Sacred Journeys – Spiritual ConnotationKim Elkington October 4, 2003
Everyday Rituals & Celebrations
Around my birthday this fall I set my thoughts once again to my place in the world, my value, my contribution. Some clear answers were needed and I put it out to the universe to offer up some suggestions. The answers came, somewhat surprisingly, from trees and stones; what local indigenous people call The Standing People and The Stone People respectively.
A few days before my birthday I was invited to some land where there is a native-run sweat lodge. A totem pole had been sent to the lodge as a gift. I was invited to paint the totem pole white, so it could be repainted and given fresh colour in its new home. As a child in B.C. we often sat at the base of totem poles and played or just enjoyed their company.
I was kindly invited to join the sweat that evening. We entered by circling around the red-hot stones glowing in the fire, stones that would soon enable us to open our hearts in the heat together and send prayers and thanks to creation. Entering the lodge we got to our knees and kissed the earth and said words to acknowledge that ‘all our relations’ were not only people but all of creation — from animals to trees and sky.
As the hot ‘stone people’ were piled inside with us and my desire to flee the extreme heat increased, the voice of the elder reminded us that the stones had offered themselves up to us and to give thanks. I had an epiphany realizing these ancient living beings had allowed themselves to be heated through to dust, to teach me as I had requested. This intense heat that resulted was the fire of creation, of change and transformation. Most importantly it was warm love filling every pore of my being. The hotter the air became the more my heart opened to the love and willing sacrifice made by my earthly relations in order to care for me. I felt my roots connect to the core of the earth so that from that moment forward, wherever I find myself standing, I will belong.
In the midst of that joyous connection I thought about the tree that formed the totem pole, about The Standing People, and I was suddenly in the midst of the fires raging in B.C. I felt the snakes and ants and bears and squirrels dying as millions of trees burned, lighting the planet, as Mars looked on. I was overwhelmed and cried in the sweat for all my relations being transformed by those fires and marveled at the passion and enormity of the earth’s experience of herself.
Soon after, I journeyed to my favourite secret place in the Muskokas where a high pink quartz ridge stretches for miles in the bush. This is a place where I feel like I deeply belong. I knelt down and kissed the stone ridge and as I had learned at the sweat, acknowledged my love for ‘all my relations’. It felt wonderful to begin my walk by shifting the area into sacred space. I sat cross-legged at the highest point and was reminded of another favourite place that I love that has many of the same qualities in the desert of Arizona, but there, the view from my rocky ridge has no trees, whereas here, in Muskoka, my eyes are filled with luscious happy trees drinking in the sun before they treat us to a festival of colour.
I am grateful for the trees around me, and as I retreat to their shade begin thinking about how they give us shelter, warm our homes, cook our food, give us medicines, shade, and serenity. This is equally true for humans, and countless other species as well. That is the commitment of the trees to all of us, and it is a huge responsibility entrusted to them by creation. We need to respect it.
Returning to my cottage I read a section on trees by Dan Longboat in a Six Nations book called Words That Come Before All Else. He reminds us that for countless ecological generations the dominant philosophy has been, and must be, to learn from nature and share her knowledge. Our duty is to express appreciation for a natural world that sustains us, and in return our purpose is to care for and respect all of Creation. He had just handed me a responsibility, a duty and purpose.