I’ve arrived in Nashville and have been welcomed like family. I’ve been on two awesome hikes over the past two days. The woods and the trails are just gorgeous.
We saw a butterfly that was missing a small section of its wing and we stopped to photograph it. It then proceeded to lead us on our walk for several minutes. It would fly ahead for fifteen or twenty feet and then land and wait and when we would catch up, it would again take flight and stop for us once more.
So many times it kept this routine that we felt we had a third hiker with us for a time. More magic was in store for us…we saw two owls! We even were able to observe them hunting. It was awesome.
You have to look harder for the next one.
We’ve driven around this cozy feeling city several times and through some truly gorgeous neighborhoods, never taking the same way twice so that I can see as much as possible.
I have visited the Parthenon – the life size replica of the original and it is beautiful as well.
While at the Parthenon, we stopped to watch some guys play a version of soccer where they were these inflatable bubbles around themselves. Pretty hilarious.
And just to keep my luck going on my vacations, I looked down at the clover patch in front of me and there was my lucky leaf from Nashville.
We have talked almost nonstop and will be in on a small road trip today to Chattenooga to visit some of the Sun Dance folks down there and spend the night so I don’t see that trend changing any time soon.
Let me preface this portion by saying that I hadn’t spoken to Beth prior to me sending my story over for an edit. I had just asked that she clean it up and make it more presentable. I hadn’t told her about Sun Dance that year yet nor about Jasmine but she clearly understood what my heart had wanted my words to say better. Here is her edit:
There is a girl named Jasmine. She is a traveler – an explorer – a hiker – a photographer. Her paths have led her to amazing people from all walks of life, and wondrous places of natural beauty. She is gifted in capturing the scenery that surrounds her in photos, but her true magic travels far beyond the footprints she leaves on the trail or the visions she captures through her lens.
Like many people, when given enough time in nature, she reflects. She will pause as a friend, family member or acquaintance suddenly flashes into her conscience. Not always will she even realize that she has used her energy coupled with that of the serenity surrounding her to awaken this special gift. But as she focuses on these people in her life, she passes her own peace to that of her recipient – tuning their energy rhythm to her own, and creating harmony for them from afar. She may not know that the person had a bad day, or a diagnosis, or was struggling silently within. And she will not witness how her reflection blew a calm breath over a friend in need, brought a needed tear to a sister, or a laugh to an acquaintance. All they will ever know is that a renewed peace has settled over them in just the moment they needed it.
One day, on a hike with friends, Jasmine borrowed a knife from another person in her party to obtain some hardened sap from a tree. She recalled suddenly a new friend, Sally, whom she had recently met at a Native American Sundance ritual. She had similarly borrowed Sally’s knife to collect amber from the many coniferous trees surrounding the Sundance grounds. As she continued gathering her current specimens she suddenly noticed two feathers floating near her. So engaged in her collecting and the thoughts of her new friend, she felt quite unsure whether the feathers had gotten caught up on the breeze from the forest floor, or if they had drifted down from the sky in just that moment. For reasons she could not convey, she took a photo of the knife with the two feathers and sent it off to Sally.
What Jasmine could not have known, was Sally’s experience just one year prior. Sally was participating as a supporter in her first Sundance, and as she was walking along one day, two small feathers fluttered out of the sky to land at her feet. Though she could not recall seeing any birds, she gazed upward briefly before bending to pick up the feathers. Given the events of the Festival, she wondered if they would hold special meaning for her one day – but like so many signs in life, it would take time before the feathers revealed their secret.
Thus the realization when she viewed the photo her friend had sent. The young bird who had shed two small feathers for one special person to find, matured to leave two larger ones for the second to happen upon. Linking those friends forever in a shared experience, solidifying the bond they had established, and to remind them of time together well spent.
So now you have both versions of that story and while I thought I might have time to tag on the epilogue, the day is done and my driver and I need to leave for the airport around 3:00 am! Wish me good flight and hopefully I have time to write in TN.
A few days after Jasmine sent me the photo of a knife and two feathers with no explanation, I sent off the following email:
You might have a simple explanation of how you came to take a photo of the knife and 2 feathers, but let me tell you the true story:
There is a girl named Jasmine who travels to many places visiting and meeting people from all walks of life and walking and hiking to incredible wondrous places. She is able to capture the magic of the scenery with her camera but that is not where the magic stops.
