Castle Roland

The Concord

by Sequoyah


Chapter 20

Posted: N/A

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Twenty--Michael

I guess it was about an hour later when Greywolf called from the library, "Atten-hut!". He gave us time to get decent and then came to the living room door. "Yong Jin and I have been watching the news. We now have over seven inches of snow and it is still coming down. The highway patrol has asked that no-one be on the roads except in extreme emergencies. I suggest all of you call your parents and tell them you are staying here tonight."

"Linda, telephone," Yong Jin called from the library. Linda had just walked back in the living room when Yong Jin called again, "Susan, telephone". Matt gave his phone to Bill, and I went outside and returned with mine. The next several minutes were hectic as some of the crew called parents and others answered the phone when their parents called.

When all parents had been told the Fellowship was staying put, Yong Jin came in and said, "Mary Kathryn, there are four of you girls. Luke and Matt planned to stay at your place tonight but, if they are willing, I suggest you women go to your place. If you don't mind sharing a bed, all four of you'll have a place to sleep."

"I'll save some girl from having to sleep with Mary Kathryn," I said.

"As I recall, Danish trolls actually have young men for breakfast who are found sleeping with young daughters," Greywolf laughed. "Raw! There will be three of you men to a room and if you don't want to share a bed, there are sleeping bags and pads here and at the Andrews'. Divide up as you please. I'm headed for bed."

After Greywolf left, Matt said, "I guess I need to get the four-wheeler out and drive everyone to the Larsens' and Andrews'".

Jack said, "I really think we need to escort these beautiful women to your place, Mary Kathryn, so we can be sure you are safe. A walk in the snow sounds romantic!"

"May sound romantic," Luke said, "but it's cold out there. I don't care how hot you guys get at my place," he continued, "I bet you'll need to stop by and thaw out before heading for the Andrews'. We'll choose bed partners when you get back."

"Ugh," Jacob said, sticking out his tongue. "Don't think I'd like your idea of a bed partner."

"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it," Luke laughed.

We all walked out on the front porch as we four guys got ready to walk our girls to the Larsens'. It was still snowing and, as we left, Bill started singing, "Sleigh bells ring, are you listening..."

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Twenty--Matt

"Do you think the Indians will be ok at the falls?" Chris asked as we went back into the house.

"I'm sure they will," Luke said. "If they thought they wouldn't be, you can bet they would be back here by the fire."

It was over half an hour before the four guys came back from the Larsens' and when they walked back into the house, all of them crowded around the fireplace. "Not only is it snowing like mad out there," Jack said, "but it is also colder than a well digger's ass. So how are we dividing up for sleeping?"

"Don't get me wrong," Michael said, "but if the straight guys go to my place, the guys here would probably be a lot happier".

"Sounds fine to me," Bill said, "But I want to get warm before I go outside again".

"Take your time if it means I get to snuggle in bed with my babe," Marc smiled, flashing his dimples at Keith.

After everyone had warmed themselves for a half-hour, I offered the four-wheeler to Michael to drive home, but the four guys left to trudge their way to the Andrews'. "Dan, Chris, Marc seems to have staked a claim on the guest room bed and it appears he's interested in having Keith share it with him. You and Dan can have our bed and Luke and I will take sleeping bags and the floor."

"Never, Matt," Dan said. "I would never toss you two out of your bed. Chris and I will share your room, if you don't mind, but we'll take the floor. You do have sleeping bags that can be zipped together, right?"

"Of course," I laughed.

"Well, since I have a prize bed partner, I think I'll take advantage of it," Marc said as he reached out, took Keith's hand and gave him a full double-dimple smile.

Keith blushed, but didn't hesitate, and the two started upstairs.

"Seems I have the same old bed partner and I love it!" Luke said, as he wrapped an arm around my waist and we started toward the stairs. He stopped when we reached the foot of the stairs and asked Chris and Dan, "You guys coming?".

"In a few minutes," Dan replied.

"I'll put out the sleeping bags and pads for you. There's a night light which I will leave on. You can turn it off when you get in bed if you like," I said.

