Preparing For Our Marriage

By turning my ring John had made representing the eclipses into the engagement ring, we did not have to worry about finding another ring. We told each child one t a time, listening to or seeing their reactions when we were able to do this in person. Savannah had the biggest reaction, for she burst into tears. I said, “Savannah, are you okay? Do you not want us to get married now? You have wanted this for years, but have you changed your mind?” Between tears, she said, “No, I am so happy.” I think she did not believe we would ever get married. All four of our children were delighted. But I do believe they were each shocked that we were finally going to marry! It had been five and one-half years of dating with a six-month “stepping back” thrown into this courtship.

John asked me how I felt about us living in his house? Would it bother me? Did I want to live in his house when we married? Of course, I did. There was no doubt in my mind since it was a carbon copy of my grandparents’ home. That house was taken apart and removed from its land years before John and I met. We discussed our feelings surrounding this house and even decided to have a family wedding here. We also discussed how we might freshen up what would be our home. Deciding we would like to redo five of the downstairs rooms before the wedding. By doing all of the work ourselves, we could save money on that. Some of the expensive changes we hoped to do could be done later. At that time, we were both having to watch the money situation. We both worked at our careers during the week, but weekends consisted of us working on the house and continuing our spiritual walk when there were activities. By March 18, we achieved our home goal. It felt happy, cozy, and welcoming for our guests.

This wedding was a family event. Before the wedding, Savannah sat John down and had a talk with him in the downstairs room while I was dressing upstairs. She asked him if he was sure that he really wanted to get married to me and explained that he did not need to do this if he was doing it for her. John made certain she knew that he loved me and wanted to get married. Joe Shumate, my cousin, was the District Judge of Garvin County in the past. Alma Wilson, my mother’s best friend in high school, was now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Alma made the arrangements for Joe to come out of retirement for a day so that he could marry us. She was sad because it was a family wedding and she was not attending, but happy she could help.

By the way, it was a hot day. Our air conditioner went out. It got sweltering in the living room and the foyer where we were getting married and where everyone gathered. I have a personal friend, Gloria Star, who shared the best time to marry during that day. Gloria has written more than twenty books on astrology. We became good friends when we both lived in Norman. John and I both think lots of her and asked her the best time. And, I am writing this twenty-six years later! My son walked me down the long hall towards John, who was waiting for me. Chris Blake, a nephew, played the piano in the foyer. Boston sang. Dawn read a poem. Savannah said a few words. Joe guided us through the ceremony. Every person there was related to us. I wore a beautiful borrowed pink dress that belonged to my cousin, Judy. John had on his best suit. Afterward, we all went to Ragna’s house for a celebration dinner. There were tables set up all over the house with white tablecloths on every table. My new sister-in-law, Sandie Blake, had made a beautiful floral table arrangement for each table. This truly was an amazing family ceremony.

When relatives completed making all of the toasts, the food was gone, and the visiting was over; no one was leaving. John and I decided to leave first, and our children could follow. All four came back to our house. Johnny had to go back to Norman, but the other three spent the night with us. We sat up and talked late into the night. It was so much fun. The next morning we rose. After breakfast, we quickly dressed, for all of us were going together in our van to a funeral. The funeral was for one of John’s relatives, and not one of us knew him… but John. However, we all thought this was part of a family event, a part of our honeymoon. Now that was funny. Then we all went to Tio’s for lunch and had a great time. It was a fun honeymoon and the best either of us had experienced. There was so much love!

The following week, I moved the few things I intended to bring to Pauls Valley. I had been given a dream to bring my computer, my telephone (that was before cell phones), and clothes. That was it, and that was what I brought. I left everything else. I planned to keep my apartment for a while to see how we lived together around the clock. I continued to go back and forth during the days to sell nutritional products or to make presentations.

One month later, on April 19th, we had a blessing ceremony at the land where we had all of our ceremonies. Abe Conklin, an Osage Native American, did the blessing, and everyone attending shared in it. There was drumming and singing. Abe asked that everyone make a circle for the blessing and gave a small cup to each person. He then poured a small amount of water he brought with him into each cup while sharing that he saved this water for a long time for a special occasion. This sacred water we all held came from Fools Crow’s well and was given to Abe by Fools Crow himself. Today was the day to share it for this blessing. Many friends we made on our spiritual path were present, as well as some family members. There was a purification ceremony, a feast, and camping that night. We all stayed up late and sat around the fire talking. Then Nancy told John and me that it was time to go to bed because the children wanted us to get into our tipi and get ready for bed so they could chivalry us. They did so.

On our one-year anniversary, John said, “Susanne, you have only stayed in your apartment one night since we married and we have not stayed there at all. Don’t you think you can cut that monthly expense now?” I knew it would cut my sales when I moved, but I also knew it was time that I did this. So John and I headed to Norman and proceeded to give away everything in my apartment. I had some great furniture, an excellent tv, etc. It was fun doing this “give away.” “Give aways” have been a part of our life ever since we married.

LESSON: We do not have to spend a fortune on a wedding. We can have a grand time with a smaller wedding, although it is challenging not to invite many you want to have with you on that special day. We spent almost nothing and had a great wedding, one that was especially good for our marriage with children. The blessing ceremony solved the problem of not inviting and sharing our wedding day with others. They were invited to this blessing ceremony. I felt so much better on the wonderful days of our wedding and then our blessing ceremony. This feeling was not the same feeling I had when my parents’ spent money they did not have on my first wedding, a big wedding. All weddings are sacred and every marriage takes place for a reason.

GIFTS: We included our children and that made it so good!

To this day, we are a family with many different opinions. Families have different faiths and are diverse politically, and have different thoughts about each of us’s paths, but we do have “love” for each other!

Healings for us and for our children have taken place, and we have watched miracles occur for all of us!

Eclipses of the Moon and the Sun

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There is our timing when we want something to happen, and then we have the divine timing. Understanding is difficult. We later receive the answer as to why something happened, and it surprises us when the answer comes.

I began looking at boundaries I needed to set in my life. I even became frustrated with John and our relationship. I was tired of simply “riding together” even though we were literally together almost every weekend, and I was invited to all family events. Dreams began to enter my nights, indicating that I needed to step back from this relationship. I finally decided to do so and drove to Pauls Valley to tell John what was going on with me. I took my pipe with me and went to his office. I knew we both understood that if the pipe was in the room between us… we could say nothing but the truth. He would take me seriously.

I arrived at his office a little before five. John was by himself and a little surprised to see me, especially with my pipe. I shared with him my frustrations. I also shared that I knew that I had been out of a relationship much longer than him when we began seeing each other. Perhaps he needed to have time to see what he wanted in a relationship. He then shared with me his commitment to me. I said that I had loved our time together and all we were learning, but I knew what I wanted, and it was more. If he ever got to the point that he was ready to make a life commitment with me and our relationship, let me know. He knew I was rarely attracted to anyone. I told him that I did not plan on going anywhere. I thought we could perhaps be “just friends after a length of time of not seeing each other, but that would take a while. I also told him that I planned to write Boston and Savannah a letter explaining my decision. I had been with them for about four years, and it had been fun. I wanted them to know the truth about why I had to stop seeing their Dad. It was simple, and it had nothing to do with them.

Now when John and I ended our conversation in his office that day, it was almost six. He asked if I was hungry, and I said yes. Then he asked if I wanted to go somewhere to eat as friends. I said yes. We did so and kept the conversation light. He asked if I would be going to Santa Fe with our friends the next day to help another friend in Abiquiu, NM, build a lodge? I said, “yes, but I will not be “with you.” You will be a friend. I did go, and I rode at the van’s back seat while he rode in the front. We saw each other at some sweats. We were kind to each other and spoke. Sun Dance came. I rode with a different friend. He said, “Are you really not going with me?” My response was, “No, I am going with Roanne.”

