Friday, June 22, 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (into the dream - - - out into the sun)

Schatzie is wavering on whether or not to re-enter the lodge for the last round. I tell her that this particular sweat has lasted much longer and been more grueling than the normal ceremony because of what we have been trying to do. She guzzles water, pours some over her head and communes with her inner German. She brightens up and says "I want a dream."

Silas sets me to bringing out the rocks that are no longer holding any heat. This is more difficult than you might expect, they are not exactly sorted by degree, and it is murderously dark inside but I do the best that I can. We bring four loads of rocks to bring the new count to twenty and go inside.

While Silas pours the water he is saying a twenty count blessing. It has always reminded me of the old child's bedtime prayer when I didn't really want to call it a night and would sit there and individually list every person I knew or had read about to be the object of God's blessing that night. Silas is pretty much blasting through it for the sake of form. Then he begins to sing in a low voice. I relax and feel myself slipping into the dream.

On a rational level I know that this is mainly a cumulative effect of dehydration and the jacking up of the body's core temperature to past extreme fever levels. Go ahead and call it hallucination if you want. It won't matter to me in the slightest. I know vision when I see it and that is where I go this time.

It starts almost like those hyperkinetic films we used to think were so cutting edge back in the 60's and 70's. Robert Evans on coke editing. I see all manner of images flashing and begin to feel a little dizzy so I lay down on my side facing the heap of steaming sizzling rocks where Silas still sings and pours. Without getting specific and betraying the ethics of the ceremony I am able to tell you that in a space of time that I have no rational sense of I see clearly and face several things. Things like the fact that there's no particular shame in my failing to halt the war in Iraq all by myself. I've been taking the deaths here at home personally because I dedicated so much time and effort toward bringing them home. I certainly expected more from the people I helped get seats in Congress than they have given. Still, personal responsibility is misplaced here. I'm also far more at peace with the last of my kids moving out into the world and on with his life. It's a great thing to see, and will be a joy to watch as he takes his own life in his own hands. He's a great kid, a much better kid than I've ever been a father. He's known what he wanted to do and be since he was in junior high and he is by god going to do it. He lets me help out a little, but he is making sure that when his goals are archieved they are his and his alone. I respect that, even all the while fighting my natural instinct which is to meddle and fix. Most importantly I arrive at a place of applying my focus far more locally. There are still problems on my reservation, there are kids there who need our attention. Along with my cousin and the other Raven Soldiers there are things we can do to make that better. I have a daughter who is about to enter her third year of Med School and is thinking seriously about going to the rez to practice when she's finished with her training. I can help her make that happen and have promised as much. There's far more, some of it is still burbling around the fringes of my conscious thought.

I don't know if we were in for six minutes or for six hours, time perception was something that had disappeared in the steam. I vaguely remember feeling a blast of cooler air coming from the opening when the blanket was removed. I went from the lodge to the creek and simply went down into the snow melt run off face first. At one point I sat up out of the water and was amazed to see the water steaming off of my shoulders. Hans calls out to me and offers one of the water bags. I drink greedily. Then I remember a couple of prizes that are hidden in the panniers of the pack saddle. I spend some more time to bring my body temperature a little closer to human life and go up to grab two lemons and a few saladidos. I fix them both up and bring one to Schatzie and show her how to suck the salty lemon juice out of it. She is transported by this. I look around for Silas and see him off by himself. Sitting in the moonlight with a serene look of contentment. I squeeze off the last of the lemon juice and head back to the creek. I finally begin to feel the cold and decide that it's time to get myself dressed.

