I recognize her from the Pow Wow. Our first night visitor arrives as Rick, Carolyn and I are sitting outside the fire circle, continuing our discussion on firekeeping and the teachings of The Old Ways. Rick had told me that people often come in search of “Fire Medicine” – the healing power that fire can have and the lessons it offers to those who are willing to listen. The woman introduces herself, finding a place to sit between Carolyn and me, and begins to talk – about her life, her past, her hopes and fears. I watch as Carolyn, the gifted storyteller and conversationalist, remains silent and opens her heart and her ears, gently allowing the woman’s tale to unfold. I sense that Carolyn is the one the woman needs to visit, so I motion to Rick and we move our chairs inside the circle, close to the fire where we will spend the remainder of the evening. “She’s an amazing woman,” he says of his wife. “She meets people where they’re at, without judgement, letting them be who they are, and that’s how she gives them the Medicine they need.”
After an hour or so, the woman returns to her tent and Rick’s wife joins us in the circle. “She really needed to talk,” says Carolyn. “I’m glad I stayed up with her, but now it’s time for me to say good night. Hope you manage to stay awake, Serena!” Me too, I’m thinking as I find myself already struggling to keep my eyes open.
Rick stokes up the fire and we arrange our chairs as close to it as possible to stay warm throughout the night. We both get comfortable in our chairs and start sharing our own stories.
I have no idea how late it is – I haven’t looked at the time since I arrived at 4:30 this morning, preferring instead to ride the waves of fatigue, allowing them to give way to a “second wind”, then a third, then a fourth.
As we’re talking, I look off to my right and notice a small light in the darkness travelling towards us. As it gets closer, I see it’s someone on a bicycle. Who in their right mind rides a bike alone in the dark at this ungodly hour? I start to get a little nervous. We’re completely alone, outside, in the middle of a park at night with a stranger heading toward us. I look over at Rick to see if he’s showing any sign of concern. He’s watching the cyclist out of the corner of his eye, but continues our conversation as if nothing is out of the ordinary. The cyclist comes right up to the edge of the circle, leans the bike against the tree, crawls under the rope barrier and heads straight for the fire. I have both feet on the ground, ready to bolt, while trying to maintain a calm exterior. I do not sense any malicious energy but I am on my guard nonetheless.
In the flickering light, I notice the cyclist is a man, tall and thin, dressed in full black spandex sports clothing. He removes his helmet and sits on the ground across from us, looking straight into the fire, not saying a word nor acknowledging our presence. We keep talking, stealing glances over at him from time to time. I’m surprised to notice he’s an elderly gentleman. Who is this man? Why is he alone? Where did he come from? He holds his hands over the fire, rubbing them together from time to time and I notice they are unusually large – like the hands of a sculptor or a musician. I want to say hello, but something tells me to let him be. He seems content at having found our warm little oasis in the middle of the night. He continues to gaze into the fire, warming his hands as Rick and I continue our discussion. After a long while, he quietly stands up without making any eye contact, and turns to leave the same way he came, riding off into the night. It was such a strange encounter, but oddly neither Rick nor I ever said anything to each other about it. We may never know what Medicine the old man took from the fire, but I hope he received whatever it was he needed.
In most fairy tales, unusual events usually happen in threes. In “A Christmas Carol”, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, each with a particular message. We have already been gifted with two visitations, will there be another? I no sooner formulated the question when I heard footsteps in the grass off to my left.
Our third visitor has arrived……
The story continues….
Click for Part V