Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wolf Clan Gathering: Tale of Two Teachers

I watched parts of the camp wake up slowly from my vantage spot on the hill. I saw one couple outside of their tent and pretty soon a delicious aroma of camp coffee drifted up to me. There had been rest but no sleep, so coffee seemed like a necessary kick to keep going. There would be no sleep at this gathering.

I walked down the hill and introduced myself to Dick and Joyce, who invited me to share everything they had. Coffee warmed our insides and the rising sun began to warm our backs. Joyce, knowing I had been driving through the night, gave me my first everReiki treatment. She had an incredible healing energy and, in future years, would send Reiki to me from three thousand miles away...and it worked! She is one of very few Reiki "Masters" who can step out of the way enough to let this energy come through.

As others woke up, they came by with their coffees and kids began to play. Cedar Waxwings came and fed at our feet, Hummingbirds flitted into our faces and a tiny orange butterfly came to sit on my pinkie as I held my cup. I had driven Rte. 2 across the state and, every time I stopped, butterflies kissed or landed on me. All this led me to be quite curious about Grandmother Butterfly, the other Elder at this gathering.

Grey Wolf came out of his tent in blue shirt, worn corduroy pants and rainbow suspenders. We wrapped ourselves around each other in a spirit-cleansing hug, like there were magnets in our hearts. Everywhere he went, the children followed and were never sent away. I felt like I knew this man so well despite it being only our second meeting. We had shared so much in letters, phone calls, and meditations that it seemed we had been connected forever. I couldn't stop looking at his eyes and he was kind enough to indulge by taking off his glasses and coming close to let me climb in. They were solar eclipses, gold flaring at the rim of his pupils and gold flecks in an iris that changed with the light and mood, like a wolf. I could've spent forever in that morning of good conversation, good company, and good coffee.

Grandmother Butterfly came down the hill from her tent sometime later...and I wasn't surprised when she looked the same as the woman in meditation, back in New York. The only difference was that she wore no butterfly least not physically. She was intensely wound underneath a calm exterior and ordered teenagers around like minions. I make no judgments here, but my observations make this story...indeed, I was there to observe and learn.

It was there I met so many good people, earnestly trying to come together for three days in the right way, mostly, though there were different thoughts about what was right. Some folks were there for sex, freaking out and ego but many good folks were trying, as we did in the late sixties and early seventies, to feel for spirit and our place in the world. What was most interesting to me was the difference between teaching styles in Grandmother Butterfly and Grandfather Grey Wolf.

I watched Madame Butterfly pose and order good kids around, sometimes making them cry with her acrid tongue. She demanded respect in a way that was sure not to bring it to her, for she had no respect for others. On the other hand I watched Grey Wolf create an aura of comfort and love around people that let them do their own work. He had many many good teaching stories...but he was even better at listening to other people and to the stories that brought them to this gathering. I watched him walk up on the ridge with a woman who was so very shy, she could barely talk to people and, that night in the main tepee, she sang a most beautiful song she had written herself...staring at Grey Wolf the whole time. She was to become a lifetime friend and writing colleague, my dear Shuli.

We gathered each night in the main tepee which was made so very comfortable with rugs, blankets, cushions, and a lovely fire in the centre. There were stories, singing, drumming and pipe ceremony. Grey Wolf told me that the tepee is the Native American pyramid...and it felt that powerful as I looked up through the smoke hole to a billion stars as I sat next to him. The sacred pipe was a very large one, my first time ever doing this ceremony and I was nervous about doing something "wrong" somehow. I panicked when I tried to draw on the pipe...and it was out. Grey Wolf laughed as he elbowed me in the ribs and said, "You know, the best pipe ceremony I ever had, I was naked and in smoke that pipe!" I understood what he meant suddenly and the sweet message of the pipe ceremony became clear to me that night. Never again have I taken the tools of outward connection over the very real inner connection to spirit. A smaller pipe was to come into my hands a few years later...and still travels with me.

I learned so much from watching the different personalities of our Elders. Before the end of the gathering, Madame Butterfly had herself a major paddy, ego spilling nastily. She yelled at the whole camp about our lack of respect for her...and began to throw beautiful gifts that people had given her into the duck pond! I knew she was not the teacher for me, for she had yet to learn that respect and honour are earned, not demanded. I don't follow anyone's orders because they expect me to, in fact I'm known to break rules, just to see if they are warranted. I knew that Grey Wolf was my teacher because he believed, as long as you bring the intent of Honour, Respect, Humility and Love to the Circle, there were no rules you could break.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Valley of Spirit

She felt the night approaching and something on the air whispered it was to be a special one. Turning to the west at the top of the bluff, Walking Wolf Woman's face relaxed into a smile at the beauty of the setting sun beyond the Great Mountains. It was always good to stop and give thanks for the day's blessings, though her pause was not long. Her spirit guides told her to reach the valley floor below her before dark. There was to be more to this night, she felt it in the centre of her being.

