THE JOURNEY THERE
We drove out of Denver just before dawn heading east . A straight shot through the plains. Venus and Mercury were our guiding lights. The moon just off full watched our backs.
The sun rose slowly sending tunnel rays into the windshield pulling us forward into the light. When the sun lit the view we watched with interest as it displayed large fields of corn and wheat, dark rich earth, grasses on small rolling hills in all the oranges and yellows caught in a sunset. I thought how lovely.
We saw few birds. We saw a dead opossum splattered on the highway never saw a possum before, so we passed sadly. Not many free animals at all but plenty of crops and cows.
The trees we passed
were mostly bare, some with umber leaves dangling on half limbs. Groves of
poplar type trees spreading themselves along the creeks, naked and windblown
in creepy shapes as Halloween sets in. Ticking off the mile posts along the
way, humming along on cruise control, travel weary but fresh as day.
Checking into a city motel just off the highway surrounded by concrete, truck stops and cars, picking up some wine for the next day then heading into the pool and hot tub refreshing ourselves then into the room.
THE SWEAT LODGE
Making her ties with her intention, my sister had to wait her menses were still around until the last minute. She was concerned she wasn't going to make the sweat lodge. No Menses Allowed!
All the way we had talked of our intention. Mulling over the people in our lives, their cares, the needs of our community, how to increase our resources. How to make tangible our dreams like how to be able to create a sustainable development community using renewable energy of people and earth and spirit.
So there we sat tying and writing, preparing ourselves for our inner journey.
We headed out threading our way through the shafted sunlight we arrived early evening.
The location of the sweat lodge was in a small town with dirt roads, backyards that ran together. A big grainery was stationed at the edge of town. The trees lined the roads were almost naked, the leaves that were still hanging in were a burnt oranges and browns spilling down into piles where barefoot children ran through them.
The road leading to the town was hilly, lined with bushes and fields. Some trees had hedge balls on them, big round lime green seedpods. We thought they were apples at first then someone said what they were and they could be used as a natural bug repellant. We planned to collect a few on the way home.
The house was filled with people. A long oval table was surrounded by people making their tobacco ties hundreds of little red bundles strung together filled the table surface. The room was filled mostly with women talking and sharing. Some people knew each other, others were connecting in groups of twos and threes.
People kept coming, bringing food and companionship. Gossip and information fled around the room. As people finished their ties they vacated a place at the table that was quickly filled.
Some people were quiet, some talkative, some nervous, some excited, some awkward, some smooth. The energy in the room spiked and lulled as like a song.
We wandered outside where the fire pit was tended and the wood slowly taking on a shape of a tipi, the rocks lying waiting ready on the ground. The fire pit was a great round hole shaped and smoothed by the many ceremonies. Steps had been honed in the dirt and when you entered down to the fire pit proper you felt a great peace. The mound surrounding the pit was housing rocks and twigs and growing things. The lodge itself was a framework of a dome all its skeleton limbs were wrapped in bright red cloth.
We presented our ties to the fire tender and his helper wrapped them around the framework joining the ties that were already placed. Everything was done with reverence and unhurried. We conversed with the fire tender and presented him with the little pouches of tobacco that we had made and painted.
As their ties were finished people exchanged gifts. Some were for being thankful for the healing they had received. Some were for the people holding the ceremony some were for old friends, some for new friends. The gifts were varied, all were touched by hands that gave them, leather pouches, stones, candles, food, and medicine.
Back in the house people sat in a circle telling their stories. We related that we were a bit nervous because this was our first time and someone told us to be calm because the spirits want you to be here and have a joyful and meaningful experience and be successful in your prayers. Someone said that the fire was only as hot as the weakest person could handle and in spiritual matters the circle only moved as fast as the slowest. This gave great comfort.
The night moved in, the sun began to set, the colors rang across the sky as a dove heralded the moment of preparation. Outside the fire was lit, sparks shot out into the evening sky sending our intention for prayer.
People moved in and out of each other's shadows quietly now but with an air of expectation, touching and connecting with each other so when in the sweat lodge a stronger bond could be made.
