-- Samantha Swindler of the Oregonian
@editorswindler / 503-294-4031
"Our earth is moving into a new energy in the atmosphere, in the galaxy," says Tracie Mahan, who advertises herself as a psychic. "Like, when we have a full moon, the energy's a little different and everybody's at the ER? We're kind of moving into an intense version of that."
So, if you believe in the ability to predict the future, hang on for 2017.
The world is headed for the emergency room.
Plenty of weighty analysis and catchy lists have tried to capture insights into what's to come this year. Asking a psychic is, admittedly, a little weird. But as we look for direction in uncertainty, why not give this a shot?
Mahan has worked for 26 years as a psychic - or, if that sounds a bit too out-there, a "hypnotherapist, life coach and intuitive counselor," as her website states.
I met Mahan at her home office in a typical suburban neighborhood in Banks. After a short introduction she got down to business by sealing the room with angels and then asking permission to "tune in" to my aura.
She stared into my eyes, then told me something I had first heard during a psychic reading two years ago.
She said I was a "light worker" and "volunteer," a being who had opted to come to earth in this body not out of karmic necessity, but out of a desire to help people.
Prior to our interview, we hadn't realized that we'd met before. It was just one 15-minute, walk-up reading among many at a small new age festival in Salem. I was there with a friend just for fun, but I remembered the message because it seemed so odd. I hadn't remembered the psychic.
"Maybe that last reading was there to plant the seed and get you thinking on something, and now it's time for you to really hear it," she said.
Mahan grew up in an unlikely place for new age mysticism - a pig farm not far from where she lives today. In her teens, Mahan developed an interest in dream interpretation and past life regression. She spent years learning about reiki energy healing and participating in psychic reading groups before charging for her services.
It wasn't a bump on the head or a near-death experience that led to her psychic career.
"I just had a curiosity, and that curiosity kept bringing me to the next thing and the next teacher," Mahan said.
Of course, I asked the standard question: If you're really psychic, why haven't you won the lottery?
"I don't believe I can," she said. "It's not as easy as just thinking you can."
In September, Mahan quit her job of eight years with a real estate broker's office so she could work as a psychic and hypnotherapist full time.
"I like it when I can do things that help other people remember who they are," she said. "I find that to be most rewarding, when people have those a-ha moments or find their purpose again."
Client Amy Stuck has been going to Mahan for life coaching and hypnotherapy sessions for about 10 years. The latter does not, as I imagined, involve a pocket watch dangling from a chain. It's more of a guided meditation.
Stuck remembers her sessions, and in them she said she's explored past lives. One session in particular helped improve her relationship with her grown son after realizing they had been siblings in a past life.
Do you really believe that? I asked. Or is it possible the past life is a story your mind created to explain some of the communication issues you've had with your son?
"Maybe you need to express something and you're not able to and (Mahan) is able to bring it to the top," Stuck said. "But would it matter either way?"
This was a theme I kept returning to with Mahan. Does it matter whether these are messages from angels, or messages from our imagination?
"What's wrong with everybody having their own reality?" she asked.
When it comes to someone connecting with a son, there's likely no harm.
But if our realities are too divergent, the world becomes dysfunctional. This is the weight I feel as we enter 2017, particularly from the stance of news consumption and political polarization.
It's one thing to believe in past lives. It's another to fire a gun inside a pizzeria because you believe it's home to Hillary Clinton's child-trafficking ring.
I'm scared, I told Mahan, of the direction of the world.
"Inside that core belief that the world is a horrible place, the mirror around you will be that the world is a horrible place," she said. "What if everything in your reality, in your experience, is a mirror of your belief, and if you change your belief the mirror will change?"
This sounds like the psychic version of "fake it 'til you make it."
I believe there's something to the idea of surrounding yourself with positive energy, but too much positive thinking could leave us blind to actual danger.
"What if that's just me deluding myself?" I said. "What if everything really is falling apart?"
In 2017, I'm searching for that balance of being vigilant but not alarmist; of staying positive but not naive.
Mahan didn't have a magic answer about where to find that harmony. But I'm a Libra - sign of the scales. Balance is what we live for.
Here's to the challenges of a new year.
-- Samantha Swindler
@editorswindler / 503-294-4031