Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year, From 2008

A visitor from the Deer Nation to the Cabinette.

It is just another day to me, really. There is no significant reason to celebrate it in my mind. I am so glad that I am much more in tune to Nature and the Universe than I am to the calendar and clock. Yesterday evening, while driving to an event, I watched the sun setting in the Southwest. Up here, way up North in Wisconsin, the sun rises and sets South of the Equator and that means a sunrise and set way down in the Southern sky, hence the longer periods of darkness.

I'll watch, and soon Ole Sol will make its way back and be North and stay out shining and lighting our way until close to 10 p.m. All the daylight savings time discussion means nothing either for that matter. The clock will say 10 p.m., but it will have been light for over 18 hours. Now, we barely get eight hours of sunlight.

I can see the reasons and harbor no malice towards New Year. I just go on living. Many enterprises go into reflection. I'm seeing this on some blogs , on the news, in the paper. "The Year In Review" is the story byline. Review what already happened. Look back and have a reminder of sadness in the world? That's the news.

Gracie and her Papa, having a good time.

A new family member that was born into our family, Gracie Jayne, happened in calendar year 2007. I want to see her walking in 2008. I want to be alive to see it, witness it. I don't need to remember she was born last year even though it was a very happy and miraculous event. I see her, a human being. I know she is here.

Gracie Jayne, soon to be one year, visiting with Onawah at the kitchen window.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a gloom and doom piece here. This is just my take on it. All the dot org's are doing their level best to get me to shell out some moola before the end of the calendar year. I'm fucking broke. The fucking holidays and the fucking pickup truck repairs took all my fucking money. What makes True Majority, Move On and Amnesty International think I need a fucking tax deduction? Don't they know their base is poor people. Why would the rich want any change in the policies of king bush? They are getting richer off of it as the peons suffer and pay higher everything. Gas, food, utilities, the basics, but give them money to combat these things. What a dichotomy.

I had the pleasure and honor of attending a Sweat Lodge last night. It was in honor of the soon to be January Moon. The Moon of Popping Trees. It's so cold the trees seem to "PoP". They do make noises. Ever hear the ice on a lake freeze? It is a sound like no other. No, it is like the cry of a whale, sort of. It is natural. The lake is talking to you like the whale is speaking as well.

The leader told us that the Elders used the Winter and the long nights to tell stories. he said in the Ojibwe culture, their history is oral. The stories were passed down and told, sometimes over and over, and then repeated as the ones who heard the first version grew into eldership. Last night, I was recognized as an Elder and a Warrior and I told my story to the younger people there. I told them about being a Warrior and my journey to South Carolina to return the Spirit of my Brother in Arms to his people. I told them how I truly believed that I was guided on this path to have this happen. I told of the signs, the eagles, the way things dropped into place, the healing that happened, the closure. I was proud to tell this story and was proud to tell it to people who sat and listened, or at least were polite about it all and didn't interrupt me.

This ceremony was held in the woods behind a place called Mishomis House. Mishomis means Grand Father in the Anishanabe language, the voice of the Ojibwe, or Chippewa people. It is a program house for people with alcohol and drug addictions. New years was a usual time to drink maybe a little more than they usually drank. We try to hold a Lodge ceremony around New Years Eve as a motivator and inspiration for those that suffer from these addictions. We hold the ceremony, then go on living. I had my New Years "party" at that Lodge, so to speak.

The Great Lake Superior. A view through the woods at the cabinette.

I’ll fool around here at home today and tomorrow with my new Cassette Tape Archiver. A really neat device that will allow me to make all my old cassettes into CD’s and MP3 files for the iPod. Cool, heh? All that great music has been sitting in a milk crate. Now it will be resurrected and listened to instead of just recalled in conversations.

“I have this great cassette of the Who doing “Tommy” at Radio City Music Hall from 1972” I would say.

“Oh man, that would be awesome to hear that” my friend would respond.

“You got a tape deck?” I’d ask.

“No, mine broke years ago and I never bought another one. Everything went to CD’s” He’d say.

“Damn, too bad” says I.

Maybe I’ll watch Pirates of the Caribbean III again. I like that fantasy stuff if it has pirates in it. Maybe I’ll watch the whole trilogy. Or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I love that movie too.

What ever you do, do it well. If this is a step for a new beginning for you, this New Year, then do that well too. It's a leap year, so, you'll have an extra day on your calendar in case you make a mistake. A Mulligan on life, cool concept. But there are always thirteen moons in a year.

We’ll be moving back into the Cabinette in a few weeks. I can’t wait. We’re getting ready for that. It will be a change from living in this cozy house in town. But it’s not a resolution or anything like that. It’s just our home, and I’ll be glad to return to it, cold and snow or not. I did get to lay up a lot of fire wood, so I’m ready. I can see myself now, a warm fire. My tape deck belting out the old stuff as I edit and catalogue my “new” CD collection and add it to the rest. I’ll need to buy another case and one of those stacks of CD/RW’s for all the recording. A good vision of how to spend Winter at the Cabinette.

In the meantime. Have a good New Year. This year, every year, every day of every year, for you and all you hold dear.

And Peace to All in the Universe.

Mr. and Mrs. Spadoman.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Greeting to All, From 2007

However you celebrate, or if you don't celebrate at all, we wish you peace in your hearts for you and all you hold dear. We send constant positive energy out to the world and will stand in honor of all of you who wish for peace today at the Ashland Peace Vigil. I ask the Creator to let us understand each other and accept all mankind as their Brothers and Sisters.

Thank you for your support. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, May peace prevail on the Sacred Earth Mother for all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Trip to Clarks Hill, 2007

The bridge at Mackinac

Back at home this morning. I didn’t keep track of how many miles and miles per gallon. This was a different kind of trip. A trip I was going to take no matter what the logistical outcome. It wasn’t a matter of could I afford it, but rather how I would afford it.

We left Ashland last Wednesday morning. We drove across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and crossed the Mackinaw bridge. We took Interstate 75 South down to US Highway 23. We followed 23 all the way down through Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and into North Carolina. We used another road, Interstate 26 through North Carolina down into South Carolina and ended up using two-lane State and County roads to weave our way into Augusta, Georgia.

We stayed in Augusta, but our destination was a scant 12 miles North of there, just across the Savannah River, to a small town called Clarks Hill in South Carolina. The Savannah River is damned at Clarks Hill and makes a lake that used to be called Clarks Hill Lake. It is now called Strom Thurmond Lake after the long time Senator from South Carolina. Local residents, and I, will know it as Clarks Hill Lake and the Clarks Hill Dam.

We got there on Friday in the late afternoon. I called the contact number I had, a woman named Shirley who had found my name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall website. I had written there in the guest book for my friend, Frazier Dixon. Frazier was killed in Vietnam on December 3, 1969. I was there when he died, with him, touched him.

Shirley was looking for information about a fallen member of the community of Clarks Hill. Shirley lives near Atlanta now, but her Mother still lives in Clarks Hill. She went to school there and knew Frazier Dixon. When she contacted me, neither she nor I knew what was going to happen, but the contact was made. Now, I had come down to attend a Veterans Program that was being put on by an Elder and retired school teacher, Mrs. Scott.

Mrs. Scott has had this program for Veterans since 2002. She holds it at the Bethany Baptist Church in Clarks Hill. In the past years, attendance hasn’t been very high. Mrs. Scott felt that this would be her last year putting on the program since no one seemed to appreciate it. It is simple. A few songs, a few readings, a scripture and a feed after the Veterans announced themselves with a few words about what branch of service they were in and when they served.

When I heard that Shirley wanted to gather any information she could find about Frazier Dixon, to include him, in spirit, at the Veterans Program, I got interested in going down there and attending myself. What I hadn’t expected was the outpouring of humanity and emotion from the Bethany Baptist Church community in Clarks Hill.

When Shirley reported that I was coming there and that I knew Frazier in Vietnam and that I was his friend and that I was with him when he died, many faithful members of the church called others, family members of Frazier’s, school mates of Frazier’s. Other Veterans of the community, some that had never come to the Veterans Program before this, came out in force.

When I got there, I went to the cemetery which is on the hill, right behind the church. I walked around and spotted the cement slab covering and bronze flat headstone. Frazier’s name was there, big as life. I felt Like I had come full circle. It wasn’t all a dream at all. Sometimes I wondered about my own memory of Vietnam. Detached and so far away from it and with each year, I get farther away.

Grave site of a friend. Clarks Hill, South Carolina

I always wanted to tell somebody about it. About me knowing him. A number of years ago, when I wrote in that Wall website guest book, I did get contacted by a man named Claude. Claude wrote me and told me he knew the family of Frazier Dixon and that was all. Then, a phone call, from a man named James who told me he knew some of the family too. James on the phone and Claude in a letter. I wrote back to Claude and told him how I knew Frazier.

