I am 12 years old. I’m sitting on my bed in my childhood home, staring out the window past the brown-gray winter-kissed grasses as far as I can see. There, on the horizon two buttes jut upwards into the sky, just barely disturbing the stern straight plane of the horizon line. A crack in the surface crust exposed the underside of blood red rock, beckoning to me as it always had. There is no development out that way - not yet at least - and I am inhabiting a very familiar daydream in which I wander alone and with a heart full-to-breaking with wonder, drawn mysteriously toward those buttes - into the wilds as if into my unknown future, never to look back.
I’d often catch myself venturing here in my imagination, terrifying in its impeccable way of dreaming me forward into the potential I sensed I held just under the skin, while remaining young, and not yet ripe. For something to exist at all it first needs to be dreamed and perhaps the most ancient part of me remembered this as I caught the scent of ripening in uncanny moments of reverie - when the light hit the rock just-so, when I would slip between the worlds into something not yet present, or perhaps just forgotten on the edge of my awareness, the silence pregnant and screaming. This is what it feels like to be fully human.
It was in one of these moments of reverie that the name Sunfire, then powerful to me, came into my field and took its seat as if it belonged there and had somewhere along the way, been misplaced. This name was a confirmation of both my great love affair with the sun, whom I would welcome into each room every day with the percussive and abrupt zzzzzzzzip! of the blinds- a ritual I enacted as long I can remember, and to fire, that elemental force that tumbled me down into what was then taboo to me - the curled and inviting pages of the book I had commandeered on western astrology, its circular maps and symbols full of secrets. But fire I knew and it felt dangerous and it felt right.
Years later I picked up a hula hoop and my world changed. This circle evoked from me a permission I could not give myself : it was permission to be somebody, permission to move as a woman moves, permission to trust form and flow - my own, and permission to track the erotic under the unassuming guise of a child’s toy. It was permission to speak, and to belong, and Shakti was the name of my belonging. This name arrived serendipitously at twilight, as I sat on a dune of sand somewhere on the road in middle California, looking out to sea. Water. Woman/Shakti. I did not know these two and it felt dangerous and it felt right.
To name something is in one sense, I have learned, to give it a voice. And to name yourself is to enter into dialogue with certain aspects perhaps previously hidden, or not yet fully expressed.
I see now that I named myself because I felt both unable to hold my own most intimate capabilities and unsafe to wield them in the very unforgiving culture I found myself a part of. Although familiar to me, what Shakti Sunfire represented didn’t really feel like me. It was as if I was looking out again, over the horizon of my life, and there before me, not yet “me” beckoned these buttes who held the essence of somebody I hoped I could be. Some mysterious beckoning whose ‘spell’ was Shakti Sunfire. And it was that spell that had me walking, as a pilgrim not toward God, but toward the Truth at the center of the image I was born with.*
I could never have named any of this then.
Sometimes when I say that self-given name, Shakti Sunfire, I feel the little girl of me come forward. The One of me who didn’t believe in me, who didn’t feel safe, who certainly didn’t belong. Over the years countless people have dismissed the name as a whimsical ‘hippie’ name, at times even I have devalued it so, but I say with all seriousness that this name saved my life. The life I now know is indebted to the qualities that Shakti Sunfire held for me, that I couldn’t hold myself. I look back over the last ten years inhabiting that name, and all the people that I have met, and all the experiences that I have had, and I know too that I needed quite a bit of your support to really be able to support myself. To that I am also indebted to you, friend, for seeing me as I wanted/desired - and perhaps needed to be seen.
The fallout of such a name is a kind of fragmentation, and somewhere along the way Shakti became a social crux, a persona - both me, and also less than me, - both me, and strangely again ’not me’. The last few years have been huge in scope. The power of change, and the unscrupulous ferocity of my soul have asked me to deepen again, to get down into the bones, to welcome even Shakti Sunfire, as a fragment and a survival strategy, home. And so I’ve struggled with this name as I’ve struggled with the question; “who am I now?”
Equally I know that I have it within me to hold every aspect of myself without the need for a screen. I can hold my eroticism, my voice, my dance, my body. I can take my Place, and I must - we all must. And I do this now not to further reinvent myself per say, but to show up in my wholeness for all that is happening on our planet right now, in our communities and in our relationships. This is me saying, I, Laura, am showing up.
It’s been a long road, and Shakti is tired. It is not simply a question of changing a name like you change a label. It’s not a lateral move, but a sea change. The contents have shifted during flight. The one who steps forward to meet you is no less drawn by Mystery’s horizon line than the little one of me - drawn to the power of the sun and the alchemy of fire, but I can now hold again what is mine to hold as I walk forward with heart and soul.
So I, Laura, have written this as a ode to a name that has saved my life. And as an obituary for her, both. I bless you and I welcome you home Shakti Sunfire. The spell is broken! May you rest in peace.
* Line from What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte