May 7


It has taken the best part of the day to leave the village. We went compound to compound acknowledging our elders and leaving tokens of remembrance with them. With every visit came the prerequisite meal and much talk, small and big. I enjoyed it immensely as did Darkling Light, but Moondog has never been known for his patience. I think the Old Ones dragged it out in his behalf, bringing up matters in great detail better spoken to those who could seek remedy.

And we had our Greihound too. Burnt Knife, Star Stalker, Thorn Arrow, and Longbow. With the exception of Longbow, the others belonged to this village and took care of the Greihound shrine in the summer.

I knew we wouldn’t hike out much more than a mile or two before we camped for the night. I had hoped that it would be some sumptuously beautiful spot hidden away that I hadn’t visited yet, one that was teaming with spirits. But I think Moondog just needed to rest. The spot he selected was quiet and uneventful.

Daybreak. We are pushing on and we are making our way up through the trees toward the high mountain trail. Light frost, dissipating quickly has left drops that sparkle in the canopy breaks where sunlight watches our every move. The mountain flocked in dense stands of oak, birch and pine cling to the chill late into morning as if they too were lovers lamenting inevitable separation. It is remote and arduous, rarely taken, by-passing the next two villages before dropping down a few miles from the Great Circle. The unspoken rule of the river road requires that we stop and visit, often for days. We are simply too tired with the degree of core exhaustion that seeps in during six months of cold, hunger, and relentless ritual. The stillness of the footpath suits Moondog’s pensive mood, a spirit that often visits his predisposition. Darkling Light and I are quiet too but we out pace the cold of perennial forest darkness and connect with the track in the upper reaches.

I am enthralled by the breezy high country where the habitats change so frequently it seems conjured by spirits. This is their domain and they rule by the whims of their natures. Their presence is acutely felt and many enjoy the daring confidence one senses when safe on his own turf, allowing him to be visible and perspicuous. But the subtle shift from late afternoon to approaching sunset always strikes me and causes me to shudder. It is the window in which spirits awaken, stretching their limbs and surveying their territory; territory we are crossing. I remain consumed by anticipation, if not real anxiety, from that moment until Moondog signals that our camp is just ahead. In this terrain, at dusk, I can hardly contain my need for a night fire and a boulder against which I can lean. That sense of security is however delusional. These spirits have no fear of fire. More often than not it seems to attract them. They stand just at the threshold that divides fire light from the blackness that lives beyond it. Moondog and Darkling Light tease me about my fixation on the edge of that circle. But they know that achieving their comfort level in this world would not necessarily be easy stages for me. I wouldn’t want to be up this way alone no matter how much they revel in such an uncommon opportunity. I have always slept between them when we camp at places that feel intangible and transitory such as the place we are camped at now. Before I drift off the memory of White Goat pops into my mind.

One night while Moondog and I were camped somewhere in this high country White Goat showed up sitting at our fire. I thought, perhaps he was a hunter who had hit the trail before dawn. Incredibly handsome I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He was quite young and had light golden hair. His attire was made up of simple, ashen colored buckskins, found peculiar because they were dripping wet. When White Goat smiled, one that was broad and genuine, he revealed pointed green teeth. He was no hunter. White Goat was a water spirit.


Our night was uneventful. Even the spirit world had taken pity on us and we have slept long into morning. I can’t remember when we last had such a delicious chance. Nor are we pressed to break camp quickly. It doesn’t matter if we make the Great Circle today or a few days from now. Ten days will probably pass before the intended rendezvous takes place there with six other venerable vulgarians. We are going to toss the bones, stones, sticks, and pits, chosen to divine the rounds of fall’s great undoing. It is an honor for which I am not certain I am qualified to fulfill but I harbor no secret doubt that the others are.

Darkling Light has a good fire going and I catch a whiff of some magical elixir brewing just before the perfume of stewing fruit and grain reaches me. I can’t believe Gobetween remains so sound asleep. The rumbling in my gut surely should have roused her by now. I touch her softly and she stirs, still reluctant to awaken and release me from her embrace.

[Darkling Light]

After a luxury of morning distraction we are on the trail again. The chill of daybreak is behind us and the high country is yielding to the pressure of spring.

It feels like indefective indulgence to pass these rare days alone with Moondog and Gobetween. I would spend what is left of my life with them were we not most often pressed into some selfless service somewhere. This will make up into a grand summer for them, camped out at the Great Circle, deliciously alone for the most part. I feel immensely envious. Unlike them, having no arduous journey, I am facing one of my own. This unprecedented year always includes many requests for councils that will take up disputes between factions, disputes that have to be put to rest before the Mother of the Night comes home after Her mystical journey.

It is an honor and I a privileged emissary, but I am shamelessly coddled by every village. Each maintains an exquisite lodge for me created by some nameless master craftsman. Stowed in each is every ritual garment I could possibly need for any occasion. For me it is necessary to include both men’s and women’s clothing worn according to my seasonal dictate and in which season I might be summoned. This ritual finery is at its extraordinary best, complete with plumes, paint, trinkets, footgear, no piece left out. Many I have never worn, they laying in anticipatory wait of the need. But this summer might turnout to be one when in the end I have worn every expression of warrior excellence. Perhaps before I go back to the Earth I will spend a winter traveling to all the villages for no other purpose than to dress in every ceremonial outfit Clan Female has created for me. Yes, I will do that.

But the temperate truth is that the moment I arrive at each destination I am assigned an entourage that attends so completely to my needs I barely have to walk on my own. I have only to sit in council or ceremonies and attend feasts. I have never fixed my own hair or dressed without assistance. It is as lonely as anything you can imagine.

I move constantly among throngs that need my attention, listening intently to and making prayers with them all. Arbitrating disputes is my inherent predisposition; disputes between villages, clans, societies, families, even individuals suffering untenable unions with lovers, children, elders or spirits. My life has been consumed by my people’s concerns, bringing each to a resolution that has never been challenged. It is a weight of responsibility like none other. I am a vessel of harmony that lovingly shelters against every shard of distress like a mother who cloisters an infant at her breast. I believe I have known every person that has lived during my life. I have held equally the newborn and dying in my arms. With the same devotion I have pressed my hands against the cocoons of the unborn and made incalculable prayers at the resting-places of those long gone to the Ancient Ones. With undivided attention I have held the hands of women giving birth and those of men reborn after savage initiations. I have gossiped with the Crones, complimented the aspirations of our youth, and chastised our wild little ones. I know every ritual, every sacred song, and every medicine bundle of every clan.

And I have had many lovers, both men and women. Each seems to wait for my return when they will set aside their lives in my behalf. I love them all but among them few are friends and none love me. Each of them has a life, something beautiful, an everyday filled with some special wonder to which I am not privileged. That is the nature of my life, Moondog’s too, until Gobetween was given to us.

I love them as though love had never heralded its beauty before in all of Creation. And as in love as Gobetween and Moondog are there is never a moment when that love doesn’t flood my own existence. When we are together I entangle myself in the deep bliss of what they embody. In their presence I am entwined in their dreamtime, arms, legs and breath through long chilly nights and fog filled first lights. I cling to them and they to me as one might cling to a lone tree on a windswept precipice. When apart my heart aches for them.

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