Beware of bikers bearing gifts in February in Minnesota. Nico the lawyer roared up on his Harley, ice glittering in his beard and stiffening his leather duster, and handed me a package. It contained the shaman’s diary, previously owned by my best friend, James “Tum” Tumblethorne. Tum had been murdered, and now I was the keeper of the Down Dog Diary.
My name is Maya Skye. I am named for a civilization that tracked celestial bodies without telescopes or computers, that built enormous and beautiful architecture, that developed a written language while others were still grunting. But they also cut out the still-beating hearts of young girls to appease spirits, and they decapitated the losing team in sporting events. In some ways, I am very much like the Mayas: I’m a dreamer, a stargazer, but I have a bit of the bloodthirsty in me, too.
This is a problem for one dedicated to enlightenment. I am a yoga teacher. My calling is to help others, not hurt them. I do not take this responsibility lightly, no matter the karmic consequences. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
Nico was barely back on the road to New Mexico when I opened the diary. It was the repository not only of Tum’s wisdom and prayers, but the wisdom and prayers of all those who came before him, people who had followed the shaman’s path. Pages were falling out of the well-traveled journal, now held together with a rubber band. Words were stained with dirt and perhaps blood. The black leather cover was soft with age and worn in spots, and one corner looked as if someone had tried to set it afire.
I brought the diary to my nose, gently riffled the pages, and sniffed. I expected the moldy smell of old paper. Instead, the scent of roses swirled into the air. Then, the aroma changed—to the fresh smell of mint crushed between one’s fingertips, to pine forest, to wet dog. I frowned. I flipped the edges of the diary with my thumb again. More sweet scents lifted from the pages but mixed in were the smells of rotten things: dumps and puke and death.
With the smell of axle grease all around me, I read a passage written in Tum’s looping handwriting:
I have traveled many roads. They are all inside me, sometimes tangling with each other, sometimes living in peace, sometimes just ignoring each other. They are me, but I am not them. With the twist of a thought, I turn them into strings of yarn . . .
I felt a surge of power snaking up through my fingers, streaking up my arm.
I slammed the book shut.
It was said the shaman’s diary held mysteries not meant for ordinary men and women. And now these secrets sat on my kitchen table.
The diary had brought some unsettling energies into my home and my yoga studio, Breathe. So at the end of the afternoon yoga class, I decided to do some housecleaning. I invited my students to participate in a cleansing ceremony where we wrote our wishes on paper and burned them in a prayer bowl, sending the wish-laden smoke into the Universe.
Now, you have to understand that my Monday class is full of grouches and nonbelievers and people who would rather be somewhere else, like the new guy, who looks great from behind in Downward Facing Dog. His name is Peter Jorn, a reporter recovering from mysterious war wounds. Jorn thought the ceremony was ridiculous, of course. Merlin, the retired carpenter, added his wish but only after I threatened to tattle to his daughter. Fifteen-year-old Olivia Chen, the klepto, thought it was fun. Romance writer Julia Lune threw her wish in with a smile and a “I never win anything.” Alice Dunkirk, a lifelong Catholic, worried that she’d have to go to confession after this. And level-headed David Simpson, my brother-in-law, joined in “to keep peace in the family.”
We dispelled the bad vibes, and I thought all would be right in the world. But then the wishes began coming true, causing their own trouble, and an anonymous someone offered me a large sum of money for the diary. Had Tum’s killers traced the diary to me? Can a yoga teacher hunt a killer and still find inner peace?
I’ll let you know. Namaste.
In yoga, the Downward Facing Dog Pose turns your world upside down, and that is exactly what the Down Dog Diary does to yoga teacher Maya Skye. First, her mentor, a former Hell’s Angel turned shaman, is killed for the book of secrets. Now Maya has it, and trouble is stalking her. When the mystical journal is stolen, Maya learns just how elusive inner peace can be when the bad guys have you in their sights.
Down Dog Diary is set in small Gabriel’s Garden, Minnesota, not far from the Twin Cities. It’s a mystery told with humor and drama, but it is also an exploration of the battle for inner peace that rages inside all of us. We may try to follow the path, but life isn’t all Minnesota nice.
Meet that author
In addition to Down Dog Diary, Sherry Roberts is the author of Book of Mercy, a funny novel about a serious issue: censorship; Maud’s House (Papier-Mache Press, California), a story of lost-and-found creativity; and WriteTips, a guide to putting power into your writing and improving your business. She has contributed essays and articles to national publications such as USA Today and anthologies such as the Saint Paul Almanac. She lives in Minnesota, where she feeds the hummingbirds in the summer; walks in the snow in the winter; practices yoga and tai chi; rides her bike; reads by the fire (probably the latest Dennis LeHane, Louise Penny, or Jim Butcher), and bakes cookies. Visit Sherry’s blog at www.sherry-roberts.com. Follow me on Amazon, Twitter or Facebook
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