Castle Roland

Mountain Magic

by Sequoyah


Chapter 33

Posted: N/A

I don't think any one of the three of us got a decent night's rest. Jason and I certainly did not. The situation with Jonathan was working on us overtime so my butt was really dragging when I went down for breakfast.

"My, if you three don't look like something the cat drug in," Grandmom said.

"Yeah, I know the other two looked so much the worse for the wear that I couldn't face myself in the mirror," Wesley said.

Since the grandparents had been in on setting up the Coldsprings Tribe, we felt we could talk with them about it so long as we didn't break someone's confidence. I did feel we were kinda in over our heads, but hadn't planned on saying anything about the two e-mails. Wesley, however, had decided otherwise, but all he said was "We had a couple e-mails last night that got us worried, but I think we can handle it." The subject was then dropped.

I'm sure we all did everything but undress Jonathan for inspection when he and Hank arrived. I think we were all a bit shocked when Jonathan said, "You know that Coldsprings Tribe thing? Well, I wrote them an e-mail and got an answer right away."

"You did?" Hank asked. "What did they have to say?"

"Well, they told me not to give up. 'You have people who love and care for you, so ask them to help and don't do anything foolish.' I thought about that. I'm going to talk to Tom as soon as I can. I think he understands me better than I do. I also want to see if Stone will talk to me. Seems like he understands me too."

"Great, Hoss," Jason said. "And remember what the Tribe said, and don't do anything foolish."

After school, the three McElrath boys talked about Jonathan's choice of confidants. I guess we were all a little disappointed that he hadn't chosen one or two of us but, after we talked about it, we realized we were family and, in Jonathan's mind and probably ours, we were too close. As a matter of fact, we knew we were too close.

At school, all three of us watched both Cody and Jonathan like hawks when they were around, but there seemed to be no change in them. Jonathan was avoiding Cody, and Cody was looking pretty upset about it. Both did eat with the gang but sat as far apart as possible.

After baseball practice I headed for Asheville. My music was going well. I had rehearsal with the symphony later this week and on Monday and Wednesday of the coming week, then it was SHOW TIME! The concert was Friday with a repeat Saturday and a possible Sunday matinee. That would be determined today.

My time with Professor Jamison was well-spent. We ironed out any rough spots I found. Professor Jamison told me I was being picky, but I noticed he was pleased when I got a passage perfect--well, closer to perfect. When I was ready to leave, the Professor told me he had talked with Maestro Alexas and the Sunday matinee was on. "A week to launch," I said as I was ready to leave. Professor Jamison just smiled.

When I was about half-way home, my phone rang. I hate people who think they can use the phone and drive at the same time, so I pulled off the highway before answering it.

"Douglas here," I said.

"It's your lover, Douglas," Jason said.

"And who is that?" I laughed.

"Some half-Indian hillbilly is all I know," Jason said. "Doug, you need to come by Stone's office. He's got something going about Jonathan."


"How soon will you get here?"

"Be there in fifteen or twenty minutes. Me be loving you."

"Me be loving you," Jason responded.

When I reached the law offices, Stone called down the hall telling me we were meeting in the conference room. I was pleasantly surprised to see Wes Bushyhead sitting at the head of the table.

I started to reach out to shake his hand, but before I could reach him, he was standing and embraced me in a bear hug. "Good to see you, Douglas," he said.

"Good to see you, Wes. Wha'sup?"

"Got a solution looking for a problem and I think I've found one," he replied as Stone handed me an icy coke. "Have a seat and we'll get down to business."

As soon as I was seated, Wes said, "Fellows, I hope you don't think I'm nutso, but I believe there's such a thing as evil spirits in this world. Most Cherokee these days are fourth or fifth generation Baptists and have never known the Cherokee way. To tell the truth, I'm not sure there's a genuine Cherokee medicine man left in these parts."

I learned later that Wes probably did know a Cherokee medicine man, but as the priest at Grace Church had let him down when his parents were sick and dying, so had his Indian brothers. Stone told me Wes sent for a medicine man in a last chance effort to save his parents and was told his kind were not welcomed by the Cherokee. That was when he learned his being gay was known by more than his closest friends. Stone said he suspected it was the Baptist speaking rather than the Cherokee, but Wes turned his back on anything to do with the tribe. He met Matt and Luke at an intertribal gathering after his parents died. Shortly after they were introduced, Matt had said to him, "You need some strong medicine to get rid of the bitterness inside which is destroying you." He and Luke offered to do a sweat for Wes and after that, he became close friends of the two medicine men and a kind of strange creature--Cherokee by birth, but his Indian ceremonies and beliefs were almost pure Lakota.

"I'm not sure about a lot of things having to do with our ancestors. Take a sweat lodge for example. You go to Oconaluftee and they will show you a Cherokee sweat and tell you since the Cherokee lived in towns, their sweat lodges were permanent and used only to heal sickness. The guide will tell you they had no religious function. I'm not sure about that at all, but never mind. I do have a sweat lodge and a couple medicine men friends. One's a quarter or half Lakota and the other is from your tribe, Hank, the blond Indian tribe," Wes laughed.

"They are both two-spirited and had a commitment ceremony when they were in high school some eight years ago, I guess. Anyway, they are much in touch with the spirit world. I called and told them the situation with Jonathan, and the blond Indian, Luke, said they'd be honored to hold a sweat for Jonathan's healing. Right now Matt, the dark Indian partner of Luke, is in Australia on a concert tour--he's an organist, Douglas. Although he is only in his mid-twenties, I think, he has a world-wide reputation. Luke said Matt would be flying into Charlotte Wednesday of next week and they had already talked about coming to the mountains for a spring break."

"He called again today. He had talked to Matt and they had been planning on coming to the mountains Friday or Saturday of next week. I'm trying to figure out how to do the sweat without you jokers ditching school the following week."

"Look, it's not as if we cut school often," Hank said. "I see no reason we can't do the sweat during the week."

"Well, we have some preparations to do and we can do those anytime. Let's let the 'when' hang until the medicine men get here. OK?"

"Sure," Hank answered.

Jason had looked at me and started laughing to himself. He winked and I realized what was up and started laughing also. Jason finally spoke up and said, "Guess Hank wants school to go on all the time. Dumbass, week after next is spring break."

Hank got a sheepish look on his face and said, "I forgot."

"Guess the spirits are working for us already," Wes said. "As I said, I have a permanent sweat lodge but it was built for two. Three could, I suppose, get in it, but I'm thinking we'll have a crowd: the five from Deep Cove, Tim, Stone and myself, Matt and Luke. That's ten people."

"Since you two-spirits... what's that mean anyway, Wes?" Hank asked.

"Most Indians, traditional Indians anyway, believe a man can have two spirits--the masculine and feminine. Lot of two-spirits are medicine men. Some of the two-spirits among the Plains Indians are contraries... but no need to get into that right now."

"It just means they are gay, then," Hank said.

"Well, I suppose you could say they are gay, but gay is a modern, western invention. Indians are just two-spirits. Obviously all gay Indians are not medicine men so I don't know whether I am a true two-spirit or not," Wes concluded. "Stone called and told me Jonathan is still having problems and, as he talked, I came to believe it's because a bad spirit has got him. It's making him think black thoughts. A good sweat should take care of that, especially with medicine men as powerful as Matt and Luke. I'm sure of that."

"Thought about just leaving open who will participate but, after talking to Luke, we need to focus on Jonathan and he suggested those of us participate who actually, physically rescued him. Stone and Tim agreed. Since Tim won't be in the sweat, he has agreed to take care of the fire pit. I'm going to talk to Gerald and see if he'll help out with that. Hank, maybe Beth would like to take the woman's role and open the lodge for us. I'll talk to you about that later."

