A story to ponder during the coming day of chosen silence, October 31.
What follows is a story, adapted from a book called A Voice in the Wind by David LaChapelle. It is the tale of a young man, Aaron, who is on a journey to manhood, and the various experiences he has in this rite of passage. The story is situated on the Alaska coastline. Raven and Fog Woman come from the mythology of the Native Peoples of Turtle Island.
The story can be taken literally as an archetypal conversation between a young man and an older woman. I also hear it as a description of the universal process of creation in this world, describing the relationship between the spirit of Raven and Fog Woman that live in us all. Perhaps these Sundays, or whatever day and time you choose, are an embodiment of our home in the baskets with the beaded rim and the colorful ribbons dangling from its edge.
I greet you warmly on this October day,
Fog Woman’s Baskets
There is a myth born of the Native Peoples of Turtle Island. It is the story of Aaron, a young man, on a journey to claim his manhood, who encounters Fog Woman. Early one morning Aaron was stepping from rock to rock along the coastal headlands, through a dense fog that had settled over the water. In the distance he saw a figure, obscured by the fog, kneeling by some large objects. “Good morning,” he called. The figure turned at the sound of his voice. Aaron realized that it was a woman with long black hair that seemed to float out into the mist itself. As she turned her head, her hair stirred the fog and sent eddies of mist spinning from its tips. As he drew closer he saw that the containers by her side were baskets, magnificently woven from cedar bark. “Good morning,” the woman replied, “Are you enjoying the fog?”
“It adds a nice mystery to the world,” Aaron replied.
“How nice of you to notice. Not all beings appreciate that about fog,” the woman answered back.
As Aaron drew closer to her, he could see that she was extraordinarily beautiful. Her long hair framed a face full of vitality and the warmth from her eyes was the overflow from a bountiful heart. A touch of whimsy played around the corner of her mouth, and a profound strength radiated from her being. Aaron was in awe.
“Who are you?” he asked, feeling slightly embarrassed at the intensity with which he asked the question.
“Fog Woman,” came the reply.
“Then this fog is yours,” Aaron stated.
“No, not mine,” she said through her laughter. “It comes and goes at my beckon, yes, but I do not own it. You men worry so much about ownership. It is a strange weight to carry in your souls.”
Fog woman was gathering the fog in with a gentle and fluid motion of her arms, pouring it into the two baskets that lay at either side of her. There was so much tenderness in her touch that Aaron had no doubt as to why the fog came when she called.
Aaron watched in quiet reverie watching Fog Woman calling the fog home to her baskets. The blue of the sky began to peek through. Droplets of water that had formed on Fog Woman’s hair caught the emerging sunlight and became like tiny prisms. Soon the sky was clear and the last of the mist gently laid to rest in her baskets.
“Why two baskets?” Aaron asked.
“Why, one is female fog and the other one for the male fog.” Was her rely.
“There is a difference?” he asked.
“Of course there is. Male fog races to fill the spaces above the water and along the coastline. Female fog emerges quietly, almost as a breath might stir the water. Male fog cloaks the world in impervious curtains; female fog lays like a shawl upon the land. Male fog carries sound sharply, while female fog diffuses sound and makes it more round. Come here. You can feel the difference.”
Aaron came to Fog Woman’s side. She guided his hand into the two baskets. One felt cool and he felt the distinct shape of his hand in it. The other felt warmer, and in this basket his hand seemed to dissolve, much like the mist itself.
“I can feel the difference,” he announced.
“That is good. All men need to feel the dance of male and female in the world around them. The men who damage themselves and the land are blind to the differences. They cannot feel the weaving of male and female which makes the brilliance of this world. The world to them is dull and they grope blindly through it trying to find the luster of life, all the while pushing themselves to greater extremes to fill the void in their souls.”
As Fog Woman spoke, Aaron felt himself more relaxed than he had been in a long, long time. The world seemed to shine, and he was suddenly able to see the dance she spoke of in everything around him. The sea and the coast were a man and a woman caressing one another. He saw the river and the earth in a gentle embrace. The flight of the eagle far above him was like the soaring of the male through the oceanic atmosphere of the female.
“Come Aaron, I have something to share with you.” Aaron heard Fog Woman say.
He followed her clear invitation with no hesitation, around the next headland. Aaron saw an oddly shaped dwelling that he took to be her home. Banners of all colors flew from poles mounted around the perimeter of the round home. The structure was a chaotic weave of driftwood pieced together around the central ring of the home.
Fog Woman opened the door to her home and invited Aaron in. As his eyes adjusted to the interior light, he saw a great basket in the center of the space. The basket was as wide as Aaron’s outstretched arms and was woven from cedar bark and spruce roots. The rim of the basket was woven with detailed beadwork, and colorful ribbons hung from its edge. The basket was empty.
“What is this?” asked Aaron.
“This is the world-womb basket. I have woven this basket to balance the flight of my husband, Raven. He is the maker of these lands. He delivers the unseen into form and assists the Great Mystery in making visible the currents of creation.
“Without this basket, the flight of Raven would consume him and he would loose himself in the worlds of his making. I have woven this basket out of my love for Raven and for the forms of this world, out of the depths of my own self.
“Every time a man creates something new, his actions must be balanced by an equal creation of space. This is true for women as well. As we draw from the Creator energy to create new forms, we must balance this act with equal amounts of space.”
“Then there is nothing in the basket?” asked Aaron.
“True enough, Aaron, There is nothing in the basket. Only space.
“Raven comes home at the end of his day’s work, after all that he has created, and rests in the basket. In this way the strain of world-making is eased. He rests here, in the boundless space of the world-womb that I provide for him. And it is here that he dreams the dreams which foreshadow his work in the world. He feels the shapes of things to come, and senses the way in which they may unfurl in the light of day. He rests in the great love of the Creator and all that is enfolded in the pulsing peace of this space.”