JAMAICA -- Margaret Miller stands at the confluence of two brooks.
Behind her, Massy Brook pools quietly under the spread of birch trees and jewelweed. To her right, Ball Mountain Brook juts through the scabrous rock banks left by Irene’s wrath.
Margaret stands where they meet.
Her linen and wool clothes flow and flutter in the unexpected wind.
Her brown, silver-streaked hair slips gently from its tie. Six small post earrings, four pearl, one gold, one metal, decorate the edge of her left ear. A single ruby red one graces the right.
Behind horn-rimmed glasses, her eyes squint and close. She takes a deep breath, arms crossed. She exhales and lets them go.
Looking at the water, she says, "I have lived here for 17 years."
Her house, 200 years old, sits diagonally across the property from the confluence. It is open and airy, with high ceilings, a wide front staircase, and the angles and curves an old house gathers over time.
Her weaving studio on the north side is more open and airier still.
Two looms hold taut threads; a ladder slides the length of one wall, reaching up toward shelves and shelves of yarn.
Upstairs, the house transforms again. The walls turn a deep pomegranate red. A string of white Christmas lights pools in a lime green vase. At the landing, a door with a rope handle opens onto what Margaret calls the Luna Room. A small, calm room painted the color of a luna moth’s
Margaret stands at the confluence of this room. Here, her artistry, her background in counseling, her life’s own sorrows and her commitment to healing combine.
"I’m opening up my home to create the Jamaica Healing Arts Center," she says, turning to walk up the brooks’ bank. Two golden birch trunks have been lashed to nearby trees to make a shimmering rail.
At the top of the bank, she picks up her mug of nettle, raspberry leaf and ginger tea. She takes a sip.
"I’ll be giving Reiki sessions and offering intuitive counseling, and my hope is that the individual practitioner space, the Luna Room, will be shared with massage therapists, maybe an acupuncturist and chiropractor, a cranio-sacral therapist, astrologers, intuitive readers, herbalists, all kinds of healing arts," she says.
"And the weaving studio space has enough floor area to use for yoga and tai chi classes, other group activities, and classes and retreats," she continues. The plan unfolds before her like a hologram, so precisely detailed as to be real.
"And I’m hoping to do a biweekly open meditation group. There is also a spot by the brook for a sweat lodge, and this is a perfect spot for nature walks. Our lives are so busy and so stressful, I really believe we need the space to unplug and rest and heal."
This act of imagining an idea into being is one of Margaret’s greatest strengths. Eleven years ago, needing to find a creative outlet after some heartbreaking losses, she opened Margie’s Muse, a custom weaving and yarn shop in Jamaica Village.
"I had the need and enough money for the first month’s rent," she remembers, now sitting on the front porch. She wraps her sweater around her against the bracing wind.
"Somehow it worked, and it was wonderful. So many artists came together there, so many people came in to meet and talk." Her smile is wide and her eyes distant. "Two years ago, sadly, I had to close it down, and I moved the looms and yarn up here."
The closing of Margie’s Muse marked the beginning of tremendous change in Margaret’s life, culminating in Tropical Storm Irene and the end of her long marriage.
The storm washed out the road to Margaret’s house to the north and the south. The personal upheaval washed out her heart. For a while, Margaret was literally and figuratively living on an island home.
"But I have some tremendous friends," she says. "And I knew I needed to heal my heart, and I have this beautiful place to offer. I’ve always wanted there to be a healing arts center in Jamaica, so I didn’t have to travel to Brattleboro or Manchester for the kind of care that feels good to me. So now, it’s like, ‘build it and they will come’!"
That wind, cool but electric, a life force that Margaret meets with her brave and questing gestures, the movements of an improviser and dreamer and survivor, whirls and whips around her again.
She talks about Reiki and flower essences. She talks about borage and yarrow and feverfew. She talks about meditation, the difficulty of sitting still, her hopes for the healing arts center she is just starting to grow.
Margaret stands at the confluence of her life. She goes down to this rushing water, she dips under, and she swims.
Margaret is offering free Reiki sessions through the end of July. To get in touch with Margaret, call 802-874-7201.