"You may want to re-think your decision about participants," I said. "Jonathan is putting a lot of trust in Tom these days. I think it would be wise to include him in anything touching Jonathan and his situation."

"Who's Tom?" Wes asked, and the Deep Cove crowd told Wes about him. When we had about finished, I added, "I'm not sure of the whole story, but I know Tom has had a real struggle over the death of a partner. He blames his partner's stepfather for killing him, but that's all we really know."

"And Jonathan has a special relationship with him?" Wes asked.

I nodded and added, "He told us he thought Tom and Stone understood him better than he did himself. Yeah, he has a special relationship with Tom, I'd say."

Stone added, "Yeah, he really does. He says he can talk to Tom because he's not family."

"Then we'll include him if he's willing. We're going to have to construct our sweat lodge," Wes said. "It shouldn't take long. How about next Saturday?"

"Could we make it Sunday afternoon?" I asked. "I want to be in on this from the beginning, but I have a pretty important rehearsal Saturday--most of the day I suspect. Friday week is the first concert."

"Is it that time already?" Wes asked. "I have season tickets to the symphony--how's that for a kick-in-the-ass of a stereotype? Dumb Indian is a symphony goer, but you know them gays and fancy music," Wes laughed. "I know the Friday concert is definitely on my calendar since it's part of the regular season, but I guess I haven't looked at it lately. I even have an order in for tickets for the Sunday matinee should it be held."

"It's definitely on," I interjected.

"Look, since you fellows have spring break the week after the concerts and you'll all be involved in that to one degree or another, we can build the sweat lodge this Sunday afternoon and it'll be ready when we are ready. I know we'll all need time to prepare for the sweat and maybe time afterward. If the lodge is built, we can spend more time with Matt and Luke. So, this Sunday afternoon it is, that way you can be in on it, Douglas."

"Thanks," I said.

"We'll need several large tarpaulins--unless you have a pile of buffalo hides," Wes laughed. "The ones you use on the farm--those silver plastic jobbies--will be fine. Also, we can use all the old quilts or blankets you can round up. With buffalo hides, the heat is held in, but with the modern tarps it escapes unless there's something to hold it in. I guess that's it until Sunday. Stone or Tim can give you directions to my place. "

"Someone will have to talk with Tom and see that he gets to your place, Wes," I said.

"Tim and I will take care of getting him there if he wants to participate. I'll speak with him," Stone said.

"Since we're talking about Jonathan, where is he?" I asked.

"Remember he said he wanted to talk to Stone and Tom?" Hank asked. I nodded and Hank continued, "When we got here, I told Stone Jonathan wanted to talk to him, so Stone took him into his office."

"When I saw Jonathan was still having a rough time, I thought of Wes. During our conversation, Jonathan mentioned wanting to talk with Tom, so I suggested he run over to the music store and talk with him. He wasn't out the door before I called Wes. As luck would have it, he was down the street at the bank. Got him on his cell phone."

"You have a cell phone?" I asked Wes, hardly believing what Stone had said.

"Sure beats smoke signals," Wes said. "See you guys Sunday afternoon, ready to work."

I really didn't want to get up Saturday. Jason had kissed me awake and I wanted to stay in bed and play with my babe, but he insisted I get up, shower and get ready for Asheville.

Rehearsal with an orchestra is grueling work. I have great admiration for a conductor who can get nearly a hundred people working together, especially when there are so many prima donnas in the bunch. Maestro Alexas was very good and he worked very hard to keep my confidence up, which I needed after a couple rough spots, but finally he was happy and so was I.

When I started serious practice of the three pieces I would be playing, I realized that talent, technique and all that were important, but so was stamina. I would be actually playing for an hour and a half or so. When I mentioned that to Wesley and Jason, they decided we should go back to the Y. Of course we were getting exercise playing baseball, but after the season started, we didn't do systematic exercises any more. It was hard to squeeze in, but we did use the exercise room three days a week. Saturday, when the rehearsal was over, I was very happy we had done so.

Sunday was Palm Sunday and Tom was at Grace with his parents. The service was really great but longer than usual. I suspect we should have thought about that when we were planning to build the sweat lodge, but we hadn't.

Tom met us after church and said he had his parents' four-wheel-drive SUV and would grab a bite of lunch and then pick us up. Grandmom was standing nearby and overheard him. "You'll not grab a bite," she said, "you'll have Sunday dinner with us." Jonathan got in the SUV with Tom and they followed us back to our place. Hank was having Sunday dinner with Beth's family and would be joining us later.

When we got home, we helped get Sunday dinner on the table. Grandmom had asked Jonathan to eat with us and he had left a message on the Dennisons' machine telling them where he was. I was pleased they called to check on him. Granddad handled the call and Jonathan never knew they had called. After dinner, Tom took him to change clothes while we cleared the table, then changed.

Wesley, Jason and I had rounded up a large stack of old quilts and blankets and had them ready to put in the SUV when Tom returned with Hank and Jonathan. They, too, had a load of quilts and blankets.

Stone had drawn a map and assured us we would think we were lost, but Wes's place was where the map indicated. Good thing he had warned us! We drove about six or seven miles out of Coldsprings, headed west on a country road. It started out well marked and paved. However, in less than five miles it had gone from paved, to graveled, to dirt, to a trail. The trail became less and less evident until the only reason you knew it was a trail was because there were tracks in the grass. The trees and bushes on the sides prevented getting off, it so we knew it was the right way.

We finally arrived at a gate and Jason got out and opened it. We were now driving along a narrow, dirt road. It was well-maintained but it clearly was not a public roadway. After winding around for a while, it started up a sharp incline, getting steeper all the time. A couple of miles from where the road started up, it crested. It was like the SUV was crawling up the mountain, then the road seemed to drop away and disappear. A few feet further and we are at the crest, looking down on a long, deep, beautiful valley. Far below, a river could be seen in places as it wound its way among the trees and through the valley.

"WOW!" Wesley exclaimed. "I would never have believed such a beautiful place existed." We all just sat in silent awe for several minutes, drinking in the beauty.

We finally started the descent into the valley. The only mark of civilization was the road. Beyond that, the mountain was in pristine condition. The trail, which could now be clearly seen, went down into the valley and to a very large house--log cabin, except I thought cabins were small.

When we reached the house, Wes came out to welcome us. Wes could play the mountain man/Indian role all he wanted to, his house told a different story. It was fantastic and, we would learn, it had just about every electronic gadget, labor-saving device and all the creature comforts you could imagine, all of which were in a beautiful and beautifully built, log house.

"I was expecting a teepee and outdoor privy," Hank said.

"Don't you know the Cherokee had permanent houses? Did have an outdoor privy while the house was being built. Now have three bathrooms as well as a half bath near the kitchen. White man, I am a civilized savage," Wes laughed. "Well, come on in and I'll show you around the house, then we'll get to work."

The house was really something and the only cold water tossed on our enjoyment of it was when Wes said, "Yeah, it's a great and grand place which I love, but I have no-one to share it with."

When we had finished inside, we went to a barn and all piled in a trailer behind a tractor. Wes drove across a pasture and eventually we ended up at the river. "There are lot of willow saplings here," Wes said. "They are great for making ribs for the sweat lodge." He showed us the size and length the willows needed to be and all of us set to work.

Wes gave each of us a pair of gloves and said, "Douglas, the others may decide to risk working without gloves but don't you dare." Wes also decided I'd be least likely to hurt a hand using a small hatchet to strip the branches from the willow saplings.

Wes, Jason and Stone cut the willows. Jonathan, Tim and Hank dragged them to where Wesley and I were cutting off the branches. Tom was stacking the trimmed saplings in the trailer.

