84: An Unexpected Encounter

84: An Unexpected Encounter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

An Unexpected Encounter

Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled
by unexpected sparks.

~Samuel Johnson

“Do you have time to participate in a ceremony?” a voice spoke from behind us in the trees.

My husband and I were on the road to the top of Mount Evans in Colorado, to see the changing aspens. We had stopped at a picnic area to go on a short walk. We were looking for clarity and strength, because the previous day the stock market had crashed. We didn’t know how we were going to survive financially. We were both semi-retired. My husband, Dave, had a part-time job working at a golf course, and I was working only one morning a week teaching preschool. I had been laid off from my other part-time job, and Dave was not working at the time because his job was seasonal. We had been using the interest income from our investments, and we knew we were going to have to make some drastic changes in our finances. In the past, we had found that our trips to the mountains gave us perspective on things.

We looked back and saw a Native American standing in a small clearing on top of some rocks. He was tall, with an Indian headband tied around his silver hair. A decorated Indian blanket was draped over his shoulders, and he was barefoot. At his feet lay a plain red blanket covered with various objects.

“What kind of ceremony is it?” I asked.

“It is a ceremony to give thanks, and to ask for help for many people,” he replied.

“Can we do it when we get back from our walk?”

“Well, I will probably be gone by then, as I have everything prepared to start now,” he responded.

I wondered if this was some scheme to make money so I asked, “Is it free?”

“Of course,” he answered. “But only participate if you want to.”

My husband was not sure at first, but after finding out that the ceremony would only be about ten minutes, we both agreed and walked back to where he was standing. We introduced ourselves, and found out his name was Michael Bird Bear, and that he was a Native American medicine man for a Sioux tribe in South Dakota. He had been in Boulder, Colorado for a conference. Before his trip, he had promised several people that he would do this ceremony at this sacred spot in the mountains. He said that part of the ceremony would be in his native language, and part would be in English. He asked us to please not take any pictures, and we agreed.

“Can you tell us what all these objects on the blanket symbolize?” I asked.

“This piece of meteorite in my left hand is thousands of years old, and the crystal in my right hand has special properties too. The objects on the blanket stand for all the creatures from the very largest to the smallest. There is a bear paw with the claws attached, and a rattle made from the small skull of a muskrat. The snake skin stands for the renewal of all things, because snakes shed their skin to grow a new one. There is also a long piece of petrified wood, and a special rock. There are two tomahawks, one that is very ancient with beading on it, and a newer one, showing the transition of time.”

Looking at a ball of tangled string with multicolored pom-poms on the ends, I questioned, “What is that?”

“Those are the prayers of the angels,” he said. “You know there are always angels around you, and these stand for the prayers of thousands of people all over the world, not just in America. The angels tangled them up so that the prayers could not be undone.”

He told us that first he would give thanks to the Great Spirit for all of our blessings, and then he would ask the Great Spirit to answer the prayers of the angels. He raised his arms to the sky, and quietly chanted in his native language, turning slowly to face each direction of the compass. Then he said in English, “Thank you for all things. Please answer the special prayers of David and Marna Jones,” and he continued to name several other people and Native American families. He then completed the ceremony by chanting again in his native language.

“Is that the end of the ceremony?” my husband asked.

“Yes, I promised it would be short,” Michael answered. He did not know that we were worried about money, but then he said, “You know the Great Spirit does not want people to live in poverty. It is okay to be financially secure.”

I thought he was going to ask us for money to help his tribe, but instead he said, “Don’t worry; things will be fine for you.”

“How did you know this was a sacred spot?” I asked. “Was the location handed down?”

“Yes. You may wonder why it is so close to the outdoor bathroom. The sacred spot came first, and the bathroom was added later!” he answered, and we all laughed.

I told him that my husband really liked Native American culture, and that his father’s family lived next to the reservation in Mission, South Dakota. I also said that I identified with the Native American concept that all things are connected.

“I believe the Great Spirit is in the spaces between the atoms,” I explained.

“Exactly,” said Michael. “Have you heard of Don Miguel Ruiz?”

“No,” I answered.

“He has written a book that I think you would enjoy. It is called The Four Agreements.”

“I will get it,” I answered.

Dave and I thanked him for letting us be part of the ceremony, wished him good luck, and we all shook hands before saying goodbye. Dave and I walked back to the parking area, which was empty except for our car and Michael Bird Bear’s. On the way home we talked about how strange it was that we had connected with him. We had never stopped at any of the picnic areas before, and if we had not also stopped to take pictures at a lake on the way up the mountain, our paths would not have crossed.

After we got home, we talked about our finances, realizing we would both need to work more. Dave got a job during the holidays working at RadioShack, and went back to his golf course job, where he appreciates the free golf included as part of his compensation. I got substitute teaching jobs at two schools, utilizing my degree in elementary education. I really enjoy teaching again, and participating in the development of young minds.

We are using some of our savings, and have scrunched our monthly budget, eliminating extras like eating out a lot, but we are doing all right. We appreciate small things even more, like our time together, and we are closer than ever now. Our ceremony with Michael Bird Bear reassured us, reinforced our connection, and gave us strength.

~Marna Malag Jones

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