There was no time.

sept 28th, 2007Lake Nunikani

There was no time. I was way too busy for this. But I had promised myself that in a year I would return and complete the ritual. Go back to the same spot where I had spent three nights last September on a Quest without food, free of distractions, to receive what God had for me. Now, to honour the gifts of those days; the vision I’d been given, the humour I’d been armed with, the company of the angels, I had to make time.

It was late September and the rush of a church season revving up to full speed had me hanging on with both hands. Hitting the gas from the dead stop of a summer sabbatical was a nauseating push in the first week back. In the next weeks, I managed to shift through the gears of pulling people together again – working against the pull of summers’ entropy– fueled by necessity. And now, jumping off the moving vehicle was frightening – all those details I needed to take care of, all those calls and visits and threads to pull together…

Last year I had spent weeks, months really, preparing for the kayak trip to Lake Nunikani. This time, on the morning of the trip, I grabbed the pack from where I’d left it in the basement a year ago. It still had the tarp and kettle and rope in it. I rooted around ‘til I found my drum and sleeping bag and put a change of clothes and rainsuit in another bag. Outside, I threw the kayak on the truck roof. Kissed Carol goodbye. Dropped David at school. And I was gone – my head more full of the busyness behind me than the journey ahead.

It was a gray, cold, and windy fall day. The wind carried an occassional spray of rain my way. It seemed crazy to be heading off camping into this weather. I’d said as much to Steve on the phone that morning – calling about last minute details for Sunday’s powerpoint liturgy. He laughed and said “a bad day in a canoe is still better than a good day in the office.”

A good listener; someone who will take time to slow me down, and ask important questions, is so important at a time like this. If Steve was the Doorkeeper who pushed me out into the world. Brenda served as the Wise Woman met on the road’s beginning, just beyond the edge of town. She stops me before my journey’s yet begun and asks me “where am I going?” In response to my answers full of quest and purpose, she offers up a gift for the journey. She pulls from me the question “What really matters?”, and she tells me that I must not answer this question – only carry it with me. It is a token to wear that reminds me of the purpose lying below the ritual’s surface performance.

The ritual is to return one year later to the same place and remember the messages of the quest. To remember the resolutions and to re-discover the skin shed in that place, look at the husk of the cocoon, and re-view where my new set of wings has carried me in the months since.

Paddling against the wind slowed me down. I hadn’t used my arms and body like this for a while and they complained bitterly. But after a while, my neck and shoulder muscles started to loosen and the stress I’d been carrying there drained into the water in my wake. The paddling became easier.

At the north end of Big Hawk Lake, in a bay where the river that connects Nunikani to Big Hawk flows, I greeted the solemn, cedar-bearded cliff faces that watch over the bay. Their ancient watch humbled me; a passer-by of moments while they counted in centuries.

The first little pull-through rapids was familiar. It felt like I was just here weeks ago. The water in the river was lower than last year and so the kayak scraped a little more over the granite shelf as I hauled it up and over. At the next rapids however, the 100 metre portage up to the dam seemed just as long and just as steep. I was glad to be back in Nunikani and excited by what the Spirit might have to tell me.

The lake seemed smaller than I remembered. The large-ness of discovery was gone as I found each landmark pretty much as I remembered it. I paddled directly to the campsite in the little bay running west off the north-south stretch of the lake. It seemed like a rainstorm was a distinct possibility so I wanted to get my tarp up and my stuff under it before any downpour.

I met the features of the campsite, like the features on a familiar face. The campsite sat atop a granite outcrop the size of a house. At the shore was the hollowed eye of a stump. Stepping up, there was the flat shelf of granite where I had performed the Death Lodge ritual. Up on top was the fire pit and mossy spot where I slung my tarp on a rope between trees and laid my sleeping bag. I pulled out the drum and re-enacted my introduction to this place; introducing myself with a rhythm that stated my presence. Instead of the stimulating wind on water welcome of last year, the wind only brought in a cold drizzle of rain. My mind was heavy and tired and I crawled into the nest and slept.

It was dusk when I woke. The sky had cleared. Staggering around the site a bit, I decided to go out on the water to pray. Gliding over flat water, balancing, letting each paddle stroke take the kayak as far as it will, put me in a mood for magic. And, as the sun set red and purple over the western shore, a full moon rose in the eastern sky.

While the Moon is Full
Clouds are such momentary creations
God’s improvised jazz
never to be repeated

I want my words to be great stone cliffs
scripture, solid stuff,
undiminished by passing days

but my time is only a season of the moon
coming full
only to turn and go

so let these words be spoken
while the moon rises
and let the clouds carry them to the cliffs
where they’ll rain down
tears on the ancient face

some other moonstruck fool
will let morning mists inspire
a similar riff

The next morning I had tea over a small fire. I looked again at the small maple tree leaning against the great white pine. It had been God’s revelation to me – an image of my artist self. Thin, shadowed by taller trees, I hadn’t felt exactly empowered by the vision – as real and true as the picture was – I felt mostly compassion for that part of me yearning for sun and growth. As I looked it over again, I saw something new. Just beyond it, was another maple with exactly the same lean. The difference was that this tree was out at the forest’s edge. It leaned against no other. It lifted its branches and red leaves to open sky.

I had to agree with what God was saying. In the last twelve moons I had taken a step out to the shore. I had made a shift in self-regard. And I had spent more of my creative energy putting pen to paper (and fingers to keypad). While still far from a mature tree, I was out at the shore where I would get sun and exposure; where I had started to share my stuff.

Back in the kayak, I made a return trip to the upturned stump at the north end of the lake and jotted down a poem. Retracing the journey’s steps, I dutifully revisited the moss-covered, weeping wall. The creative juices were flowing fast and steady and I hurried back down to pad and pen and wrote it all up.

But I had no endurance this time. Although I’d carved out space for two nights away, the things back home that needed attention lured me away. The lack of mental and spiritual preparation for this trip meant my stamina for emptiness was low. I’d emptied a little and God had quickly filled it up to overflowing. I packed it up and split for home.

I sang some songs of spontaneous praise (that only God would enjoy). Some strange ducks encouraged me on. They too were seasonal, annual, visitors here. Stopping by on a long journey, generations long. A year is not long they said. Just another ring inside the bark. Be patient, From root to branch give thanks. Let your leaves grow green, turn bright and brilliant, then fall and decay for another circle’s turn. And so these words fall onto the page for your winter’s read. Reader, may your hope be stored deep and safe in your roots and rise again when the sun calls us out to play.
November 1, 2007

The Temple of Need

the roots that grip this spinning earth
that suck life from soil
to feed trunk and branch and stem
stretch out in silent cry

The green clothes I wear
customary coverings

instead, reaching out from nightmare’s dark places
my deepest needs, hungers, wants,

so many
so tangled
some fine, some gross and hollow-hallowed
startling to see them all at once
- no head, just tales untold
so human

allan reeve
sept 28th, 2007
Lake Nunikani

No comments: