Reclamation

By John Miller

There is a realm of dreams that overlaps physical reality often ignored except while asleep, a dimension of possibilities that the Australian Aborigine Shamans call Dreamtime or the Dreaming, and it is this realm that produces both nightmares and bullies. I walk to my son’s school today against his earlier protests. “Dad, if you come to school today I’ll just die…I’ll just die!” That’s what he told me this morning, and if I wished to let him continue to be bullied I would have listened to him, but I am a shaman in a modern day world, and while I operate within physical reality I sometimes need to dip into the spirit world for victory. Jimmy’s afraid I’ll start dancing in the middle of the playground or something. He’s afraid I’ll bring with me my rattles or that I’ll smudge my forehead in preparation for the coming battle.

He’s right.

A large grayish smudge rests upon my forehead. I am now purged for battle, the smudge from the ashes of the smelting pot in which I had burnt sage, a most purifying and cleansing Medicine. Strong Medicine. The two rattles hang at my side, decorated and consecrated gourds, and the jumping beans inside make them sound like they’re slightly rattling even when not in use. I wear dear skin like my ancestors wore, and the skin of Deer is blessed and gives me the speed and alert senses of Deer. At Burns Street and Chalmers Avenue a car almost runs me over, and it honks me out of the way. The deer skin clothing gives me spiritual senses and makes me alert to another world and dimension, yet it pulls my mind’s awareness out of the physical world. My bear tooth necklace gives me the strength of the Bear, and the shark’s teeth gives me the merciless and ferocious heart of the Shark. My moccasins are crafted out of Beaver which gives me the ability to craft any shelter of protection magically against my enemies.

Spiritual battles cannot be won by flesh and blood, fist or weapon; spiritual battles must be won in the spirit realm, and I must heed the tools of my trade. “Your dad’s a quack,” Brent told Jimmy yesterday. “If he could see the future, then he would know about the bloody nose I’m about to give you.” Truth is Jimmy never received a bloody nose, but he did receive a fat lip and black eye. Now it’s gotten personal, and for the honor of my grandfather and his fathers before him, I must fight this spiritual battle.

My name is Totem White Wolf, and I am a shaman. My given name is Jimmy Redclaw III. My son is the IV. My family is Hopi. My father drank himself into six rehabs because the spiritual visions that came upon him had become too nightmarish and monstrous, and only strong drink and drugs could free his mind from the nightmare realm. Yet there are many ways in which to get stuck in the nightmare realm, and I fear my son is close to getting stuck there through being bullied.

Brent Myers isn’t just a child, nor is he a mere bully. His own fears have pulled him ever closer to the nightmare realm, and he follows the footsteps of his father. Stephen Myers, was in my class when I graduated. I had been kicked off the reservation for too much drinking, and as such I had to attend the white man’s school off the reservation. There Steve bullied me mercilessly until I graduated high school.

I thought I’d never see him again.

Brent Myers is an ogre in the spirit realm just as his own father had the spirit of the Ogre. It’s a family tradition with the Myers family. I realize that now. Their fears have summoned a spiritual monster from the nightmare realm, and it manifests through them making them bully others. Steve still bullies people at the local bar, and sometimes he gets hauled to jail by the local authorities. His son has taken up his father’s mantle of “bully”, and I now understand the seasons change but always cycle back to the beginning. I hadn’t finished this battle in grade school and high school, and now I realize I must take up my karma and finish it before it follows me into my next life.

At Letter Street and Fulton Avenue I cross heading toward the school. Kerry the crosswalk guard shouts to me saying, “Wait for me!” Kerry was the crosswalk guard when Steve and I attended class at this grade school. Something is wrong with his brain. I don’t know if he’s retarded or just mentally challenged. He’s kind of like an icon in the neighborhood. He smiles at the pretty mothers who walk their children to and from school, but he’s harmless. He never misses work rain or shine, and he makes sure all the kids follow the rules-adults included-and if they don’t he shouts at them. Other than that, he is good natured and pleasant. He has to be in his late sixties, I imagine.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he apologizes, “But you have to follow the rules. Next time wait for me to let you cross the crosswalk.”