It was such an honor to meet Claude and James. They both remembered the contact. We figured it was in 2002. Claude had gotten copies of that letter and it was included in the scrapbook and album that Mrs. Scott had from the Veterans Programs of the years before. I got to read a letter I wrote in 2002.

Newest friend of the Spado family, Shirley, with James to her left and Claude farther left behind James, in the black jacket. Bethany Baptist dining hall. Veterans Program dinner.

It was an honor to meet all the people. Every single one of them. When it was my turn to speak, I told them that I had the spirit of Frazier Dixon with me for many years and that I was bringing him home. I wasn’t going to forget him. I was going to share him with them. Would you believe I got an “Amen” for that? What a feeling, for a Native American traditional spiritualist and recovering Catholic to get an Amen in a Baptist church in South Carolina?

I noticed that flowers seem to be on every grave at every cemetery in the South. As we drove, we saw oceans of flowers as we passed by cemetery plots. I bought a lawn base and an arrangement of seasonal silk flowers and put them next to the headstone of my friend at Bethany.

People started to arrive, and Shirley came. She is the only one I knew and I was waiting for her. She would introduce me to people. I knew her Mother would be there and a sister of hers. She also told me of a man who was Frazier’s best friend during high school. His name is Anthony.

I met Anthony first. And Anthony’s sister who was helping with the dinner. Then I met Shirley’s Mother and sister. Then I met several people all in a row. James, the guy I talked to on the phone and Claude, the man who wrote me years earlier. I met Deborah, one of Frazier’s first cousins. I met an Aunt and three other cousins. Other school mates and other members of the community that remembered Frazier. I met Mrs. Scott. Everyone seemed very excited that I was there.

I was excited to be there. As I sat in the church and the male choir group was singing, I had a feeling come over me that I can’t explain in any words known to mankind. What was I doing there? Why had I traveled through my lifetime, and now was receiving this gift of being with people that made me feel so welcome and warm? Like they knew me and had known me for a long time?

The Veterans who attended the Program at Bethany Baptist Church. Clarks Hill, SC November 17, 2007

After the program and through the dinner, I talked with so many people from Clarks Hill. A friend who described Frazier as being like a big brother to him and a cousin who remembered the military car in the driveway a long time ago. Those Veterans who knew him and knew he had died in combat action. They all wanted to know if it was true. After all these years, they knew he was dead, but they still hadn’t known, or believed, what the Army had told them. They didn’t believe the Army when they came and told them because the casket was sealed so tightly.

The casket was sealed shut. No pry bar or anything could have opened it. The Army delivered it this way, sealed, with a cement cover, cemented in place. I knew why it was sealed. It puzzled them for many years as no explanation can be remembered as given.

A month or two ago, I wrote some very personal memoirs about my time in Vietnam. I posted it as a four part series. I left it up for a while and then deleted it from the Round Circle Blog. In that four part post, I explained my involvement with Frazier Dixon. I explained why that casket was sealed. I never knew why I was ready to share that, but I was. Then, all this happens and I had to share it again. I didn’t want to go through the whole story in detail while visiting these old friends and family. I printed out the four part story and gave it to Shirley, she herself a Veteran by the way, and nodded my head as to why the casket was sealed and that he did die and that I was with him.

Some of the faces were disappointed, as if I was going to tell them that he was okay. Others, most of them, exhaled because they finally found out what happened and how he died, and they heard it from his friend, and not the Army. They used the word “Closure”. One man held my hand for five minutes as I stood there and held his back.

Deborah, his cousin, took us to the house, or where the house was, where Frazier grew up. We stood out in the road talking, six of us, where Grandma and Grandpa lived, by the ball field, on a road called Dew Drop Inn. I heard all about how Anthony and Frazier were liked by all the girls. I heard about how they’d walk to town and to Bethany for services.

We stood there talking, like the teens might have gathered, talking and laughing, many years ago.

I’d been to war as a young man. I held my friend when he died. 38 years, almost to the day, later, here I was. In his home town with the people who he went to school with, with his cousins, with his friends. I am so blessed by some power more significant than I can ever imagine. To be led here, at this time, in this life. To heal and be a healer, to let others be healers. To share smiles, brotherhood and love. Mending parts of my broken heart

Closure. Knowing that it’s okay now. Knowing we can let go of his spirit. Knowing he won’t be back because a friend came and told us so. I was the savior that day for so many, but they saved me as well. It was closure for me. To see his childhood, his relatives and friends. They know one of their own is gone and they reached out to touch me, a small part of him. I reached out to them.

Shirley has been great through all of this. She made us feel so welcome. Right from the start when we met her at the motel in Augusta. We went out to eat and had a special dinner. We talked on the phone. She even called as we traveled home to check our progress, telling us that everyone was praying for our safe travel. Telling me we were family now. We are part of Frazier’s community. Plans were being made for when I return. whether it be for next years Veterans Program, or for another trip I might want to make to come and visit. She gave me a fine gift, a plaque with the words of a song along with the CD of Bette Midler singing it, and gave Mrs. Spadoman a fine crystal bowl.

But more, she, and the others, gave me love. And closure. And I made new friends. And I have more family now. Mrs Scott, getting on in years and wondering why the attendance at the Veterans Program wasn’t very good, had said that this would be the last time she puts on the program. She changed her mind when that church and dining hall was full of people. She has decreed that she will have one next year. In itself, when a ninety one year old elder makes plans for an event next year, that means something.

We left Augusta, GA on Sunday morning and drove through Georgia and into Tennessee. Through Nashville and into Kentucky. Past Paducah and into Illinois. Right up the gut, and a night of sleep in Mt. vernon, we kept up the Northerly trek and landed in Ashland on Monday evening.

We ate BBQ and southern fried chicken. Boiled peanuts and fried pies. Fresh pink lady apples. I brought home country ham steaks, jam, jelly, hot chow chow, hot BBQ sauce and sorghum, which I plan on using soon on some buckwheat pancakes. That church dinner was good, too. I’ll never eat Macaroni n’ cheese without baking it to form a thick crust on top, ever again. And I’ll put some ham hocks in my green beans. And grits. I like grits.

We have Shirley on the speed dial. I have a card with addresses and phone numbers for Claude. Deborah will be sending me a picture of Frazier from High School days. I’ll send Mrs. Scott a thank you note, and thank yous to others, too. Especially Shirley, my newest sister.

All in all, a whirlwind chapter in this spinning life. A tough act to follow. I’ll remember this experience and hold it right up there with watching the children being born and getting married. And I will get back there, to Clarks Hill, again some day. Maybe this summer for a few days of camping along the Savannah River and a Saturday night fish fry with my friends.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rap? Or Hip Hop?

I'm in a musical kind of mood today, and as
you'll see, it has everything to do with that picture. Ever do that?
Have one of those days when you hear something and it reminds you of a
song. I even burst into song as if life was "Oklahoma". Some of the
folks at the Black Cat really get a kick out of it. Why just this
morning I heard someone talking and they said the word "pig". I started
to belt out the Bill Monroe classic Pig in a Pen.

Goes like this:

I got a pig at home in a pen
Corn to feed him on
All I need's a pretty little girl
To feed I'm when I'm gone

Going up on a mountain
To sow a little cane
Raise a barrel of sorghum
Sweet little Liza Jane

Black clouds arising
Sure sign of rain
Put that old gray bonnet
On little Liza Jane

Yonder comes that gal of mine
How do you think I know
Know her by that gingham gown
Hanging down so low

Bake them biscuits baby
Bake em good and brown
When you get them biscuits baked
We're Alabama bound

Anyhoo:-), like my pal Batty Mo says, I got to thinkin' of some lyrics I wrote right about 'lecshun time. I looked at em' and added a few more lines.

You do the same. Add some lines if you want to in the comments. Let er' fly. Get mad, good and pissed off. The world, and I, are countin' on ya'll. You can do it. Sing what you write out loud. Sing the whole thing out loud. Make some noise.

Now put the beat to it and read it like you're on TV with Snoop Dog or someone like dat.

My name is Joe and I’m here to say that the politics is crazy in a messy way.

They don’t want peace, they can’t say love, the olive branch is missing like the mourning dove.

We gotta fight on, like we’re in the hunt. Our country’s losing ground on a lot of fronts.

Call up the man, tell em’what for, make sure you point em’ to the exit door.

Go to the polls, cast your lot. Change the direction of this angry pot
-full of haters, cheaters and the rest, put em’ in a sack and make em’ pass the test.

Try to get out of that sack in the lake. The fate of our country is what we have at stake.

