A Mirror Reflected into Itself
...from a recent dream
By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
(copyright 1999 all rights reserved)
It was a summer of unusual flowering. The rains came early and fell upon us regularly for the full season. The hillsides were greener than I can remember and many flowers of many colors blanketed those green hills. The deer were plentiful, too. We all became fat and lazy that summer, except for me, because I met a woman at the solstice gathering. She was as beautiful as the Earth had become that season. Her long hair draped across her shoulders and fell down the curve of her back to her fine womanly thighs. That day her hair was black as jet and her new buckskin robe was golden like a desert sunset. When our eyes met she smiled a mouth full of good strong white teeth and bright white eyes. She had no shame to hide behind her hand, and her wide womanly hips and little round belly made my manly part want her.
As we stood with only each other in our eyes, a young untried youth rode his horse too closely to her. She would have been trampled if I had not grabbed her hand and pulled her to me. That is when I noticed her womanly smell like digging deep into the earth for roots with cedar and sage smoke moving through it. No woman I ever wanted looked at me like that, so I picked her up and threw her over my shoulder. I walked casually to my horse, the soft felt of the robe covering her firm thighs caressed my ear. She made no sound and no man spoke out against me, so I rode away with her and made her my woman under blue skies on top of green grass covered with yellow, blue and purple wild flowers. I laid her on top of a good thick bear rug and we tasted each other's bodies for many hours. She didn't take her eyes off me the whole time and we wore only sweet smiles under attentive eyes.
The next morning we rode back to the village. She rode behind me on the rump of my best war pony. Her arms hugged my chest and her thighs gripped my hips tightly. We rode like wave upon wave on the back of that fine horse. On the way back to the village, I stopped at the canyon where I kept my herd of horses and cut out twenty of my best and asked her to show me her father's lodge. The rumbling of twenty-one horses riding up to the village brought everyone out to see what the commotion was. I pulled up the herd with just a motion of my hand and I walked the horses to this man's lodge. He came out to greet us, and raised his cupped hand above his head in our customary greeting. I returned the gesture, and said, "Your daughter will be my woman and these twenty horses will be yours." He nodded and I rode off with her for many days of what man and woman like to do together.
On the first morning we stepped naked into a cold mountain stream to bathe each other. I stood waist deep in the crisp high mountain stream and reached out to her. As she entered the stream, she slipped on the muddy bank and fell into my arms. After the cool water and our hands had touched every part of our blessed bodies, I carried her out of the stream so she wouldn't fall again. That morning I brought fresh meat for her to cook for us. I liked watching her work, she had a good strong back and a firm belly, good strong thighs, wide hips, and full breasts with dark, erect nipples that were outlined by several necklaces the color of the sky. She could bring forth and suckle many children for us. She place meat on sticks to sizzle over the fire, then she looked up and smiled at me. The meat caught on fire, and would have burned up her fine mane of hair if I hadn't grabbed her away just as the flames were licking at her black jet hair.
We returned to the village after a winter by ourselves with a fine strong man child. On the first morning I gave her a good bay and we rode to her father's lodge to see if he would join us for a ride through the forest. He rode with us on a paint I'd given him the summer before. My woman led us down a trail that became rough and muddy, our horses slipped and we all fell into a brown slippery mess of laughter and back slapping. A horse would have kicked her in the head while trying to get up, if I hadn't deflected his hoof with my hand. She led us racing back to the village covered in our mother earth's robe, and we rode too swiftly and too closely by an old woman's lodge who gave us disapproving eyes.
Her father dismounted in front of his lodge, but we laughed and kept riding. She rode her pony right off the steep high bank of the river, and I rode right after her. Our ponies squatted low on their haunches and slid down the loose gravel until we fell into the river, horses and all. I pulled her away just as one of the ponies would have trampled her trying to swim. Many stones and dirt fell around us from a rock slide we caused from our slide down the steep embankment. I stood in front of her to let the rocks fall against my back to shield her, then we swam to shore.
Dripping wet we walked to her lodge to change out of our skins that were heavy with water . We held each other under the many robes I placed around the warm fire that she kept burning in the center of the lodge she shares with me. I held her against my chest, and thought of all the injuries I had protected her from. Her fine jet hair lay about us like a feather robe, and I ran my fingers lightly through it's web stroking her graceful back. Water, Earth and Fire had all come to take her from me. Her carelessness seemed to invite their victory. What would wind bring?
This morning, the village crier had said the old ones predicted a late afternoon wind followed by a night rain. I got up and left the lodge to see what the sky had to say. It had turned yellow and remembering their warning, I checked the lodge to make sure it was stable. It is my woman's responsibility, but not wanting to give wind any opportunity to cause the trouble it likes to, I checked the lodge any way and found it was not secure. While kicking the lodge poles out to tighten the tent skin, I saw how impossible it would be to keep my arms around this woman all of her life to protect her from the mischief of spirit, animal and man.
The next morning I woke from a dream that showed me the nature of our bond. The dream was sending me away on a vision quest, and this woman who had eyes only for me could not depend on me always being there to save her from what she should have been looking out for. I painted the dream on the inside of the lodge. It wrapped completely around the skin and had no beginning or end. It showed the many adventures we had been on and the many accidents I had rescued her from. I painted mountains and rivers, meadows with many flowers and streams. I painted in the style of an artist's work I had seen in a book at a trade fair. Van Gogh had the strong bold strokes of a warrior with the haunting vision of a medicine man. I chose a rich blue touched by water and sky. I showed myself leaving on a journey and she looking at me as I left. A grizzly with an angry face is looking at her and he is behind and below the lodge.
