The phone was softly chiming. I rolled over in bed and saw the caller ID on my phone showed ‘Colleen’. Swiped up on the face of the phone and said softly, “Colleen, glad you called. I needed an alarm.”
“Peggy, what’s wrong?” Colleen said. “You sound absolutely exhausted!”
“I am.” A soft chuckle escaped. “I’ve been up over 24 hours; there was a Sweat Lodge ceremony Friday night.” I slowly angled myself up out bed and swung my legs to the floor.
“It was beautiful, Colleen, absolutely beautiful. Come out next time.” Colleen was asking if she needed to call back in a bit. “Yes, call me back in a bit. Got to make some coffee and wake up.”
“Right, will do!” Colleen replied and hung up. I headed into the kitchen, heard a few creaks and pops in my joints. My long hair was a tangled mess around my shoulders and down my back. Gently I raked my fingers through it to get if off my face. A few minutes later I was leaning against the kitchen counter and listened to the hiss from the coffee maker. I replayed Friday night’s Sweat Lodge opening and my time at as Fire tender. How could I tell Colleen about my confrontation with Jay? It would seem like I was complaining, (and I don’t complain about anything as a general rule. Life is what it is.)
Flash back to Friday evening . . .
I was already at the Sweat Lodge and working over the outside fire. Large rounded stones were already placed alongside the fire that would be passed to the Sweat Lodge’s fire pit once they were needed. The first group was already inside the Lodge and getting comfortable.
“Ho, Peggy!” called Joe Wannamaker, one of the attendees for the first round. “You joining us in this Sweat?”
“Joe!” I greeted the big bear of a man with a beaming smile, “No, not this time. I’m your Fire tender tonight.” Joe was standing just outside of the flap covering the door into the Lodge. “Hey, Jay will be coming tonight. He’s driving up and should have been here already.”
“Oh? Funny you mention it. I didn’t see him with you, so I thought he wasn’t coming. I was thinking it’d be a nice evening for a change.” Joe did not dance around topics; he was a ‘straight-shooter’.
“Yeah, I told him if he wanted to come he had to drive himself.” I checked myself from saying anything else.
Joe continued, “Yeah, well, he was not very nice last time he was here. Jody had to nudge him to be quiet. You never know who is receiving spirit. It’s rude to blurt out random comments disturbing everyone.”
He turned to go duck into the Lodge, I thought I heard him say “Jay’s coming.” before the flap of the Lodge closed behind him. I heaved a sigh. Ducked my head a bit and reminded myself to say something to Jay about being quiet during a sweat. Just then a vehicle pulled up and stopped. I turned and saw Jay alight from his small white truck.
Jay was a 6 foot tall man, and lanky, about 65 years old with shoulder length shaggy white hair pulled back into a pony-tail. He was dressed in grey cotton shorts and a teal colored shirt and leather sandals. (He has a loud voice that booms when he talks and greets. No matter he’s inside or outside.
Sweat Lodge ceremonies are very spiritual and even approaching a Lodge that has not officially started their first Sweat it is to be approached with respect.) In those few moments I ruminated on Joe’s comments. I’d known Jay for almost 2 years now and still marveled at how disrespectful he was in approaching all spiritual events that he had attended so far.
“Jay, keep your voice down. Show respect. You’re late and should have been here 30 minutes ago.” I spoke in a calm and quiet voice.
“Peggy! I’m always respectful and I’m not late.” His voice boomed. “I don’t need you telling me nothing about how this works.” His face went from jovial to anger very quickly. Downturned lips and lines appeared on his forehead as he got right up to me.
“Jay, lower your voice. I’ve told you many times about this, and to be here early for this kind of event, or you’ll be denied access until the next round.”
“You can’t keep me from going in and doing this sweat!” His face was ugly and almost pressed right into mine. I could feel his breathe warm on my forehead. Jay is taller than me by a full foot.
I glared back at him and strengthened my resolve. “I can and I will. You will respect the office of Fire Tender and the people who were here on time.” I pointed to a log next to the fire, “You will sit with me by the fire. Show me you can meditate to ground and center. I’ll let you know if you’re ready to go into the next sweat.”
I pulled my shoulders back and leaned a bit away from Jay, showing him that I was not to be walked all over as I had allowed to happen in earlier events. I had caved in before so I would not have to deal with his moods; but now I needed to put an end to his disrespectful manners, out of respect to the others that were here on time and for their spiritual journey.
Jay’s face was almost slack jawed with surprise, but he did go sit on the log I had pointed out, although he made a big show of being put out with his huffy breaths as I watched him from across the fire. Joe poked his head out and gave a ‘thumbs-up’ to me and ducked back inside. Jay did not see as his back was to the lodge.
I sipped my coffee and pushed off from the kitchen counter heading into my office down the hall and was already editing how much of the confrontation I would share with Colleen when she called back later. I didn’t want to frighten her off from coming to future sweats. I needed to get Jay in line with things and do it quick. But that would require another cup of coffee.
Thanks for reading!