Monday, May 09, 2011

The Place

Back in April 2010 I went to visit some folks from my tribe who live along the Ohio River. Me and my best friend in the whole world, Willie, picked up some tobacco as per our tribal tradition while on our way (you should always bring some form of tobacco as a gift when visiting an elder or spiritual leader), since we were visiting the oldest living elder of our tribe.  His name is Flying Duck, and he is the brother of our tribe’s former principle chief.  He and his sons are pretty amazing artisans, and in particular he and one of his sons work with silver.

The reason for our visit was twofold.  The first reason was because Flying Duck is an elder, and regrettably for both Willie and myself it had been far too long since we last visited him.  The second reason was because I was hoping to ask him and his son if they could make an engagement/wedding band for me to offer Jamie as I asked for her hand in marriage.  Shawnee people have a long tradition in silver-work, and for many other tribes, the word used to describe the Shawnee meant “the silver people.”

As Willie and I drove the narrow country road that led away from the Ohio River along a small stream on Rush Run Road, my mind flooded with memories.  We had driven this road many times before to visit Flying Duck and other Shawnee who lived in the area.  We had roofed a house there, gone to church there, attended funerals there, and on many occasions sat in the house where Flying Duck and Raincrow grew up.

Every time I visit, I sit down in an old wooden chair that sat next to an old wooden table in the dining room, and sometimes, Flying Duck talk about the table and chair. Shawnee people love to tell stories. "Billy, a lot of very deeply spiritual people have sat at that table.  Many of the most committed Christians I have ever known have sat exactly where you are sitting.  Raincrow, my grandmother, and my mother have all sat in that space.  We’ve hosted missionaries, preachers and others and they have sat right here at that table for meals.  Have you ever heard of Dr. Alexander Reed? Dr. Alexander Reed was a missionary to Africa and he had a huge crush on my mother.  Lot’s of men did because she was beautiful, and very godly.  Every time Dr. Alexander Reed would return from Africa, he would come visit for Sunday dinner after church and would share stories with our family of his missions in Africa.  Lot’s of powerful Christians have sat where you sit Billy, and it’s an honor to have you sit there too!”

And so we would sit and listen and share stories.  It’s a bit of the Indian way.  On this trip, it was more of the same, and although Flying Duck and his son felt they would be unable to help me make a unique ring, we certainly enjoyed catching up, and sharing stories.  I remember my drive back to Columbus with Willie, and just how nostalgic we had become from our visit to a place and to people with whom we had many special memories.

As I talked with Jamie about it the next day, it sparked a question.  “Where’s the most special place on earth for you, where you have a lot of memories and good times?”

Her response, “I’d have to say Lake Floyd.  It’s the place where I grew up, and it is really special to me.”

I thought, then spoke “Well, is there any place in particular around the lake that is particularly special for you? It’s kind of a big place.”

“The middle of the lake, I used to love rowing out there and sitting—it’s just so quiet and peaceful.”

And that’s when I knew that when I asked Jamie to marry me, it was going to be in the middle of Lake Floyd…

And what about you?  What are some special and sacred places for you?

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