“Don’t accelerate too fast,” H. told me in a stern voice. Her words had a visibly misty appearance as they left her mouth. She was wearing a fuzzy jacket over her hefty hulk, snow boots on her feet. Less than five minutes ago we had met for the first time – when I knocked hesitantly on her front door. The time, 8 pm. The place, Marlow, NH. My problem, I was stuck spinning my wheels (better put my car’s wheels) in her very icy driveway.
I had been trying to find a friend’s house who lived nearby, but had gotten disoriented and overshot the turnoff for her house. I was attempting to correct my mistake when I got stuck in this stranger’s driveway – not able to go forward or backwards.
Have you ever felt like this in your own life? Stuck? Spinning your wheels? I think we have all had those moments in our lives. And it is often at these times, these scary times, that we are offered important lessons, and even gifts, of wisdom and healing.
My first reaction was to figure it out on my own. I pushed the accelerator numerous times but this only seemed to make matters worse. When I smelled burning rubber, it hit me that I might not be able to solve my predicament alone.
I could see lights on in the house, which gave me a ray of hope. Carefully I navigated the slippery driveway, offering a silent prayer that the person or people in the house were kind. For a moment I felt afraid; it passed through my mind that the unknown homeowner might keep a shotgun by the doorway and take me for a trespasser. Would he or she fire a round at me when all I was looking for was some needed help?
“Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.” Memories of these words passed through my head. I hadn’t thought of them for a very long time. In my childhood, I would recite them each night with Mom before falling asleep.
I had been on my way to visit a friend who is trained in a type of divination called Ifa that comes from the Yoruba area of present-day Nigeria. It is a complex revelatory system that uses shells, kola nuts and/or a special chained necklace to find guidance from the realm of Spirit and the ancestors. In some ways, it is comparable to the more well-known I-Ching of the Chinese.
Africans forcibly brought as slaves to the Americas transported this knowledge with them and kept it alive ‘under the radar’ of the slave owners. Today, millions of people in Nigeria and throughout the Americas practice it. New York City and Miami are two of the places in the USA where it is most widely disseminated due to the high concentration of people from the Caribbean living in these urban areas.
I wanted to have a check-in with my friend this January evening because a sacred necklace I had been given in an initiation ceremony in Brazil years ago had spontaneously broken while I was at the New Hampshire legislature in Concord with a group of people attempting to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples day in our state. Already, Durham, NH as well as Brattleboro, Vermont have passed such decrees at the local levels. The bill we were introducing had been drafted by Abenaki from New Hampshire.
In the Ifa tradition, it is believed that when a sacred necklace or bracelet breaks in such a manner, it is because it has protected its owner from negative energies of some type. I was hoping my Ifa-trained friend would help me to figure this out. That is if I could make it to her house that evening. The week before we had attempted to meet but a snowstorm had forced the cancellation of that appointment.
“Your putting too much energy into it,” ‘H’ told me as my wheels kept spinning in her driveway. “You have to go very slowly, be very steady.”
In the driver’s seat, I was getting frustrated. Angry. Pissed off. I almost broke down in tears and wanted to give up. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to extricate myself. I wished someone – my husband, a friend who lived nearby, AAA, anyone, would take over and take care of this situation that was not in my realm of experience to date. And then I remembered my Tai Chi teacher reminding our class over and over to relax. The worse the problem, the more we should relax.
An almost full moon was rising in the star-filled sky. How beautiful it was!
I tried to step away from my car problem for a minute and think of the whole situation in a new light. With a fresh perspective. “What was it that this situation could potentially reveal to me, about myself? Could this be some type of test – like it or not?”
And I realized I was being asked to consider how I use my personal energy. I had to admit that I tend to disavow my own power.
At that precise moment, the sound of what sounded like a pack of wolves howling pierced the night like a warrior’s sword. Louder and louder they crescendoed. For a split second, I was not sure if this was happening in the every-day plane of reality or if I had somehow fallen into an altered state of consciousness.
“Cuyos” ‘H’ informed me. “My husband keeps them as pets.”
I brought that sound deep into me, along with the full moon and the night stars. I envisioned the warrior’s sword of light and power and held it up high in my mind’s eye. And ever so gently, effortlessly, I touched the accelerator and my car moved smoothly off the ice.