While out on these hikes, she sometimes takes a moment in pause and someone – a friend, or acquaintance, or a family member will flash into her conscience. Not always will she even realize that she is using her energy and that of the serenity around her to help dial in or tune the other person’s energy rhythm into a more harmonious level for them. She doesn’t know that the person she had thought of had a bad day or diagnosis or was struggling in another way and that her moment in reflection brought a calm moment, a needed tear or laugh or just a renewed peacefulness that they had needed.
That other person also can’t quite ascertain why it seemingly came upon them at that moment, but it did.
It was on one of these seemingly simple fun hikes with friends that Jasmine had borrowed a knife from another person in the hiking party to obtain some hardened sap from a tree.
It made her think of a new friend (Sally) that she had made when supporting an old friend at a Native American Sun Dance ritual. She had borrowed Sally’s knife while collecting resin from the many coniferous trees around the Sun Dance grounds while at the event.
It was as she was gathering her current collection of resin that she came across two feathers. They happened near her in such a way that all at once she was unsure if they had always been where she was just now looking and got caught up in a breeze, or if they had drifted down to her just now.
For reasons that she could not convey, she took a photo of the knife with the two feathers and sent if off to Sally.
Little did Jasmine know, but just a year prior, after Sally had participated as a supporter in her first Sun Dance, as she was walking along one day, two small feathers fluttered out of the sky to land right in front of her.
She could not recall seeing any birds but picked up the feathers and brought them inside thinking they could somehow be meaningful with all the recent events of the Sun Dance and such.
Like so many signs in life she was unsure of what it meant or when it would relate or link to something else.
It wasn’t until a year later that Jasmine sends the photo of the knife and feathers that Sally realizes that it just may be the same bird that visited her last year and has grown and matured and has sent now two larger feathers to Jasmine to ponder.
And it is just another link in their shared experience together to help bind and solidify the connection they established and to remind them of time well spent together. That’s my version anyway. Sally
And that was the beginning of the writing that I am now becoming more accustom to. That is my email unedited. I was fearful of how it would be read by others so I had my good friend Beth clean it up for me. You know her of the kookaburra guest blogs. You’ll get to read her version tomorrow along with an epilogue.
The first year at Sun Dance I was the only new person and so at the end of that week, I had gained many new friends.
This past year, I felt very much welcomed back and knew my friendships were deepening with several of the people.
I hadn’t expected to really make more new friends.
I was wrong. One of the guys who was participating as a dancer brought his girlfriend to help support. Let me just say that placing someone into the atmosphere of a Sun Dance knowing he wasn’t going to be available to her for most of the time is like going “all in” in poker. A definite make or break move.
She surprised me with her openness and sharing of her stories of life and the challenges she was going through after the loss of her father. I, of course, could relate to some of her same feelings. So just as we were forging this friendship, she had to leave suddenly while I was in the midst of something else.
It was like being at camp and finding a new friend and then one day while your in the art class your friend is whisked away and you never even got to say goodbye.
I did get her number and information from the guy that brought her once the Dance was over and he was available to speak with. We have kept in touch and hope to visit each other sometime soon. Oh, and the bold move did not backfire as they now share a residence and have a puppy.
My cousin had also invited a woman that he referred to as his adopted little sister to come and support him too.
He had become friends with her and her mother when they owned a shop in So. Florida as he would sometimes frequent there and then finding that they could house sit dogs, he had them take care of his dog when he traveled.
A time then came that they were all looking for housing rentals at the same time and it was worked out that they would all get a larger home together. My cousin was at the time in the fast paced corporate world and traveled extensively so the situation worked out. As life changed, as it always does, the sharing of a home ceased and everyone moved on. But a bond had formed and they all continued to be close.
She sounded sweet and adventurous and not afraid to help out where needed, so I encouraged her to come.
She had other friends in the Taos area that she would be staying with until a day or so into the event.
I think the only background information that my cousin provided was that her parents were from India but she grew up in Cleveland – of all places!
She was in FL for much of the same time he lived down there but now lived in TN.
Jasmine- the little sister to him, so little cousin to me? showed up the second day into the event. I could see that her friends dropping her off were assessing the situation and were prepared to take her right back out of there if needed. Their protective feelings are something I probably notice more looking back on it now than I did then.
She stayed the day and then that evening went back to Taos to stay in a warm soft bed as there was a singer (Mike) from Taos, who had heard of the event and came out to join with the singers on hand for the day’s rounds and was planning on coming each day.