When Luke and I got to our room, we walked to the window. It had stopped snowing and the moon was bright on the snow-shrouded world. I was standing in silence, in awe of the beauty outside, when I felt Luke's arm around my waist. He rested his chin on my shoulder and whispered, "Matt, it is so beautiful. The snow covers up all the ugliness, leaving everything pure and white." As we watched, a rabbit raced across the newly fallen snow, leaving deep tracks. Suddenly he stopped and stood up on his hind legs, perfectly still. I was holding my breath as if my breathing would frighten him. As we watched, he was joined by a second rabbit. The two stood together for a minute or two, then went hopping into the hedgerow. "Another happy couple," Luke said.

"Yea, another happy couple," I said as I turned and pulled Luke's lips to mine for a long, gentle kiss. Luke returned it, then swept me into his arms and took me to bed. As we snuggled under the covers, he said, "Matt, Sarang Hanun Pomul, it good to be home again, in your--no, our--bed. Do you realize we are two very lucky men?"

"Very lucky and very happy, Yonghon Tongmu." Wrapped in each other's arms, neither Luke nor I knew when Chris and Dan came into the room.

I'm sure Dad didn't want to know--or care--who was sleeping with whom. In any event, he called from downstairs about 9:00 Friday morning, "Breakfast in half an hour. Downstairs bathroom available."

When I opened by eyes, I glanced out the widow and saw there was not a cloud in the sky. The bright sun made the snow sparkle on the limbs of the old oak silhouetted against the clear, blue, blue sky. I turned my head, raised up on an elbow and looked at my beloved. I leaned over and kissed Luke's forehead ever so gently. I couldn't believe how alive and happy I felt, but it was nothing compared to the happiness I knew when he opened his eyes and a smile slowly spread across the face of my Yonghon Tongmu. His arms encircled me and pulled me to himself, his lips found mine and I was so filled with love for him tears started welling up in my eyes. Luke broke our kiss when a tear dropped on his hard, bare chest, looked into my eyes and, seeing my tears, pulled my head to his chest. He held me close as he whispered, "Matt, my Dark Angel, what is wrong? Why are you crying?"

"Luke, Bright Angel, I am so happy, so in love with you, so full of love and life, I just started crying. I don't know why because--yes I do--Yonghon Tongmu, nothing is wrong. I am crying because I am so happy. My life is whole and perfect because of you."

Luke kissed the tears from my eyes and said, "No more whole and no more perfect than my life is because of you, Dark Angel."

Luke and I were speaking very softly out of consideration for Dan and Chris, but it probably wasn't necessary because, as we crawled out of bed, the two were still sound asleep, completely wrapped in each other's arms and legs.

When Luke and I went down the hall to the bathroom, there was no evidence that Keith and Marc were stirring. "Should we wake the sleeping beauties?" Luke asked, got a wicked grin on his face and yelled at the top of his lungs, "Everybody! Wake up and spit! The world's on fire!"

I couldn't hear the response from the two couples, which was probably just as well. Luke and I quickly took care of our morning ablutions and when we got back to the room, Dan and Chris were locked in an embrace, exchanging a passionate kiss. "Better watch that or you'll commit yourself to something for life," Luke laughed.

Without breaking their kiss, the two each held up a hand. I didn't get it at first, but then saw both had on Hopi rings. When they finally broke the kiss, Dan said, "Your warning comes a little late. We made that commitment while we were in Ohio." Dan had never been a member of the Fellowship so he had not had a ring. Chris had given Dan his Fellowship ring and Dan had bought one for Chris. The two were almost identical, each sporting the friendship symbol on the sides.

"Congratulations, both of you," Luke said.

"Yea, congratulations," I added. Then told them, "The downstairs bathroom is available if you need it. Ask Mom and she will give you toothbrushes and anything else you need. Breakfast shortly."

Marc and Keith had gone into the bathroom down the hall. I knocked on the door and said, "Marc, you know where towels are. Keith, there are toothbrushes in the top drawer. Breakfast in a few minutes."

When Luke and I got downstairs, Dad said, "Good morning, Sons. Sleep well?"

"We slept so well I didn't know when Chris and Dan came to bed. I think we all slept well since it was pretty hard getting the others up."

"Who stayed here?" Dad asked.

"Dan, Chris, Marc and Keith."

"What did you do, separate the gays and straights?" Dad laughed.

"Made good sense to me, Greywolf," Luke answered.

"I guess it's ok except I wonder about Mr. Lewis. I think he might not approve."

"Dad, they are both eighteen and I suspect a lot more committed than some married couples are--Mr. and Mrs. Lewis for example."

"I know, but it's hard to accept your son's lover being a man."

"Was it hard for you to accept?" I asked, somewhat shocked at Dad's statement.

"You want an honest answer? A really honest answer? Yes, it was. For seventeen years you dream of your son growing up, marrying, having grandchildren and then, suddenly, all of those dreams are shattered. Yes, it was hard to accept, really hard. The fact that your lover was Luke... I started to say made it easier, but actually it made it harder, much harder, because I had dreams for Luke as well. So, yes, it was hard, very hard, to accept because I had your lives planned and suddenly the plans were smashed. What finally made it easy to accept was the realization you and Luke would never have lived out my dreams. They were my dreams, not yours, and by hanging on to them, I was denying who you were. To tell the truth, when I really realized that, I was ashamed. But that's behind me now and I not only accept you two for who and what you are, but also am happy that you are happy. That's all that's important now. End of confession."

Both Luke and I hugged Dad, and when I did I said, "Dad, I hope I never disappoint you and hope that my dreams become your dreams for me."

"Double that, Greywolf," Luke said.

When Dan and Chris came into the kitchen, Dan said, "No shaving this morning I guess. I didn't find a razor."

"I'm not sure we have any," Dad said. "We have little use for them around here. Luke, do you have razors here?"

"Yea, there are some in the drawer with the new toothbrushes upstairs. You can shave after breakfast if you like. I'll have to. Matt doesn't go for a scratchy face."

Marc and Keith came in and Dad asked if they had slept well.

"Sure did," Marc answered quickly. "I think I'll take Keith home with me. He's nice to sleep with."

"I see someone else has rings," Luke said. "I didn't notice those last night. They are beautiful."

"Guess they are engagement rings," Marc said, "because Keith has agreed to marry me, at least to be as married as you and Matt are."

"Congratulations to both of you. May you have a long, happy life together," Dad said.

We set the table while Dad finished breakfast. "Do we need to set a place for Indians?" Marc asked.

"You mean other than the Indians here already?" Dad responded.

Marc blushed and laughed. "I meant the outside Indians. I forgot that there were inside Indians as well."

"If there's food around, Wounded Hawk will be right there. He's more like Red Hawk than just his looks. Mom sleeping in?" I asked Dad.

"Just until breakfast is ready. She'll be here in a few minutes." As Dad spoke, the front door opened and the three outside Indians walked in, all wrapped in buffalo robes. "Hope your night was not too cold and miserable," Dad said.

"Pretty hard to be cold when you have a buffalo robe," Wounded Hawk answered. "And it's very hard to be miserable when you're sleeping on sacred ground. But it was pretty difficult to gather enough wood for the fire pit this morning. We finally rounded up enough to get a good one started."

"Good. We'll need to take wood from here," Dad said. "No need to try to find wood under all this snow. At least it has stopped snowing so we can take the four-wheel-drive and take wood to the falls after breakfast."

"Better hurry," Wounded Hawk said. "More snow on the way."

"The forecast is for warmer weather this afternoon and above freezing tonight," Yong Jin said as she walked into the kitchen.

"The forecast is wrong," Wounded Hawk said. "More snow, high winds and temperature approaching zero tonight. Wind and snow will be starting by mid-afternoon."

"You sure?" Dan asked.

"Sure I'm sure. Me heap wise old Indian," Wounded Hawk said in his movie Indian voice and laughed.

"I'm sure you've heard the one about the Indian forecaster, haven't you?" Climbing Bear asked with a grin.

"Don't think so," Marc answered.