I left my woman and child behind that morning to climbed a mountain to gather Earth Medicine. I didn't look back to see her sad eyes. It was a difficult climb that took me several days of effort. I did not sleep well at night, because I was haunted by the ghosts of my passed. The nights were cold, and I traveled lightly.
On the third day, my muscles were cramped and I was weak from lack of food and sleep, but I put my head down and pressed on, because I had a dream. The spirit of the mountain came to me and said "If you climb the mountain I will give you the power of the ant. The ant has the greatest power among my people, because it is the humblest and hardest working of all creatures. It is the humblest because it never works for its self, it always works for the good of all."
So, I continued on, even when I found myself walking crooked from cramped muscles. Even when I looked out and saw the village at great distance, and I thought I saw my woman walking into the forest to meet another man, and my boy wasn't being taken care of, and none of the other men looked out for him. Still I pushed on.
Late one night as I approached the summit, clouds moved in and the temperature dropped until it felt like quills were being driven through my hands and feet which were bloody and raw from the climb. The air became still with the cold, and even though it was summer, big flakes of snow began to fall.
I could not sleep from the cold so I began to climb again. My feet and hands were numb and I couldn't feel them anymore. I had heard people had lost there limbs from such cold, but I knew I could not live as I had been, so I pushed on.
The snow was a dry powder that I waded through calf high. The clouds had settled on the slope of the mountain and I could not see anything but white. White sky and white earth all around, and I kept pushing through the deepening snow. Finally the sun rose and the clouds began to clear, and in the distant mist I saw the granite dome of the mountain's peak.
When I tried to climb to the peak I found it was smooth and slick with ice. I used my finger nails to claw my way up to the top of the mountain, and when I lay at the top and I thought my life would end there, I reached into the pouch that dangled around my neck and lay against my heart to pull out a few grains of pollen and turquoise which I kissed with great sobs erupting from inside of me. I left my offering beside me before blacking out.
I awoke when the sun was high overhead and it was warm on my face. I found my hair had frozen into the ice, and I had to cut it free with my knife which I also used to chip the ice away to get the few pinches of hard frozen soil that I added to the Earth Medicine I carried in my neck pouch.
I used the rest of that day's light to find my way down the slope passed the snow line, and well after dusk I found a place under a young pine, where for warmth, I could bury myself in the mat of dead needles around its base. I passed the night hugging the tree and the earth for warmth.
It took me three more days to return to the village. When I came to the first lodges people ran away from me, because they thought I was a ghost. My hair was matted with dirt and pine pitch and my body was covered with dried mud and blood.
I collapsed by the central fire pit and people slowly came to see if I was still human or had become spirit. When I looked up, I saw my woman standing at the edge of the curious crowd with our son in her arms and her new man behind her. The muscles in his jaw twitched and buckled.
I left the village the next morning. I walked away from our lodge with my best horse, and didn't look back. When I knew I was out of sight, I swung my leg over the horse, and rode to a mountain that wears snow always. It is two days ride from this camp. I did not eat, but I drank freely of the waters I found, and I rode straight to a hot spring I know of at the base of that mountain. I fasted and bathed in the waters. My nights were sleepless. I was haunted by thoughts of my woman in trouble, from her carelessness and from the choices she makes. I wanted to ride back and protect her from harm, from that man with the twitching jaw, but I knew it was her journey to take on her own.
I spent three nights fasting by the spring then I moved to a high ridge near a meadow with good water, a place where deer come to eat the sweet, moist grass at dawn and dusk. When I slept I had dreams. I often dreamt that she was falling and I was reaching to catch her. Each night she became more heavy until I couldn't catch her anymore. She kept getting bigger, in each dream, so big I thought she was going to crush me. Finally after three moons on this mountain that was growing cold, I had my last dream of her falling. She was so large, that when she fell, she pinned me down. I was suffocating under her body. I woke up dying from suffocation.
When I opened my eyes I saw the eastern horizon hadn't yet begun to glow, so I sat on the ridge, gazing out at the stars and feeling them come close and touch my body. By dawn I no longer felt I needed to protect her from danger. I saw that the spirit that radiates from all the stars and the sun, and fills the beings of this Earth with life, and brings grace to the ever present motion of this world, brought graceful motion to her life as well. I laughed, because I saw how silly it was for me to take on all of creation to protect this woman, and how we had become prisoners to this foolish dance.
When I returned to the village, I was told, it hadn't been long before she shared her lodge with another man. He had arrived in the village just ahead of a big wind that had come just before I left. He was very jealous of me and angry with her. One day he beat her and stabbed her several times with an awl he had grabbed out of her hand. As he was beating her, she said, she saw my painting of the angry bear on the inside of her lodge, and recognized its expression on this man's face. She dove through the lodge flaps leaving our child behind, and ran to the river where she hid in the water for safety and its healing embrace. She didn't come back until he had left. It was many days before she could move from her lodge. The other women helped her with our boy and her healing. The men kept the man away, and he soon left the village because of the shame of his act.
When I returned, we were happy to see each other. I was saddened to hear her story with the angry bear-man. I was glad she survived and was even more pleased to see she looked at me less and paid more attention to her actions. She executed all her movements now with a new attentive grace. We honored her journey by tattooing her scars and she danced her heroism around the community fire. On another evening I danced costumed like an ant, expressing the burdens of life and the endless going forward. Our boy, was only two winters, and showed fear of loud voices. We often cried together for different reasons, when he ran to me frightened.
May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,
Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)
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