Death in the Dooryard

Grief is a fussy, needy house guest. 

We can’t please her no matter what. The coffee isn’t Fair Trade, the bed a little too firm and the shower pressure “just okay.” We’ve overlooked the details this house guest of grief picks up on. Her particular tastes, wants–the needed things!–and her locked stare on the enormous hole that a loss has made works to make us edgy, out of sorts and above all, terribly vulnerable. It’s only in time that we come to thank her for her gifts. 

She also comes with the gift that we may have been unaware was overdue: the stripping away of the mundane, as if our entire bodies were dipped in a bucket of turpentine and the weeks, months, years of chipping paint disintegrates in a second, burns our skin, forces our eyes to squeeze out their necessary brine. She takes the unnecessary completely away and then scours, scraps, santizes. She then beckons us to be the nurse on duty: How will we care for our cleaned-out wounds, will we figure out how to wrap the bandages and apply the healing salve? 

Depending on the nature of the loss, and what it might trigger inside of us, will determine what must be rehabilitated inside of us. Instead of muscling through, we cave inwardly, silent, still, immobile. In that cave, we pick up a needle, a thread and start to sew a cloak, a cape of survival. If we are very lucky, it is a garment that BECOMES us, not one we don at times of devastation. We become the medicine beyond our grief that loss left. In this, that fussy, needy house guest is brilliant, wise beyond her years. 

And so I was reminded of these things about ten days ago. Excuse all of the mixed metaphors of the above paragraphs but a dismantling of reality will do that to a writer. On March 9th, Michael and I went down to Boston (Cambridge, actually-) to see one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Emily Scott Robinson. The plan was to leave on Thursday on the 3:30 bus, hop on the T at South Station and find the inn where we were staying before dinner–all of which we did, although I just about had a panic attack on the T. NOT a fan of being tucked into small places made of metal with a bunch of strangers–but that’s just me! After checking into the Friendly Inn at Harvard Square (packed with spirits, BTW-), we hustled over to the Russell House for dinner, which was lovely, if not a bit loud. I had oysters and a salad (and a dirty martini) and Michael had a salad, veg risotto and some wine. I’d been looking forward to the trip for a long time, that Friday, March 10th, was the start of my Spring break from UNE. After canceling Thursday’s classes, my vaca had started early! Yah! Michael, having grown up in Newton and having attended MIT, was right at home and feeling the familiar vibes. 

We got to the Sinclair about forty minutes before the show started. Hardly anyone was there, and so we got right up front, inches away from the mic. I was so pumped, so excited! However, to my great disappointment, Emily only played four songs all night. She was touring with other singers this time–Alissa Amodor and Violet Bell–and although the mixed talent was appreciated, I was going to see her. The crowd was a little weird, too. Is it the sober curious movement? Surely all those Harvard kids are used to letting their hair down. ‘Subdued’ was an understatement, and my hoots and hollers and singing along got me some eye-rolls and sideways glances. 

 The show ended at 10:50 PM, and, with my hopes dampened, we made our way back to the haunted Friendly Inn. I know it’s silly, but I was honestly, truly upset. I had wanted to be taken into the soul of Emily Scott Robinson through her music, her songs–they’d broken me open when I saw her on November 6th, 2021, in a little mountain town named Sparta, North Carolina. Emily is a NC native, like me. She grew up in Greensboro–where I was born–and moved out to Colorado chasing dreams (yup, me too). I’ve always felt a visceral connection to her and on that fateful night in Sparta, I got to meet her, chat, throw my arms around her and tell her that she was the perfect mix of June Carter and Joni Mitchell. So, yeah. ‘Disappointed’ is an understatement. We got into the room (roasting!) and I lit some sage to ban the ghosts, blabbing on about the ‘false advertising’ we’d been subjected to. (*Emily was the headliner so I do feel justified in complaining about the measly four songs). Finally, I washed my face, climbed into bed and shut up. 

The next day, Michael said to me, “I’m sorry last night wasn’t exactly what you’d expected. What can we do to change the channel?” 

“Just take me home. I want to get out of here and go home,” I said as I stuffed my backpack. “Like, now. No breakfast, no showers. Let’s just go!” 

And so we did. We made the 10 AM bus back to Portland and got back to Avalon by noon. Gone for less than 24 hours. Our house-sitter texted that she’d left around 11:15 AM, and that Molly had been walked. I was looking forward to taking a long walk with Molly–too much sitting on buses and Ts! I went upstairs to change into my exercise clothes and that’s when I heard it: a wail I will never forget as long as I live. For a second, I thought maybe Michael had started to chop wood for the maple boil and he’d slipped and really injured himself. I did not know my husband could make a sound like the one I heard that day and, depending on your perspective, it may have been easier to take had he chopped off a finger. 