"Indian chief is sitting at the entrance of his teepee when a warrior comes up and asks, 'Chief, what do we do today?'. The Chief replies winter is coming and everyone should gather wood. The Indians worked hard all day and gathered a huge pile of wood. The next morning the warrior comes again and asked what the tribe should do and the Chief said, 'There's a cold winter coming, gather more wood'. The warrior told the people and they doubled the size of the wood pile. Next morning the warrior comes and the Chief tells him to redouble the efforts of the tribe because it was going to be one hell of a winter. Well, the same thing happened for the next four days. The camp was practically buried in wood. Finally the warrior asks the Chief, 'How do you know there's such a bad winter coming?'. The Chief answered, 'I listen to the National Weather Bureau. They say we have a very bad winter coming. Come in to my teepee and we'll see what they say today.' They go inside the teepee, the Chief turns on his radio and tunes in the National Weather Bureau. The head forecaster is being interviewed. 'You have forecasted a very, very hard winter. How do you know that?' the interviewer asked. 'I know it's going to be a bitter winter because the Indians are gathering wood like mad.' Worth a chuckle at least," Climbing Bear said.

"Would be a lot funnier if it was not for the fact that is the kind of thing people expect from me when I do a symposium," Wounded Hawk laughed. "But I can assure you tonight will not be fit for man or beast. Which reminds me, the official opening of the teen club needs to be cancelled. It will be too dangerous for kids to be out tonight."

"Guess we need to wait a bit," Keith said. "Everyone will think we have lost our marbles if we called it off now. The snow is beginning to melt and there's not a cloud in the sky. Or maybe we call it off now and everyone will wonder if we have been watching Indians gathering wood," he laughed.

"You may as well go ahead and call," I said. I didn't know how or why, but I knew Wounded Hawk was right.

"Strange, I thought I was dreaming," Luke said, "but this morning before I was fully awake, I saw it snowing as we completed the sweat lodge. I guess I saw what was going to happen."

We sat down to a great breakfast and before we finished, Michael, Bill, Jack and Jacob showed up. Dad poured coffee for the four as Michael said, "Think we need to call off the official opening of the teen club. We are about to have a real snow storm."

"How do you know that?" Keith asked. "The forecast is for rising temperatures and melting snow."

"I know different. Just wait and see," Michael replied, but he did have a puzzled look on his face.

Mary Kathryn and the women arrived shortly after Michael and the men. As soon as Mary Kathryn walked in she said, "Real snow storm brewing. No teen club tonight." When she said that I looked at Luke and he just smiled. Later, when we compared notes, we discovered we all had the same mental image of the snow storm.

Keith said, "Steve McCann is the morning radio personality. I'll give him a call and shake him up."

Michael said, "Before you do, I better call Fr. Tom and tell him. I'd hate for him to hear it from the radio." After he hung up the phone, he said, "Fr. Tom laughed when I told him about the postponement. 'But I'll take a medicine man's word on that,' he said."

Keith called the station and when he finished said, "Turn on the radio and see what Steve has to say".

"Whoa, hoo. Just got a call from Keith Bad Man Lewis who is stranded out in the country with a bunch of Indians--yea, Bad Man, we all believe that... NOT! But get this, in spite of the official forecast, which I will now read: 'Rising temperatures Friday with a high near sixty. Lows Friday night in the mid-forties. Clear with melting snow.' That's what the US of A official weather bureau forecasts. Now Bad Man says temperatures will drop below freezing soon and by mid-afternoon we will have high winds and snow. He says because of the weather, the official grand opening of St. Mary's teen club has been postponed until tomorrow night. When I asked what if the official forecast was correct, he said it wasn't but if it was, everyone gets in the club for free. When I asked how he knew more than the official US of A weather bureau, he said he'd been watching Indians gathering wood. Think you better check what's in that peace pipe, Bad Man."

Keith switched off the radio and laughed, "Who's going to have egg on their face, white man or Indian?".

"Guess we'll soon see," Taequo said, "But right now we need to get wood to the falls". We put a large load of wood in the four-wheeler and drove toward the falls. Several times the snow had drifted so deep the vehicle started spinning its wheels but, with the crew we had, we just pushed it forward until it regained traction.

The sky was cloudless when we reached the falls. The fire had burned down enough to allow us to add more wood and put the rocks on top. Wounded Hawk had us put more wood on top of the rocks. The wood we had brought from home was dry and started burning quickly. The heat from it felt good because, even if the temperature had risen, it was still cold. Of course, one side roasted while the other side froze, so we all kept turning as if we were on spits.

