The Place by Jerry McGowan - HTML preview
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Some things are foretold!
Beverly and I had become more than best friends. We often talked about spending our lives together. It was simply a matter of time before we began making plans for our wedding. I was extremely happy, and so was she. I think we both believed the quest to find that one special person had finally come to an end.
One Saturday afternoon Beverly and I were working on a jigsaw puzzle, when I accidentally received a piece of mail that was addressed to my next-door neighbor. The outside of the brochure referred to a seminar that would be held in the woods of Western Massachusetts, in a beautiful place near the Mohawk State Forest. As I continued to read, it mentioned that Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, was holding a seminar entitled “Mother Earth Spirituality.” It would take place in the spring, about two months away.
I couldn’t believe it. After receiving the book from the woman at the pow-wow and having read it a dozen times or more, here was an opportunity to meet the person who inspired me to do my vision quest. Ed is a remarkable man. He had been a lawyer, a captain in the Marine Corps, and a jet fighter pilot who flew over 140 sorties in Vietnam. He is the author of more than eight books, several of which are required reading at various universities across the country. Ed grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation after leaving the Indian schools he was forced to attend as a boy.
“I don’t believe it!” I said to Beverly. “The fact that this came to our house by mistake can’t be coincidental!”
“You’d better get on the phone and make our reservations!” she replied.
I did just that, and two months later we were on our way to the seminar. On the way we passed within a mile of where I had made camp for my vision quest. I was curious to know whether the teepee poles I set up were still standing. I wanted to hike in and see, but our timeline didn’t allow for it. We decided if we had time on the return trip, we’d see if we could find the camp. I felt a chill as I remembered how wet and cold I was during that whole experience, and I was grateful to be returning to the area in warmer weather.
How could this all be coincidence? I asked myself, thinking back to all the things that had to fall into place for this to happen.
“I think that elderly woman at the pow-wow was much more than she appeared to be,” said Beverly, smiling at me with a knowing I had not seen before. The more I thought about it, the more I knew she was right!
Shortly afterward, we arrived at the camp where the seminar was to be held. It was nestled deep in the woods of Western Massachusetts. Surrounded by trees and mountains, this was a beautiful setting for what promised to be something very special. We entered the main building and were greeted by several people seated at a table near the door. They helped us with our registration, then gave us the key to our cabin. After thanking them for their help, we left to unpack. The cabins were from another place in time. The furnishings were minimal and somewhat antiquated, but overall the place was cozy and comfortable.
It was late Friday afternoon or early evening when we finally got settled in. We left our room in search of the dining hall, where we arrived just in time for dinner. The menu was interesting because all the food was vegetarian. It looked and smelled wonderful, and the people could not have been nicer or more helpful. There were about sixty people attending the seminar, which was a far greater number than I anticipated, since it was far from being centrally located. I realized the seminar didn’t begin until the following morning, but I was getting more excited by the minute and found it difficult to remain patient.
After eating, we spent time getting to know others who were there. People came from all over to attend Ed’s workshops, and they were, by all appearances, a very diverse group. I enjoyed having time to get to know many of them, and I noted Beverly was doing the same. Ed had not arrived yet but was expected early that evening. After dinner and much conversation, Ed finally arrived and made an appearance in time to greet the crowd before we retired for the evening. Beverly and I stayed up until midnight learning his agenda for the weekend.
Ed looked very much like his picture on the back of his book—a stocky, well-built man in his early fifties. One could easily assess the fact that he was a military man by the jacket he wore, which was military issue, fighter pilot insignia and all. Ed had flown more than 140 missions over Vietnam when he was in the armed forces. He struck me as being a very confident man who knew what he wanted and how to get things done. He had an air about him that made you feel comfortable, and he always left you yearning to hear more.
I was anxious to get to know him because I felt there was a very special connection between us. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, but I knew it was there. I decided to say good-night and head to bed since we would be up early in the morning. I walked over to him and shook his hand. Beverly and I bid him and the remaining group good-night, then we left for our cabin and a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of the food bell. We washed and dressed, then headed to the dining room, where everyone was talking about the book that inspired them to attend. Mother Earth Spirituality was the first of Ed’s books I had read. I have since read every one he has written. I have several copies of the same book on my bookshelf, and I give them to various people who visit that express an interest in nature-based spirituality.
