From time to time with my friends in the bush, we stand around a fresh fire and take a moment’s silence before offering tobacco in contemplation and reflection. Myself, I empty my head of thoughts and sensations of negativity, as I often carry a chip on my shoulder, relinquishing conflict, intent on purification.

If we have libations afterwards, I pour a fluid epitaph “For the fallen.”

The point is, in the daily hustle and bustle, I may lose sight of the sacred, which is not reserved only for the well-dressed Sundays, but is part of our daily existence. As dawn rises, so the sun sets, so each day becomes night, and we wake and sleep in its regal manifold. My body is a container so I fill it, and this bounty I share, unless I fill it with poison, which takes many forms. For my part, the poison is emotional, and I struggle for deliverance, for I wish to be sovereign and not beholden to darkness.

The challenge is my turmoil is not easily excised and I have poured it forth to devastating effect on those closest to me. Stopping the abusive legacy that was beaten into my forebearers means resisting male-pattern violence and disgust.

All is not lost, however, as I do not ruminate on this personal tragedy. It is not my burden to carry anymore as I wish to stop visiting it upon my small world. I see other poisons filling other containers, such as the snow blowers, substance users who take recreation to new highs. In our small towns, though, these people become wraiths, exhibiting that haggard, resting slyness of expectation for the next hit. In our capital, the addicts are a symptom of personal failure and social negligence, even to the point of eroding real estate, and people’s well-being.

Remember the users are the vessels, not the poison, and their cups runneth over. I will not sup, nor sip, their bitterness. The body may be profane, and carnal, but the spirit is light and pure, nonetheless, therefore, judge not.

Recognize the poison, purify the vessel, and acknowledge the sacred. I find, for example, if I do not commune with my friends on occasion around the fire, I begin to take the day for granted. I need those instances of fellowship to renew my appreciation of my friends, their humanity, and share of my vessel: Warmth, humour, laughter, and our memories of loved ones and those who rest easy.

They have seen my poison, so it is redundant; time to move on. We’ve shared our shortcomings and hurts, but we’ve also exposed our strengths and virtues in our dialogue on the state of our little town, of our people.

By continuing this practice my friends help bring me down a notch, for I get full of myself sometimes, but; they also fill my cup so I do not veer to poison. It is North American Indigenous practice, but I colour it with the Buddhist mindfulness (awareness). Being conscious of the intent, at the fire offering, promotes transcendence.

It is an announcement with my friends to maintain moral guidance of my actions. I can only hope it creates positive reactions: As a butterfly’s wing pushes the air, so, too, does the hurricane.


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