After about half an hour, Wesley and I had piles of willows yet to strip when the three who had been cutting them come up dragging more. "I think we have enough cut," Wes said. "Jason, why don't you and Stone help out Douglas and Wesley. The rest of us can load.

In another half hour, the trailer was loaded and Wes said, "Ok, let's get some water and a snack."

When we reached the house, he pointed to a huge picnic table--it was fully six feet wide and twelve long--and said, "Have a seat and I'll bring water." He went inside and came back with bucket and gourd dipper, and a tray of beef jerky. After we all had a long drink and were chewing on the jerky, he started talking about building a sweat lodge.

"I have already picked a spot," Wes said. "There's a place on the river where spring floods have deposited sand for years. It's level, the sand is several feet deep and the river for water is at hand."

"We'll lay out a circle large enough for a sweat lodge for eight to ten people--12 or so feet in diameter. Once we have the circle, we'll begin building the lodge. We'll also dig a pit in the center for the stones and one outside for the fire pit. "

"We'll place willow saplings around the circle, about three feet apart. Then we will use saplings to tie the first ones together. We'll bind the first encircling willows about two feet from the ground with a second band at four feet or so. That done, we'll bend the side poles toward the center and lash them together, forming an open dome. We'll use two more encircling bands to hold everything together. That will complete the framework of the sweat lodge."

"With the framework complete, we'll cover it with tarps. We'll use a double, maybe triple, thickness of tarps to make sure no light can enter and to hold the heat and steam in. Finally, when we come to do the actual sweat, we'll add the quilts and blankets to hold in the heat. Questions?" No-one had a question so Wes said, "No questions now, but if questions arise, ask. Let's roll."

We piled the tarps and other coverings on top the willows and somehow managed to crawl on them, although there was a lot of sliding around on the load. Wes headed off in a direction opposite the pasture we had crossed earlier and soon was driving along a small stream. We followed it for some distance and then Wes forded it. As the trailer was pulled up the opposite bank, Hank said, "Reminds me of when you drove the Jeep into the river, Douglas."

"Man, that sure seems years ago," Jason said.

Jonathan, who had been very quiet, asked, "You drove the Jeep into a river?"

"He sure did," Jason said, and then among the three of us we told Jonathan and Wesley--and Tom--how we had met and how our friendship got started, about our trips to the river the previous summer and fall.

We had been paralleling the stream and I guess our talking distracted us because as soon as we finished our story, Wesley asked, "What am I hearing?"

"Falling water," Jason said. "There's a waterfall nearby."

About the time Jason spoke, Wes stopped the tractor and as he climbed off said, "We need to hoof it from here on."

When we got off the trailer and looked around, I realized we were above a waterfall. The stream we had been following joined a much larger one, a small river, before their waters plunged over a cliff.

We were just standing around, not knowing what to do. "We'll have to pack everything in," Wes said as he started tying the willows into bundles. "I suggest we haul everything down below the falls first and then pack it the rest of the way."

We all grabbed a bundle of willows and after a bit of looking around, I saw a path leading down beside the falls. Balancing the willow bundles on our backs as Wes had done, we started down the path. It was steep and damp with mist from the falls, but not nearly as difficult to navigate as I expected when I first looked down it.

When we reached the bottom of the falls, Jonathan stood, looking up at the cascading water and said, "This would be worth the trip, even if I had to walk all the way from Deep Cove." I think we all agreed with him.

We stacked our willow bundles and went back up the path for more and after three more trips, we took the rest of the materials for the sweat lodge down. The trips up the path were as hard on the back of the legs as the ones down had been on the front. I suspected there would be some sore legs Monday but it turned out I was wrong. The exercise at the Y, baseball and running had done their intended job.

It took three trips to get everything down and then we picked up willow bundles for the next part of the trip.