Everyone in attendance had a copy of Mother Earth Spirituality. As we made our way past the myriad of groups seated at the tables, the conversations were filled with excitement. It was truly amazing to realize the number of people who had heard Ed speak before.
“You won’t believe the sweat lodge tonight,” we heard one person say. “It’s the most amazing thing I have ever experienced!”
As we began to leave, we were directed to a circular open-air space with a roof over it, not far from the dining hall. There were bench-like seats in the round, somewhat like an amphitheater, with a separate area set up for the speaker. We were seated just a few minutes when Eagle Man appeared. He walked to the podium in the front of the space, raised his copy of Mother Earth Spirituality in the air for all to see, and smiled.
“This is why we are all here,” he began. “If you haven’t read this book by now, you had better get started and read very quickly because we have a lot to cover.”
Next, Ed asked each of us to stand up and share our story of how we came to be there. One by one the sixty people stood up and began to relate what it was that brought them to the seminar. When it was my turn, I stood up and told the story of the elderly woman at the pow-wow and her gift of Ed’s book. I spoke of the vision quest that took place just a mile from where we were sitting. Then I thanked Ed for all the information he provided in his book, especially the part about the vision quest, which served me well in my preparations for it.
When I was finished, Ed asked to see my copy of Mother Earth Spirituality. I left my seat and brought it to him. He opened it up and thumbed through the pages more than once. He looked it over very carefully, noting those places where there was the most wear. Suddenly, he held it aloft for all to see.
“This is how every one of your books should look after you have read it, studied it, and read it again—not once, but many times. This book tells me that the person who owns it has an intimate knowledge of what I discuss in it. It also tells me he is pursuing the truth of his own walk. When I see a book that looks like this, I know it is being used on a regular basis and that the owner has taken to heart what I have shared between these covers.”
The book looked like it had been through a war. The corners were folded over, and there were notations in the margins. He returned it to me, and I went back to my seat. We waited for him to continue, but he hesitated for some time, then turned and looked directly at me.
“So you’re the one I am supposed to write a book with!” he said emphatically, staring at me across the open area and up the many rows to where I sat. At first I wasn’t sure he was speaking to me, so I didn’t reply.
“I have known for some time you and I would meet, and that time has finally come,” he continued. “I would like to see you when we break, because we have many things to talk about.”
I simply nodded my head since I had no clue what he was referring to, but I was excited to learn what he had to say.
Beverly looked at me like I was someone special, as she proceeded to nudge me in the ribs so I wouldn’t get a swollen ego. She made me smile as I stared at her and watched the love in her eyes play across her face. She cast me a great big smile and held this grin for some time. The love in her eyes was there for everyone to see, and I realized once again that I was the most fortunate man on the planet.
The break came in about two hours, and it appeared that everyone went for the coffee. “You should go speak with him now,” said Beverly. “I’ll get your coffee.”
I thanked her and made my way down to where Ed was standing. I waited until he finished speaking with another person, then I reached out my arm to shake his hand. He had a firm handshake, and his eyes were very clear. His hair was black with hints of grey, and he wore it in braids down past his shoulders.
“Thanks for coming,” he began. “I’ve been waiting to meet you for some time. How long ago did you receive that book?”
“About a year and a half ago,” I told him.
“That’s about right,” he replied. “Come, walk with me.” I had no clue what was going on, but I was more than willing to listen.
“Back about the time you said you received your book, I was visiting a friend of mine, Jamie Sams. She had just finished developing her medicine cards. While I was with her, she did a reading for me. She mentioned I was going to meet a man with whom I was to write a book and described you exactly as you are. So, when these things are foretold, we pay attention to them. There are reasons we all meet and come together. These predictions are generally always meant for a bigger purpose. We must always pay attention to them!”
I thought back to my days at Wake Forest when I was getting signs about so many things before they happened. I knew Ed was talking about the same thing.
“Have you had any recurring dream since receiving the book?” he asked. How could he have known? I didn’t tell anyone, not even Beverly.
“Yes,” I replied, “how did you know?”
“What was it about?” he asked, without responding to my question.
