about it, she replied, “Oh, nothing.”
“Are you sure?”
She faced the water to avoid his gaze.
Steve kept looking at his wife, hoping she would confide in him. When she didn’t answer, he became concerned, asking, “What is it? Do you feel okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. It was just a bad dream. That’s all.”
“A dream? What was it about?”
“You don’t want to hear about it. Trust me.”
“I can handle it.”
“Fine. I don’t remember the first part, but the dream began with a car accident.” She was surprised at the intensity of her emotions as she recounted the details. Her breathing grew labored. “All of us were in the SUV. There were sirens and ambulances everywhere. The worst part is…” she hesitated to say, “you and the kids were killed.”
Steve’s gut tightened. His wife’s fear was contagious. He fought against it, reminding himself, It was just a dream. His rational mind took control and he calmly responded, “We’re all fine. Like you said, ‘It was just a dream.’”
“I know,” she agreed, but truthfully she was worried the dream was more than that. She feared it was a premonition.
Steve consoled her, “I once read that when you dream about someone dying, it really means your relationship is changing. Maybe you’re afraid of the kids getting older and leaving the nest.”
She replied, “Maybe,” even though the explanation didn’t feel right to her.
Her husband wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer. Together, they watched the indigo waves pitch to a primordial rhythm.
Savannah wanted to claim this moment, hoping that somehow she could stop the approaching black train that bore an ominous warning. In the distance, she heard it rumbling down the tracks. A long shrill whistle drifted through the air, coming closer and closer until it crossed the divide between realities, whispering in her ear, “I’m coming.”
“Dreams of Heaven” can be found at local bookstores and online retailers:
On a sunny August morning, the Thompson family was busy harvesting their organic crops. Marilyn and her husband, Larry, had retired early from their stressful jobs in New York City and bought this quaint farm in Pennsylvania to get back to nature, pouring half of their life savings into the venture.
Marilyn rested while wiping the sweat from her face with a handkerchief. She stuffed it back in her pocket while looking out over the rolling hills, admiring the fertile farm beds filled with tomatoes, radishes, green beans and squash. All of this organic produce would be sold at a local farmers’ market. Bees buzzed and butterflies floated over the late blooms. She watched her 17-year-old son, Zachary, select ripe tomatoes, setting them in a wagon. He had grown a few inches taller than his father, but he had her sandy-blond hair and fine features.
Car tires scrunched over the crushed limestone driveway, coming to a stop. Dust floated around the tires. An older couple got out of the vehicle, standing side by side looking solemn.
Marilyn, Larry and Zachary waved at their neighbors, Burt and Nancy Wheeler, who returned the greeting, but remained where they stood. Something was wrong.
Larry said to his wife, “This can’t be good…looks like their best milk cow died.”
Marilyn replied, “Shhh…this might be serious. Come on.”
The Thompsons walked out of the field, passing the red barn that housed the milk cow. The chickens scratching in the yard scurried away clucking.
The neighbors met them halfway.
Larry shook the man’s hand. “Good morning.”
Burt said, “Morning. Sorry we didn’t call first, but we’ve got something important to tell you.”
“This would be better sitting down.”
The Thompson family suddenly felt a sense of dread. Larry responded, “Sure, this way.” He led his neighbors through the back door of the centennial farmhouse. They entered the kitchen, taking their seats at the long plank table. Marilyn asked the neighbors if they would like something to drink, but they shook their heads.
Burt started the conversation, “We’ve been having problems with our cows, one died, and a few had stillborn calves. We heard other farmers had the same thing, so we tested our well and lake. And well…” Bert found it difficult to say the words, “The results showed toxic chemicals and methane gas.” The dairy farmer became visibly upset, his voice wavering as he said, “We’ve lived here for four generations and never had a problem with our water before they started fracking.”
“How can that be?” Marilyn asked, “They aren’t even drilling close to us!”
“Yeah…well,” answered Burt, “we did some research and found out that Pennsylvania allows horizontal drilling, so a rig can be a mile or more away, but drill right under your house without your permission, if you don’t own the mineral rights.” He rubbed his forehead, noticeably stressed. “We own ours, and told them, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ We didn’t want their money. The farm’s enough for us. But obviously someone near us either took the money or didn’t own the rights.”
“But where’d the chemicals come from?” Larry asked.