I received a telephone call, saying that John was seeing someone else. I was frustrated at first but then was alright. I knew that I had created this. Six months went by. Thanksgiving came, and I had lunch with my Aunt and Uncle and dinner with my son. It was one of those beautiful Fall days. However, multiple dreams came the next few nights with John in them. For some reason, I was warming up with thoughts of him. Sunday morning, I decided to call him. He answered, and I told him that I was had been dreaming about him the last three nights and decided that I needed to talk to him. I also shared that I was coming to a gathering of relatives that afternoon. His response surprised me. He said, “Good. Can you come early, before the gathering, because I also have some things to share with you?” We went to the park, sat at a table in the park, and visited a short while before I had to leave. John asked if I would like to watch the Lunar eclipse with him. He said that he would come to Norman, and perhaps with the earth between the sun and the moon, we can hear each other. He also shared that he had been seeing someone. I surprised him when I said, “I know.” He asked if I had been seeing anyone. I smiled and said, “No, I had been interested in no one.

John arrived at my apartment at 8:30, and we went to Denny’s. I took with me a pad to make notes on during our discussion. I thought this might keep me from interrupting him as I jot down a reminder about what I might want to address when it was my turn. Funny! He also brought a pad. We kept the conversation light until the eclipse began. Then we began our discussion. John had a breakthrough at one point when I was talking. He stopped me and said, “Oh my gosh, I was too rigid. I have not ever seen myself that way.” I saw situations when I reacted to what happened in my past relationships when he was talking. When he took me home, I was slipping out of the car when he said, “Susanne, I want to try this again.” Me: “I know Libra’s. Let’s see if you feel the same way three days from now.” He telephoned and said that he did want to do this and would like to take me to dinner. I gave him a present, two doves out of a sand dollar. He said that he brought me a gift also. He took a key out of his pocket and scooted it over to me. He said, “When you pick up that key, you have the key to my heart as well as the key to my house. I want to set all fears aside and love you, love you openly.” I wanted to do this also, but I looked at that key awhile. Was I really ready to go all the way with this? Did I want to pick up that key, or did I only want the choice of going all the way in life with John? I picked it up and said, “I want to try this again also.”

Okay, the Lunar Eclipse was in November. Time passed, Christmas came and went, as did Valentine’s Day. John had said nothing about our future together. However, we were having a grand time together. One day at my apartment, I said to him, “John, maybe we are just supposed to be friends.” He smiled and said, “There is going to be a Solar Eclipse in April. Can’t you wait until then to decide? I responded, “Yes.” Everyone was thrilled we were together again, and I felt like I was dating a very different man. He surprised me at every turn. He asked me to watch the eclipse with him. He was taking off work and coming to Norman for us to have lunch. We were going to eat outside. Not suspecting anything, Dawn was here from San Francisco, and I invited her to join us. She did so. During the eclipse, he scooted a box across the table. It looked like a ring box. I opened it. It was a black star sapphire with a gold design surrounding the sapphire. It was unlike any ring I had ever seen. I said, “What is this?” He replied, “Not what you think.” It represents “a practice ring” for us. I had it designed for you because you represent the star, the moon, and the sun for me. I loved it. I had a romantic sitting there with me that I had loved for a long time.

About two months later, he asked if I would need another ring if we got engaged. I said, “No, I loved my moon, star, and sun ring.” So we set a date to marry in March of 1995 and, during covid, just recently celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary.

LESSON: Practice the four virtues of the Lakota Sioux nation. They are Bravery, Wisdom, Fortitude, and Generosity. Listen to your divine source and know it is fine to trust and trust again when your answer within you looks not only at the physical and emotional within Self, but also the Mental and Spiritual part of Self. If the answer in all four parts of self is clear, move forward with it.

GIFTS: We are blessed. We have a peaceful marriage. I had no idea there was such a thing waiting for me in my life. We supported each other in our careers. Our motto is “To love is to love all.” “All” means literally everyone, those like us and those that are difficult to love.”

Why This Path Came To Me

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This path came because I was hungry for answers from God. My path is not anyone else’s, and another person’s path is not mine. Each of us finds our own path back to God, and all paths lead to God through prayer. Everything always goes back to prayer. No matter what religion or the spiritual way we take, we are all headed towards the same God. As long as each attempt to walk in a direction towards God, there will be growth, and this is good. Sometimes we may fall, but we can stand back up and continue to walk. Each life is created and orchestrated as perfectly as the leaves on a tree, as perfectly as each bird’s feathers. Look around. With our assets and our flaws, we are still perfect. We are learning what we need to learn at this time.

Through a physical birth, I received my opportunity to receive lessons to understand and learn on this earth. I could go round and round, having these lessons over and over again for the rest of my life, or I could take responsibility for my healing. All I had to do was be open and willing to ask for help finding my answers and then open to how the answers might present themselves. So I received guidance from Al-Anon to prepare me for this path to move me closer to God. This journey opened for me, just as it will for anyone who asks. It is an individualized path, one of surrendering and allowing the Great Spirit God to take over my life.

When I was at my lowest, I made a prayer. I read books looking for my answer, and I listened for my answer. The first answer came from a stranger at a ski resort. I was first guided to Al-Anon. That program allowed me to become less attached to what I no longer needed. My eyes opened to my life, so I could be better able to see. Today I have a better acceptance of myself and others. Growth continued to take place on this path as I moved forward, participating in sweat lodges and ceremonies. I gained a much greater understanding of God and Spirit as I developed a more personal relationship and received answers. A security and inner peace beyond all understanding is the result.

Many ask if Jesus is involved in this path. I have seen the representation of Jesus Christ in all parts of this path. When someone who loves Jesus chooses this pathway, they cannot keep from thinking about Him inside the lodge and as they walk to their spot to quest for a vision. As you walk up the hill with people following you in silence to your spot for prayer and fasting, you feel the suffering of Jesus and the compassion for Him as He carried His cross. You realize you will return to those supporting you in this way when you do a vision quest as a new person. It is a tiny bit of understanding the resurrection.

Jesus found answers by spending time alone in nature, fasting, and praying. Moses and others have done the same. They returned to people with truths. Many, in this way, find their answers through this time alone, fasting, and making prayers. During a quest, dreams and visions come, bringing understanding and answers for your life.

Representations of Christ and how he gave himself so we might live are easily seen at the Sun Dance. The tree gives its life so others might live. The Dancers in the center raise their hands and their hearts to the tree, allowing the healing energy to enter. Followers of Christ also raised their hands and hearts to Christ. As those praying from sunrise to sunset, the sixteen choke cherry branches placed across the tree have an uncanny similarity to the Cross. The handmade sage ornaments around the head, wrists, and ankles are reminders of Christ’s restrictions as he hung on the cross.

Every time I attend a purification sweat, I see reminders and symbols of the Holy Trinity. The lodge represents God’s creation of the Universe. The altar represents Christ, and the fire symbolizes the eternal flame of the Holy Spirit. When a vision quest or Sun Dance occurs, the fire is lit before the ceremony and is maintained day and night by keepers of the fire during a vision quest or a Sun Dance.

I now consider myself a Christian who carries a pipe for the people, “all” people. For many walking this way, the four colors of black, red, yellow, and white… have come to represent the people of four colors and any mixture thereof. I have seen pipe carriers of all colors learning from this path. Some on the reservation feel the pipe only belongs to the Native Americans. Yet, others are changing. They are opening, sharing, and understanding that we often stereotype according to what we have been taught. Perhaps we have been wrong. This willingness to look at Self and to practice acceptance will bring health and help to the world.

