A Special Place--Part Fifty-two--Michael
Red Hawk just nodded to Mary Kathryn and she returned his nod and began walking around the fire pit, clockwise, sprinkling the tobacco she had prepared. Completing the circle, she left a trail of tobacco particles as she walked to the sweat lodge entrance, bent, and went inside. I knew she would walk around the stone pit inside, continuing to sprinkle tobacco particles as she circled it clockwise. When she came out of the lodge, she nodded to Red Hawk and walked away from the falls. The sweat lodge was now open and ready.
Red Hawk filled the peace pipe and offered it to the four directions without lighting it. When he had completed the offering of the pipe, he opened the flap of the sweat lodge and held it open for me and Greywolf to enter. Inside, Greywolf sat across the fire pit from the opening which was to the east. Red Hawk and I sat opposite each other, he to the south, I to the north. As he seated himself, Red Hawk placed the peace pipe on a stand by his side.
As soon as we were seated, Taequo closed the flap and we were plunged into complete darkness. I knew this was a time of meditation and contemplation as well as a time to grow accustomed to the confinement of the sweat lodge and its darkness. It was also a time when those who felt too uncomfortable could leave--in fact, it is never a disgrace to quietly leave the sweat lodge if it becomes too uncomfortable for any reason. As we entered, I had seen a large pail of water, a dipper, a short stout stick, an eagle's bone whistle and a small hand drum by Red Hawk's place. These, Red Hawk had explained earlier, would be used in the sweat lodge ceremony.
After several minutes in the darkness, Red Hawk called for the stones to be brought in. Taequo raised the flap and entered with a glowing red-hot stone on a pitchfork. As Taequo held the stone before him, and since it was the first, Red Hawk tapped it with the stick and greeted it in Lakota, "Hau kola" (Hello, friend). The stone was then placed in the stone pit to be joined by others in whose name it had been greeted. Taequo then brought in three more stones and placed them in the pit. The flap was closed. The stones glowed red in the darkness and as I looked at them there seemed to be shapes, figures and images dancing, moving over their surface. As I stared at the stones, Red Hawk started speaking in a soft voice, "This is the first endurance, the endurance of the west, the black direction. It is in the west that the spirits live. In this endurance, we recognize the reality of the spirit world and pray to the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, for a spirit guide." Having said this, Red Hawk poured the first dipper of water on the hot stones and steam shot upward, visible in the glow from the stones. Three more dippers of water followed the first and the lodge was filling with steam and getting quite warm. As we sat silent, Red Hawk blew the eagle's bone whistle for a short time and then beat the drum slowly.
When he stopped, the inside of the sweat lodge was quiet. The water poured on the stones had all become steam. We sat in silence, then Red Hawk started chanting a prayer--in English--and, as he had instructed me, ended each section with, "Hetch etu" (It is so). After the prayers, in which the great spirit guides--Father Sky, Mother Earth, Buffalo Calf Maiden and our relatives who were now spirits--were asked to help us, we introduced ourselves to them--"Oh spirits that come among us within this womb of our Mother, I am Michael, and I am pleased to be here tonight. Hetch etu."
As I finished my introduction, something flashed across my face. I couldn't see it clearly, but it was some kind of large golden bird--and I knew there was no bird in the lodge. Besides, the bird that flashed across my face was far larger than the lodge. I reflected on the event for several minutes, then just let the silence, darkness and sweat lodge become my world. I don't know how long it was--I lost count of time--before Red Hawk tapped on the lodge flap, and Taequo raised it and welcome cool air rushed in.
While Red Hawk held the flap open with his stick, Taequo brought in two more glowing red stones and the second endurance, the endurance of the north, began. The second endurance revolved around courage and cleanliness--moral and spiritual cleanliness. Red Hawk appealed to the power of the north for endurance, strength, cleanliness and honesty. He then started pouring dippers of water over the glowing stones until the lodge was filled with steam. "Endurance, cleanliness, strength, purity will keep our lives straight," Red Hawk said quietly, then sounded the whistle and the drum.
After we had sat in silence for a time--I stared at the dancing images moving across the stones--Red Hawk gave Greywolf and me a sprig of sage each. We repeated after him, "Oh, powers of the universe, I take this herb to become strong and healthy to endure". I chewed on the sage and remembered Greywolf had called it the healing and fortifying herb which can help overcome the bad things of the world.
As I chewed the sage and thought about enduring--the lodge was very hot and I was sweating profusely--a huge black shape appeared before my face. It seemed to be a great black bird, and I had a sense of evil, of hurt, of bad spirits. Suddenly I felt it bury its talons in my chest and it was all I could do not to scream out. I was saying over and over to myself, "I will endure. I will endure." The pain in my chest was nearly unbearable. I felt myself growing faint when, suddenly, the golden bird from the first endurance appeared and attacked the black shape. As suddenly as it had buried its talons in my chest, the black shape pulled them out and disappeared before the attack of the golden bird, which also disappeared. I was weak, but I had endured. Red Hawk was blowing the eagle's bone whistle as, in the glow of the stones, I saw him handing me another sprig of sage. As I chewed it, he poured another dipper of water on the stones and used the large bird's wing he had used when he was with Matt and Luke--and which he had carried in his right hand as he entered the lodge--to fan the steam over my body.
