Four Legged Spirits

My guide and mentor told me to expect to be visited. He said that there might be Spirits with good intent, or some with less than good intent who would come to visit me.

I was left on the drumlin with a minimum of physical comforts, a small space defined by the 404 prayer ties staked out in a rough square. I had perhaps a six by six foot plot of earth to remain in and open myself up to whatever the Universe might offer to me. I was embarking on my third hanbleceya or vision quest, and the first time with this particular elder leading me in the sacred ceremony.

I would spend 4 days and 3 nights in this space. This particular mid October time found the days comfortable, but the nights quite cool. I put on every layer of clothing I had, prayed hard and spent some precious calories shivering. There would be no food or water during this span of time. There would be no fire. Sustenance would come from being grounded on the Earth, soaking up the life giving rays of the sun, and concentrated prayer and listening to what Spirit might share.

The elders teach that it can be important to keep one’s vision to him or herself. Still, there were a couple of moments that were important that I would like to share. Being elevated up high on the drumlin is a temptation to gaze about, to drink in the natural beauty of distant other drumlins, of the cloud formations and a host of other beauties of the wild. Still, I was instructed to do my best to focus on prayer, of messages within, and to not be distracted by what was going on “out there”. This human found it very challenging. Especially when the sun went down, and my hearing became the predominant sense.

I have spent literally thousands of hours in the woods. I have been blessed to see and be up close to many hundreds of deer, and numerous owls, coyotes, bears, turkeys, porcupines, woodpeckers, bobcats, hawks and so much more. Many is the time that I have startled a deer and they have sounded their vocal snort of alarm. It is an unmistakable sound, and one that always gets my pulse racing.

Each of the three nights in my space brought the sounds of nighttime. Distant road noise dimmed. Off to the south a barred owl called. And suddenly, sight unseen, that huffing, blowing, snorting sound of several deer just feet away! I’d had no idea that they were there, and certainly not so close. There was little ambient light, and that scarcity seemed balanced by every sound being amplified.

A few hours later, during each night, likely around two or three in the morning, a pack of coyotes let loose nearby with their howls. With a fifty percent hearing loss, I have worn hearing aids for decades. And, during this ceremony, I was not allowed my glasses, nor my hearing aids. From the back yard at our home about a quarter mile away, the coyotes often bark and howl at night. But even with hearing aids, it is difficult for me to hear their particular pitch. That was not an issue up on the drumlin. I’ve seen coyotes a number of times while working on the farm, and they seldom get closer than the length of a football field. But I must have been in the path of travel that they often take during their nighttime hunt. They let me know in no uncertain terms that I was intruding. Those moments gave new meaning to the phrase “hair raising”.

My first thought around this was that I did not belong. That this was the message that they were trying to tell me. And, because I have been given the gift of so much time in the woods and field, I know inherently that that’s not right. Absolutely I belong. Sure, modern man has largely stepped away from what was once such an intimate connection to the natural world. Still, for those of us who get away from the pavement and machines for a saunter into the wild, we know that there is a place for us among our other relatives. As long as we choose to be, we are a part of, not separate from this wondrous web of life.

Steve Aman, The Wandering Bobcat

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