They were delayed getting back to the grounds on the next day due to his van breaking down, so when she got there this time it was for the duration.
It coincides with the day that Erin had to leave suddenly.
For the next three days, Jasmine joined in the duties I had again this year of providing water/tea/coffee, lemons and honey to the singers. It was a longer haul from the kitchen to the Dance circle and arbors so the help was necessary and very appreciated.
We learned how to work together, catch nuances of what we each were going to do when speaking wasn’t appropriate and found each other’s sense of humor. In my world, that means we learned how to dish it out and take it from one another and laugh doing so.
By the end of the week, I was sure that while she had come to support Jerome, it was me that was going to benefit the most.
She had already planned to ride back to Denver with me as she had thought she would visit some people in Denver and Boulder, but those plans changed and her plane was leaving the morning after we left Sun Dance. We decided she would just ride back with me and spend the night and then I could take her to the airport before going into work.
The 5 hour trip was nonstop stories from us both where we shared in ways that seem to be easiest when the other person has no prior knowledge or preconceived notions of the people in the stories. There is also the reality that we are a captive audience in that capsule that moves us along the highway. And truthfully, I’m not sure if we truly knew if we would have to revisit any of the conversations again as who knew how long we would hold onto the new friendship. Such freedom allows for more truth and sharing than sometimes happens in years.
The next morning I got her to the airport with a great hug goodbye and hopes that we would stay in touch.
At each Sun Dance there is a sweat lodge that is used for the participants prior to the Dance actually beginning and for the supporters and singers nightly throughout. I never ended up participating in that part during my time in South Dakota. It just didn’t fit in for me at the time as mostly I was in bed and asleep by the time they had the rocks red hot for the nightly sweat.
This time around, I did participate in the supporters sweats. It was always with the Native American singers that were there to provide the drumming and singing for the seven daily rounds of dancing. I’m sure all sweats can be incredible experiences, but the power of their voices inside the small, enclosed space – void of any light save for the glow from the stones until the water poured on them cuts the glow and leaves a pure and total darkness is a potent event. The four rounds of each nightly sweat was again over my expectations.
Those sweats were so incredible and rejuvenating that I would feel like I could do just about anything afterward as I was filled with so much energy.
I don’t know if it was during or after a sweat or sometime elsewhere in prayer during the week, but another clear thought came into my head that I needed to tell the butterfly story to either the person that was in charge from New Mexico or the one from Tennessee.
I really hadn’t spent much time with either of them but I felt more comfortable going to the one from TN. I had not relayed any of my previous years experiences with him or of how I felt before and after the event.
There are no experiences that surprise this group as they have all experienced and heard stories that would make most people think it was a Hollywood script . He just listen intently as I told the story of having the one colorful butterfly on my leg and then the hordes along and in the road as we left the state and of my experience that the Mourning Cloak one was not about a death to someone I knew (or myself) but was my invitation to the memorial service the year prior.
He asked if I knew what the other masses of butterflies meant. I confessed that I did not and felt that I was to tell him. He asked what color they were. I might have said they were all one color when telling the story, but can’t be positive of that. Anyway, still a little leery of saying out loud that they were all black, I said they were dark.
I was then told that from how he was taught by the Medicine Man, the swarms of black butterflies are symbolic of an emotional release.
Wow. Nothing could have been truer of how I had felt when that Sundance was over the prior year.
Before the Medicine Man passed away, he divided his prayerful things into three groups and bestowed them upon a persons in South Dakota, New Mexico and Tennessee. These are Caucasian folks who have been studying and training in the Lakota ways for twenty years with him and are to carry on the traditions in the way that they were taught. They are to share with others as was the medicine man’s vision. At each Sun Dance, they are all together in support for the very sacred event.
When I returned home from the first Sun Dance and my cousin said the butterflies meant something but left it at that statement without direction, I decided to do some research. I didn’t tell anyone else about the butterfly phenomenon as they were likely to ask the same questions I had and I didn’t want anyone putting ideas in my head one way or the other. Also, if it happened to me and I didn’t know what to think, how would I expect anyone else to comprehend? I also didn’t want to say aloud that the smaller ones that I encountered while driving were all black in color. Such an ominous color is black.
In many cultures, the butterfly is a symbol of change. Was my life to be changing? Well that is always happening. I wondered if the black meant death as when I took the photo of the one in the car and found it on the web, I learned it is called a Mourning Cloak. As in the coat you wear to a funeral.
