Ely IV: Dancing With the Chippewa

If I had a blog, today I would write about the night I became part of The North Country.

October 2, 2006

The Green World

The Green World

After we got home from the Wolf Center, we made our evening coffee and settled in to watch Northern Exposure on DVD. After the second episode, Mom suggested we walk to the lake and see if there was any sign of the Aurora Borealis – The Northern Lights. Mom has a strong sixth sense about these things, so Kindra and I willingly donned our coats and followed along. We used our head lamps to see the path through the woods, but when we got to the dock, the half-moon gave us enough light to see without artificial light. It took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust to the darkness, but as they did, we saw an unmistakable green glow to the north.

The Vault of Heaven

The Vault of Heaven

I flipped my head lamp back on and set up my camera. Even a few shots of the green glow would be a remarkable souvenir and I wanted to be ready if anything more was in the offing. It was a good instinct. Within a few moments, the glow intensified and ribbons of green fire began to dance above the lake, flowing as if blown by a gentle cosmic breeze. The ribbons morphed into great shifting curtains that sent beams tinged with pink soaring towards the vault of Heaven. Now I understood why the Chippewa believed the aurora was the ghost dance of warriors who had gone before. In the shifting streamers they saw shadows of the great headdresses the dancers wore as they danced before the spirit-fire in the sky and I felt the presence of many spirits reaching out to me as they honored me with a glimpse of their mystical realm. Then the wolves began to sing. Far away at first, then close enough that I was sure, I heard wild wolves singing to the aurora. I laughed and wept and sang my own song of thanks to the Great North for the gift of this night.

In time, the aurora faded once more to a jade green glow and the wolves moved on in their nightly journeys. My toes were numb and my hands cold as ice, so I packed up my gear and went back to the cabin. Mom and Kindra has returned home earlier than I, but Mom was waiting up for me. We sat up until midnight talking about this magnificent experience, then, warm and sleepy, we went to bed.

Curtains of Light

Curtains of Light

Two hours later, Mom woke me. The aurora had returned! Mom could see the emerald fire in the skylight and it looked as though the display was more intense than the one we had seen before. Camera in hand, I hurried to the dock. This time the entire sky was wreathed in green flame. Pink and green curtains flickered high above the lake while rolling clouds of light reached down towards the water. The wolves sang to us again and we laughed and cried and hugged one another, over-awed at the gift we had been given.

It was another hour before the aurora made her last curtain call and left the sky to the dominion of the moon and stars. We lingered on the dock, our minds whirling with all that we had seen. We watched a beaver swimming down a path of moonbeams, the slap of his tail in the water finally bringing us back to terra firma. We walked to the cabin in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts. We made a pot of tea and unwound by the fire before making our final attempt at sleep.

Trailing Clouds of Glory

Trailing Clouds of Glory

Each of us will take something different from tonight’s experience. Some thoughts will be shared, others treasured in silence as a personal gift from The Gods. For me, this was Yuwakan, the Lakota “day of naming,” when a child receives his or her spiritual name and takes their place in the tribe. Tonight I was told who I am. I expected this trip to be a pilgrimage to my sacred place, but instead of an empty sanctuary, I found my family gathered to welcome me with open arms. “Welcome Daughter,” says the North Wind. “Welcome Sister,” say the wolf and the raven. “Welcome Child,” say the Grandmothers, “Take up your place among the fir and spruce, beside the wild creatures, in harmony with the spirit of The North. Dear One, you have, at last, found your people, your place in the world, a place to call home. This is where you belong.”

Letting Go

If I had a blog, today I would write about the desire to fix the lives of the ones I love.

Humans are born meddlers. There is something within us that, for good or ill, drives us to get involved in other people’s lives. I am no exception. My motives are pure: I want the people I love to be happy. I look at their struggles and and am compelled to make a plan for escape. In the moment it all seems so clear, so elementary: If Mom would just do this, or if Dad would just do that, they would be so much better off. I offer advice and if that doesn’t work, I throw myself into high gear and start making changes on my own.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Just today, I caught myself  trying to take charge of a friend’s issues with boundaries. I want her to let go of the desire to please people at the expense of her own well-being, so what do I do? I start telling my friend what to do: “Tell your friends this,” and “Ask them not to do that.” I volunteer to call and cancel engagements, to make up excuses, to take the fall for any negative feedback that comes my friend’s way. I’m rockin’ and rollin’, taking names and baking hams until I get home and sit down with my book of favorite quotations. The book falls open to the words of an unknown writer: “Your work is not to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new awareness. Your job is to simply do your work… sacredly, secretly, and silently… and those with ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’, will respond.” I close my eyes and sigh, “I’ve done it again, haven’t I?”

I have fallen prey to the fatal flaw of do-gooders: Assuming I know what is best for my fellow human beings. On a good day I have the insight to guide myself along the road of life and the only gift I am worthy to give is a recounting of my own journey, should offer some guidance in its telling. My companions will know what to make of my stories, what to keep and what to leave behind, and that is their choice to make, not mine.

Mist on Hawk Ridge

Mist on Hawk Ridge

The prattle in my mind is quiet now; the voices of scheming and planning silenced. I feel my consciousness open like a flower, letting in the sound of rain pattering on my window. Thunder rumbles in the valley and mist rises along Hawk Ridge as the cool breeze dances among the ferns on my patio. Another chapter is written in my Trail Journal, a story to tell about the power that lives in letting go.