We all found a block of wood to use for a chair and sat around the fire for a short time, turning first one way and then the other. Wounded Hawk asked if any of the women were on their moon and, when he did, Michael shot a quick glance at Mary Kathryn who smiled at him. Later he told me as soon as Wounded Hawk said something about being on the moon, he remembered Mary Kathryn thinking she was pregnant and got a sinking feeling.

The stone pit from the earlier sweats was still evident, but it needed digging out. Since none of the women were disqualified by nature, Wounded Hawk put them to work clearing out the stone pit. He then looked at Michael and said, "Time to build the lodge. You three medicine men take the guys and get the willows for the ribs." We walked down the river where we knew we could find tall, thin willows and started cutting them. As soon as a person was loaded, he went back to the falls. When Michael, Luke and I had cut the last ones, we walked back to find Wounded Hawk telling the guys how to build the framework for the sweat lodge and, at the same time, telling them about a sweat. They and the women were all working hard, but listening intently. Of course, most of them had some knowledge of a sweat from our experience last summer, but it was all new to Marc, so he had the most questions.

The framework was taking shape quickly with so many hands working. It was about half-done when the women finished cleaning the stone pit, and they joined those tying the willows in place, forming the domed framework. Soon the framework was completed and the covering attached. It was just after 2:00 when we finished. Wounded Hawk added more wood to the fire and, when he had finished, looked up at the sky. As he did, every eye followed his. The sun was no longer visible and the sky was gray. "Guess we need to get the truck to the house. Snow's coming." Even as he spoke, the first flakes started falling and it was soon snowing so hard it was difficult to see the house as we drove across the meadow.

Luke was driving and could follow the tracks we had made coming to the falls, which was good. Mary Kathryn and Linda were inside the truck and everyone else piled in the back. We had just got to the house and got the truck parked when the wind started. It was really blowing hard, straight out of the north, whipping the rapidly falling snow into giant swirls.

When we all got inside, Mom made hot tea from herbs Wounded Hawk gave her. The tea was very welcome as we were all chilled from our stay at the falls and then from the wind which cut through our clothes for the short time we were outside after it started.

We all sat down in the library with our tea. As soon as we were settled, Wounded Hawk said, "There'll be no food before the sweat for those who are participating. This tea starts the purification process which will be completed in the sweat. I hadn't planned on a sweat for all of you since I expected just the three medicine men to participate, but it's a good day for a sweat with friends and relatives."

"You have relatives here?" Rachel asked.

"Indeed I have relatives here," Wounded Hawk answered. "You see, before my old man, Red Hawk, died, he became a relative of Matt, Luke and Michael. So since he was my daddy, they are my uncles--I guess," Wounded Hawk laughed.

"How did he make them relatives?" Rachel asked. "I thought you had to be born kin."

Wounded Hawk told about the Making Relatives ceremony. "Lots of kids play at that, you know, two best buds become blood brothers. They are kinda serious about it most of the time," he said, "but for us it is very serious business. The three medicine men are truly Red Hawk's relatives."

"Could they do a Making Relatives ceremony for us?" Rachel was still asking questions.

Wounded Hawk said anyone could do the ceremony, "but you have to be very serious about it. These days few people actually bind the wounds together for fear of AIDS and other blood transmitted diseases. You got to be careful about making sure the knife is sterile. But that's just common sense. You also have to be very careful with whom you become a relative because relatives have responsibility for each other. They can be a real pain in the ass, but I guess we all know that!"

The Making Relatives ceremony was talked about a bit more, but the questions really started to fly when Wounded Hawk mentioned the Sweat Lodge ceremony again. There were a lot of questions about the two sweats held last summer. Michael was kinda shy about his experience since it was a high honor and he wasn't one to brag about serious things. Wounded Hawk finally said, "These three guys, for whatever reason, and I sure can't tell you why, have been chosen to be medicine men. Now tell me, does either Michael or Luke look like an Indian? Well, I don't think so either, but they are more Indian than a lot of men born Indians. The Great Spirit seldom asks permission to do something, especially when it is strange and unexpected." He talked at length about what being a medicine man meant, how you got trained, what was expected of you, that sort of thing. Suddenly he said, "Damn good thing you called off the opening of the teen club. It's already too dangerous for kids to be out driving."

