Sample text for Tree of dreams : a spirit woman's vision of transition and change / Lynn Andrews.

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Your Song

"You are walking in the footprints of the ancestors," Face in the Water said to me, her brilliant blue eyes reflecting the blaze from the central fire. We sat together in ceremony in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

"For many years I have listened to your words, your voice, in awe, Grandmother. You hold up a mirror for me that has been clouded by smoke as if your voice and your presence came from the world of spirit and not from this land."

Face in the Water looked down at the red chief's blanket we were sitting on. With her long, elegant fingers, she traced a thread of black wool woven in the pattern. I wondered at all her hands had touched in the many years of her life. She was so very old, and had helped so many with the goodness and wisdom of her soul. She lifted her hand, and as if touching a tiny bird that had fallen from its nest, she lay her fingers on mine and then settled her palm onto the back of my hand. Her generosity, the tenderness, the pleasure of her touch put me instantly at ease.

"You will fly away soon to do your work, little wolf. Your nest is being prepared."

"Will I see your face in my dreams, Grandmother? My confusion is deep. How do I teach my people about transition, change, and death?" I asked.

"In the Tree of Dreams there is a song," the old woman said. "Like any other living thing, it has a song to be sung. To lose your song is to lose your soul. The song in the trees is something to be listened for very, very carefully. It teaches you that life is never ending. This is what you can say to your people. So many of you in the Western world are looking at elderhood for the first time. Perhaps what I am going to say to you will help them."

Smoke from the fire whirled around us in purple-gray plumes, creating mysterious shadows in the air.

"As the leaves begin to drop from the tree in autumn," she continued, "an harmonic is created. The harmonic is different with every leaf that falls and different again for every tree. The Tree of Dreams is you and me. We are all a Tree of Dreams. We are filled with yearning, joy, and love. We are filled with the teachings that we have received and the experiences that we have had. Our branches are the different times of our lives. The leaves are the experiences-the colors, the textures, the aspects of the divine. As the leaves fall, the song can be heard, a new song that plays on the wind and is communicated to other trees, if they are listening.

"The whale people who live in the north speak about the great whale and how, when she sings a song, it is heard sometimes a thousand miles away. Another whale picks up that song, and the echo is heard another thousand miles away. This goes on until that song is created around the world by all whales singing in unison.

"The music that forms from the dropping of the leaves is similar. The song that was very much your own blends to create a harmony with other songs as it touches the earth. It is at that moment that all leaves become one, surrounding the earth with crimson, orange, red, and gold."

I watched this woman who was one of the oldest among us. She had never come out of the mists for me. She kept to herself, but she had touched my heart from the very beginning when Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs and I had paddled a canoe up river through the fog of the far north to the encampment of the Sisterhood of the Shields. I will never forget the luminous vision of forty-four shields painted and shimmering on their tripods, and each woman dressed in quills, bone, silver, turquoise, coral, beads, and ceremonial dresses, awaiting our arrival. The fire was roaring and the drumming began as we paddled silently around a turn in the slow-moving river and broke through the tule fog into the afternoon rays of sunlight. The women, old and beautiful beyond my imagining, stood and welcomed us. I had not known of their existence before that moment.

Face in the Water smiled as she watched my eyes. I could not look into hers for long. I looked this way and that and then I had to laugh before I could settle my eyes on hers.

"Do you feel better now?"

"Yes, thank you, Grandmother. There is so much I want to share, and I want to do it well. All of you have survived the hardships of reservation life so artfully. You have families, children, and professions, to say nothing of your sacred teachings! You have transformed the difficult times into strength and power. You have taught me to work with energy fields-if only I can do as well as you."

