With the kitchen window open, fresh Spring breezes facilitated a deep and restful sleep. Mac moved in or out without bothering my slumber.
The next day, I phoned Patricia, “You don’t know me. I need to ask if your Alcohol and Drug Program might impact the School District Budget.”
“I knew you would be contacting me,” she said. I decided the Superintendent must have alerted her. Then she asked, “How are you making out in your temporary home?” There was that question again.
“Just fine, thanks, Patricia.” I made a mental note. Before I left, I would ask the Superintendent about this supposed concern over my comfort. Perhaps my presence had curtailed the community from having the whole Board Office as extra space for the out-of-town Nisga’as.
Patricia and I set up a Wednesday evening appointment. The timing was good. That would give me a day to polish the final Budget draft. The Superintendent and I would go through it on Friday morning. I planned to leave that afternoon.
The drive to Patricia’s office provided another spectacular view of the mountain ranges surrounding the valley. Patricia greeted me warmly. I observed a quiet strength in this attractive woman as she finished business with different people. I sensed she was fatigued.
“Yes, I’m very tired,” she confirmed. “Our houses were bulging with people. I had 12 guests at our place. It was total chaos.” A deep sigh ended with a warm grin.
She went on, “I planned to leave town this week for some respite. But I was told I had to stay here.”
“After working night and day for a week? You couldn’t get any time off?” I suspected she was dealing with government people. “Did they know what had been going on around here?”
“In this case, the ‘they’ are my Spirit Guides. They seem to know all about my life. ” She studied me through her smile.
“Ohhhhh…” I was amazed to be face to face with a kindred soul who was willing to be open about such a gift.
“I knew you’d understand. I was told to stay in town because I had to meet someone.” She shook her head as she grinned, “That seemed really ridiculous when the town was full of people. I met lots of people! So I phoned my Spiritual Mentor in Terrace because I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was getting bad signals.” She giggled.
“What did your mentor say?” I asked.
” ‘Do as you’re told. Stay in town.’ ” We laughed uproariously with a bond of understanding.
Patricia went on, “When I heard your voice message, I instantly knew you were the one I was to meet.”
“Do you know why, Patricia?”
She grinned, “Who knows why. The Guides also told me that when we met, I was not to wear my medicine pouch.”
Suddenly someone appeared who needed a door unlocked. While Patricia was gone, I mulled over her last comment. I dreaded any possibility that, as a non-native person, I may taint or affect her medicines in any way. I needed an opportunity to ask for clarification.
When Patricia returned, our mutual devotion to healing held us spellbound as we compared stories and techniques. I marveled over the similarities between two entirely different traditions. “Your techniques have been handed down through centuries of Nisga’a tradition while mine have been borrowed from ancients in Asia. Yet they are the same! That’s wild!”
She said, “Why would they be different? All healing comes from the Creator. Of course it is the same. The tradition is merely the wrapping.”
Her wisdom didn’t rest on that point. She shared several concepts that I carry in my “medicine bag” today. Each time they are used, I thank Patricia and all her ancestors.
Time sped by and Patrica was obviously fading. As we were saying goodbye, she invited me to accompany her during a sacred walk over the lava beds. “I usually go in the mornings. Let’s see if it can be Thursday or Friday.”
I accepted without hesitation. Her invitation gave me courage to ask, “Why did your Guides tell you not to wear your medicine bag when you were with me?” I screwed my face, dreading her answer.
Her expression was one of compassion and understanding, “Oh that’s a compliment! I was being told there was no need to wear it with you. It was their way of telling me I was safe with you.”
My eyes brimmed with tears. I hugged Patricia as she let me out of the building. I said, “I really look forward to the Walk,” as I sniffled my way to the car.
Mac was asleep on the couch when I walked into the suite. He raised his head and batted sleepy eyes as I greeted him. Suddenly the dog began to bark. Mac bolted for the chair by the window. Standing upright on his hind legs while looking out the window, his tail swung slowly, but deliberately from side to side. He was growling. I could see nothing in the late, clouded darkness.
I closed the window to a crack. An unwelcome eeriness crept over me. “Mac, you have to stay in tonight.”
The dog’s bark turned ferocious. It was the first time I’d heard it so upset. Its owner turned on a dim porch light. I doused my kitchen light so I could see outside. The man stood in his doorway with a flashlight. I couldn’t see anything else. The barking slowly became less frantic.
Mouth dry, I needed a drink of water. I turned around to the sink and felt for a glass. As I poured the water, the dog quit barking. The neighbour’s door slammed shut. The porch light went out. Silence.
When I turned back to the window, I stared into a starless night. Fear shot through me. Did the neighbour take his dog inside? I relied on that dog as a signal. Rational or not, with no phone, my car felt like my only safety zone.
I grabbed my flashlight from the counter. I looked toward the doghouse. Reflections on the window rendered the beam useless. I couldn’t open the window wider without risking Mac’s departure.
Could I get to my car safely? I needed to know if the dog was still outside.
While Mac crouched on the seat of the chair, I slipped out into the entryway. I closed the door to the suite so he couldn’t follow me. I prayed that the janitor would miraculously be cleaning the Board Room. No light shone through its doors. I mumbled, “Why the hell didn’t they put any windows in this stupid entryway?”
I reached for the handle on the outside door. I thought, ‘If I can safely shine the flashlight through a crack in that door, I can see if the dog is still there. If he is, I will know when it’s safe to get to the car. If he isn’t, any distance is too far.’
With the beam ready, I opened the door a crack. Barking exploded.