“The fracking water. They pump millions of gallons of water, laced with chemicals, so they can extract more gas out of the shoal. Then they have the nerve to tell us it’s all suctioned up, but common sense tells ’ya it can’t be, not all of it. And if they hit an underground stream or aquifer, the contaminated water can flow for miles.”
His wife confided, “We plan on moving our cows to my cousin’s place in Dauphin County. We can’t in good conscience sell the milk. But what’ll we do? Farming’s all we know.” She bit her bottom lip, trying not to cry.
Burt changed the subject, delicately asking the Thompsons, “Have you tested your water? I only ask because our land butts up to yours.”
The awareness that the organic farm might be ruined settled over Marilyn like a dark fog. How can we claim the produce is organic if there are chemicals in the water? How can we sell it at all? She contemplated these troubling questions before quietly saying, “We didn’t give in. We refused to let them test our land and still…” she trailed off. Zachary put his arm around his mother to comfort her.
Mahakanta Suresh stood at the edge of his field staring at the withered cotton crop. His farm had been handed down through many generations, providing not only a living, but a good way of life in India’s Cotton Belt. He leaned heavily on his hoe, reminiscing of a time long ago when his father had danced with his mother after a bountiful harvest. The entire village had prospered that year, celebrating late into the night with food, spirits and music. His father had stepped away from the festivities and sauntered over to him, holding out a velvety fig he had picked fresh from a banyan branch. Mahakanta plucked the sweet, earthy tasting treat from his father’s weathered hand, watching him laugh heartily, drunk from the free-flowing wine.
Mahakanta savored his childhood memory before it faded, leaving him to face the devastation in front of him. He could have survived the misfortune of one bad season, but alas, last year’s crop had also failed. Now there was no money left to buy new seeds. He would lose his farm and house to the moneylenders who had extended him credit.
He could no longer face his wife and three children, who silently ate their dinner each night while hopelessness filled the air. His family once had a future, but without property, they would be burdened with a husband and father who couldn’t support or provide for them. They would become the lowest of the low.
A sacred cow wandered past him. The bells on its collar clinked as it headed toward his neighbor’s field, which was filled with thriving cotton grown from traditional seeds. Mahakanta remembered the purveyor arriving at his doorstep two years earlier, catching him as he returned home after a hard day’s work. The salesman opened his satchel, showing Mahakanta charts and photos of other customers’ cotton fields that yielded 10 times the average using his new magic seeds. In addition, he touted that the magic seeds resisted pests, eliminating the need to purchase expensive pesticides. The purveyor promised the magic seeds would make Mahakanta a very wealthy man, but what the salesman did not tell him was that these seeds were not drought tolerant like the traditional ones that had been used for generations in India. And the man did not share the fact that the seeds were genetically structured to self-destruct, ensuring that Mahakanta would have to buy new seeds the following year.
So with hope for a better future, Mahakanta naively bought and planted the magic seeds, watching the green shoots emerge in the spring. However, it was not long before the plants withered in the scorching sun and succumbed to the hungry bollworms.
How Mahakanta wished he had switched back to the traditional seeds after the first failed crop, but the purveyor assured him that the dismal harvest was caused by the drought, not the magic seeds, and the next bountiful crop would more than make up for his losses. Mahakanta’s misplaced trust had been a deadly mistake. His only comfort was that he wasn’t the only one who had fallen under the spell of the magic seeds. Dozens of other farmers in his village had done the same thing.
Knowing he could not survive this second disaster, Mahakanta unscrewed the cap on a pesticide bottle, took one last look at the land of his ancestors, then gulped the toxic fluid. The acid scorched his throat as he swallowed, and the noxious fumes made him gag and cough violently. He thought it was a fitting punishment for his failure, expecting to be dead before his family came back from working in the fields.
Instead, his son found him writhing on the ground in agonizing pain. His wife ran over screaming for help. A neighbor who had found Mahakanta not long after he drank the pesticide explained what had happened. There was nothing anyone could do—the poison always took its victim.
The wife held Mahakanta’s head in her lap and wailed, tears streaking down her cheeks, “I told you the money wasn’t important! Why didn’t you listen!?”
Mahakanta did not respond. The pain made him oblivious to his surroundings. He convulsed violently, spewing red-speckled vomit all over the front of his shirt.
His wife continued to sob, rocking back and forth in utter grief.
