Serenity and powerful reminders amongst the chaos of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)
A few days ago, I was with my family at the PNE (Provincial National Exhibition) in Vancouver, BC. Well, it was us and thousands of people enjoying this fun and exhilarating Fair. I am not really much of rides person, it is not so much the heights or the thrills that scare me, but rather the human element…who put this ride together, how tired were they, were they paying attention, what had they smoked or drank and did they put the right screw in the right place? So as a result of not known the answers to these questions and the inability to convince my family not to ride, I was sitting on the bench while my family rode the oldest wooden roller coaster in North America. I was inundated with the stimulation of all my senses. All around me thrill seekers were screaming on the rides with the drop of the Hellevator creating the loudest screams. The scents of french fries, mini donuts, fried onions, and pretty much anything unhealthy could be smelt. The sun was as equally blinding as some of the outfits people were wearing and in amongst all this joyous chaos a Dragon Fly circled me and landed beside me on the bench. All of a sudden, quiet and peace surrounded me, I was reminded of my Grandma and her teachings of the Dragon Fly.
Below is the chapter from Hope, Faith & Empathy that shares Grandma Tilly’s teachings of the Dragon Fly and so much more.
Hope you enjoy it and if you want to read more, you can order your copy at http://www.littledrum.com
Gatekeepers to the Dream World
“Tomorrow, after we done fish’n, we gonna go home. We got ‘nough for the winter ‘n’ it’s not our way to be greedy. Just take what we need ‘n’ what we gonna share: noth’n more ‘n’ noth’n less.” She pointed at me with her fire stoker. “You ‘member that Tilly. This whole world gett’n so greedy, but not you, you only gonna take what you need ‘n’ what you gonna share.”
One day when I was ten, Grandma Tilly showed up unexpectedly for dinner, driving all the way from her farm just outside of Regina to our house in Kamloops. She told my parents that night that she had come to take me fishing. “It’s time to teach ‘lil Tilly how to prepare for the winter. Best time for fishing all summer is this new moon, so we’re gonna pack up ‘n spend ‘while up at the lake.”
Every morning since, we’d been getting up very early and fishing until Grandma Tilly felt we had caught our share for the day. Then we’d head back to our camp, get the fire going and prepare the fish to be smoked. Grandma Tilly had her special recipe for the brine, including wild onions that she harvested every fall and preserved specially for her brine. As a result, the fish would only sit in the brine for a couple of hours before we hung them over the fire to be smoked for the day. The fish would be a treat throughout the winter, and as Grandma Tilly got older and couldn’t hunt anymore, she would often trade her fish for deer or moose meat.
Part of preparing the fish to go in the brine included cutting their heads off. I would scrape and gut them and she would cut their heads off and put them in the containers for freezing. “Oh your Daddy and Auntie Pauline, they gonna be so happy with all the heads we got. Gonna be able to make us up some of my famous fish head soup,” Grandma Tilly said to me, smiling. I gave her a bit of a smile, but as I remembered the smell of that soup I thought, “I’m going to make sure I am out of the house when that’s cooking.”
I was grateful she had brought the modern convenience of a cooler and ice for freezing, otherwise I’d have to resort to eating fish head soup with her. Apparently there is a lot to be enjoyed from digging the meat out of a fish’s head and even more so from extracting and sucking on an eyeball, but I was fine going through life without that experience.
We were sitting around the fire when she announced: “Tomorrow, after we done fish’n, we gonna go home. We got ‘nough for the winter ‘n’ it’s not our way to be greedy. Just take what we need ‘n’ what we gonna share: noth’n more ‘n’ noth’n less.” She pointed at me with her fire stoker. “You ‘member that Tilly. This whole world gett’n so greedy, but not you. You only gonna take what you need ‘n’ what you gonna share. You hear me?”
I nodded yes, knowing there was absolutely no other response to give her. It wasn’t very often she spoke to me in this forceful way, but when she did I knew I better sit still and listen!
