hana flowersHer eyes looked deeply into the eyes of her mother, then beyond, at the angels who had escorted her on her passage into this world. Her face lit up with a big smile, the first of millions that would follow. Even then, at seven pounds of barely-unfolded, long, skinny, downy, newborn beauty, she was a bright light.

Her parents saw this, and her grandparents, who woke in the night to soothe her feisty hungry cry, saw it too. So did her aunts and uncles, her siblings, her parents’ friends, strangers passing by, and later, her own little friends. She herself however, couldn’t see it yet; children have to wait a little while before they see how brightly their own lights shine.

But shine she did. Her essence glowed brightly through all her years of childhood. She was a tall strong flower that swayed and danced in the wind. And while the grown people around her saw and loved her large bright essence, children were sometimes afraid of it, or envious. Some of these children went to some lengths to trample her bright blossom. Each time it was trampled though, because she was young, it came back quickly and easily.

One day she became aware of her bright light. She remembered how it had hurt to have it trampled at times, and now understood what had happened those times she had been knocked to the ground, struggling for breath, and she felt angry.

So she tried to hide her brightness, but it wouldn’t stay under cover. For a while, wanting her path to be easier, she tried to divest herself of it completely, throw it under the car or against the mountains, or at those who had hurt her. But like a boomerang, it returned to her, over and over again, often with great force, knocking her own self down and smashing her own blossom yet again just as others had done.

It began to tire her deeply, this being thrown at, and throwing, and getting winded, and eventually she began to hurt in her bones, her muscles, the deepest parts of herself, and for a long time she could hardly walk. Her mother saw her deep fatigue, and went to her. She stroked her hair, heard her words, saw her tears, and, and held them carefully. She breathed them in, and slowly, as her own fear began to dissipate, began to offer stories that had helped her in her own time of deepest fatigue. Stories of how the lessons of living with a strong and bright essence can be difficult, but that they can also yield powerful gifts that heal the pain of others.

Your strength and light can confuse or threaten or blind others if you’re not careful, she told her, but when you embrace it with wisdom and love and humility, it will also heal them when their bones ache and they have lost their footing or their breath. It will help them understand their own gifts.

And others with a strong bright essence, she went on to tell her, will always be there to help you too, no matter why your tall stem might be deeply bent, your blossom resting face-down on the ground at that moment. She told her that together, they would sing healing songs, and fly. She told her that strong souls are our teachers, and that they can’t be permanently quashed or discarded. They return and return, to shine brightly and sway and dance in the sun, and to sing together with others who sing the same song.

(Many thanks to Francesca Mason Boring for her images of Makua, the Shoshone word for soul.)

Women Who Run With the Wolves

I saw you on the street today, and you looked absent, weary, buried, compressed, tense, angry. Take your cue from Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Yes, I am still reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, and it has perfect lessons for those of us who have looked in the mirror to see a face we hardly recognize.

Women, it turns out, women in touch with their souls, their original, natural, untamed true selves, share much with the wild nature of wolves, I’m learning from her—both have strong senses, both are playful, both are very devoted, both are inquisitive, relational, strong, intuitive, adaptive, protective of their young, brave, inventive, robust, life-giving, creative, aware. Both know how to persevere. And both can become aggressive and reckless when starved for too long.

Wolves, when they have for whatever reason, stopped thriving, carry on until they can thrive again. No matter how sick or injured a wolf, how afraid, how alone, how lost, how weak, she will carry on. She will lope with the deepest of wounds. She will outwit, outrun and outlast whatever is tormenting her. She will take breath after breath, drag herself from place to place until she finds a place she can heal. She will seek protection of the pack. She will run about gathering information, tasting a little of this, a little of that. She may look a little crazy for a period of time, as she tries to regain her bearings. Once she has processed the information she has gathered, she will begin moving in a more recognizably rational manner again.

I’ve discovered that I have in fact been doing this for some time now, and that it is okay to be doing this. It is far worse to stay where one does not belong, than to wander about lost for a while, looking for what it is one needs.

I saw it in your face because I now know what it looks like. I have finally begun to accept that a number of my dreams have died, even the new and recent Plan B and C and D ones, the ones I thought would be easy to realize. I am accepting that the soil in which new dreams might grow is not fertile at the moment, and that until I properly bury the old ones, and allow them to decompose and nourish the soil, it will not give rise to, or adequately nourish, new ones.

So if you don’t always understand my bahaviour in the coming months, if I appear scattered, or if you hear me howling—or you know someone else who is behaving in these ways, or you yourself are—remember that the feminine soul shares much with the instinctual nature of wolves, and that we can heal by taking our cues from them.

Estés says that those who have been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, unruly, or rebellious are on the right track, that their true and wild soul is nearby. This is quite hopeful for you and I, don’t you think? May we both soon be running with the wolves once again, strong and clear-eyed.


You’ve been knocked down, she told me, but you’re still you. The dragon has left its mark, altered you. You look different, you feel different, you think differently. Your strength has faltered. You have nearly been felled, and your light shines more dimly.

But you are still you at your core, and your light will shine brilliantly again. This is your task now: uncover your essence. Follow your bliss. Allow it to lead you, to blow at your back. Breathe it in, and allow it to fan the embers and burn away the residual darkness in a grand display of fireworks.

I’ve been trying, I tell her.

Ride on our wings for a while; we’ll help you, she tells me.

Thank you, you enchantress, you lovely conduit of healing words and hope, you queen of magical and exotic-sounding medicines. I will drink your elixir and do as you say.