The world was in shadows and stars began to dot the sky by the time her downward climb eased into a gentle slope before the tree-line of the valley. Her keen eyes picked out the path and her strong legs kept up a steady pace through the long grass. She had grown to firm womanhood over the trails that had been walked thus far on her quest, the quest for a crystal flower and immortality. Walking Wolf Woman felt her way through the trees and was thankful when she emerged on the banks of a small river. Her ears told her that the water moved swiftly but not angrily.

Tis seemed to be a good place to make camp for the night, so she dropped her pack and felt the soft grass that would be her bed. She gathered some wood from the river bank in the little light from the half-moon. She felt again the warmth in the centre of her being and anticipated a visit from her beloved teacher, Woman of the Desert.

She felt more than heard the form swooping down on her from above and dropped to the ground, her heart pounding in her chest. Her skin tingled in fear as she was attacked a second time. She struggled to hold onto her kindling as she rolled away from the deadly claws raking at her back, through her buckskin dress.

With an eerie cry, the creature flew up into the trees and Walking Wolf Woman scrambled back to where she had dropped her pack. With trembling hands she began to build a fire as fast as possible, praying to the Great Spirit for the defense of flame against whatever this creature was.

I seemed to take forever for a spark to catch and she kept close to the ground, scared and vulnerable. At last, a spark from the flint caught and small flames reached up to protect her with their light and warmth. Her breath came in short, shallow pants when, once again, she heard the throaty call of the hunter and dimly saw its dark shape in a tree on the edge of her circle of light. To calm herself, she concentrated on the circle and made it her Medicine Wheel. She slowly moved to the opposite side of the fire from the creature and noted that she now faced north, place of wisdom and wise counsel.

The creature did not move, and neither did Walking Wolf Woman. below her pounding heart, she felt the heat of her spirit being contacted. She had trusted this same contact that had guided her so far, here to this place. She decided, despite her fears, to continue in this trust and so addressed the creature.

Greetings winged one. I am Walking Wolf Woman. I come to your valley in peace as I make my quest for the key to the Spirit-Life. I mean you no harm and would ask your counsel." In her heart she hoped to be understood as she closed her eyes in prayer for protection and guidance. When she again opened them, her breath caught high in her throat as Owl Woman took her place in the circle of light, next to the fire.

Her eyes were large and the colour of the flames they reflected. They were eyes that could see into your soul and Walking Wolf Woman could not look there long. Owl Woman's headdress was mottled brown feathers and rose in points from her temples like horns. Her head sat easily off her shoulders and moved with a fluid grace as Owl Woman surveyed all. She wore a long robe and shawl of hides, sewn with beads and feathers, covered in front by a breastplate of amber beads, bone and feathers. It reached to the ground as Owl Woman sat in the north of Walking Wolf Woman's Medicine Wheel.

In her wonder at the beauty and power of this vision, Walking wolf Woman raised her hands, palms up, in supplication and gratitude, then reached into her pack for some sage to burn. It was a night for ceremony and learning...and she was eager for both.

"I have heard of your quest," said Owl Woman, her voice shimmering from the back of her throat, "I am here to give you counsel and to witness your passing." Owl woman's head tilted, though her eyes stayed locked on the young woman across the fire as she continued, "Your quest begans in the fear of the unknown, but there is not shame in that. Fear is a common motivator. It is how you react to what frightens you that sets your path. You are facing your fear now, as you seek, accepting the holiness of your quest and the guidance of the spirits. My counsel to you is to keep your vision through the darkness. Look for the lessons each day, with your heart and belly, for that movement sees more clearly than your eyes. Trust them to guide you, for between them, you will hear the will of the Great Spirit. I bring to you this Medicine." With that, she stretched out her arms, and her shawl became wings, lifting her back to the shadows of the trees. Walking Wolf Woman closed her eyes and thanked Owl Woman for the gift of her counsel.

She spent some time in quiet meditation, walking backwards through her journey to its beginning, at the fir of Woman of the Desert. She was a frightened young fawn then, but she was given courage in the purpose of her quest and the warmth of her spirit-connections with her beloved teachers. That was the beginning of her trust in guidance from that place within that holds the spark given by the Great Spirit...Parent, Friend, Teacher of the People....her trust in the movement of the Great Mystery. She would keep her vision through whatever sacred darkness and trust the balance of her inner Medicine Wheel.