We got a new batch, but nuthin’s on the table

They better do it right or we’ll tie em’ to a cable

We’ll throw em’ off a bridge

We’ll throw em’ out the door

We’ll tie em’ to the tracks for locomotive forty four

We gave em’ time, but They still have the killin’

We gave them votes, But they still ain’t willin’

Now write em’ a letter, Give em’ a shout

Stand in their hallway, Til they throw you out

Do it for peace, Call out or pray

Do something god dammit, Or you’ll die this way!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Sundance

No cameras at a sacred ceremony, so, no pictures to share. In fact, the elder spiritual leader insisted on no video games or any electronic devices, especially cell phones and car radios. There were days of preparing when these rules weren't mentioned or adhered to, but when ceremony days begin, we were asked to follow instruction or leave. This was no problem for me because I don't use these things when I'm at such a place.

As many of you may know, the Sundance is a summertime dance done in a circular arbor by those that have fulfilled their individual requirements to dance. They go without food and water for four days and dance in sessions during the day. Sometimes, the weather dictates some comfort, but not this year. It was hot and humid most every day and very challenging for all in attendance as well as the dancers. They are sacrificing food and water and doing this in the hot sun to pray to the Creator for the health and happiness of the people, all people. They pray to ask for answers to all the prayers the people have. Those prayers are tied in colorful bundles up in a tree that was put in the center of the arbor a day before the dance started.

People who are not dancing in the ceremony itself are assembled around the arbor at the sides. There is a drum goup beating the drum and singing constantly while the dancers are in the circle. At other places around the encampment, people are listening and watching at a distance. They are sipping coffee and visiting with friends. The cook is cooking some food for the next meal or cleaning up the dishes from the meal before. As many as 40-50 people are eating each meal. Many children of the familes of the dancers.

I was the cook. I brought in equipment and set up a cook shanty village complete with tables and chairs under a canopy. I brought the food and the pots pans and utensils to prepare it. I brought firewood to cook on at the large open stove. I brought many 5 gallon water bottles that we filled aily across the road at the neighbors house so we could have water. We needed a lot of water with temperatures up into the 90's every day. We served a ot of lemonade and kool aid and water. I did not bring the black flies, the horse flies or the mosquitoes. There were a lot of them creatures.

I brought Mrs Spadoman and a friend to help me unload and set up the camp. Mrs S stayed and helped me, then left for a couple of days, only to return with the two oldest Grandkids. Then, she jumped in and helped me again. Others pitched in and helped a little here and there. One good friend helped me when Barb was away and did a great job. I could not have pulled it off without the help from these people, especially Barb.

Between meals, I went to the side of the circle and showed my support for the dancers, the people who were praying for us, for an answer to our prayers. I sat in at the big drum and sang with the others in hopes of giving the courageous dancers some energy by our full voiced singing and hard drumming.

On the last day, it came to an end. The rounds were complete. Everyone came to the cook shack for a feast. We had some great food and iced down juice and beverages for the Sundancers to break their fast. A large bowl of chilled fresh fruit and some delacacies that they asked for like walleye and oranged pork chops, wild rice and goulash made from very lean buffalo meat.

Camps were struck and people left for the long drive home, and for most, work on Monday. When I arrived at the camp, I was the first person there last Friday morning, July 20th. The people came and we had this core of human beings there, and just as they arrived, ten days later they left, and I was there alone again until 6:30 PM Sunday night before we had the last thing packed and closed the door on the van and drove away, leaving only the tree standing in the center of the arbor, festooned with the colored prayer tie offerings that once held their prayers.

I pretty much told you of the logistics of this event. The things that happen to any one particular individual during their time either involved with doing the Sundance, or just attending one and being a supporter of a dancer, or someone who helps with the fire, the food or the ceremony, are each individuals secrets to think about and take lessons from.

I saw a couple of kids that I had met last year, but they weren't ready to form relationships last year. This year, they both became great fiends and I view them as my Grandchildren. They are fond of me and I see it and believe it. I served some meals that people liked. Not a morsel of food in the trash, just empty plates and plastic utensils, a sure sign that they liked the sustinance placed before them at that particular meal. Then there was the naughty lady that left her kids hanging around as she left the grounds with others to go to town for this, or go to town for that. The kids were a little trouble from time to time, and with no mother there to reel them in, we took turns yelling at them.

I had a spiritual experience as well. Some questions were raised and I have yet to decipher the real answers. That's how these things work for me. I must dwell on the situation before I know what conclusion I need to draw. It is a learning process. So far, I can still learn much, mostly about myself. As the days and weeks go on, I'll continue to hear the drum beats in my head and the words to these Dakota Sundance honor and thank you songs. I'll hum along and sing and think of the Sundance and my 12 days there. I'll think about all that had happened and hope and pray that I come out the better for it.

One thing I did decide about is that I will no longer be the cook. I have passed the torch to someone new for next year. I'll be there, but I'll in a lawn chair next to the arbor watching the brave courageous people dance for peace and for the prayers of the people.

I am purposely pretty generic in my attempt to tell you about Sacred Ceremony. If you are truly intersested and want more information or have specific questions, please ask via e-mail. Thanks for coming to my blog. It's good to be back home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Medicine Wheel

I may have posted this story over a year ago in my old Heart Melody Blog. I felt it worth repeating, at least to myself. I needed to hear what I said before and wanted the motivation to continue strongly on this path. Reading about what I did and how I felt when I did it reminds me to stay on the path. As I have seen and felt good in my life before, I'll see and feel it again.

I'll be leaving for the Sundance in a couple of days and will again be away from these pages. Return will be some time in early August. Please come back and check out the links listed at the end. Some good stuff to see. Thank you.

High in the Northern end of the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming sits an archeological find that is said to be a Medicine Wheel. Scholars know there have been thousands of these throughout North and South America with Canada having the most. Not many, however, are intact or complete. Just remnants have been unearthed over the years.

In Wyoming sits one of the best examples of this Wheel. It is at an altitude of almost 10,000 feet above sea level at the top of a mountain. It is said that the layout may be somewhat orientated to the Sun and Moon and Stars and is astrological.

All this information is a guess. There is no written history. It is a circle of rocks layed out in a wheel around 80 feet in diameter. The center is a pit about 6’ X 6’ made of rocks piled around in a horseshoe shape called a cairn. There are six more of these cairns scattered around the edges. There are 28 spokes that radiate from the center to the edges. The rocks sit on the earth and are in great shape considering they are exposed to the elements at this high altitude.

The area is now a protected site. people can go up there and look at the place, but nothing is to be touched. Native people from over 80 tribes have ceremonies up there from time to time. The Indians feel this place is Sacred.

I first heard of it when I saw it on a map. It is called the Medicine Wheel National Monument. The Forest Service has a small visitor center there and a small parking lot. To visit, you must walk a one and a half mile trail uphill from the small gravel parking area. So, the place doesn’t get the usual high numbers of tourists like Grand Canyon or Yellowstone. It is off the beaten track and only the hardiest of travelers goes there to see it. Besides, in this part of the Big Horn Mountains at this altitude, the road is open only from Memorial Day to sometime in September or October when the snows come and the powers that be close the road for the Winter.

The Indians that hold ceremony there go for many reasons. They feel that their ancestors used this site as a place to pray. Medicine men and women and spiritual leaders go there as well as individuals just wanting to pray. The Forest Service asks people to allow others to have their space if they see someone doing something other than walking around reading the signs. Maybe that person or small group is involved in a ceremony and we are asked not to bother them.

So, I saw it on a map and realized I have never taken that particular road on my trips out West. A few years ago, as I was learning more and more about Native American Spirituality, I met two women who took a trip to this place. Both of these women are said to be healers. One is an Anishanabe, (Ojibway) medicine woman. I was introduced to them as I showed an interest in receiving the benefits of a healing ceremony.

I was told the story of their visit to the Medicine Wheel the year before. I was told that the Indian woman was offered entrance into the Sacred circle of the Medicine Wheel when they visited. I was told that there was a vision to visit in the first place as well as a vision that took place during the visit. I guess I just listened and filed the information for future reference. My involvement with these women went on and I did get a healing ceremony from them, but the ceremony of which I partook had nothing to do with the Medicine Wheel in Wyoming.

My spiritual advisor tells me today that the ceremony was a good one and started me on a path of healing. More about this healing ceremony at a later time.

Five years ago, I was traveling East from California by automobile and took the route less travelled. The road went past the Medicine Wheel and I decided to take the opportunity to stop and see it for myself. I was well into trying to understand and accept many of the Indian ways by this time in my life and as I hiked up the side of the mountain for the first time, I drew upon my beliefs and teachings I had learned to that point.

For the past number of years I have taken up this path of Native American Spirituality in my life. I am not better than anyone else. I am not an Indian nor am I trying to become one. I just have never found the religious teachings of Catholic Christianity to be acceptable. Or for that matter, any organized religion. Too much difference of opinion. One religious leader telling the other that their way was the only true way. I wanted to believe, but I had hesitation because of this involvement of man.

