In my new Rocky Mountain hometown, the Stone Age meets the New Age. Friends here believe that physical injuries carry spiritual messages.
As a former New Yorker, I have my doubts. I believe emotional ills can manifest physically, of course. And I'm fascinated by the holistic idea of a body-mind that blurs the line between form and Essence, kicking Cartesian dualism in both ass-cheeks.
But when a bottle of Petit Syrah fell off the top of the fridge on my birthday, I didn't see the Big Life Message. The only sign I saw was #&@&^!!#&@*!!&&!@!! as the bottle ricocheted off my skull and smashed my big toe, creating a short sharp pain above and a dull, growing ache below.
It was a case of bad luck, I thought when I could think again -a simple case of gravity compounding a fracture at 32 feet per second.
My new friend, C., an astrologer, disagreed. There was a message in my injury, she said. All we had to do was find it.
A few hours after the fall, C. drove me to the holistic pharmacy in search of ingestible Arnica en route to my birthday dinner. She had checked Louise Hay's book How to Heal Your Body C. said, as we drove. According to Louise Hay, toe injuries were physical manifestations of a needless emotional worry about future details. My squished toe was Nature (or Louise Hay's) way of asking me to "step off" the idea of fine-tuning my future.
I'd paged through "Heal Your Body" and I liked it - a lot. Illnesses are listed alphabetically, which goes a long way toward dimming their fear-factor. Nausea being diagnosed as embodied fear calms my stomach and empowers my mind. A few months ago, I heard Dr. Christiane Northrop confess how a fight with a friend got her urinary tract "pissed off." Even the avatars need a physical Message to tune into themselves every now and then.
There was just one problem with C.'s theory about the message in my toe. Obsessing about future details didn't ring true to me. As a writer, I love to obsess over details past (For example, I can tell you that I carried a half-eaten bag of 365 Brand organic frozen peas to my birthday dinner as a cold compress for my toe - I love the fact that those peas were organic!). But the details of things that haven't happened don't intrigue me.
The next morning, C. called and asked me to read the label on the bottle of wine that had beaned me. I hopped to the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of wine from under the kitchen sink, where I'd put it in low-gravity purgatory.
Having been trained as a Comp Lit major in college, I was concerned that we might read too much into the words on the label. But in the end, there wasn't much to find.
"The McManis Petit Syrah was bottled between California's Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers," I read to C. over the phone.
"Oh well," she said. The words were interesting to a sommelier, perhaps. But wisdom-proof to us.
Perhaps my injured toe was just a toe? Willing to entertain that possibility as well, C. sent me to her chiropractor. My toe was fractured, X-rays confirmed. But there was nothing my new doctor could do about that (toes hang out in groups, but they heal independently).
As long as I was there, he asked, was anything else bothering me?
Well, I said...I'd been writing this novel back in New York. My desk never really fit me (hell, the city never really fit me) and I'd developed this mildly -- okay, majorly painful problem with my arm that had made it hard to do things like type - or walk the dog - or turn my head, or hold things. Physical therapy had only made things worse. The only thing worse than P/T were the "specialists."
The chiropractor smiled, and got to work. As a result, I'm writing these words pain-free.
Was there a spiritual message in my injury or not?
C. believes the bottle of wine spun me toward the doctor who could fix my arm.
I don't see the Message in the Bottle - yet. But if my arm hadn't hurt, I might be living in York City.
Instead, I'm sitting at a desk that suits me, near mountains that move me, surrounded by open-minded, loving friends.
My toe is broken, my arm is healed and my heart is curious.
Here, in the Stone-Age-meets-New-Age West, it may be time to redefine my idea of what a Healing Message is.