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The Gift of Sweetgrass
Chris and I journeyed down to one of his favorite hunting locations in White Earth. We traveled up there with our dogs, Tod and Presley to help Chris prepare for his hunt this fall in Idaho. As we arrived at this little oasis in the middle of the prairie, the energy felt amazing. The tree cover was thick and lush, with choke cherries, buffalo berries and wildflowers abundant around us.
We began to journey into the brush, slowly navigating as quietly as we could, just taking in the glory of the space around us. As we continued into the trees, we found a trail through the woods. As we followed the path deeper and deeper into our little oasis, we soon hear the gentle bleating of a fawn crying for his mother. Instantly I was worried about the dogs bothering this baby, and as if they could feel my worry, Presley and Tod continued down the path beside us, with no concern given at all to this baby deer.
We soon come upon a spring in the center of this oasis. In the center of the valley, is a wet area created by flow from the spring. Cattle frequent the spring during the hot summer days, leaving behind footprints in the semi-dry clay. As we slowly pick our way through the rough footing, the fresh smell of water teases at us as the hot sun bakes down on us through tall cottonwood trees.
Life surrounds the spring, with butterflies dancing through the air, animals bedded down in the tall, lush grass, and birds chirping from their homes in the high tree tops. As we follow the stream of water up into the hills, an eagle flies over head. She screeches through the sky, the energy from her voice filling my soul. Try as I might to see her flying overhead, the tree cover makes this almost impossible. I hear her voice above me again, the sound piercing through me and comforting every fiber of my soul.
I remove my hat, and reach my hands down into the cool water flowing from this spring in the hills. Gently cupping my hands, I capture some of the clear water in my palms. Gently, I place the water on the top of my crown, allowing it to flow gently down my body, offering cool relief from the hot July sun. I repeat this again, placing more water this time on the nape of my neck. The water feels so amazing, as it lifts my spirits.
I slowly begin to pray. I gather my tobacco from my favorite silk pouch, and offer it to Yahweh. To our Creator. I thank him for the blessings he has brought me, for my gifts and courage. I thank him for the experiences he brings me, and offer my tobacco to the four directions. I thank my ancestors for guiding me, protecting me and teaching me.
Settling in, I begin focusing on listening only to the universal sound around me. I listen to the Earth below me, as she radiates her nurturing and healing energy. I listen to grandfather sky above me, to the universe that exists beyond him, beyond my own understanding or comprehension. I listen to the lessons he has to teach me, and the gifts that he presents to me. I slowly come out of meditation, and grab a drink of water. The sun is so hot it is baking down on us, so I gently placed my tobacco pouch back into my pocket, and we continue on our hike.
We climb up pass the spring where crystal clear water pours out of the badlands. Overhead Eagle continues to sing to us overhead, her voice guiding us through the oasis of trees below. Slowly before our eyes a meadow begins to appear. The meadow is completely filled with sweet grass, the lovely aroma filling my breath. Two monarch butterflies fly through the meadow, occasionally landing on a chokecherry bush. Along the eastern edge of the meadow the trees have grown to for a shelter where deer had bedded down the night before.
Gathering Sweet Grass
I hear a voice whisper in my ear "Gather". I open my silk tobacco pouch again, offering tobacco to the sweet grass and asking permission to gather some of the medicine. I begin to feel guided to individual strands of grass, as if they were calling to me. Gently and intentionally, I begin gathering strands of sweet grass, gently breaking the stems and leaving the roots behind to thrive for future generations.
I spend what feels like an eternity gathering the sweet grass, and I begin falling into a trance state. I could feel the energy of God around us, and his voice rang so clear in my heart. He showed me Chris and in the next coming years, living up near White Earth. He showed me Chris gathering a deer this fall, enjoying his hunt- but when he has learned his lesson of patience.
He showed me the power of peace, the power of gratefulness and the power of love. I walk over to Chris, and extend out the grass for him to smell. I ask him what it smells like and he laughs and says "It smells sweet!" I laugh and we take a few moments and take in the wonder of the blessing around us.
Chris and I took a moment here, and we discussed our goals in life a little bit. We just rested, allowing the dogs to cool down and get another drink of water. We snacked on some ripe chokecherries, promising ourselves we would come back and ask to gather some to make some jam. A silence overcame us, above the Eagle still screeching. Screeching more times than I'd ever heard before. The wind gently blowing through the trees offering a comforting ambient sound, bringing cool relief from the warm air.
We began our journey back to the pickup, slowly working our way back out the thick trees. Every step we take, sweet grass surrounding us and blessing us with her sweet aroma. As we begin to crest the top of the valley, fields of wildflowers surround us. Walking through more wildflowers than I had ever seen in one spot in my life. We begin walking through the deep grass and wild flowers back towards the road. The closer we got, the louder the highway became. The bustling energy from every person in a hurry to go nowhere. I feel their anxiety, their worry and stress; and in that exact moment, I heard the word "Gather". Chris is walking around 10 feet ahead of me, and at that same instant, Chris picks up a piece of trash that had blown in from the highway. We begin hunting down trash, finding flakes of Styrofoam cups scattered everywhere. Sandwich wrappers, plastic bags and wrappers fill our arms, as we get closer and closer to the pickup finding more and more garbage.
What a beautiful cycle we were gifted in this journey. Chris was able to get some hiking done, while sharing with me one of his favorite public land hunting spots. I experienced an amazing spiritual journey, one that I know many would spend their life time chasing, and we were able to give back to Mother Earth by gathering not only the gifts of medicine, but by honoring her by gathering as much garbage as we could.