I began to tell him about my dream. “I was walking through the town I was raised in, down the main street in the downtown area. It was midnight. I was with my friend, Randy, who was my best friend at the time. As we moved down the abandoned streets in the darkness, I looked down a side road to a street that ran parallel to ours. I saw a wolf keeping pace with us, mirroring our steps as it moved along. At every intersection we could see him, and he would stare directly at me. Soon Randy announced he had to leave, so I was left alone. But I continued walking in the same direction, still tracked by the wolf.
“I found myself on the edge of town heading into a small forest. I noticed the wolf was still moving in the same direction. Suddenly the street turned into a path through the woods. I could hear the wolf behind me, but I wasn’t afraid. His breathing was labored, but quiet. He caught up with me in a matter of moments. He looked into my eyes, and without saying a word, I could hear his thoughts. He asked me to follow him.
“We continued through the woods until we came upon a small clearing. I could hear sounds of whimpering up ahead. They were not loud, mind you, but they were very distinct. I kept moving forward into the clearing when I suddenly stopped in my tracks. On the far side of the circle lying on her side was his mate. With a large thorn in her foot, she was bleeding and could not walk. The male wolf who had been tracking me walked toward her, then turned and looked into my eyes. I immediately understood why he led me here. I knelt down and carefully removed the thorn from his mate’s paw, then placed my handkerchief over the wound. There was a small pond nearby, so I gathered some dirt and water, made some mud, and packed it into the wound. After I was finished, she stared at me while nuzzling with her mate. I watched them for a few moments and then rose to leave.
“The female stood up, moved toward me, and nuzzled against my hip. After a time, the wolves walked into the woods before suddenly stopping. Together they looked back at me in acknowledgement of what I had done and then disappeared. That’s it!”
“That’s enough,” he said. “That’s a very powerful dream. I know people today do not heed their dreams, but they are important in both our conscious and subconscious walks. Did you ever feel uncomfortable about the dream?” he asked.
“Actually, I looked forward to revisiting it and did so many times. I always felt like I belonged with them.”
“Tell me about the woman at the pow-wow who gave you the book,” he asked.
I recounted what she looked like and mentioned to him how she just seemed to disappear. “The girl who was working there when I returned had no idea what I was talking about,” I began. “I think she thought I was losing my mind. I even showed her the book I was given, but it made no difference to her. She was adamant about the fact that she owned the booth and was the only one who worked there. She also made a point to let me know she didn’t carry your book.”
“It was not a mistake that you were the only one to see her. She has been known to come to many who are chosen to walk a certain walk, both with nature and with man. She is a very special spirit from our culture. You and I have finally met, and that is what is important. We will walk our walk as brothers from this point on. Tonight in Inipi (“sweat lodge”) I will name you, and we will begin a new road together as friends.”
I was excited and curious since what he said made perfect sense to me. My life to date had been full of unusual experiences, so why should this be an exception?
We returned to the class, and everyone shared in a great day of learning. In the afternoon class we discussed many things, including the Inipi Ceremony, or Sweat Lodge. The Inipi Ceremony is seen in many different ways by various tribes and cultures around the world. The ceremony itself is more than ten thousand years old and is often misunderstood by people outside the cultural circles in which it was practiced.
Ed spoke of Inipi in a much broader sense than others might address it. He appealed to peoples of all races when he spoke of Lodge, and not just from a cultural standpoint, where it was often referred to as a ceremony practiced by Native Americans. He mentioned that it was NOT a ceremony of endurance created to see how long one could last with the discomfort of hot rocks, steam, and darkness. Instead, he focused on the purpose of Lodge: prayer and giving back!
“Anything that takes your focus away from prayer in Lodge is a distraction from the goal of Inipi,” Ed began. “Lodge is about giving back to Ina Maka (Mother Earth) some of the life- blood she has given to you during your walk. We celebrate her gift of life to all beings on this planet.”
The lifeblood he referred to was the sweat our bodies give off during the ceremony. I remember how very clear Ed was about Lodge being a place to connect with All That Is—not something to distract us from It. By the time Ed finished explaining the Inipi Ceremony, everyone had a pretty clear understanding of it, and we were all very excited to experience Lodge for the first time.
