When my brother was in high school he had a crush on a girl named Julie so he asked her for her school photo. On the back of it she wrote, “To Dan, your a real sweaty!” In the Dark Ages our family could be pretty brutal, so of course when we saw it we teased him relentlessly about his illiterate “sweaty” for years. We had a last final rueful laugh over it a couple years ago when we were cleaning out my parents’ garage and found the photo in an old box of jumbled miscellany, but there was no sting in our laughter this time. Julie was a true sweetie and far more significant than a few misspelled words and I’m sorry I was such a Neanderthal back then.
You know, I’m sorry about a lot of things on one side of the coin, but on the other I’m learning to forgive myself for all of them because every single misstep we take, little and big, helps us grow. I’m grateful to my two left feet for the insights and experiences they’ve allowed me to stumble into. I love that now I can feel genuine empathy for people in areas where, before, I felt only judgment. I feel sad when people turn away from me, but have come to see that their decision has nothing to do with me (even when they think it does), that they have their own paths and pain to work out, and I’m able to relax and let them–and myself–simply be. We’re all living and learning, doing our best, over the decades, over lifetimes.
For quite awhile now I’ve been trying to live what I call an acoustic life. To me this means a life that focuses on guts & bones creativity, on using my hands to make things, on curling my little pink toesies in the bare dirt, on resting my eyes on the beautiful world and people around me and not on a computer screen. Al Gore invented the internet and I was with him all the way, until I found myself online far far more than I was off (not an exaggeration) and missing vital elements of face-to-face living. I’ve loved working on my art journal, cooking, turning actual book pages, organizing, decorating, singing, taking walks, dancing, playing and talking with my beloveds, even cleaning the house–just touching things, you know? Being connected to the earth. One of my chiefest earth connections this year was the sweat lodge I told you I’d be attending a couple posts ago. You guys, it was amazing.
First off, I’ll tell you a little about the man who led it. Nunpa (whose name means “Two Foxes Singing” in Lakota) is one of those transcendent souls you meet only a few times in your life. His heart is huge for people and his hands are in so many areas of service in our community and even internationally that it’s a wonder he has time to blink. (Tonight we attended a spaghetti dinner benefit for Ant Farm, one of the organizations he founded, at a local restaurant–the place was packed with a line out the door–SO fantastic to see!) Despite his rather harrowing schedule, he seems to be a bottomless font of optimism and enthusiasm and joy–which, as is the case with most transcendent people, springs from a bedrock of early hardship and pain. Everyone who meets him loves him, including me, though I’m only just getting to know him. So that’s Nunpa, and the sweat lodge is up at his property, which he shares with his partner Damon and various travelers who need to stay now and again for rest and renewal. Their spiritual community is called Redwind and it’s based on Lakota traditions that go way way a-way back and it’s chock full of interesting, loving, truly wonderful people.
I won’t run through every single element of the day, since we arrived around 9 a.m. and finally got home around 5 p.m., but I’ll toss you the big chunks. The property is several (I don’t remember how many, 84?) acres of woods crisscrossed by paths and dotted with a few yurts, a homing pigeon cote, a large goose pen, an outhouse, various work sheds, an actual house, and a bamboo-fenced garden. Part of the “community lodge” experience is helping out on the land beforehand, if people want to. Our particular ‘we’ was Scott, Jess, Amber, and me, and we worked with a bunch of other people on either building the property-line fence or pulling weeds in the garden. Around noonish, everyone started to veer toward the fire pit and the lodge, which I thought was a wonderful phenomenon since there was no actual call toward the lodge… we just kind of felt it. There were, maybe, about thirty of us there. We wimmins changed into skirts in the community yurt and then we all gathered around the fire to be given instructions and encouragement and information about what the sweat lodge was all about.