Gradually, the world--the steam, the heat, the silence--became ordinary and Red Hawk tapped the flap and Taequo brought in four more glowing stones and refilled the pail with water. The flap was closed and we sat in silence as I, again, watched the dancing images on the surface of the stones. One, which seemed to be a golden eagle, appeared to move from the surface of the stones and rise to stand before my face, its wings spread, protecting me... from what?
The third endurance was the endurance of the east--the endurance which recognizes and seeks knowledge. It also marked the beginning of prayer for, and by, individuals. Red Hawk poured dipper after dipper of water on the stones. The lodge had seemed filled with steam before, but nothing to compare with its present state. The heat, of course, increased as well. Red Hawk sounded the eagle's bone whistle for a long time and then began to sound the drum slowly. When he stopped, he told us we were to pray for what we wanted out of life, for loved ones and for all else we wished. "End your prayers with 'Hetch etu' so your brother will know when to begin his," he concluded. Seated to Red Hawk's left, Greywolf began. He prayed that he might become a better husband, father, teacher and friend. He prayed for the Fellowship--naming each one--and for the Family in this time of pain and hurt. Then he prayed for me, that I might become the great spirit man I was intended to be. Finally he prayed for Matt and Luke, concluding with, "Hetch etu," and fell silent.
My chest was stinging and burning--hurting--as I tried to collect my thoughts. The heat was so intense I was sweating profusely and I could have sworn the sweat was stinging and burning wounds on my chest, but it must have been my imagination. I was so absorbed in my pain that I didn't realize I had started praying aloud. Consciously, I prayed that I might be a true friend to the Fellowship, that I would be a warrior for justice, that I would be a good leader for Independence and faithful and loving to Mary Kathryn. I prayed for the Fellowship and that we would all become the fullest possible human beings we could be. Then, and only then, I started praying for Matt and Luke--that they might be healed, that their love for each other would grow stronger. Then I prayed that they would forgive each other and themselves. I was exhausted as I uttered "Hetch etu" and realized, as I said the words, tears were streaming down my face because I was suddenly aware that I could feel, actually feel, their pain. I don't mean I could feel it symbolically or empathetically, but actually. I could feel it, period.
As their pain invaded my being, the black shape--I could see now it was a huge black bird--once again buried its talons in my chest. Matt's and Luke's pain began to fade as my own took over my world. The talons buried themselves deeper and deeper. "No! No! I will not desert Matt and Luke," I shouted as I tried to beat off the black bird. I was determined not to waver, but the pain kept trying to drive out my feeling Matt's and Luke's pain. In spite of all that was going on, I realized in the back of my mind, Greywolf was blowing the eagle's bone whistle and Red Hawk was sounding the drum, although both seemed to be far, far away. Just when I thought I could endure no more, the great golden bird appeared and, when it did, the black bird tore his talons from my chest and disappeared. So did the golden bird. Suddenly I was back in the sweat lodge. "Strange," I thought, "since I have been nowhere else." I was near fainting when Red Hawk called out and Taequo raised the flap and handed Red Hawk a bucket of fresh water. He took the dipper and poured a dipperful of water over his head and passed the dipper to Greywolf who did the same. Greywolf handed me a dipper of water and, as I poured it over my head, he said, "Your lifeblood of water--your sweat--is mixing with Mother Earth and your lifeblood is mixing with her life-giving spirit". The sweat part I could understand, but the other didn't make sense or maybe I was just too far out of it to understand.
Taequo brought in yet four more glowing stones and Red Hawk called for the flap to be closed. This began the fourth endurance, the endurance of the south, the endurance for healing. Red Hawk did not blow the whistle or sound the drum this time. Instead, he began a slow chant. As he chanted, he poured four dippers of water over the stones and the lodge was again filled with steam. The heat and steam were more intense than ever as we sat in silence. After a long, long period of silence, Red Hawk prayed, "Oh, Great Spirit, we pray for ourselves in order that we might be healed. Oh, we pray for our brothers, especially Matthew and Luke, that they might be healed. Hetch etu."
When he finished praying, Red Hawk started chanting again. In the heat and steam of the lodge, I saw a great gray wolf moving as a shadow in the lodge. It was accompanied by a shadowy red hawk. As I contemplated their being there, a great golden eagle came from the glowing stones and spread its wings before my face. As I tried hard to focus on each in turn, they faded from sight. As they did, I realized the steam had subsided as well, indicating that the last endurance had been going on longer than I thought.
Red Hawk took a splinter of wood and touched one of the stones, which was now glowing dully, and used the resulting fire to light the peace pipe. He took a draw on the pipe, slowly exhaled and passed the pipe to Greywolf, who did the same and passed the pipe to me. Since I didn't smoke, I was surprised that I didn't choke when I inhaled the smoke and then exhaled, but I didn't. I returned the pipe to Red Hawk who replaced it on its stand. Then, without speaking, Red Hawk and Greywolf joined hands and each took one of mine and Red Hawk offered a short prayer concluding with, "God watches over us. Wherever we are, the Great Spirit is. Hetch etu." He then called for Taequo to open the flap and when it was opened, I lead us out, walking clockwise, and we dived into the falls' basin.
When we had swum for a while, we got out and sat on blankets Taequo had spread around the fire pit. After the stones were removed, he had added fresh wood and the pit was now a nice camp fire, illuminating the area around it. The three men were looking at me intently and, finally, Red Hawk said, "Michael, what happened in the sweat lodge?" The three never took their eyes from me as I sat, trying to think of what to say.
I'm sure it was only a matter of minutes before I spoke, but it seemed like hours as I tried to collect myself. While I was doing that, I drew my hand across my chest which was stinging and, when I looked at it, there was blood on it. I looked at my chest and saw wounds there, but I couldn't really see them because they were just above my nipples and I couldn't bend my neck enough to see them clearly. I looked at my bloody hand and started telling the three what I thought had happened in the sweat lodge. "But then it was like a dream--maybe a vision--unreal. Well, not unreal, but different." All the time I was talking, the three were nodding.
When I finished telling all I could, Red Hawk said, "It is as I thought. Michael, you have much more power than I realized. That and the fact that you and Matt and Luke are linked makes all three of you very powerful, but also weak in that if the link is broken, all of you lose power. In the sweat lodge, you did battle with the bad spirit who is trying to break the link and who, at this time, holds power over Luke and Matt. Your spirit protector, the golden eagle, came to you as you did battle. My Son, that seldom happens except on a vision quest, but you received your vision without going on a quest. I suspect you did because you were focused on your brothers and not yourself. Your protector is a powerful one, Golden Eagle--and that is your new name." Then Red Hawk reached into his bag and took out a small mirror and held it before me so I could see my chest. The wounds were closed now, not healed but closed, but I could tell that something had pierced my chest and torn itself free.
The family was having dinner at the Greywolfs at 10:00 and, since it was 9:30, we all started walking to their place. "Will Matt and Luke be at dinner?" I asked.
"Oh yes, they will be there, but don't expect them to speak to each other. Red Hawk has told them they are not to speak--well, they can speak so long as they do not speak using words," Taequo answered.
"Why? Don't they need to talk things out?"
"Right now they might hurt each other with words or might hide their feelings. Either would be harmful to them, to you and to the whole world. But they will communicate, not in words which can lie or hide things easily, but with their bodies and spirits which cannot," Red Hawk said.
A Special Place--Part Fifty-two--Matt
I had been out of it, really, since I had walked into Luke's house and been told he was missing. I took my escape from reality to new heights, sleeping all the time except to get up, go to the bathroom, drink water like I hadn't had any in days, and go back to bed. Most of the time I was in blessed oblivion and when I wasn't I was weeping because I had driven Luke to do something foolish, but I didn't know what. Foolish? Now I know it was, but I seemed to have no control over my thoughts and certainly not over my emotions. I didn't know how long I had been, for all practical purposes, unconscious but suddenly I recognized the smell of sweet grass and cedar. It brought back memories of the garden blessings and I could almost remember something else. It was just out of my consciousness. I felt peaceful--almost--then I felt a strong wind in my face--three times--and woke up. Well, I wasn't sure I was awake because I saw an ancient Indian standing over me. He held a bowl in one hand and told me to drink it. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, but drank anyway. When I finished drinking the whole bowl of liquid, he ordered me to take a cold shower and dress.
When I was dressed, we went downstairs--I saw Michael was with him--and he told me I was not to see Luke and when I did see him, not to speak until he said it was ok. Kinda strange, but I never questioned anything he said.
When he and Michael left, Mom asked what I wanted to eat and I realized I was starved. "Anything and everything," I replied. When I finished eating, I asked Mom about Luke. "Is he safe? What's going on? I have been completely out of it."
Mom seemed hesitant. So I said, "Look, Mom, I know I have been an emotional wreck. All I know is that Luke is missing. I've got to know about him and I've got to know what I have done and what I must do. Luke is the most important person in the whole world to me. I need to know."
"Matt, what you say makes sense, but it's not easy to talk about. We have all been beside ourselves, completely helpless over the whole thing, but I guess you're right. You have to know." She then told me everything.
Well, it didn't make me feel very good. Luke, for the second time, had attempted to take his life because of me--of course, rationally, I knew that it had been his decision but I felt that I was, nonetheless, responsible. I was surprised that when she finished, I wasn't in tears again. Instead I just felt relieved that Luke was alive, and knew that I had to do everything in my power to restore our relationship and, so long as he was alive, that was a possibility. "Mom, I'm going for a drive. I need to do some thinking. But, before I go, could you make me a couple or three sandwiches in case I get hungry?"
Mom smiled and said, "Matt, you have eaten enough for two people, but I guess you have some catching up to do". She made three sandwiches, placed them with a cold soda in a bag and handed it to me. "Be careful, Matt," she said, kissed me on the cheek, and I left.
