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.