Before a Lakota medicine man mysteriously entered my life, the world of the Native Americans was foreign to me. I had my own myths about life and my stereotypes presented to me. The more I learn, the less I know. I have only my experiences and my perceptions. We all deal with myths, and we continue to believe what we have been taught, especially if something happens that tends to confirm what we have been taught. Of course, what we expect usually happens. Right? It seldom occurs to us that our own energy tends to cause exactly what we expected. With time, perhaps we can release these old stereotypes, join hands, and accept and be accepted as we are, where we are. This is a time for healing and loving each other to move to a different future.

My greatest transformation has been a progression stemming out of my vision quests. My first one brought answers about my life and how I am related to everyone and everything else that God creates. It confirmed hopes and beliefs that we have much more help than we ever could imagine. There is so much more that God has to show us. God and Spirit showed me there was more than I ever dreamed to be possible. And when sought, a path appears when a person is hungry for more information. My second quest was completely different. I was gifted with an inheritance. I was shown how I was going more inward to find my truths. The third quest brought some grief for closings and answers as I realized that I had to face my fear of aloneness that I had not been able to face before. The fourth one brought a new birth. I understood how everything had to turn to ashes before new life could grow. I now could stand and face into the storm with joy.

Sun Dances are for the entire world and for all that walk on this earth. This ceremony is for the earth, for all people upon the earth, for all that grows upon the earth, and for the many healings to occur during the dance and the year. I danced my first two Sun Dances at the dances Gary’s family held. After my second year, John’s third year, they decided to go back to a closed Sun Dance, a smaller Sun Dance for the family. John and I skipped a year but were then invited to participate in Albert White Hat’s Sun Dance on the Rose Bud Reservation. When we arrived there, it was big! There were people from all over the world attending this dance, and there with many different religions represented. We felt welcomed, as did our entire Oklahoma camp.

By watching all that takes place at every Sun Dance, everything became more sacred to me. An Eagle feather was never allowed to touch the ground. A pipe was not ever to touch the ground, except when placed on an altar. When a pipe was presented after each round of the Sun Dance, it was an honor to receive it. When someone passes a pipe to another person in the lodge or at Sun Dance, it seems like a baby is being shared with someone for the first time. When someone holds a pipe the entire vision quest or during the Sun Dance, it is to never touch the ground. These actions changed me. I handle items at home differently. No spiritual books, especially my Bible, touch the ground unless it is accidental. Every ceremony reminded me of how important water is to us and how we must take care of it. Then there were the healings through the power of prayer and the energy of intent through the ceremonies! I watched multiple miracles and healings take place.

I enjoyed seeing the positive changes in people’s lives that joined us for purification ceremonies, sweats. Ministers showed up; professors brought students, parents brought disgruntled and difficult teenagers. All seemed amazed. When they came several times or more, one could see growth and change. I wanted to invite all young people to our lodge because it seemed to help those that came so much.

I pay attention to my words and my thoughts. What I think and what I say goes into the earth and comes back to me. I have seen it repeatedly. Now, perhaps if we begin to understand each other and other cultures and take from each other what is good, we can then have the opportunity to heal the earth. I can no longer crawl into a sweat lodge or dance a Sun Dance due to getting older. However, I can continue to walk my path with all that I learned in our twelve years on this path that allowed so much love to flow into me. I hope the love I feel for all as I write this flows right through and into you.

LESSON: Ask, be open, and be willing to receive.

GIFT: If you want my entire book about teachings and understandings of the first five or six years on this path, go to “susanneblake.com.” You can download my whole ebook onto your Kindle or Nook, or iPhone from my simple web page. It is free. If you want a softcover book form, call me at 405-238-6260. I will not answer with so much spam but will return your call if I know what it is about.

I have received new letters this year from people that I do not know about blessings and appreciation for this book. I am humbled and cannot believe it has been twenty-five years since I published it.

Thank you for reading this blog and others! Blessings!

Answers Coming On This Path

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Gary, Elizabeth, and Kathy finally returned from Sun Dance. When they arrived at Kathy’s home, they telephoned. I just knew they would bring many great stories with them since they spent a month in South Dakota before we arrived. I had been looking forward to seeing them. I knew it was going to be fun to play “catch-up!” We had not been visiting long when Gary asked me, “Susanne, what did you learn at Sun Dance?” I responded with, “So much.” I learned that I am ready to do another vision quest. He jumped at my words, saying, “I can do it this weekend.” And I quickly said, “Well, I’m ready, but not that ready! I do not even have a blanket!” At that moment, Kathy left the room and quickly returned with a brand new Pendleton blanket and set it in my lap. I went home to think. The next day I returned to Kathy’s and presented my pipe to Gary to do a vision quest in August if that would work for him. A discussion ensued about commitment and all that takes place to keep us from changing. The ego does not like change and tries to hold us back, keeping us the same.

Suddenly, Gary jumped up. He walked to the door, opened it, went out, and closed it behind him. I heard, “Susanne, where am I?” Me: “On the other side of the door.” He then opened the door a crack and looked into only a small portion of the room. “Now what can I see?” Me: “A portion of the room, actually only a small portion. The rest of it remains hidden to you.” Gary: “Right. Now watch.” He stepped through the doorway and into the room. After looking around, he walked to the chair and sat down again.. “What did you just learn?” Me: “Answers about all that was happening in the room were completely revealed when you committed to moving through the doorway to find out what was on the other side.”

Then something clicked in me. I smiled at this demonstration and understood that we have limited vision when we only partially commit to something. To receive answers in life, it is important to make a complete commitment.” I knew now that we were talking about my commitment. Was he telling me that the next vision quest was to help me through a doorway, or was he telling me I would learn more about commitment? I knew I was stepping through a doorway on this path with my second vision quest and by committing to Sun Dance for four years. I also knew that I was walking towards my purpose in life. Through complete commitment, I would be given the answers that I so much desired.

Gary then asked, “What did you learn from the tree at Sun Dance?” I talked about understanding the importance of completing each commitment, even a commitment to support at Sun Dance. I talked about the thoughts the tree brought up about gratitude for the support I had received throughout my life. I saw the importance of support at Sun Dance, vision quests, and even the vision quests plus the answers and perhaps a healing that supporters received while helping others at these events. A person that supports sometimes receives healing and answers as well as the people they are supporting. I also became much more aware of the supporters I have had throughout my life!

This discussion presented me with the opportunity to thank him for giving so many of us cross-cultural experiences! I shared with him about the drummers and singers not liking us initially, and then I told him about a Native American dancer that told his son not to speak to me ever again. He would not allow his son even to say, “Hello” when I passed by them. Neither would smile or speak, but his son looked sad. This Dad did not know how much his little boy and I enjoyed the short visits we had before noticing him talking to me during purification. Gary asked, “How did you handle that?” I explained that I just continued being myself. If I passed them at any point, I just said something like “Good Morning” and smiled. It was okay. I was sorry he felt that way about me since it only had to do with my skin color. However, his action reminded me of how others must feel now and in the past when a person is treated differently due to his or her skin tone.

That made me sad. I believe we all have things passed to us in our genes and by all of those in our environment. This can be healed in us, one at a time, so that a positive change can come. We all have red blood, and all have been a thought from God manifested here on earth through our parents.