She was brought back to her campfire by the sensation of being watched and opened her eyes, expecting to see Owl Woman again, or Woman of the Desert. No. Instead she looked into the eyes of Brother Lynx. His pale yellow-green eyes searched, not for your soul but for the out-of-the-way corners, where your secrets hide. He sat, draped in his silver fur robe, in the west of the Medicine Wheel, place of introspection. He sat and stared at Walking Wolf Woman in silence until she began to feel hypnotised, his face becoming larger than life and filling her vision. A low growl rumbled from his chest and, within it, she heard these words.

Greetings sister. I am Lynx, knower of secrets. I see the fears, lies, hope and dreams of others in their hiding places. I come here to give you counsel, and to witness your passing. My counsel to you is to observe quietly the secrets hidden in others. Watch, listen, and help other to open themselves to their own quests. This Medicine I bring to you."

With that, Brother Lynx bounded out of the circle of light and Walking Wolf Woman was once again alone. She began to sing a song of thanks into the night, feeling humbled by this gift of vision. As she sang, she reflected on the responsibility that came with this gift. She had not thought before about the possibility of teaching, but it made sense to return some of what she had received by guiding others.

She remembered being in the camp of the Apache, people she had been taught to hate before she lived in their midst. As she learned to shed her prejudice, she had also taught them to shed theirs by example. This then was part of the circle and cycles. She had always been given what she needed to continue her quest and now it was up to her to observe and help others, where she could. This she pledged to do.

When she again opened her eyes the first rays of dawn were fingering their way into the valley. The ashes of her fire were cold but the centre of her being remained warm with her visions. But, if she wanted fresh fish to break her fast, she would have to gather more wood and start another fire before going into the river. She rose and began to search for more kindling. Suddenly a light in the bushes along the banks of the river caused her to drop her bundle with a cry. In the early morning sunlight gleamed her crystal flower, the end of her search!

She ran to the rainbow light and dropped to her knees in tears to find that it was not the magical flower she had hoped for...only the morning dew caught in the web of a spider, reflecting the climbing sun.

Walking Wolf Woman swallowed her disappointment and determined that this too must hold a lesson for her. She sat still and observed the spider in her web, looking for her secret.

"Greetings sister," came the tiny voice from the spider, "I too know of your quest and called you over to the east of your Medicine Wheel, place of illumination, to give you counsel and to witness your passing. Observe my body, eternity's symbol. Watch me weave my web of life and notice how all the points connect. You are a part of the eternal plan. Weave, create, touch all points at once. I cannot give you your crystal flower but, within my web, you could find its simple secret. Weave your own answer. This Medicine I bring to you."

A fly became entrapped in the web and Spider hurried to wrap it for a later meal, no longer interested in her student. Walking Wolf Woman arose, confused, and began stiffly to prepare her fire and catch her meal. She struggled to understand the lesson from Spider but the illusion of the crystal flower had shaken her. It was all too much and she was exhausted from her extraordinary night. After cleaning up she stretched out on the grass and tried to sleep. At first she tossed and turned, trying to decipher Spider's message but a gentle breeze caressed her face and her thoughts began to still.

A voice sang in her ear, a voice like the wind over sand, and tiny claw-like hands gently brushed back her hair.

"Daughter," the voice sang, "You have observed and absorbed much in the night and I am proud of you. Remember, if the answer is not simple, it is not the answer. You will know and understand all in an instant when it is time. There are still many steps for you to walk and many adventures for you to have, as student and teacher. The Great Spirit has infinite patience and, somewhere, your crystal flower awaits. Look up now and watch Eagle in her spiral flight of Spirit. Faith is the wind that lifts her. Faith is the wind that carries us all. Whenever you are confused let Faith lift your wings to the Great Spirit and leave your troubles there."

Walking Wolf Woman felt a peace settle on her as she heard these words and watched Sister Eagle do her wondrous dance of Faith. Soon she would move on to her next adventure but for now sleep claimed her and a deep magic stilled all in the Valley of Spirit.

Woman Spirit

The warm afternoon sun pulled her westward over the rough terrain as she searched for the crystal flower. She felt tired and heavy in her movements but still, Walking Wolf Woman was determined to reach the outcropping of rocks she saw in the distance before resting. She had felt pulled since first seeing their outline on the horizon. It was a pull low in her belly and she felt it as strongly as the heat in the centre of her being when Woman of the Desert laid her hands there. By the time she reached the rocks, the sun hung low in the western sky and the red earth seemed to catch fire from it. The young woman stopped gratefully and began to rub the ache of the pace from her legs. It was then she saw the blood on her thighs and realised that she was beginning her moontime.