“But there was no traffic,” I object.

“The rules HAVE to be followed,” he bellows after me. I realize he’s correct: even spiritual rules have to be followed. “I didn’t know we were having Native American Indian Day today.”

“Neither does the principal,” I say with a knowing smile.

Jimmy has first hour recess. That’s where his entire day usually goes kaput, where Brent Myers seeks my son out and belittles him before their peers. Brent is extremely large for his age just as his father had been. For a fifth grader he stands five feet eight inches tall. He’s fat but sturdy, thick boned, weighing close to two-hundred pounds. Brent can easily whip anyone in the grade school without even trying because of his great size just like his own father had at his age.

I wish my father had come to school to protect me from Steve as I am going to protect Jimmy from Brent now. Just as I think that I hear a crow caw and gaze up squinting into the bright Autumn sun. The crow flies through shafts of streaming sunlight and lands on top the school. It is a sign. An ancestor spirit will be helping me this day.

At the playground children notice me and point. The recess teacher notices me and looks nervous. I smile at her and unlatch my rattles. I begin shaking them and the jumping beans begin quivering and bouncing inside the gourd rattles with a frantic, constant sound.

“Oh, no!” comes my son’s voice from the left. I look and see the look of horror on his face, but it stems from seeing me and not the nightmare realm. “You promised, dad!”

I hadn’t promised. He expected me to promise and assumed I would. I begin dancing and trampling his dreams of obscurity, and a crowd of children gathers round. They form a circle around me, then Brent Myers break into the circle and sneers.

“Look at that, Jimmy,” he shouts to my son. “Your father the quack is here.”

I see Jimmy’s face flush red and he bows his head. I feel his shame. The enemies of the Hopi have tried shaming us time and time again, but we are a proud bunch with stout hearts. I see Brent with his sneering face. Yet while I perceive the physical, I also perceive the spiritual. Not a lot. I don’t have an open full-blown vision. I’ll have to enter into a trancelike state to enter the spirit world.

The battle is on. I fight the nightmare realm not only for my son, I fight the nightmare realm to reclaim a battle I lost years ago. I fight for the honor of my grandfather whom taught me shamanism. I fight for my heritage. This is for honor now, honor of the past, honor of the present, and honor of the future. I begin to fight for the future honor of my son. He doesn’t believe in what I do he says, but that’s only because he doesn’t wish to be made fun of by Brent and others.

I have a New Age Shop on the reservation. I don’t practice most of what I sell. I only practice shamanism according to my tribe’s customs. Had I been born Caucasian perhaps I would have been a preacher or a priest, but I consider that White Man’s religion. I think the White Man should worship the Great Spirit in the manner befitting his culture and how he is raised. I was raised to dance with the spirits. It’s in my blood and it’s a part of my national heritage.

I am Totem White Wolf and I will die fighting for what I believe. I will also convince my son of the power of the Great Spirit, of the power of the Dreaming.

“Come, let us Dream together,” I call to my son. The other children egg him on to join me, but he refuses and looks down at the ground. “Victory is ours is we choose it.”

Brent tosses a dirt clog at me and it bounces off my shoulder. The playground attendant does nothing, and I realize Brent has cornered her into fear as well as my son. I dance and chant the way my grandfather taught me, and the constant rattling takes on a rhythm of its own. Soon the sound grows more intense and my ears pop and crackle. I feel something shift within my brain between my ears, and it’s as though a spiritual level falls around me. I can feel the rushing wind of another dimension, and my hair wafts in that wind although it is a calm day in the physical realm.

“Freaky father,” Brent quips.

I raise my rattles to him, clasped in both hands and constantly shaking, holding him with my eyes which peer into his soul. He frowns then gasps while clutching his chest. I feel the power emanating from Mother Earth, and suddenly the entire spirit world rips apart before my eyes. The veil that had prevented me from viewing it is now rent in two, and I pass into the spirit world while still standing in the physical world. I operate in both worlds now.

