Story Info

Powless (standing)

Story & Experience

I was very depressed this morning. My best friend of 50 years died May 17, 2017. I got to see him for the last time 2 hours before he passed on to the spirit world. His name is A. Paul Ortega. He was 80 years old and was the lead Medicine man for the Mescalero Apache of New Mexico. He was a very special person and a real brother. He is the one who taught me how to pray to the Creator and to have some smoke from sage, tobacco, a fire or even a match during the prayer. The reason was that the smoke would take the prayers up to the Creator. This is the way I prayed to the creator in the story I told to Trebbe Johnson that inspired her to create “Radical Joy for Hard Times—finding and making beauty in wounded places”.

This was the day I was to do something for the Radical Joy annual Ceremony. I felt no motivation to do anything. I had been depressed about Paul’s death. Nothing seemed of value or important. You’re born, live, and die. You talk and walk in between. It really isn’t worth anything. In my depressed state, I just sat down doing nothing. Then I remembered something Paul told me. It was a story.

Paul’s Mescalero Reservation is in southeastern New Mexico in an area of mountains. He told me that at one time the local governments and the federal government had developed legal cases to take water away from the Reservation and the Mescalero Tribe. These waters ran through the Reservation and provided life to trees, wild animals, tribal members and all the life of the Reservation. Paul said a recent court ruling against the tribe made it look like they would lose the battle for the water. He had been very involved in this battle. He told me that he went into a special place in the tribal forest. He was very sad and depressed and he felt that he and his small Tribal committee had lost this battle. As he sat there he heard a small voice. He looked around and saw no one. He heard the voice again. He was quiet and  listened very closely. The voice said—“Hey big man what is wrong”. It came from a place near him on the ground. He looked at that place and he saw a spider. The spider said to him “Hey big man, I asked you what is wrong”. Paul said back to the spider “Oh you would not understand”. The spider said to Paul “Try me”. Paul said “Well, myself and a few tribal members are fighting the local governments to keep our water on the Reservation. We are a small group and looks like we will lose. There are too many of them against us.” The spider said” Isn’t this the same water that we in the forest drink to sustain our lives?”. Paul answered “Yes”. The spider said, “Wait a minute Big Man, I am a spider and I need water. We also have ants, butterflies, beetles, birds, raccoons, deer, eagles, bears,  elk and many more. When you add us all up we number in the millions and we all need water. We will stand up with you. Don’t believe you are alone. We are with you”. The Tribe won the case and kept the water.

Well I feel much better. It is almost if Paul came to me to tell you this story to encourage you on your path honoring this earth and to remind you that you have millions of allies to help you. I will now do my ceremony for the Radical Joy that we all share together this day. I will pray for all of you with encouraging words and a thanksgiving.

I did this in the Hogan that I have on my property. It is the place where I do all of my ceremonies. The bird is made of tobacco that was given to me by people in the last year who asked me to burn tobacco for them for their needs. There is some crushed corn that dot the inside of the bird’s body. This is the corn I feed to the crows that visit me each winter. Both wings are made up from the two eagle fans that I have with a few single eagle feathers spiced in and one Canadian goose wing on one wing and one crow wing mixed into the other wing. The bird’s tail is made up of feathers from eagles, an owl, and a hawk.


Image Credit:

  • Powless (standing): David Powless

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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.