|10 May 2004 @ 17:15, by John Ashbaugh|
(Monday morning, May tenth.) The Great Medicine Wheel centered in the Tetons came together in a meadow on the slopes of Turquoise Mountain, New Mexico.
The opening ceremonies began before dawn, and the sacred grounds were marked for the day’s ceremonial unfolding. Parallel rows of six small mounds of dirt aligned east to west represent the mountains of the Four Corners of the Navaho nation. The fire circle is at the west end of these chains of mountains, and then another slightly larger mound of earth rises like a mountain in this miniature landscape. Throughout the day and into the night, there were, I understand, some 200 or so people here. This was not my day to be here.
There is a hundred mile drive from my home in the city from which the peak of Turquoise Mountain is visible on the western horizon. Across the meandering two-lane hiway of old Route 66 to Grants, into a twelve mile climb to the forest on the slopes. This is the next day when I arrive in the late morning, a little before noon. Most everyone who had been here yesterday are packed up and gone already, but there are a few cars and trucks and a couple of campsites not yet folded down. I pull into the first available space, and just as I’m getting out of the car, hiway still buzzing in my ear, though mellowed somewhat by some Native American flute music, at the camper topped truck right there next to me is a man who recognized the music coming out of my car before I turned the motor off. He is here from Taos and we fall into an easy get acquainted conversation and he tells me something of how yesterday was.
There are two or three extended families here now. It will soon be time for closing ceremonies, Partha, my new friend, tells me. I do a little walking around the terrain in the vicinity to get my ear in tune with the sound, my nose with the pollen and the scent, my eyes with the colors and the shadows. Then comes time for the closing ceremony. Medicine Man, keeper of the pipe, is an apparently Caucasian man, around fifty, who speaks the voice of the grandfathers.
He tells the story of a time a long time ago when an eagle came and looked him in the eye to the core of his being, and how for the seven days following, he went through some deep soul searching as he made a decision to steer the course of his life in his true direction. He is at the north side of the fire circle, now cold ashes in the sunlight. To his right are two Navaho men, and a younger Navaho woman wearing lovely Turquoise and traditional Navaho blouse and skirt. Partha is at the south, facing Gary, the medicine man. Between Partha and I is an elder Navaho woman, and I am to the left of Gary. Six who sit on the ground around the cold ashes from yesterday, while Gary fills the pipe and says the words of blessings and thanks to Mother Earth and Father Sky and the Four Directions. The pipe is lit and passed to each in turn for smoke. The bowl is close to each of our hearts.
And so the thing is done. I become more acquainted with my new brothers and sisters. Everyone here will be gone within a couple of hours, except for this late arrival. I will sit with the wind and watch the trees grow, listen closely to the occasional bird, take some walks, and watch the shadows lengthen until the evening sky brings forth Venus high in the West.
A strip of turquoise ribbon about twelve inches long and a quarter of an inch wide is on the ground next to the mountain to the west of the fire circle. It could have been lost by anyone, and it could have been lost by the younger woman so gracefully adorned in her turquoise jewelry. When dark has finally become complete, I light a fire in the place where one of the departing families had had theirs. From this meadow this morning, sunrise is over the horizon to the north of the peak of Turquoise Mountain. All My Relations.