Mahakanta was overcome with pain. Everything went dark. He felt his body become weightless. A blue mist appeared, forming into shapes that turned into human forms. He recognized a neighbor who had committed suicide a few weeks earlier. Countless numbers of spirits came forward, one after another, each a victim of crop failure caused by the magic seeds. Before Mahakanta could ask why they came, they escorted him away.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
One night in October, I had a dream that was so powerful there was no doubt in my mind that it had really happened.
In the dream, I floated into a scene of a man pumping gas. I knew he was a pastor who was having trouble making a difficult decision. My spirit descended into his car and “sat” in the passenger seat to wait for him to finish pumping gas. The pastor got in, started the car, and drove slowly through the parking lot. He paused before pulling into the street. At that moment he felt my presence, and although he couldn’t see me, he knew I was there. I apologized for the intrusion. In his thoughts, he said, “That’s okay. I was thinking about going for a drive.”
I knew he had changed his plans of going directly home, and instead, he decided to go for a long drive to ponder his difficult decision. I left him alone with his thoughts as he drove away.
When I woke up, I remembered the dream vividly and couldn’t forget it for weeks. I kept looking for this man in public—expecting to meet him.
But after a couple of months had passed and I hadn’t yet met the pastor, the dream was tucked into the back of my mind.
Then one night, I pulled up to my gym and noticed a Red Cross blood mobile in the parking lot. I decided I would give blood, although I had never voluntarily donated blood before.
I walked up to the table set up temporarily in the gym’s lobby. The young woman standing there asked if I had any health problems, and I said no. She asked if I was in good health and feeling well. I answered that I was feeling a little light headed, but she didn’t seem to hear me and began talking with someone else while she handed me a folder with a stack of forms that needed to be filled out.
After my name was called, I walked through the chilly night to the large RV that served as the blood mobile. A young woman greeted me and escorted me to a tiny room where she asked me questions, pricked my finger to take blood, and attached a finger monitor to check my blood pressure. At this point, there was a problem. It seemed my pulse rate and blood pressure were too high, which was very unusual since I normally have low blood pressure. She mentioned that I might be stressed about giving blood and thought answering additional questions on a computer in the room would give me time to calm down.
I finished the questions and was waiting for the woman to return when a man entered and explained he was the supervisor. I knew I wouldn’t be giving blood as soon as he sat down, but decided to let the conversation play out.
With a smile, he asked me how I was feeling. I answered that I felt fine. He said perhaps I was coming down with something and just didn’t know it yet—that sometimes an undetected infection can make the blood pressure spike as the body fights it.
I mentioned that I was feeling light headed, but felt that it was a reaction from an intense healing session I performed earlier in the day.
The supervisor was surprisingly knowledgeable about shamanic healing and pointed out that a healing session should have lowered my blood pressure. I agreed with him. He continued asking me questions about the healings that I performed, saying that it was wonderful work to offer healings and appreciated my efforts.
His spiritual demeanor captured my attention, and I asked him how he knew so much about healing. He answered that he was a pastor of a church in a distant city. Suddenly it dawned on me that he was the pastor from my dream! I began telling him, “Several months ago you had a tough decision to make.”
He nodded his head in agreement, and said a few months earlier he had to decide whether to stay at his church or become the new pastor at a church of a different denomination. His mind told him to stay with his current congregation, but he felt God was guiding him to leave. After much soul searching, he had decided to go to the new church.
When I described seeing him in my dream at the gas station and the interaction that had occurred, he remembered asking God for a sign and stated that he often went on long drives to think.
I had been waiting to meet him and was blessed to do so. What a wonderful confirmation for the two of us.
I knew the elevated pulse rate was divine intervention, and after leaving the blood mobile, I went to work out at the gym. It felt great!
Message from the Spirit
We are all divine spirits, helping others on conscious and unconscious levels. The past, present and future exist simultaneously—all lives, all events have already occurred—leaving you with memories of illusions that you pluck from the recesses of your mind. You have reached enlightenment because you have never left it. So you have the ability to act as an angel, reaching out to others, offering miracles and love, now.
In a remote area of Canada, a white, double cab pickup truck sped down Highway 55 heading toward Bear Claw Lake, one of the deepest and largest bodies of water in the Alberta province, as well as the major tributary for the Saskatchewan and Beaver rivers. Traces of the Old North Trail ran beside its deep waters and through the surrounding dense forest, used for centuries by the Blackfoot Nation for migration and trading all the way from the permafrost Yukon Territory to sunny New Mexico. Inside the truck was a team of independent specialists commissioned by the Falicon Gas and Oil Company to investigate an ongoing oil spill.