I wasn't sure where I was headed, but I wanted to be alone to think. I knew the falls were off limits then recalled Millie's accident and decided to drive to the river where she had skipped stones. I parked the Jeep and walked to the river bank, sat down and thought about what had happened between Luke and myself. For the first time it became clear to me that the past was the past and how utterly impossible it was to change it. Sure, I had been damn foolish--and, truth be known, a coward--by e-mailing Luke. I should have had sense enough to realize that telling him what happened would have waited until I could have at least talked to him on the phone and, in fact, would have waited until he returned. What was my big rush? Was I trying to prove how strong I was in having resisted Lucas? Maybe. Had I wanted to tell Luke so he would know he could trust me? Maybe. Try as I would, I could never come up with a good reason for having e-mailed him. And what difference would a reason make? I had done it and the results were terrible. But if I spent all my energy in trying to justify or explain why I did what I did, nothing would change and there would be no energy to repair the damage. The past was past.
Then I remembered the old Indian--Red Hawk, Mom had told me--and wondered how he fit in the picture. I guessed I'd find out sooner or later. I did, finally, remember he was the medicine man who had helped Dad. No wonder he looked ancient, he was. But I realized that I was trying to puzzle out the future and that was almost as worthless as worrying about the past. I needed to focus on the present. Sometimes I really am my father's son, and I had one of those Greywolf moments. I started making a mental list of what I really knew. I knew I loved Luke Yonghon Tongmu Larsen with my total being. That I knew. I knew that, because of some serious blunders on both our parts, there was a break in our relationship. I now knew--from Mom--that I had almost lost him to suicide a second time.
As I thought about those things, I realized something I had sensed--almost--at times about Luke, but had never given serious thought. Luke, old cool Luke, was not the cool character he seemed to be. He was, in fact, far more emotional than I. "No, that's not quite right," I thought. "I am emotional and it shows. It is obvious. What you see is the way it is. Luke's emotions are deep, hidden. They are like a swift current running under smooth water. My emotions are like white water rapids." Having reached that conclusion, I said, "Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, you are going to have to learn to pay attention to Luke in a whole new way. You are going to have to learn how to read beneath the smooth water surface to discover the rapid current underneath."
I guess all that thinking exhausted me, but I felt better as I just kinda turned off my rational thinking machine and put my brain in neutral and just enjoyed--actually enjoyed--the peace of the river as I sat, skipping stones on its smooth surface and munching on the sandwiches Mom had made for me.
It was twilight before I realized how late it was. I drove back to the house where Jens, David and the moms were preparing dinner. I grabbed an apple from the kitchen table as I asked if I could help. "I think we have it under control," Margaret said. "You seem to have made a remarkable recovery, Matt."
"I've started," I replied. "Guess it's that Indian medicine."
"Indian medicine for an Indian. Makes sense," she laughed.
I went to my room, lay down on the bed and ate my apple. I couldn't remember apples tasting so good. Sometime later, Mom came upstairs and said, "Matt, I think you need to know what's going on. I told you what had happened to Luke up to a point, but not all of it." My heart sank.
Earlier Mom had just said a man had found Luke on a bridge ready to jump and had brought him to Greywolf and left it there. She now told me the rest of the story, including Luke's condition and why Red Hawk had showed up. "How did he know to come? Did Dad call him?" I asked.
"I guess in one way, he did. Red Hawk just said his protector spirit, a gray wolf, told him to come. The man who rescued Luke showed up today as well. They should be completing the sweat lodge about now. We're having dinner at 10:00. And, Matt, Luke will be here but you are not to speak to him, directly or indirectly--Red Hawk said, and Red Hawk seems to have things well in hand so I suggest you do as he says.
Mom had been gone only a few minutes when I heard new voices downstairs. I recognized Red Hawk's and Michael's and another strange voice as they went to the guest room. Red Hawk walked into my room only minutes later and said, "Matt, your brother was honored in a very powerful way today and needs a shirt--a very loose one if you have one. White, I think, would be best." As I handed Red Hawk a shirt, he said, "Go on down. We're having dinner in a few minutes and I bet you are hungry." I hadn't realized just how hungry I was until he mentioned it.
A Special Place--Part Fifty-two--Luke
After my talk with Taequo, Al and Chris--and, by damn, it was a prayer meeting in that it addressed real issues in a meaningful way--I thought I had it all pretty much together. My nightmares made it clear it wasn't all together and, as soon as I was in the car with Greywolf, I knew it was far from all right. When I got home, I just lost it completely and, for all practical purposes, lost consciousness. When I began to return to the land of the living, the nightmares started and Margaret sedated me. That's all I really knew for I don't know how long.
Some time after--long after, I suspect--I got home, I thought I had really gone 'round the bend into cuckoo cloudland because I smelled the same thing Greywolf used when he blessed the garden, and then felt a strong wind hit me in the face three times. As if to confirm my departure from the real world, I opened my eyes to see an Indian, older than dirt, standing in front of me. He lifted my head and put a bowl of steaming liquid to my lips and ordered me to drink. I had no choice in the matter and, when I finished, had no choice but to take a cold shower and get dressed. When I was dressed, he and Michael went downstairs with me where the old Indian--he was real all right, very real--told Mom to feed me. After drinking a huge bowl of whatever the Indian had given me, I didn't see how I could be hungry but I was, and ate like a horse.
Michael and the old Indian--Michael introduced him as Red Hawk--left and I sat in the kitchen, eating and saying nothing until I looked up and saw the pain in Mom's face. "Mom, I'm sorry. I am so sorry I have caused you and Dad and everyone so much hurt, pain and anxiety. I really am. I promise I will never, ever, do the stupid suicide thing again, but when I saw how I had messed up a perfectly wonderful life and when I realized that I had worked hard to hurt Matt, and I did, I couldn't see how he would ever speak to me again and, Mom, I love Matt so much. I mean life without Matt is not living."
"Luke, I think you are mistaken. I don't mean about how barren your life would be without Matt but, even without Matt, as hard as it is for you to see, life would be worth living. But where I think you are really mistaken is about Matt. I think he loves you every bit as much as you love him, and feels about life without you the way you feel about life without him. Don't let stubborn pride and self-hate destroy life for either of you."
"Mom, you don't understand. You don't know what I did." I then told Mom the whole story, holding back nothing except the graphic details. When I finished, I realized I was still dry-eyed, which surprised me no end. I wasn't crying on the outside, but inside I felt so much pain I couldn't see why I didn't just die.
"Luke, even without the story, I knew you had created a real mess for yourself and all of us. But--and that's a big but, Luke--you're still alive and still have a life to live. The going's gonna be tough--now and at times in the future, that's just the way life is--but there is only one question you need to answer right now, 'Is Matt worth the struggle? Is he worth fighting for?' I don't need to know your answer, but you do."
We sat silent for a while and then I said, "Mom, I need to do some really clear thinking. I'm going to the falls for a while."
"Sorry, Luke, but that's out of the question. Red Hawk is having a sweat lodge there tonight and is preparing for it."
"What's that all about?" Mom then told me all she knew about it and finished by saying, "Luke, I don't understand it all, but it has something to do with you and Matt. Can you find someplace else?"
"Sure, don't worry."
"Easier said than done, I'm afraid, but be back by 9:30. We're having dinner at the Greywolfs'."
"Matt will be there?"
"Then I can't go, Mom. Maybe sometime I can face Matt, but not yet."
"Don't think you have a choice. Red Hawk has ordered it and I don't think you have the option of not going. I've been instructed to tell you to be there, but you are not to speak to Matt. Red Hawk assured me you were free to go anywhere you pleased, but those were his instructions about dinner. Just be back here by 9:30."
"Ok, I guess I can handle it, especially if I have no choice and after Red Hawk ordering me around this afternoon, I think you're right. I guess I don't have a wide range of choices. I'll see you about 9:30."
I got in the truck and started driving aimlessly, and suddenly knew where I needed to be. I drove into town to St. Mary's, went inside and just sat. I guess I was thinking, but I wasn't consciously doing anything but sitting and feeling more at peace than I had for a week. I sat in the silent, empty church until the sexton came to close it for the night. It was only 6:00 and I didn't want to go home yet so I started driving again. As I passed the hospitality house, I saw my sculpture and knew exactly where I needed to be. I headed straight for Uncle Michael's and Mr. Stephenson's place.
When I rang the bell, Mr. Stephenson came to the door. "Luke, what a surprise. Come in." When we got inside, he said, "Michael's at an exhibition in Denver and is not due back until tonight. I'm leaving to pick him up about 9:30. Want to go along?"
"What's up? I just got back this afternoon from being artist-in-residence at a camp in New England. I thought you were to be in Sarasota another week. What are you doing here?"
"It's a long story, Mr. Stephenson..."
"Luke, that reminds me of something I intended to say some time ago. I am now a part of the family and you are no longer a high school student, so why don't we drop the Mr. Stephenson bit? I'm John."
"John... that sounds strange," I said, and managed a weak smile. "John, it's a long, sad story I'm afraid and, if you've got something cold to drink, I'd like to talk about it. Down by the river, maybe?"
"Sure. No sodas, but name your juice."
"Any is fine."
John disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a pitcher of cranberry juice and two glasses of ice. I took the glasses and we walked to the gazebo by the river. We sat in silence until I sighed and started telling my story the second time today. I had held nothing back from Mom except the graphic details, but the version I told John held nothing back--graphic details included.
When I finished, John put his arm around me and hugged me to himself. "Luke, I am sorry--so very, very sorry--but I must tell you, I was afraid of what might happen this summer. I know you feel otherwise, but what happened is not nearly as bad as I feared. I feared worse. You are young, you are handsome, you are trusting and, to be honest, you are innocent. The horrible thing about those characteristics you have is that they are so desirable in a young man. You are also gay and have lived a sheltered life--I know you have witnessed, and been part of, things which have hurt you and others deeply, but you have lived a sheltered life. You have lived all your life in a small town surrounded by people who have loved and cared for you. How could you know that the McBrides of this world come in many shapes and kinds? Michael and I have often discussed ways in which you and Matt might be prepared for what we dreaded, but knew would happen sooner or later. We finally gave up, knowing we could not prepare you for the unknown."