“Dad, please go home,” Jimmy pleads. I hadn’t noticed him walk up to me, and he’s pulling on my deerskin sleeve. “Brent’s going to kill me tomorrow.”

I see my son in the spirit realm. He is a frightened fawn with white stripes. Trembling legs support him as if he’s just been born, and he falteringly steps back away from me when he realizes I won’t listen.

Brent stands eight feet tall in the spirit realm. His face is pale-green and giant interspaced teeth jut from his thick drooling lips. His ogre face smiles and his unclear and bloodshot eyes do not comprehend me. He could easily pick me up with one hand and throw me. His shoulders are about six feet wide, and his arms and legs resemble heavily muscled tree trunks. He wears some sort of hairy loincloth, and he crouches in preparation to attack me.

“Like father like son,” Brent quips.

“Wuuh-gah!” the ogre screams while rushing me.

My mind sees both the physical and the spiritual. I see Brent simply taunting me, and I see the ogre chasing at me. This is why bullies have so much power; they have allied themselves with a creature from the Nightmare Realm. This is why children tremble so before bullies: because they can sense the spiritual danger and power of the nightmare.

In the physical realm the gourd rattles are simply rattles. Yet in the spirit realm they transform into a flaming bow and arrow. The ogre tries slowing, but his manhole-sized feet skid toward me as I take aim. In the physical realm I still shake the rattles, but in the spirit realm my spirit body takes aim with the flaming bow and arrow. A shaman must multitask both dimensions if he is to be successful, for what transpires in the spirit realm always effects the physical realm.

I let loose the flaming arrow and it strikes the ogre’s forehead and glances off. It grins while pressing its giant hand against its Neanderthal brow, then checks its palm for blood. There is some, but its not hurt, not really. It charges me just as I pull back on the flaming string, and a flaming arrow suddenly appears.

In physical reality Brent backed off some when I glared at him almost as if he expected me to physically come after him and whip his ass-I should. Now, however, he gains strength and stability in the knowledge that I won’t touch him…physically. He begins spouting insults at me again, and I feel the fear and terror assault me, but it doesn’t come from the young boy-it comes from the spirit of Ogre.

I let the second arrow fly, and this one finds its mark. It embeds deeply into the ogre’s right eye and erupts out of its right ear. Green vicious fluid and black bile explodes out of the ogre’s ear, and it drops to its knees howling in agony.

Brent suddenly reaches up to his ear and cries, “Shit!” He bends over as I smile at him, and he begins crying like a baby. “Earache, shit!”

“Mr. Redclaw?” the playground attendant calls. “The principal would like to see you, sir.” Jimmy slinks away but the attendant adds, “Both of you.”

“What about the ogre,” I point my thumb at Brent.

“Looks like he’ll be going to the nurse’s office,” the attendant replies with a worried expression.

I walk with my son as the spirit realm slowly recedes. I am still strong in Medicine and walking fully in the spirit realm by the time we get to Principal Edward’s office. My son stands beside me outside his door in the outer office, and I knock. Jimmy looks as if his world has been ruined. How can I explain it to him? How can I make him understand?

“Come in!” a gruff voice barks.

We enter and just as I’m about to close the door a hand smacks the wood. A man with a weathered ancient face, white grizzled features and white bur-cut hair pushes the door open.

“You ain’t starting no meeting without me,” he exclaims.

The principal looks up and asks, “Mr. Myers?”

“Hell, no!” he exclaims. “I’d kill myself if I had that last name. I’m Jimmy’s grandfather, Jimmy Redclaw II.” The principal began to object but dad shut him up quick by saying, “If you don’t let me in on this little meeting, I’m going to be talking to the school board about what you do on Thursday nights outside town.”

The principal’s face flushes red and he shuffles some papers. He mumbles something beneath his breath and his head tilts to one side then back again.

“Very well, Mr. Redclaw,” he says at last. “Your presence certainly couldn’t hurt anything.”