Our discussion continued about having the fortitude to stay on a path we choose to take. Some think this path is a difficult path, even though many answers do come to every person involved. Answers come to the one doing a vision quest as well as to supporters of the vision quest. Answers also come to Sun Dancers and supporters of the Sun Dance. Answers must also come to us as we support and encourage each other through our lives every day. Perhaps we do not notice those answers because we are not observing or listening. Life seems to move too fast for us to stay in the present. It is important that we listen to our own words as we speak and the words of others as well as our own dreams. Answers are coming! For me, the answers that I longed for about life were coming more strongly through the past year as I walked this path. I knew this might not be a forever path, but I also knew I wanted to complete every commitment I made hereafter, and I wanted to learn from it.

LESSON: When one fully commits, we can see everything! We learn, we know, and we can make decisions. We learn, “What is my truth?” My truth may be different from someone else’s truth about the same person or situation.

GIFTS: I learned that sometimes we do not want to see the truth because it could bring change. We may have listened to parents and others in our environment who passed on their beliefs about a person or about others that are not the same color as we are. Perhaps a situation happened in our lives that confirmed what our parents said was true. However, we meet someone else, and it is not the same as our parents said. If we discover that our truths about life are different than theirs, we may worry about what else we learned that might not be true. “Find my truths” is what I kept saying to myself. Pay attention to truth and learn to listen. Become a truth seeker. Remember to ask, and you will receive. God’s answers will help you decipher what is right and what is wrong for you. God brings your truth. My truth may not be your truth, and your truth may not be my truth. We can love each other and not have the same truths. The commitment of going through the door will open your world to new ways of thinking and being.

I listened to heart, mind, body, and soul. I knew this path was good for myself in four ways. I also knew that this path was not for everybody. It was presented to me, and I was receiving answers to so much!

I had peace within and felt blessed by all I saw and discovered as I stepped forward on this path that God led me to. I learned and listened while doing my vision quests and while supporting the vision quests for others. I did the same at the purification ceremonies (sweat lodges) and finally at Sun Dance. By being open to receiving, I trusted and followed the signs I was given. Answers came and continued to come.

Watching In Awe for Four Days

Every one of us went to bed. The Oklahoma group had new arrivals that came to support. During the four days of purification, we were told that we would be responsible for taking care of the drummers and singers. We would also need to help in the large kitchen when we had time because those who came to support and pray for this Sun Dance needed to be fed lunch, plus many at supper.

Well, we thought we had it all planned. I knew where everyone was sleeping. We were spread out all over the camp. Allen had given me a list of all we would need when I went to town. I got everything, and we had all I purchased organized and ready to prepare for breakfast and when serving lemons, coffee, or tea to the drummers and singers. We also had healthy snacks available for them when they had a break during the day. I planned to sleep well and did so until I heard a voice saying “I sure hope they have the coffee ready when we get up.” Several others responded with “Me, too!” Someone said, “Do you think they know what they are to do and when?” That completely awakened me!

Anita and I neither one had on a watch. It was dark. We knew the Sun Dance began at sun up, and it would be dark when we rose. I assumed that it was time to get up. I went to Allen’s tent first to get him to begin all we needed to do. Then I headed to other places to get others up that offered to help. Allen, Anita, and I were dressed and ready to get busy. Someone in a camper heard me and said, “Susanne, do you know it is only 12:25?” I said, “What?” Someone else verified her statement. I thought, “Oh, no!” First, I had to head back to where others were beginning to work and tell them they could go back to bed; then, I had to retrace to all I had awakened. This was my first mistake.

Our next mistake took place only a few hours later. We planned to cook during the first round and serve a full breakfast to the singers and dancers during their first break. Of course, none of us supporting knew how long a first round was. We got up and again got everything ready to serve coffee or tea. The drummers rose from their tent that was close to ours. I smiled and introduced ourselves. They were not smiling. There was no food yet. They could not wait. They planned to eat fast and begin on the drums quickly. We watched everything and learned that they wanted food before the dance, not at the first break. We clearly understood that they did not like us yet “at all.” I learned the gruff one I heard overnight was named Victor. And before long, we found out that the first round of dancing was two to three hours. No wonder they did not want to wait that long until they could have breakfast. When the break came, we were ready with a big breakfast for them. They said then that they were no longer interested in eating.

It was first light when the dancers lined up in one long line. They were all solemn as they stepped gently forward to enter the inner circle and moved around the arbor to enter the inner circle at the East gate just as the sun rose. They quietly enter the arbor through the East. We all stood and watched them. The men were wearing long red skirts. The women wore dresses with shawls wrapped around them. Most dancers were barefoot. Some had on moccasins. All dancers had crowns made of sage which reminded me of the crown of thorns worn by Christ. They also wore wrist and ankle bands which were constant reminders of where the spikes were driven. Each carried their Native American pipe. They moved clockwise to the West, and the dancing began for the day. Many came to watch. They sat in the arbor and prayed for healing and the dancers. Some made prayer ties. During breaks, the ties were gathered, taken to the tree, and tied on its trunk.

It soon became clear that there was not enough food for so many people to eat each day. I was asked if I could find some donations for food and go to the store. So here I was hundreds of miles away from home. I thought I left money problems behind, but I was right in the middle of a “no money situation” here. I easily raised money from new supporters to help and was able to acquire all on their list.

When I was finished with my duties as a supporter, I was able to be under the arbor and pray, focusing my prayers on the dancers and the many healings taking place. I had listened to instructions being given to the dancers the first time they lined up. They were told to stay focused and not look at anyone in the arbor. They were to keep their eyes on the leaf at the top of the tree as they prayed and danced. I decided to do the same by always looking at the top leaf of the tree when praying. were many healing requests made in prayer ties on the tree that was for others left at home as well as a healing round specifically for people that were present. The people requesting healing that were at the Sun Dance could go within the inner circle to receive healing when the time of that round came. One could feel the difference in the energy when they stepped into the inner circle.

As a supporter, the second, third, and fourth days were better than the first day. We knew what we were doing. For instance, when to serve breakfast and how to keep passing out lemon to each singer/drummer to keep their voices. The drum and singing were fantastic! The dancing took place from sun up to sundown. At the end of the dancing, it was time for laughter and dinner for those who could eat. Dancers did not eat or drink. Every individual made prayers to receive the nourishment and liquid from what we each received all day. It is amazing to become so aware of how this power of prayer worked. When we pray, prayers are answered. We need always to remember that. Sometimes the answer is no, but it is for the reason that we see later.

The second day, it rained off and on all day, plus it was cold. It got colder during the afternoon, and then I watched a miracle take place. During a break in the afternoon, Gary and his Dad took their pipes to the tree and made a prayer. We watched as the clouds slowly opened above the Sun Dance and made a perfect circle above us. It rained around us, but not on the Sun Dance. After crawling into bed the second night, a gully washer came. Every tent and everything in most tents was soppy wet. We all struggled to sleep. However, some of us ended up going to our automobiles to sleep a few hours before beginning the day. Dancers stayed where they were. The dance went on. I was learning so much about Spirit and was listening to everything. The eagle bone whistles were so clear. No wonder we saw eagles overhead. The dancers were cold, the supporters were cold, but it all continued. The fourth morning the sun was out. It was over, and we, as supporters, served our last feast when Sun Dance ended on this fourth day at noon rather than at Sundown. Everyone was happy! I saw miracles take place; healings be received, a release physically by many, a “letting go” for healing of many prayed for and even not prayed for, as well as this earth and the world.

After cleaning up camp and packing everything up, John, myself, Robert, and Anita headed out. They were following us and that was a good thing. Why? Thirty miles out of town, our van stopped as we went up the hill towards Valentine, Nebraska. It just did not want to go very far at one time. We got to the first dealership of four others. Robert and Anita took us to a nice motel where we all planned to spend the night. We left John’s van at the dealership. A shower felt great, and a good, hot meal was perfect. The next morning, they went on to get back to work. We picked up the van. They hoped it was repaired, but it was not. We stopped in three more dealerships, visited with people in each one while they were waiting on their car to be fixed or while they were fixing John’s.

