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  • Mj Pettengill

In Essence, the Truth is Hot

Sunbeam, Forest, Light   CC0
Sunbeam, Forest, Light CC0

Why am I here?

We may or may not know the answer. I go in and out of thinking that I know. I certainly don’t know what your purpose is. You, yourself, may be unaware. Or you might think that you know. Maybe you changed your mind and haven’t a clue where you are headed or why. All of this unknowing is fine.

It seems, especially during uncertain times, that we may be lost or stuck.

This morning, I was reminded that acknowledgment—the core of my work—is vital. This is not only applicable to history, crimes against humanity, or choosing peace over war. I am referring to what some might consider being the little things. What is little to you can be huge to another. My point is acknowledgment. It means so much. At the end of a solo performance, a musician will be met with hearty applause, an act of gratitude and appreciation. Sometimes the performance high can last for hours, especially if it’s a significant solo that requires preparation, skills, and time. We would never listen to such a concert and then just get up and leave when it’s over. No. Instead, we may jump to our feet, clap, and shout, bravo! We’re navigating times when the audience and orchestra are finding their way back to the stage. For a career musician, this is home. At the beginning of the lockdowns, performances took place online. I know that when this pandemic rolled into our lives in 2020, everyone was popping up online for live appearances—not always the creative type, just to say, “hello.” There was an element of fear in this—as if people were assuring one another that they still existed. After all, we did not have a playbook so. We made up the rules as we went along. As you remember, this virtual extravaganza was for performances on all levels and basic readings and talks. People became experts at doing their lives online. This was not an option for me until March of 2021 when I could finally get internet access. By then, I was somewhat fried. I had lost the desire to record or do live shows. It used to take me hours to upload a single blog. Even now, with okay internet, I find myself clenching my teeth and shallow breathing when I upload a blog. A decade is a long time to struggle, being cut off from the virtual world. I’m working on releasing those automatic triggers. I’m connected now. Sometimes, I forget. I had released my third book only two months before this life-altering global event. I could not give the third book release the same amount of attention and publicity as the previous two in the series. I’m a glass-half-full person, so I convinced myself that the book would magically float around the world and be read as a companion to the others. I am pleased to report that even in these bizarre conditions, sales are steady.

Before getting real internet, I used my i-phone hotspot to catch glimpses of the world online. (This fries the battery quickly.) No matter how often I started to slide into a dark place of obscurity, I pulled myself back up. How? I will be the first one to credit Marya and her extraordinary adventures in the fields and wood. Had this aspect of self been unable to maintain a wild connection, I fear that absolute darkness would have seeped into my bones. This came on the heels after the summer of 2020. I was infected by a Lyme-carrying tick and got stuck in the mud and silt of a dried-up pond. I went into warrior mode with the Lyme, beyond grateful that I immediately found the tick and the bullseye rash and underwent both standard and holistic treatment. The hip and back injury from being sucked into the depths of thick black mud is still present. All it took was one step off of the familiar path, and I started to go down. I was not paying attention, and there was a price to pay for that. I could have been swallowed up, but I am here.

After effective physical therapy, ongoing exercises, and the application of amazing plant medicinals, I am usually without pain. However, it does linger and wait in the wings, so I must take care. I began to write the fourth book in February of 2020. I carry much of the stories to be told in notes and in my heart. I have promised the 298—the Book of Numbered Souls—that I will continue to write as long as their stories emerge and I am able. I will confess that writing this one has been more challenging. It’s about focus. I am in it and will carry on. I have been unearthing a treasure trove of information regarding the nineteenth century that never made sense until now. I used to work around several obstacles connected to the endless loss of records burnt in fires. Now I get it. I do not plunge into the ashes of this lost information in the same manner. Life is giving in that way. Just when I thought I had answers, more questions rushed in to plague me. I made the decision to work with what I have and stop trying to sift through embers. In essence, the truth is hot. Sparks ignite the flames of stories waiting with the others. Knowing about it—acknowledgment—is enough. Why do I sometimes feel stuck? Book events, for the most part, have been placed on hold. I miss conversations with those interested in my work, the stories, and the healing herbs that are my companions. The dialogue shared with readers and those seeking lost ancestors is more inspiring than I knew before it vanished. I believe that being stuck is essential, and as an artist, I have never given it much thought. Of course, I considered it because it is a part of our humanness. But, I embrace it. To me, it is being in the void, spending time between the waves before they crash upon the shore. There cannot be waves without the spaces in-between. This is when we catch up to ourselves when we find out where we have been. We hold up our compasses to align with the part of the path trapped in the weave of the forest floor or swept away in the current of the rising river. The intensity and stillness of this new silence have created a perception of aloneness. In one sense, we are just a click away from connecting. And then, we may feel as if we are lost from each other. This is only true if you maintain a grip on what once was and not what is. The past is gone; the future does not exist. We are here.

This morning, I read two separate messages from people I have never met. One is a best-selling author, and the other is in media and public relations. They have both read my work, and they told me your work is important.

It’s that simple.

I wish to close this offering with a thought for you, the reader. No matter what you believe, why you are here, or what your purpose is, you are significant. You are unique and of value in your family or community. Your presence makes a difference. I am grateful that you are reading these words, and I wish you the best. I take a deep bow; I acknowledge you. Acknowledgment




  1. Acceptance of the truth or existence of something. Definitions from Oxford Languages