We followed the river, confident Wes knew what he was doing, but without seeing any indication this was where we were supposed to be, although there was a faint path. We had walked almost a mile, I guess, when the river started spreading out, becoming shallow. We could no longer hear the waterfall and the river made little or no sound as it more drifted than flowed.

There was a sharp bend in the river up ahead and as soon as we rounded it, we saw a cabin. When we reached it, Wes said, "Drop your bundles and we'll rest." He walked to a spring near the cabin where we were resting, took a gourd dipper hanging on a bush and drank long drinks of spring water. Having drunk his fill, Wes stood, holding out the dipper and Wesley, then the rest of us, drank from the spring. The water was cold, fresh and much welcomed.

After we had rested, Wes showed us around his Cherokee place. "It's a working Cherokee farm," he said. "The fields are on the other side of the river. The sweat lodge is behind the house and I have shelters where I chip flint and do all the things I want to do as my ancestors did. Not a show place like Oconaluftee, but one to show people who are really interested in more than the tourist Cherokee." When he had showed us around, he said, "Well, we have a Lakota sweat lodge to build." He picked up a couple of hatchets, a ball of heavy cord he had brought from the cabin, and said, "Grab your bundles and follow me."

We again started walking along the river. It was very broad now and maybe a foot deep. "This looks like a place on the river at our place," Tom said. "See the sand which the river brings in when it gets out of its banks in spring, then gets dropped when it slows down. Got to have you guys out to my place soon."

Ahead the river passed between two large rocks which forced it once again into a narrow channel. When we walked around the rock on our side of the river, we saw there was a small waterfall on the downriver side of the rocks which created a bowl maybe thirty feet across. The water was crystal clear and you could see large, lazy trout swimming in it. The river left the bowl in a broad stream and, as before, it had formed a sandy area just below the bowl. Reaching the sandy spot, Wes put down his tools and said, "We'll build the lodge here."

Without taking time to rest, we all headed back to bring more poles and materials. Since the trail was level, we could all carry more than we had carried down the side of the waterfall and were able to get everything to the site in three trips.

Using a string and stick, Wes make a simple compass and laid out the circle. As we started placing the poles in place around it, we discovered we could just push them down into the sand a foot or more. In no time at all, the circle was wearing a crown of willows.

Wes explained that the opening into the sweat lodge would face east and he marked that, noting that the first banding ring was only two feet off the ground and should not cross the opening, "unless you want to wiggle under a willow only two feet from the ground."

He marked the places for the fire pit and stone pit inside, and he and Stone supervised the digging which Jason and Hank were doing while the rest of us put the first band around the standing willows. That accomplished, a second band was added four feet from the ground and then the ends of the standing willows were pulled down and tied together forming a domed framework.

By the time the framework was completed, Hank had finished digging the stone pit inside to Wes' satisfaction. "Jonathan, how about a turn on the shovel?" he asked, handing his shovel to Jonathan. Jonathan joined Jason in digging the fire pit which was about five feet across and would soon be as deep.

We had all been very busy and there wasn't a lot of chatter going on as we worked on the lodge. Jonathan had, nonetheless, been so much quieter than the rest it was noticeable. As he took the shovel, Jason said, "A penny for your thoughts."

"I was thinking about how all of you are working your butts off for me after I tried to take the easy way out. And I was thinking about how I never really had a family before and now I have a very big one. And I was thinking how lucky I am."

Jason paused and said, "Yeah. Jonathan, I guess you and I are about the luckiest people I know and I'm especially lucky because I have you as a brother."

We all kinda froze in place, each deep in his own thoughts for several minutes and then Wes said, "See, this is a place of good spirits already."

The sweat lodge was ready for its covering and Wes supervised us as we tied the tarps in place, making sure they overlapped and were securely fastened. "We'll not put the quilts on until we're ready for the sweat. That way they'll not be wet should it rain. This time of year that's pretty likely." I was surprised when I realized Wes was right. After all, it WAS Palm Sunday.

