Once I received correspondence from a man who heard that I was hosting tipi meetings. This is back when we used the post office, so you really had to make an effort to communicate in written words with another human. He expressed interest and inquired whether, since he had never been to a ceremony, would it be possible for him to attend? He was very polite and following a series of letters which confirmed the man’s sincerity, (let’s call him Winston), it was decided that he would travel from a neighboring state for a ceremony on Spring equinox.
Winston arrived nearly a week early as I had mentioned to him that the roadman who had been actively conducting ceremonies at my home often suggested members should come early and stay late so that they could be of assistance to the hosts, preparing wood and caring for the grounds.
Winston was a pleasant person and made himself helpful in the days leading up to the meeting. He and I spent many hours collecting and prepping tipi wood and conversing. As the week progressed other people arrived and joined in on the helpfulness. We all shared in evening meals and Winston seemed comfortable and well adjusted to the circumstances. Ceremonial protocol and how to behave and respectfully be around the medicine was also fully discussed with the newcomer.
But sometime after midnight I began to notice that Winston was enjoying the singing and drumming maybe too much. He was kind of rocking, almost hopping on his cushion and would let out a little yelp from time to time, and seemed to be expressing himself verbally to nobody in particular, but I guess to Creator. He didn’t appear agitated, just overly expressive I would say. I noticed but stayed focused on my own meditations, not wanting to distract the purpose of my attention.
At some point between singers, a woman asked him- Winston, are you doing ok? It took a few seconds but he responded by saying- Oh yes! I’m fine! I’m great actually! I’m just so happy and overwhelmed at all your kindness. You’re such great people. Everyone here has been so kind and just made me feel so welcome, and normal.
Normal? The woman asked.
Well yeah, normal. Like the eye thing isn’t even an issue.
The I thing?
Oh… you know, the eye thing!
The I thing? Or the eye thing maybe? We’re all sitting there, trying to figure out, what the?
And so with much emotion, he began to tell us the story of how when he was young, his mom told him to stop playing with baling wire or he was going to poke an eye out. And he did. It seemed like this ceremony was suddenly about this. A man was dealing with something that the medicine was dealing with, and here now was the time it came out amongst our prayers, as the next singer held the staff and instruments so this moment could have its say.
We listened as he told us of the emotional effects of carrying the scar of blame of not listening to mom. And wearing an eye patch all through school. And kids teasing him. His not having a social life and retreating into a lonely, monoscopic world. He never had a girlfriend. No school dances, no running around with friends testing the boundaries of growing up together. Lonely Winston did his life alone because of the eye thing.
We were… stunned? More like surprised because the woman who originally asked if he was ok spoke all of our thoughts when she said– But Winston, I was working with you and we were talking together for days and I never noticed anything different about you or your eye!
He actually didn’t believe her at first. That’s very kind of you to say but you don’t have to…
I’m not kidding! I never noticed anything about your eye thing! Everyone was in complete agreement. You could tell by the looks on all our faces. Nobody knew.
Well, he said, Ok. Maybe… that’s probably because after Leo invited me here 4 months ago I went to a specialist and got fit with an expensive prosthetic eye. Then I went to another specialist who made recommendations for this style of thick frame glasses that draws attention away from my prosthetic. Other than that I’ve worn the patch since I was little. So I guess that could be it.
Further amazement at this continued pause in the proceedings. But by now it seemed the eye thing was the proceedings.
Then it was uncle Pete who stood up and in his strong, honest, voice said, You know brother, I did the same thing. I didn’t listen to my mom and I stuck my eye and so I wore an eyepatch for several months while that thing healed. And kids? Kids can be mean! Really mean, to anyone they think is different from them. I was there brother. And you know how I got over it? I just let them be however they were gonna be anyway and realized that their own insecurities didn’t have to be mine too. I figured it wasn’t their fault that they lacked compassion for my own screw up and I kind of felt sorry for them.
Now I’m just like, hang on… Pete wore an eyepatch? And how is this prayer all wrapping around like this for one guy’s issue?
And to make it even more… I guess more of whatever it was that was apparently being laid in front of us and the medicine in here… sweet brother William, who had ridden his motorcycle from Atlanta to Arizona to attend this service spoke up and asked the roadman if he could get up and go over to Winston, to see him. So he did. He very calmly walked around, crouched so he could look the guy in the eye(s), and said- Take off your glasses so I can see you. He did, and he did, and William says- Brother… you are beautiful!
Somehow that kindness, that gesture, that expression of something that this fellow had maybe never heard anyone tell him, was enough. It was enough to release a great relief of tears, and not just from one or two eyes, but from probably every eye in there. The recognition of what had just happened touched us all in seeing the help that this sacred medicine can design, that is only and always designed for who we are. This man had been in therapy. For the bulk of his life he had been unhappy, alone, ashamed, dwelling on the self imposed limitations that the eye thing had inflicted on his spirit. He hadn’t just lost an eye. He had lost years of time. This was the feeling of it.
What I remember following this was how that drum started up and the singing proclaimed joyful gratitude into the new morning in such a beautiful vibrant way as to never forget! A more humble and instructed circle of friends could not have existed for at least a radius of uhm, I’d say umpteen hundred square acres give or take a few thousand.
I think about that often. Maybe we all have an I thing. Whatever it is. Something that happened, something you wanted to happen but didn’t, something or somebody you lost, a crushed dream, or a physical challenge. It’s amazing how we can shovel so much stuff into our own wheelbarrow and then wonder why it’s too heavy to push. We can think that what other people think of us is the way we must think of ourselves. We can suffer the blindness of others while not seeing ourselves with the loving vision our one Creator does. Through Winston, the medicine gave us all a precious lesson in treating ourselves as we would have others do, but they often don’t. It’s kind of like the golden rule, but sideways.
A few months later I heard from him and we corresponded for a few volleys of letters. He had a new job, not in a cubicle as he had formerly preferred, but out in the public where he and other people actually had to see and interact with each other. And he had a girlfriend, and a great attitude. It seems like if you combine the words great and attitude, you end up with gratitude. 🤨
I’ll have to think about that one. But now it is late and eye have to be up early. Thanks for reading.
Thank you medicine, for the way you see us and the design you have blessed us with. Help us overcome our shortcomings and bring our attention to the ways in which we may be not feel worthy accepting your helping us help ourselves. Thank you for your healing presence in our lives.
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