"I am especially sorry that a teacher betrayed your trust. Teachers have a special place in the lives of their students--if they are good teachers. Students trust teachers for the most part. To have that trust betrayed hurts deeply. I am even more distressed that the teacher is gay. Gay teachers live life on the edge. There are always those who see all gays as predators and, believing such, see any such episode with a gay teacher as proof that their sons should never have a gay man as a teacher. The fact that most student-teacher sexual adventures are between heterosexual males and girls doesn't change that. But, Luke, it's over. Now you must be done with it. It is a major event in your growing up--to be sure, painful--but no real damage done."
"Yes, that's over and done with and, in my heart of hearts, I know that what I did with Rich was partly because I was pretty drunk--and I know that is no excuse--but that's not my concern, my real concern. I told you I tried to drown myself because I had been unfaithful to Matt. This afternoon I sat for hours in St. Mary's and I thought I wasn't thinking, but I must have been. Listening to you talk I realized, as I think I almost realized earlier, that it wasn't my betrayal of Matt that drove me to the bridge railing. It was that I did all I did that night to hurt Matt, to intentionally hurt him. I wanted revenge and then found out that I had nothing to revenge. My real betrayal was betraying Matt's trust and love for me and for wanting revenge. It was not in allowing Rich to take my dick into his mouth. For that I could forgive myself. But for wanting revenge, for wanting to hurt Matt intentionally, I cannot forgive myself and certainly cannot ask Matt to forgive me and, if I did, I don't think he could."
"Luke, there has never been any question in my mind that your and Matt's love for each other goes far beyond what most people your age are capable of. The love you two have for each other is remarkable. Trust, if not yourself or Matt, then your love for him and his for you. Trust that. Listen to that. Luke, trust your love and Matt's love."
We sat silent for a long time. What John had said made sense. I knew it did, but I still found it hard to even think about forgiving myself. Then, I suspect, we both knew that we had talked enough about my problem. John asked, "Luke, tell me about your work this summer".
I started telling John about what I had done, the two close friends I had made and how I had enjoyed it, then the reason I left came rushing back to me. It was only then I realized the sun had set. I looked at my watch and discovered it was 9:00. "I've got to go. We're having dinner at the Greywolfs'. Matt will be there and I don't know how I can face him, but it seems I have no choice."
"Trust your love, Luke," John said as he hugged me. "You have a wonderful life ahead of you with a wonderful partner. Don't let this episode spoil it. Trust your love."
A Special Place--Part Fifty-two--Michael
When we got to the Greywolfs', Greywolf sent Red Hawk, Taequo and me upstairs to get dressed. Mom had brought me a pair of neatly creased jeans--I never wore creased jeans!--and a shirt. When we got to the guest room and started dressing, I saw that Red Hawk and Taequo also had sharply creased jeans. Both had ribbon shirts--Red Hawk's was black with ribbons the colors of the rainbow. When I looked at it, I started to ask a question but, before I could, Red Hawk laughed and said, "No, I'm not gay. I told you I liked women too much to be a monk and too much to be gay. Our people, the Lakota, are called the rainbow people."
Taequo wore a black shirt with the red ribbons of a warrior. I started to pull on the knit shirt Mom had brought, when Taequo said, "Think you'll want a loose shirt, not that knit one".
When he said that, I remembered my chest and smiled, "Think you're right. I'll get one from Matt."
"No, I'll do that," Red Hawk said. He came back with a white regular shirt which, fortunately, was very loose.
When we were dressed, we went downstairs. The family were in the dining room, standing behind their chairs. Mary Kathryn was standing behind one of four chairs at one end of the table. Greywolf had gone to the opposite end of the table and stood behind a chair, beside Yong Jin. Red Hawk motioned for me to sit to Mary Kathryn's right and Taequo to her left. He took the chair to my right. Luke was to the side of the table to Taequo's left and Matt at the opposite side, to Red Hawk's right. Gabrielle and Jens were to sit beside Luke, and Margaret and David beside Matt. When we were all in place, Greywolf said, "My house is deeply honored by the presence of a great warrior and respected elder, Red Hawk. It is also honored by the presence of another great warrior, Taequo. We, the entire family, are honored by your presence. All we have is yours."
Red Hawk spoke slowly, softly, "Today, as any day, was a good day for dying, but the bravery of one among us made it a greater day for living. Let us thank the Great Spirit for the day and for the bravery of Michael Golden Eagle." Everyone was silent and then Red Hawk said, "Hetch etu. I know we are ready to eat. It has been a long day but, before we eat, we need to honor a warrior among us. Golden Eagle, remove your shirt."
I didn't know what was going on, but I did as I was told. When Mom and Mary Kathryn saw my chest, they both gasped. Maybe Gabrielle and Yong Jin did too, I couldn't tell. While I stood bare chested, Red Hawk said, "Michael Golden Eagle, tell your family what happened in the sweat lodge today". I repeated what I had told the three Indians earlier.
"What do you know of the sun dance?" Taequo asked as he looked around the table, then looked at Mary Kathryn as if expecting her to answer.
