In the early afternoon of August 21, 2012 Lauren told us go go outside and find objects that would become our talisman for the evening’s fire ceremony. Immediately I got hung up in left-brain activity and was stymied. Some moments later I remembered we were supposed to be open and go with the flow. So I just started looking for items that caught my eye. First I saw a leaf that had fallen from a tree. I picked it up even though I had no specific plan for it, other than I wanted to increase my confidence in my ability to walk the shamanic path. Then I went to the beach area, near the lake. There I put some grains of sand in my pocket. I walked on, still not sure what I was doing. I heard the call of a nearby chickadee – I love birds. Then I found a broken cattail near the edge of the lake. And finally I came across an interesting piece of bark from a tree.

I sat down and thought about the items. For each one of them I started asking myself, ‘what does this mean?’ I didn’t get answers for any of the four items. Suddenly I realized, THAT was the issue. Hey, I thought, I’m a writer. Let’s write about this. Hey, how about putting this in a poem. Wow! Now there’s an idea. So at this point I went back to my room, got out my journal and started writing. It became existential; what did these things mean? are they important? what is the meaning of my life? am I important? how am I related to these items, other than through the question of meaning? I kept writing, asking the questions and received an inspirational understanding. I wrote and rewrote my poem several times and I have rewritten it again for this blog:

THE CHICKADEE’ S CALL by Paul McAllister

What is the meaning of the Chickadee’s call? (chick-a-dee-dee-dee)

Why does it matter that my name is Paul?

How important is a grain of sand compared to a beach?

What is the significance of a dead leaf on the ground?

What is the value of a star beyond our reach?

How about the broken cattail that I found?

What is the point of the bark of a dying tree?

What is the importance, significance,value and point … of me?

(As I said this I put the sand, leaf, broken cattail and tree bark into the raging fire.)

So I asked a helpful spirit. Here’s what he said.

“You are the grain of sand.

You are the dead leaf.

You are the star beyond our reach.

You are the cattail.

And you are the bark of the tree.

Going way back to the beginning of Time,

You were always meant to Be.

Just like the leaf, cattail, bark, star, sand and the

Call of the Chickadee.”

“Look!” he said pointing to the fire.

“Yes,” I replied, “but now they are gone,

And so soon I shall be.”

He laughed a hearty laugh and slapped me on the back.

“You’ve been here before, and surely you’ll be back.

Before the Beginning of Time you ARE part of the plan.

Don’t fret the small stuff! Hold your head up high!

Keep on working to succeed.You know you won’t … unless you try.

If you do, you will find yourself up on the stage.

They’ll all want your autograph! You’ll be all the rage!”

“Remember the sound of the Chickadee’s call!

Step up to the mic and say,‘Hi, my name is Paul!”

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