This was a sacred time and the centre of Walking Wolf Woman's being glowed warm. This was the time to connect with the Mother and give back to her the very blood of life. This was the time to pray and give honour to the Woman Spirit. Quickly the maiden's eyes scanned the ground for a tool. She picked up a small, flat rock, weighing it in her palm. Now she looked for a spot and chose the top of a pebbly slope to scoop out the hollow, just large enough to sit cross-legged in. Next, she gathered some grasses which she used to line her den, in preparation for her vigil.

When she was satisfied that all was ready, she hiked up her shift and sat within the cushioned and savoury cup. She faced into the late sun, looking down the slope and across the layered vista spread before her. Gold, grey, tan, and red eras piled politely on one another, in sculptures that sat atop the ochre earth. Here and there, patches of green gave moisture to her eyes. The high wisps of clouds shone golden against an aqua sky. Behind her, more layers of rocks caught the warmth of the sun and reflected onto her back. Basking in the light, she gave honour for the day, thanking the Creator for the gift of life, her eyes tearing with the beauty before her.

A low rumble from below and behind caused her to turn...and her mouth dropped open with surprise and awe! What had, moments before, been a tumble of rocks...was now in the shape of a seated, heavy-breasted woman! The slope was her skirt and Walking Wolf Woman realised that she was sitting securely in the Earth Mother's lap. She gazed up at the smiling square face, which looked back with so much love that Walking Wolf Woman felt no fear.

"Greetings Little Mother," rumbled Earth Woman, her chunky red braids vibrating on her chest, "I am here to witness your passing and to speak to you of Earth and the cycle of life. Let the blood flow freely from your womb, back to the earth that gave you life and be one with the Woman Medicine of Giving. As the Circle moves, so do you move within the giving and receiving. Woman is reminded to reflect regularly on this with her moontime, and to cleanse in preparation for life."

Earth Woman bent her pitted face down closer to the young woman and blinked her eyes slowly.

"This Medicine I bring to you...and this medicine you bring to me," she said, drawing her red and grey blanket around her, becoming once again a tumble of rocks.

Walking Wolf Woman exhaled slowly and turned again to the west. Only a tiny part of the sun's liquid gold remained atop the horizon. It flashed the promise of another day before disappearing beneath the blood-red sky. Soon she became wrapped in night's starry blanket, shivering just a little at the touch of the air and the magic it held within. The stars seemed to dance around her head, looking like a million crystal flowers, vibrant and alive. It was a million messages of hope for her. She would find this wondrous flower...and life would forever flow through her. She would be living proof of the Creator's love, and never would she have to bid goodbye to the beauty of Creation. She dedicated herself again, here in the lap of the Earth Mother, and gave her promise to use her moontime to reflect on the Circle of giving and receiving.

The crescent moon began to rise, over her left shoulder. She watched its slow, graceful arc...the Celestial Smile. As she stared, the moon came before her, growing larger as it drew closer. She was able to see a woman within. She was waxing, slender and young, like the maiden in the hollow. Moon Woman glowed from within her transparent skin. Walking Wolf Woman squinted in the light, to try and see her more clearly. Her braids were long, thin, and yellow. Her eyes matched the quicksilver that threaded through the blanket draped loosely around her shoulders. Her stare made a pulling feeling begin within the young, human woman's belly.

"Greetings Little Mother," said Moon Woman, her voice bubbling like a spring, "I am here to witness your passing and to speak to you of Water and movement. It is I who call the water's movement, both on the earth and within your body. In your reflections, after you have honoured the life given to you by Earth Woman, I pull you to look up, feel, and dream. So we begin the rising spiral of movement, each sharing the tidal ebb and flow. This Medicine I bring to you."

Moon Woman's light became so bright that Walking Wolf Woman had to close her eyes for a moment, and when she again opened them, the moon hung small and low in the southwestern sky. Tears began to fall from her eyes, as she was carried within a tidal wave of feelings, allowing herself to go with the movement. It was as if she watched safely from a still centre within...and yet, outside of herself. Day began to break and she gave thanks for the powerful lessons of Earth and Water before rising to gather fresh grasses to line her den. When it was done she again sat to watch, listen, and wait.