In our absence, our hens who had been left in their cozy coop, had either been terrorized by an animal or had turned on themselves–they were all dead. Three of them had their necks torn out and two were just dead. We had not asked our house-sitter to do anything with them; they had food, water, a heat lamp that was on a timer. Plus, we knew we’d be back before anyone could say Avalon Acres. 

If they got spooked, and freaked out, then they very well could have killed each other. When chickens turn on each other, it can be for a variety of reasons: Pecking order got out of hand, overcrowding, bullying (different than pecking ), a sickness/a sick chicken, boredom, not enough protein in their diet, stress. Chickens also need to get out of their coops at least once a day, despite not liking the cold or wet. They need things to peck at, to scratch; in our chicken yard right now, those things consist mainly of patches of snow in various stages of melting and refreezing. We also learned that once a chicken sees the sight of blood, they kind of go berserk and lose it– a chicken frenzy. 

Instead of going further with details, rationalizing the mysterious circumstances or wallowing on the page in the canyon of guilt Michael and I both feel (it DID happen while we were gone-), I want to highlight those gifts the needy houseguest of grief left us with. On a personal level, I had to work through old feelings of perceived unworthiness: Who AM I  to think we could pull off this farm thing? Look what happened because of us silly novices! I don’t deserve the privilege of the rural life (and on and on). Added to this litany of self-abuse, I was triggered from a past life, or lives: in several past lives, things had gone badly in my absence. Whether it was returning home from plundering, fighting or exploring, I have had plenty of experiences in past lives of coming home to find nothing left and the dead all around. With the backlog of guilt from not being able to protect what was mine from these past experiences, my invisible tee-shirt for this life announces, “Not on my watch!” I got you, don’t worry with me on the scene. I’ll be there, By God. 

The tragedy brought to the forefront a need to re-evaluate the many different roles we’ve fallen into. In other words, we’d siloed ourselves in certain duties and responsibilities, all the while neglecting the ‘team-work’ aspect of running Avalon. This unfortunate event gave us a chance to review those roles and re-commit to doing more as a team–shared vision, shared responsibility. For many of you reading this newsletter, you know that Michael possesses the Divine Masculine so beautifully: ACTION, rational thought, building, weighing options and risks, seeing the long view with a very big dose of vision thrown in. Me? I could sit under my favorite tree and count pine needles, be contented to drum under the full moon and light the ceremonial fires round and round the calendar wheel. Had we not communicated effectively about what the chickens needed? Had we failed them, and ourselves, with some unspoken detail or undersight? How did falling into our siloed duties play into this tragedy, if at all? I gathered eggs, helped to clean the coop from time to time and tossed them scratch but maybe I was leaving too much for him to manage. 

Maybe, maybe, maybe. Speculation is a game we humans can play all night long; as long as there’s human imagination and the force of guilt locked and loaded, that game can go on ad nauseam. But at some point, you have to stop. You have to have mercy on yourself. You have to forgive. 

That is one of the hardest things to do, it seems. Many of us feel that if we forgive ourselves,  it means we’ve moved on– a hint of exoneration seeping down our faces along with the tears. I can never, ever forget what happened to our beloved chickens, AND I will move on with a renewed respect for owning and caring for domesticated animals. I will move on with a refined sense of direct communication with my husband, and a deeper acceptance of our different communication styles. I will move on with even more willingness to turn my vulnerability into the medicine I need to grow. Death blows one open and urges us to move on with more knowledge, more skill and more understanding. 

Because if you don’t learn from bad things that happen to you, what is the point of going through it? From the soul’s perspective, all it wants to do is grow. The last time I checked, spiritual growth and soul evolution generally require some pain, sometimes some suffering, oftentimes, some loss. We get to whittle ourselves down to the most concentrated version of compassion that our humility can withstand. And that stingy, fussy, needy houseguest of grief knows that all too well. 

We had an awful thing happen here at Avalon and we are learning from it. I can be proud of my ability to let the courage of brutal self-examination set my course moving forward. Our hearts are still breaking for “the girls” and as with any trauma on this scale, things won’t ever quite be the same. Things will be different with how we work with this land, how we honor and respect the risks that come with a rural lifestyle. I must believe that is a good thing, and I truly believe that Fortune Favors the Bold. We were emboldened to leave our life in Portland, our tidy condo with zero responsibility, and our friends to begin a new adventure and to carry out a dream. I would not trade that for anything. The gifts, this time, for daring greatly have come in unsightly, uncomfortable packaging. But they are gifts all the same. 

Thank you for reading this story of loss. If something has gone away for you, if something has been lost, if something has left or died because you couldn’t protect it, please do not blame, shame or speculate. Be Human, and know that you are not alone in your pain. 

Welcome that house guest in. Her neediness will pursue you until you surrender. Trust me: She is wise in her peculiar ways. 

