I cut through the dense thicket high upon the mountain overlooking our vision quest camp. Turning again to make sure I can see the last marker, I rip free another piece of my nearly destroyed shirt and tie it to a nearby branch. I am not sure I know where I am going, but I know when I get there, it will be where I spend my next quest, so I must mark the path well.
I will be traveling this same path tomorrow, but I will be committing to remaining in my circle for the full ninety-six hours that honor a true Lakota vision quest. Though I am afraid to spend four days and four nights alone at the top of a mountain, I know I will succeed. This is the only thing I know at this moment. This is all I need to know. Everything else is in the hands of the Creator.
Pausing to tie another piece of my shirt to a nearby tree, I think back to my last quest. I still don’t understand everything that occurred on the final night of my sojourn. I know I was nurtured, and I know I was not alone in my circle. Like the bed of snakes I experienced in a journey that feels like it happened a lifetime ago, this place took me into its arms and comforted my soul. Having spent my life alone and empty, I thought I might struggle with the receipt of nurturing, but unlike my life, I allowed this love to unfold in me and give to me the solace I’ve so desperately desired. I surrendered to the experience, and again, my life has undergone dramatic change as a result of my commitment.
Since my last quest, I have left the high school I was calling work and found a new career. I have pride in myself and my own capabilities. I’ve expanded my circle of friends, and I believe I am finally expressing as the person I’ve always believed I could be. I’ve become what I said I could be successful. Against all odds and predictions, I am living a simple, functional life. This is why I know I will succeed. I finally believe in myself and my ability to succeed.
Above my head, I hear a sound that pulls me from the examination of my progress. The people of camp have been talking about the vultures that circle the mountain above us every year. Climbing the mountain, I have thought about them as well. I’ve learned a lot about the lesson of vulture over the last two years. Last year, we watched a quester sit under their circling path for four full days and nights. I watched, and I wondered if these birds really did follow life, waiting for it to die or if they simply lived from the dead already found, like so many scavengers.
As I turn my eyes to the sky above me, I expect to see one circling, reminding me to face the message of all of the possibilities which could unfold in my vision quest circle. But, when I finally focus on the winged one overhead, I realize it is not a vulture I see but a lone Eagle, soaring above a ledge hanging over the hillside I now climb. This is where my circle will be. I feel it.
I continue my climb following the eagle to the ridge and to the outcrop beyond. I stand for some time on the overhang and look down at the valley below. I can see the sacred circle and the people moving within it. Raising my head, I look over the valley and to the valleys beyond. I then return my eyes to the circle once more. I will be here, alone on this hill, some distance from the people of my circle, but the Creator has provided for me some company, at least. I will see my people, and I will have the wide vision of eagle, the ability to see not only my immediate circle but the circles beyond and all of the potential these circles offer
After watching my thiyospaye for a while, I decide it is time. Marking the spot with my blanket, I claim this place for my vision quest, and I leave the mountainside. Eagle leaves with me.