The Indian way of thinking about the Great Spirit or God is different for me. I cut out the middle man and create a dialogue directly with The Creator of all things. No-one tells me what is right or wrong. My heart tells me as I speak directly to God from my heart. No man intervenes and explains my conversations. The thoughts come to me and I know if they are right or wrong instinctively. When I am not sure, I seek guidance through prayer. The answers come and I know in my heart of hearts that I will live in peace and do no harm or force my way on another person.

It is with this confidence that I hike up to the top of this mountain. As I walk, I pray for knowledge of the place where I am visiting. I ask the Spirits to help me as I am a dumb human and need a sign to help me understand what it is I am suppose to see. I am talking to God, as I understand him, as I walk.

I ask for a lesson, some direction or learning that I can take away from here that will help me be a better person and live with peace in my heart. I ask for more healing from the wounds of life. Hey, I’m also praying that I make it to the top because it’s hard for a guy who has had numerous open heart surgeries to hike over a mile uphill at 10,000 feet above sea level.

I am taking it slow. One step at a time. I learn this lesson quickly. Each step leads you to the desired promised land. Patience prevails. If I keep taking one step at a time, after a while, I’ll get there. If I don’t start the journey, it will never happen. This thought came to me some time later. Not all these lessons, or any of them for that matter, come to you with the revelation of a sunrise. One day I just thought about it. I realized that if I hadn’t tried it and kept at it, I never would have made it. This is also true of everything in life. Sure, maybe I’ll die before I reach certain goals, but I can’t just sit and wait to die. I must proceed.

As I reach the top of the mountain and see the stones on the ground and make out this circle of rocks the Spirits grab a hold of my shoulders and I shudder like a chill went through me. I immediately burst into tears and a great feeling of relief comes over me. I cannot explain this feeling except to say that I felt cleansed and pure for that moment in time as I cry in front of God at the top of a mountain many miles from my home.

I keep my gaze to my left on that circle as I step up closer. I follow the man made path to the Northwest edge of the circle and walk around it in a clockwise direction. I keep praying. Crying jags hit me every once in a while as I walk. I stare at parts of the circle, the cairns, the rocks. Then I start to see the offerings and gifts brought there and laid down by visitors before me. Prayer ties tied to fenceposts and thrown into the cairns. Some carried to the center of the circle by Native people who are allowed into the area to pray in the manner that they wish as their ancetors had done.

Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar, Tobacco. In pouches of cloth and in small leather bags. Beadwork. Feathers, symbols of faith and belief and honor and worship laid there by those who want to symbolize to themselves their journey through life as being one of Spirit. Each offering meant to strengthen mans personal Spirit life and forge a connection to the Great Mystery of life itself.

I look at these things as I walk around the circle. I have a vision as I walk. I see the ancient beings with fire around them dancing here. I feel their Spirits and hear the drumming and singing and chanting. I cry again and again. I see another vision. I see myself dancing at the Sun Dance. I see myself pierced and dragging the skulls of four buffalo.

As I walk I envision myself at the Sun Dance. In a book I read and in accounts told to me by others. I knew I had to have a vision that I would someday dance if I ever was to participate in the Sun Dance ceremony. This was that vision. This was that strong serious thought and visualization that will be ingrained in my mind forever.

For a brief moment, the Medicine Wheel was my Sun Dance arbor, I was peirced in my back and tied to the buffalo skulls and I dragged them as I prayed for the people.

I lingered around on top of the mountain for a while. I walked around and looked out over the beautiful valley of pines and rock to the East and to the West which looks out over a huge basin called the five springs basin. You can see Yellowstone from here, over 125 miles away. Below in the near reaches of the basin is the confluence of the Shoshone and Big Horn Rivers and one of the largest stands of old-growth cottonwood trees left in America.

As I started down the mountain, I felt good about going there. I really had the sensation that I was suppose to see it, supposed to be there that day. I made a promise to go back some day.

As I left the area and headed East towards home, I started to think and another strong thought entered my head. I wanted to go back to the Medicine Wheel sometime and camp out nearby and make the trek up to the top of the mountain every day for four days. This would be an honor to the four Sacred directions. The thoughts kept coming and I saw it as a pilgrimage to the Medicine Wheel, going up each day. And each day I would honor one of the directions by tying a prayer tie on the fence in that direction.

I thought of how I’d tie the prayer ties and what colors I’d use and what I’d put inside of each tie. The only thing I didn’t pre-determine was what I was going to be saying as I hiked up and down the mountain and around the Medicine Wheel. This was in August. I returned in October.

The Forest Service says that the Medicine Wheel and the road through the Big Horn Mountains, Hwy 14A, is open until weather does not permit. This usually happens sometime in October.

I took a chance and arrived there in October around the 10th. I knew it would be cold and I was prepared for that with everything I needed for a warm campsite including firewood, a warm sleeping bag and plenty of warm long sleeved shirts. There was a smattering of snow near the mountain this time of year at this altitude.
There was a nice BLM campground to the west, 13 miles down the hill from the entrance drive at the Medicine Wheel site, called Five Springs Falls Campground.

When I got there, I was the only person there. I did not see another human for the entire time I was there. The deer nation greeted me every morning and evening. I saw fabulous sunrises and sunsets each morning and evening. I set up my camp and made a place at the picnic table to get my prayer ties ready for my first of four days at the Medicine Wheel.

I used the Lakota colors of Black, Red, Yellow and White. to honor the four directions. I used Blue for the Grandfather sky above and Green for Mother earth below. I would be using 6 colors and make six ties each day. From home, I prepared a big bag of Tobacco, Cedar, Sweetgrass and Sage to fill the bundles. As I tied them, I put a prayer for some cause in each one.

I lit sage and puirified myself and my materials as I tied them. I tried to keep my thoughts on what I was asking for. This took concentration and was a struggle. Let me say here that as I narrate what I did on these trips I am in no way trying to brag about the fact that I pray. In all humility, I am just wanting to tell a story and explain what I was trying to do, what I felt meant a lot to me on that particular trip on that particular day.

When I felt all was ready, I got into the car and drove to the small gravel parking lot near the medicine Wheel and parked. I got out, grabbed my stuff and started my walk. The wind was blowing hard and it was raw and cold. I made day one and day two.

Each of these days as I walked up the mountain, I remembered my first journey up there and spoke to the Spirits again. I again said that I was dumb and needed direction. I asked again for lessons and thoughts to come to me. Ideas about how to improve my life. I wanted to be a better person. I felt that the Spirits could help guide me and inspire me to live a better life and this would benefit all others as well, especially members of my own family who are around me most of the time.

I walked around the Wheel and as I walked I prayed and looked around at the beauty. I listened to the songs of the birds and heard The Creators voice the as the wind blew through the trees and over the rocks. I was cold but didn’t pay it any mind. I tied my ties onto the fence and started with the East.

I felt the East was the way the doorway faced at the Sweat Lodge and also where the sun came up each day. I was thinking about the new chance at life the Creator gives us each day with that sun in the East. The rebirth every day. I started with the east. I would work clockwise and tie my prayer ties to the South the next day, then the West and finally the North.

I was finished and even though I did linger a little while, I was cold and the wind was relentless, so I headed down with thoughts of a fire at my campsite so I could get warm. I had barely made it 100 yards on the trail back down when it hit me. I had a thought, a strong thought, a revelation, an idea that was so obvious and made such sense, but never really thought about it in such simple precise terms before that moment.

The idea came to me that one of the things I need to be doing to live a better life was to stop talking negatively about other people. A basic rule that says if you don’t have anything good to say about another, don’t say anything.

This thought conjured up all sorts of personal confessions as I walked. I knew what the teaching meant immediately. In those instances when someone irritates you or they do something that you feel just isn’t right, instead of dragging another persons misdeeds through the mud, just keep quiet about it. Leave them be. Don’t talk about another person and what you don’t like about them or that you don’t like what they do.

This valuable lesson kept up and more information came to me. I looked back at a few instances for understanding, but more importantly, I looked ahead and learned how to treat a situation in the future when it comes up again. It was a great lesson, and so simple.

We live our lives everyday and as for me, I never gave much thought to self improvement. In fact, I guess I always enjoyed when people liked me or at least I thought that they liked me. I figured if they were listening to me, be it good or bad about another person, and I had their attention, it was good. This is not so.

I took this first lesson and wrote about my thoughts in my journal. More and more ideas came forward. I felt so much growth and power the rest of that day. I was amazed. I got the feeling that I asked the Spirits for a lesson and they gave it to me. Maybe it had nothing to do with the Spirits. Some would argue that fact I’m sure, but to me, I was receptive and looking for answers to life’s problems. This is how the answers came to me.

The next day, I followed the same routine and I received another strong visual teaching the same way. Along the same lines as don’t talk about people came the phrase don’t judge people.

