So, who was Laura before I knew Her as an Angel? A "spirit guide," I guess, a term comfortably vague enough to mean nearly anything, like "archetype" and "spirituality" itself. By 1998 I'd intellectualized my spiritual quest to the point that it was all pretty much archetypes and neural circuits, and I was falling into one of those periodic depressions that felt like necrotizing fasciitis of the soul.
It wasn't that I had nothing left to believe in. I believed in plenty: true love; how great life would be when I found the perfect job; my ineffably glorious future as a literary artist; the gradual accretion of spiritual wisdom by careful application of the faculty of reason. (I still harbor versions of nearly all those beliefs; they just aren't idols any more.) What happened in New Zealand, though, knocked me loose from the unquestioning intellectualism, and thankfully from the depression, too.
The moment at the fjord, at the time, was interesting and exciting but didn't seem to convey any Ultimate Significance. I'd been in weirdly energetic locales before and had felt their weird energy and knew enough to neither trivialize the sensation nor build it up beyond what(ever) it was. What was much more exciting was spending this time with Laura, who herself was somewhat weird and exciting for, although my first "spirit guide" always sounded like a much smarter me--Laura didn't.
I must have spoken with her about the near-despair with which I was now viewing any hope of following a meaningful spiritual path--I remember her saying something like "We're here in this miraculous country, surrounded by beauty and wonder, and all you want to do is beat your head against the nearest wall. Start paying attention to what you're being shown." The rest of this conversation is lost to memory, but I do remember feeling uneasy that L. was implying the existence of some sort of personal god ("what you're being shown"). I'd already established that such a thing couldn't exist, for crying out loud--
But I listened to her (to me she wasn't a capital-letter pronoun yet). We wandered Wellington and Christchurch and Dunedin (still my favorite place in the world) and Auckland, starting out in the morning with no plans and ending up wherever we ended up. I started to do unusual, bizarre things: I very nearly got out of the habit of worrying; I talked to strangers; I pampered myself though I had not earned it--once with two consecutive full-contact massages by a positively shamanic masseur.
The result of the latter was the immediate cessation of years of lower-back pain that, even as it was being pounded out of me, I began to see had been caused by me--by holding tension in my muscles. I began to be vigilant about the carriage of my body in stressful situations and the pain, thank Goddess, has never returned. A couple of weeks after the massages I remarked to Laura what a miracle this new pain-free life was and she said, "Maybe Somebody's trying to get your attention." Soon after this I began reading Mark Matousek's spiritual autobiography Sex Death Enlightenment, whose title caught my eye but which I honest to god bought from that bookstore in Wellington because the back cover mentioned he'd worked for Andy Warhol.
It was this book that introduced me to Kali--well, introduced me in a compelling and seductive way. I'd seen Help! and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, after all. Even though Matousek was in many ways as different from me as it's possible to be, his story was mine, and the practice of bhakti yoga that he described sounded interesting enough to be my next neurological experiment on myself. (I'd practiced devotion but not in a systematic, all-consuming way.) It stayed an experiment for about two months and then it became Real. I started to feel, for the first time in a sustained way, a true divine Presence. I started to pay attention to what I was being shown. I became a disciple of one of Matousek's spiritual teachers, who later fired me...but that's a story for another time.