Thresholds and River Crossings

Sometimes, When walking through an ancient rainforest Along the north west Pacific Coast, Deep in the belly of the Olympic Peninsula

You suddenly awaken from your well-worn path; You know, that you’ve been walking a long time.

A shaft of golden light passes through the trees In just the right way, Anointing the feet of elders…holy ones Eight-hundred-year-old Red Cedar and Douglas Fir.

These lands of old growth, Cloaked in early morning mist Whisper with ancient songs and stories

Awakened and illuminated A thin place… A liminal space

An invitation to simply walk From here To there.

From the blackened embers of old beliefs and identities Into a more visible and alive, wild indigenous self

Thresholds such as these Require honor and respect. An offering of dried tobacco and Yellow corn meal for safe passage;

A prayer to the ancestors to light the way. Placed gently in the burnt hollow of a tree, Enveloped by earth and braided with roots and ash.

Offering accepted, Entranced granted, You step through onto hallowed ground, Consecrated by the soles of your feet on dark virgin soil.

Pulled forward by some mysterious force, Unconcerned with the comforts Of a life you have outgrown

Loving now, silently, those you once loved out loud, You move across a landscape of memory and belonging Following the distant sounds Of old church bells and river water

The most difficult river crossings, you don’t see coming, no warnings. The very nature of their existence Flowing from some cold, clear, dark mountain spring Deep in the underbrush of your psyche.

So now you must cross this river And your attachment everything and everyone You have known Slips from your grasp.

Some thresholds disappear behind you The moment you cross Offering no return, No forgiveness.

Other crossings happen quickly, You, barely noticing the slight wounding, A small scar inscribed into your skin By the silent gatekeepers.

The old ones remind us, Offerings must be made at such places Or they will be taken. There will be a loss, there’s no way around it.

Some thresholds bar your entry Waiting for a wiser more humble approach. And some are never to be crossed at all, For the very price of doing so could be your soul.

Some thresholds open for a moment then close never to open again. While still others, like the flickering of fireflies on a warm summer evening, Open and close and open again and again offering a piercing light Of liquid grace into the darker crevices of your mind.

Some crossings can take years or even lifetimes to navigate. Like the bloodlines that have come before, Footprints and heartbeats left in the ground, They carry the deep and sacred storylines now etched into your face and hands.

Not seduced by destinations or acquisitions, Distractions on the journey. Into the desert you now walk, Dragging behind you the red prayers bundles of your people.

The prayers of your descendants, Human and nonhuman, Calling you home To the one life that you belong too.

Future generations cry From another More distant mountain. “Leave us your medicine in the ground so we may live!”

Four days and four nights You sing and cry and pray. No food passes your lips. You smell of desert, sweat and fire.

Something above calls your attention. An Eagle feather falling from bright blue sky Into outstretched hands, A prayer answered.

A three hundred year old spell Finally broken. White hearts and desert bones Draw new stories in the sands at Council Wash.

The story of your passage, The forging of character and the crafting of an elder, Worked in deep by the underworld refiner’s fire & stone. Medicine for the people, human and nonhuman

After many years and many crossings You carry a shaft of golden light in your eyes, A blessing for the one who, on some ordinary day Walks by your door on their way to some ‘routine importance’.

Suddenly they find themselves in a rain forest Without a compass, a trail marker or a whistle. The old maps are of no use here.

Only deep listening And the distant sounds Of old church bells and river water.

by Kedar S. Brown, July 2017 (Inspired by a hike in a rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula)