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by Field of Spears
(Ansur’s Native American Aspect)

Part true, part dream, part vision—but what parts? And the meaning? As a youth, I did roam the dunes, alone, isolated, and in a silent trance-like state, I saw the maiden (or thought I did), I camped in the forest. I usually dream true. Are some visions a reality beyond that which we commonly understand? In the days before the Japanese flooded the U.S.A. with masses of motorcycles and All-Terrain Vehicles (revenge for WW2), a person could walk in total silence and isolation for miles and miles on the sand dunes along the Oregon Coast. The dunes in those days were almost unused by either humans or animals. By contrast, if you wished to walk on those dunes today, you would be run over many times by the wheels of dune buggies, motorcycles, and other vehicles—all of which make continuous loud noises, stir up the sand, and create general havoc in this once pristine wilderness. Additionally, much of this once bare and large area of sand have now been planted with foliage.But, back in this bygone era, my uncle, our medicine man, told me that a young brave might seek a vision on the dunes. At an age when I was just reaching puberty, I began to explore the dunes and to seek my vision.Taking only a small flask of water, some pemmican, a couple of small cans of fruit, a hat to keep the sun off my head, and a small blanket with a hole in the center, I began to walk the dunes each day. I started out making small trips, but ended taking longer trips that sometimes required me to stay out over-night. With both of my parents gone, I had to answer to no one but my uncle.
The first thing I noticed about the dunes was the incredible silence. The only noises were the sounds that my sliding/whispering steps made while moving across the sand, and the occasional flapping noise my clothes made when the breeze blew. Sometimes a stronger breeze would blow, moving the sand along the dunes. The sound of blowing sand made a hissing sound--much like that of a great snake exhaling. The sun beat down on the dunes in the summer in an unmerciful manner and I had to ration my water. The silence, lack of visual stimulation, and the heat of the sun, coupled with the repetitive physical movement tended to put one in a contemplative mood. After an hour or so on the dunes, I would begin to feel isolated from everyday occurrences. The world took on a dream-like cast that made me feel as if I had transcended the ordinary world and was traveling on the desert of another planet or in another plane of existence.
A walk on the dunes was such a solitary experience it took some getting use to. From where I entered the dunes-system each time, the ocean was on my right, the forest was on my left, and the sand marched off in front of me, into the distance, as far as I could see. Except for nearby forest, there was not the littlest tuft or blade of grass growing on the dunes. About a quarter mile into the dunes from the place where I usually entered, there was no part of the forest or the ocean visible. I may have as well been in the middle of the Sahara. The prevailing wind was from my right and the dunes to my left were as high as small mountains. At this point, high on the eastern side of the dunes, there were steep drop-offs into the bordering forest—a long way below the peak of the dunes. Because of the difficulty of climbing such high, steep dunes, I usually stayed in the middle and made my way south. However, on very hot days or extended trips, sometimes I had to go into the forest to find potable water and refill my bottle.
The only thing that broke up my trips on the dunes was the finding of little ponds (or sometimes, small lakes) that I occasionally came across. The water in these was clear with no detectable life evident in them. They appeared to be sterile bodies of water and I have no idea where they originated. Perhaps they were collected rainwater or seepage from below. I tasted a little of the water and although it did not taste bad, it tasted odd. I decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to drink it neither since nothing lived in the ponds or lakes nor were there any plants living around or on the bottoms of these odd bodies of water. But the larger ponds provided me with an opportunity to temporarily get away from the dryness and the hot sun. So I usually waded out into their crystal-clear water--so transparent and clean that I could look down and see the individual grains of sand that made-up their bottom. There was no sediment on their bottoms for me to kick up, and as I passed through the water, I could turn around and watch my footprints quickly smooth out and disappear. When I emerged on the other side, wet and cooler, the only evidence of my passage was my footprints in the sand--those leading in and those leading out.