With the sweat lodge finished, Stone and Tim took half the crew to gather wood for the fire and Wes took the other half to gather rocks. He had said earlier we'd need rocks "from cantaloupe to watermellon size." I asked, "Just any rock so long as it is the right size?"

"Hardly. Lot of rocks have enough water inside to produce a pretty good explosion when they are heated. I will show you which ones."

It took a while, but eventually we had a pile of two dozen or so rocks stacked by the fire pit. The firewood crew had a large pile of wood as well. "We found a whole tree of fat pine," Stone said, "and have split a good stack."

"Fat pine?" Tom asked before one of us had a chance.

"It's pine heart, especially the heart of a very large fallen pine. The soft wood has decayed, leaving the resin-rich heart wood. It burns easily and with a hot flame so it is good for starting fires," Jonathan said, then grinned and added, "Stone told me."

"We're gonna need help with the hardwood logs we cut," Stone said. Since we had everything else done, we all followed him away from the river and into the woods. We soon joined the others who were cutting a fallen oak into six- or seven-foot lengths. "Figure the logs are going to need two people to carry them anyway, so we'll cut them to length at the fire pit."

After we had deposited our first load, Stone told Tom and Jonathan to start cutting the logs into two-foot blocks with bucksaws. While they sawed, the rest of us returned to the woods for more logs. It took a while and we were all sweating when we finally got the logs to the fire pit. "Looks like a winter's supply of wood," Jason said, looking at the stack of logs.

"You'll be surprised," Wes responded as he stepped into the fire pit. "If Tim and Stone will help, I'll lay the fire and cover it with a tarp so all I'll have to do to get it started is light the fat pine." The three men took laying the fire very seriously and it took half an hour, I guess. On top of the fat pine, they placed a couple layers of very dry wood, I think pine. Then layer after layer of hardwood. "When you're laying the fire for a sweat, you need to remember you can always add wood to the top, but you have only one chance to get enough at the bottom of the pit, so be generous."

"I'll come Monday week early, before daybreak, and get the fire going. As soon as I have a bed of coals, I'll add layers of wood and rock. The rock should be just right by the time we get here for the sweat."

"I have a better idea," Tom offered. "Why don't we spend the night here, camp out?"

"Great idea," Hank said and we all agreed.

"Good," Wes said, "that way we can really get ready for a sweat." The fire laid, it was carefully covered with a tarp which was held in place by some of the stones we had gathered. That finished, Wes suggested we all go in the sweat lodge. "Stone you lead us in," he said. "When you enter the sweat lodge, you move clockwise, never counter clockwise. Stone will enter first, but will end up on the right side of the entrance. And you move in a circle, never cut across. Of course, during a sweat that would just about be impossible since the stone pit is in the center."

Stone started toward the entrance and Wes stopped him. "I forgot. Luke asked me if we had a woman to open the sweat. I meant to have you ask Beth, Hank. Think she would do that?"

"I'll ask. I seldom--never, no never--make decisions for Beth."

"She can't do it if she is on her moon," Stone said.

"On her moon?" I asked.

"Having her period."

"She'll not be since that's the event of this weekend," Hank said then blushed, which caused all of us to laugh.

"Very well," Wes said. "Matt or Luke will get with her about that. Ok, Stone."

We all followed Stone into the lodge. It was, of course, very dark inside and even more so when the flap closed, since we had been in the bright light outside. Once inside, we sat in a circle, saying nothing, each with his own thoughts. Much of Sunday afternoon had been like that, so I guess I more or less expected it to be true, but I was not prepared for the feeling of being at one with myself and my universe. It was a feeling that is hard to explain. Finally Wes said quietly, "Now and for the next week, when you remember it, think about what you want from the sweat for yourself and for others. Hold it before you."

I don't know how long we were in the dark lodge--time stood still--but too soon Stone stood and walked out of the lodge and we followed.

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