The same hours of concentration about this subject happened the second day and more was learned. I felt good again. Time passed quickly as I sat alone in my campsite by the fire. I was thinking about right now instead of the past or problems that I thought I would have in the future. For me personally, this was a major change in the thinking process. I looked at it as more healing. An extension of the healing started in my life by the two women.

Earlier, I mentioned a healing ceremony I went through some time ago. I want to tell you about that simple ceremony and draw some correlation to the happenings at the Medicine Wheel.

When I met these two women, it was to find out about a trip to the Medicine Wheel site near Sedona Arizona where they were going to travel and conduct a healing ceremony. My interest was to help out with driving and some of the funding and be able to tag along and witness while being hopeful that I might be invited into the circle.

The trip to Sedona never came to be. It seems that when we tried to get information about the area to plan our logistics, we came upon a lot of information that showed people reserving the Sacred Medicine Wheel to run ‘for profit’ ceremonies. Advertising their programs and putting the price tag right up front. The trip to Arizona was aborted.

Instead, they decided to hold a healing ceremony right near home. High on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River near Diamond Bluff, Wisconsin. This happens to be the large expanse of yard attached to a rented farm of one of the women.

The ceremony was simple. I was told to tie seven prayer ties, all with red cloth, and one of them is to have a different color tying string so as to identify it from the six others. Tobacco, Sage and Cedar were to be tied into these offerings.

At the sight, a small fire pit was surrounded by Cedar with an entrance to the East. The ceremony involved tying one of these prayer ties to a tree in every direction. I was to also offer one tie above to the Grandfather and one to Mother Earth below us into the fire. I was told to hold on to the one with the different colored tie for a while.

Not much else was said or done, but after a while, I was to ask for the Creator to remove something I wanted to get rid of and put this request into that last special prayer tie. Then I was to put it into the fire. End of ceremony.

I waited for about five minutes and wondered if I was then healed. I actually had no understanding of the process and absolutely no patience. What I have learned eight years later is that the simple ceremony started me on a path to healing. As I look back, my life has changed so much, and for the better. This ceremony was the first small step that eventually led me up the side of the mountain in Wyoming and into numerous other opportunities to learn, grow and heal.

So now I realized that I indeed have been on a healing path that seemed to have started with that ceremony. And as I sit at my campfire and I am able to concentrate on my thoughts and have a greater understanding of Spirit and my place in the universe, I am at peace in my heart. I have experienced a healing.

The next day I woke up to a bright Eastern sky and what I thought would be an inevitable sunrise, but the morning quickly turned cloudy. I went back to my cot in the tent and dozed off for a short while and I awoke to an inch of snow on my tent. I got out of the tent and looked around in amazement at the beautiful sight of the soft fresh snow in this windless mountain environment. The snow was wet and it didn’t feel so cold or even cold enough to have had snowed.

The sky was gray and it was soon after that a fog came over the area where I was camped. The fog thickened like corn starch poured into boiling water and soon I couldn’t see for more than 50 yards. The deer that I usually saw feeding were gone and so was the field where they roamed. The mountaintops dissapeared, all the color of my tent and my car were muted into a grayish haze. It was like I was living life in a black and white photograph.

I got ready and got into my car for my trek to the mountain. The road was covered with snow and as I started driving up to the Medicine Wheel, I met the plow and there were large plumes of snow coming off the edges of that plow. I went back and broke camp and figured that I better abandone this mission for now because I was fearful that I’d get stranded in the snow. It was October 15th.

I had made two days of the four I had made a committment to do. I struggled a little about this, but then realized that I didn’t put a time limit on the exercize. I could and would return and fulfil my committment to go to the Medicine Wheel for four days.

It took me a little less than a year to go back and try again. I set up this camp closer to the entrance for the steep gravel driveway that led to the Wheel. It was late August and the nights were cold, but the creator blessed me with wonderful warm sunny almost windless days for the entire four days I was there.

I went up to the Medicine Wheel once each day for four consecutive days, each day with a new bundle of prayers, asking the Creator to answer them. Asking the Spirits to help guide and protect me. Wanting more lessons, more teachings, more faith.

I was blessed then with answers to many questions and more strong thoughts about things that have been troubling me in my life. The healing still continues. More thoughts, more teachings pop into my head. I also realize that this is a lifelong process and that this way of life must continue on forever. This isn’t anything I’ll ever be finished with. It is only a great start to an amazing journey. I will return to the Medicine Wheel. Feel free to join me if you’d like. I’ll be heading back that way later this summer.

I did find a great website that shows many pictures of the Medicine Wheel in Wyoming. Check it out HERE. You also might want to see other places. The site has many areas of interest and can be found HERE.

Lastly, a site I found with a wonderful story about the Medicine Wheel before the Forest Service made it into a developed site. You can see that HERE.

Thank you for allowing me to share a small part of my life with you. Feel free to e-mail if you have any questions. I'll answer when I return in August.

Peace to All.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Back From Crow Creek, 2nd Annual, 2007

It's early on Monday morning. The ride was over last week, but I've been busy and did do some riding after we completed the commemorative ride from Ft. Snelling in Saint Paul, MN to Fort Thompson, South Dakota. Last year was the first time we tried doing this ride. We had 18 motorcycles and 19 people. This year we more than doubled that number with 40 bikes and 45 people. We also had many people come from quite a distance in their cars and meet the group at Fort Thompson. They didn't drive the same route the motorcycles took, but did make the shorter version of the journey to show their support for the people of the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.

Just a short paragraph of history. In 1863, during what is called the Dakota Conflict in history books, Dakota and Winnebago Indian people were loaded onto boats and shipped away from their homeland in Minnesota down the Mississippi River. They were put on rail cars near Hannibal, MO and taken across Missouri to the Missouri River near Saint Joseph. Then, back on boats North to Fort Thompson. There, they were left, in a strange place, to fend for themselves. Many died on the journey. Many were treated harshly, beaten, raped and starved. These people survived and their decendants are there today. Our motorcycle ride is to remember this journey, remember these ancestors who were forcibly interred and moved away from their homeland.

We don't do it to point fingers and call names to a government that treated the first residents of this land so brutally. We don't show or speak of hatred, but we remember and in remebering, we give the people who live there now, hope. Last year, no one knew what to expect. The motorcyclists didn't know where the gas stops were, the route was confusing, nightly lodging for the four day journey was in disarray. The people at Crow Creek knew we were coming, but weren't sure what that meant. It was after we arrived there that we all came together and realized that in remembering someones past, we build a future and we make new friends. We learn our history by seeing the places where things happened. Old stories conjure images of the plight of the people, but now, when we are living in the future of this event, we see that time has past and the people live on. We experience a closeness. We were all of one human race. There was no color. There was peace in our circle.

The people who didn't participate last year had the same feelings I experienced. The thought that our discomfort from hot asphalt, thirst, breakdowns, flat tires, accidents, confusion and disorganization was nothing compared to what happened to the people who were put on the boats. And when they saw the reception that the people prepared for us, they cried as they found something in their hearts. I cried again as well.

The residents of Crow Creek held a childrens Pow Wow. They had a feast prepared. Horseback riders led us into the grounds where teepees were set up for us to use overnight. A beautiful shaded arbor was made from small trees to shade us as we watched the children dance in traditional regalia. Songs were written for us, honor songs, because we remembered their ancestors. We were prayed for, smudged and given healing ceremonies for anything that might be on our minds. The people did all that they could do. I cannot tell you the emotion of this reception and how powerful it is when people come together this way. It must be experienced. We realized that a yearly town celebration has started. If I stay a part of this, I'll be able to watch those children grow up. Like having a bigger family.

As for the ride itself, it was great. Good weather in the fact that we didn't get any rain. It was hot and sunny every day on the road. The City of Winona, MN fed us lunch on day one as we passed through. The people of Winnebago, Nebraska fed us lunch on day three. A motorcycle group from Prairie Island, MN bought everyone a tankful of gas in support of the ride, and dinner for everyone in the group. Motels and restaurants and small out-of-the-way gas station convenience stores treated us kindly. No small task when 40 motorcycles pull into the islands all together and want gas, snacks and to use the bathrooms.

The journey took us through beautiful river bluffs and lowlands, across rolling farmland and through the plains. The bison are gone, teepees are replaced by houses, air conditioning gives comfort from the hot sun, travel is fast compared to methods of long ago. What took two days in a rail car took a few hours for us.

We sort of took over Big Lake State Park north of Saint Joseph, MO. Usually, facilities, like the restaurant, being not open except on weekends, the proprietors opened up and had specials on hand to feed us dinner on the second night, and a great breakfast buffet the morning of day three. They allowed us to spread about their parking lot as we assembled in the early morning to continue on.