When I stayed out overnight, I would stick my head through the hole in the blanket—making a serape, then burrow into the warm sand and these coverings would keep me warm all night. At first I had worried about sand fleas but the whole dune system I was exploring seemed quite sterile and devoid of life. Except for birds flying over, I saw no tracks or other evidence of animal life out on these dunes. When I did climb the tall dunes bordering the forest, I did find a few animal tracks, but they seldom penetrated very far into the dunes. I became convinced that nothing lived out in the dunes and no food worth pursuing by any animal existed in this strange, quiet land. That is why I was so startled by the sight of the young Indian maiden wading in the pond when I came around the curved edge of a dune late one afternoon. I stopped, surprised. Her back was toward me. I made no sound but just stared at this surprising sight of another human being on the dunes. She held the bottom of her dress up to keep it dry and this showed off her tanned, long legs. She was dark and lovely. I did not recognize her yet I had a feeling that I had met her before in some ancient, past existence. She emerged from the pond and looked directly back at me although I had made no sound or movement. It was as if she had known I was there all along. I started toward her but she held out the palm of one of her hands toward me, signaling to me that I should not approach her. Then with a graceful arc of her arm and other hand, she pointed off into the distance to my right.
I looked to where she was pointing and saw only the largest and tallest of the dunes around. I had passed this big dune many times in my travels but had never been tempted to try to climb it, since I figured it would take a good part of a day to reach its summit. I looked back at her, prepared to question why she had pointed to this dune. She was gone! Gone, I thought? But where? I looked around and saw nothing. Quickly I scrabbled up the nearby curved edge of the dune just behind me. From my higher perch about 50 feet above the surrounding territory, I surveyed the dunes around me. There was no sign of her. Yet she had to be there somewhere. It was then that I remember the old Indian trick that my uncle had taught me—how you could hid in a hole in the ground, covered with a wicker “man-hole-cover,” topped with earth, or sand. Confident that I could now find her, I ran back down the dune. Happy and proud to have been smart enough to figure out the mystery, I stepped to the edge of the pond and traced my way around it looking for her footprints. There were none. Disheartened by this development, I realized that this wouldn’t be so easy after all. She had obviously brushed over her tracks with a branch or something. After about 20 minutes of fruitless searching, I sat down, frustrated. I could not find the slightest evidence of her having ever been there. Yet I had always prided myself with my ability to read sign. She had completely fooled me.
It was evening and it would be dark before long. I went to the place where I had last seen her. She couldn’t have gone far from the spot, I reasoned, because she had disappeared too quickly. From that point, I began waking in ever-increasing spirals, dragging my feet and using my toes to sift through the sand. Later, when there were only a few minutes of light left, I gave up the search. I looked around. My disturbances in the sand made a gigantic, rough spiraling circle--far greater in size than any reasonable distance she might have traversed before she had so quickly disappeared.
I sat down and pulled the greasy pemmican out of my travel-sack. I washed down this nourishing but compact food with a few gulps of water, then opened a tin of peaches and drank all of the juice inside before fishing the peaches out of the can with my knife. By the time I had finished eating, the sun had set. I looked around carefully, hoping to see the girl pop-up from the ground, out of her hidey-hole. But I saw nothing in the dimness. I sat quietly, knowing that if I held still enough, at some time, she would finally have to come out and attempt her final escape in the darkness of the night. Then I would be ready for her!
Several times that night I thought I saw a glow, far off in the distance, from the other side of the great dune she had pointed at. Had she actually managed to elude me and was that light the blaze of her campfire? Had her pointing to that dune been a signal for me to meet her there? I decided that I would remain where I was and I continue to watch for her. Besides, I was getting a little irritated by her tricks and didn’t think she was worth the big hike over to the large dune many miles away. The stars and the waxing moon wheeled over me but I kept watch on the ground around me instead of looking at the heavens. I got very cool and I slipped the blanket over my head. Several times I caught myself beginning to doze-off. I took the blanket off and soon it became cold enough that my shivering kept me awake. Still there was no sign of her in the sand that was lit by the heavens. I finally yielded to necessity and burrowed part way into the sand, but stayed upright so I could keep watch.
I woke to the sunrise with a start, disoriented and wondering why I was in such an odd position. Then I remembered my purpose and quickly looked around. There was no sign of the girl or any sign that she had ever been there.
