“Mana” in Austronesian languages means “power, effectiveness, prestige;” Wikipedia tells me that in most cases, the aforementioned power is understood to be of the supernatural variety. I wasn’t aware of this etymological origin until just moments ago, but upon discovery, I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head in amazement. Mana, you are absolutely powerful. Your effectiveness — in sharing your story, sharing your truth, compelling others to listen and hear and learn — is profound. You are undeniably & resoundingly deserving of prestige. And all that talk of the supernatural? You are certainly able to channel some magical, mystical, ever-morphing other-worldly energy; this is distinctly evident through your ability to conjure up spells and weave wonder through the written word, but many of your other characteristics (not to mention your scorpionic energy) are scented with the allure of the unknown, and the breathtaking mystery of a realm beyond this earthly one.
I could continue waxing poetic and stay in abstract, flowery mode for the entirety of this essay, but that wouldn’t do Mana justice. Amidst all spell-weaving and body-whirling lies a grounded, warm, loving, strong woman, with a fierce sense of morals and values, and an internal compass that’s always steering toward alignment and empowerment. She’s unbelievably generous with those she loves: sharing freely, loving fully, never holding back her truth. Mana is also generous with her words — she can single-handedly commandeer a conversation of magnificent length and scope, all the while conveying a high level of knowledge, intuition, and self-awareness that is a pleasure to experience. Anyone who knows Mana knows she’s a talker, but she also manages to dish out some of the best advice I’ve received; I’m not one to ask for opinions, but Mana gives hers anyway, and though her words can be blunt I always feel immensely grateful for the truth she shares. Mana’s dedication to never holding back, always staying direct and assertive, makes me trust her deeply and adore her infinitely. Her “tough love” approach to friendship and relationship is one of the assets I value and admire most.
I look at Mana, and see a woman truly embodied. A woman not afraid to stand up for herself, to walk her talk, to face adversity and pain and hardship armed with all the wisdom she’s gleaned from her life experiences. She’s a little rough around the edges; the storms of life have whipped her hard and sometimes sent her reeling. She’s been caught in the crossfire and forced to deal with other people’s baggage; she’s suffered from heartbreak and heart-havoc and heartwrenching loss. I see Mana feel the reverberations of anguish long after it occurs. She carries her pain with her — allows it to teach her and keep her honest, welcomes it in when she’s navigating through the world, listens to the information it shares when she’s weaving tales on paper or aloud. I am so inspired by Mana’s willingness to embrace her pain and transmute it into wisdom.
Mana feels so deeply that she’s sometimes overcome with emotions; when she’s high she’s irresistible (she shines and shimmers, a goddess of true pleasure, desire, and delight!), when she’s low she’s deep and dark (I can feel the primal wounding, the pain that’s alive and dangerous and pulsating). It is an honor to share both the highs and the lows with her; to witness Mana’s journey and hold space for whatever she brings to our relationship. All are blessings. The joy and humor and giddiness, the irritation and vindication and frustration, the mourning and the celebration. And then there’s the seductive and sultry and dareisay sexy side that sometimes comes out to play: did I mention yet that Mana can smoulder? Yeah, she can. Just find her on the dancefloor someday (sweaty, jubilant, unbridled, guttural, beating to the pulse of earth and body), and you’ll see what I mean. I sometimes find myself breathless when Mana does a particularly guttural stomp-step-turn on the dancefloor: garments flying, hair wild, connectedness palpable. Sex-eee.
Mana is a pillar and inspiration in the queer community in Portland. She’s stood at the helm of many powerful meetup events, and orchestrated soirees that have facilitated long-term friendships, in addition to spiritual and social and physical connections. She uses her Mana-magic — that power, effectiveness, and prestige — to bring people together over stories and sips and sups and living-room spins and socializing of all different stripes. She’s many things that might seem opposing, but somehow coexist within the magnificence that is Mana: opinionated and fair, discerning and inclusive, frank and soulful, uncompromising and compassionate. Mana, there are so many who admire you so deeply; so many whose lives you’ve enhanced; so many who have been touched and affected and transformed by your stories and your SELF. You deserve all the hugs in the world, dear friend! Happy holidays. I am honored to donate to the cause of your choosing.