I ask Hans if he has managed to arrange someone to meet them at the trailhead where our things are and he nods happily. I tell him that we should be up and out of here at first light. I remind him that the temperature tomorrow might easily reach 40 degrees Celsius and that an early start is imperative if we are to cover the ground we need to cover. I also have a flash of inspiration. I take the satphone and make a clandestine call in to the God of All Ropers. I explain the situation and ask him if there's any chance of his bringing his tandem horse wagon down the trail in the morning. He thinks about this, for a whole 3 seconds, before saying "Of course, it will be a good workout for the pulling team." He promises to have the rig rolling our direction pretty soon after dawn. Now I'm really starting to relax about trying to walk the Germans out without calling in the rescue folks. I know that Ingrid is still footsore, they haven't really been able to replenish much more than water from their ordeal of the day before. Still, they're young and strong, and if a couple of old farts like Silas and I can make it they should be able to do the same. Then I remind myself that Silas and I were both born and raised in this desert and there isn't anything even close to it in Germany. Though with the possiblity of 112° heat and, and, then I get a grip and decide that I will simply watch them closely for signs of trouble, and force the stop if I begin to doubt in the slightest.

When I get back to the camp I realize that I haven't the slightest idea of the time and it really doesn't matter. There's plenty of work to be done. I don't know how the rest of you camp, but for me it's about minimizing the impact of my visit. Pulling the cattails and harvesting the cactus stuff was not something that I would normally do, if it wasn't for needing them to treat an injury I would not have done it. Still, there are many things to do. I begin by putting out the fire that we used for the sweat. When it has cooled off enough to handle the things I begin to scatter the ashes about. There's no need to just leave them in a bunch so that a rain storm can turn out a run off of lye. The stones get dispersed too. Hans lifts his head from his blankets even though I'm seriously trying to be as quiet as possible. I answer his questioning look with "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints." He goes back to sleep.

I see Silas still off by himself. He has a pipe out and is smoking something that smells noxious and the smoke looks and feels positively greasy. I don't even ask. I return to my tasks, mulling over the best way for us all to be able to walk out. I also remember in my planning that the desert has a vote in all of this and must be listened to and attended. I don't view the desert as hostile or something that comes after humans with any bad intentions. I quit looking at nature that way in Viet Nam. I was still a cherry, new to the whole thing and was on a pretty hard trek through the boonies. We had to pause, strip and take the leeches off each other for what seemed like the forty'leventh time that day and I started to seriously freak. I started to shiver, despite the jungle heat and was saying stupid shit like "this jungle's out to get me. . ." A grizzled old Cambodian mercenary came over to me and laid his rough hand on my shoulder gently. He whispered "Jungle no get you. Jungle no care." It doesn't mean that I take the danger and risks of this place lightly though. The desert, especially during a sudden hot shock can kill as impersonally and blithely as a teen aged crackhead. And nearly as suddenly. We have some serious miles to cover in the morning. Desert miles. There are people who have entrusted themselves to me. I am a Raven soldier, I carry their souls in my quiver. I promise myself to be kind, and careful.




Blogger Sherry said...

very nice.
dreams come.

some heal.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous amish451 said...

Raven Soldier might carry more souls than you know ...JB

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

I love this story...
A question for you, though: did Schatzie get her dream as well? Since she was the last German to stick it out, what did she think of the sweat lodge experience?

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What cc asked!

- oddjob

12:21 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

did schatzie get a dream?
will our intrepid band walk out easy?
will the rescue cavalry come in time?
what was silas smoking?

part of the ethic of the lodge is that the experience is deeply personal and kept to one's self for at least seven days. the trip, and the tale are not finished. at this point i had no idea what her experience was. i was far too deep into mine.

(back to the announcer voice)

stay tuned.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

Admit it, MB, you are dragging this story out just to torture us... ok, be that way! I never said I was patient, but this story is, like, more than a month long in the telling already. :)

1:48 PM  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Do not withdraw too much into the local. You have served as a good guardian and guide to your offspring. They are now armed to face the world themselves.

As Kahlil Gibran said, your children come through you, but they are not yours.

Continue to midwife others who need your voice, in whatever ways you do that. I presume the sweat lodge experience draws you inward, so that you may return into the world with renewed strength.

3:21 PM  
Blogger konagod said...

Unlike constant comment, I am in no hurry. In fact, when I see that a new installment has been posted, I intentionally wait a day or two or three before reading it.

I love the desert, by the way, and these posts make me feel like I'm there.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

I'm a fast reader and I want instant that so wrong, kona? :)

4:45 PM  

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