Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Drum and the Gallon of Milk

Just returned home from Red Cliff Indian Reservation where we laid my friend to rest. He is on his journey home, and he wears my moccasins. While attending services in Red Cliff, two of the guests were friends from Bad River, Jill and her son Zack. I met them many years ago and our relationship put us together in the Sweat Lodge that my friend Gene lead. She is the woman in this story I wrote and posted in March of 2007. I thought of this story and thought I'd repost it today as part of the Postcards From Paradise meme that starts at my friend Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon blog.

In memory of my good friend and Warrior Brother, Gene Artishon, Bear Clan. Watercolor by Sorrow Grey

The lessons that one might come away with after reading this story were only a small fraction of the 'Way of Life' that Gene taught us. Like everything else you read here at Round Circle, "Take what you need and leave the rest."

The Drum and the Gallon of Milk

Recently, a good friend forwarded one of those e-mails to me. You know the kind, pass this on to 350,000 people within the next micro second and you’ll be blessed by God almighty with a bolt of greased lightning.

I read them, I really did, but I don’t pass them on to anyone. Well, once in a while, if I think someone I know would be interested I’ll write a short personal note and pass it on, but usually it gets trashed.

This one was about God. This man who seems to have neglected God for a while feels compelled to talk to God and listen for God’s word to him. In his experience, he goes ton the store and buys an extra gallon of milk, drives down a street in a semi-seedy part of town and delivers the milk to a strangers house, all these acts being directed by God via voices in his head I guess.

Low and behold, the stranger answers the door and has a crying starving baby at home and in dire need of milk. You see, they had no money and the baby was starving.

I don’t know about you, but if people in my household were that hungry, I’d find some kitchen appliance and go to the pawn shop and get five bucks so I could buy a gallon of milk and a Snickers bar to eat on the way home.

Ok, ok. It was a good human nature story and I got the point. But in my life, this kind of “miracle” happens all the time. It does for all of us, but we are seldom paying attention.

A year ago last April, I went to a Pow Wow with a friend of mine. We both make crafts in the style of the Native Americans. Dream Catchers, Rattles, Drums, Shields.

Anyway, my friend needed to sell some of his crafts in order to make some money. He had just gotten out of prison and was still down on his luck. I brought him down there and paid the vendor fees. We set up our stuff. He didn’t sell anything and I sold just enough to pay for my gas and the fees. But something did happen that I found to be interesting.

A young woman stopped by my table and was interested in buying a certain drum I had displayed. She didn’t have enough money and I told her that I doubted if I was going to sell it. I told her that if she called me when her finances were more in order, I’d send the drum to her. She took my number and that was that. This was the first time I talked to her.

She did call me a month or so later and asked about the drum. I told her I still had it, but that I was leaving town on a long trip. We agreed to wait until I returned and then I would contact her and make arrangements for the drum. This exchange was the second time we talked about it.

I returned from my trip and called her as I promised and now, again, she wasn’t prepared to purchase the drum. I said we’d keep in touch.

Now, besides the drum in our conversations, we talked about many things that we seemed to have in common, namely, our individual paths with Native American Spirituality. She mentioned in each conversation her desire for me to meet a man that she knew who was guiding and teaching her about this spiritual way of life. I told her about my friend Gene, and how I'd like her to meet him as well. We had talked three times.

My involvement in the path of the Red Road leads me to many things. One of these is the Sweat Lodge ceremony. A friend of mine put me on notice that there would be such a ceremony soon in Red Cliff, at a place near where I live. I was planning on going.

Before that, I had a strong thought about the drum for that woman. I thought that I would give her this drum. I felt compelled to do this. Some may say I had a “vision” to do this. So, I called and invited the woman to the Sweat Lodge ceremony and planned on giving her the drum when I saw her. The call and meeting would have been the fourth time we were in contact. 