It was a long day but a peaceful one. The girl allowed her thoughts and heart to lead her many places. In the late afternoon she felt the electricity of a storm coming. She watched the towering, powerful clouds approach with flashes of lightning and rolls of thunder. The hairs on her body rose to the charge in the air. A white finger of lightning shot to the earth close by, striking a tall, upturned cactus. It exploded into flames and changed before Walking Wolf Woman's eyes, into a woman of fire. She was masculine-looking woman, tall and muscular, with loose, charred-black hair. A blanket of fire hung from her outstretched arms, and her robe within danced with threads of gold.

"Greetings Little Mother," Fire Woman's voice was low and resonant, "I am here to witness your passing and to speak to you of Fire and purpose. When you have ridden Moon Woman's oceans of emotions and dreams, the spiral must continue to move. The flame within must be lighted with purpose. It must burn outward with the action, before its warmth can be gathered. Within movement must be balance, inner to outer, female to male, receiving and giving. This Medicine I bring to you," and she was gone, as the cactus fell apart in a final burst of flame.

The storm passed and, in its wake, winds began to howl a furious song. The young woman's long hair began to whip around her face and stung her eyes. She gathered as much of it as she could in one hand and shielded her eyes with the other. When she was able to look up again, there was a mighty funnel of wind and debris to the northwest. Within the funnel appeared a woman. Her grey cloud-blanket wrapped tight around her, she rose before Walking Wolf Woman. Her long white braids danced all around her, decorated with rocks, sage and feathers. Her body undulated beneath rolled blanket, as her gaze fixed on the young woman.

"Greetings Little Mother," said a voice like a whisper in the centre of the girl's head. She knew the Air Woman spoke, though her white lips never moved, "I am here to witness your passing, to speak to you of Air and your song. A soul wants to cry out that it is here, so the Great Spirit will know us. The Creator hears through all our ears, so we must listen to the songs of others, as well as offer our own. Listen to what is carried on the wind, for it is the song of Spirit and the truth of Creation. After movement has been started, gathered, given purpose, and balanced, it must be shared on the Medicine Wheel, so that it may also move and grow. Listen, find your song. This Medicine I bring to you."

The wind kicked-up again and Walking Wolf Woman heard within it song after song, through the dusk and into the night. When finally it quieted, she lifted her head from behind her knees and sat cross-legged once again. The night was still and crystal clear. She began to sing her own song and her high, sweet voice lifted on the air, carrying forever into the jeweled night. Four baskets appeared above her head and began to dance around her in a circle. Each one contained one of the four elements...Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. On and on the young woman sang, until it became the third day, and she bled no more. The rising sun warmed her back as she headed west, once more on her quest, walking now with Woman Spirit.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The First Test

With a sharp intake of breath, the young girl recognized the signs painted on the rock at her feet. The told her she had come to the hunting area of a fierce tribe, long hated by her people. She remembered stories at her mother’s knee when she was a babe, stories of warriors who ate children, stories that made sure she did not wander far from camp.

What was she to do now? The sun had begun to sink behind the stark rocks to the west, turning the earth to fire for a moment and soon the darkness would claim its right. The girl shivered and finally moved to squat herself in the bushes, seeking their protective graces. The moon had completed one cycle since she had left the old Spirit Woman’s fire, on her quest for the crystal flower. In that time, Nature had been the teacher, heightening her senses. She had learned to take from the earth for her survival and to pay the proper honour and respect for the Mother’s gifts.

The time had been lonely for her and she had longed to come upon a camp of the People, just not this one! She wondered with a shudder if she would still be considered small and tender to a warrior’s eye. The night seemed to menace her with tricks of the moonlight but she could not risk a fire, lest she lead the enemy to her. Tears began to slide down the young girl’s face.

“Spirit-Mother, have you then sent me here to die as my lesson? I cannot believe that and I beg you to help me now.”

No sooner did she say those words, than she felt the warmth begin in the center of her being. The air became charged with magic and the smell of sweet herbs soothed her mind.

“Greetings child. I have been waiting for you to call upon me.”

The girl turned in astonishment to see Woman of the Desert come from the other side of the bushes. Astonishment did not hold her long though, and relief sent her running from her hiding spot to the arms of her beloved teacher. The old woman’s white, ankle-length braids seemed to cast an aura of protective light around them both and a new strength filled the young girl. Staying in her warm embrace, the girl asked her teacher how she should pass through this area without falling captive to the warriors.

“Daughter, I have brought you here to learn a great lesson. You are to walk into the camp of these people, live with them for the turning of the seasons, and when I return it will be time for you to continue your quest.”

At the suggestion of living with her enemies, the young girl again became frightened and she moved away slightly from the old woman’s embrace.

