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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill


How can we really know who we are? We may think that we know, but everything is subject to change. This is what I have observed. I am a serious writer, retired musician, and eternal naturalist. If I am not creating, I am not content. I do realize, however, that being a mother is in the forefront of my roles. Like the earth, moon, and all universal cycles, my feminine energy waxes and wanes as I transition from one phase to another.

Before owning my writing, I was a professional trumpet player and amateur cellist. My latter focus on the trumpet (and cornet) was Civil War Era music. In addition to being the principal cornetist in a Civil War Reenactment band, as a musicologist, my research insured a historically informed performance, detailing period costume, instrument accuracy, and music transcription. The "other band" that I managed was a British (style) brass band. We had approximately 26 members. I was a founding member of that band as well and wailed happily on my Eb cornet.

Suddenly, my path changed. Although I continued to teach trumpet lessons, music and movement classes, and present Civil War programs with my cornet, I was moving away from the music world as I knew it. The most important performances for me were those with my family. As a homeschool mother, I was blessed with the opportunity to share many exciting and meaningful experiences with my children as we all grew. We had a small farm and spent a great deal of time in the natural world. But music was big. We performed as a family and were in a handful of various orchestras and ensembles together. Playing in the kitchen of our mountaintop home during long power outages topped the list for me. Classical and Baroque music was stirring, but I think I loved the fiddling by candlelight the most. I was ecstatic when my oldest son made an instrumet out of my grandmother's tin pie plate. We regretted when the power came back on. We all grow and spread our wings. I was ready to embrace the writer within and acknowledge that the time had come to pick up the quill and set down the bow and silver horns. I wrote my way through the mourning of the mysterious loss of my music. I was nudged along on this new path and simply trusted the process. I returned to college to pick up all of the loose ends that had been dangling about, and I wove them together to get to the heart of what it was that I was meant to do.

I attended Vermont College where I was able to plunge into areas of study as they naturally unfolded. My studies encompassed:

  • Mother and daughter relationships, Borderline Personality, PTSD, and Attachment Disorders.

  • Social and cultural study of 17th Century Salem Village, Massachusetts, events leading to the Witch Hysteria, and how my direct ancestors fit into the puzzle.

  • Music - Musicology [Civil War Era], performance issues, teaching, development of performing arts organization and management.

  • Theology - Gnosticism, The Nag Hammadi Texts, Sophia - the Feminine Face of God - and ancient Feminine Wisdom. The desecration of the Feminine.

  • The 19th Century Carroll County Pauper Cemetery and Poor Farm.

I have been writing since I was a young girl. Of course I keep a journal, and I even had a diary with a little key. When I was around fifteen years old, I used to record my short stories and poetry in my own hand sewn books. I used India ink and practiced calligraphy. With the exception of a few random years, I have lived in the country - the lakes and mountains of rural New Hampshire. That is where I am at my best, although I am sensing an urgent calling to be near the ocean. I am a perennial hermitess. I have been told that the days of writing great novels in the deep woods are gone, as it is necessary to be in thriving cities that are brimming with agents and publishing houses. I believe it is possible to maintain one's link (or should I say lifeline) with nature and write amazing books. Being at the source is vital. In the heart of inhabiting the characters of my novel, "Etched in Granite", I reconnected with my Abenaki heritage. One of the three narrators is based on a Native American woman buried at the cemetery merged with my own great grandmother, Nellie Baldwin. She (the character) is a healer on the County Poor Farm. Through my research and unearthing of my own ancient roots, I am now a practicing wildcraft healer. I have a small studio in the woods where I have my wild healing herbs and a great space to write. I returned to where the earth remembers me and I am passionate about sharing these traditions and customs with those who wish to know. "Etched in Granite" is the title of my first historical novel. I will share favorite quotes and tidbits from the three captivating narrators. The research for this novel began at a pauper cemetery in Ossipee (Granite) New Hampshire and ended at the "Indian" medicine caves in Swanton, Vermont. I have learned that it really never begins or ends, as I can safely say that I am perpetually discovering and bathing in pure unknown potentiality.


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