Sunday, April 29, 2007

Many Fire's Quiet Strength

I decided that today I would get out an old painting, and tell you its story. You saw earlier the drawing of my husband Big Foot, the Mountain Man.

The title of this painting is, "Quiet Strength," which speaks of the man as well as the lodge.

It is time to let the lodge work its magic. It has been a long winter this year, and it's time for my husband and his fraternity of brothers to get away for a few days. Several years ago they found a place near Chadron, Nebraska, that, for them, has great healing powers. They stop to visit The Museum of the Fur Trade and then find a site to set up camp.

The lodge goes up in about thirty minutes. There are fifteen, twenty-four foot poles that serve as its frame. First a tripod is raised and anchored, then four poles are placed in each of the three partitions. One of the back four is used as a lifting pole for the cover, and there is an anchor peg every two feet of the circumference. The dimension inside the lodge is twenty-one feet from front to back and eighteen feet from side to side. There is a lining inside that ties to the poles. The lining is from four to six feet high, and the bottom drags the ground. By placing your bedding, boxes, or some rocks on the skirt you seal the lodge from drafts on the floor. The space between the outer cover and the liner creates a flu for the fire so the smoke is drawn up and out through the smoke flaps.

My husband sets the lodge up without many modern conveniences. It works best this way. The last to be set in place is Many Fires, the buffalo skull "alter" piece where the friendship pipe is kept. There is a lot of peace derived from Many Fire's quiet strength.

When it's late at night and the fire is flickering away to embers there is a warm glow in the lodge. As you look up, the stars shining through the smoke flaps, your eyes are slowly drawn back down the poles. The poles encircle you like a protective hand. Falling to sleep without a care, complete with a feeling of being safely tucked in, is illusive for most adults today. But not when you surrender yourself to the lodge.

Big Foot and his friends will come home shed of the stress of their everyday responsibilities. They will be able to draw on the peace until next year when the promise of spring calls them back.

My husband is gone now and the memories are as strong as if he were here. Then one day I got to playing with the two pictures. The drawing I made of him, and the painting of Many Fires. When I superimposed the black and white drawing on the painting, it looked like he was a part of the fire's smoke, still here yet spiriting away. I will someday put the two together in a print at least in an edition large enough for me and our kids. Then, who knows ...

All art, poetry and writings are copyright & cannot be reproduced in any form without written permission from Judith Angell Meyer