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 headdress...at 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 jail....now 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.