We found entertainment in each community as we asked about local museums and walked to see them. We even traveled down one river by canoe when they said it would take hours to look at his van. The last dealership did figure it out, and we made it all the way home. Sun Dancers are “Wakan” for four days, going from the spiritual through the emotional and the mental, and then back to the physical following Sun Dance. We were, I believe, forced to take our time. For John, he needed this time before entering the work life again. I considered it a sign to “slow my life down” to open a space for more new beginnings, learn more about God and become more aware of signs and guidance I continually received. Or was this just about John praying for patience? Learning how to flow through frustrating times that requires patience? We both needed to get back to our work, but we agreed that we enjoyed every minute of “looking back at Sun Dance, all we learned and talked about what we each planned to do!” John had danced his first dance of four dances. When one commits to Sun Dance, they commit for four years. At the end of the dance, I committed to four years of Sun Dance before I left.

LESSON: Learn to appreciate all the support we have in our own lives. Look back and contemplate how miraculously put together life has been to teach us and to gift us. Learn to appreciate the negative and the positive. Often, we must walk through the negative and learn all we can from it to get to the positive. Allow life to change!

GIFTS: I learned so much from watching. For me, this is how it worked. The tree represented the Tree of Life for each of us. It represented the divine source for each person attending Sun Dance as a supporter or dancer. Many different people at Sun Dance followed different religions.

No one was told how to believe or what to do. We were all following guidance, but they were not telling us the answers. For instance, John kept asking and waiting to be shown how to dance before he got in the circle. No one ever told him. Supporters were requested to do different things, but if we asked for suggestions after making a request, they usually followed with a suggestion. When they did not say anything, Spirit seemed to bring the answers directly to each person.

By watching the tree and realizing that each day represented a quarter of the coming year, we might want to watch to see what happened. When we arose on the morning of the fourth day, the storm had twisted the tree completely around. Rather than the bundle of chokecherries that facing West, it now faced East. The tree showed us that something was coming from the East, and we needed to pray about it. That year, we had troops in Saudi Arabia during January, February, and March. This was the third quarter following Sun Dance. As we all know, we were all well protected during that time.

When we got home, my cousin Judy got home exactly when I got home. She was home, and she “walked from the car into her house.” That was one healing we learned from Sun Dance that year, one of many. We had prayer ties all over that tree for her. John told her before he left that he was “dancing for her to heal.” She understood. I walked into my apartment, walked straight to the phone, and telephoned Phil to find out what hospital Judy might be in long term. I never will forget Phil’s voice, her husband, when he answered the phone. He said, “We just got home ourselves. Get over here and see us.” I telephoned John. I did go over just as I was!

Sun Dance

I had no idea what I was to do as a supporter for John and others during these four days of purification before the Sun Dance, but I quickly learned. We were so tired after that first sweat when we arrived that John and I just dumped everything out of the van and went to bed as soon as we could. It was good to see Spencer again, Gary’s Dad, and to meet some others. In the morning, we prepared the camp. I would be staying in our tent during the dance, and John would be in the men’s tipi. We might be able to greet each other if we passed one another, but we would not really be able to talk until the dance was over.

As I worked, I watched the magnificent tipis being raised. One large tipi was to be for the men, and the other would be for women dancers. All dancers were instructed not to touch the water and not to use sharp objects during purification. They were to drink sage tea. As a supporter, I quickly learned what I was to do. There were requests from the moment I stepped out of the tent that John and I put up until dark. Susanne, can you get me sage tea, help in the kitchen, go to town and pick up meat? Can you find colored cloth? At times, I felt frustrated, but then I remembered, “Do your best, and that is good enough.” The next day of purification, Gary asked, “Susanne, can you make prayer ties to go completely around the arbor?”

On the second day, we rose early and made breakfast for everyone. Then I began making prayer ties. Prayer ties are small pouches with a prayer in each pouch attached to one continual string of yarn. As the sun rose and became hotter, I was asked to go into town to pick up supplies. Anita went into town with me. Upon our return, it was back to prayer ties. I had two little visitors, Dace and Rae Dawn. They were 4 and 7. They quietly watched until I asked if they would like to do some prayers. Yes, they did! We each said our prayer out loud as I showed them how to make prayer ties. They were so proud. They also asked me how to pray. I explained that was the easy part. They could say a prayer for their granddad, their aunts, something they were worried about, or maybe the dancers for the Sun Dance. Dace said, “Susanne, my Granddad (Spencer) will be so proud that I know how to make a prayer tie. So here I was, sitting on reservation soil, teaching children being raised in the traditional way how to make prayer ties.

Allen, Anita, and I worked as a team as we were all from the Oklahoma group. When Anita and I left camp to get supplies, others were going to gather sage. Allen remained to help dancers needing assistance, plus he worked in the kitchen preparing the next meal. Dancers were to eat lightly for the four days before Sun Dance. When Anita and I returned, I always immediately returned to the tipi to work on prayer ties, and she helped Allen. Dace and Dawn often joined me until I finished. I looked forward to their visits.

More and more people kept showing up. I continued to watch and listen. Gary brought white people from Oklahoma. The rest were Native Americans. We were being tested. They seemed to ignore us and loved the fact that we were working hard while they were resting. Some may have been dancers, but we really did not know. I was quite aware that I was on a reservation with people that were different than me. It was my first time to be “the one they were prejudiced against.” They were watching me and waiting for mistakes that might confirm what parents and others had taught them about whites. A little boy started coming over to see me when I was sitting on the back of a truck. His Dad kept calling him back. He did not want him to talk to me. In town purchasing supplies for the camp, I stopped to get a coke. As I entered the restaurant, the few persons, all Native Americans, sitting in booths were laughing and talking until they saw me. They became silent and stared, never taking their eyes off me. I got my coke and gave them a kind smile as I left, but they did not return my smile. This was truly an opportunity for me to see what it felt like for so many people of color when they entered a place where others stereotyped them according to what they had been taught or believed because of a situation that programmed them to believe what they had been told automatically. All the way back to camp, I thought about how awful they had been treated. Part of what they had been told was true, and hopefully, all guilt and dislikes on both sides can eventually be released and healed. What is in our consciousness today?

Back at camp, Anita and I were asked to find gummy sap needed for the Sun Dance. We had not seen trees. We asked where to go, and they told us to find the trees. Obviously, this was a test. We left and did find the trees by turning in a different direction than we normally went—big, beautiful trees. We soon learned that where the tree’s bark had been damaged, maybe from a storm or perhaps a lightning strike, there was a gummy sap oozing from the place where the tree was hurt. It took a while to gather what looked like “enough?” Upon our return, we were proud to take our find to Spencer, Gary’s Dad, that had asked for it. He said that we did well, but they no longer needed it for the eagle bone whistles to call the eagles. They already had some. This confirmed we were sent on a treasure hunt to see if we could do it. However, we passed this test. Now we wondered what would happen next.

The following morning, everyone rose and dressed to cut the tree for the Sun Dance. We all gathered into pickups and automobiles to go to a place where there were cottonwood trees. A tree that stood tall was chosen. We stood silent as a young girl/young lady, a virgin, was handed the ax to make the first swing to cut down the tree. Then each dancer, including John, did the same. The ax was then handed to every person that had not yet swung the ax. When the tree was ready to fall, the dancers lined up to catch it as it came gently down. I watched as so much water was released from the bottom of the tree when it fell. I was surprised by the amount of water within it. The tree was never allowed to touch the ground. This entire ceremony began with prayer, and prayers continued. To my surprise, we saw that when we returned to the cars, some dancers and other men began to walk as they carried this large tree that just gave its life so the people could live. I thought about the healing that will take place, prayers that will be answered, and how the earth will be helped. When we returned to camp, the drum began. We all waited on the tree. I later learned that if the men had to set the tree down along the way, it would be laid on a bed of sage gathered a day earlier for this purpose.