At the end of the third day, we pulled in at Fort Randall, SD. There was a big Pow Wow going on that weekend. They invited us to camp without charge. Every one of the riders and passengers were invited into the Pow Wow circle and we told the people what we were doing, why we were on this ride. The Veterans who were on the ride were honored as is tradition. We were invited to participate in flag raising ceremonies Saturday morning before we left for the final leg of our trip.

As I get time and a problem with my photo generating equipment solved, I'll tell some stories about the ride, the people and the motorcycles. I'll post some great pictures, maybe even a Youtube or two. But for now, I'll leave it here. It's good to be back, but in some ways, I wish I could continue riding forever.

Peace to all. And thank you all very much for your support.

Friday, June 8, 2007

For Us, A Day to Remember

Sixteen years ago today. Sixteen. She was seventeen and only a month or so shy of turning eighteen when she left us. The last time I saw her and hugged her was June fourth, 1991. It was graduation night. She accepted her diploma and we went out and had dinner. Then, the next morning, we left for our job assignment up in Northern Minnesota. Maggie stayed back in her little studio apartment. Instead of the child going off to college, we went off and left her. Kind of an opposite deal. Maggie had an apartment on the bus line, a trusted boyfriend with a car, a job, and was going to probably attend the University of Minnesota in September.

We had only been working at the YMCA Camp Menogyn since we arrived there on that Tuesday. I was doing all the cooking for the camp and Mrs. Spadoman was working in the office. The two younger girls, aged 15 and 14 respectively were housed with same aged campers as they cycled through the camp programs. We were just getting used to our environment up north along the Canadian border in the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

It was early on Friday morning. I was up and getting dressed. I was heading to the dining hall to start breakfast. A knock came on my cabin door and when I opened up I saw Dave, the Camp Director, standing there. I said, "Good Morning" to him and he told me that there had been an accident He said that Maggie had been involved and that I was to call a number that he had written down on a post-it note.

I didn't know the name or recognize the number he had given to me. Mrs. Spadoman was awake and listening to all this, but we didn't have any idea what was going on and did start to seem a little puzzled by all that was unfolding.

I went down to the office and used the phone. I called the number. I was about to ask for the person whose name was on the note, but when the phone was answered by the words, "Ramsey County medical examiner's office", I went numb. As I remember, things were explained to me and I had to come up with the name of Maggie's dentist so a positive identification could be made.

That's all I can tell you today. That's all I think I needed to say. That happened sixteen years ago on June eighth. It has been an up and down ride all our life, but especially since that day. With the closeness that I have achieved with many of you, I just wanted to share that little bit with you. I was ready to tell you today.

Please, I don't look for sympathy. Rather, I ask that you hug a loved one today. Hug all of your loved ones. Hug your friends. Forgive someone. Realize how precious every moment is. Pray, or whatever you do to reach your soul, that those that struggle with grief get comfort, and that others don't have to go through it.

Good positive thoughts and energy to all of you from me. I'm not quite so alone today as I share this moment with you.

Peace to all. Safe travels when your on the road. Let you see no hatred. Let your hearts be at peace and all around you be serene. Love, yourself and each other.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Bear

I'm kind of afraid of this Bear. He, or She, has been here, to my place. I know Bears live in the woods and so do I. I know that you'll see one once in a while and they'll run off. I didn't even see this one. But I saw the aftermath.

Seems like he was looking for something to eat. I'll call him "He" for simplicities sake. He tore down two bird feeders and drained the seeds. He tore two gaping holes in the BBQ cover. He knocked down a flower box, the one that was beneath the window next to the back door, and He bit off the head of the Mrs. Butterworth's bottle the kids had out in their playhouse. Oh, and he ate the compost heap and left two giant piles of crap about ten feet from my motorcycle!

No, I didn't see him. I didn't even hear him. But He was here all right. I've seen many a Bear in my life up north. You'll see them cross the road from time to time. One time when golfing we were held up on number two green. Mr. Bear was on number three Tee!

They are creatures of habit. Way up on the Canadian border they would ravage food packs of the canoe trippers if they left them unprotected. At the YMCA Camp where we worked, the Bears broke into the packing house and ate the food out of the packs, but left the food in the containers. I guess they just knew there was food in the packs as they have found it in packs before. They didn't even realize that there was a ton of food in those containers.

We're living in this cabin on Lake Superior. We're trying to make a smaller environmental footprint on Mother Earth so we have an outhouse. In the pitch black of the night, I sure don't want to run into a Bear. And even though I know that He's just wanting the contents of a pic-a-nic basket and doesn't want to eat me, I'm not shy to tell you He has me scared shitless, pun intended.

In my spiritual life, I have learned lessons about the Bear. In Anishanabe teachings, the Bear is a healer and protector. The spiritual man I know that conducts the Sweat Lodge ceremonies is from the Bear Clan. He has explained a lot over the years. I should be understanding the Bear and his visiting me should be a time of great rejoicing. Instead I have this feeling that I'm going to run into him on a trip to the outhouse and he'll, well, he'll... I dunno. I'll see him!

The Thunderbeings are loud and scary. They rumble and make a big fuss, but they bring the rain. The healing medicinal life blood of Mother Earth. But many people, especially children it seems, are afraid of thunder and lightning. The Bear is a scary prospect as well.

Around here, we have black bears. The grizzly bear or the polar bear will attack a human in some cases. But not the black bear unless it is sick or the mother is protecting its young scenario. Yet I don't want to see this Bear in the dark of night on the way to the outhouse.

Now if I were around the yard during the daytime, and the Bear wandered by at the edge of the woods, that'd be cool. When the moon is hidden by an overcast sky and the blackness is so deep you can't see your hand in front of your face, I get the feeling I'm gonna bump right into him. I mean, can He see in the dark?

The past two weeks or so have had a lot of Bear stuff going on. At one event, there was a healing ceremony. Bear meat was served at a Feast after. The Bear spirit was asked to attend and help in the healing. Last Sunday, we rendered bear fat into a salve. This salve is used for healing. I used it on my bum shoulder and honestly, I don't have that pain any more. I have two torn tendons you know?

Then, I had a dream about the spirit man that I know, the one from the Bear Clan. So coincidence is playing a part in all this. Seeing the Bear, talking about the Bear. Eating the Bear. Asking the Bear to heal and protect.

If you have an animal totem and the Bear is your power animal, you have a very powerful symbol. In a book called "Animal Speak", by author Ted Andrews, the section about the Bear gave me some insight.

Mr. Andrews suggests that if the Bear comes into your life. And He has come into mine, then maybe I should be asking myself some important questions. Is my judgement off? Am I not recognizing what is beneficial in my life? Am I not seeing the core of good in all situations?

I guess I can answer yes, yes and yes. If the Bear has presented himself as He has to me, then I must deal with what is put before me and not hibernate. I must deal with it. My fear is that I haven't wanted to deal with my judgement, recognition of the blessings in my life and looking for good in a world gone bad.

Actually, it all makes perfect sense to me. It might sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo, but as a way of finding balance, it is easy to accept and understand the way one might look at the things in life that are happening as we go about our business and ignore the rhythm of nature.

I'll think on this over the next few days. I have some traveling to do. The Bear won't bother me in the bathroom in Saint Paul at my daughter's place. That's where I'll be until Thursday. But I will ponder the events of the past couple of weeks.

To some, it might seem a bit corny to attempt to understand and deal with life's thrust this way. Maybe you pray to a higher power or maybe you get drunk. No wrong or right. After all, it is your way, your path. Mine is to see the Bear and stand before him and ask the hard questions and make the tough decisions. I'll be thinking about it. Last week, the Eagle told me I was doing some good things and I believe him.

Now before I leave, here's something that'll make you laugh. You see, Jimmy Buffet had a run in with The Bear before. Let him tell you about it HERE

Peace to All.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Phil, the Fitz and the Lake Shore

The ship Philip R. Clarke, part of the Great Lakes Fleet arrived in post at Ashland, Wisconsin on Friday, April 27, 2007 with a load of lumpcoal destined for for Xcel Energy power generating plant. The coal was out of Toledo. The ship will head for Two Harbors, Minnesota after unloading in Ashland, to pick up a load of taconite ore bound for Detroit, Michigan.

We don’t get many ships in port here any more. I don’t remember a one last season. The year before that, I think I saw one deliver coal. The water level is very low, the lowest in 80 years. A full twelve inches lower than last year. The Corps of Engineers claim that this will continue until September and even then, a rise of only 1-3 inches is expected.

The cause of the low water is drought. Dry conditions in the area. Many inland lakes are also at lower than normal water levels. Boating this seaon will be a nightmare for many. Those that make their living relying on water use may suffer economically. Boats may not be able to dock, swimmers won’t have safe beaches and in some cases, no beaches, on the Great Lake Superior and many other inland lakes here in Northern Wisconsin.