“Do not be afraid child. Trust me and you will be protected,” said Woman of the Desert. She reached into the folds of her robe with her tiny talon hands and brought out an exquisite necklace of turquoise and silver, which she fastened around the young girl’s neck. As she did so, she began to give instructions to the child and, when she was content that she had been fully understood, she stroked the girl’s hair and sang to her soothing songs of the Medicine Wheel.

Daylight tickled its way into the girl’s eyes and she awoke from a peaceful night’s sleep, to find herself curled up in the bushes, alone. She sat up, rubbing the night’s magic from her eyes, wondering if it had all been a dream. The weight of the turquoise at her throat assured her that the visit from her teacher had been real. On the ground in front of her was a bag made from deerskin full, upon opening, of fry-bread and tart berries to nourish and give her strength for the task ahead.

After greeting the Seven Directions and breaking her fast, she tied the bag around her shoulders and began to walk in the direction she had been told, her heart beating quickly but steady, with sense of purpose. She remembered her teacher’s instructions and straightened her shoulders.

The morning sun was already warm and turned the horizon into shimmering visions of water, a deadly vision to believe in and follow when in the desert. When she thirsted, the girl cut a piece from a cactus with her knife and chewed the heart for its life-giving moisture. A rattlesnake slithered across her path, paying her no mind as it searched for the coolness of a rock to escape the heat, building as the sun rose to its seat of power.

She turned back to the path…and gasped with fright as she came face-to-face with three young braves, their knives drawn. Summoning all her will to keep her hands from trembling, she signed to them that she came in peace and wanted to be taken to their tribe. The tallest of the young men bared his teeth in a half smile, half snarl and gestured for the frightened girl to come with them. They flanked her with their knives still drawn and in silence the four walked on.

As they entered the camp, they became surrounded by what seemed to be the entire village. She shrank back from their hostile stares. Men, women and children closed in around this strange girl who had dared to come into their midst. A shout came from the back of the crowd and the sea of people opened to allow their chief to step forward. He was a large, powerful warrior, with eyes as piercing as stabs of sunlight. The young girl took a deep breath, held her head high and forced herself to look steadily ahead.

With a sign language common to all the People of the Medicine Wheel, she told the chief that she had been sent to this camp by Woman of the Desert, as the first test in her quest for the crystal flower. Remembering her instructions clearly, though her heart pounded with fear, she asked to be taken to Woman Who Heals and held forward the turquoise necklace as her proof of purpose.

The chief stared at the central turquoise stone in silence for what seemed like an eternity to the girl. He then turned to one of the braves who had brought her to the camp, spoke a few words to him in the Apache tongue, and walked away with no backward glance.

The brave gestured that she was to follow him, leading her to a wickiup on the edge of camp. As she walked she felt the stares of the people and in her thoughts, hated them. She entered the wickiup, thankful to be away from all those eyes and grim faces. She was alone.

“I am a prisoner of my enemies. I saw the hatred and suspicion in their eyes. Oh Spirit-Mother, why have you sent me here?” With a sob she sank to the ground and hid her face in her hands. In seeking to outwit Death, she had been delivered to the Grim One’s door.

So absorbed was she in her fear, she did not hear the woman enter. She felt a gentle touch on her arm and parted her hands to see. Her eyes became locked in the warm brown welcome of the eyes of Woman Who Heals. She was a tall, muscular woman who carried an air of capability and strength. Her only signs of age were lines of laughter around her mouth and eyes and, here and there, strands of silver danced their way through tightly woven braids. She wore a white buckskin robe, decorated with elaborate beadwork and, around her neck hung a silver and turquoise necklace, sister to the one given to the young girl by Woman of the Desert. The girl sat up and with trembling hands took the turquoise from her throat, handing it to the older woman.

“I bring you greetings from Woman of the Desert,” recited the girl, as per her instructions, “She has sent me here to you, with her own necklace as token, to study the art of healing under your guidance.”

The older woman leaned back on her heels and listened patiently to the young girl’s story of her relationship with Woman of the Desert…and her quest for the crystal flower, immortality. Every once in a while she smiled as she fingered the turquoise in her hand, but not once did she interrupt the child. When the tale was finished, Woman Who Heals leaned forward, embraced the girl and once again fastened the necklace at her throat.

“You are the daughter of my sister and, for the turning of the seasons, you will share my wickiup as the daughter of my heart,” said Woman Who Heals, in a voice deep and rich, “Come.”

The young girl obediently followed and for a full cycle of the seasons lived as an Apache daughter. She learned much from Woman Who Heals. In time, she became accepted by the tribe as one of their own. As she settled into the life of these people, she began to shed her own prejudice, seeing the similarities of all the People, instead of their differences.