The old woman watched me, her eyes gleaming silver like frozen tundra around the glaciers in the north. For a moment I walked into her gaze and saw a glimpse of the ancient past, the tribal customs of her people. She carried all the beautiful memories of days gone by, just as we all do. But few have suffered losses as immense as those of native people. These elder women in the Sisterhood have survived difficulty with special practices. Their memories and history deepen them like an endless cave penetrating hundreds of miles into the center of the world-smoldering, molten earth and fire. This was her power, held deep within her. Face in the Water posessed great skill and knowledge, but she did not guard it jealously. She shared love and her knowledge freely to those who would listen.

"You have taught me the joys of elderhood. I want others to be inspired by that vision. I want to tell these stories well. I want to write a book, Grandmother, that has chapters in it that represent leaves falling from the Tree of Dreams."

"You have your song," she said. "You learned about the ways of power early in your work with us. As long as you have your song, you can never lose your direction or your vision. Remember, the owl will take you to your Tree of Dreams. You are not done here yet. The tree holds other dreamers who are waiting to help you. Don't stray off the track-you know that-follow your song line. It connects you to what is good and powerful for you. You live in both worlds. You live in spirit and you live on the earth. This is not an easy song to sing, but teaching the young ones to treasure their elderhood is the finest gift you can give, and you will do it well. As the leaves are falling, the new ones begin to grow. That is law. That is your story work. One of the joys of elderhood is telling your story. This is our power before we die. We can pass on what we've learned. Our legacy is thousands of years old. Let it flow through your lips. Anyone can take up a drum and talk to the Great Spirit and join you in a chant. It has always been that way. Your work here for the old ones is just beginning. I am here for you."

Suddenly, I was jolted back into the present reality by the wild honking of horns as our taxi came to an abrupt stop in front of my publisher's building in New York City.

"We're here, Lynn," Al said, reaching his hand out to help me from the back seat of the taxi. For a moment I stared at his hand, still seeing Face in the Water in my mind, the drums gently beating like a heartbeat in the distance of my reverie, now far away. Then it stopped. I bolted out of the taxi, wanting to be present and leave my dreaming behind. Al stared at me, wondering, and then took my arm in his as we strode through the spring sunlight and cool bursts of wind.

"You've only been back from visiting your teachers a few days-must have been hard for you-foot in two worlds and all." He laughed and guided me through the foyer and into the elevator.

Voices and clicking high heels echoed off the vast marble floors and vaulted ceilings of the building lobby. I turned and observed a sea of frantic eyes and tight smiles as the elevator door closed and divided us from those who were waiting.

Al nudged me. "You're musing again." I smiled at him, my friend and agent for so many years.

We had barely stepped through the glass doors of my publisher's office, when we were assaulted by a barrage of swear words coming from a furious young man with a red beard who was being thrown out of the building by two guards. I did a double-take-for a moment, I thought the man was Red Dog, an evil sorcerer I had known years before. But how could it be-Red Dog was dead, wasn't he? Now that I looked closer, I saw that this young man had dark hair and didn't resemble Red Dog at all. Yet a feeling of unease had taken hold in my heart just the same. Red Dog was my worst nightmare-a symbol of evil to me. I had seen him steal power from women. Many of us have a Red Dog in our lives, someone or something that is filled with darkness, but that also forces us to find our center and our strength. Red Dog had been my adversary, and our power struggle had brought me to my lowest point. Sometimes he had put me through what felt like small deaths for me, but I had grown despite him. Where had this vision come from? As suddenly as the vision of Red Dog had appeared, it was gone.

The man had been ushered out of the building, but his voice echoed down the hallways and book-filled cubicles. Shocked workers poked their heads up and out from everywhere around us.

"What in the world was that all about?" I asked a young woman who came to escort us to my editor's office.

"Who knows? Probably just another disgruntled author," she said, winking at me.

"Forget it," Al whispered, "just another nut case."

Right, I thought, taking a deep breath and following them down the hall.

--From Tree of Dreams: A Spirit Woman's Vision of Transition and Change by Lynn V. Andrews, Copyright (c) September 2001, J. P. Tarcher, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Andrews, Lynn.
Shamanism -- Miscellanea.
Indians of North America -- Religion -- Miscellanea.