Shine On,

Mary Katherine


Swirl Out of Winter, Welcome Spring!

Are you ready for EPITHEULIUS, the God of Wind, the God of CHANGE…?



No, you won’t find this one with Zeus or Hera, Hades or Persephone; you won’t find this with the historical Pantheon because this name, this God, came to me a long time ago, when I was about 14 years old. I stuffed it, not knowing what the “information” or “feeling” was about. I had no idea how to interpret how Spirit was speaking to me back then and so I ignored it. 

I think a lot of kids must experience “hunches” of intuitive gifts, abilities to connect with the Spiritual world, heightened sensory aptitudes that all get buried because the world in which those kids live doesn’t reflect back to them value or validity in understanding or experiencing the world in that way. 

Which is a shame. Sure, there’s some super cool parents out there who are open to allowing and permitting their child to be permeable to All That Is. I remember reading in Michael Pollan’s book, “How to Change Your Mind” some scientist who had studied brain activity in newborns and 1-year olds. The gist was that ‘basically these babies are tripping,’ meaning that they really haven’t received the dense plaster of the conditioned world yet. Their mental and spiritual follicles are standing at attention. They’re picking up ALL KINDS OF STIMULI, SIGHTS AND SOUNDS. Then, the controlling agents in the form of parents and the predominant values of society creep in, descend on their party, choking out even the possibility that there are forces and energies that dwell “just beyond.” 

However, that doesn’t mean those forces are not there. Lately, I’ve felt a strong desire to honor “lost gifts of childhood.” In fact, I spent an entire week-end recently at the Marie Joseph Spiritual Retreat Center in silence to trace back and recapture some of my lost gifts of childhood. 

When I got there on Friday afternoon, I dropped my bags in my tiny room and went to the beach. It was very windy–Epitheulius must have know I was coming–and I found myself ascending a rocky path to a peninsula of well-appointed houses, then cruised around the small, quaint New England streets until I found a Maine Audubon trail, which I sloshed down, dodging melting snow and mud. To my delight, there was no one else on the trail. 

When I got back to the room, I did what I always do when I check into a hotel: I made an altar. I knew I needed to focus my energies, to have something to pray by, and pray with. Afterall, I was in a prayerful community with devout nuns who had the sweetest smiles and greetings you’ve ever seen. My Goodness, I haven’t been anywhere that quiet in a very long time! I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to get on their station, if you know what I mean. And I did. 

“No Candles” the rules said; I did not oblige.

But I did turn my phone OFF and made the altar with the different treasures of nature I’d found on my walk–pine cone, rock, two shells with various dried herbs and flowers from Avalon. I knew that I was to visit with the child of me, the child of 7. The one who still very much believed that her “babies” (aka stuffed animals) heard every word she said. The one who was forever coming up with some elaborate story, some elaborate game or just playing tricks. 

I settled into my rocker, conveniently located right in front of the window. I held a crystal I’d brought and an old rock I found in Fort Collins the first year I attended Colorado State University. 

The view was pretty sweet…

To my surprise, a guide showed up: My 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Belk. Now, I grew up in a small town (pop.: 2,000) in North Carolina. In 1978, when I was 7, Siler City was still pretty abhorrently racist. My own father was extremely racist. And Ms. Belk impressed on my little soul something that no one else at that tender age had done by doing an extraordinary act every single day

Before I tell you what it was, I’d like to describe Ms. Belk: Long, ironing board straight brown hair. Bubblicious lip gloss, probably strawberry-flavored. Dangling silver hoops, lots of blue eye shadow. A mouthful of big white teeth that were always in an open laugh, and that laugh was LOUD. Can you picture her? 

Now: imagine our little bodies, our faded Wranglers and stained cotton shirts from that day’s jello or pudding we’d had at lunch. There’s a certain smell, too, that goes with one’s elementary school. I’ll not attempt to describe yours but mine was the cafeteria, of fried food and a slight burnt-coffee tinge, some sort of sanitizer to clean up vomit. And little kid-sweat. It makes sense that I can remember the 1st school I ever attended better than all the rest (and there were many-). The first of anything really leaves an impression. 

There we are, lined up at the end of the day, about to emerge onto the blacktop, to go screaming off to the bus or to our waiting moms, their Chevrolet wagons idling softly, a long cigarette poised in their fingers. 

The bell rings, it’s time to go. Before we stepped over the threshold and into the hall, Ms. Belk kissed every single one of us goodbye, assuring us that she would see us tomorrow. She might throw in a ‘Be Good, now’ just to keep it fresh. 

And this struck me as a radical act–that she would kiss white and black kids, girls and boys. She did not see color, or gender. And of course you can’t kiss school children in this day! I didn’t know why she did it but I knew that her indifference to race and gender made me think she was the coolest woman that ever lived. 

