Tag Archives: challenges

Muscle Memory

I have been calling myself a pagan for a little over 20 years. For around a third of that I was very enthusiastically Wiccan. I then practiced Druidry for a couple of years while studying the Bardic grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. For the past five or six years I have been a Heathen (Germanic paganism, where my initial interest had lain), but at times it has been a challenge. I would like to share something that is helping me see it in a different light.

I recently visited an exceptional massage therapist, hoping for relief from shoulder pain I’ve had for years. My massage therapist explained – in terms I could understand – that I have layers of scar tissue over my muscles. This is usually the result of an untreated injury or over working yourself. It means my muscles can’t expand and contract properly. The scar tissue also prevents blood from adequately reaching my muscles, so they can’t heal properly. Without treatment first, exercise often builds more scar tissue rather than fixing anything. I have the same problem with my neck, back, chest, arms, and legs. She even believes my hands were broken at some point, which was news to me.

Even after just a couple of sessions with her, the change has been dramatic. While moving an unused door to the shed, I realized in mid-stride that I was feeling no pain or tightness in my neck or shoulders. I immediately had flashes of a time when physical activity came so easily. Through the years, I have been slowing down. Exercise feels different and the results aren’t the same. I thought it was age or I wasn’t trying hard enough, and I practically gave up… but what if the massage therapist is right? What if untreated injuries building up over time is partially to blame? The happy ending to this story is that with her help, I am at the start of a road to health.

This physical realization brought with it a spiritual epiphany. I had flashes of a time when my budding pagan spirituality seemed to flow so easily. A few years ago I was involved in some serious spiritual drama, and everything has been more challenging since. I even considered returning to those paths where things had felt smoother – Wicca and Druidry – but I found they were no longer so easy. I think it’s because it isn’t that path that’s the challenge. It’s the spiritual scarring, making everything more difficult and preventing proper healing. I have been hobbled on this stretch of my spiritual journey.

The best news is that this story can also have a happy ending. Now that I have identified the problem, I can find solutions. Just like with the massage therapist, part of it will include asking for help from people I trust. Another part will be getting back into the routine of strengthening myself, and without the barriers it’s a pleasant responsibility. If the comparison holds true, confronting some of these things will be painful… but in the end, worth it all.

page-breakMike CMike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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A Tragic Tale and a Noble Sacrifice

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So many times we read of distant heroes and beautiful places that are brimming with history and tragedy and fascinating events. It is easily forgotten that the land we live on is also full of stories.

Middle Island is located on the southern bank of the Miramichi River just outside of Chatham, NB. It stretches roughly 350 meters long and 100 meters wide. On the South Eastern side there are sandy beaches and calm shallow water. The opposite side faces out into the middle of the Miramichi River. The shoreline is rocky, with much deeper water and docks.

Perhaps just as interesting as the island itself is the fact that a mile or so inland, there is a lake that is roughly the same size and shape as Middle Island. This has lead to local stories about the two being related. Some people credit leprechauns magic with the creation of Middle Island, and thereby the large hole which was left to fill with water and become the Lake.

Middle Island has a fascinating and tragic history. From roughly 1827 to 1850 the island was used sometimes as a quarantine station. Often ships full of immigrants would arrive in the New World containing passengers who were ill or who had died during the voyage. Diseases such as cholera, typhus, small pox and dysentery were common. One infected passenger could carry a disease aboard that would spread throughout the ship affecting passengers and crew alike. Weeks spent in cramped and unsanitary conditions made illness almost unavoidable once it was present.

In 1847 at the height of the Irish potato famine, immigrants were pouring in from Ireland, in search of food for hungry bellies and a way, ANY way to provide for their families. Cargo ships often sailed with a hold full of people rather than goods during this time. One such ship was the Looshtauk, which carried 462 passengers. Of these, it is estimated that 117 and possibly as many as 146 died at sea. Conditions were so bad that the captain was forced to head for the nearest port, which was Miramichi.