"Only what Greywolf has told all of us. I mean, I saw 'A Man Called Horse' and Greywolf explained that maybe part of that was correct, but not for the Lakota. The sun dance is an offering a warrior makes to Buffalo Calf Maiden. Women go through pain and shed blood in childbirth and warriors do the sun dance because they do not. Warriors who wish are pierced in the chest and dance tied to the sun dance tree, then dance until the piercings tear loose. One who has been pierced is honored for his bravery and endurance. That's about all I know," Mary Kathryn said.
"I had never known anyone to be pierced who did not sun dance," Red Hawk said. "But I know one now. In the sweat lodge--don't ask me how, I can't explain mysteries, just appreciate them--Michael was pierced as a sign of his endurance and bravery on behalf of Matt and Luke. He also was defended by his guardian spirit which came to him as if he were on a vision quest, a great golden eagle. Greywolf and I saw it. He now has a new name to add to the one he has honored in the past. He is Golden Eagle."
As Red Hawk spoke, Taequo opened a package he had gotten from somewhere. "Michael Golden Eagle, Red Hawk's gray wolf plays tricks on the old Indian, but my coyote spirit is much worse. I wasn't sure I'd need it when he told me to bring you a ribbon shirt, but he wasn't tricking me this time. I would be honored if you would accept this as a token of your new name, Warrior." He handed me a black ribbon shirt with ribbons all shades of a rich golden yellow. It was beautiful. I proudly pulled it over my head and then thanked Taequo and Red Hawk for what they had done for me.
"Well, enough of this high pressure stuff. Let's eat," Red Hawk said. And we did.
There was a lot of talk and questions during the meal and it was very strange not to hear Luke's and Matt's voices. Of course they were free to talk--just not to each other--but they were too busy trying to look at the other, without the other knowing it, to talk. Their body language, the glances they gave each other when their eyes happened to meet, their every movement spoke of their pain--their feeling the other's pain--and of their love. There was no doubt about that. In a strange way I knew Red Hawk had been right. By forbidding their talking, they had been forced to use communication that was difficult to fake and that allowed no shortcuts. He was some wise Indian.
When the meal was ending, Red Hawk said, "Ok, about tomorrow. We will rise in time to greet the sun--all are welcome to join Taequo, Greywolf, Golden Eagle, Mary Kathryn, Matt, Luke and myself. Afterward we all--you too Taequo, won't hurt you--go to Mass. I ask all of you to focus on the times that forgiveness and absolution are central, not confession. Think we have done that already--maybe too much. Confession is good for the soul to a point, then it becomes soul destroying, spirit killing. After church, we all eat. Then Taequo, Greywolf and I teach Golden Eagle the sweat lodge ceremony. Mary Kathryn, you will join us."
"Luke and Matt..." both looked up at Red Hawk, "you are to spend the afternoon together. It would be good for you to find a spot at the falls because that is sacred ground. For at least an hour, you are not to speak to each other in words. After that you may speak, but only on the condition that you speak one at a time. Each will have a time to say whatever he wants to say before the other speaks. The old Indian smiled and said, "I know that you two have in the past sat, knees touching and holding hands. That would be good when you start speaking. But nothing more, absolutely nothing more. There is a very bad and very powerful spirit about who lost a battle today, but has not given up the war. And while I am sure you two think this is about you and your relationship, it is not. Well, it is of course, but much more is involved. Your relationship is just a way the bad spirit has been able to do its dirty work. Much more than you two is involved here. You will eat after church, then fast until the sweat lodge Monday is over. Michael Golden Eagle, when has your spirit called for the sweat lodge?"
I certainly didn't expect to be asked that question. I had assumed it would be at twilight as had ours had been--I think Red Hawk had even said that earlier--so I surprised myself when I answered without hesitation, "Two hours before sunrise".
"That is a good time, then it will truly be a new day," Taequo said. "We will start the fire tomorrow night."
Red Hawk nodded and said, "I fear this will be a major endurance and fight with the bad spirit. Golden Eagle will do the ceremony so Taequo and I will be free to join in the battle if we are needed. Greywolf will be fire keeper and, David, your son will be honored if you would be the door keeper for his first time as medicine man for a sweat." Dad beamed and nodded. "Jens, Gabrielle, you may join if you like, but I must warn you, it could be pretty frightening. You would, I think, do better in the way you know. St. Mary's will be open; go there and pray. You know that way and mine would just seem strange. You need to focus your spirit, not wonder about ceremonies. Yong Jin and Margaret cannot--Yong Jin is on her moon and others disagree, but I fear a sweat as hot as this one might endanger you or your child, Margaret. I guess that means you two will be responsible for breakfast--a big one, as this old Indian expects to be very hungry about an hour or two after sunrise."
"We have seen the power of the bad spirit to destroy, both in the everyday world of Matt and Luke and in the sweat lodge. Matt, Luke, do not give it another chance by dropping your guard. Michael, Mary Kathryn, you know what you must do and not do. Now this old Indian is going to sleep." Before anyone could say anything, Red Hawk had gotten up, walked to the living room, curled up on the floor and was sound asleep.
Everyone started clearing the table, when Taequo leaned over and said to me, "Michael Golden Eagle, you have earned a few minutes with your wild woman. I'll do your part and the porch light will--I promise--stay off. Just keep it relatively pure," he laughed.
