Block 3 is spiraling to an end. It’s Week 4, and rather than being consumed by a rush of anxiety, I’m oddly calm. Week 4 and calm? What? A lot happened in this block–a lot of reading, a lot of talking, a lot of ceremonies, a lot of thinking, a lot of bizarre inexplainable emotional twisting–and I feel content, flushed with fresh understanding and friendship. While a great deal still has yet to surface–moments and concepts I’m not sure I’ll ever fully grasp but perhaps will after more time has passed–such passion and patience and intention from my classmates and Bruce went into the course, and, in result, it was so absurdly filled.
For my final project, I joined a fabulous group in recreating a sweat lodge to represent how the Lakota religious traditions are woven into the everyday, woven into a web of life. We demonstrated how unity and connectedness–Mitakuye Oyasin–is a crucial part of Lakota culture. To emphasis the point (and because we were a large number of minds splintering off in various directions), the group separated into specialities, threads: structure, tapestry, prayer bundles, words, and photos.
I was most drawn to words and how our class’s use of them on the course blog demonstrates the connections developed through ceremonies and our time at Pine Ridge. Out of curiosity I ran a word cloud application through the blog and pulled out our most frequently used words. While some words were expected (Pine, Ridge, ceremony, sweats), others were more striking (time, silence, living, unity, branches). While I hadn’t planned on really doing anything with the word cloud, I was inspired by the nature of the words—and by the idea that we as a community had all brought them forth together, used them, gave them strength—and struck by how, in a sense, these words connected us a class and to our moments with the Lakota at Pine Ridge. So, following the design of prayer bundles, I wrote out the larger clouds words onto paper scraps and wove them together on hemp, creating a vital thread of our web, as the words represent our unification as a class and with the Lakota. While we all had extremely unique and personal experiences in ceremony, we nonetheless intertwined, sharing words and thoughts and emotions. We gave the words their strength.
In addition to making the word thread, I also reread through the blog’s entries, ignoring titles and author names and treating it as a single entry. I pulled out the quotes that clicked with the class’s unified voice and eventually made a quote thread. This task took me longer than I anticipated, for as a community we developed a far deeper singular voice than I’d anticipated. In our writings, the class shared a beautiful a tremendous amount of hope and insight, a great sense of openness, of feeling a loss of words and sense of awe, and a respect for the Lakota way of life. Each sentence could be connected. As I worked on the threads, a warm calm built. It was a beautiful experience–rereading the class blogs–the entries wove together and became one. Though we all came from different places and are on entirely different paths and were participating in ceremonies with (and of) a culture absolutely abstract from our own, we brought our different aspects of life to the experience, came together, shared many words, and created a strong web. Like the idea of Mitakuye Oyasin, all my relations, the word and quote threads demonstrated how unity and connectedness play such a strong role in Lakota ceremony and culture.
We constructed the sweat lodge model on Loomis quad, Pike’s Peak studding the blue west. And though the various threads were built separately through out the weekend, this morning we, quite literally, wove it together and then presented our web of life–our sweat lodge–to the rest of the class.
The November morning was bright as the class circled around the lodge. A slight breeze rippled at the word and prayer flags, blew through the tapestry. As each of us group members explained our personal aspects of the project–the threads we wove into the web–the words that have distantly echoed all block swung clear. Though we all come from our own pasts, all are own our own roads, connection and unity still persists. Trevor Hall sings, So many rivers, but they all reach the sea, and just as the Lakota exemplified unity and openness to us–outsiders–as the course ends, and we drift away from the material, the Littleboy family, and our experiences, I propose that it’s key we remain connected to our unity–our unity with each other, with the course, with the Lakota, with Pine Ridge, with ourselves–and preserve the threads that wove through us the past three weeks.
As my classmate and new friend Jackie wrote: “…An adventure has a tangible ending, whereas a journey does not have a clear ending.” When I consider our course in such a way, it’s clear that the past block has been both an adventure (as CC proudly and accurately claims every block to be) and a journey. While, following a Woplia pipe ceremony and feast, the adventure concludes tomorrow, I feel the journey will continue. And it is this feeling, that feeds my present contentment.