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.
I had to wait a year to find out what they meant.
You will only need to wait a day – maybe two.