Holy smokes (or steam), it was all about intercession. It had been so long since I’d been around people who prayed earnestly in the way I love best, with song, and chanting, and drums, and spirit language… though much of their language was Sioux, so they knew what they were praying. (One of the song leaders, Meshi, also leads a singing lodge in which he teaches people the Lakota songs used for intercession, and Scott and I are really super excited about going to that. We were involved in worship-leading all our adult lives, practically, and the seven years we’ve been away have been very dry indeed. I can’t wait to be able to belt out the prayers with genuine understanding.) In the earlier post I told you about the setup of the lodge, so I won’t go into that now, but I will tell you that it was H-O-T. There were four sections of sung prayers, each started by a ritual of passing hot stones into a pit in the middle of the lodge and then pouring water over them, and each ending with the flaps being opened so nobody died, which I imagine anyone would consider a real plus.
The third section, with the most stones, was the hottest and thankfully, the shortest. Amber told me beforehand that it didn’t really matter that we were dressed in long skirts and long sleeves because there comes a point, regarding the question of searing heat, when the answer is that what you have on your body is totally irrelevant (unless of course we’re talking parkas). But thin clothing? Pah. We were in the pitch dark, and each section was hot, but the third section heat in particular was the kind of heat that burns straight down to your bones–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego heat–but to my surprise this was the heat that actually got me laughing in the middle of it because, I swear, I felt purified. Singing was the only thing that kept me from sprinting out of the lodge the entire time we were there, so I sang as loud as I could, even though I didn’t know the words and could only imitate the sounds. I didn’t care. It was glorious. After the third section of heat, we got to lay on the bare ground with the lodge flaps open, and feel the breeze waft over us, and that was glorious, too. The fourth section was practically a cakewalk after that.
When we finally crawled out of the lodge, one by one, and rose to our feet to shake each others’ hands, we were each of us covered in dirt, soaked to the skin, sweat dripping into our eyes, absolutely a pure-dee mess, yet there was a cleanness about us that hadn’t been evident before. I felt soft, and supple, and fresh, like a newborn baby, and full of love, my body literally buzzing with the energy of love. We gathered in the community yurt and ate together and each of us shared a little bit about what’s going on in our lives. I was shy about sharing, but as I get to know everyone, I’ll lose my shyness. The next lodge is in two weeks and I’ll be there. I’m so happy to have been welcomed into this new experience. In fact, it didn’t occur to me until Nunpa said something about how we’re all invited back to any of the events of Redwind, that one of my prayers had been answered, because I’d been longing to try their community ever since I’d read about it, but didn’t think there was any way that would happen. Thank you, God!
The past couple weeks have been full of garage sale preparation and execution (ugh) and Jesse and Amber getting an apartment (yay!). Today was their moving day. So right now I’m sitting in the middle of my own very disheveled apartment, with piles of books and movies and pictures all over the furniture and floors, because I decided to do a little rearranging while I had the chance, and because we’re clearing stuff out and giving it to the kids for their new place. I’m exhausted. It’s a contented exhausted, but tired is still tired and I keep longing for a solid chunk of quiet time, or even one day to stay in my jammies. I miss my jammies. I love my jammies and I miss them.
But the upside is that I’ve been able to spend lots of time with some fantastic people, some of them new and others years and years old to me… A couple weeks ago I went to visit Kary, who was my dearest friend several years ago, where she lives in Estacada; she took me out to lunch at a restaurant that overlooks the Clackamas River, and we talked over our salads for a couple of hours and then visited the Little Yellow Thrift Shop and felt, really felt, as if we connected more deeply than we had for ages. She’s coming over tomorrow so I can take her out! That’s been so good for me.
Getting to know my kids’ friends has been great, too. The garage sale was a success in that I spent lots of quality time with my parents, and even better when it was rained out and I got a few lovely hours with my mom–we made lunch and cozied away in her room to watch my new favorite movie, Adam’s Apples (featuring my current favorite celebrity crush, Ulrich Thomsen-he’s the one in the middle :). She loved it, too. A week or so ago, Scott surprised me and took me on a midnight motorcycle ride so I could see the lights on the Columbia River. The river of fog on the other side of the road was just as breathtaking! Life is just really good, you guys, but you know that. Good, and hard, but I’m grateful for all of it. Thank you for reading my post today! I wish you all the best.