The disaster had been caused by Falicon’s use of the in-situ extraction method that pressurized the oil bed with extremely hot steam and chemicals, cracking the reservoir, causing the oil to escape through spider web ruptures in the earth.
The white pickup turned off the two-lane highway onto a dirt road, dust billowing as it sped toward the disaster. The driver wore a pistol strapped to his side and rested his arm on the console. A scientist sat in the front passenger’s seat reviewing paperwork. He sighed, setting the papers down. The three engineers in the backseat rode quietly looking out the windows.
A glimpse of an old pickup in the rearview mirror caught the driver’s attention. It was a 1973 two-tone Ford with a rusty chrome grill and bumper. Inside were two men from the nearby Bear Claw First Nation reservation. Tom Running Deer sat in the passenger seat holding a Winchester 30-30 rifle between his knees with the barrel protruding a few inches above the dashboard. His black t-shirt was taut over his muscular frame. A few gray hairs highlighted his long black hair that was held back in a ponytail. Beside him was his great-uncle, Chief Keme, who gripped the wheel with his strong hands. A sterling silver ring, accented with turquoise, decorated his right ring finger. He wore a clean, white shirt with a frayed collar. Both men fiercely glared at the intruders in front of them.
The company driver checked the rearview mirror again, saying, “Don’t look, but we’re being tailed by Indians.” The engineers and scientist spun around, peering out the back window. “Jesus! I told you not to look!” The men quickly faced forward again. “Now keep your cool. They’re probably just headed back to the rez, having a little fun with us.” The driver’s comments provided little relief to his nervous passengers.
The old Ford barreled in on the white pickup truck, nearly bumping its rear end before easing back. The engineers and scientist tensely waited for the driver to react, but he drove in silence until the Ford veered off, rumbling down another dirt road, disappearing behind a cloud of dust.
A mile later, the Falicon truck came to a security check point. A guard waved it through, directing the driver to a grassy area where a dozen company vehicles were already parked. Beyond this point were hundreds of square kilometers of what used to be a virgin forest.
The men got out, removing their equipment from the back of the truck. When everyone was ready, they trudged through the eerily quiet forest.
Mike, the head engineer, sniffed the air. “God, something smells terrible!”
The team cautiously approached the lake, observing the disaster spread out before them. The water was covered with an iridescent film of oil that was decomposing into a foul, brown sludge along the shoreline, which was littered with a few dead Canadian geese and a loon gasping for air while struggling to flap its oil-covered wings. A bloated beaver carcass bobbed in the lake. Dead walleye, sauger and lake trout floated on the surface. The surrounding vegetation lay rotting in the sun. The cleanup crew, fully protected inside their bio-hazard suits, used rakes to cull the tar balls.
The scientist stared at the mess shaking his head. He tried to contain his anger, but his voice trembled as he said, “I gave my recommendations early on. I told headquarters we had no ‘Plan B’, but they went ahead anyway.” He lost control. “Fuck the animals! Fuck the planet!” He threw his hard hat down. “Do they really expect us to fix the earth!?”
The ground shuddered, alarming the scientist, who shouted, “Did you feel that!?”
Mike answered, “Yeah…strange.”
Lightning blazed out of the clear blue sky, striking the water. Thunder boomed as the oil slick ignited, creating a lake of fire. The flames reached the shoreline, following channels of oil runoff, spreading through the forest until one of the fire streams reached an oil reservoir where it exploded, creating a mammoth ball of fire that billowed over the forest. The force of the combustion knocked down the engineers, scientists and cleanup crew. Thick, black smoke descended upon the dazed team members, who struggled to their feet, coughing and choking. The earth violently shook again. Everyone raced out of the man-made hell.
The sound of the oil spill explosion reverberated throughout the Bear Claw First Nation’s reservation, which was located a mile from the lake in the middle of the forest where the tribe lived in dilapidated houses that were clustered together like a herd of buffalo protecting their young from the wolves. Crooked stove pipes stuck out of the rooftops with missing shingles. Broken-down cars and rusted-out trucks were parked haphazardly in the weeds. Children, startled by the blast, immediately stopped chasing a ball. Men playing poker and drinking beer under the shade of a tree were stunned into silence as they watched the fireball arch over the trees. Finally one of the men spoke, voicing what the others were thinking, “I knew the oil company would screw up. They always do.”