Fear and Faith are the same thing, the only difference is that fear is faith in the wrong direction.
To say that it didn’t make me wonder – the visit of a Mourning Cloak butterfly on going there and then thousands upon thousands of black butterflies when leaving would not be truthful as it was too coincidental. Was I worried? Not especially. I have always felt without question that events happen in my life for a reason and while I don’t always know what that reason is, it will at some point be revealed.
Was I totally comfortable with the events? Obviously not, since I did not tell anyone besides my cousin.
Then one day maybe 9 months later or so, when there was a really powerful thunderstorm, a very clear thought came into my head. The thunder had all of a sudden reminded me of the Medicine Man as that was his spirit or something like that. (You couldn’t expect me to learn everything in 5 days) The thought was that the Mourning Cloak was to signify that it was okay for me to be at the Dance and Funeral for the Medicine Man that previous summer. I then thought to myself that all that was great, but why didn’t I find out sooner. To which the other half of my brain replied that it was because I never asked. Fair enough.
So then the first butterfly is explained but I cannot resolve that the black flocks of them afterward are for the same thing. So I continue to say nothing and go about my business.
Summer moves along and I am notified of the upcoming Sun Dance for 2014 and would I come to support again? It was being held in New Mexico this time as it had already been through the 4 year cycle in South Dakota.
Knowing this time around that my only time with my cousin would be before and after the Dance, I shared with him early on the thought that came to me about the Mourning Cloak butterfly. He thought that was great and probably correct and I’m not sure if we discussed the flocks I had seen afterward.
That first year that I attended a Sun Dance in support, I was about as stressed and overworked and frustrated as I might have ever been.
In a Sun Dance, there are the dancers, the singers and the supporters. I was informed that should I go, I would be a supporter for him as a dancer participant. He kept emphasizing that it truly was a support role and I would be expected to help out as necessary. Kitchen duty to prepare meals for the singers and other supporters along with pretty much any duty as needed.
He kept wondering if I was okay with that role. Really? That is the role I play every day with my family. And ‘other duties as assigned’ is part of my job description as well.
I don’t think I will get into the every nuts and bolts of it, but I do have a story that relates just to me about the event.
It was held on private grounds in South Dakota – a five and a half hour drive. It was a beautiful day and my first time in that region of Wyoming and first time to SD. Once you get into Wyoming, except for a few spots, it is easy to be going eighty miles per hour and not even realize it. I had the windows down and pushing past that eighty mark for a few hours when I felt something on my leg.
I was wearing shorts for one of the last times in days as I had been told that once the event started I would need to wear a dress or skirt the entire time. I’m sure there are plenty of folks that would have paid to see me in skirts for five days since I didn’t even get married in a dress!
When I looked down to see what was tickling my leg, I saw a fairly large butterfly! I had the windows up with the air on at my last stop and since then had been going with the speed limit or more once I had rolled down my windows and yet on my leg was a butterfly that was at least 3 inches wide at it’s larges span. I took a photo with my Itouch that was on the seat so that I could later identify it and then it flew to the passenger window. I rolled down the window and let it be sucked out (sure, in hindsight I could have slowed down). But then, it made it into the car at 80mph, surely it could make it out at that speed too.
Obviously the photo above is not the one taken of the specimen that was resting on my knee but it could be it as it is identical in markings.
I told my cousin about it when I got there before he was sequestered as a dancer and he said that it was good for me that the medicine man was not here as that is the kind of thing that gets people put into the dance. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell anyone else until the dance was over and then I only revealed it to one other person. The other person’s reaction was the same as my cousin’s. Had it been another year when the medicine man was alive, I might have been dancing.
I didn’t fully realize until I got there that I actually wouldn’t get to speak to my cousin for the 4 days that he was dancing. This left me with a group of people who are tightly knit and have a strict way of abiding by the customs. I tried my best to pitch in when I could see a need and do whatever was necessary. Not knowing anyone allowed me to just ask questions and experience the ceremony following the examples of what the other supporters would do. I could compare it to going to a different church and not knowing how they run their service, you kind of sit back and watch and jump in when you feel you know the system.
I’ll have to skip through most of that week or you’ll be reading for a month, but to say that it nourished my soul would be not even giving it enough of it’s due. Any of the pent up frustration and angst of work was drained of me in that week and as I would tell my cousin many times, it was a special and incredible gift that I was able to be there to experience.