I was tired, cramped, and cold. It had not been a good night. I checked my food and water. I had enough to get by on if I got back home by lunch. I ate, drank, and started back as fast as I could. But every once in a while, I would stop, turn around and looked back, hoping to see the figure of the maiden of the dunes. Behind me, I saw nothing but sand stretching out as far to the south.
Several days later, I again set off into the dunes. This time I was headed for the big dune where I had seen that glow. I had decided to look for signs of a campfire there. It took most of the morning to get to the big dune and the rest of the day to slip and slide up its steep flanks. Near the top I stopped and had a combined lunch and dinner. I relaxed for a while and as it began to get dark, I looked around carefully. From the top end of the dune, I again saw a glow, but it did not seem to be the light of a campfire. It was a steady illumination, not one that ebbed and flared, as a burning wood-fire would have done. As I worked my way toward the very top of the dune, the light faded out. At the top, I looked down into the very dark forest below. It seemed to be very black down there, even though it was the night of the full moon. I looked up. Dark clouds were hiding the moon’s light.
I made my way carefully along the peak of the dune, peering into the darkness below. Despite my caution, I felt the sand below me shift. Before I could recover, I was falling and sliding down the very steep slope of sand. I tried to stop my rapid slide but nothing I tried worked. The slope was just too steep. In just a few minutes I lost all the altitude I had taken all afternoon to gain. With surprising swiftness, I felt the sand under me flatten out a little and my slide slowed a little. I knew that I was very near the bottom of the dune and might be about to slam into a tree--since the sand of the dunes usually engulfed trees. But before I could claw at the sand again, I hit the forest floor and rolled at a high rate of speed through some brush and bushes that I could not see in the darkness. Finally I stopped, breathless and scratched, but basically unhurt. I looked around in the almost total darkness and could see the very faint shadow of tree branches above me. They were barely discernible from the dark sky behind them. I was thankful I had not run into them during my roll across the forest floor.
I got to my feet and looked around. Out of the corner of my eyes, I a perceived movement. The shadows were lighter to the left of me and they danced because of a small fire behind them. So, it was the light of a campfire after all I thought to myself as I started to pick my way through the darkness toward the dim yellow light.
The small campfire was in a little clearing in the woods. But there was no one about. For a few minutes I stood in the darkness beyond the firelight’s reach. I listened carefully for the telltale snap of a twig or the sight of a form on the other side of the clearing. I heard and saw nothing. Finally, being rather impatient at that age, I walked into the firelight and sat down by the fire. By its light I rid my clothes of the evergreen needles and twigs they had picked up on my roll through the darkness.
Before long I heard a slight rustle in the brush and turned a bit to my right, expecting to see the owner of the campfire enter the clearing. Instead, a magnificent stag stepped out of the dark of the woods. I had never seen a deer that big, or one with such a magnificent rack of antlers. It seemed to look right at me and through me for a second or two. Moments later it looked away and then it moved across the clearing in great, ground-pounding strides, shaking the earth as it moved with strength and grace. It disappeared into the dark of the woods.
Within seconds of it disappearance, as I still sat looking at the place where it had disappeared, I saw another movement. Then an old Indian stepped out of the gloom and came towards me. He was dressed in the buckskin clothes of a gone-by-era and I wondered why he was wearing such apparel. I had only seen clothes like that before during one of the potlatch dances I had attended. He came straight up to me, as silent as a ghost, neither frowning nor smiling. In his arms were some branches. He placed the wood by the fire then sat down cross-legged, facing me. I studied his face. He was not familiar but from the number of lines in his face, I figured he must be the oldest Indian I had ever seen.
He spoke and his voice was powerful but controlled. It was not the voice of an old man. “I am your teacher, you are my pupil,” he said. “But for this relationship to work, you must accept me as your teacher.” He paused a moment, then said, “Do you accept, Wah-he-taun-na?” I was startled when he called me by my secret name. How did he know it? I was confused and hesitated in answering him. He repeated, “Do you accept?” “How do you know my name,” I asked? Again he asked, more forcibly, “Do you accept?” "Yes,” I answered, “but how do you know my name?” “I know many things,” he replied. “And what is your name,” I asked?
