Up a Tree is both a story about journeys and a guidebook for taking journeys of your own. When I first decided to write a book about shamanic practice, I was drawn to the idea of telling a story. Stories are a powerful way to inspire and uplift, and in many traditions, a great tool for healing and bringing people together. In this story, it is shamanism that is the hero, shamanism that saves the day and leads by example.
This book is aimed both at an audience of people who know and love the shamanic way of seeing and being, and an audience of readers who know nothing about the practice. At the time I wrote this book, I belonged to a writer’s group, and the majority of our members had no knowledge or interest in the practice. I worried that these members would find the shamanic journeys, the interaction with talking animals and fantastical episodes experienced by the main character, Clare, to require too much suspension of their disbelief. These parts of the book, however, were resoundingly their favorite, and I realized once again that both story and shamanic experience are a universal language.
At the back of this book is a handbook, which contains twelve journeys and tips for honing your journeying skills, as well as rituals and creative exercises. These twelve sets of shamanic tools correspond directly to the twelve chapters of the novel. As a reader, you can read about Clare’s experience in the novel, and then try out each of her shamanic adventures for yourself. Or, you can just enjoy the story and leave the journeying to other folks.
When I wrote Up a Tree, I wanted to convey how the shamanic way of life is not an esoteric practice that lies peripheral to reality. It is a way for ordinary people to live their ordinary lives in an extraordinary way, a way of living more wholly and deeply, more peaceably and compassionately. A way of becoming the hero of your own story.
Readers of Up A Tree have reported again and again how the book has moved them, healed them, guided them, released their sadness, and shifted them from a stuck and resistant place to a more peaceful and knowing one. In this book, the power and beauty of shamanic experience doesn’t just change the characters. It transforms the reader as well!