Categories
Uncategorized

Tilly

Tilly: a Story of Hope and Resilience by Monique Gray Smith

Once, when I called her to talk about some things I was upset about at school, she told me, “What you gotta remember, Tilly, is everyone’s born with love in their hearts. Sometimes life takes that away, but we all born with it. So whenever you enter a room, in your imagination, fill it with love. And make enough room for everyone else to fill that room with love, too. That, my girl, is when good things happen.”

==========

As we eased in to the dock, a dragonfly circled around my head. I didn’t dare swat at it. “Oh, my, Tilly. You gonna have to pay real good attention to your dreams tonight. That dragonfly’s come to remind you of that—we call ’em gatekeepers to the dream world.” Grandma Tilly’s head turned as she followed the quick movements of the dragonfly. “You remember what I told you about dreams?” “Sure I do,” I said proudly. “The dreams I have when I first fall asleep are about my past. They’ll help me learn from my past so I don’t make the same mistakes. The ones in the middle of my sleep will help me solve whatever problems I have right now. And the dreams I have just before I wake up, those dreams are about the future. They’ll help me get ready for what is to come.”

==========

The first time she’d fed me during a session, Bea had told me, “This is our way, Tilly: to share teachings while eatin’ or with tea. That way you don’t just hear the teaching. Your body soaks it up, so it never leaves you. Someone explained it to me once—it’s like we’re feeding our spirit with knowledge and wisdom.”

==========

because we need to be listening to our own hearts twice as much as we listen to what others have to say. Our heart, it tells us our truth. It’s our guide for making decisions, for knowing our values, our beliefs and living a good life. It’s one of the ways your Ancestors speak to you and guide you. I like to call it our Indianition.” I was puzzled. “Don’t you mean intuition?” “Naw, I like to think of it as Indianition.”

==========

“Our Medicine Wheel is about who we are as human beings,” Bea explained. “We all have the same four areas on our wheel: emotional, mental, spiritual and physical. No matter who you are, where you live, how smart you are or how much money you’ve got, this is one of the few things in life we share. We’ve all been blessed with gifts, and when our wheel is balanced it helps us live our lives in a good way. We feel happy.”

==========

“The east represents the beginning of creation,” she’d told me on an earlier visit. Her altar displayed items that were sacred and important for Bea in her work: a smudge bowl, a braid of sweetgrass, rocks, a small piece of rat root and an eagle feather.

==========

Be safe on your trip, and pay attention to everyone who comes along your path. You never know who’ll have a teaching or story for you. . .or who might need one. Be generous with your spirit. You’re full of kindness; go on and share it.”

==========

At first, I’d been grouchy and cynical about getting up at six to watch the sun rise. But I quickly realized how powerful it was to greet the day in a sacred way, from a grounded place and a place of thankfulness.

==========

When we get up in the morning we have a shower to cleanse our bodies. Smudging is like a spiritual shower—it cleanses our spirits. So when Frank comes and stands in front of you, he’ll hold out the smudge bowl and the smoke will be flowing.” She handed the feather to Frank. “You can put your hands over the smoke, just as you would wash your hands at the sink,” she said, demonstrating for us. “Then cup your hands and bring the smoke up over your head, asking for the ability to think positive thoughts. Next bring the smoke to your eyes, asking that you may see what you need to see today and that you see, too, the goodness and beauty in the world. Bring the smoke to your ears, so you may hear the messages you need to hear, and then to your mouth, so you may speak with integrity and kindness.”

==========

Each time she described a motion, Elder Sadie showed us what she meant. “Some folks also like to bring the smoke down each arm, asking for continued strength to feed their body well, and down the front of their legs, so they have the courage and strength to continue walking on the red road. If you would like Frank to smudge your back, please turn counter-clockwise, following your heart. When he is done, Frank will tap you on the head to let you know you can turn around. Continue to follow your heart and complete a full circle.”

==========

I soon discovered that Mabel was an extraordinary healer. She was also a Pipe Carrier, and the evening before each of our sessions started, the two of us would have a pipe ceremony. She said it was important to invite the Ancestors on whose land we were guests to help with the work to be done. Sometimes she’d hold a pipe ceremony with the

==========

We had just witnessed something extraordinary. I was covered in goosebumps. How had that girl known exactly what to do? We were seeing the once-forgotten pipe ceremony come to life, and a young girl was showing her community the way.

==========

Later that evening, Mabel explained to me about body memory. “Many people believe that at some level we remember the experiences of our Ancestors,” she said. “This includes the traumas they may have endured, as well as their ceremonies, songs and languages. Our children remember. We just have to make the space for them to do that—and perhaps for us to remember as well. That’s what we saw tonight. We made space by offering the ceremony, and that young girl remembered. She remembered how to hold the pipe, how to smoke it and how to offer the smoke.” Mabel smiled, and I smiled back. We both knew what had happened that night was profound.

==========

“Before you tell me all about it, let’s smudge.” She brought the sweetgrass over to me, the three strands of the braid symbolizing a balance of mind, body and spirit. I was in desperate need of some balancing.

==========

“This week, you need to give a gift to everyone you spend time with. Everyone,” she’d instructed. “How is that possible, Bea?” I’d asked, confused. “I want you to be fully present with each person you spend time with. Give them your full attention, look them in the eye and let them know you’re listening. People just need to be seen and heard, Tilly. And you know what? It doesn’t take much effort for us to offer them that. You know what it’s like to feel someone is pretending to listen. Your homework is to genuinely see and listen to each person.”

==========

“Before we go any farther with this, I need to tell you about the fire. One of the teachings I had was about bringing a problem or hurt to the fire. A person has the right to bring that problem to the fire four times and have it listened to by those sitting round the fire. In return, you must take their guidance or direction and continue to move forward in your healing. If you don’t, you no longer have the right to bring your problem to the fire or to seek guidance.

==========

Billy, and it sure isn’t like me to come and talk to you like this. I was just packing up my briefcase back there, and then next thing I knew, here I was.” He shook his head. “It was as if someone, or something, pushed me up here.” I knew the force he spoke of, the one that propels us forward when we might not otherwise have the courage. I think of it as our Ancestors supporting us to move towards what’s best for us at a certain point in time.

==========

But it was still a shock to hear it coming so perfectly from a toddler. I closed my eyes. Piper’s voice and the drumbeat of her little hands eased me into a peaceful state, erasing the stresses of my day. My daughter and I were connecting beyond our physical selves, beyond just the two of us. It felt as if the air itself danced around and within us. Mabel’s words from that long-ago summer came back to me. “This is a song of great strength and beauty. Women have incredible power because we are the givers of life. Being warriors doesn’t mean we have to fight or force our beliefs or ideas on others in an aggressive way. This song talks about the importance of speaking our truth, of living an honest and respectful life and honouring the beauty within each one of us.”

==========

All my relations is an expression used to honour the Aboriginal belief that family includes Ancestors, the generations to come, animals and plants. We are all interconnected.

==========

Ancestors are those in your family lineage who have passed on and watch over you, guide you and protect you.

==========

Most bands prefer to be referred to as First Nations.

==========

A Big House is a gathering and ceremonial place.

==========

First Nations is a term commonly used to describe the various societies of North American Indigenous peoples living in what is now Canada. It does not apply to people of Inuit or Métis ancestry.

==========

The term Indigenous, generally used in an international context, refers to peoples who are the original inhabitants of a particular territory. This term is very similar to Aboriginal and has a positive connotation.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *