In June of 1991, I attended my first week-long workshop with Jaichima and Rutury. Kyle was four, and it was the first time that I had been away from him, although he seemed to deal with it very well. I think it was because he knew that I was going to do ceremony with Jaichima. It was wonderful that, because he liked to take part in ceremony himself, Kyle had a frame of reference for what I was doing. He accepted his frame of reference a bit more easily that I did mine. I knew that I was venturing in to my unknown, and wondered how it would affect me. Whatever happened, it would be life-changing.

I didn’t know exactly what I letting myself in for, but I knew that it would make quite a difference in my life. I tried to have no other expectations other than personal growth. I’d thought of taking my rattle, drum, etc., but I wanted to go totally open to the newness, not carrying “baggage” from “before”. I felt like there was a black hole inside me, and all my energy was rushing into it. It was a good feeling, a clear feeling, and at the same time a quiet and a somewhat removed from myself feeling.

I felt some confusion as I arrived at the airport. I had collected my bags, and had no instructions as to what to do next. Suddenly, I saw Jaichima standing at the rail of baggage claim, looking for me and greeting me with a warm smile.   She said we had to wait for all the other women to gather, that there would be thirteen of us. I lightheartedly mentioned that thirteen makes a coven, and she quickly corrected me, a bit sternly: one and three is four, representing the four directions. It was early evening as we left the airport. I was overwhelmed by the seemingly huge crowd in the van. Some of the women already had been given their spiritual names, and I couldn’t keep them straight. I felt that I wanted to draw deep within myself. Crowds, and especially crowds of strangers, have always been hard for me because there is so much energy moving. I wanted to energetically close in, but I refused to do it. I pulled myself together; I breathed a few times, and centered myself. (“I can do this.”) I began to get settled in to the fact that I was really there. We stopped at a rest stop, and we gathered around a picnic table that was a little away from everything else. Jaichima gave us words of caution and instruction: Watch. Listen. Find the teachers. Hear the lessons.   We returned to the van, and I whispered to myself that we had just received the “two-minute warning”.

The sun set beautifully across the desert. The mid-summer heat made me glad for the sun-protective tint on the windows, but I wished that I could have seen the sunset in its full color and beauty. We stopped just outside Sedona. We gathered alongside the fence and received instructions. Jaichima said that we were near a place of the Ancients. It has been the starting point for pilgrimage for many Native Peoples for thousands of years. With a great amount of sadness, she said that ceremonies used to be held a lot closer to the actual spot, but now the ownership rights and fence lines must be respected. I looked at the massive rock shapes silhouetted against the night sky. There was too much cloud cover for many stars to show. There was a lot of loud and idle chatter, and I wanted everyone to be quiet. It seemed a sacrilege to not be absolutely silent. I prayed to the directions for guidance and in thankfulness for my opportunity of being there. I looked to the left, and saw Venus shining brightly and somewhat bigger through the mist of the night.   I put my frustration to the stars.

I was given the small bunch of dried grass that Jaichima picked as instruction, and I decided that I did not need to pick any more. All the women stood in two lines, facing each other. We were holding small unlit candles and our grass bundles. Jaichima and Rutury passed in between and around us, praying and blessing each of us. I felt Rutury’s hand and rattle upon my head, pushing down just a little. I allowed the feeling to go through me and into the Earth.   Jaichima stood in front of me in my turn. I felt her eagle feather and heard the quiet shake of her rattle as she moved. Her voice was soft and gentle as she prayed in her native tongue. Then, we brushed ourselves off with the grass to leave behind anything we were carrying, including loved ones. I brushed away everything from me that was not Me, wistfully leaving the energy of Kyle there to wait for my return. We stood in a circle, and passed the light from one candle to another. Candle to candle. Sister to sister. Jaichima and Rutury prayed for our good journey. I prayed one prayer, hoped one hope, focused on one thing: that I would be allowed to become a healer. I was crying. My tears were full of the joy that I felt in having come to that stage of my life. There was goodness and wise teaching awaiting me, and I sought it with an open spirit. As we pinched out our flames, I realized that my candle had dripped a long tear of wax over my fingers matching my own and that I hope it wouldn’t break off. Jaichima saw it, and told me to keep it. She told me to cradle it in my hand and held hers like a cradle, with all the love and tenderness she would give a child. I held the candle in my hands as we drove through the night towards Sedona. I was quiet, though not withdrawn. I was full of joy and hope. I listened to the songs of the crickets through the open windows. I smelled the fresh desert air. As we passed through Sedona, I saw a buck on the right side of the road and marveled at its calmness.