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.