Canada Guatemala

November: First Rains

The fire grabbed hold of the strips of birch bark on the pile of wood. Slowly, the small flame wrapped itself around the logs, and around the 15 stones that we had lain inside. The stones, referred to as the grandfathers, turned red-hot.

I stepped around the sweat lodge and crawled in on my hands and knees. In order to fit all of the enthused group members, our guide, Colleen, gestured a few closer to the recessed centre of the lodge. We were all pressed tightly against each other’s sides.

With antlers, two of our members guided the first four fragile, glittering stones to the centre of the sweat lodge. Colleen threw the first herbs on the stones, and I tried to breathe but my nose was scalded. Truly I had thoughts of doubt—I would be driven out by the heat. Colleen reminded us in the same tone as before the sweat, “Don’t focus on the heat. Keep thinking about the people in your life. Just pray in whatever way you can.”

The first water was ladled onto the stones and steam poured from the rocks to the air surrounding our heads. The rocks did not change colour like I had expected. They remained the same dragon eggs as before.

When Colleen invited each of us to share, I racked my brain for an honest reason for being there. A few minutes prior, I wasn’t aware I was seeking a purpose—seeking a direction—for my newly independent life. Nonetheless that’s what I shared with the group, slowly, taking full breaths when I needed them. Wouldn’t it be better if we all held our words in our hands and looked at them a while before we said them?

Colleen had the door opened for a few members to crawl out, and I snuck in some resolve regeneration. Even with more stones added, the sweat lodge cooled down significantly. I embraced the momentary comfort of the open door, and the task seemed manageable.

Then, unexpectedly, it still seemed manageable when the door closed again and the last grandfathers were brought in. I thought to myself what a glorious discomfort. I was in Canada, struck by the depth of the Anishinabe culture. I was invited to this experience.

After the sweat officially came to a close, I stayed to sing some songs, including one of my own: “I Wonder as I Wander.” Then I left spiritually satisfied.

Upon exiting, I saw my brothers and sisters near the doorway and a wide smile burst on my face. They asked me how it was with me and without cognitive reason I spoke my feelings. For God wove the threads of life and existence into these surroundings, this nature, and these people. Our Heavenly Father included me in this beautiful cloth.

After a few good hugs and exclamations of joy, I headed into the house to change out of my cold, wet clothes. There was a line up. How beautifully trivial it seemed to me. I didn’t need to sit down; I wasn’t in a hurry. I saw the people around me as children of God, and I respected them as such.

I did drink a lot of water, though. No matter how much I drank my body soaked it up like the red Kenyan soil at the first rains.

– Ezra Enns, Guatemala student, 2017-18