The next morning we got up early. The sun was just beginning to come up over the blue-grey mountains creating stunning reflections on the lake, the loons had begun to sing and frogs were croaking. With it being summer vacation, I would normally still be tucked into my bed for a few hours yet. But having this chance to spend time with Grandma Tilly was totally worth getting up before the sun. She had just put her line back in the lake after reeling in her seventh fish. I was still waiting for my first one—not my first fish, my first bite!
I started to whine, as ten-year-olds do when they feel they are being wrongly done by. “Why are you catching all the…” I didn’t get to finish my question before she raised her hand, silencing me. I looked over the side of the boat, I should have known better than to complain to Grandma Tilly.
“Did you ‘member to do everythin’ I been teach’n you?” she asked me. As she did so, she raised her eyebrows at me and pursed her lips. I realized just how unimpressed she was with me.
I knew better than to answer her without seriously thinking about her question, so I turned around on the small bench and faced the front of the boat. I watched as the bow broke through the water, leaving gentle ripples in its wake. We had been going fishing every morning for the last week, and I replayed in my mind the fishing preparations. Then I thought about this morning, trying to remember what I forgot—I woke up, got dressed, rinsed my mouth, washed my face, packed up our gear, got in the boat. I reran the morning over and over again but couldn’t figure out what I had forgotten. I stared at my rod, wishing so badly it would bend towards the water.
I heard Grandma Tilly rub her wooden match on the side of the boat. Without turning around I knew she was lighting her pipe. The light breeze brought the smell of her homegrown tobacco wafting towards me.
“That’s it, that’s it, Grandma Tilly!” I turned quickly to face her and as a result, rocked the boat.
“What’s it?” She puffed on her pipe. When she exhaled she used her hand to bring the smoke up over her head, like she was smudging.
I humbly told her. “I forgot to make my tobacco offering before we got in the boat.” I was quiet for a moment, mad at myself for forgetting something so important. “That’s why I’m not getting any bites or catching any fish.”
“Yes, my girl. You forgot to make your offering. You figured that one out quick, Tilly…you must be my granddaughter.” She laughed and then continued with a more serious tone. “No offering, no fish. Simple law o’ nature. ‘Member we make the offering as a form of gratitude. Need to be grateful before we ask an animal to give up its life so we can eat.”
I didn’t wait for her to tell me what I needed to do. I began reeling my line in. I felt embarrassed, like I had let Grandma Tilly down.
“Sorry Grandma…” Before I could finish she shook her head quickly.
“No need for apologiz’n, Tilly. This is a good less’n for you ‘n’ I have a hunch you’ll ‘memember to make your tobacco offerin’s from now on. I think we got what we need for the winter. Let’s head back to camp ‘n’ get these fish smoked so we can head home.” She smacked her lips together a couple times. “Gotta crav’n for that fish head soup.”
As we pulled into the dock and I got ready to tie up the boat, a dragonfly circled around my head. I knew better than to swat at it.
“Oh my, Tilly. You gonna have to pay real good ‘ttention to your dreams tonight. That dragonfly’s come to remind you of that—we call ‘em gatekeepers to the dream world.”
I sat on the dock, put my feet in the boat and waited patiently for the dragonfly to leave. Grandma Tilly’s head moved as she followed the quick movements of the dragonfly and asked me: “You ‘member what I told you ‘bout dreams?”
“Sure I do,” I said proudly. “The dreams I have when I first fall asleep are about my past, and they’ll help me learn from my past so I don’t make the same mistakes. The ones in middle of my sleep help me solve whatever problems I have right now, and the dreams I have just before I wake up, those dreams are about the future and they help me get ready for my future.” As she smiled at me, I felt relieved that I hadn’t let her down again
“You been using those two ears real well, Tilly. I’m gonna be curious tomorrow to hear ‘bout the dreams you have tonight.”
We sat there quietly watching the dragonfly until it finally flew away. Grandma Tilly motioned towards the rope with her head. “Tie us up now so we can get to smok’n these fish and get on back home.”