When I returned from doctors appointments in Duluth early Friday afternoon, the ship was just coming into the port. They are quite large, the Philip Clark is over 760 feet long. But when it was made in the 1950’s, it was only 647 feet in length. They cut it open and added a 220 foot section at Frazer Ship Yards in Superior. Now, at 767 feet, it is a very large vessel to be getting into Ashland. And although loaded with coal on this latest delivery here, it was not a full load as the draft of the ship, fully loaded, would have made it impossible to maneuver with the Water level of the lake at this historic low.

This ship was built as an order of three such ships made by the American Ship Building Company for the Pittsburg Steamship Company. One of the others was the Arthur M. Anderson. The Anderson was the ship that followed the Edmund Fitzgerald the night when the famous Gales of November brought her down and the lives of 29 crewmembers were lost, November 10, 1975.

So, who was Philip R. Clarke, and why did they name the ship after him?

One night in 1994, when I lived in Duluth, MN, we saw that the Arthur M. Anderson would be coming into port around midnight. It was a late season arrival and the weather was cold by the lake shore. We bundled up and stood there and watched the lights come from the distance towards the harbor entrance. As we stood there and the giant ore boat slipped quietly past us into the harbor, we felt an eery surreal feeling as we knew the story of the Anderson and it’s history of the last people to hear Captain McSorely of the Edmund Fitzgerald say, “We are holding our own”. The Anderson followed the "Fitz" and had her in sight up until its fateful end, 15 miles short of Whitefish Bay, Michigan.

I know a woman who lost her Father in that shipwreck. The 'old cook' that Gordon Lightfoot mentions in his fabled song might be Allen G. Kalmon who was a steward/2nd cook aboard. His daughter is an artist and lives in Ashland and she is a good friend of mine. I think it be hard enough to lose your Dad. But harder still to have the anniversary remembered in the region every year, not to mention the haunting song made famous by Lightfoot.

While I haven’t lived right on the shore of the Great Lakes, as I do now, for quite some time, I was born in their shadow and have lived near them all my life. Born in Chicago and the Great Lake Michigan. Living in Two Harbors, Grand Marais and Duluth, Minnesota over the years, and close enough to be influenced by Lake Superior from a standpoint of weather and energy.

I remember once wanting a glimpse of a NorEaster storm. We went to the shore near Duluth and donned every bit of cold weather gear we had. We tried to look at the waves, but they were not to be seen from the literally blinding sideways falling snow and sleet. the wind taking our breath away and the impossible task of getting any closer to the lake for fear of a rogue wave taking us to the depths and certain death.

Although I don’t read as much as I could or sometimes think I should, I have made my way through many a ships log, fact finding investigation, non-fiction story and/or fictionalized version about the Edmund Fitzgerald and other great lakes ships and ship wrecks. Web sites abound about the Great Lakes and the toll of ships taken as the ocean vessel Captains will tell you that they’d much rather ply their trade on the ocean than on Superior.

In 2004, we attended the launch of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Alder at the Manitowoc Shipyards on the Menominee River in extreme Northeastern Wisconsin. This was quite the experience. Up close and personal with the ship as it lay in it’s crib, then watching it slide sideways into the river to start it’s service, replacing the Sundew, an older cutter harbored in Duluth. If you ever get a chance to watch a large ship be christened, do it.

I guess watching that ship come into harbor in Ashland moved me as I thought of a former life or of a bygone era on the Great Lakes. Less than 50 ships remain from a fleet of over 350 in the 1950’s. A theme of my fictional writing is set on the waterfronts of the great lakes and includes a longshoreman, Joe Nighthawk, as the main character. A few chapters have been written. Some day I'll share them.

The lake changes everyday. Its color changes with the color of the sky. Its surface with the strength and direction or lack of the wind. The wrinkles change from the gulls and ducks flying across the waters and the pods of waterfowl dotted around in sight. The energy flows as the big lake cleanses itself of unwanted debris, the waves pushing old logs to the shore and scouring rocks into round edged nuggets.

Go to the water. Stand by its shore. Enjoy the pictures of the Philip R. Clarke.

That puff of black smoke is from the bow thruster used to get the ship exactly where they want it. Like parallel parking in downtown New York.

The Philip R. Clarke coming into port.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Warrior

This is a repost of something I wrote some time ago. In my mind, it deserves repeating, for the message comes from my heart and tells a great deal about what happens to many who are called to war.
Please bear with me and allow me this time and space.

The Warrior

Veterans are Warriors, men and women who are trained to kill, for society. Men and women who have taken the life of another human being. Even those Veterans that did not see action in the form of combat signed up or were drafted and followed orders. They would have given their life if asked. They would kill if they thought, at any brief moment in the throes of war, that they had to.

All soldiers, no matter what their military occupation is, are taught how to go to combat before learning any other skill or specialty. In basic training, these killing skills are taught to every soldier. Killing is the soldier warrior's job. The warrior is somehow stripped of the belief that life is too sacred to erase; then they are taught the details of exactly how to kill people. With a weapon, with their hands.

They are forced to practice it over and over and over and over until it is automatic, regardless of how scared they may be. Even if their hearts are pounding or if they are scared senseless, these warriors can still load, fire, and erase the life of the human being identified as the enemy. They kill, if not for themselves, for the soldier next to them who is a trained killer like them. A Brother or Sister, and for the society that has required their services as a killer.

Everyone who is trained to kill has lost something of themself and must find a way to control the imbalance that results. The military calls that control "self-discipline." Without it we would have millions of Timothy McVeigh's eliminating their perceived enemies with the lethal skills that they were trained for. These skills given to them with the approval of the rest of society. The military does not want nor allow this same “self discipline” to weigh in during the wartime activity.

We demand the warrior be disciplined and control themselves but when they return we treat them terribly. For those who have taken a life in a war and dealt with death, this discipline is a life-long struggle that is never truly resolved. They see the dead and relive the killings in their dreams. The soldier who kills another soldier comes home and one day realizes that there is a family somewhere in the world—in its own home—lacking a cherished family member. There are children who no longer have a father, mother or brother—women without their husbands and husbands without wives. No chance to fulfil the dream of growing old together.

That soldier who took a life may look at their own children when they get home, perhaps even years later, hug that child, and think about another child whose daddy or mommy they killed. How easy it would be for his or her child to be the parentless one! That soldier, trying to become a human being again, will not know what to say to anyone on this earth about this feeling. They will wonder if anybody understands what they are feeling—if anyone can. They may be able to share this feeling only with another Veteran, yet feel ashamed at reminding that Veteran of what he or she is also struggling to deal with. Worried that if he or she talks about it, they might be judged as bragging.

The real warrior is abandoned into silence. They fall upon the discipline that was introduced in them but they fall alone. Many Veterans forever fight this never-resolved battle.

Listen to the Vietnam War Veterans; listen to how they were received when they returned to this country. Listen to the Gulf War Vets that must fend for themselves as the very government that asks them to lay down their bodies vote down funding for proper and substantial treatment of their wounds.

In the case of the returning Vietnam Veterans, some were spat upon. Others had to withstand an onslaught of name calling that included things like baby killer and murderer. Society does not know this agent of death that is a warrior; it does not possess the skills nor the knowledge to reintegrate these people into society. Society asked them to kill on its behalf, but does little to return the warrior to a rightful place as a caring, compassionate member of a family and community.

Can the community do anything to help with this return to so-called normal society? The Warrior Veteran needs to be brought back into the Circle of Life. How can they find spiritual peace and understanding from the community? Only if the circle of their community is a healing circle.

Does the community ever rent a room, invite the Veterans, feed and honor them and listen to their stories of the atrocities of war or the horrors of being the deliverer of death to another by accident or for survival? When do they hear about arms blown off a man who walked down a road not knowing mines were there? Who will listen to the warrior's scramble for words that describe an incoming napalm strike on a village? Who hears the break in their voices?

These things happened. The blood and destruction has been seen by the Veteran. The community must acknowledge the sacrifice their Veteran was willing to give. Society and the community can not know and understand or postulate a reason for what has happened, for that same society and community allowed the war either by electing people into office or by sitting by and watching war upon war unfold without lifting a finger to stop it.

Who will sit and listen to the stories of these Veterans? Will the people of the community come forward and listen or will the Veteran be doomed to the darkness of a house where no one visits? Will the people lean down to say hello to the Veteran whose legs are missing because they were blown off in a battle, or will they cross the street in avoidance?

Many Veterans that seem like they are of sound body suffer with the intrusive thoughts of having to experience death first hand and in many cases, by their own hand. They are also in darkness. A Veteran struggling with his thoughts as he tries to understand PTSD is forever and constantly bombarded by shame, guilt, depression, anger, confusion and lonliness.

This Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is grossly misunderstood by most people. Some even say things like, “Get a life” or “Get over it.” when they hear of a Veteran that gets disability for the loss of control of his own life from the struggles with PTSD.

A warrior is a hunter with death and blood on their hands and real horror to relive in their dreams. They are the ignored and too often the wounded walking suicide-to-be. They are the men and women with visions that they cannot, but want to, leave behind. They constantly try to be sorry for their actions but fail because the destruction of their own heart will not allow it. The blackness is there, forever.

The Warrior accepts the inevitable truth that they will live and die lonely as they struggle to be understood.

Think of these things the next time you see a Veteran. And remember, those who the Warrior fought because they were told they were the enemy are Warriors too. They and their families will suffer the same as “our side”. They also have PTSD. The Mothers and Fathers of those also cry at the loss of a loved one. Brothers and Sisters, Grandmothers and Grandfathers will miss them. We are all on the same side as far as issues with our Warriors.

The Native American communities have been stepping forward for many many years. They welcome back their Warriors. They have ceremonies and honoring Pow Wow’s for the Veterans. They are not glad there is war. But they realize this. The Veteran, drafted or enlisted, whether a regular Army soldier or a National Guard member who was deployed into war, was following orders because they took an oath. They were all willing to sacrifice their own life if need be. They accepted the pain and suffering that happens to them as a Warrior from witnessing the death and destruction firsthand. This is what is honored in the Veteran. Honor the Warrior, not the war.

After Vietnam, society had much confusion about the war. Let us not make the same errors in the way we treat our Veterans that are returning from the Persian Gulf. Let us make ammends to ALL Veterans from ALL eras, combat and non-combat.

Honor the dead. Heal the wounded. Work for peace and end all war.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Lessons From Nature

As it was a blustery day in April, I wrote this story about one important lesson that was taught to me by Nature. I finished the story and went and sat down and looked out at the snow blowing past my window. I saw a flash of something and grabbed the binoculars that I keep handy. I spotted a large Golden Eagle in a tree outside the cabin. I grabbed the camera and shot this picture. It is a little out of focus for two main reasons. The windows need cleaning here at the cabin, and the snow was blowing so hard, it obscurred the view of the Eagle. I believe this sighting to be a great gift. Not many see these Golden Eagles around here.
Maybe it has a message for me, or for you.

Today is April 3rd and the weather outside is like a January day here in the Northland. We have the howling wind, dropping temperatures, snow mixed with rain right now, but in a few hours, it will be all snow. There is already a good two inch coating of slush on everything.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. In fact, moisture is needed badly. Lake levels are down and fields are in dire need of moisture for the upcoming growing season. We didn’t have any precipitation before February this year. Besides, complaining doesn’t change anything. Mother nature will do what it must do. It just gets to be April and there are many signs of Spring and the warmer season ahead and here we are putting it on hold while this latest storm blows through.

There is a lot to be said for nature and what it does. A spiritual teaching every time nature does anything that it does. Every wind that blows, from any direction, cannot be controlled. The rain or moisture in any form, falling from the sky. The clouds, or lack of the clouds that make a day gray or make it bright with sun. All these things, even the daylight and darkness are out of our control all together.

At a ceremony a few years ago, I was in charge of the sacred fire. This fire must be kept lit and burning for the entire time the ceremony is happening, no matter what the weather or circumstances. To allow the fire to extinguish by neglect is a bad thing to do. The fire is a sacred gift, it must be honored. No trash like cigarette butts get thrown into the fire. You don’t burn paper plates in this fire. You don’t burn anything but wood, the spirits of the Tree Nation, and heat the rocks, the Grand Mothers and Grand Father in this Sacred Fire.

I started the fire and had a pile of fire wood nearby. I had all the resources to keep the fire burning. I would take over after dinner, around 6:00 PM and stay up all night, then sleep a bit as others took my place. I spent many of my waking hours sitting by the fire even when I was not tending it, but to keep the embers alive and a flame burning was my ultimate responsibility.

One the third day, the wind started blowing out of the West. It was blowing hard and steady all day. Cooling, really, as we sat around on a 40 acre field in Northwest Minnesota in the hot July sun. As the day wore on, the wind kept up its fury and revved up and blew harder and harder as the day went on. By evening, it was a gale. Off to the west we saw flashes of lightning.

It looked as if a storm was definitely coming our way. It was cloudy. Flashes of lightning and then we heard the Thunderbeings coming from the west towards us. The sky darkened and the wind blew harder. The lightning and thunder. I was prepared. As the fire keeper, I had a plan. I would use longer whole round logs and place them over the flames when the rain started. This would shield the fire from the rain and keep it alive and burning below the logs. I had plenty of these placed aside, ready to pile them onto the flames.

The Thunderbeings bring a message. They sound mean with their loud claps. They make some people afraid. But as you learn to reliaze that these beings bring the wisdom from the west to the people, and they bring the cooling nourishing rains, the water, which is the life blood of the Sacred Earth Mother to us, we learn to know them and not be afraid.

The wind persevered, then the lightning and thunder was right upon us. The rain started and came hard when it started. I piled up the logs as planned and the rain poured. Lightning struck close by and actually started a fire in a pile of brush a couple of hundred yards away in an adjoining field. I tossed more large rounds on the fire to shield the flame from the rain.

The rain came down and I was drenched. I was wet down to the band of my underwear. there wasn’t a spot anywhere on my body that wasn’t wet. I knew it would stop at some point. I didn’t worry about being wet myself, but my flame was getting smaller and smaller and the logs I piled up over the fire were not keeping it shielded as I had hoped.

Then, the fire pit itself started to fill with water and the fire started to go out as the water poured onto the hot coals at the bottom of the pit. I had a butt can nearby and I dumped out the cigarette ends and started to bail the fire pit. I bailed , on my hands and knees. Still the rain came hard in torrents. Lightning and thunder this whole time striking all around me. I was wet through and through. The fire was going out as I tried desperately to bail the water out of the fire pit and keep the flames covered and protected from the falling torrential rain.

As I was on my hands and knees, bailing water and getting no where, a thought came to me. I thought that I can’t do it. I can’t win this battle. I don’t have what it takes to be in control of this fire and keep it burning. I have been beaten. Mother Nature and the forces of the natural world had beaten me. I realized I was no match for anything and that I don’t control anything.

As soon as this thought raced through my mind, the rain stopped. The lightning and thunder moved on past us on its journey Eastward. I was still on my hands and knees and although I saw no sign of a fire or an ember or even so much as a hot coal, I bailed, soaking wet.

I was there on my hands and knees, still, looking into my soul and wondering what had just happened to me. People in the tents camped all around me started to come out of their dwellings. Most of them were carrying their wet pillows and sleeping bags and drenched clothes. Some had to fix their tent poles that had blown over. Still others were cold and wet and wanted to come and attempt to warm up and dry out. I watched them come towards me and I was sad as I had let them down. There was no fire left burning to warm the people and dry the things that each relied upon to keep them comfortable through the night.

As they approached, I watched them. My eyes were cast downwards as I couldn’t face them in my moment of failure. But I noticed when I did look up from time to time that there was a bright light cast upon their faces. As they came towards me, they opened their arms and held their garments and sleeping bags out to this glow.

The fire had taken off. It was blazing. Bright and fiery kicking upwards towards the sky. Warm. It had come alive of its own will. People began to pat me on the back and they were saying to me that I was a great fire keeper and how no one could have kept that fire going in that gale, but I had done it. I was a hero. The people were drying out their things. They were warming up. They were sharing community in the middle of the night by the light and heat of a great fire in the middle of a field in extreme northern Minnesota. A fire that I had nothing whatsoever to do with.

I told them my story. I explained that I was not in control and that as soon as I realized that I didn’t control anything, any where, anytime, that’s when the rain stopped. That’s when the Creator allowed the fire to come back. The Creator gave us this fire after a lesson had been learned, after one of us realized something that was to be a turning point in their life.

We don’t control anything. When someone gets me mad, I don’t control what that person said or did. When the natural world does what it will do, we cannot do anything about it. We can’t control anything. Even our own path that we walk is determined by another force. It is none of my business what you think of me. Itr is not my concern that someone holds a different belief than I.

I learned that lesson that Summer night. I was taught something valuable and remembered it. I try to get the point across to others in hopes that they will realize it and their lives will be easier and they will not be bothered by things because they are not in control.

Last week, when I was in tough shape mentally, I forgot my lesson. I forget that it wasn’t me that said anything or did anything. It was me who dealt with things without remembering that I don’t control them. Realize this and live somewhat in peace. There are other things to learn and remember. This lesson was given to me. Take what you need and leave the rest.

This is a picture out the front window of the cabin. You can't see the movement of the trees in the wind, and you can't really see the snowflakes, but the lake is obscurred by the blinding snow not 100 yards in the distance. Enjoy the Spring.