Looking Forward, and Looking Back

This picture is from 2004, the year our middle child was born. I am looking forward, and I am looking back. That is the essence of this blog, the Emerald Shaman. What essential pieces of our humanity have we lost moving forward, and how do we recover them? How do we reconstruct them in new ways, in this society, in this lifetime?

When I moved to the Chocó rainforest in 1999, I wanted to live there forever. It always took great upheaval to get me to leave the rainforest. And somehow, I always made my way back. When we left Ecuador for the last time 11 years ago, I buried a piece of my soul there. That was the first time I truly believed I might never come back. And I left that piece of myself because it didn’t seem to belong anywhere else.

It has been hard for me to understand how these two worlds fit together. I don’t know what to tell you of my efforts or their success. They have been a struggle. I suppose that is the way we truly learn new things. When I had been living in the rainforest for only a week, I threw my arms up in the air and cried out in despair to the Universe, “Why did you send me here, just to watch this place fall apart?” The trees were being cut down. The young people dreamt of moving to the city. The animals were disappearing…

I did not simply run to the rainforest. It took me a year just to figure out how to travel to the Chocó and many more of learning about other cultures and living abroad to feel equal to the task. It was the most remote place I knew how to get. It was the most distant from the Western materialist society I grew up in that I could imagine. And yet, by the time I got there, it was unraveling. I’d landed on a pressure point of globalization.

That has been my lesson time and again across these years. The two places are already connected. While we must learn from their differences, we must also remember to see past the lie of their separateness. It is only fitting, then, that the turmoil in my own country should lead me finally to publish my stories. And that the feeling I may be too sick ever to travel again should lead me to embody a dream I never thought I’d find within, the Emerald Shaman.

I spent years fighting the loss of the rainforest and all its ways of life. I struggled against the inevitable. And that work, what I saw, what I lived through, took its tool. But I forgot the cardinal rule of interdependence, that rebirth begins with death. Let this be, then, for me, for us, for the world, the beginning of a new time of re-enchantment.

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