Words and Photo by Animist Minister and Teacher, Elisabeth Flower-
I have shared in these months of worry, fear, anger, longing, horror, questioning, and grief like so many of us have during the time of Covid. To try and encapsulate the myriad response of emotions into just these descriptions will never be enough. Yet, now I have moved forward into a space of quiet reflection.
As an Animist, it has been a time of initiation for me. There has been much inner questioning about my part in this world. At times, I felt inadequate and as if I could never make a positive difference when it all seemed controlled by a select few that treat this world as their personal playground while putting others through petty games for amusement, greed, cruelty, self-interest, or some other repugnant evil. You Tube news showed me the worst of humanity filled with hate crimes, white racists, sensationalism, misogyny, greed, murder, death, torture, and destruction of sacred lands.
This questioning drew me closer to my ancestors and my trusted spirit guardians. We formed a tighter bond. I spoke clearly, “Look, I need you now. I ask for your protection. I ask that we work together. Show me what needs to be done.” I held my head higher because it served no one to hang my head in shame and I moved away from my disbelief about others’ world views. I realized that while we all live on Earth, many live in way different paradigms and they don’t match mine.
Last summer I remember walking around my surrounding neighborhood trying to get rid of the anxiety and restlessness. Nothing was predictable and at the same time the days began to run together in a stream of repetition. There were signs of abandoned plans everywhere like the school with the marquee that never got changed, the overgrown community garden with the locked gate, boxes I had packed rapidly and brought home to promptly push into a corner, cars drag racing up and down Speedway Blvd, the relentless sun pushing its rays into every nook of drought plagued earth, the fire bursting through Mt. Lemmon, and always, always the endless upward tick of the Covid count that wasn’t just a “count”. It represents people.
When I look on the Zoom screen now, I see a different me than a year ago. There are new wrinkles. Each wrinkle feels tied to a genuine prayer of healing for others. My wrinkles stretch out like prayer flags. My eyes stare back trying to beam compassion, love and empathy. My smile seems skittish from hiding behind masks but so ready to be called forth.
All this reflecting leads me to what it was like receiving my vaccination. As a teacher, I didn’t sign up easily and get in right away. When I still didn’t get an appointment, I finally just went to a walk-in. This demonstrated that I was committed to the process. People asked me, “Are you taking the vaccine? What do you think about it?” I decided consciously that it was important and that I chose it.
I felt nervous for my first shot. I worried about having a reaction or that something would go horribly wrong but I still wanted it. I was surrounded by elders and they wanted it too. I held my breath when I got it. Actually, I felt like I had been holding it for so much longer and then when I got that shot, I could finally breathe. I cried. I cried from relief to get the shot. I thanked all my ancestors. I thanked my spirit guardians. I felt the vaccination like a whisper inside of me. It felt alien from my essence but just barely.
The second shot was more intense in a different way. Now that I knew what to expect, I didn’t feel the reverie while getting the shot that I had during the first time. Instead, the second shot took its time. That night I felt numb in my arm. It wasn’t until the early morning hours that the vaccination made its presence known and this time, it was as if another being stepped into me and reminded me that I chose for it to be there. I chose it and that meant I was to share space within myself. Power dreams pounded through me. I began to see, smell, hear, think, taste and feel on many deeper levels. Many would say it was tied to having a fever. Animists would agree and then recognize the greater significance.
One dream stands out. This was a dream of an Indigenous elder man. He had a baby boy with him. He asked me two questions. “What have you left undone? Who do you support?” My answers flowed out so easily that it was if I had known this always. I would say that I have always known.
This evening I stood outside in the setting sun. The light shone through the tree leaves so golden. I said to the vaccine, “I’m sharing this with you.” I meant that I am sharing the evening light and I also meant I am sharing my body. Under these circumstances, it’s not just mine. In those simple words is the meaning of my dream and the deepening of Animism.