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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Highs & Lows

          My last blog was from my brothers wedding in September. SO much has happened since then. My life has gone in many different directions. In the last six months, two events stand out from the rest. The first is one of the saddest things that's happened in a long time and the other is the happiest moment of my life.

          Two weeks ago my Grandfather, Andre "Greywolf" Forest passed away. He was the spearhead of the spiritual movement within my family. As a child growing up, it was forbidden for him to talk about his Native roots. When his son, my uncle, Don "Standing Bear" Forest was in his 20's he had a deep calling within himself that led him down a spiritual path of digging and uncovering who we really were. Years of genealogy work traced our roots and history to the Northwestern tribes of the Sou'West Nova Metis, Abenaki, MicMaq, and Huron tribes. With this new information and deep calling within our family, Standing Bear and Greywolf turned to Native practice and spirituality and I was brought up steeped in this tradition. My grandfather was a great man. I spent many, many weekends dancing and drumming with him at powwows and listening intently to his stories about the earlier days. My grandmother, Ester "Night dancer" and Greywolf were 2 of the most compassionate people I have ever met. Throughout their life, they raised 4 children and had over 50 foster children along with a sled dog team. At his service the other week, hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects and sing the MicMaq honor song. As the line of people went by, the room was filled with hand drums and people exchanging prayer ties and offering tobacco to his alter. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life, I have tears in my eyes now thinking about it. It was a huge honor to be a part of this ceremony and to stand by my uncle, Standing Bear's side as we sent his spirit up to the Creator.

Pepe, Grandfather, Greywolf, may the Creator hold you in his hands, may your spirit talk to us through the wind, and the trees, and the four-legged, may we feel your heartbeat within the sacred drum and may our prayers be brought to you through the tobacco smoke within the sacred pipe.

There's a word in the Micmaq language, Aquini (pronounced aqua-knee), meaning until we meet again.

Aquini Greywolf, your spirit lives on in every song, every beat of the drum, every red tail hawk in the sky, and every cool mountain breeze.

           The second thing I would like to share is the story of Melissa and I getting engaged! This was the most amazing day of our lives. We began the day in Boulder with a beautiful view overlooking the town from the big lit up star on the hill. We got an early start to the day and headed to Ft. Collins for breakfast. The place we wanted to go had been closed down so we hit a local bagel shop which ended up being one of the best bagel sandwiches ever! After we grabbed our breakfast we hit the road. Melissa brought me up into the Poudre Canyon. This is where she spent most of her time with the dogs on the weekends before and after grad school. It was one of the most beautiful roads I've had the pleasure of driving. It was November 24th which was also my birthday!!! Everywhere you drive in the Poudre, there are massive rock formations. We saw 3 or 4 groups of people climbing. It was a picture perfect, blue bird day in Colorado. After driving for a couple hours, Melissa told me about a Shambala center up a random dirt road. We decided to go check it out. This place was nestled upon a 10,000 ft. mountain pass. It was legit in the middle of NOWHERE. We parked the car and headed up the foot path. It was about a 2 mile hike out to the Stupa. We walked across a beautiful hand built bridge that ran over a trickling mountain stream. There were prayer flags hanging everywhere around this bridge. We continued up the path, when we came around this corner there was a clearing with a beautiful altar with offerings people had left over the years piling up all over. In the distance was the most beautiful Buddhist Stupa. We walked around the perimeter of the Stupa and finished in the front. We removed our shoes, went in, and sat in meditation for about 20 minutes. I felt at home on this property way out in the mountains, far, far away from modern life. When we walked back down the path, I stopped and offered a coin I had on my keychain for years a native elder had gifted me. On this coin was the Great Spirit prayer. I said the prayer and left it with what looked like a collage of prayers and healing. As we came up to that beautiful bridge, I had something that was burning a hole in my pocket. I grasped it tightly and knew this was the right moment to ask Melissa to be my wife. I had been holding onto this ring for over a week at this point and was waiting to make my move. I stopped, put my water bottle down, took her hand in mine and asked her. She was completely shocked and lost for words. I said, "Is that a yes?" and she said "Yes, yes, a million times yes!" Both of our eyes filled with love, gratitude, and happiness and we embraced each other and slowly made our way down the foot path, back to the car, to continue our journey to Steamboat Springs. On our way, we stopped at, what are known as the 420 boulders way out in the middle of the Poudre canyon. We ended up climbing for about an hour and a half. While we were climbing I kept catching her staring at the ring I had picked out for her :-) On our way back to the car from climbing, we stopped in a big field riddled with wild sage. We said a little prayer giving thanks to the Creator for this sage and picked a few bundles to burn later on. When we finally arrived in Steamboat we were starving so we set off into town and found this little amazing joint called Sweet Pea, and had a giant vegetarian feast, celebrating the happiest day of our life. After dinner, we set out to find the infamous Strawberry Park hot springs. We spent a few hours soaking in the hot springs until a HUGE group of tourists showed up and took over the springs. In any case, this was hands down, the happiest day of my life and it makes me super excited to think about spending the rest of my life with such an amazing woman, my best friend and life partner :-)

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