It’s a brisk and chilly walk towards the dining hall for our morning meal. I walk with a few of the students in my group, while some were still getting ready. I set myself down at a table next to Skyler probably my closest friend in the group. The rest of the group trickles in.
After we finish breakfast, we pack ourselves a sack lunch for our climbing adventure later that day. Then, Mary, Larry, and the eleven of us squeeze ourselves uncomfortably into the Great White Beast, who I decided to call Moby Dick. We set off for Rapid City to talk to Kristin, a Native American lady from Montana, and a local pastor; their goal is to inform us about Bear Butte and the prayer cloths that are found along the steep trail.
The interview process was nerve wracking. I was motioned to come in the interview room, and I plopped myself in a seat across from Ashley and another lady named Abby. Both ladies asked me questions such as what experiences I’ve had with children, what would I get out of this trip, how would I be an asset to the group, etcetera. I fidgeted in my seat, peeling away my already peeled away cuticles
The Praying Place
Moby Dick takes us closer and closer to Bear Butte. Everyone is talking about this wonderful place and how it provides a sort of comfort to those praying. I’m filled to the brim with a sort of excitement because I’ve never gotten to go hiking before. Little did I know about the adventure that I was about to endure.
We arrived probably a little before noon, and were welcomed by many signs explaining the rules and a bit of history on this sacred place. Soon we set out on our quest towards the top. It’s a steep, rocky climb. My breathing soon becomes heavy. Everyone surpasses me, except Skyler who staggers behind with me. I remind myself that it’s not about winning a race, it’s about going as far as one is comfortable with. My goal is to make it at least halfway. My fear of heights is slowly starting to creep upon me.
We hike about a mile before taking a short break for lunch and resting the weary legs. At this point, we’re approximately 3,500 feet. The view I got was not short of incredible and amazing. I was proud of myself for making it as far as I did, and accomplishing my main goal. The rest of the group hike onward to the top, while Skyler and I want to stay there and just admire the view before us. My phone had died earlier that morning, so I truly do not have a sense of time. It feels wonderful no not have to worry, and to feel like I am in a place where time does not matter.
Once the group returns from the top, we all start our way back down. The descent is always easier and faster then the climb up, but nontheless it’s still a difficult climb. Rocks still clutter the same parts of the path, the ground lays uneven, and I’m still slow like molasses in January. “This is what many months of smoking does to a person.” Brad breathes heavily as he walks past me. I smile, having heard that phrase all too often. we finally make it back down to normal elevation, and thirteen tired adults squeeze themselves into Moby Dick as he roars to life with more energy than we have.
The incredible adventure on Bear Butte resembles my spiritual journey. It was a steep climb to get to where I am now, and sometimes I yearned to just turn around and go back down. If it’s one thing I learned, it’s easier to climb down than go up. But I’ve made it halfway, and I still have a lot of climbing to do.
Dancing to the Rhythm
We are welcomed by the Native Americans as we enter the big gymnasium. There we see many people getting ready and anticipating for a Pow Wow. I am engrossed as their feet keep to the beat of the drums. It’s so beautiful to watch.
Then we are invited to dance. I am extremely nervous, because I’m a very self conscious person. What if I screw up my footing and fall or run into someone? What if someone looks at me funny? But when I step out into the dancing circle I’m shown how to dance with my feet and keeping to the drums.
As I’m going around the circle following other kids in my group, there are other dances going on around. It’s like being a part of an “organized chaos.” Women are doing their own thing, while children do a different dance, and then men will perform a more active dance. There is spinning, hopping, and gliding, and yet no dancers crash into one another. These individual dances create one beautiful melody. One rhythm. One beat. One Spirit.
After a few hours of watching and being a part of this amazing experience, we gather our tired selves and head back to Outlaw Ranch.