It was a doomed week from the start. Michelle Godfrey, an astrologer on facebook said, “There’s a big X in the sky right now, best to lay low.” I tucked that caution in my back pocket as I headed from Los Angeles to Phoenix to spend a week with friends, Suzanne and John, whose house is paradise. Being there is always a treat.

I arrived safely on Saturday night, eager to take a Sunday morning swim when I noticed something black floating in the pool. A large tarantula (the size grows with each remembering) was suspended in the water inches from my foot. I called Suzanne, who assured me it was dead, as she fished it out with a rake, plopping it in the stones three short feet away. But once his little tarantula feet hit dry land, he shook off the water and began moving around. That was enough for me. I no longer wanted a swim, was definitely not going in the pool and decided that the backyard was off limits as well.

As it happened, that same afternoon was the twenty-first birthday celebration of John’s youngest daughter, so the backyard was overrun with splashing grandchildren, drink-carrying adults and a very cautious me watching from the door. When I did step out I was served up like an imported delicacy to mosquitoes, who had trouble penetrating the tougher skinned locals. John assured me there were mosquitoes, but they did not bite, this assertion came as I was being bored into like a piece of swiss cheese, welts rising like a sudden case of chicken pox.

That evening I passed the hot tub and noticed a light blue salamander belly up on the bottom. Confronted with two dismal omens, I went to the internet for definition. The tarantula said something about bringing past and present together but the meaning that stood out said simply, dangerous and sinister.

The next day I decided to “man-up” and get in the pool anyway. Suzanne and I were floating when John came out of the house in tears. His 29 year old daughter had been fighting cancer for the past year and the disease had gone into her spine. She was in the ER, in the terminal stage of cancer. The rest of that day was spent in unreal turmoil as phone calls poured in, decisions were pondered and grief showed in everyone’s eyes. Three little boys ages 6, 5 and 3 would be left behind.

Tuesday afternoon opened a window for me to do a soul reading for Suzanne but not before an afternoon nap. The blazing sun, the trip over and family events were taking an energetic toll. Everyone else simply plied themselves with coffee but my body was too sensitive for caffeine, so I searched the freezer for a sweet that might give me energy. There was plenty of ice cream but that didn’t appeal so I dug and dug until I reached the bottom of the drawer. Then I spotted it, a Christmas tin, something I assumed had been stored and forgotten. I pried the top off and found cookies, fudge, brownies and some mystery sweets in silver foil. I took the fudge, ate it, replaced the tin and settled down for a short nap.

When Suzanne came out, we spread cards on the table and I began to read. I was nearly finished when I noticed my hands becoming clumsy, words spilling in the wrong direction and my mind lifting dangerously away from reality. I sprang from the sofa alarmed, couldn’t finish the reading, then burst through french doors, pacing next to the pool. Suzanne followed. “I’m sorry, I can’t finish. Something is wrong with me,” I said, “terribly, terribly wrong.” I feared I was having a stroke or psychotic break.

Suzanne was by my side every minute, inquiring and trying to comfort me, but there was no comfort. I was clearly out of my mind and knew it. Did I get caught in another reality? Was I being transported to another dimension? Would I ever be normal again? Would I be able to get my mind back, my life?

“Karen, if you were anyone else I’d take you to the emergency room but I know you wouldn’t go. What do you want me to do?” I sat with my feet in the pool staring into space. I thought of going in, but another part of me warned against it. You are not yourself; you may not come out again. “I don’t know what to do,” I told her. “Something in me has snapped.”

Suzanne put her arm around my shoulder and began talking about my future, the wonderful new life opening before me, my beauty, my spirit, every good and positive thing she could think of. She worked to weave a net with her words, a web of safety for me to rest in, while my mind raced in this unknown landscape. When she stopped, I knew I needed to be on the earth, to let earth energy hold me, but where? This was not the grassy Oregon countryside I knew; this was a yard of cactus, brick, palm trees, prickly aloe and desert rock.

I walked toward a gravel clearing as something exploded inside me, something fierce, an explosion that propelled me to my knees. I reached for white border stones, placed them on my heart and power center, and willed them to bring my energetic field and mind back to earth.

Suzanne talked of food poisoning, but I remembered nothing out of the ordinary. I feared my spiritual work had snapped the gossamer thread that kept me tethered to this place and decided I needed someone with mastery to bring me back. Suzanne found my phone book and called Lexi Parrott and Rebecca Singer, the only healers I knew capable of helping in those dimensions. She left phone messages as another violent wave hit my body. Then I remembered the fudge.

“Oh my God Karen, That was medical marijuana, very potent, made into a kind of butter and then confections. It’s been down there for two years. We keep it for my mom who has M.S.

This did not feel like my days of marijuana, this felt like rat poison, but there was comfort in understanding the break with reality.

John came outside eager to help but all I could think of was asking him to shovel vomit away from my face, since moving was out of the question. Both ends of me were busy expelling, and no one wanted to address what was happening ‘below.’

I opened my eyes into searing light and saw John’s face looking at me through the branches of an orange tree, his ever present white brimmed hat casting shadows across his face. I smiled up at him, having a fantasy of John showing a perspective client his tile work with me sprawled across the walkway, my face planted in the dirt, puddles of liquid flowing in each direction, looking like road kill on a heavily traveled thoroughfare. “And this,” he would explain. as they carefully stepped over me, “is our houseguest. Apparently a little sensitive to food.”

I thought of the Buddhist tenet. Do not take what is not given, and how often I’d played fast and loose with that one, and how I would not be in this mess if I had inquired, instead of taken. But Suzanne did not agree. “Oh darlin’,” she said in her southern comfort way, “You know you are welcome to anything we have.”

When John returned to the house I asked Suzanne to clean up the ‘other end’ of me, and bless her heart she did. All the time gagging and explaining why she could never be a nurse and how this whole thing explained the shit dreams she’d been having – which took our friendship to a whole new level, as you can well imagine!

When she’d finished I found the strength to make it inside to the bathroom, where I expelled for a few more hours. Too weak to remove my dress, I asked her to get scissors and cut it off.

Lexi called at the end of my purging, six hours later, and thankfully at a time when I was able to speak in complete sentences. Suzanne placed cushions on the bathroom floor and I settling down for the night, while Lexi and I talked and laughed. She began guiding me through a healing session. “Where ever you are,” she said, “is becoming sacred space.” I could not stop laughing. I looked up at the white porcelain of the toilet bowl, the tub and the war zone of the bathroom floor. Damn, I thought, if I can make this sacred space, I can make anything sacred space!

Rebecca called when Lexi hung up, offering to get on a plane to come help, but I couldn’t call back until the following day, couldn’t figure out how to make the phone work, so I listened to her message, feeling blessed to have loyal friends.

I spent two days in bed recovering my strength, while the household swirled with activity around the news of John’s daughter. The house was awash with visitors, many of their moods lightened by the story of my misadventures into the freezer drawer.

The morning I left, I swam in the pool, tentatively peering around the corner beneath the grapefruit tree to visit the scene of the crime. I was delighted and surprised to see that John had placed branches from a tree in the dirt where I had fallen and a pile of stones to heal the violence that had taken place. It felt like an apt memorial for a strange and perilous visit. 

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