Editor’s Note: Thanks for the many kind notes and offers of prayer at the passing of my brother. Each time I face a new life speed bump and ask for prayers, I learn more the power of prayer to open the way. This week’s guest contributor is my friend from Vancouver Island Tim Leadem. Tim offers his experience with indigenous people in Canada and lessons about living together as community and our connections after death.
We are sitting on a large piece of driftwood nestled into the sand at San Josef Bay near the northernmost tip of land on Vancouver Island. Clouds of rain have come and gone most of the day until a small, postage-stamp sized piece of blue sky opens up. An osprey seizes the moment to rise into the air and begin its fishing expedition along the Bay. Its flight is a joyous sight. Soaring with each breeze it stops to hover by rapidly flapping its broad white wings. Suddenly it shape shifts into a darted missile and dives down into the churning sea and emerges scant seconds later with a wriggling piece of silver clenched in its talons. And then disappears.
The scene is etched into my brain and satisfies something that lies deep within that has evolved with our species since we rose into our bipedal form.
When we return from this trip we stop at a remote pub, The Scarlet Ibis, to savour a celebratory beer to honour this backpacking trip. Somewhere in the cozy confines of the busy establishment a television set blares out its message of horrific fires in Maui. For a moment we are all connected to the scene of awful conflagration along beaches and buildings as we watch the incandescence of palm trees against a darkening orange sky.
We seem as a species to have lost our way. Our days become increasingly full of stories of heat waves or flooding or some other disaster. And we wonder about what would be the next apocalyptic event that will beset us.
Indigenous people that I have been privileged to work with begin and end their ceremonies with the words “All my relations”. It is both an invocation as well as a reminder that we are all attached together -human, sea, sky, osprey, fish, fire, burning conflagration. The interconnectedness of our beings mesh in a wonderfully mysterious way.
Once I was asked to witness a healing ceremony located high in the mountains at a sacred site. A Shaman was called upon by the tribe to help a family through its grief over the loss of a son and brother. As a member of the healing circle, I sang and drummed but mostly watched. At the crescendo of the ritual, I saw and now testify that a large cloud of small blue butterflies danced over our heads and flitted around for a minute while our chanting songs wafted up to join them.
All of us were joined in that moment in time along with our ancestors and spirits including the spirit of the departed member of the tribe. When the ceremony was over and we closed with the words “All my relations”, we got up to leave and I observed that the family had a newly found vitality. The younger brother shed his grief, became strong and took his elder brother’s place as a member of the tribe. The parents no longer appeared to be lost and aimless in their sorrow. Relationships were reestablished and solidified. I left with a lightness of heart and a knowledge that I had borne witness to something both very extraordinary as well as very ordinary. When we seek out the connections between us and the natural world and empower that connection then we become attuned to a way of life that resonates and hums. The world is as it should be.
There are paths forward that can lead back from the abyss of global warming and climate change. A sense of connection and commitment to honour our relationships can foster change so that we continue to evolve along with all our fellow beings on this one planet of ours. Really it is the only way forward that makes sense and perhaps is the only open path for each of us.
All My Relations.