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The Turquoise Arrowhead

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During the first few months after moving to New Mexico, while visiting the Santo Domingo pueblo I met a pueblo Indian named Robert, who made and sold jewelry. He also teaches native folklore and traditions. We talked about our move to Santa Fe and about my drum circles and the differences between them and the sacred, ceremonial drumming of his culture. We had a really nice time chatting. Before I left, he welcomed me to New Mexico and handed me a beaded charm and told me to hang it somewhere in our house for luck.

No charge.

A year later (earlier this week), I brought my friend Muriel and her friend Karen to the Santo Domingo pueblo so they could shop for jewelry. I spotted Robert. We’ve run into each other a few times over the past year, usually on pueblo feast days. We shook hands and chatted a while. I introduced him to our Massachusetts visitors.

Before I left, he smiled and held his closed fist out to me as if about to hand me something quietly. I put out my hand and he dropped a turquoise arrowhead into it. He said simply, “For protection.”

The arrowhead (it’s the one in the picture) was carved from Kingman turquoise, of the Kingman mine in Arizona…prized for its high quality, sky blue color, and its rich history.

Again, though he was there selling jewelry… no charge.

Last month, we had lunch at the home of an Acoma Indian family at the Acoma pueblo on their feast day. My squash soup needed salt so I asked our host for some. He handed me a salt shaker and I shook some salt into my soup.

Our host said, “I had a choice of two salts to give you. The one from the store or the Indian salt. I gave you the Indian salt.”

It turned out that “Indian salt” is from the Zuni Salt Lake. An annual pilgrimage is made on foot (!) to collect this salt. It is considered sacred. There is a fascinating legend involving “Mother Salt” of the Zuni salt lake. Look it up sometime. Five of the 19 pueblos, including Acoma, consider this salt sacred and make long pilgrimages to collect it.

…and I sprinkled it in my soup!

One day, I dropped in on my friends in the Cochiti Pueblo. In front of their fireplace were more than 20 small dishes of various foods. I asked why they were there. Yellowbird’s daughter, Evon, explained that, on this particular day, they honor their dead by cooking each person’s favorite dish. It is believed that their spirit will come and enjoy the food.

She insisted that I sit down and eat something at the table. They had been cooking these various foods since early morning. While I ate, Evon said, “We already know what we’ll be cooking for you, someday, when you’re gone.”

(I know that I’ve buried the lead… But I’m getting to it.)

Before moving to New Mexico, most of my friends know that my bicep muscle was torn from inside my elbow while lifting a heavy box. It required emergency surgery and a two-month break from lifting or drumming. Drum circle folks came to the rescue, helping me pack and move boxes in preparation for our move.

My friend, Mary, had an idea. She gathered a bunch of friends together to give me a group Reiki healing session. I laid there surrounded by these wonderful souls performing Reiki on me. They did this on two separate days, in fact! One woman, Patricia, even knitted me a “healing scarf” which I wore during the session and own to this day. She made it by saying prayers for healing with each stitch.

I could tell you a hundred more stories like this. I won’t. What’s my point?

Do I believe that a beaded charm will bring luck? Or that a turquoise arrowhead will give me ‘protection’? Do I believe in the spiritual and healing properties of Indian salt from the Zuni Salt Lake? Or group Reiki? Or a Healing Scarf?

Do I believe that people “drumming healing energy” for me actually heals me? When I drummed “Healing Energy” for my friend George Mendonca during his foot surgery, do I believe that my drumming led to the positive outcome?

No. Not really.

While I consider myself open-minded, I’m also fairly concrete.

Do you know what I DO believe in?

LOVE… and caring.

The jeweler who gave me that $340. Navajo ring last month, the woman who anonymously paid for the church space for our drum circle reunion, Muriel who, while visiting Sante Fe this week, bought us a sterling silver Kokopelli riding a motorcycle… all surprising acts of kindness, caring and love.

All report cards from God. (…or the Universe or Spirit)

That turquoise arrowhead says, “I care about you and want you to be well.” It says this in the language of an ancient culture and tradition, but I understand it perfectly.

My squash soup would have tasted as good with the store-bought salt. Handing me the sacred Zuni salt instead spoke volumes, which had nothing to do with salting my soup.

Every one of the people who participated in the group Reiki could have gone home and had supper after a long day of work. Instead, they showed up to help heal the drum circle guy.

Did it work? Well, the surgeon told me my arm MIGHT be ready for drumming by mid-August. I drummed in the Clam Festival Parade on 7/19. On stage with the Different Drummers Band on 7/20 and then on stage with Bluezberry Jam on 7/21… and I’ve been drumming ever since! My arm is good as new.

But I think it’s the love and caring that works the magic.

I’m not saying that everything else is bullshit. There is no way to know this stuff for sure. Everything is projection. We each create and respond to our own interpretation of what we perceive and what we believe. I’m just saying that, in my perception, the common denominator is love and caring.

I’m reminded of the movie, “Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet.”, where an American from New Jersey pretended to be a guru from India and fabricated a whole philosophy and wound up with actual American followers, many of whom reported to have been healed by him.

I believe they were. Though the filmmaker started out making a cautionary film about spiritual leaders, he became so caught up in the role of fake guru that he began to sincerely care about his followers.

There it is again… Love and Caring.

Sometimes I wonder if all the fancy techniques in my psychotherapy ‘toolkit’ are what does the trick with clients or the fact that I sincerely care about their mental health and the choices they make?

Have I been handing out turquoise arrowheads without even realizing it? In my drumming? In my writing? When I help people online?

I sincerely hope so.

That’s the guy I want to be.

~Rick Cormier


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