“I am called Noh-mah,” he replied, “And who are you?” “What do you mean,” I asked, “You already know my name?” “I did not ask you your name,” he replied, “I asked you who you are.” I thought about this for a little while. Then I answered the way I thought he expected me to, “I am Wah-he-taun-na, an Indian boy about to become a brave. In white-man’s words, my name is ‘Field of Spears.’” “Tell me more,” he said impatiently. “I walk the dunes seeking the answers to mysteries I know not of. I practice the old ways and I am looking for truth, honor, and the meaning of my life. I am strong, and wise in the ways of the wilderness. I am also a bit more thoughtful than most of the other boys my age. And I prefer my own company most of the time.”
“That is much better, Wah-he-taun-na,” he said, “And I come in answer to your seeking.” He paused for a moment, and then continued, “You have told me who you think you are, but who do others think you are? How would those that know you describe you?”
“I would be described as a quiet boy. A loner. A boy who does not care much for school. But I think people like me.”
“Good," he murmured. “Now we have talked about who you think you are and who others think you are. It is time for you to contemplate who you really are. For no one knows his or her real self, unless they have studied their life for many years.”
“I do not understand,” I said. “Then listen carefully,” he replied, “There are three things a man is: What he thinks he is, what others think he is, and what he really is. If you wish to follow the ways of the wise then you will need to find out who you really are!”
He stood up and laid some more branches on the fire, and then he walked to the edge of the clearing and disappeared into the darkness. I waited for his return for several hours, and then finally gave up. I placed most of the remaining wood on the fire, then curled up next to it and fell asleep.
The dream came.
I stood on a small hill looking down on the teepees below. I knew I was dreaming because the sky was white and the sun was black. Figures were going about their business, just like they would have been had this really been an Indian camp from a time several hundred of years in the past. And I knew this was just a dream.
I walked down into the camp. The people there, mostly females and children glanced at me then resumed their various duties and work. In the center of the camp stood the tallest and largest of the teepees. A young brave stood by its opening. I tried to walk on by but could not. Despite the fact that I was fighting them every step of the way, my feet and legs turned me toward the teepee and carried me there against my will. As I approached the teepee’s entrance, the young brave guarding it stepped in front of me and said, “Stop! It is not time yet!” I felt the return of my will to my feet and legs and I stopped.
A few minutes later, the doorway opened and the same old Indian, Noh-mah, from the forest clearing, stepped out. He was dressed in the same old manner but his clothes were now covered with beads, bones, and fringes. On his head he wore a headdress made from a buffalo’s scalp, complete with horns. “We are now ready for him,” Noh-mah said to the guard. The young warrior stepped aside and motioned me to follow Noh-mah back inside the tent.
Inside, there was a small fire surrounded by many men. They sat in close-packed rings around the fire, the older in front, and the younger behind. The entire male population of the camp seemed to be present. A small aisle through the crowd was made and at Noh-mah’s gesture, I followed him down it to the center where the fire was. He stood on the other side of the fire and faced me. He glanced at my face, and then reached into a bag on his belt where he pulled out some white powder and threw it on the fire. There was a whooshing noise and a bright flash of light.
I staggered back, blinded. Then realizing where I was, I fought to keep my balance, not wanting to fall back--over someone in the crowd. But as my vision cleared, I found myself in a different place. I was no longer in the tent but was staggering around on a grassy plain. The sky was a light violet--like the color of the evening at sundown. There was no sun in the sky although it was light and I could see without any trouble. That is when I noticed that I had no shadow! But before I could dwell on that fact I saw a movement a little way off. It was a prairie dog and he seemed to be on some important mission because he was headed in a perfectly straight and unswerving line across the prairie. I decided to follow him.
After a little while, I saw another animal near our path across the plains. He moved out of the way as we neared him but I saw that it was a raccoon. It looked at me in a curious manner as we passed it.