I looked out the window and couldn't see the Andrews' house for the snow. "It was a smart move, wasn't it?" Michael laughed.

"Does that mean the sweat is off?" Marc asked. I could see he really wanted the answer to be no.

"Nope, sweat is on. We may need to walk to the sweat lodge, but we can manage that," Wounded Hawk said. "Since you will be at the falls with a long walk in the snow should you decide to leave the sweat, you need to know all you can so you can decide not to do it if you don't want to. Of course, you can leave at any time, nothing shameful about that."

Wounded Hawk then commented on the darkness, the heat and the length of the sweat. "Some people cannot tolerate being in the dark. Others find the sweat lodge makes them claustrophobic. For some the heat becomes intolerable. If you think any of that will bother you, you can choose not to go into the sweat lodge."

There were more questions. Marc and Dan seemed especially full of questions and Marc was growing more excited very minute. Finally, at 4:30, Wounded Hawk said, "I guess we better get organized before we go to the falls so we don't have to stand out in the white fluffy--cold--sunshine predicted for this afternoon. Let's start by all of you calling your parents. Don't think you will be going home tonight, so let them know not to worry."

While the gang was making phone calls, Wounded Hawk called to Michael, Luke and me. When we reached him, he called to Climbing Bear and Taequo asking them to join us. "Michael, I think this is your sweat. You remember how to conduct one?"

"Think I do," Michael replied.

"I don't want any 'I think I can conduct a sweat' crap, Michael. The answer is yes or no. And stop this false modesty bit. It's as bad as arrogance."

Michael definitely look chagrined, then said, "Of course I know how to conduct a sweat".

"That's better, maybe a bit too much arrogance, but you'll find the right balance in time. Luke, Matt, you will assist, especially with the chanting. I had planned to have Taequo assist me as doorkeeper, but he and Climbing Bear need to sweat together. I can manage by myself."

"You won't have to," Dad said as he came into the living room. "I will be honored to be doorkeeper."

"Mary Kathryn will open the lodge. Anyone who does not plan to participate? Remember it's no dishonor if you choose not to." Wounded Hawk waited for a minute or two and then said, "Fine, let's get dressed and go to the falls. Greywolf, Can you get everyone a towel?"

Dad nodded and said, "I'll get towels and I will drive the four-wheeler. People can walk if they like, but we'll need to get back to the house quickly after the sweat since it is so cold."

We all got dressed for the weather which, now, was heavy snow and pretty high wind and it was cold!

We all decided to take the truck to the falls since the wind was real furious and it was snowing like mad. I wondered how Dad could see to drive as the ruts from earlier were almost gone. When we reached the falls, the Fellowship crowded around the fire. Michael laughed and said, "You'll not be wanting to get close to a fire shortly."

Wounded Hawk handed Mary Kathryn a tobacco pouch and she started the ceremony to open the sweat lodge. When she finished, Michael announced the sweat lodge was open. The guys stripped to boxers and the women to T-shirts and shorts. Before we left the house, Wounded Hawk had warned the women against wearing bras if they had wire or metal fasteners, and the guys about metal zippers. "Metal touching your skin can burn you in the sweat." Dad and I held the flap open while the participants filed into the lodge, led by Luke.

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Twenty--Sweat Lodge Stories

Bill I really don't know what I thought the sweat lodge would be like. I had heard the stories of Michael's, Matt's and Luke's experience in one, but I guess I looked at it as something which was ok if you believed in it, but just some weird experience I would take part in because my friends were. I certainly never expected it to be anything special for me. My expectations were, to say the least, very low. What I experienced as the ceremony went on was just that--an interesting experience. But during the third or fourth endurance--I'm not sure which--things took place which I couldn't explain except to say something really did happen to me.

Everyone in the Fellowship knew I had done a lot of fucking around before Linda became a part of my life. Hell, all of Independence knew that. I certainly never tried to keep it a secret and, on more than one occasion, had bragged about it. In the sweat, I sat staring at the glowing rocks and, as I stared, they became like a movie screen on which some of the really rotten things I had done to women appeared in living color. I felt deep shame for using people--women--as if they were disposable toys to be used and thrown away. In the midst of my shame, a bucket of water was passed into the lodge and Matt took a dipperful and poured it over himself. The bucket was passed around the circle and each person poured a dipper over their head. When it came to me, I started pouring the water over myself--thankful for its coolness--when I suddenly felt that it was more than water to cool me off, it was water to wash me. I could see it running down from my head, taking with it a blackness which the earth swallowed up. For the rest of the sweat--and from then on--I had a sense of being clean, my past forgiven. It was a great feeling.

