This was my first time to be invited to a dance
and it was a long, two day journey.
I had never been this far from home.
The elders here were very nice;
they welcomed me to their homestead
and guided me into the meeting hall,
we enjoyed some basic conversation
sitting in a line along a wall in the back room,
a table of food was laid out, and we waited
while everyone else danced in the main hall.
I was not the only young man there.
Each of us flanked by elders and
sitting with nervous anticipation.
If they had come from homesteads like mine,
they were never allowed into the back room either.
While the elders did ask some probing questions,
they were mindful not to challenge, as they were
aware that they should trust the process;
being too aggressive can be disruptive.
By our faith, love is not the result
of a chemical reaction in the brain,
but an electrical connection between brains;
The chemical signature comes after.
The connection can be felt by everyone present;
and it can affect everyone present.
Eventually, one by one,
young women began to come into the back room.
They were glowing, radiant, red faced from
the exertion and energy built up from dancing.
They came into the back room and
got themselves a glass of water,
but did not drink it right away.
They took the water and walked
in front of us sitting along the wall;
chatting and laughing along the way.
Then, after making one full circuit of the room,
they quickly drank the glass of water;
sating their thirst, and going back out into the dance hall.
The fourth woman to pass in front of me
smiled and had some nice words.
My mouth was too dry to be confident
and she slowly walked passed to chat with other people.
Only,.. as she went by,
something changed in my head
that made me watch her with wonder.
While I was looking at her to my left,
I felt someone grab my hand from the right.
I turned to find a woman standing in front of me.
I looked up at her and found her to be beautiful,
but I could not think.
I stupidly stared at her as she smiled,
then raised her glass to my lips
to let me take a sip.
I was fighting for my brain to do something.
Pleading with it to make itself known to me.
Vaguely aware that I was part of a ceremony
I did not fully understand, I decided to let
myself do what felt natural.
I stood up, gently took the glass of water from her,
and raised the glass to her lips
to let her take a long drink.
As I enjoyed watching her drink the water down,
refreshing herself from all the dancing,
I noticed the sigh that spread around the room
and out into the dance hall.
I do not know if it was an audible sigh,
or just something I felt.
There was allot of activity, where
I was separated from the woman,
and I became lost in the whirlwind.
I enjoyed the attention, and embraced
the approval I saw in everyone’s faces.
I was guided to stand by myself on a platform
behind a very large cauldron.
The married women of the community came,
with sweetness and gaiety,
carrying large bowls and bags,
and emptied their contents into the cauldron.
One brought in a large paddle and handed it to me.
Seeing the expectation on the faces of the people watching,
I set into stirring the pot.
At first I was lazy about it;
looking to the elders first,
then to the others present,
watching to measure just how much I should stir,
but not wanting to stir more than needed.
Eventually, however, I noticed the mix
becoming creamier in places and decided that was the goal.
So, I bent my elbows and put my back into it.
The mix was progressing nicely,
but there was still much more to do when
I noticed the young woman who took my hand
standing on the platform next to me.
I slowed my work to straighten up and look her in the eyes.
She smiled at me sweetly as she
took off her shoes and climbed into the pot.
I was stunned.
I looked to the people watching,
to get a read of the situation,
but they were stone faced.
I knew that I was on the spot,
but I did not know what to do.
I was terrified that I might hurt her.
She moved around in the pot while I gently stirred,
which made it all that much harder for me.
My head was on a swivel;
between trying not to hurt the woman in the pot,
and looking to the people watching to get
any sort of clue
as to what to do.
Slowly, I began to see that she was
actually trying to help me.
She was moving, in a strange sort of dance,
to get out of my way, and to show me
places that needed more attention.
I resolved to stop looking up at the people
and to focus solely on her.
There was consistency in her movements,
and I knew that if I were consistent with mine,
we would learn to read each other;
continuously making small changes
to steadily increase our effectiveness.
After some time, I was back to putting my full
force into my stirring without the slightest worry
that I might touch her with the paddle, let alone hurt her.
I stopped mixing when she stopped moving
and curled up into a little ball,
spinning in the perfectly creamy batter.
Again, there was a blur of celebration and activity,
and I found myself standing alone outside the meeting hall.
There were others walking around peacefully,
but respectfully keeping their distance.
The young woman was brought out,
all cleaned up and looking perfect,
and she came to me and took my hand.
As we stood there looking at one another,
they placed a shawl on her shoulders.
It was clear that it was a special shawl,
and it only took me a few moments to figure out
that the shawl meant she was allowed to be alone with me,
but not allowed to leave the homestead with me.
The other people who were out and about were there
to keep a casual eye on us.
We wander around for a little while.
I thought she was showing me around the homestead,
but I soon realized that she had no idea what she was doing either.
I spent a short moment marveling at the idea
that she was blindly feeling her way through this whole process,
just as I was.
At that moment it all came together in my mind;
love is an electrical connection,
and the homestead is a circuit.
Without the community to give structure,
without the ceremony to act as a seed
for the relationship to grow from,
it would grow wild and out of control.
Without awareness, and without such a structure,
people will always fight for dominance;
with the winner becoming abusive and
the loser becoming submissive.
It is those toxic connections that affect,
all the people around it negatively;
eroding the strength of the community.
With this new awareness
I stopped and turned her towards me.
We stood for there a moment,
both of us floating above the ground.
I understood that the ceremony, the process, was not over.
The process was never over.
This was only the next step.
We were not just out walking in the woods,
we were looking for our place in the community.
And, just as with the batter in the cauldron,
we would have to figure out how to do that together,
in our own way, without looking to others for answers.
I smiled at her and she smiled back,
and then we spoke our first words to one another as we
told each other our names.