Monday, May 4, 2015

Sweating Clay




Part One
The host drum finished the last song of the day and everyone cheered. The boy pulled a small flashlight from his pocket and turned it on. Deep twilight joined warm evening air and quietly nudged us along. A sentry posted at the trail’s head waved a beam of light up a down welcoming us.

“There ya go Uncle,” said the young man. “I hope I passed your test. Till next time.”

What was up with the test stuff? I wondered. 

“Here ya go Uncle,” said a deep voiced fella. “Good seein’ ya again.”

A cherry red glow erupted from the tip of a nasty smelling generic cigarette as the man placed a tobacco bundle in my hand.

“Thanks, I think. Do I know you?” I asked.

The man chuckled and took another drag.

“Always testin’ us,” he said and chuckled again. “Ya better goin’ Uncle. Ya need a flashlight? I got an extra.”

Before I could answer someone took me by the upper arm, another guy, and spoke.

“Come on Unc, I got ya.”

The trail was dimly lit but I could see well enough not to stumble. Ahead, a fire blazed. It was preparing rocks for the ceremony I presumed. As we approached it I had to ask.

“Hey, you seen Clay today? Know who I’m talking about?”

“Ah, well,” said the sentry, “no time for chit chat. Gimme your clothes Unc. I’m fire keeper tonight.”
 
I stripped down to my boxers and put on trunks. The man handed me my towel and opened the lodge flap. Someone sitting near the opening on the inside guided me in as I got on hands and knees. I bumped the feet of a couple other people who each greeted me with the customary “Boozhoo.”

“Okay, send ‘em in”, said the voice of the guy near the opening to the fire keeper. 

One by one, orange red rocks floated inside the lodge while riding a pitch fork. A pile formed and although brighter as a collective, the stones didn’t throw enough light for me to see the others in attendance.
The flap was dropped and someone spoke. It sounded like Clay but I couldn’t be sure. The voice was a bit lower in pitch and slower paced.

“Welcome Niniwug, my elder brothers. And welcome to our honored guest, Migizi, the reason for this special lodge meeting. Been a long time Migizi, good to see you again.”

I was surprised that none of the standard ceremony protocol was being used and wondered if, like many things in the culture, this too had adapted and changed to something else. Water was sprinkled on the glowing red heart of stones. “Yesssss,” said the steam giving voice to lodge life.

“I am here to speak to our brother about what has come to my attention. This sweat session will be brief and casual. Migizi, you alone are encouraged to speak or give reply to what I say.”

“SHhuush,” suggested the steam as more water united with fiery stone.

“Um, well, thank you whoever you are but I’m confused. The last time I was in this lodge was many years ago. I know very few people in our tribe because I moved away. However, it seems others, like you, know me. And what is the special occasion involving me? Oh, and I was told by the messenger boy it had to do with my friend?”

“Yesssss,” the steam seemed to say again.

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