So when she showed up to guide me back to my lost childhood gifts, I wasn’t surprised. When I was able to thank her for modeling this radical act of acceptance, I was able to drill down on what it was I so admired: She exhibited Love. Radical, fierce Love for ALL OF US. She was a living, breathing example of all the things I learned in bible study about how Jesus said we should act. 

And you know what? ‘Fierce Love’ was the first stop we made on my tour of childhood. That LOVING FIERCELY is actually a super-power that gets its light turned down as we grow and mature. It may get tainted by hurt, or side-stepped because we’re too busy trying to secure a sense of safety. Whatever knocked mine out, Ms. Belk said: You can be like me. Let my example lead your 7 year old self right up to this moment, right now. 

Because if we don’t need some FIERCE LOVE right now in this world, I don’t  know what we need. 

My Spring Wish for you is for Epitheulius, the God of Wind and Change, to blow out whatever it is that keeps you from knowing–intimately knowing–what loving fiercely looks and feels like. This break-Down to break-Through we’re experiencing has a purpose: for us to CHOOSE LOVE, like Ms. Belk did, without a thought. 

Without any side-stops along the way. 

Our children are secretly hoping that’s our top choice. For them, it’s the only choice. 

Shine On, 

Mary Katherine 


Troi Boulanger is a LCSW, intuitive guide, dog-whisperer and overall fantastic human being. I met Troi [pronounced ‘Troy’] several years ago at a monthly shamnic gathering I used to co-lead called the Confluence. We became fast friends and began doing “reiki shares” every other Friday with another healer. Troi epitomizes Fierce Love, in every gesture, every conversation, every prayer. In fact, she boldly stepped out and rented her home in Westbrook for a few months to travel in the Southwest, hiking about in New Mexico with her dog Violette. In a few weeks, she’ll return to her therapy practice in Saco. 

Troi has been incorporating energy work in her practice for over 20 years. She works with people to identify patterns that hold them back, and then works to develop skills to move forward in their lives as their whole being, bringing healing to mind, body, spirit and life. Troi is also developing a website for Intuitive Guidance where she’ll help people deepen their understanding of their whole selves, while learning principles of energy healing to keep themselves at their highest best.

This summer, Troi will be offering in-home pet services on Rover. You can look for her there for your furry creatures and on Psychology Today for counseling.

For more information about these services and more, contact Troi at: tboulanger1@me.com


Need a boost on starting that memoir? Are you struggling with a concept you’d like to commit to paper but need a solid structure and a kind cheerleader to take your vision to the next level? I am happy to report that I can add Writing Coach to the many services I offer. There’s no project too small or large! Here’s a testimonial of a current client I’m helping to launch: 

Mary Katherine’s skills as a writer, editor and coach are a perfect match for my needs. She’s helped me to focus my book project and create a supportive structure to move the work forward. Mary Katherine reads drafts closely, provides helpful feedback and poses questions that make me consider what it is I’m trying to say, and how I want to say it. Her guidance and support have been critical! 

~ Debra S. of New Gloucester, Maine 

It’s not always easy to write. In fact, for some people, it’s torture. Not for me! I love it and will always find the most creative way for you to enjoy it as well! Send inquiries to marykatherinespain@gmail.com 


I’m co-teaching a new writing class! My friend and professional peer Jess Verrill and I have teamed up to offer a new 10-week class that offers you not only writing instruction and feedback from me but energy up-grades and executive coaching from Jess. Together, we will take your project and your confidence to its highest level of poise and professionalism. 

To learn more about the class and see if it’s a good fit for you, click here. Hope to see you there!  


__My Established Client follow-up rate will be changing from $75 to $85 for follow-up sessions starting on April 1st

__The Portland Office still has 1 or 2 slots available on Sat 3/26 and Fri 04/01. for healing sessions. Do you need a tune-up? Email me to get booked! 

__Amy Chaney and I will be offering the Mayan Spirit Bathing Ritual and Ceremony on Saturday June 18th. This event was a HUGE SUCCESS last September! What better time than the Summer Solstice to meet the Mayan Fertility Goddess Ixchel and learn about ritual bathing? Interested in saving a spot? Email me! (*more details to come in my May newsletter!) 

__My ‘Click Your Heals’ class has been a great success; while teaching it, I realized I’d like to gather regularly with Seekers and Light Workers to explore, witness, study and support one another through these changing times. Ideally,  I’d like to co-host a ‘Shamanic Share & Care’ twice a month for shamanic practitioners or anyone who has foundational skills in shamanic practice. Interested in being a co-host? Have some good ideas? Email me

And finally…Meet our new logo for Avalon Acres! Although the website is still being tweaked and fine-tuned, you’ll want to be on the look-out for our up-coming events, workshops, fire circles and more! Make sure you are on my newsletter list to recieve updates!

Happy Spring!

Avalon Acres is the home to many 9 Pillars events!