Yesterday, before Roland and I did another Shamanic journey training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, I picked up lunch and went to Golden Gate Park to be in its beautiful surroundings. I ended up parked next to the American Bison housed in the park. It felt good to be near them, I felt their content, but coming through was some sadness....a collective grief perhaps for their ancestors? Perhaps the sadness was mine. Seeing them, at that time, in what appeared to be a rather small fenced in area. In any case, remember these Buffalo in your prayers, and when passing through the City.
November 23, 2000
Dear Buffalo Brothers, Below are descriptions of my journeys to Buffalo as best I can remember. Please consider writing up and sharing your own so we can keep it in our collective memory. I've also included a story that I found myself thinking about on the ride home.
Journey #1: What does Buffalo have to teach us right now? See a herd of buffalo out on plain. Danger approaches on the right and the buffalo nearest notices it and communicates to those around him. The herd quickly begins moving away as each buffalo notices those around him. No buffalo is left behind. Lesson: Importance of sharing leadership, not focused on 1 or 2 "leaders". Importance of each member speaking up when Spirit comes thru or they feel "wary/unsettled". Importance of circle hearing that "concern" and helping it get heard/addressed.
Journey #2: What is Buffalo medicine? Know that Buffalo medicine is immense. One aspect of Buffalo is being very connected to the earth whether standing still or moving with pounding hooves.. Knowing the wisdom, power and healing that comes through this connection to the Earth. Buffalo has great healing powers - sometimes this comes through Buffalo's breath; sometimes this comes from the tremendous size and strength of Buffalo's heart. It is Buffalo's heart that compels him to give of himself, to care and provide for the people.
Redwood Journey In the redwoods, see our circle standing together and becoming a single buffalo. At our feet is a circle of men. Buffalo is breathing life into this circle of men. Am told that Buffalo sent his breath to breathe life into the people and then he gave away his entire being over and over to sustain and feed the people. See Stewart's image of Buffalo at the rim of an incredibly fiery, powerful volcano. The image of the volcano reminds me of creation and The Creator. Am told that Buffalo medicine brings us closer to the creator. The circle of men need to create - whether song, craft or poem; create and breathe new life into the world; by creating we will learn about The Creator and The Creator in ourselves; by creating we will bring nourishment to each other, our people and ourselves.
The message from Buffalo to take care of each person in our circle, to listen, validate and encourage reminded me of this story .
Beau and the Buffalo Dance
It was the morning after. The previous night we had done ceremony to honor rattlesnake and the AIDS virus as a teacher. But we remained unfinished. About twelve of us were clustered and clumped about our sleeping bags sharing coffee, bagels, leftovers. This was our second gathering on a tiny bowl of land surrounded by oak that we had only discovered after being abruptly displaced by deer hunters. The space where we had danced the night before was blanketed in silence, but the morning sun was beginning to wipe the dew from the solitary weeds that still remained standing.
Steve was proudly showing me his latest rattle invention, when Beau interrupted to ask if he could borrow the costume I had made to honor Buffalo. Without hesitating I consented, although inside, part of me winced at the idea. Beau was a peculiar guy. He lived in a camper and took his occasional shower at public parks. Suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, he claimed to be unable to work. My initial sympathy was eclipsed by the enormousness of Beau's needs and a fear of the fury that lurked beneath his surface. Most of us were very careful in our welcoming of Beau, graciously offering our distance. Sage was the exception. Sage earnestly embraced the humanity in hunters and homeless.
Steve continued his show n' tell while in the distance Beau disrobed down to his Salvation Army issued underwear and placed the Buffalo vest around his waist. He then began a slow trudge around the circle made by the previous night's dancing. Beau's wrists and ankles cuffed in Buffalo fur reminded me of the restraints I used to put on patients at the state mental hospital. His bedraggled appearance - his tired gait - his spindly legs emerging from caveman diaper seemed to comment on the current sad state of the beleaguered buffalo and its once proud dancers.
Steve unscrewed the stem of his rattle which he had made with sprinkler parts. As he was explaining the rattle's modern advantage, an insistent drum beat demanded our attention. We looked up and now saw Beau being followed by a crouching Sage, her drum held just above the ground. Sage had her full attention on Beau and she seemed to be guiding his step with each drumbeat. Sage, the drum, the earth all seemed to be encouraging Beau and in unison, they turned round the circle.
Something was happening - Beau looked different. His Buffalo headress with its hairy brow and beard, goose feather horns and eyes made from painted spools of electrical tape no longer seemed comical. The fur around his ankles and wrists now connotated warrior's armor. His body had lost its frailness and each step was now taken with increasing resolution.
Without a word, one by one, we found ourselves joining in. Our feet began planting themselves on the trampled earth as the beat of the drum guided our hearts to join the rhythm of a larger knowing. As we circled, the magpie shield we had placed in the west sent our prayers to the dead. Like the Buffalo painted on the gourd bowl we had placed in the east, we served as Lightning rods - energized by The Creator. With joy, with wonder, we danced our compassion for Buffalo, for Beau, for Sage, for all those who could no longer dance. Tears rolled down our cheeks until we were complete.