“Grandpa, what are you doing here?” my boy asks in genuine surprise. “I haven’t seen you since…”

“If we can begin, gentlemen!” the principal interrupts.

The meeting goes as expected. The White Man comes down on us Red Men. Not because he is prejudice, but because of what I see in the spirit realm hunting us-the battle is never over in the spirit realm. He complains about us, but specifically about me coming to school unannounced in tribal garb. “This really is out of the question in the future, Mr. Redclaw,” he tells me. I nod and smile as I hear his words. Jimmy’s grades are mentioned, and dad argues Jimmy can’t concentrate while being bullied. The principal says he’ll look into it, and we discuss taking Jimmy out of the grade school completely and being home-schooled. We finally tell each other goodbye, and the three of us Red Men leave the one White Man in his spiritually darkened office. I don’t feel any closure.

I notice Jimmy’s eyes are glazed and unfocused. He’s about to cry. Everything is just a little too much for him. He hugs his grandfather goodbye and then walks with me out of the school. He looks back over his shoulder several times saying, “I can’t believe he showed up.”

Grandpa has been in rehab six times. He’s lived a very unreliable life, but at least he was there for his grandson today.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Jimmy?” I ask him as we walk by the nurse’s station. We see Brent inside holding his ear and still crying. “If you want to continue learning the White Man’s wisdom, you can remain at this school.”

“But if I’m home schooled, does that mean you’ll teach me Hopi Medicine?” he asks hopeful. “And that I’ll get to see grandpa again?”

“Of course it does,” I encourage him.

He smiles and that is my answer. Kerry the crosswalk guard notices us approaching and he stands at attention. “How are you doing today, gentlemen? Going home, I see.”

“No, we’re not going home, Kerry,” he tells the older man. “We’re going to the graveyard. Right, dad?”

I smile and turn toward the graveyard. The Redclaws have been buried on White Man’s land for decades. Some of my ancestors are buried on the reservation and some at Springdale Cemetery. The grave we’re going to is at Springdale just a couple blocks away. Some motorists pass us by but no one really pays much attention to us. I’m just an Indian in traditional Indian garb. The local reservation is very close. It’s not uncommon to see Native American Indians walking around in traditional clothing.

“How long has it been, dad?” Jimmy asks.

“Oh, about three years or so,” I respond knowing exactly what he’s referring to. “He got out in 2005 but that’s when the doctors discovered liver damage.”

Springdale Cemetery has a wrought iron arch resembling black ivy over the double-main gates. We walk beneath it passing by roses on either side. The small garage houses their bulldozer, and we walk behind it. The poorer graves are where we’re headed, hidden behind the garage and below the hill next to the drop-off to the steep gully.

“He never believed in Medicine did he, dad?” Jimmy asks while we approach the tombstone. The sky darkens and light cool drops fall. “At least, not on this side, huh?”

I look down at the simple tombstone barely legible. I push back the grass and read the words: Jimmy Redclaw II. Beneath it reads, May he find what he was always looking for in life. In the distance I see the skies are clear and a rainbow sears across the blue sky.

“I’m sorry for not believing you, dad,” my son tells me. “I guess I never would have believed you, either…had grandpa not shown up.”

“It’s okay, son,” I tell him while placing my hand upon his shoulders. A light shower and sunlight falls down upon us magically. “Same thing happened to me when I was your age. Only it was my great-grandfather who appeared to me. Grandfather and I stood in this very graveyard.”

“Where?”

I smile and take him to see his great-great grandfather’s grave. It’s just a little limestone cross, something that I always knew he’d hate. We pass the time away as rain and sunshine falls upon us, and the past opens up like revelation as the spirit world blesses us. We’re free from the ogres of the nightmare realm, and we’re especially blessed because an ancestor spirit came calling today. My dad died a miserable and forsaken alcoholic in life, but somehow he found peace…on the other side.

I’m just glad he came back to prove it to us today. He helped me reclaim our family honor. Dad also helped me reclaim my son.

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