When the dance, the thanksgiving meal, gifting and memorial were all over, we left, each in our own vehicles, for the return drive to my house where he would stay the night before heading off. As we were driving out of South Dakota, we started driving through masses and masses of butterflies. I could see they were smaller and did not have the coloring of the one that had graced my presence on the way there. I also noticed that they were all the same color and very dark. They were literally on the roads and fields next to the road and would fly up in a wave just as they do when you encounter a flock of them in a field.
We went through several miles of what to me were millions of butterflies. They finally dissipated and soon we were out of the state and stopping for gas. As we were both fueling our vehicles, I was washing the butterfly gunk off of my windshield and asked cuz if he wanted me to clean his windshield as well and commented that wasn’t that a wild thing to see? He asked what I was talking about and I said that of course I was speaking of all the millions of butterflies we had driven through a while back.
He just looked at me and kind of shook his head and said flat out that he hadn’t seen any butterflies. There was no way I was believing him as he was just behind me and even if my car was the only one plowing through them, he would have seen the rest flying over and on each side of the cars! “No” he said. He sincerely hadn’t seen any butterflies.
Great, I had another three hours of driving to try and figure this out before we would get to my house and I could see if he was pulling my leg or not. Turns out, he never did see those butterflies. He did say they meant something, he just didn’t say what that something was.
This trip probably started about three years ago when I received a phone call out of the blue from a cousin of mine. He use to come stay with me when we were young and unmarried, but after he graduated from college and life got busier for the both of us, we just didn’t keep in touch for a while. Eighteen years or so of a while.
I find it ironic as I write this to realize that at the time he was phoning that he having his own RAW Challenge (being that I started this blog because of the Australia RAW Challenge). His RAW stood for “restoring ancient wisdom”. He phoned that he was going to be passing through from Arizona where he had lived on a Hopi Indian Reservation for several months and going up to South Dakota to visit the Lakota Indians. I won’t go into his vision too much as that is his story to tell, but let me say that he has incredible, beautiful stories to tell as he has visited tribes of many cultures on several continents and has come away with marvelous knowledge and glimpses of cultures that few of us ever get to experience. He knows the value of these ancient rituals and he endeavors to help to keep them alive.
As part of his journeys and meetings, he met a Lakota Medicine man who had a vision to teach other cultures about even the most sacred and previously secret ceremonies so as to show the power and prayerfulness of their ways with the knowledge that to teach others is to take away the fear and ridicule that manifests in persecution.
My cousin started participating in these sacred ceremonies and not only learned about the people he was working with and their traditions, but of himself.
Skip ahead a year – to two years ago when he phones me and during the discussion he mentions that he is to participate in a Native American Sundance Ceremony. Having only heard of such a thing in a movie, I asked if there was any possibility that I could come and watch. It was one of those times that I felt that there was a chance to experience something most never will and didn’t want to miss the chance. I did go and was amazed at the serenity of the rite and prayerful time.
The medicine man had passed away just a month or two prior to the Sundance and at the end there was a memorial for him. Because of this, I was immersed in a time of sharing and reflection for what had transpired with many folks there for many decades with him. The stories of how each person met him that unfolded to me over the five days was nothing short of miraculous.
I’ll save the stories for another time. More tomorrow on how this leads to going to Tennessee.
For the blog, I could not in a short period of time figure out how to create a new page and leave the old ones, so I just changed the page and title. Hopefully I can go back and figure that out but for now I have selected a photo that my friend sent to me when she visited New Orleans. It strikes nearly every chord with me. I believe whole-heartedly in the saying. I love that it is painted on a public wall as I do believe we should share our stories. It is not centered in the space it is painted on and that too is a reminder that we mustn’t be perfect in the placement of our thoughts, it is the putting it out there that matters. There is also some sort of signature scribbled across it as a reminder that people will want to write on our un-centered thoughts too but if the content is good it will shine through.
So onto my next trip we go. In ten days I leave for Tennessee.
The itinerary is currently changing as the original reason for the trip has been canceled or maybe it was always meant to be this way.
I was meaning to go support my cousin in a personal prayerful ceremony taught by and performed in the strictest of Lakota Indian tradition. I will save that story for another day.
Instead I will visit a friend whom my cousin had invited to another occasion that we both attended and have since forged a pretty incredible friendship. It is this person that inadvertently got me to this writing that you see.
There are several stories and I hope you’ll stick with me to show you how they unfolded.