Mary Kathryn and I walked to the front porch and when I took her into my arms it felt so natural, so wonderful, so--well, it was different. Never before had it really felt like she was made just for my arms--if you know what I mean. I kissed her ever so gently and, when we broke the kiss, she said, "Michael Golden Eagle--a beautiful name for a beautiful human being. I am so proud of you and I love you so much."
I didn't say anything, just kissed her again, this time not so gently and with passion--just as Jens, Luke and Gabrielle walked out of the house. "Warrior, I'm taking your soulmate home. Tomorrow's sunrise will be early," Jens laughed.
"I'm a warrior," I laughed, "I will walk her home safely."
"Half an hour max," Jens said, "Goodnight."
I took Mary Kathryn in my arms again and gave her another kiss, which became passionate big time. She broke it and said, "Purity, warrior, purity. And if you keep that up, there are going to be stains proving you crossed the line." Wild woman was calling a halt again! "Michael, you are special and I don't mean just because you are mine--and you had damn well better be--but in some way I don't understand, but know, from the bottom of my heart, you are special. And you know something? I think we are a terrific team in this medicine man and priest whatever thing." I was thunderstruck!
A Special Place--Part Fifty-two--Margaret
After dinner, I sat and talked to Taequo about what had happened to the boys--all three. The mother in me overcame the doctor easily and I asked him first about what had happened to Michael. After dinner I had examined his wounds and found them closed and clean. He would have scars, of course. "His chest is beginning to look like a battle field," I said to Taequo and he laughed and said it was.
"The attack which almost killed him was, in a real sense, a battle. There is a lot in this world I don't understand. Red Hawk is a wise old medicine man, I'm pretty good at times and things happen, but even he can't explain what is going on here. What we do know is that the three boys are connected in a way which makes them very powerful. Their task on this earth is to fight for justice, truth and beauty--in three very different ways, but together in a very complete way. No-good spirits Red Hawk called them." Taequo laughed, "You should hear what he calls them when he is not among polite company. Maybe Lakota doesn't have swear words, but Red Hawk does very well, thank you. No-good spirits see great enemies in the three, but if they can destroy the link among the three, their power will be less than useless. Sounds like mumbo jumbo, but that's the best I can do. Strange, though, neither Red Hawk nor I were prepared for Michael's power. He was selected and given power by Matt without, I suspect, even Matt's realizing it. I'm not Lakota and the sun dance is not part of my heritage, but I know the place it holds among the Lakota and when Red Hawk saw Michael receive his spirit guide without a quest, he was thunderstruck. But when he saw the piercing, I though he was going to fall down and worship Michael. It's hard to describe to someone who doesn't know the culture and religion, and even more so to someone who deals in facts and charts," Taequo laughed.
"Look, I witnessed Michael's healing and I don't even try to understand it but I know it happened. He is a strange one, my son, but he is also so damn normal."
"It's a strange world when normal people are strange," Taequo said.
"Ok, that's still a mystery, but what about the other two. What happened to them? I was ready to put them in the hospital and force feed them, and here they are, as well as can be expected of two people who are busy being disgusted with themselves."
"To tell you the truth, I know nothing about Indian medicine beyond calling on it when I get sick. I do know that the chanting and incense has a definite soothing effect, and the liquid Red Hawk brewed up had herbs to bring calmness and, with a clear or clearer head, herbs to make you hungry, and also what Red Hawk calls a Lakota energy bar. It was made up by Lakota women to give to hunters and warriors who were going to be away for days without opportunity to prepare food. A healthy man can live on it for weeks and never stop. Usually it's a solid, but Red Hawk had it boiled into his other concoction." Taequo laughed, "And Red Hawk used the Lakota force feeding technique. You hold a bowl of hot liquid to someone's lips and say drink. If the only other option is to have boiling Indian medicine poured over your special private parts, believe me, you drink! Right now they are in good shape. Yong Jin and Gabrielle were given teas for the boys before they left. The two will sleep well and naturally tonight. I think we all will."
I thanked Taequo and called David and Michael and we went home. When we got home, I hugged Michael to me and said, "Son, I am honored more than I can ever tell you because you are my son".
Michael looked at me and said, "I am equally honored, Mom". My heart was full and running over.
A Special Place--Part Fifty-two--Yong Jin
Greywolf called me as the predawn light filled the sky. He was already up and dressed--in his Lakota clothes. I dressed quickly while he went up for Matt. When the two came down, I was surprised at how well Matt looked. "Good morning, Mom," he said and kissed me on the cheek. The three of us walked, hand in hand, to the falls. As we left the house, I could see the Andrews and Larsens leaving their places, headed for the falls.
When we reached the falls, Red Hawk and Taequo were atop Lookout Rock, their figures silhouetted against the eastern sky. The two were waving burning braids of sweet grass as first one, then the other, chanted. When we reached the rock, Greywolf joined in the chants of Red Hawk and it was clear those of Taequo were in a very different language. As the sun broke loose from the horizon, the three men, and soon all of us, stood, our arms upraised, to greet the new day. It was, for me, a day filled with new hope for those I loved--not just the boys, all three, but the whole family.