Keith I don't know what I expected to happen in the sweat--if anything. As it started, I thought about the night before, and being in bed with Marc. We had cuddled together, wrapped in each other's legs and arms. We did a lot of kissing which I loved, but neither of us was anxious to go beyond that. Why? I didn't know and still didn't. Well, actually, I think I did know why I was hesitant about making love fully and completely with Marc. I felt like I was unworthy of him and his love because of what I had done with Rocky and what Rocky had done to me. If I was honest, I was afraid I'd rub off on Marc, making him dirty. Marc must have sensed that and didn't ask for more than what I gave him readily.

I knew I couldn't go back and undo the past, yet I couldn't live fully in the present because I was bound by that past. I wanted to be free, to be free to love Marc as he deserved to be loved. When it came time to pray for myself, I asked for that. Of course, I didn't say all that aloud, but enough. As I stared into the red-hot stones, I felt tears running down my face, tears of regret for what had been and for my lack of freedom to be. Suddenly it seemed that a red hot stone became a burning fire which engulfed me. I felt it burning away my bonds to the past and from somewhere way back in my consciousness, I recalled a line from an old song 'the flame shall not hurt thee, I only design thy dross to consume, thy gold to refine' or something like that. I may have had the line wrong, but what it said happened to me there in the sweat lodge.

Dan When I entered the sweat lodge, I felt hemmed in, closed in, being smothered as if I was in a huge black velvet bag which was getting smaller all the time. I wanted to escape, to escape the lodge. I remembered Wounded Hawk said there was no dishonor in leaving. By a sheer act of will, I managed to hold on through the first endurance, but was determined to leave as soon as the flap was opened again. With great difficulty, I steeled myself and waited. As I waited, I looked into the stone pit and, as I looked, the sweat lodge disappeared and I was in an open meadow. It was spring, the sun was shining, the sky clear blue with white fluffy clouds. I ran across the meadow and, about half-way across it, I saw Chris running toward me. When we met, we embraced and then walked hand-in-hand across the meadow. As we walked, I felt our spirits merge into one, yet we remained separate, whole individuals, whole as we had not been before and, at the same time, of one spirit. That image of the meadow stayed with me and I was able and willing to stay in the lodge through the other three endurances. I endured. After the sweat, when Chris and I compared notes, he had had a similar experience, including our meeting in a meadow. Very strange, but very beautiful and wonderful.

Linda I knew about what had happened to Michael, Luke and Matt in a sweat last summer, but I was still sceptical as all get out. It seemed too much like some kind of magic. Of course, I didn't know how to account for the scars in Michael's chest unless they came from his knifing, or something really did take place in the sweat. Anyway, I was definitely interested in being a part of the sweat just because the Fellowship was all involved. What that group did meant a great deal to me. When the sweat started, it was kinda like being in church. There was certainly a feeling of being engaged in some kind of worship--different from what I was used to, but definitely worship. As the sweat went on, I was not really conscious of the heat or the darkness, just a sense of being close to people who were very important to me. When it came time to pray for myself and others, I really felt like I was praying and being heard when I prayed for each member of the Fellowship by name--and Marc and Dan as well. I finished by praying, again, for myself and for Bill and our relationship. When the sweat was over, I felt closer to Bill than I ever had. I think my love for him moved to a higher level in that hot darkness and I was pleased.

Rachel I had a real problem with the break-up of my family. I had known Mom and Dad had grown apart, each blaming the other. The last couple years, I cried myself to sleep many nights after they had a really big fight, continuing after I had gone to my room and covered my head with my pillow trying to shut out the angry words they were shouting at each other. More and more I felt I was to blame for their problems, especially when I heard Mom shout at Dad for getting her pregnant. She had said, "If you hadn't gotten me pregnant, I would never have married you and could have had a great life instead of being trapped in hell, living with you."

