Sweatlodge Enclosure

I’ve just come back from the grounds of the sweat lodge where C. does her lodges for women. C and are away still at Daughters of the Earth, but some time ago, C pointed out that a lot of people come to her sweat-lodge looking to take something away, and very few understand that it doesn’t contain anything you can take away. It’s very much grounded and rooted in place, and if you take too much away from that place, it becomes a non-place like McDonald’s or a Wal-Mart: largely the same as every other McDonald’s or Wal-Mart, stripped of its unique coordinates in the space-time-spirit continuum. The lodge is not a take-out place, it’s a community spirit-kitchen and spirit-dining-hall. Sometimes you come as a guest, and sometimes you come with the intention to set a meal for others.

As you come to the lodge-space here, there’s a long wall of rocks about two feet high. About the same time that we had this conversation about taking-away vs. giving-in, I pointed out to Cherese that something could be done with these rocks. She was initially leery of the idea of doing anything with them, but allowed that they could be arranged more attractively.

In any case, I’ve had it in mind to give something back to the sweatlodge space for a while. J and C are planning on building a new shed for the blankets and equipment, and sheltering it with some plantings or something; but I’m not sure how or where or when that will be done. I figured I needed to do something else, and C loves my rock-work (I hope).

So, over yesterday and today, I took the top layer of rocks from this long, low wall. With them, I built a perimeter line around the whole of the sweat lodge enclosure. There were four huge stones at the edges of the sapling frame, in the line of the cardinal directions, so I created apses of stone around them (I never get to use the word apse in a sentence, and now I get to use it in the plural! how’s that!). I kept going around the circle, clockwise, circling both fire-pit and lodge every time I circled back to get more stones. I did it, if you will, as a meditation rather than as a work project. Each stone circled the whole enclosure on the way to its settling place. There’s a bench for the fire-tender, and I gave it its own little indentation in the circle. And there’s another place along the circle around the fire-pit where there’s a pile of rocks, which might be a deliberate pile and might be a jumble of rocks to use the next time there’s a sweat lodge. And I made another little alcove in the perimeter for where the wood pile would go, if there were any wood down there ready to use.

At this point, I’d decreased the height of the wall by four or maybe five inches. Not a lot, maybe not a noticeable amount, but part of me is worried what Cherese will think. So I stopped. However, to the east of the fire-pit circle is a large beech tree. And part of me is seriously tempted to keep going, and make a labyrinth with that beech tree at the center of the labyrinth. I’m holding back because C is the lodge-pourer, and technically she hasn’t necessarily bought into the idea that this enclosure of stones is necessary for her lodge’s space. So part of me is wondering whether she’s going to come home, find it, and get all riled up about someone messing with her space. Part of me worries about what will say if I tell her before C, or what C will say to while I’m not around about how I messed up her lodge.

At this point, these things are beyond my control. I could go down there and pull up every stone, and put them all back in the long, low wall. But I think the line of stones all the way around the lodge looks very pleasant and appropriate. I think I’ll hold off on building the labyrinth there, though, until I get some sort of nod from C. My intention was certainly to feed the space, and not to harm it, and so there are limits on how far I should take it without the Pourer’s permission.

I also spent some time today painting with Pe and Ta.. They just bought a house in Willimantic, and were painting today preparatory to moving Ta’s stuff and her son’s stuff into the house. I ran into Ta something like three times this weekend, and it seemed like my work on connecting with a few people is yielding fruit. It felt good to help making their new house into their home, though.

2 comments

  1. I went by the house after a picnic with tonight, and C and I had a walk down to the sweat lodge space. She liked the stone temenos around the perimeter of the lodge, but worried about the practicalities of tripping over the low stones around the fire-circle and pit. So, we resolved to widen the fire circle on the East side of the fire-circle, out to the same distance from the fire pit as from the fire-pit to the center of the lodge itself. That will push the east side of the circle out almost to the tree, and in the north it will push the circle all the way to the old stone wall. It will put Randy’s grave inside the circle, which C thought was fine given that her dog Randy was the lodge’s guardian whenever it was in session.

    We also looked at the labyrinth space, and made some tentative conclusions about that. So far so good.

  2. I went by the house after a picnic with tonight, and C and I had a walk down to the sweat lodge space. She liked the stone temenos around the perimeter of the lodge, but worried about the practicalities of tripping over the low stones around the fire-circle and pit. So, we resolved to widen the fire circle on the East side of the fire-circle, out to the same distance from the fire pit as from the fire-pit to the center of the lodge itself. That will push the east side of the circle out almost to the tree, and in the north it will push the circle all the way to the old stone wall. It will put Randy’s grave inside the circle, which C thought was fine given that her dog Randy was the lodge’s guardian whenever it was in session.

    We also looked at the labyrinth space, and made some tentative conclusions about that. So far so good.

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