When the tree arrived, it was laid down on a bed of sage placed so that when the tree would be raised and be in the center of the circle. Dancers and supporters placed prayer ties below the fork of the tree. Prayer Flags that were made were placed above the fork in the tree. No one was to step over the tree for that would dishonor it. Sun Dance leaders tied a bundle of chokecherry branches to the tree right below the tree’s fork. We all stood in awe and gratitude as this tree was raised. Then we all were able to wrap prayer ties we had made around the trunk of the tree. It was amazing! The tree looked magnificent. Then Gary motioned for John and me to bring out the bucket of red dirt from Oklahoma. We were to pour it around the tree.

That night we received a gift from above! As we stepped out of the evening sweat, we saw the Northern Lights. I had not ever seen a show like that before or since! After a while, we all headed to bed for tomorrow was the first day of the Dance. John headed to the men’s tipi, and I headed to our tent. Robert was also dancing. He also moved into the men’s tipi. Anita planned to stay in their tent but soon came to my tent and asked if she could move in during the dance. Certainly! We both felt like that was a good idea because neither of us knew what the week would bring forth while supporting.

LESSON: When one steps into a world that feels foreign, observe, listen, and think. Be kind and practice loving having no expectations. If a test comes your way from those unlike you, know that we all just might be changed for life regarding stereotyping each other. We all have red blood. We are all alike in so many ways. Kindness, respect, and discovering how we are alike can help us move the world’s consciousness to a much higher level.

GIFTS: I was so honored to be learning so much more about a culture I always admired and loved from a distance.

On my first date with John, we hugged a tree and told each other how we were like the tree we were hugging. Now we were watching a sacred tree’s life be taken. Its life was about to help so many others. That water coming out of the tree kept reminding me of the water within each of us. The sores on the tree that Anita and I found reminded me of our own hurts within that need to be healed.

Everything used for the Sun Dance is done with prayer. Nothing is taken without a prayer that is made for our earth and its replenishment. What if we treated all we used every day and each person we touched as sacred every day of our lives?

This experience of the Sun Dance was truly touching my heart, mind, body, and soul!

Can we get to the point that we can be like this Sacred Tree?

Trip To Sun Dance

The time had finally arrived for me to be a supporter for John and others. It was our first trip of many to Sun Dances in South Dakota. Kathy drove Gary and Elizabeth from Oklahoma to South Dakota about three weeks before John, myself, and others left for Sun Dance. They went early to help with preparations for the dance. This dance was something John and I ha individually been guided to attend. I had been waiting since that night when the Indian got in my car and told me that I needed someone to adopt me so that I could go to a Sun Dance.

We gathered all that we needed to take and were finally ready to leave. John picked me up in Norman. His van was packed with all that we might need to do this. We had everything from the proper attire for John to dance in, tent, bedding, clothes, and food, plus all that we might need to make prayer ties and prayer flags. We even had a bucket of red dirt from Oklahoma that we were asked to bring, plus other requested objects.

John’s van was packed from floor to ceiling. We met Robert and Anita at a truck stop in Oklahoma City. I had gotten to know them fairly well because they were a couple we had sweat with multiple times here in Oklahoma. Their car, too, was packed to the brim. They barely had room to sit. We all four were so ready to go. John and Robert had been to the Bear Heals Sun Dance last summer, but Anita and I had neither one ever seen a Sun Dance. We met each other in Oklahoma City, ate a quick meal, and then began our drive to Mission, South Dakota. In only a few hours, we were all unbelievably tired. It was dark, and we were on a two-lane road just past the Nebraska border when John suggested that we pull over, pull out our sleeping bags, and crash in the gully that he saw a small distance from the road. I told him that I was game if Robert and Anita were. They definitely were tired and thought it was a great idea.

I was laughing to myself while John was talking to them about stopping here. This was not what I visioned last year. I was thinking more about staying in fine hotels. And tonight, we were going to sleep practically in a ditch on the side of the road. Ha! But we were all so happy and were anticipating a great adventure. Walking a little past that gully, we saw a pond and decided to sleep on flat land rather than in the ravine next to the road. After settling in, I kept hearing buzzing. Mosquitos! Finally, I said, “John, we cannot sleep here.” Anita heard me and said, “Susanne, I agree.” I asked, “Did anyone bring any Off because I did not. Maybe we could make it if we have some.” Nope! Not one of us brought Off. What were we thinking? I wondered what else we might not have thought about. A little reluctantly, Robert and John agreed to climb out of their sleeping bags and return to our cars.

A short way down the road, we stopped for gas in a place that looked like it could have Off for sale. It did not. The night manager said that there had been a run on Off. Apparently, many had been in to buy it that evening. We stopped at another station. This time the station did have some. Thank goodness! We now had Off for the trip. With all of us fully awake, we drove to the next town. Soon we discovered there were no rooms available, so we headed to the police station to see if we could sleep in a park. “Yes,” was the answer. We all slept well for the rest of our short night!

In the early morning, we had breakfast and were about to begin a long trek across Nebraska when Robert suggested we stop and say a prayer about our whole journey. We all agreed that would be good since we were going to Sun Dance. When we stopped, I listened as each of us prayed. John prayed for patience plus other things. When he said “patience,” I knew I would watch to see if a situation would come to him that required more patience later. We returned to our respective cars. Valentine, Nebraska, seemed like a logical place for us to stop for lunch. When we asked the filling station personnel for a good place to eat, they suggested the Peppermill! So that is where we went. Now we had been on the road two days. I looked at how we looked. We made ourselves more presentable and entered.

It was packed. There was one table free. We sat down to order. I said, “I am going to go see if they know anywhere that we might get a shower because we are going to be unable to shower for at least eight days after we get to the Sun Dance grounds.” Robert, Anita, and John thought that was a crazy thing for me to do. I just smiled and went up to the counter and asked while John, Robert, and Anita laughed that I was doing that. The man at the counter called our waitress over and told her what I asked. Then the waitress came to our table and, in a loud voice, yelled, “Hey, everybody, these people need a shower. Isn’t that great?” The whole room started clapping and hollering, “Great!” The four of us knew we looked bad from our work and then the drive plus the night sleeping under the stars. But could they smell us, or what? What was this about?

Then we learned. The waitress turned her attention back to us. She explained that their Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club, and other individuals had contributed money to build a facility where people might be able to stop, go to the bathroom, shower, and make themselves presentable. It was right on the edge of town on the road that we needed to stay on to get to Mission, South Dakota. She also explained that everyone was so excited because no one had used it yet! We ate a great meal, got lots more comments as people left, and began our trek. We stopped at the edge of town, where there was a park, and we each took a shower. We were so impressed with the beautiful facility they created. The wood was even impressive! There were mirrors, electrical outlets, and even fresh flowers by the sink. Quarters paid for the water in the showers. We all took our time and felt great afterward.

