He sits, peaceful, unhurried, humble, wise,
arranging his medicine on the prayer cloth.
Carefully, he places them: the rock, the antler,
the abalone shell, the sage, the eagle wing,
the tobacco, and the pipe.
We sit in a circle, silent.
Thoughts are suspended.
Waiting is what is happening.
Then, around the circle he walks,
holding the abalone shell, using the eagle wing
-the entire wing of an eagle -
to blow the sage-smoke over us.
Each in turn, bathes in the smoke,
lifting it to our faces,
over our heads, down our arms and legs,
over our shoulders.
The medicine man returns to his prayer cloth,
Slowly, he fits the pipe together,
tamps the tobacco down,
lights the pipe and draws.
He points the stem of the pipe
and breathes a stream of smoke
Above - towards the sun,
Below - towards the earth,
in each of The Four Directions.
The pipe passes around the circle.
One by one, we breathe in
the sacred smoke and pass it on.
When it has passed full circle
he dismantles it, puts his medicine away:
the rock, the antler, the abalone shell, the sage,
the eagle wing, the tobacco, and the pipe.
Then he brings out the drum.
Its beat reverberates
through my innermost being.
I know in one of my many lifetimes,
I have been First Nations.
My soul is First Nations now -
it is many nations,
for in all my lifetimes
I have been many people,
and in this lifetime I understand
that geography of hearts.
I am connected forever
to that day, to that circle,
to that sacred place,
and to the larger circle
of humankind that we all are.
The medicine man is singing,
each word a prayer and a blessing
with which our hearts are filled.
When he brings out the feather, to speak,
he tells us: "Your greatest pain
is your strongest medicine."
He looks straight into my eyes.
He knows. I understand.
We are waiting
for the Rainbow Race to rise,
and usher in
a thousand years of peace.