This fourth contact had significance as I feel the spirits from the four directions were guiding us on this endeavor.
The four directions

She agreed to come to the ceremony and was pleased to be invited. I told her when I saw her that I had had the vision to give her the drum. I did so. She was pleased and in return, made a fine bag of gifts for me as well. Wild rice, sage, a beautiful blue calico cloth and a nice wooden bowl which I use as a tobacco urn at home.

Here we are. Almost two years to the day later. She and her talented drumming singing son are regulars at the lodge ceremonies. We come to the Sweat Lodge to pray and be reborn, cleansed of what ails us, and as we pray, the drum beats and rattles shake, the voices sing out songs of healing and honor. I hear the beat of the drum I made and gave to this stranger. I get to pray with that very drum in this circle.

Maybe not as much of a miracle as the milk story. But I do know this. Last time we talked, we reminisced about the table where we met and the story about the drum. How it came “full circle” back to me. She asked me if I’ve sold stuff at the Pow Wows and how that was going. 

I told her that I had never done that sale thing before I met her and I haven’t done it since.

Still later, I met another woman at a Sweat Lodge ceremony. We were talking and she asked how I knew the person who owned the house where the lodge ceremony was being held. I tried to explain and before I got into the conversation very far, she said, "You're the man who gave her the drum!"

Now for me, here is the miracle: The Creator sent us both on our separate journey. Her to the Pow Wow as a visitor, me to the Pow Wow as a vendor. He guided us to meet, me having the drum, her wanting it. And He made it so we stayed in touch about it, we talked four times. He further guided us to be friends, and make new friends.

I believe this is how it works. This kind of stuff happens all the time. We must pay attention and if we do, and we see this circle of life working, we acknowledge it, accept it, and give thanks for it.

When I named this Blog Round Circle. this is what I was trying to portray. The “Roundness” of life. How one thing affects another. How the relationship of one thing happened because of something else. Like that gallon of milk that the stranger brought to the home of a man whose child was hungry and starving. If the Father of the starving child had gone forth and told people that his child was starving, the people would make sure the child was fed. He didn’t have to sit at home and wallow in pride and pity and watch his child starve.

This act, bringing the child to the people, is called effort. If we put in some effort, we’ll get results. I don’t want to send the parable of the gallon of milk to the people in their e-mail. I want to be with the people and find out who is in need and help out. I don’t want to blindly knock on someone's door and have milk for the lactose intolerant teenage son of the fellow who can buy all the beer he wants.

Spring is close at hand. The maple trees are giving sap. Buds are appearing on the willows. The circle brings forth all this now, then the season of growth followed by the beauty of Autumn. Winter sets in and the plants and trees die off or lay dormant for the next Spring. Those that die are used as fuel for the fire to turn the sap into sugar. The people eat the sugar for food and energy so they can plant trees and harvest sap for generations. 

The circle

How much of your life do you knowingly acknowledge in this way? Do you ever? Does the idea of accepting this task appeal to you?

I must admit. I am lost sometimes. I didn’t remember to live this way or that. I wallowed in my own self pity. I put forth no effort and waited for the milk, then felt sorry when it never came. All I ever had to do was ask for it when I needed it. I persecute myself for my failure to be living every moment as I think I should be living it, yet with a little effort, I didn’t have to suffer at all. The answers are always right there in front of me, but I failed to see them, only because I stopped looking, stopped making an effort.

This isn’t about religion. It isn’t about God or repenting or suffering. It is about living and being alive and sharing life all around you in the circle. It’s about putting forth the effort to live life and not go through the motions.

Yes, I’ve had a few bad days lately. I was waiting for the milk instead of going out and saying to someone that I needed some. I wallowed in the crap in my head and didn’t see anything around me. I stopped putting forth effort to help my own situation. I got through it, but not without a lot of pain and suffering that I didn’t need to endure. Next time, I’ll just go to the circle.

Author's Note: 

I thank you Gene Artishon, Baazha Giizhik, (First Cedar), for this lesson and many more that you set into motion in our minds. The legacies you have left us, for your friends and for your family, will live, like your Spirit will live, forever.



