May 23


Today is a day to regroup; a way for Moondog and I to shift our focus away from Darkling Light’s departure and back toward the reason for being here. It is a day of both reflection and anticipation, less doing than doing so. All the young ones are worn out and I doubt we will see them stirring any too soon. Moondog and I are exhausted  and sitting in an empty talking circle, it still asleep in the shadows of the trees that enfold us. Every now and then Moondog stokes the fire.

Beyond our intimate camp the Great Circle is vivid with sunlight in which the shades of surrounding trees dance to the quiet songs of a warm, early morning breeze. Advancing past the tree line a euphony of color chants a blessing for our eyes. The flowers of early summer are rejoicing, showing off their finery of a limitless pallet of brilliant tints. Bees, butterflies, and diminutive hoverflies of a spellbinding variety are already bringing in the bounty. The air is lovely now but chances are Moondog and I will sleep through the afternoon heat.

Some of the young ones have emerged from the trees to join us. Moondog and I acknowledge them but they feel emptied out, amorphous, struggling to collect their awareness. Moondog hands each of them a cup some herbal concoction  he has brewed up. That runner medicine of his has a world of uses and no doubt our boys must feel like they have run a marathon. Every so often more of them join us, groups of two or three, limping and stumbling into the circle until all of them are present. It is exceedingly quiet as each of us gazes at anything capable of holding our attention.

Fortunately there is a good bit of food left, and firewood. As our boys awaken in earnest two take over attending the fire and others disappear back into the trees to the larder, returning with ample food and water for all of us. Before long conversation begins. What next?

The enormous Greihound encampment is complete and it is beautiful. Many parties will come and go all summer in the interest of preparing their own and ours will play host to them all. A wave of several hundred has just come through; our camp needs attention and the three Greihound boys are induced to form the resetting detail. They have also stepped up to maintain it for the duration and will attend to that daily before joining in the other projects with the rest of us. Our next serious undertaking will be Clan Oak’s camp but the task won’t commence until tomorrow.

Now fully awake some of the boys grumble about the deplorable condition of their own enclave. They decide that today is the day to get a handle on that. With their notably renewed energy, off they go to attend to it. One of them has offered to stay and tend the fire, but Moondog waves him off, more than happy to do it himself in lieu of being surrounded by the untenable energy of youthful enthusiasm. He and I could easily sleep until tomorrow morning but nothing will do that we make our way to the bachelor camp later to visit and eat once it’s deemed pristine.


I am appalled to realize that Gobetween and I have slept through the entire day. Apparently someone has crept into our camp periodically to stoke the fire in my behalf. He and another boy have roused us; the sun is well on his way to setting. I am grateful while deeply embarrassed, having grown old enough to sleep through a responsibility I had willingly assumed. Fortunately protocol doesn’t allow young warriors to draw my attention to it. While Gobetween and I dress in some finery they build up the fire then lead us through the woods.

When we emerge into the clearing Gobetween and I stand gaping. The bachelor camp is beautiful. Four good size lodges in which the boys sleep have been built at the edge of the trees and I am invited to inspect each in detail. The lodges are expertly constructed and as neat inside as any mother’s lodge might be. With something of a contrived air I grasp a few of the poles and give them a shake in order to admire the stoutness. I examine the bound joints, even the cord the boys have braided to tie up the lodges. The structures are simple and yet elegant, bent poles tied together in the ceiling with a few strong horizontals to stabilize the frame. Willow wicker is woven artistically, enclosing each while vivid green yew branches are secured to the crowns to run off the rain. Together, the four lodges create an exquisite setting and I smile openly, complimentary. Without question, each is superb on all counts including the impeccable choice of location.

The central fire pit is ingenious too, much like the wonder Burning Grass had constructed in the basalt cave, appropriate for ritual but complete with side pockets for cooking. I feel certain the boys had consulted him somewhere along the way. And although Burning Grass had by some magic beyond the comprehension of most surrounded his with colossal basalt thrones our boys did well enough pulling in good size logs and arranging them as seats. The surrounding ground has been swept, an impressive woodpile is stacked off to the side, and a meal is well on its way to completion. This camp is as pleasing as any camp in which I have been invited to sit.

Before the final touches are added to our meal the boys gather around the fire, anxious to divulge the details of their admittedly fine encampment. They had found an old growth grove of maple perhaps ten miles into the Chalky Mountains replete with hundreds of tall, thin saplings, long-reaching into the canopy. With much thought and entreaty the boys carefully culled the poles for the lodges I just inspected. Spirits, they assure me, made the selection and dictated their every move including the erection of a small altar at which they offered prayers of gratitude before heading back. They insist that Gobetween and I hike in with them to see the grove and deem as good their meticulous attention to it. We happily accede sensing the importance of our affirmation that although young our boys have already learned a great deal.

As I listen to them something of a puzzle remains in my mind. When did they have the chance to do all of this? My quandary pleases them and some sit with anticipatory smiles plastered across their faces. Finally, I ask and one speaks up.

They had met up right after the Show Off Dance and decided then that rather than return to their villages they would stay, hike into the mountains, and find the poles needed for their camp. It took half a moon to find the grove followed by several more weeks of harvesting and hauling the poles off the mountain. The three Greihound had stayed behind, cleared the campsite, braided the cord, and built the fire pit. Once the Oak boys returned all pitched in to tie up the lodges and engineer the wickerwork. They had made it home to their villages before harvest, barely missed. Burnt Knife had known their whereabouts and what they were up to, and had assured their mothers that all was well.

Perhaps what has struck me the most was their anticipation of an event more than a year off. An awareness of something deep and ancient resonates in the core of their being. Here before me sits a group of resolute children living with the same devotion of spirit with which our ancestors lived, the  loss of which has always troubled me. I know in the moment that this summer is far more significant than pulling a village out of the Earth. I have encountered a congress that hungers for the old way and I am deeply happy.


Our boys have put together a feast and it is ready. Each of them makes a brief and tearful thanksgiving for the ritual that has just concluded, the privilege of having been a part of it, for their families, clans, and their people. One thanks the trout for giving up its life to feed us along with the peeled berry shoots and honey served with it. Others are grateful for the fiddleheads and violet blossoms, the strawberries, asparagus, and sweet birch cambium, all perfectly prepared. Moondog is the last to speak, thanking the Holy Mother for the young ones gathered here and the bounty that will keep their bodies strong in the months that lay before us. He asks that the spirits of courage, clarity, and stamina come to sit with us at our fire and guide our every endeavor. I doubt there is a dry eye in the camp.

We eat, gossip like old women, and laugh at the boys’ stories of their adventurous mishaps and missteps in judgment. Their tales of encounters with the spirits of the high country are hilarious, filled with fear-struck amazement. I know how disquieting those mountains can be, teeming with beings more powerful than can be imagined, unnerving, uncanny. The boys had stepped into that realm like beacons, first drawing curiosity then attracting mountain shades to their energy. There is little as enticing to them as the devotion to an ancient and fleeting world. The youth of Oak and Greihound had put themselves out there, without expectation or condition. They had been on a quest and to that end they had committed. The intensity of their attention to detail was the appetizer that spirits gobbled up. Although admittedly terrified by the experience, the boys have a marvelous sense of humor about the entire affair, and secretly, can’t wait to repeat it.

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