“It’s time for a council meeting,” said Tom Running Deer, “It’s time for this to end.”
“When you have looked on what seemed terrifying, and seen it change to sights of loveliness and peace; when you have looked on scenes of violence and death, and watched them change to quiet views of gardens under open skies, with clear, life-giving water running happily beside them in dancing brooks that never waste away; who need persuade you to accept the gift of vision?” — A Course in Miracles
The medical community views schizophrenia as a condition that can be treated but not cured. Schizophrenics are considered to have a mental illness with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, and dysfunction—which are subdued with antipsychotic medications.
However, I believe that schizophrenics are not suffering from an illness, but rather, are extremely receptive to contact from spirits, and when they cannot ward off imposing negative spirits who have no regard for the schizophrenics’ well being, they become overwhelmed, catatonic, anxious, depressed, and even suicidal with thoughts and visions that seem to be their own, but in reality, are instilled into their minds by outside forces.
With proper shamanic healing and training, which has been done successfully in indigenous tribes under the guidance of shamans, schizophrenics could learn to prevent the intrusion of loud, negative spirits, and allow only the loving spirits’ quiet voices to be heard. They have the gift to become great healers and shamans.
I was given the chance to prove this belief when “Andrew,” a schizophrenic, middle-aged truck driver contacted me for a healing. He said he was constantly assaulted by negative voices and wanted relief.
After I requested his healing from my spirit guide, I emailed him these results:
“In the spirit realm, with my spirit guide, we began to perform an extraction and aura cleansing on your energetic body. There were many extractions and it took awhile to remove them. Afterward, your aura was cleansed and then the angels came in with loving energy and infused you with it. They then built-up your energetic body to prevent unwanted spirits and people’s thoughts from entering. Your crown chakra was too open and was reduced to a much smaller size to prevent unwanted spirits from entering. An intention was set that only the most holy of spirits would be able to enter.”
After receiving my message, Andrew indicated that he had known I had completed the healing. When I inquired how he knew, he sent me a lengthy description of what he had experienced while I performed his healing.
The following is a portion of Andrew’s description of the healing as he wrote it with the exception of a few grammatical corrections.
“Elizabeth…I had been snoozing…before that I had been wondering when you would do the healing.
Today, I was gently awakened by a soft voice that said, ‘They’re here.’
I then began to be aware of your very light presence…my eyes were still closed. It was then that I said, “Hi!” (Author’s note: This was significant, because when the healing began, I said “Hi” to Andrew’s spirit and was surprised when he said “Hi” back. I replied, “Oh, you know I am here,” but I didn’t mention this in my message to him.)
I felt as though there were two presences in the room other than you and me. The little voice said, ‘Don’t open your eyes!’
I lay there for a few seconds and then I saw the outline of two spirits. One of a living person and one not. The one that was no longer living seemed very ‘live’ and holy. The other one appeared to be witnessing something. As I was lying in bed, I felt very little other than calm and comfortable. I closed my eyes again. The voice said, ‘That was him.’ Seemingly referring to the ‘live’ one.
I lay still. The voice said now they’re getting rid of the spirits. I still felt calm and comfortable and yet wondered because I didn’t feel much. Then the voice said, ‘Now the angels are here.’
I kept my eyes closed and waited. A few minutes passed as I tried to sleep so as not to be a nuisance. The little voice said, ‘You’re not a nuisance.’
After a few minutes, the voice said, ‘It’s okay, they’re gone.’
I felt a little like a computer that had just come to life and wondered, ‘Is there nothing more?’
My apartment was dark…I keep the shades closed most of the time. It was near sunset and a little of the westerly sunlight was creeping through.
I started to make myself a cup of coffee, then the voice said, ‘She’s gone.’…meaning you.”
While I always give my clients a description of their healing, this was the first time a client had given me one! It showed how spiritually connected he was.
A few weeks later, Andrew complained that his mind was too quiet! I encouraged him to give it more time to adjust to the lack of noise in his mind. The loving spirits are soft spoken and do not impose themselves on anyone.
Ten months later, he wrote to me stating that the negative voices were bothering him less and less. He was now able to control the spirits’ abilities to contact him and was doing well.
Message from the Spirit: Schizophrenia is a two-edged sword. It is both a curse and a gift until it becomes a finely tuned instrument. Then what could cut and kill becomes a mechanism for separating the wheat from the chaff—a gift for healing.