The date for Dance Awake the Dream was chosen long before anyone had heard about the Harmonic Convergence. I find it fascinating that these two events Converged in a most Harmonic way on the weekend of August 15-17, 1987.
A few years earlier, the several Two Rainbows-Two Ravens Gatherings, near Grandjean, had prepared the way for this event which was to be called Dance Awake the Dream. Since the autumn of 1985, people had gathered weekly to learn the Indian songs -- to drum and to dance.
For weeks I had felt that I had found my reason for being alive -- that I had been born to be here at this time -- to be part of this celebration -- that the rest of my life did not matter, it was just important to be here now for the Harmonic Convergence. I grew increasingly excited and it was hard to wait until the weekend arrived. But finally it was here.
The Saturday morning sky was beautiful as I drove north to Donnely, then around to the west side of Lake Cascade in search of the camp. Success! At the registration desk, which was beside the road snuggled under the trees, we received information along with a tiny bag of tobacco. The little cloth bags were in several colors and we chose the one which attracted us.
Each bag was hung on a long piece of colored yarn and we were asked to wear this bag of tobacco around our neck throughout the weekend for purification.
My car bumped slowly across the upper meadow which was already dotted with colorful tents and campers as I chose my spot. After camp was set up I introduced myself to Jo Rene, who it turned out was from Oregon, and who had also just arrived. Since each of us had come alone, we decided to go exploring together to see what was going on. We soon learned that the main
event for Saturday was going to the sweat lodges. We found the sweat lodges on the far side of a grove of trees. Since neither of us had experienced a sweat before, and were a little nervous about it, we asked a lot of questions and finally made the decision to try it together.
Carrying towels, we stood with a group at the top of the path waiting for the bell to sound announcing the beginning of a new sweat. With the ringing of the bell we began the descent along the path, through the trees, and into the opening which overlooked the lake. The two sweat lodges were made of willow branches which were bound together to create frames shaped like an igloo upon which were put layers of tarps, blankets and quilts to hold in the heat.
A group of women were gathering around the sweat lodges and were undressing, laying their clothing on logs or on the grass. Many of us were first timers. We had been told that we should wear something loose and light or nothing at all. We, as did most of the others, chose to wear nothing. A fire was burning in a prepared pit dug near the lodges; beside the pit was a pile of large rocks which had been collected. The group was divided in half, approximately 17 in each. One by one, we crouched and went through the lodge opening, entering to the left and going in a circle to sit around the outer edge of the lodge on a white cloth which had been laid on the ground.
Inside the lodge, to the right of the entrance, a hole had been dug in the ground and a bucket of water sat near it. Our sweat lodge leader, Crete Brown, was nearest the entrance, having entered last. She explained that the ritual which she uses is of the Crow tradition. She talked of the traditions and ceremonies. We learned that the Moon Women were the first to use the new lodges. Moon Women are those who are having their monthly cycle. The tradition is that during this time the women are in their time of power--thus they empower the new lodge when they use it.
One at a time, Crete burned several different kinds of incense in an abalone shell and passed it around to each of us in the circle, the wafts of smoke circling around us, in cleansing and purification. As she used each different incense she explained what it represented. She lit her peace pipe and passed it to each of us, in turn.
We were invited to participate in sharing. Some offered prayer, some shared special thoughts and feelings, others led us in songs or in chants.
Now prepared for our sweat, Crete went outside and with a pitchfork lifted the red-hot rocks, one at a time, from the fire and carried them to the lodge and dropped them in the pit inside our lodge. When the pit was full of hot rocks she entered again and the opening to the lodge was covered from the outside. It was quite dark inside the lodge now. Crete took a ladle and sprayed cold water on the hot rocks as we continued to sing----to chant--to share. With each ladle of water the heat increased inside the lodge; the steam and perspiration combined on our bodies and we were soon dripping wet, rivulets of water running down our bodies. Periodically Crete sprayed us with cold water flung from the ladle which was a startling contrast to the heat surrounding us -- but at the same time refreshing.
Several of the group agreed that they wanted more heat. Crete asked if we all were in agreement. Since several of us were newcomers to the sweat she wanted to be certain that we were not uncomfortable. We called outside to have the opening uncovered. With asbestos gloves, one by one, Crete stooped and picked the large hot rocks out of the pit and set them outside. Then with the pitchfork she again filled the pit with freshly heated ones. While the heat continued to build there were requests for special intentions -- for healing, more songs, chanting, and the most powerful oms I have ever heard. None of us wanted this experience to end but finally there was a group decision that the sweat was finished.
Standing outside, with the sun now going down, we dried and dressed again. There was such a sense of peace and contentment. It seemed to, me that Crete had made every effort to make this the most special experience possible--and for me it was. She was gentle, patient, strong and supportive. We thanked her, exchanged hugs, and ascended the sheltered path through the trees not wanting to break the mood that encapsulated us. As we rejoined the rest of the encampment we realized that we had been in the sweat lodge for about two hours but it did not seem like that long to me.
The evening was spent around a campfire with drums, songs and dance. Just before dawn on Sunday morning a cowbell was rung so that we could gather to greet the new day as the sun came over the mountains. Brooke Medicine Eagle spoke to us about the plans for the rest of the weekend. She asked us to spend Sunday in quiet -- speaking and visiting minimally -- and to keep in mind our vision, our dream for the future, strengthening and perfecting it. Brooke encouraged us to rest during the day as we prepared to Dance Awake the Dream. The Long Dance would begin at dark and culminate at dawn on Monday morning, the 17th, with joy and celebration.