ABOUT ME

This website initially was created to serve my academic work. However, that could make it awfully dry. My life has been truly quite colorful!  In the past, I've been a professional environmental campaigner, a performer across the world...a former High Priestess of the Earth Religion known as "Wicca"... Not dry at all. Today I'm a writer and a spiritual counselor, primarily. As a child I talked to ghosts in my parents' big old house, and so sometimes I was the proto spooky child from the film "Sixth Sense": "I see dead people, and most of them don't know they're dead."  Trees and mountains and fields have stories to tell too, which is something I even attempted to write in a doctoral dissertation. It worked if I kept to academic language! Thanks to my very understanding doctoral advisors, I was able to make my "field work" about not only humans who lived in the places I researched, but also about the "other than human" there too.

As the daughter of an eminent NY surgeon and holistic physician, who brought me to the hospitals he worked in for years, from childhood, healing and resilience have been throughlines in my life. (He hoped I might become an MD. Sadly I was too intoxicated by the theatre in those days to think of medical school.)  How we connect to other beings with whom we share this glorious planet is key in my mind and heart -- always has been. How we may support one another in our journeys through this life -- in grief or sharing in joys -- is likewise key. Perhaps there's some symbolism or significance in the fact that one of my last high-profile professional performances on "the boards" was playing Mary Magdalene on the London stage, speaking of her relationship with Jesus. That was London "Fringe" theatre. (Below is a photo from the 1989 production of  "Covenant", where among other roles written for me by the playwright was beloved Mary Magdalene.)

A propos of my spiritual life -- should it be pertinent -- a profound "metanoia" shook my foundations and psyche some years ago, and brought me back to my roots as a Christian. Having been raised and educated as a Nature-honoring, Franciscan-inspired Catholic, I am deeply grateful to have "found my way back". (Thanks to various miraculous and synchronistic occurrences, actually -- grist for the mill of a book someday.)  

This profound and wide-ranging metanoia, or (according to Father Richard Rohr, OFM, it would be better written metanoeite) some years ago rearranged and radically shifted my worldview -- mind, heart and spirit. Among other life-altering decisions, that was when the call that had been tugging at my heart for some time became too fervent to ignore: to chaplaincy. As mentioned previously, I was thrilled to be accepted into a training program in hospital chaplaincy in Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE. That too provided an extraordinarily profound and life-changing experience.  It is a blessing to have been led to offer this work of service to the world, and a privilege to serve some of the poorest and most desperately ill.  My work as a chaplain and spiritual companion has allowed me to serve extremely varied demographics, cultures, ages and stages of illness. 

On the academic side: as an international author, my published work spans a broad spectrum, from Italian and Latin American studies, to ritual and festival studies, performance, including that which is sometimes called "performing place", to environmentalism, and foodways.  The Italian edition of my first book Making Magic with Gaia even became a beset-seller on Italy's mind-body-spirit lists for a while in 2008 -- a thrill, indeed. Finding the academic and scholarly concept of "materiality" sparked my interest and writing verve, as it speaks to what I believe: that intelligent, powerful energy permeates all -- that that which we may think is "dead" or solid, inactive material, is not. Never. The Divine permeates all matter, moving it and influencing all around -- including humanity. I've taught a myriad of courses, given likewise numerous workshops and led many ceremonies, too. Central for me is the interconnectedness of all, the "interanimation" of life, as some scholars write it. This permeates my life and work, as does a profound love of Nature. Dr. Brian Swimme, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, Sr. Miriam MacGillis and Father Thomas Berry's "New Cosmology", as discussed in the Universe Story, animate my heart and have informed my writing and teaching. It is exciting to see new ways meeting old ways in how we regard life and the Divine flowing throughout the Universe. 

 

Currently I am a co-teacher in a Masters of Divinity on-line course for Naropa University in Summer 2021. My teaching career in higher education began as an undergraduate at Georgetown University, in Italian and Italian theatre. In recent years I have also taught environmental studies, cultural geography (pilgrimage), Gaia theory and environmental leadership, among other topics, in both BA and MA programs at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. I had been a teacher before that, at the elementary and secondary level, in totally diverse subjects, such as public speaking, creative writing, and of course, Earth healing -- in NY City, Washington, DC, Santiago, Chile, and all over Europe. 

 

My doctoral and postdoctoral work in religious studies and environmental philosophy has blended materiality, animism, festival and ritual studies, together with research on lived religious traditions. My PhD dissertation (The Open University, UK) focused on Sense of Place, testing how it is manifested in human societies, how it can heal and offer means of resilience to communities and individuals. (An important topic for chaplaincy, whether human communities or "other-than-human".) The lens in those studies was community festivals in Italy, a topic I explore in depth in my 2018 monograph from Bloomsbury Academic discussed on the home page. The unusual and little-known festivals and ritualized gatherings I studied demonstrate how place and Nature can impact human cultures, sometimes speaking through them. Whether in Italy, or wherever in the world, festival culture reveals much that is otherwise unsaid. 

The attached CV tells some of my many volunteer activities over the years -- which includes the Pastoral Care Committee at the Unitarian-Universalist Church and the Spiritual Support Team at the local women's shelter. As a High Priestess for decades I had been a spiritual counselor, trained in New York and London by ethical, compassionate people.  My CV also lists other involvements such as my having been a naturalist and wildlife survey member, a theatre production coach, volunteering at the Milan animal shelter while living in northern Italy, etc.

Along with theatre, foreign language has been a love of mine since childhood -- my mother began to teach me French as a small child, and my father Italian. Consequently I studied Italian and French as an undergrad. Then to my delight, I had the chance to later learn Spanish while living and working in South America.  (THOSE are stories for another website or blog -- how I nearly did not survive Pinochet's regime in Chile, due to my outspoken TV soap opera role and activism.) Spanish has continued to be important in my work, professional and volunteer -- in the 1990s I made a number of TV commercials and "industrial films" in Spanish. I have recently used Spanish as a chaplain and counselor.

 

Although I've lived in various countries and grew up in New York, Colorado is currently home base. 

Mary Magdalene, in %22Covenant%22, Londo

EDUCATION

RESEARCH INTERESTS

  • Place, nature, community and the “other-than-human”

  • Chaplaincy and related intersections, such as "eco-chaplaincy"

  • Animism and materiality

  • Gaia theory and the “New Cosmology” of Berry, Swimme and Tucker, et al.

  • Foodways and local food movements 

  • Ritual and festival studies

  • Foucauldian notions of the "heterotopia"

  • New religious movements (NRM)

  • Social and environmental justice, and the interconnection with community or individual resilience

  • Cross-cultural communication and foreign language

  • Archeology and related research in early landscapes and societies

  • Animal rights, environmental ethics.

The Open University, UK

PhD in Religious Studies

Dissertation = Sense of Place and Festival in Northern Italy: Perspectives on place, time and community

 

University of Cambridge, UK

MPhil in Latin American Studies

Thesis = National Sovereignty and Environmental Conservation in Latin America

Georgetown University

B.S. Languages and Linguistics,

Magna Cum Laude

Italian, French, Theatre