The afternoon class ended, and everyone was talking about going into Lodge. For most of us, it would be our first time doing the ceremony. I had done my vision quest, albeit shorter than I had planned, but I had yet to take part in an Inipi Ceremony. Both Beverly and I were looking forward to it.
In class that afternoon, a man asked about women in Lodge, because he had heard that some cultures frown on women attending. “That’s simply the way some cultures view the Inipi Ceremony, thinking it should be restricted to men,” said Ed. “I think we all need to pray for the health of a planet that is finding it increasingly difficult to support the vast amount of life on it. I believe all people should be allowed into Lodge because all prayers are welcome and appreciated by both our Earth Mother and The Great Spirit. I cannot imagine God or The Great Spirit creating any being and limiting their ability to speak with Him through prayer!”
It made perfect sense to me, especially since Beverly was as interested in Inipi as I was, not to mention all the others in the group who could clearly see the bigger picture. Class ended about four in the afternoon, and everyone retired to the fire ring to begin construction of the Sweat Lodge. We worked for about two hours. Because there were so many people helping out, it took no time to construct the Lodge, gather the wood and stones, and finalize preparations for the ceremony that night.
Satisfied that everything was ready, we retired to the main building for dinner. Excitement was in every corner of the room. It was obvious people knew something very special was about to take place. You could hear the anticipation in the conversations taking place. People were rushing to finish dinner so they could get back outside to begin the ceremony.
Beverly and I were fortunate to sit with Ed at dinner. We listened attentively while he continued to share more insights about what we could expect in Lodge that night. “Don’t be surprised if you see spirit lights inside,” he began. “These are the spirit beings from the West—the Old Ones who have passed on before us. They will be there because we will invite them to join us.”
I looked at Beverly and smiled, not knowing what to expect. I kept an open mind and looked forward to whatever happened.
After dinner, everyone took part in cleaning up, and then it was off to do the ceremony. It was a beautiful night. The stars were bright, and they lit up the sky with a clarity I had not noticed before. There was very little light except what the fire and the stars produced. One could see the occasional shooting star make its way across the heavens to some unknown destination, then disappear in the darkness of the night sky. As the fire built to a crescendo, the rocks began to glow, and it was time to open the Lodge.
Ed decided that since there were so many people attending Lodge, the heated rocks were not necessary. It was such a warm night that sweat would come easily to everyone. Ed always opened Inipi with the Pipe Ceremony. We all drew close in order to hear him clearly. He removed the pipe from his bag and began to address the four directions. He added a small amount of tobacco to the pipe each time he addressed a new direction. He prayed, asking each direction to join us in Lodge and bring with them those gifts they represented. It was wonderful to learn what each direction meant and realize they were more than just points on a compass. I learned much from the Pipe Ceremony and was anxious to go into Lodge to learn more.
When the first phase of the Pipe Ceremony ended, Ed began to speak.
“This Pipe Ceremony will be completed when Lodge has ended. At that time anyone who wishes to smoke the pipe may do so.” Next, Ed selected one woman to represent Buffalo Calf Woman, who would open the Lodge.
It is quite an honor to represent Buffalo Calf Woman because she was the presenter of the Sacred Pipe to the Sioux people so many years ago. The woman representing her moves around the outside perimeter of the Lodge, sprinkling tobacco on the ground in front of her. She then enters the Lodge and repeats the same action. Tobacco is considered a sacred herb and is used to honor and prepare for those spirits who will join us in Lodge.
When she was done, the woman stood in front of the doorway and declared the Lodge open. At this point everyone entered the lodge, filing around the fire pit in the center in a clockwise motion, and then sitting in concentric circles side by side and behind one another from the center of the Lodge outward. It was pretty crowded, but also very intimate. The setting created a sense of oneness among everyone there.
Almost immediately every one of us began to feel as if we were part of something bigger than ourselves. Once everyone had filed inside, the flaps on the door were closed, and the ceremony began. It was amazing how warm the lodge became. I thought about how perfectly warm a teepee would be throughout the night—simple yet effective.
This Inipi ceremony is described in perfect detail in Ed’s book, Mother Earth Spirituality, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in nature-based spirituality. That book has a very simple yet complete explanation about this subject and others, and it takes a very unique approach to doing the ceremony. It is one of my all-time favorite books and continues to be a wonderful guide for me during my walk on this earth.
