I cannot distract myself from the buzzing about my head. I struggle with their greed and their single-minded affront to my body. I see them take from me as if I am theirs to feast upon, and I find it impossible to hide from their assault. Feeling random moments of distress and rage over their persistence, I try to distract myself with attempts to feel peace, begging them to leave me. I reach for the peace I felt while I bathed in the river and sat by the fire, but those moments are lost to me now. I am back in my human suffering.
I spend most of the day analyzing the flies’ message, trying varying tactics to free myself of them. I ask them to leave. It does not work. I swing at them with rage and pain. It does not work. I bury myself in my blanket, but the heat overtakes me. It does not work. I try everything I can imagine to escape their pursuit, but they remain. Finally, I try to surrender with prayer. It does not work. The flies are relentless.
Still, through my prayer, I regain my clarity and recognize them for what they are. They are insects, one dimensional in their thinking. They do not feel. They do not love. They do not even comprehend limitations. They have one goal, survival, and they are incapable of thinking beyond it. I see them, and I find honor in the truth of their existence. I let go of my suffering once more. I also let go of any assumption that I will be able to influence their obsession. Eventually, I lay aside pointless prayers and, draping my blanket over my head, I decide to suffer the heat and wait for the sun to pass over the mountain and for the insects to pass with it.
Though my solution seems the best one, I find the heat under the blanket unbearable. Sweat pours from me, but today I do not recognize the sweat as a blessing. I do not surrender to the heat, the way I would in the lodge, I journey back and forth between the assault of the bugs and the heat of the blanket, and I bleed misery and confusion. How could the Great Spirit lead me to this place of torment?
I abandon thoughts of enlightenment and vision. I will not find my peace again until the sun has taken the insects over the horizon. When they are gone, I will be able to surrender my thoughts once more. Until then, I resign myself to my suffering.
Eventually, the day does turn to night, and I am overcome with gratitude for the cooler air and the freedom it offers. I realize I lost my clarity today, and I suffered. I don’t know if the suffering could have been avoided or if it was necessary to appreciate the gifts of this world, but I do not really care. I am so grateful to be past the point of suffering I do not find it matters to me now.
Here and there, as people have neared my vision quest circle, the snakes send up a chorus to divert them from the path. I realize how snake medicine is here to protect me and give me a silent place to seek my vision. I am tempted to feel my lesson will come through snake. Maybe those Journeys of my past will be realized this day, and I will feel protected and perhaps even healed on my quest.
I wait for snake to come. But as time passes, I abandon this thought with the others and accept the protection of snake is a gift and a reminder; I am never alone. Snake is present in my quest, but this is not my vision. I must find my way through these many lessons until the vision comes. I will be tempted by the lessons to call them Visions, but like any great truth, I must be patient and earn the right to sit at the Great Spirit’s feet for his words.
As the last of the light fades from the sky, I sit facing the east. I watch the river, listening to it as it speaks of flow and balance and harmony. It tells me of its journey and teaches me about letting go. It tells me it is nourishment and life, and all things begin and end with its sustenance.
I follow the river’s journey downstream, along the trail, and I think of the places it will visit like the one where I now sit. I see how each is unique, and just like the last, and while it moves me with its teachings, I know there is more.
Turning to the north, I see each meadow, each shrub, each tree, and flower speaks to me of their beauty. They tell me of the seasons and their journeys through them. They speak of how they are born to die and to be born again. They show the abundance the Earth has to offer and that each moment has its purpose. They speak of the nutrition in the soil and their relationship to the water, but I know these teachings. Still, I am unfulfilled.
So, I turn to the south and follow the journey of the river upstream. I see more trees and more flowers and more grasses, and they tell me of how the seasons feed the river and how it feeds them. They teach me about gratitude and conservation. They speak of how they only take what they need, allowing the rest to flow downstream to feed all beings. The plants do not give only ten percent. If they did, if the plants took ninety percent and gave only ten, the river would soon be dry.
The Earth is abundant, but it only remains abundant through our conservation of it. My life is changed from this knowing. I’ve been taught to only give ten percent to the Great Spirit. I know this is not enough. I need to give as much of my life to him as I can. I need to take only ten percent and give the rest to Spirit. I know this is good, but this is not my vision.
Finally, darkness descends upon me, and I must relinquish my search. I lay upon my blanket, looking up to the stars, while the river speaks softly next to me. Peace and stillness enter my heart again, until the cold sinks into my being to remind me of my suffering once more. I struggle to seek comfort and warmth and find little of both. I cry for the idea of the day and of the night and how I can only find peace in the fleeting moments between them. I agonize over my suffering, praying for daylight to come until dancing from somewhere in the darkness, I hear the river’s song now joined by the beat of a drum. At first, I wonder if this might be my heart wishing for company, but soon I hear prayers carried with the beat, and I realize these are the people of the vision quest community. They sit just as I sat in the same circle on the nights before my quest, singing the sacred songs around the big drum, supporting those who seek visions. These people are singing to me.
I surrender myself to the support, and I pick up my drum to carry their calls downstream. We are all here for the people, and none of us are alone. Like the teachers around me, I take only what I need from the drum, and I allow the rest to flow downstream, so all of the questers are filled with these prayers of support. I sing and pray until eventually, I am too tired to sing and too weak to pray, and then, I forget the cold and forget the comfort, and I finally lay myself and my drum down to sleep.