We headed to Gary Bear Heals home outside Mission and arrived right at dusk. I had pulled out one sweat dress and one towel when we stopped to shower, so that I would be ready when we arrived if there was a sweat lodge about to take place. I had shared with Anita what Gary taught me about dressing modestly and not looking a man in the eyes. We found the Sun Dance ground and Gary’s house, pulled up to park the car, and saw that indeed a sweat was about to begin. John, Anita, and Robert all quickly changed and headed to the lodge. I was struggling. I took my clothes off to put on my sweat dress. With everyone in the lodge, I thought I could stand behind the door of the van and pull on my sweat dress. No one would see me! But just then, a huge gust of wind came. My dress flew out of my hand and across the land. I went running after it. Here I was, chasing the dress across the land, and I had nothing on at all! All other sweat dresses were in the far back of John’s van. Someone called “Susanne, hurry up.” About that time, Gary looked out the entrance to the lodge and said, “Susanne is chasing her dress. No one look.” I was horrified. I finally got close enough to grab my dress and quickly put it on. I then crawled into the lodge. Most were laughing A few that I had never met were definitely not laughing. I was horrified with my modest (ha!) beginning and entrance to this pretty Sun Dance land. I apologized and made a silent prayer while others began the singing. Then I felt at peace as the sweat began. This was only the beginning!

LESSON: Have no expectations when having an adventure. Flow with what happens and watch how it comes together. Remain kind. Stay aware and listen every day. Pay attention to every word said and, especially, to words I say.

GIFT: I made it this far and was about to see an actual Sun Dance. I knew it was up to me to learn by listening and watching closely.

It was a time to practice setting my ego aside and remembering that every situation during this adventure might not be happening to me. It might be happening for me “to learn” about this culture and the Sun Dance. I knew that God guided me to this for a reason.

A Magical 80th Birthday

Some friends learned from my last blog that John and I would both still have covid on my birthday. Others learned via the Pauls Valley grapevine. Food and help to overcome the Covid-19 began to show up on our front porch. Every need was being met without us asking for help. Some telephone calls came every day, wanting to know if we needed anything. Invariably, we had already received what we needed, and I had to say no. Some really, really wanted to do something for us. Friends brought farm eggs, venison stew, homemade chicken noodle soups, homemade potato soup, and other delicious meals, plus necessary items like toilet paper, paper towels, and even the peanut butter I love from Sprouts came to our doorstep. My heart overflowed with love.

I had been receiving cards over the weekend for my birthday. My daughter had been listening to what people were bringing us in Pauls Valley and telephoned on Sunday, saying, “Mom, do not let anyone bring food on Tuesday, your birthday. I was not going to tell you, but I decided it was best that I do. You and John are going to receive your dinner from Legends. They are personally delivering it to you in Pauls Valley!” I was shocked. It takes about forty minutes to get from Legends to our house. She also mentioned we would have entertainment with dinner, but she would not tell me anything else. She did explain that this present was coming from three of our four children’s families.

John and I were still in quarantine when my big day arrived. I even felt punky during the week but woke up feeling better on Friday. (A gift from God.) Then a long-time Norman friend brought a full meal of turkey loaf, green beans, scalloped potatoes, rolls, and an amazing chocolate pie with real whip cream. She made everything from scratch. The timing was perfect since we were finally beginning to like food again.

Saturday morning, the sun woke me up early! It was the 23rd. I felt even better! I knew it must be all the good food we had received all week and the prayers for health and help for both of us. Before heading downstairs, I looked out our upstairs bedroom window, where I can easily see our whole front yard. I saw something in the yard. I went downstairs and to check it out. I then showed John. He slipped on some clothes to go outside to see. All we could see were cute cut-outs facing the street. Someone had decorated! He took a picture. There was a “Honk to wish A Happy Birthday.” Then there were many placards telling people someone was 80. There was even a banner hanging on the rails of the front porch. Funny! We never heard anyone outside.

We had been eating breakfast in the dining room, sitting at opposite ends of the table every day. When I walked into the room, I saw a card John personally made me for my 80th sitting at my plate. I love that card. Decorating the table was the first wonderful flowers from another Norman friend. Those flowers also came with red lipstick, a basket of goodies to help us heal, and fresh asparagus. While John and I visited at breakfast, the doorbell rang. There was another beautiful bouquet from my cousin in New Mexico. Before we finished, there were other deliveries from a variety of people. John said, “Is this your funeral or your birthday?” Ha! Neither of us could believe what was happening. Telephone calls came, and wonderful cards arrived in the mail. On one telephone call, I learned who, with one of her grandchildren, decorated our yard so great! I had fun calling her immediately!

About 12:30, our Bonham, Texas, family surprised us. They had sent flowers the day before to throw us off as they were planning to come in person, driving 2 1/2 hours to sing “Happy Birthday” from the front yard and to present me with 80 personally made cards.

Then about 4:00, the food from Legend’s was delivered. It was caesar salad, steak, crabcakes, chicken crepes, chocolate mousse cake, plus more. At about 4:30, my cell phone rang. There was a male voice on the other end of the phone. He said, “This is Dave. I am your entertainment and will be at your house in about 8 minutes. We were not quite sure what time he was coming until this call, but we did know he was planning to entertain for about thirty minutes. Friends who apparently planned to sing “Happy Birthday” showed up at the same time he arrived. We told him that they were his pre-show. Perfect timing! He sat up his sound system while they sang. A beautiful birthday cake made by a local baker and another amazing bouquet of flowers also arrived.

I only wish I had known how good he was, so I could have told you to come to hear him. He drove all the way from Dallas! His voice was excellent, and he sang old music from the ’30s, and 40’s that I requested, 50’s and 60’s, 70’s, some country. Sometimes he sounded like he was straight from New Orleans. Good jazz! He also played a beautiful flute and guitar. People driving by saw what was happening and pulled up in front of our house. They sat curbside, rolled down their windows, and enjoyed. Neighbors came out of their homes and listened. The entertainer’s name is “Dave Washburn.”

As it turned out, people far and wide and local were planning a great birthday with multiple surprises. No one knew what others were doing. I still shake my head and think about this “magical” birthday with awe. I could not have planned it better! Every family member and many friends were involved.

LESSON: Do not hesitate to give gifts to others! Expect nothing in return. Do not hesitate to invite people to join you for a meal at home or in a restaurant! I think this is the way Spirit works. When you need something and when you are excited about life, have no expectations. Watch what God sends your way. So much of this past birthday week was totally unexpected! And fun! I am blessed, and you are, too! We love our family, and we love our family and friends!

GIFTS: Love and more Love. Happiness Beyond Words. All I can say is “thankfulness for children, grandchildren, and so many friends for an unforgettable and magical 80th Birthday!

Another big gift that came with this Covid-19 is “double immunity.” After our second shot, we will have triple immunity! Yeah!

Preparing for Sun Dance

It was Spring 1990, and we were all so appreciative of the land provided for our sweat lodge (truly a purification ceremony), and all that was happening there! We had sweats, and then Gary and Elizabeth would return for him to be a guide for a few vision quests. John and I both felt blessed to be able to learn from Gary and help support others. We learned more with each quest as Gary was an excellent teacher. We would all be having fun and sit down around the fire to visit. Suddenly, Gary would start sharing with us. He would draw on the ground to demonstrate what he was saying. Many of us paid attention to what he was doing. Others seemed to lose out on this gift. When doing this, he created a space for answers to come to each of us that sat and listened.

The sweat lodge was made with twelve willows. It represented the universe. The fire represented the great power of Wakan Tanka, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life as it was the eternal fire. Rocks represent Mother Earth, and when the first seven are brought into the lodge with each sweat, the creation story is shown. The round dug out area in the center of the sweat lodge represents the center of the universe, and here dwells Wakan Tanka in the center of all. A mound is built between the lodge and the fire as dirt is taken from Mother Earth and placed above the earth. It represents the sacred path of life as the feminine is placed outside the lodge. Everything above the earth is masculine. We are all both masculine and feminine. Everything is.