We continued in the same straight line, the prairie dog leading and me following until I saw a large white thing moving toward us. In just a second, I saw that it was a white buffalo, a sacred animal/sign to our tribe--like those that had once lived on the prairie. It snorted a loud snort, a sound that seemed to thunder across the sky and then, without warning, it charged! The prairie dog dived into a nearby hole and I turned and ran. Glancing back over my shoulder, I could see the white buffalo was gaining quickly on me. It had red, mean eyes that gleamed with anger. Its laboring breath made its nostrils pour forth a steaming cloud of fog. When I felt its hot breath on my neck, I suddenly dived to the left and heard it rumble pass me. I twisted around, expecting it to turn toward me again, but it had totally disappeared!
I looked all around. The only thing I saw nearby was the same or another raccoon moving along. It seemed to be going in the same general direction as the prairie dog had so I decided to follow it.
A few minutes later, I heard thunder behind me and turned to look. I was again confronted with the white buffalo charging me! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the raccoon run away as I dodged and ran and ran and dodged. But the great white beast was getting closer to me on each charge. And I was running out of wind and strength. Suddenly, almost at my feet, I saw another--or the same--raccoon. “When all is lost, stand up and accept the inevitable,” said the raccoon. I was so surprised by a raccoon that talked, that I almost did not dodge the next charge of the buffalo. I again turned to face the beast, now almost too tired to move. “Be a man,” said the raccoon. The white buffalo faced me and pawed the ground. Its red, glowing eyes signaled madness that could not be calmed. Then it launched itself toward me. It hurtled toward me as I looked around, in vain, for something to hid behind. But there was only the raccoon, the grassy plain, and I. I focused my attention on the great white beast, already feeling his great hot breath on my face although he was still many yards away. I straightened my shoulders and stiffened my back as I decided to accept my fate. I did not flinch nor close my eyes as the beast’s great horns approached. Then he was on me! But as I looked, he passed through me like I was just air and there was none of the expected pain, blood, or impact.
“Well done, “remarked the raccoon. “What is a forest creature like you doing here on the plains.”? I asked? The raccoon said nothing more but turned and began to walk away. As he went passed me, another movement caught my eye. Not 20 feet away, the great white buffalo stood, grazing peacefully. Its eyes were no longer glowing red and its lungs did not labor. I looked back and the raccoon was gone.
The white buffalo was now moving in a straight line across the plain. I followed it. At first it walked very slowly but then it began to move quicker and quicker until I could no longer keep up with it. I watched its great white form disappear into the distance in front of me. Next, the sky suddenly turned darker and I became aware of chanting around me. I was back in the crowded teepee. In the dimness of the teepee, the crowd chanted a strange chant, full of longing, full of sadness, yet also full of triumph.
Noh-mah, the old Indian medicine man was looking into my eyes. He shook a feathered branch at me in blessing, and then said, “Remember that a man is seven things.” Then he continued, “He is first a boy, then a warrior, then a chief, a medicine man, a father, and a wise old man. Finally, he is a spirit. Today you came to us a boy, Wah-he-taun-na, but you leave a warrior. Go in wisdom.” One of the men in the crowd stepped up and placed an eagle feather in my hair. “Go now, Warrior,” said the old man. I turned and moved to the doorway. Parting the curtain, I looked back before I stepped outside. Noh-mah’s eyes glinted in the dim interior. He was watching me, with the barest hint of a smile on his face. “Yes,” he answered my unspoken question, “We will meet again, this is just the start of things.” I turned stepped out into the world of the white sky and black sun. I took just a few steps then tripped and fell.
I was lying on my side beside the now dead fire in the forest clearing. It was morning and the yellow sunlight was streaming though the canopy of branches in the forest. Almost instinctively, I reached up into my hair for the sacred eagle feather. I felt something so I pulled it from my head to see what it was. What ever it was, it seemed to be very old and it was deteriorating in my hand as I watched. Within a few seconds, all I had was a little dust in my hand. I wrapped the dusty remains in some paper that I had in my rucksack, and then I buried it.
I began my long walk through the forest toward home. But I no longer moved as a boy. I walked as a warrior.
Post Script: As I walked, a raccoon followed me. Later, I would come to know it as one of my major totem animals…

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