When the season of Little Eagles again returned, a feast was held to celebrate. She was dressed by Woman Who Heals in a new buckskin robe and her hair was carefully braided. She joined with other girls in the rites of womanhood. Babies were brought to them to be blessed and the sick were brought to be healed.

After the festivities, the young woman and Woman Who Heals walked into the desert together. The older woman drew a Medicine Wheel in the sand and began to chant in her rich, deep voice. The young woman felt the familiar warmth begin at the centre of her being. She was not surprised to hear a voice like the wind over sand join in, as Woman of the Desert walked to her place in the Circle. The three women came together to embrace and it was as if life became suspended in that moment of loving magic.

“Daughter, I am pleased that you have passed this first test. My sister, Woman Who Heals, tells me you have learned well, the art of healing and, more importantly, you have overcome your feelings of prejudice.”

The young woman smiled, remembering her hatred of the Apache people, born out of the fear of not knowing their ways.

“I know now that we are all the same children of our Mother Earth and Father Sky. Prejudice and hate come from a fear that we ourselves create,” she said softly.

The two older women smiled and nodded their heads in accord. They came close to the young woman and both placed their hands on the center of her being. She gasped with the love and strength that flowed anew within her. In her mind’s eye she saw again the crystal flower, with its rainbows of light shooting out into the darkness and she did not doubt that she would fulfill her quest. As she opened her eyes, light from the new day began to creep over the horizon and she discovered that she was alone. The wind caressed her…and she heard the parting words of Woman of the Desert carried within it.

“Daughter, we am always with you. You have but to turn within to find us. Your walk will take you through many lands and to many relations as you seek the path to the Creator. You have requested the greatest teaching of the Medicine Wheel. For this, you are named, Walking Wolf Woman.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On The Road Again

After meeting Grey Wolf in September of 1991, we began a correspondence and learned more about each other. I sent him the stories I had been told and described my meditations and meetings with the old woman at her campfire. In return, Grey Wolf shared many stories, poems and song-lyrics with me. My songwriting partner and I put music to one of the sets of lyrics and recorded "The Lone Wolf's Last Call," as a gift to him. It still brings a smile, remembering his delight when the tape arrived.

We would talk on the phone for ages, like friends who had known each other forever. I will never forget his reply when I formally asked him to be my teacher.

"You ask me to be your teacher...wauggghhhh! Walk beside me and be my friend...perhaps we will teach each other something." I can still see how his frail body would shake with those silent chuckles.

He also began to join-in on the Monday meditations and his presence was felt in our circle, three thousand miles away. It was during one of these sessions, the following Spring, that I began to get a vision of a gathering of people. I saw Grey Wolf and, standing next to him, a woman with the headdress of a butterfly. I wasn't quite sure what it all meant.

Now, whenever we meditated, we would take the phone off the hook so as not to be disturbed. When we were finished, my friend Dale replaced the phone into its cradle. Immediately it rang. Dale called me over and handed me the receiver, my husband on the other end of the line. He told me the mail had come and there was something for me but he didn't know who it came from. I asked him to open the letter and tell me what was in it.

It was an invitation to a Wolf Clan Gathering in Spokane that coming July. My husband read to me, "The Elders invited to this gathering are Grey Wolf...and Grandmother Butterfly."

Yes, I was going to this gathering.

On the last day of June (a beautiful afternoon) I flew into SeaTac, rented a van to be both vehicle and accommodation, then headed across Highway 2 for Spokane. I wanted the more scenic route and had plenty of time for stopping by rivers and writing in my journal. I love to travel with only pen and paper as company. Sitting by the Snohomish, a Monarch butterfly came and landed on my knee. To come from New York City and be surrounded by all this beauty and peace was such tonic. For full-bodied flavour, I carried the love for my best friend who had journeyed-on, the November before. I cried while driving through a high desert rainstorm and laughed with delight at the following thick, stubby rainbow.

In the wee hours I relaxed my driving muscles at a rest stop, under a blanket of stars. It was time to recheck the map I had been sent...but couldn't find it, no matter how hard I looked. No point in panic; set my inner compass for Grey Wolf and got back on the road.

By sunrise my van pulled into the driveway of a country house, the paddock beyond a pond was filled with tents and two beautiful big tepees. Over to the right was a barn and an enclosure for a young female cougar. As the morning mist lifted I saw the rise beyond and quietly walked to the top of the ridge to watch the camp wake-up, sitting amongst a cloud of bluebells in the sweet-smelling dawn.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Crystal Flower

Once upon a time of the Medicine Wheel, there was a young girl of a desert tribe. She was afraid of death and, in holding onto her fear, her spirit became misplaced and she became ill. None who loved her were able to help.

Now, at this time there was an old, old woman who lived by herself in a canyon, close to the pueblo. This grandmother was held in great reverence by the people, though few came close to her, for spirits had talked through her since she was a child. She heard of the young girl and sent for her.

The girl's father carried her to the old woman's fire and set her gently down beside it. He stroked his daughter's hair and disappeared into the night, leaving her to face its magic. She turned her head like a frightened fawn at the rattle from the other side of the fire.

From behind the red rocks stepped a tiny woman, clutching her hides around her with claw-like hands. Her face was as lined and as red as the parched earth beneath her feet. Amber eyes shone in the fire's light. Her braids, thick and white, came down to her ankles. It seemed as if they glowed with a light all their own, making the young girl shrink back in fear.

"Do not be afraid child," said the old woman, in a voice like wind over sand. She reached under her robes and brought out a pouch. Loosening the ties, she sprinkled some strange powder on the fire. The young girl found herself staring deeply into the flames as the old woman began to chant her story. Suddenly there appeared, in the depths of the fire, the most beautiful flower the girl had ever seen. Her breath caught high in her throat. The petals were crystal prisms and the fire's light sent rainbow shafts shooting into the night. The girl's eyes began to tear with the light and sheer beauty, but she could not look away.

The old woman sang in a voice as soft and sweet as a maiden's. She told the girl of the quest she must make to find this flower and the secret it held within, for it was the secret of immortality. Death would be unable to claim her. As she sang, she walked slowly around the fire and laid her surprisingly gentle hands on the centre of the young girl's being, returning her spirit. Joy danced in her breast and she felt her strength surge to meet the task. She embraced the old woman and curled to sleep by the fire. With first light she would set off in search of this most magical of flowers.

For many years she walked Turtle Island, growing within and without from life's experiences. She had many adventures...but they belong to other stories within this one. Everywhere she went, she looked for the flower. She asked everyone she met and was shown many wondrous things, but no one had seen or heard of the crystal flower.

The young girl grew to womanhood, each turning of the seasons finding her in different country. Passing years began to sprinkle her braids with silver and the elements sculptured her form. Her walk became slower and her back became bent with the weight of her years.

She wanted to go home. Her braids were now as white as bones in the desert and she knew she was going to die. Slowly she made her way, labouring with every breath until, at last, she came to the arid land of her birth and to the very canyon of the old woman's fire, so long ago. She collapsed on that red parched earth and tears of anguish fell hot from her eyes. To have searched for so long, to have worked so hard for only an illusion of light! She hid her face in her arms and became quiet to take stock of her life. In the darkness within, she searched for the answer that had eluded her for a lifetime.

Painfully she raised her head for one last look at the world...and there it was.

Where her tears had fallen, grew a tiny and delicate, beautiful and perfect crystal flower. A light seemed to come from the centre of the blossom and, in the centre of her being, she felt a warmth begin where the old woman had laid her hands, all those years before. Now she understood. The light of the universe was hers, had always been hers just as she had always belonged to that light. She was now ready to return. She shed the body that had aged and slowed, the mind that had feared and doubted...soaring effortlessly over the landscape, higher and higher into the sky, to the light beyond the stars.

Going to the Campfire

1980 found me in New York, where a close-knit circle of women friends meditated together every Monday. During one session I was brought to a campfire, joining a very old Native American woman with long white braids. She began to tell me a story of a woman's life quest and, as I stared in the flames, I watched myself become the character in the story. To say it was an incredible experience would be an understatement; friends gathered around after, concerned at the flush on my face and completely dilated pupils. I was tingling from head to toe.

Many times after that, I returned to the same campfire and was told more stories, experiencing them as they unfolded. I began to write the stories down. The first tale had been the larger story that contained all the others, being about life, the fear of death and the connection to the infinite Great Mystery. When I wrote that first story, my mother-in-law was dying of ovarian cancer and I was taking care of her. I gave her the pages to read with a little trepidation (she was a very practical, real-world sort of person) and was gratified to find that it helped ease her fear and doubts in the final months of her life. It also opened the door for us to talk about life, death and love...not the daily conversations in my first husband's family, that's for sure, but she was desperate for just that.

The meditations and stories were very helpful to me during this difficult time, my first marriage crumbling around the events and my husband's alcoholism. What I didn't know at the time was that the woman always waiting at the campfire for me had plans and needs of her own, searching as she was for the old grey wolf.