When a sweat began, Gary sat by the door and touched each stone with his pipe as it entered. While doing this and pouring water, he took on a different demeanor. Wisdom poured out of him, and he seemed wise beyond words.

As the flap that makes the lodge door is closed, we all sit in complete darkness. The water that the person by the door pours on the hot rocks brings forth the sweat. I always found this interesting and good because I do not sweat when hiking or working in the yard all day. I never sweat. However, I sweat in a sweat lodge. These purification ceremonies seemed to purify us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Every sweat was a different experience. More people learned about this lodge and started coming. Many returned, bringing their families and children to join us. I grew interested in watching the teenagers that repeatedly returned to purify. I saw changes in them and wished I could get all struggling teenagers to join us in this lodge.

I slowly began to understand more about this path, the Sun Dance, and how it all fits together. The dance is the offering of body and souls to Wakan Tanka, who is at the center of all things. Gary taught us that “Wakan Tanka is “Great Spirit (God).” He continued saying, “The Sun Dance is a very sacred ceremony. At the same time of the year, many will pray to Great Spirit in this way. For the dance, a circle is to be cut out of rawhide and painted red to represent Mother Earth, for she is sacred. Upon her, we place our feet, and from her, we pray. Another circle is to be cut from the rawhide and painted blue for the Heavens. Then from that same rawhide, cut the form of a buffalo. He represents people and the universe.”

He continued, “At the dance, there will be a huge tipi with sacred sage all around. Each male dancer will have an Eagle Bone whistle. At the end of each whistle, an eagle plume will be tied. When the whistle is blown, remember the voice of Spotted Eagle, who represents Wakan-Tanka. A crescent moon is to be cut from rawhide for the sweat, as well as a five-pointed star that represents the sacred Morning Star. A rawhide circle should also be made and painted red again, but at the center should be a blue light circle representing Wakan Tanka. The light of the sun lights up the universe and reminds you that you are bringing light into the world.”

He then shared, “When you are dancing, one makes spirals into the center and then spirals out. Whenever one returns to the center, they are returning to Wakan Tanka, who is the Center of Everything. A dancer may be told to sleep in the evening on a bed of sage against the center pole. That dancer is to get up in the night and go again to four quarters, returning to the center each time. All the while, he is to send his voice in prayer. Always be up with the morning star and walk towards the East, pointing your pipe stem toward the morning star and ask for wisdom.”

Thus, we learned that the Sun Dance is “Looking At The Sun” and is one of the greatest rites. It is held at the Moon of the Fattening (June) and the Cherries Blackening Moon (July). This dance is a way of prayer. Dancers pray from sunup to sundown. A dancer has to be careful lest a distracting thought comes to him. Yet he must be alert to recognize any messenger the Great Spirit may send to him, for these often come in the form of an animal, even one as small and insignificant as an ant. All creatures are important, for, in their own way, they are wise and can teach us much! Most important of all are the winged ones because they are nearest to the Heavens and are not bound to the earth.

Everything has a spirit or influence which can be given to us if we are attentive. Walking slowly, the dancer goes to the West, offers a prayer, and then returns to the center. He then goes to North, East, and South, always returning to the center. After completing this, he raises his pipe to the Heavens, asking the winged ones and all things to help him. He then points the pipe stem to the earth and asks aid from all that grows upon our Mother. All-day long, the dancer does this over and over, constantly praying out loud of silently to himself or herself.

Gary shared that whites will be tested, especially white girls. We were going to be attending his family’s Sun Dance. The U.S. Government terminated the Sun Dance in 1904. Native Americans were not allowed to have this ceremony for seventy-four years. They were only able to begin having the Sun Dance again when religious freedom was restored to the Native Americans in 1978 with the Indian Religious Freedom Act’s passage. When John danced, and I went to support him, the Sun Dance had only returned for twelve years. Rarely had whites been allowed to attend, much less participate. I began to understand why the Indian I met thought I had to be adopted to attend this ceremony to bring healing to the earth, the world, and the people upon it. I felt humbled that Gary invited us to attend.

LESSON: Pay Attention to Signs and Allow God and Spirit to work.

GIFT: I learned more about the masculine and feminine within each of us and that everything is masculine and feminine.

I also understood more about the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of Self and Others plus what needs to be healed through Sun Dance.

Great Expectations-Turning 80

This week, I turn 80! This milestone has been a long time coming, but the pace has seemed to quicken in recent years. Change has been a part of that. Out with the hair dye. What color would it be? My natural hair color is pretty silver. Who knew! I noticed more people were opening the door for me and treating me differently, perhaps with a little more respect, if that is the term you use when someone calls you “Sweetie.” I was having fun as I watched for little differences.

The world has changed, and I have changed with it. My skin has developed, what shall I say, a little more texture, and the makeup I used to apply out of vanity I now apply out of necessity. My center of gravity has certainly shifted towards the equator.

When I turned 70, John and I visited our four children’s homes and celebrated in the finest restaurants we could find. At 78, I began planning in my mind a wonderful 80th birthday celebration, the guest list, the gifts I would give to others, the special venue I would treat them to. I still remember my 50th birthday surprise party fondly at Legend’s Restaurant in Norman. Perhaps some of the same guests would attend my 80th and family, and new and old friends. I had such big ideas and high hopes. My excitement built into great expectations. On my 79th birthday, the countdown to the big event began, but then came the spoiler. One month into my final year, we began to hear about this thing called Covid-19. My hopes, my dreams, my plans were set aside. I had a new goal and a new purpose. I just wanted to live until I was 80. The guest lists and venues were set aside.

So John and I isolated this whole year carefully. We have not eaten out in eleven months. We have only picked up takeout food twice. We will navigate this inconvenience. We will follow the rules and the protocols and do it right. On January 6th, the vaccine was finally here, and we received our first round of vaccination. Then on January 12th, I began to feel ill with fever, chills, and congestion. A reaction to the vaccine, I reasoned. On January 14th, I tested positive for covid. I began to feel my 80th birthday celebration might be a bridge too far. The next day, John tested negative. Figure that out! We had spent a year avoiding the world, and now we must avoid each other. I began to appreciate the true meaning of isolation. There is a Norwegian saying, “It usually ends well.” So far, that is the case for us. My symptoms have resolved. Ironically, after John testing negative, he has been sick with what we trust, and hope is a bad cold or the flu. He, too, is feeling better.

I am just thankful for each day when it comes. I try to enjoy every day without expectations and to flow with each situation.” The Psalm says we can expect three scores plus ten years, and with strength, fourscore. So I believe anything above 70 is just gravy. My 70’s have been wonderful, and I expect my 80’s to be equally fabulous! Even without the big party. I try to remember Life is good in all it offers and think about all of the gifts I have received in the most unexpected places.

LESSON: Every second is priceless; seconds turn into hours, hours turn into days. We have opportunities to tell people we love them and to send love to those who are absent. Love is the answer, but now is the time for healing if covid teaches us nothing else. Now is the time for forgiveness. Now is the time to tell someone we love them. We do not know what tomorrow may bring, and tomorrow may be too late.

GIFTS: I have had my first vaccination. I have the coronavirus-19, the worst part of which is hopefully behind me. I look forward to a second vaccination. Double immunity looks pretty good right now.

Perhaps soon in the months to come, we will see all of our children and grandchildren for an 80th birthday celebration, to get dressed up to find a newly opened restaurant, and failing that, we can celebrate at home with a self-cooked meal surrounded by the ones we love, making the memory of my best birthday ever!

I am sending love to you each one of you with prayers for your health and well being. !