"It still hurts," I say to a friend. "I pretend it doesn't, because I don't want it to. But it does."
"What you need right now is a good ceremony," she replies.
Here's the thing about ceremonies: there are no rules.
I wanted to let go. I thought I already had. But there were still some things that I was holding onto. They were tangible things. Material things. Visible tokens of something that ultimately was false.
I thought I had let go. But I still had the things.
I'm blessed to live by a beautiful creek along a wooded path. I'm blessed that I know a thing or two about alchemy, how to transform the shape or form of a thing, how to reduce it to mere shreds or shards or pieces. I'm blessed that I am bold enough to do this, to give to the water what is burdening me.
I go to the place where the owl sits and hunts, but today, I find crows there instead. They are quiet sentinels, thier black eyes observing solemnly as I toss fragments of things I once held dear into the creek. I watch the rush of water consume all that I offer it, and I think of the Oconaluftee River on the Cherokee Reservation, how it flows and winds, how I love to stay in The Drama Motel that overlooks it. How long it has been since I've swam in that river! How much I'd love to swim in it now. I remember how water is cleansing, how it's always part of any good ceremony.
It is in ceremony that I feel closest to my native heritage. I lift up my silent prayer as the crows rise, crying out, carrying away on thier wings what I don't wish to carry anymore. The crow is a sacred bird to the Cherokee for many reasons, but a favorite old adage lends that crows near a river means a storm is brewing. And a storm brewing means rain will come. Rain means the river will rise, taking in its flowing waves all that I have given.
Nothing could be more fitting.
On the path home, my son and I (because he has been taught the way of ceremony) pass a pair of pileated woodpeckers teaching thier offspring to hunt. Another sacred bird to the Cherokee, I know this rare sighting of such normally reclusive creatures is a very good thing, just as I know the thunderclouds that move in within an hour are going to bring heavy rains, rains that will wash away completely all that I've released.
It's evening now, and the storm, which was powerful, has passed. I am on the trail. Lightening bugs surround me. An owl calls. Another responds. The creek swells. There is no trace within it of fragments from things I once held dear. They are gone. But I am smiling, because I know that it is finished. The water rushes past.
I am free.
The ceremony is complete.
What she said:
The only cure
is a good ceremony.
That's what she said.
Silko was right. Sometimes the only cure is a good ceremony.
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko is available at http://www.amazon.com/Ceremony-Classics-Leslie-Marmon-Silko
Art: Selu's Gift, mixed media, Amy L. Alley