29 hours awake. Another full day of firekeeping ahead. The intermittent waves of sleepiness I had been experiencing have now turned into a constant struggle to keep my eyes open.
Rick, on the other hand, isn’t showing any signs of fatigue as we smudge the circle to clear the energies for the second day of the Pow Wow.
Despite the battle to keep myself from falling asleep, I realize that “good” sleeplessness has its perks – all shreds of ego are now gone and I am fully living in the present moment. The incessant chatter that usually occupies my head has been silenced and I experience the day’s activities with unusual mindfulness.
The dancers are even more extraordinary…..
The storytelling is even more captivating…..
And in contrast, the sacred fire that had been burning steadily since the beginning has now been reduced to burning embers and occasional wisps of smoke.
I think back to the morning I first arrived – which seems like a lifetime ago. Our sacred fire has sent many prayers up with its smoke, it inspired drummers and dancers, delighted children, and comforted visitors in the middle of the night. It gave warmth to two firekeepers who promised to keep the long vigil and it offered its Medicine to anyone who asked.
The sun has made its way across the sky and the time has come for the firekeeper to perform the final ceremony of the day…..the closing of the fire which signals the end of the Pow Wow.
All the dancers leave the circle as Rick and I each take a handful of tobacco and walk clockwise around the dying fire, sprinkling the tobacco and offering prayers of thanks before leaving the circle for the last time.
The circle is then closed by three of the dancers as the drummers offer a final Drum Song.
As the drumming ends, the Pow Wow closes and the fire is neither doused nor smothered……it is left to extinguish naturally.
The firekeeper’s job is complete.
The camp begins packing up immediately and I say my good-byes to Rick and his family. I return home with the scent of sage and fire in my hair, and finally allow myself to give in to sleep as I crawl into the warmth and comfort of my bed. As I close my eyes, I wonder if perhaps there was any Medicine for me in that fire……
Extraordinary journeys always end in a return to the ordinary. Although I would have preferred to have spent the following day relaxing and maintaining my blissful state, I knew it was better to jump right into the physical, mundane world in order to ground myself in the reality of day-to-day life.
It took several days before I began to discover that I did indeed receive Medicine from the fire. Subtle, but very clear messages will manifest someday soon in my artwork, in my writing…….
…..and a little Myth-Busting
Rick is an exceptional friend and firekeeping mentor. But if you were to meet him in person, you might never know he was a firekeeper. Outside the fire circle, he is more likely to throw jokes around than discuss his role as a keeper of fires.
He is very down-to-earth and he’ll be the first to admit it he’s “just an ordinary guy”.
Which is even more extraordinary.
Wliwni, Rick. (Thank you!)
Rick Hunt is a professional visual artist and his wife, Carolyn Hunt is a Native storyteller. Together, they are known as the Laughing Couple, performing interactive storytelling in schools and venues throughout New England.
Visit Rick Hunt’s artwork at: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664831873
For more information on Pow Wows in the New England area, visit: www.powwowschedule.com
Update 2021: Several years ago, Carolyn Hunt had a massive stroke which resulted in aphasia. Her intellect is intact, but she has difficulty speaking and can no longer tell her stories. In 2021, Deb Reger of the Moccasin Tracks radio show on WRUV-FM in Burlington, VT created a video documentary series, inviting special guests to read Carolyn’s stories against a background of her creative achievements. It was an honor for me to read one of Carolyn’s stories for the series. The full series can be viewed at: Carolyn Hunt Documentary