Priti Lisa said...

Beautifully written. I guess the old saying 'God helps those who help themselves' is true...and that by helping others we are showered with LOVE. Miracles are everywhere for those that have eyes to see them.
Have a happy Sunday, Joe.
Love, Lisa♥

Lea said...

Beautiful, all of these layers and stories that come around, and teach us new things each time. I strive to live this way every day, and I too sometimes forget. I find it is in the forgetting that the miracles happen, for it is the remembering and opening to the gift from someone else, that I find meaning in my life and the awe of connections with others, and that space between reality and something greater... Thank you Joe.

gma said...

Wonderful tribute for your friend. We are all connected and meant to be there for each other. When we are in tune and follow our heart & intuition these miracles happen. Blessings to you.

Fallingladies said...

I agree, a beautiful story and a good lesson! (Sometimes asking for help seems the harder choice than the suffering.) Glad to have you back posting!

Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio said...

You are what I would call an oracle. Perhaps not so much in the sense of prophecy, but more so in the sense of what the word means, 'to speak'. As you speak oh so well...full circle, yes!

rebecca said...

dear joe,
even as the golden finch work hard to pull each seed from the tight fist of summers fading sunflowers the circle turns. soon all those transparent pillars of light will be rattles in the wind announcing the time on introspection and so the circle turns. your post today filled me in a way i needed to be nurtured. once more your honesty and humility are manna to my soul. it is a miracle when we stop, look with our hearts and listen with our souls. for this is when we give drums, milk, wisdom, all making each of us whole.
thank you for being here today and following your intuition to share this lesson today.

Mel said...

I read this first thing this morning and was moved to comment...and didn't because I had to ask myself 'where was G-d PRESENT in your day'. I'm embarrassed to say that I had enough ego going on that I couldn't answer that.
But I spent today, this post so gently reminded me.

I have a whole life filled with 'round circle' moments. Hind sight serves me well--it's in the moment that I fail to see a bit 'fit' into place. But I've grown better at trusting there's a reason and not carrying on about the "WHY" of it all. Too many times I've gotten the 'why' revealed later, and humbly hung my head--doubt all I want at the moment, get angry and toss a fit if I must.......'more will be revealed'. And more gets revealed to me every day.

Today I looked to see where G-d was present.....and I made the effort to thank the angels He puts in my path that I DO recognize.
So--thank you. For this...for numerous tales of places you've walked that have put things to right size and given me the clarity I seemingly lacked.
And thank you for just being YOU......perfectly imperfect, loveable, sensitive, wonderful YOU.

I need all the angels He puts in my path. Every single one of 'em......

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

I, too, am lost sometimes. Admitting that I am lost is the first step toward finding my way...

Leaky Legacy

SkippyMom said...

I know I have been missing around these parts lately and I would be a coward if I didn't admit it is simply because I didn't know what words or comfort I could offer you. It isn't that I wouldn't have meant what I wrote to you, of course I would, it just seems so inadequate to do so via blogs, emails and FB sometimes.

I am relieved that you have sorted through and found what peace that you can. My father once said "Skippy, the problem when you have above average intelligence is a tendency to think too much."

I think this holds true when you have a heart as big as yours Mr. Spadoman. You feel harder than others too sometimes. Then again, I don't think anyone can feel too much, eh? Just not letting it become a burden is the trick I suppose.

Always thinking of you my friend and keeping you in my prayers. Hugs!

Unknown said...

Your depth of conviction and feeling ring so honestly in these words. An absolutely beautiful post, Joe. Your Round Circle explained so lovingly, has helped put a little perspective on my own sorrows, humiliations and failures. You teach a great lesson, hard-earned through experience and love.

Thank you.

colenic said...

This is a beautiful post. I know that I try to take a moment every day and reflect on the circle. It has been a struggle recently and I have been having several of those waiting for the milk to come moments.
Thank you for sharing this example of how if we look for it, if we make the effort it does find us.