Good Medicine

Good Medicine

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

Good Medicine

When you are ready, come to me. I will take you into nature. In nature you will learn everything that you need to know.

Rolling Thunder, Cherokee Medicine Man

As a young boy, I fondly remember my grandfather.

He was tall in physical size, but he was also larger than life itself, in my eyes. As a Cherokee Indian, he loved to tell the old stories that had been passed down from generation to generation in the tribe, located in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. His zest for life and his love of nature was passed on to me through the experience there in the mountains of western North Carolina.

On a warm spring day when I was a young boy, my grandfather and I were sitting on a large rock on the edge of the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. I was looking into a small puddle of water that was caught in an etched indentation of a rock. The large rocks were worn away by water action, and we would sometimes fish on the rocks and watch the fish travel downstream between the rocks. This particular day, I was more interested in the small minnows moving around the puddle of water that seemed to be caught in the rocks. I must have stared endlessly at the minnows wondering how they would get back to the larger body of water and their parents for safety. After all, I had my grandfather there to protect me. Who would protect them from the warm sun and from being eaten by animals, or other fish? Wow, I thought, I was glad I was not a fish!

My grandfather would glance around every few minutes to see what I was doing. He saw me looking at the small fish and asked, “What do you see when you look into the water?”

Always wanting to please my grandfather to show him how smart I really was, I looked quickly downstream and said, “I see the little fish swimming around, but they have no place to go.”

“Are you afraid for them, or yourself?” My grandfather would often ask two questions at once.

“The sun is hot, and I am afraid they will get too hot in the shallow water. Besides, what if they don’t get back to their parents in the river?” He softly spoke, “Well, maybe they are all right in this special little pool of water. They might get out into the large river and a larger fish might come by and eat them for dinner.”

“Grandfather, what will they eat to stay alive? What if they stay there and grow too big for a little pool of water?” I guess I must have learned to ask two questions, as well, from my grandfather.

“Grandson,” he said, “you do not need to worry because Nature will take care of them. Whatever happens is all part of a greater plan of life. It is the Great One’s plan.”

I am sure I must have looked perplexed by this statement, but I didn’t really know what to ask. Even at that young age, I knew he would be quiet to allow me to respond, then he would share more with me.

“What do you see when you look into the water?” asked my grandfather. I would look closely to see the water rushing quickly downstream. My eyes would catch the glimpse of the fish, flies touching the water, the water beetles moving quickly down the river, a piece of wood floating with the movement of the water, and the beautiful green plants. I must have explained all these things to him.

There was a long pause, then he said, “What else do you see? Look deeply into the water.”

I looked as hard as I could, then he said, “Now look at the surface of the water.” My eyes began to water as I stared, wanting to make my grandfather proud of my ability to see everything he saw.

“Ah, I see my reflection,” I proudly responded. He quietly said, “That’s good.” A smile came across my face.

“What you see is your whole life ahead of you. Know that the Great One has a plan for you, as well as the little fish in the puddle of water. Sometimes we don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but there is a plan.”

By this time I had forgotten about the little fish and asked, “What is the Great One’s plan for you and me?”

“Well,” he replied, “my way is working itself out as I am growing older. I am an elder now, and I am to be the ‘keeper of secrets’ just for you. You will be the keeper of stories and much that you will experience in life to be a helper to others. You are a keeper of all living things.”

As I listened to my grandfather, I got excited. “Even the keeper of the rocks and the little fish?” I exclaimed. “Yes,” he said with a grin, “because they are all your brothers and sisters, even the rocks, because they had the same elements of you and me.”

That special day seems so far behind me now. Shortly after that day my grandfather was taken to do better work, as he would say, in the “great skyvault above, where all things are perfect.”

What I remember most about that day was that he taught me to give thanks every day for all things, even the little fish and the rocks that we sat upon together.

As he said, “Always remember to walk the path of Good Medicine and to see the good reflection in everything that occurs in life. Life is a lesson, and you must learn the lesson well to see your true reflection in the water, as well as in life itself.”

J. T. Garrett, Ed.D., M.P.H.

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