Conversations With The Ancestors

Snowy_TreeEarly music wafts through the house this early Sunday morning, as light snow swirls past the window. Listening to Harmonia on our local Public Radio station is a Sunday morning ritual in our house. I have loved early European music for as long as I can remember; I hope my European ancestors take as much pleasure listening as I do, that they listen through me. Continue reading

A Thorny Problem

Winter_TwilightA while back I received the Spring edition of Contemporary Shamanism. The first article was a piece by Hank Wesselman, Ph.D., entitled Australian Aboriginal Wisdom. I read the piece, or most of it, put the journal down, and forgot about it. Last night Jennie was rummaging through our magazines and brought it out.

In his article, Dr. Wesselman discusses the Australian Aboriginal word, dadirri (deep listening/stillness) as defined by Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann. Dr. Ungunmerr-Baumann who, according to UNIYA, “was born in the bush near Daly River in 1950…. is a member of the Ngangiwumirr language group (and) speaks four other local languages.” I encourage you to watched the You-Tube video of Dr.  Ungunmerr-Baumann speaking about dadirri, if you have not done so already. Continue reading

The View From the Orphanage

View_From_The-OrphanageLast night we were honored to be invited by our Abenaki brothers and sisters to drum as part of the opening ceremony at an all city meeting. The event was a  Neighborhood Planning Assemblies meeting called to discuss the proposed development of a large lakefront parcel of land presently owned by a local nonprofit educational institution. The current proposal would place about 700 housing units on prime recreational open space, and is drawing considerable opposition even before the land sells.

Prior to being “owned” by the nonprofit, the building and grounds had been a large orphanage owned and administered by a major religious order. Over its nearly 100 years in operation, the orphanage built an almost incomprehensible history of abuse. During the 1980’s I was part of the legal team that represented about 80 adults who had been victimized at the orphanage as children. Over three years a colleague and I listened to the stories of these courageous people, and supported them as best we were able, as they faced an angry public. Sadly, their court cases were dismissed due to an expired statute of limitations. Back then, few people in the community believed their terrifying stories of abuse. As in many communities, that would change. Later, a few former residents of the orphanage received large settlements from the church. Continue reading



Our Back Yard.

Christmas Day. I’ve been in bed with a virus for the past couple of days, so I probably should not have been surprised when I awoke this morning at 3:30. (My nose looks a lot like Rudolph’s.) Eventually I got out of bed and wandered through the dark house to the sun room, where I could look out across our yard and into the woods. To my surprise and pleasure, the snow was still there, at least in our yard! We had a white Christmas in spite of mid-40’sF Street_Viewtemperatures and periodic rain! Continue reading


Autumn PathAs I write, the season’s first snow is falling in the November night. It is cold and the streets are empty. Downstairs, Jennie is cooking for tomorrows feast. I’m taking a few minutes to write as tomorrow promises to be very busy, being Thanksgiving Day here in the US. Given the news this week from around the country, it will be a troubled day for many. Thanksgiving Day itself has a troubled history, or rather multiple histories. Yet we continue to gather with family and friends on the last Thursday in November to celebrate the harvest and express gratitude to the Creator. Continue reading

Silence, Story, and Healing

Autumn_PathThe woods are increasingly silent. Now and then a blue jay or a nuthatch calls, or a squirrel scolds. The wind in the trees is low-pitched as it moves through the bare upper branches of the golden-yellow birches and beech trees.

As the world grows quiet, our voices fill the evenings with story; it is a holy time. Soon the first snows will fall and the ancient stories will be told. Some of those stories will be about the First Beings who created and organized the world as we know it; others will be stories from our histories. In the end, for Native people, these are inseparable. Cultural, family, and individual stories and histories are interconnected, and fluid in time; when we approach a medicine person in search of  healing, they remind us that we are the First Beings as well as their progeny. Continue reading

Sacred Conversations

Autumn_Bridge_StoweTalk therapy did not begin with Freud’s “talking cure”. Rather, strategic conversations have likely always been an important tool in the tool kits of Indigenous healers. My teachers often referred to deep, therapeutic discussions as “wisdom talks,” opportunities to speak with the elders, consider the problems in one’s ways, and, in the process, change one’s life.

Most likely, traditional healers have always known about “cognitive distortions,” those “crazy ideas” we all carry around with us, concepts and beliefs that make living in balance difficult. That said, it is important to understand that wisdom talks are only partially about the mind. Rather, they seek to balance mind, heart, and gut (intuition) in the service of the individual, and thus, the community, a community built on diversity and acceptance. Mind alone is not viewed as particularly trustworthy. Mind, heart, intuition, and spirit are all essential to human life, equally valued. We, as whole persons, are held in the arms of the larger community; community is then supported by innumerable beings, seen and unseen, that work with people to create continuity across generations. All of this occurs in a world saturated by relationship and Spirit. Thus, therapeutic conversations are understood to be about the sacred. Continue reading