As quiet settled over the lodge, Ed began the Inipi ceremony. Many magical things happened in Lodge that night, most of which I never expected. Lodge is a special place where a connection to the spirit world is established.
I didn’t know what to think about spirit beings coming in to Lodge from the other side, but I will say this: I experienced them that night and almost every night I have chosen to do Inipi, since it is part of what Inipi is all about.
The four segments went by very quickly amid the drumming, chanting, singing, and praying that took place. We sweat just enough to let our life’s blood mingle with the earth, leaving us with a sense of having given back to Earth Mother. It was never hot enough to be uncomfortable, which enabled everyone to focus on their prayers, songs, and intentions. Suddenly, before I knew it, Lodge was declared over! It ended as quickly as it began, but in my heart and mind, the essence of my spirit was touched in a way that would change the perspective of my walk for the rest of my life.
In Lodge that night, I was named Shuunka Manitou Cante, which means “Wolf Heart” in the Sioux language. I have carried that name with me ever since, and I am proud to know I am connected to the animal world in such a special way. Beverly was no exception. After sharing her feelings with Ed in Lodge, she was named Lutah Changu Winan, or Red Road Woman. Her connection to nature was always a gift to her.
Many others were named in Lodge that night, and we all felt a personal connection to one another. I don’t think anyone in that lodge will ever be the same again! We quietly emerged from the lodge to complete the Pipe Ceremony. Native Americans view the Pipe Ceremony as a way of bringing truth to their words. They believed smoke from the pipe takes their words skyward to the ears of The Great Spirit, where He hears them in a way they were intended—as truth. Hence all words spoken when smoking the pipe must always be of truth and honor, because one would never lie to God.
At the end of the Pipe Ceremony, we were asked if we wanted to smoke the pipe. Many declined, but Beverly and I chose to participate. I found it brought closure and understanding to a night I would cherish for the rest of my life.
As some stood around the fire outside the lodge, others sat on rocks and logs, sharing their experiences of what the ceremony represented to them. We talked until late that night, enjoying the stars and the moon and everything nature had to offer. It was a night filled with questions and answers that we would carry through time for the rest of our lives.
“Okay,” announced Ed, “everyone back here at nine a.m., and we’ll take up where we left off today! It was a great day and a good Lodge, and I will see you all in the morning.”
There are many different religions and spiritual walks created and followed by the people of this planet, and I never judge other persons’ belief systems, because they are theirs and not mine. I believe religion and spirituality are very personal things, to be shared only when one is compelled to do so. As long as we do not try to impose our personal beliefs on others and continue to respect others’ beliefs, life will work for all people. I have chosen to share this story simply to offer insights into my own experiences, since these are the only experiences I can speak to in truth.
After having experienced that first Lodge with Ed, I have since learned how to lead Inipi and many of my own ceremonies, and I continue to do so to this day! If you have not been to Inipi and the opportunity presents itself to you, take a moment to learn about those holding this very important ceremony because there are as many different variations of Inipi as there are cultures that practice it. Find one that makes sense to you, and be sure to ask questions so you are not surprised or unhappy with your experience.
The Sweat Lodge Ceremony would be the beginning of a practice that would never end for Beverly and me. We found Lodge to be the perfect extension of meditation taking place on several different planes at the same time! It reminded me of my regular meditations, where going inside is like entering the womb of Mother Earth—a dark, warm place that continues to offer the opportunity to look within oneself while experiencing the traditions and customs Lodge has to offer.
Many people chose to stay and talk further because it was difficult to turn off the excitement. Gradually, though, people followed Ed’s advice and went to bed. Beverly and I started for our room, joining others who had the same idea. When we arrived in our room, we talked until the early hours of the morning, waiting for sleep to catch up with us.
“That was a wonderful experience,” I said to Beverly, as we lay in bed thinking about the magical way the whole weekend had come together.
“I still can’t believe we got the invitation by accident, and yet, here we are!” she said, still somewhat amazed by the circumstances that brought us to this place.
“I know,” I replied. “I’m also pleased that Ed went to the extent he did in explaining the Inipi Ceremony. I was sad to hear others had done them where the result was not so pleasant.”
“That happens when the people holding Lodge forget that the purpose of Lodge is to pray, not to make people uncomfortable,” replied Beverly.
“I agree,” I answered. “I’m also so appreciative to learn about Inipi from someone like Ed who obviously holds it in the right perspective.”
“We’ve been fortunate every step of the way,” replied Beverly. “I suspect it will stay that way for us as long as we are faithful to the truth of what it is.” We both knew it could be no other way since our walk in truth was foremost in both our lives.
It was quite a weekend, and when it ended, we were sad to say good-bye to the many new friends who came together to celebrate the earth and its inhabitants. I remember the drive home with Beverly. We were both so filled with the clarity of what our walk would be. We knew this was a beginning that was different from any of our previous experiences.
We continued to meet with Ed every time he was in New England. Beverly and I would travel to adjoining states to take part in his seminars because we never ceased to learn new things we could add to our arsenal of evolution.
After Beverly and I returned from that first seminar with Ed, we built our first sweat lodge on the farm. I will never forget this time because it was marked by an amazing event.
After Beverly and I finished cutting down the saplings to build the lodge, we took them to a site we had selected on the farm we felt would be perfect. My neighbor friend Julie thought the location was a good one as well. It was tucked away in a far corner of the farm, next to the creek and on the edge of the forest. As we began to set the poles and tie them together, a young pheasant made its way out of the woods and into the field next to the place where we were working. I mentioned it to Beverly, and she kept a close eye on the bird while we worked. Moments later the bird walked right into the middle of the lodge while it was under construction. It walked back and forth from one side to the other, in and around each pole, as if to inspect our work and make sure it was done with reverence and done right.
During the three hours it took to complete the lodge, that small bird stayed with us the whole time, sensing what a gift the lodge would be to the natural world. As soon as we tied the last poles together, the pheasant walked out the front door of the lodge and made its way back into the forest. I sat there and smiled at Beverly. We both knew what had just taken place was more than amazing; it was a simple but definite confirmation from nature that our actions were appreciated.
We used that lodge many times with many different people. Ed came to the farm and did the ceremony several times, the last with a number of vets from the area. It was an amazing night of healing for many of them. I was honored to be there.
The events in Lodge at the farm were always interesting. I recall one of the very first sweats we did because it was so unusual. After everyone entered the lodge, we became aware of all sorts of noises around the outside of the structure and on top of the canvas that covered it. I opened the flap to the outside, and standing at the doorway were our two horses, along with the other three standing behind them. Coltie, my best four-legged friend in the world, stuck his head into the lodge because he was curious about what was going on. I am sure he was asking himself why he hadn’t been invited, for that was how he looked. One of the barn cats made itself comfortable perched on top of the lodge, looking like it owned the place.
When these things happen, it is usually a sign good things are taking place. That first sweat was an amazing experience, and those in attendance were excited about the wonderful new opportunities available at Gateways Farm.
One year later Beverly and I met with Ed at a seminar in upper New York State. Beverly and one other woman who took part in the seminar danced in authentic Native American doeskin dresses, while I helped with the simpler tasks of Ed’s work.
It was a wonderful weekend, and Beverly and I both found ourselves yearning to learn still more from Ed. It was the nature part of it that was so enticing to us. I had always enjoyed being outdoors, but this was an aspect of that world I had not been familiar with before meeting Ed. He and I continued to talk about other things within the realm of Native American spirituality and nature-based spirituality. I was so grateful he was willing to teach much of what he knew. The eagerness with which he passed it along was always impressive to me because it pointed out the spirit of a man who was more interested in what he could do to make a difference in the world, rather than what he could get out of it.
At the end of that seminar, I approached him with a question. “Ed, Beverly and I have known you for some time now, and we are so happy about what we have come to learn from you and the many other things you have shared with us.”
“I am glad you are pleased,” he replied. “It has always been my pleasure.”
“Beverly and I would like to get married, Ed, and we would like you to do the ceremony for us here—today.”
“I am not a shaman or a holy man,” he answered. “But we see things in a similar light, you and Beverly and me. I would be honored to marry you.”
“That’s wonderful,” said Beverly. “Can we get married before we leave for home?”
“I think that would be perfect,” he replied. “I know of a place in the forest that has been waiting for this moment to arrive!”
There were four of us who were going to attend the ceremony. Beverly, Ed, the woman who danced with Beverly, and I were all in attendance. We were excited as we hiked up into the hills and deep into the forest. We didn’t walk far before we came upon the largest teepee I have ever seen. There was a small clearing in front that looked like the perfect place for the ceremony to take place.
The fourth person in our group was a very special woman. She had recently spent two weeks with the Dalai Lama in private study and was kind enough to share some of her words and experience from that time during the ceremony. Our marriage was witnessed by two trees whose trunks had intertwined since their beginning. They were now more than eighty feet tall and appeared more like one tree than two. It was very clear to all of us they were brought together by The Great Spirit to remain so during their walk on this planet. It was a wonderful example of commitment.
The marriage ceremony was as simple as the day itself, beautiful in every way and wonderfully fulfilling. Ed spoke for a short time about things pertaining to nature and our place in it. He spoke of how all things are related and how any action one takes has an effect on all things.
“Mitakuye Oyasin,” he said loudly, as he beckoned the spirit beings to our world. “Everything is related!”
He spoke of truth and how that must be paramount if our marriage was to last the test of time. When he finished speaking, he turned to us and handed me a pipe.
“Take this into the teepee. When you are finished exchanging your promises of love and commitment of life to one another, each of you smoke it and seal the words of truth you have shared with one another.”
Ed mentioned that the pipe had been packed for a vision quest ceremony in the Black Hills some weeks before, but after the ceremony those in attendance elected not to smoke the pipe. He told us he had been carrying it with him for something special, but he had no idea what that was—until now!
He moved the flap of the teepee to one side and beckoned us to enter, then closed the flap behind us. I removed a match from my pocket. I then placed some sage in a small shell his friend had given me outside. I lit a match and watched the sage begin to burn. After a few moments, I blew out the flame, and Beverly and I took turns smudging one another. Next we took up the pipe and addressed the four directions in prayer before we exchanged our vows.
Our commitment to one another was as beautiful and perfect as any words we have ever spoken. It revealed our commitment to our walk with The Great Spirit, with nature, and with each other. Once we finished exchanging our vows, we turned to one another and smiled. We sat there for several minutes, taking in the magic of the moment. The Great Spirit, the two trees, Ed, and his friend all had witnessed our vows to one another, and when we emerged twenty minutes later, we were joined as one for all time.
Ed offered a beautiful necklace that he had made of carved bloodstone to Beverly as a gift to remember the magic of the day. It was truly magnificent. Beverly still cherishes it to this day. He turned and presented me with a silver ring with the turquoise image of an eagle in the center, which I keep in a very special place. We were deeply grateful to our friends for making that moment so special for us, and I hold Ed and his friend, as well as those two trees, in a very special place in my heart to this day.
During our drive home, we could feel the tall ones (trees) telling one another from forest to glen that Beverly and I were now one with them. I realize this may sound strange, but if you have ever felt compassion toward another being (human or animal), tree, or flower, then you know what I mean. Even a simple sunset can stir your heart the way ours were moved that day.
Ed is an amazing man, and his spirit has helped many to achieve clarity in their walks. I will always consider him to be my brother, friend, and mentor while we are on the Red Road to understanding.
Ever since spending time with Ed, my focus toward nature has been stronger than ever before. The same is true for Beverly. I have spent much time with animals in the forest, and I still longed to learn more about both. I began to wonder if The Place was something found in nature, as well as within me. Before we parted ways, I asked Ed if he ever heard of The Place, where one could go to find the answers that would help to make our walk effortless on this earthly plane.
“If you feel the need to ask that question,” he replied, “then your journey is not yet over, but you are on the right path. Do not stop your quest. You will find The Place. Just keep looking with an open heart and listen to your inner self.”
I thought about what he said and acknowledged I was on the right track. Beverly and I thanked him and bid him and his friend farewell until his next trip to New England, when we would make it a point to join him once again.
Ed McGaa is the essence of truth. His ability to live in this world, unencumbered by those issues that can sometimes detract from it, is a testament to his understanding. He continues to spend a great deal of time and energy sharing his walk with others. I know when I communicate with Ed it’s like speaking with a brother, and I am grateful for that because Ed will always hold a very special place in the hearts of Beverly and me for as long as we live.