Dad had replied that it took two to tango and, besides, she was the one who told him it was safe because she was on birth control. "Maybe I'm to blame a little bit for you getting pregnant, but I don't think so. I think you wanted to get pregnant, to have a kid so you could trap me. Well, you did. You got pregnant with a kid and I am trapped."

Both of them really made me feel wanted and loved, NOT! I don't know why their words came back to me in the sweat lodge, but they sure did. It was like they were sitting in the darkness behind me, carrying on their blaming each other all over again, shouting until I covered my ears trying to shut out their angry words. I started feeling very sorry for myself and thinking that me being born had resulted in their marriage and the break-up of their marriage. I felt hot tears on my face.

Wounded Hawk brought in another glowing stone and added it to those already in the stone pit. As I stared at it, I saw a white buffalo appear above the stones. It looked at me with sad eyes and, as I watched, the buffalo became a beautiful Indian woman. She beckoned to me. While I could look and see myself sitting in the sweat lodge, I was also walking over the glowing stones to the Indian maiden. When I reached her, she enfolded me in her arms, kissed my forehead and said, "Rachel, I am White Buffalo Calf Woman. From this moment on, you will know you are a good, strong, beautiful, powerful woman. You will need no-one to tell you that and no-one can tell you you are not." She kissed my forehead once again and disappeared, and I realized I was still in the sweat looking at the glowing stones and I knew what I had been told was right. All I had to do was be who I was and live the life I had been given and I was happy.

Mary Kathryn Weird... as soon as I was in the sweat lodge I had a very strange feeling. Or more accurately, a strange experience. When Michael poured the first dipper of water on the glowing stones I was separated from my body--I could look and see myself sitting in the sweat lodge from above it. I found myself in the Black Hills where we had been the summer before. I was joined by Matt, Luke and Michael around a campfire. Red Hawk--or maybe it was Wounded Hawk, I wasn't sure which it was--started a slow chant which all four of us joined in, although I was sure I had never heard it before. It was a chant celebrating life--being alive--and the richness of the earth. On the one hand, the earth looked the same as it had the summer before and on the other it was different--like something infinitely larger and more alive was revealed to the four of us. We could see all of reality, not just the small part we saw in our everyday living. There was a richness, a power, an energy, a beauty which was always the way the living earth was, but which we seldom see. It was as if we were united with all that is. It was awesome and I knew all four of us had the same experience and, without words or actions, all four of us understood who and what we were as shamans or medicine men--and woman.

Marc The more I learned about this unusual group of people I had discovered, the more fascinated I became and the more I wanted to be a part of it. When we were gathered in the sweat lodge, I didn't know what to expect, even though I had asked Wounded Hawk a ton of questions. He finally said to me, "Marc, experience the sweat, don't try to explain it or analyze it, just let it be". I can never explain what took place in the sweat lodge. I know that I came out of it a better person, a more together person than I was when I went in. I know that I felt a deep obligation to these people who had allowed me to become one of them. I had prayed especially for Douglas and Janet--offering thanks for them having opened this rich new world to me and for their marriage. They were locked in a struggle with Douglas' parents which, again, was forcing Douglas to choose between Janet and his parents--an easy choice on the one hand, but a difficult one on the other. Regardless of how his parents had treated him, he still longed for parents. I know, I still loved my father. But, at the same time, I felt I had been given people who loved and accepted me. Yong Jin and Greywolf had already made me feel like an adopted son and I hoped Janet and Douglas would find the same. We were young adults, but we still needed a mom and dad. Somehow or other, I was at peace when the sweat was over, more so than I had been in a long, long time.

ASP--Chapter Twenty--Greywolf The participants in the sweat came out and, following Michael's example, rolled in the snow then quickly hopped in the four-wheeler and wrapped around themselves blankets I had brought. It took longer than usual to get to the house because of the snow and, as soon as we arrived, I dropped Luke and Matt, Marc and Keith, Dan and Chris off and told them to hit the showers. I then took the women to the Larsens and Michael and his crew to his place. All were to come back to our place for a feast ending the sweat. I wasn't really surprised when the usually talkative Fellowship was all silent. All, I suspect, were thinking about what had happened to them in the sweat.

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