So my son and I rumbled over logs and weeds and holes in our van, deeper and deeper into the forest until we found the small clearing in a grove of trees deep in the heart of undeveloped tribal land, facing east.
This lodge is smaller than the others, which also meant it takes far fewer rocks to heat. I met James' sons for the first time, and found out that James and i have similar approaches to child naming. My sons' names are Cheyenne River and Cedar Ojibway, and James' sons are named River Sage, Rocky Boy, and Sundance. My son had more fun playing with his new friends at the lodge than anything else (partly because we forgot the Ritalin).
Funny moment: as my friend Billy (who helps "work the rocks" for the ceremony) drove up into the camp, we suddenly smelled the thick odor of skunk. We started joking, "Man, it smells like he hit something in his car--and dragged it with him!" and "Naw, that's just Billy. That's how he always smells." As it turns out, a skunk had been sitting in the trail through the woods as he drove up. Instead of dodging out of the way, the skunk ran ahead of him down the trail in the same direction as Billy, trying to out-pace Billy's pickup, spraying the truck all the way. Stupid skunk.
As I progress in my learning of Cheyenne songs, I appreciate the ceremony more each week. I had much to bring to the Grandfathers this week. Being human, we each bring our fallibility to our relationships with others, and sometimes we have blind spots to ourselves that need to be acknowledged when we discover them, and thus corrected. The first step in this, I think, is humble repentance, which in my life means prayer--not because I'm some "great guy," but because all too often I'm not.
So many times I have looked at counseling patients - usually women who have lived through atrocities - in their deepest pits, darkest moments, emptiest of times. They shudder with their shame, faces drenched with tears and humiliation and worthlessness, arms cut and bodies sore, vacantly gazing down. And in that moment I see no shame or failure, I see human beings with astounding combinations of potential and shortfalls. Sooner or later, they will also see the same propensity to fail, err, or misstep in me as well, and I can just hope we'll each remember mercy when the tables are turned. But most of all, I hope that each of us can see ourselves this way, and thus forgive ourselves and notcarry dreadful burdens of undeserved shame and self-blame. This includes me as well, of course, and this was what I brought to the Grandfathers last night.