The stones were heating up. The lodge was wrapped in blankets and quilts covered by a dark tarp. People positioned themselves in particular directions around the outside of the lodge.
Abuffalo skull had been placed at the entrance of the fire pit and sage was burning in its orifices. Cedar and copal were burning, the fire was giving off tremendous heat and herbal smoke was radiating with the sparks to encompass the circle that was formed. As each of us passed near the entrance we were smudged with sage and an eagle feather held in a native hand.
Crawling in, we circled the fire hole in the center of the lodge. Inside it was so dark and intense, we crept closer together to make room for all who wished to enter. Seventeen women were ringed in the lodge and there was still room for more.
The stones were called for and placed in a ceremonial pattern, they came in groups and we welcomed these bones of mother earth that would heat and release our prayers to the Great Spirit.
The water came like blood of mother earth splattering the rocks and forming steam like the breath of father sky smelling of sage and copal. Being and sensation took over. all the senses fused, we rattled, prayed and sang giving thanks and listening with our whole hearts to the moment. The final song was song, the flap was opened, we crawled to the flap and the men who had been guarding and keeping watch helped us out with gentle hands. We stood in a circle and passed by each other with hugs and thanks. Coiling around like a snake everyone touched everyone and we were embraced by the joy of sharing and cleansing.
Then the men held their sweat lodge ceremony while the women put out the cornucopia of food, relaxing and visiting with each other. After the men completed their ceremony everyone gathered in a big circle, the pipe was passed and we gave thanks. Then the food was served and we ate to our heart's content.
Some nights since the ceremony I dream of being in the dark sweat of the lodge sitting with large women, their skin glistening naked and warm, I smell the steam, feel the sweat pouring out of my very center.
THE UNEXPECTED STAY
The next morning we returned to the sweat lodge to say our goodbyes and express our thanks. I knelt at the entrance of the fire pit and gave a thankful prayer.
On the road back to the highway we stopped to gather a couple more hedgeballs when we started to drive away there was a great grating sound and the car wouldn't budge! We were devastated, abandoned on the side of a country road, miles from anywhere. We were wishing desperately for a phone book when finally a truck pulled up they had a phone book in the car, they called for a tow and sat with us until it arrived. We managed to get a hold of a friend who had been at the sweat with us and he came and took us back to the sweat lodge house.
We went outside to help take the lodge down. Women were singing as they unwrapped first the ties and then the cloth. Slowly the lodge frame was revealed naked like antlers locked together the wind and sky flowing through the open structure. We circled the site once more then gathered some ashes from the fire pit praying to stay centered and calm.
We then got a ride back to the motel where we were stuck, like it or not, in Kansas for two more days.
Tuesday was Election Day. Kansas is a Republican stronghold and suffice to say that we are not. It was difficult being there at that time, though the people were nice and decent to us in our predicament, there was an underlying vibration that was depressing in its lack of light and change. One could predict the outcome of the election before the results were made public because there was not enough willingness to change in the people's general mien, one can get a narrow view when you are with your circle of acquaintances. Being out in Middle America for such an ancient ceremony for such a societal event gave us an insight into society from an objective place. Participating in a deep earth related ceremony, you experience a separation from the normal American lifestyle, one that in our opinion serves the mind but not the spirit, that lifestyle is what people were voting on and there didn't seem to be enough desire in the air to change that at this meaningful time.
THE JOURNEY BACK
So on Election Day we left Kansas and headed back home.
There had been a big snow storm in Colorado on Halloween and the highway had been closed the day before so with the weather clearing the car intact we sped along the flat lands and breathed a sigh of relief when we crossed the state line.
Colorado was magnificent in its snowy gown decorated by little green and umber shoots left over from the autumn lady. Cows meandered lazily around the rolling fields and the sunset made my heart melt. All the whites, yellows, oranges, reds and purples blended into the snow covered land the sun filling the sky so completely we drove blindly through the final blast of day.
We pulled off the highway to a rest stop and watched the night sky take over as the final colors faded, the air was so crisp and cold the snow covered ground, lush and full, it all felt so wonderful and clear such beauty was a gift. So with a last deep breath we flew back into the city to the safety of our family.
SWEAT LODGE JOURNAL