Crying over a mess of herbs and alcohol stirred into an inert slop before my mesa, shedding tears on the wreck as though they might be the secret ingredient to right this botched attempt at alchemy, my body heaved out a liquid history of cynicism, mind collapsing to match the mess like a tapestry unraveled at the tug of a single thread. My teacher’s voice echoed in my head, “Now, remember, try not to let school interfere with your education… Don’t get too hung up about this. Be free, playful, creative, innovative in your medicine service to the world. Just don’t worry. Chill. You know? Take a break from yourself, man. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you’re doing as long as you give yourself permission to have fun, man, and peace. So here we go, crazy ones.” Then my mesa pulled that thread, reeling me again into a journey through its familiar time spiral.

The moment my playful nature departed is marked in memory, an inky black splotch dabbed over the spot like a place on a map in my mind, or like a flowered cross along a roadside where the way turns steep and dangerous.

At age twelve I could barely bid my child self to stay as my body began to secretly devour itself. The next year, with the words, “There’s no cure,” echoing through my cells, I sat in a chair in the dark feeling her leave me, powerless to keep her. After that, all my stories were about death, or something sickly sweet enough to mask the stench of its caress.
This many years later, only after having given up finally on chemical treatments and someday cures, after beholding the ashen ravages with no sugar stirred in or illusions to soften their jagged black edges, only now have I begun to see clearly through the blinding bright touch of loss to recognize its blessings and find that they can heal. Only now, working the birthright of my shamanic medicine, have I found myself whole enough to know how healing is different from curing.

But by the time I had recovered enough to know the importance of finding the child, of welcoming the wisdom of my wayward ghost parts home to the present whole of me, that ghostly girl child was already long lost.

Of her nature I could remember only that she had been called stoic. I could barely recall her face, her voice, much less her heart, her joys. Of her face there was only the vague memory of picture days at school, the teasing of teachers and peers alike, so serious, never a smile. I knew her face was deeply thoughtful, not unaffected, but what did she feel? Her face would not betray it, and of her heart and joy I could recall nothing. Memories of her – of myself at a time – were like sun-damaged snapshots of another’s life. If my last minutes with her were marked in memory like a spot on a map, all the roads and red threads that lead up to that event had long since faded and frayed. Maps and compasses useless to find her, there was nowhere to begin.

Until one day a whispered breath of breeze called me to a thicket where the fibrous fingers of a trumpet vine gestured to me. I crawled inside, skin and clothes catching on brambles, to rest at the center where the wooded tendrils all came out of the ground, rising up around me in an unruly beautiful snarl of brush. It had grown taller and denser since I was a child, but then so had I. This had been her favorite place to hide.

I did not find her there, but engaging me to play a game, she left clues in the hedge. A feather and a grey tuft of fur, a shard of old bone and three perfect dragonfly wings. I followed the feelings of these pieces for days, divining their meanings in the context of my mesa and tracking her in a scavenger hunt through body and time and mindwires.

Where I found her I watched, quiet and still. That child made potions of leaves and bark and flower parts, offering them to moon and stars before touching them to the pretend wounds of her brothers, playing at making medicine or magic. She lived in her body, always climbing up a tree or over some rocks, crawling up a dune or rolling down a hill, walking a fence or skating the 8 of the double cul-de-sac, or practicing gymnastics and dance between classes. These were her joys, along with creating, always drawing, coloring, shading, glittering and sticking, or molding and shaping. And in the mornings she’d wake excited to go outside and rub dirt or ashes from last night’s fire on her mermaid pajamas. To wet her skin and roll in the sandbox. To jump in a mud puddle then a pile of leaves and then sprinkle it all in her hair like fairy dust and jump out of trees and off ladders as though she could fly, coated in shades of life, if given just enough height. This was her heart and her humor.

Fueled with enthusiasm, she played accurately and halfway effortlessly at the grace and alchemy I work hard to bring to my shamanic practice today. She played at healing like a game, innately knowing all the actions that would someday lead me back to her and then still farther back to the fullest Re-membering of my Self as a child of the universe. And so this finding is not to backtrack or revert and become her, but to show her I am safe and growing, and I know a new language and some good new stories. It is to feed her and beckon her gently, befriending her like the baby animal she is, inviting her medicine to my mesa as to warm her wandering belly by my home fire if she likes its glow. It is to grow to know her heart so that she might become me. It is to integrate her joy to slake a jaded outlook, to gain golden perspective on the stories of death and wake excited to play with their ashes in the morning.

About the Author

Carolyn Chlebowski

Carolyn Chlebowski

Featured Contributor

Carolyn is an artist, soul alchemist, dream walker, Earth lover, seer, shapeshifter, space holder, teacher and healer. She works creatively and eclectically to reveal wholeness through exemplifying beauty and connection in all things.

You can find her artwork and jewelry for honoring your animal totems and spirit guides at www.etsy.com/shop/TheWildPsyche and www.facebook.com/TheWildPsyche. Witness her journey at www.instagram.com/wi_psi/