Shamans: Joyfully Singing in the Coal Mine

Yet another hot and humid day. As the it progressed the promise of rain became a mere threat, then receded even further. The garden is thirsty; everyone and everything sweats. Jennie has to fill the bird bath frequently and it is heavily and happily used by large flocks.

Hot and humid conditions are difficult for me, as is true for many who live with the late effects of Polio. Residing in Vermont has traditionally meant we were spared most of these insufferable days but our climate is rapidly warming and I find that summers are becoming more and more challenging.

Part of the problem is that I do not sweat easily, a bizarre side effect of the bulbar involvement of the virus. Put simply, my body does not readily self-regulate temperature. Thus I freeze in winter and swelter in summer, and have had to develop any number of strategies to compensate. Both states require me to expend considerable energy and during periods of temperature extremes I may need frequent naps.

We are blessed with central air conditioning at our office but not at home. When at home we make do, often heading for the lake where there is very likely to be a cooling breeze. Who would imagine that two blocks would yield so much temperature change! Yes, air conditioning at home is likely in our near future.

Bulbar polio also impacted my ability to breathe. As a result I spent a week in an iron lung and have been susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia ever since. The virus significantly weakened my diaphragm which sometimes makes clearing my lungs difficult. I have been given the catchall diagnosis of asthma, and fortunately asthma medications generally work well for me.

When we face these long stretches of hot and humid weather the air quality slowly deteriorates as does the ease with which I breathe. I feel a lot like the proverbial canary in the coal mine! (Ominously, coal-fired electrical plants in the Midwest continue to generate pollutants that are carried by the prevailing winds to my lungs in the Northeast, making breathing difficult. Wildfires off to our north and west add to our air quality issues; the world is indeed burning.)

If shamanic experience teaches anything it is that all of Creation is thickly interwoven. We now know beyond doubt that our bodies are inseparable from the environments in which we live, so much so that we are totally reliant upon the microorganisms with which we interact for our very lives. Surely it should not surprise us that human activities in one location have disproportionate impacts on people living far away, or that our collective human effect on the Earth now threatens to overwhelm local and regional climates and ecosystems, and the health of our bodies.

As a result of untold generations of shamanic experience we have learned this Earth and the Spirit Worlds are interconnected and any boundaries between them are profoundly porous. We know that contrary to what we might wish, what happens in one world impacts the others; our actions have import. We accept the truth that rather than leading our own lives separately from others, we are all in life together, canaries in a vast coal mine.

Given this, as we move into the future, inextricably connected to one another, may we sing beautifully and awaken each other to the possibility of healing and joy.



13 thoughts on “Shamans: Joyfully Singing in the Coal Mine

  1. The world IS literally burning. The tinderbox fires of California, Sweden, and the hills here in the UK. Record temperatures throughout the world. Perhaps this is the sign of things to come.
    Great writing as always, Michael.

    1. Hi Andy,
      Yes, the world is burning and will continue to do so in a terrible feedback loop. It is also aflood. That too will continue. Keep writing poems and being a great dad! Those are powerful actions towards a sane world.

  2. I know how frustrating it is to have to spend so much time and (limited) energy in self-care so we can be marginally functioning. Please be strong, as I know you will, as not engaging in this self-care leads to even more frustrating consequences. Michael, I just want to scream, “It isn’t fair!” but… we never were promised that life would be fair. It is what it is and we do our best, hoping that tomorrow will be an easier day. Blessings of good air and low humidity sent to you.

    1. Hi Pat! My inner teen screams a great deal about the unfairness of it all! Oh my is he mad! So I try to stand up to injustice and unfairness as much as possible. Of course, having limited energy I have to choose my battles rather carefully. Here’s hoping you have a joyous weekend no matter what!

  3. Sadly, as one world, we all pay the price for imbalance. Sending hopes that gentle rains will come your way (and for all those who are experiencing drought and fires as well). ❤

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