Port authorities in Miramichi did not know what to do with the Looshtauk. It was decided that Middle Island would be put to use once again as a quarantine station. Some temporary wooden buildings were erected, and three days after their arrival, the passengers and crew were finally allowed to land on the island.

Within a week two other ships also arrived and were directed there. Between the three ships over a hundred more people died on the island.

It is difficult in this day and age to imagine the conditions that these immigrants faced in 1847. Middle island had a couple of wooden buildings, and as people arrived and grew ill, makeshift shelters and canvas open air tents were set up to accommodate the sick. These very rough shelters were not comfortable, and they were definitely not sanitary. They would offer slight protection from the elements but no shelter at all from the mosquitoes and temperatures.

Supplies were dropped off on the mainland opposite the island and those who were healthy were able to row across and pick them up. A doctor was badly needed, to treat the suffering and dying immigrants. Some sources state that port medical officers had refused to travel to the island.

A young doctor named John Vondy volunteered to help. He was 28 years old. He agreed, knowing that once there, he must remain until the illness had passed. He was aware that this could take weeks or months.

When Vondy arrived at the island he found himself faced with over 300 patients. It is said that he worked tirelessly to relieve the suffering he found there, until finally falling ill himself. In the ultimate sacrifice, John Vondy died on Middle Island.

Today, the island is a recognized historical park. A stone cairn marks the place as an Irish burial ground, and a fifteen foot Celtic cross monument bears the words “bron bron mo bron.” (Sorrow sorrow my sorrow.) There is a walking path that circles the island and an interpretive center where visitors can learn more about the history of the place.

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kpKatie P is writer, reader, drummer and certifiable nature nut. She lives rural New Brunswick, where she spends far too much time frolicking in the bulrushes. She also blogs at Wyldwomyn.ca

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Breathing In

While I sit at my computer, I gaze at the scene outside. Beautiful evergreens with a covering of snow stand tall upon a blanket of white. It all appears so fresh, so new. Stepping out of the old year and into the new can be overwhelming. Soon I’ll be another year older, inching my mortality away while breathing it all in deeply.

It is a beautiful sunshine filled day. The wind is cold; we have a fire burning in our woodstove. In the coming weeks my days will be filled with appointments, drum lessons, karate, ringette, and hockey. There will be tournaments, birthdays, homework, and tests. A crush of life. As anxiety filled as it can be, I look forward to it. The sound of my children’s laughter as it floats through the house, the smell of something delicious baking in the oven, bubbling over on the stove as I left it to let the dogs out. THIS to me is life.

Distractions have been aplenty for me in the past year. My life always seems to be a mix of chaos and order, and all shades of the rainbow. As a mother, this time of year has always been a mixed bag for me. My children return to school after the holiday break, I have to return to work, bills need to be paid. It can be a depressing time. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be every bit as beautiful and wondrous as any other day in any other season.

Breathing in deep and inhaling all the abundance is refreshing. Sometimes life can be daunting. The challenges life brings and drama that accompanies it can be draining. As a parent, taking a step back and looking at the entire picture as opposed to the moment at hand can not only help, but bring things back into view. One of the most important things delving into Paganism has taught me – breathe deep, meditate. For a busy, stressed out parent (especially this time of year), these are two of the most important lessons. Breath deep – literally expand your lungs, bringing in more life giving oxygen, gather in the life around you. Clear your mind, your heart, and your body. Only then move on to the next challenge.

My challenge this season is to continue to remember to breathe deep, taking in all the nuances around me and not allow myself to be overwhelmed. My challenge is to remember that nothing will cause the end of the world. As my gaze floats back to the trees and wind outside, my mind fills with the possibilities of what will be and can be. I breathe it in. Do you?

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Crowwitch is a spectacular balance of chaos and order. This energetic hockey, soccer, ringette, karate, mom works hard to keep up with her two brilliantly funny children, and enjoy some quiet time with her devoted partner in the evenings. She also maintains a personal website called Crowwitch.

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