For the first time in months, I go running on the track at the gym.
I am thrilled to see the room completely vacant. I can use the opportunity
to try the running trance which had worked so well in the autumn (see The
Long Run). That music may be a bit of a problem. Hmmm! Let's just see.
After a few rounds of Tensegrity (kind of a shamanic yoga) and a brisk
walking lap, I am off and running quite literally. Pant, pant, it has been
a while. I am well into my first mile when the chanting breath begins to
lull my thinking. In fact, I feel quite stupid for a little bit. I begin
to feel more than just the wooden track floor beneath each footfall. There
is the definite sense of jumping over some obstacles and ducking under
others. I go deeper past my conscious thoughts. Snippets of images pop
into my imagination. Vegetation foreign to my experience becomes visible.
I want to question the what's and where's but manage to quell the rising
curiosity. Slowly, the scene takes shape and I become somewhat rooted in
it. And the story begins.
am inside a man running, far more easily than I, through a jungle. I glance
downward and see his dark skin and the long sharpened pole in his hand.
There are large thick leaves strapped to his arms and thighs. I guess that
they are to ward off briars and branches as he runs through the dense foliage.
I am amazed at how comfortably he runs with bare feet on such rough and
uneven ground. It is as though he barely touches its surface. I notice
from this observation that he is sensing his surroundings as he races along.
He is using more than his eyes and ears and the feel of ground and bush.
I recognize the command of instinct and reflex. I had learned this command
while playing sports; in younger days (sigh).
What a scene though! The flow of data is almost overwhelming. I flash
back and forth to my body just to stay sane. This man is absorbing his
environment with so much more of his awareness than I usually do. This
toggling back and forth finally comes to fuller focus. His body feelings
become more central to my experience. This ought to make my running a lot
easier. I can feel him leaping over low branches and fallen trees and bursting
through vegetation in his path. I sure am glad his body knows where to
run. For the life of me, such blind movement through this jungle is worse
than any high speed city highway driving that I have ever done. Once, he
even uses his pole to vault over what appears (in passing, wheeee!) to
be hawthorn or some other spiky thorny shrub. I hadn't expected this movement
but he never misses a beat. It is as if he had traveled this unmarked path
all his life. Then, I notice a recognition in him of a presence ahead.
I think perhaps it is a predator. I am not surprised when he raises the
sharpened pole. I am surprised that he never misses a step forward in cocking
and throwing the thing though. Just keeps right on running until he comes
to the object of his toss.
even breathing hard (I am disgusted!), he stops before the twitching body
of a monkey of some sort skewered on his spear. I notice in a glance that
the pole had been partially polished and has a place carved for his grip
showing the wood to be green and oozing a little sap. Turning my attention
back to the monkey, I can see it is about the size of a basketball and
bleeding profusely (doesn't everything just bleed profusely?). Without
removing the spear from where it had stuck into the ground and his prey,
this remarkable man pulls a sharpened stone from his hair. With it, he
strikes the monkey's skull, breaking it open like melon. He quickly pries
open the bones and grabs a handful of flesh as a prize and eats it right
on the spot. I am glad I am in a detached state for this scene. What I
do feel is his gratitude and reverence.
He removes a piece of some fiber-like cord from around his middle and
quickly ties the monkey into a harness. He swings this onto his back, grabs
his spear and sets off again on the dead run. "How does he do that?"
I catch a quick thought of how right this hunt feels. This is no intellectual
giant. He didn't seem to need much intellect today though. Before long,
I see the growing light of a clearing in the jungle ahead. I begin to feel
the proximity of other people as we come to a halt just within the jungle
at the clearing's edge. "Ah, there's what we came for!" we both
think at once. There in the clearing is a small herd of deer-like animals
which I assume are gazelle. What do I know from gazelle? They are deer-like
with funny horns. That is all I can see for the short glimpse we get before
squatting below the tall grass. He searches the perimeter of the clearing,
more with his inner senses than his outer ones. "This is amazing!"
I think. "He commands his feelings as I do my thinking." Whatever
He peeks at this clearing with a growing sense of marvel. "Man
Chief to the Dry and me to the Wet. Seed keeper to Night and Spirit Keeper
to Day." Or words to that effect. The rhythm of his thoughts is hard
to grasp or convey. He calls to his brothers almost telepathically. It
seems it is his emotion which passes from one to the next instead of the
low hoarse whispers and subtle hand movements. I hardly ever see another
human throughout what is surely a long exchange of information.
"In now!" is his next command that I could understand. We
moved slowly through the first 20 yards of tall grass, never even peeking
up to see where we are. Suddenly a strong feeling passes through us and
seems almost tangible in how it moves along in a wave to the next hunter
around the perimeter. "Killers!" An image of Lions flashes on
through. "On Rising sun," he thinks. "A gift of the Mother."
This is not the term he uses but that is how it feels. Again his reverence
for his Earth is profound.
"Keep the young ones close," he commands. I hear him reflect
that all know precisely what to do. This facade of command is required
of him though it always struck him as odd. OK, so his thought wasn't that
sophisticated but still is more so than I expected and much to that point.
The circle round the prey grows ever smaller but moves slowly and cautiously
through the grasses. When he calls a halt, he also beckons the hunter to
his right and hands him the monkey off his back. I couldn't suppress a
slight giggle at the metaphor. He urges the "bait" be passed
to "spirit keeper" and everyone waits until it reaches that destination.
While he waits, his thoughts become intensely focused on his gratitude.
He is sure of tremendous amounts of help on this hunt from "The Mother."
I see flashes in his mind of the list: the small size of the herd and of
the clearing making the kill easier to arrange, the gift of the monkey
and even the presence of the lions which surprises me. How could the lions
be a gift? There are other images which are too foreign for me even to
Suddenly, bidden by some impulse, he commands "NOW!". I can
see the body of the dead monkey sailing through the air to my right and
about 100 yards ahead. Instant noise as the lions respond and all hell
breaks loose. The herd bolts and as it dashes to and fro, men begin to
stand as the animals approach them. The men wave their arms but are remarkably
silent. We remain hidden and the others begin to herd the prey toward us.
"Choose the small ones," is his next order. I can feel him beginning
to tense inside and prepare for the kill. He peers over the grass but is
careful to stay hidden. I can sense him making a decision as he chooses
which beast to slay. It is a fairly small one behind a large horned beast.
As we rise to our full height, and maybe a little more, the large male
rushing down on us veers slightly to the left of us. My host quickly plants
the butt end of his spear into the ground and in a moment that can not
have been a second long, the smaller animal bounds into its point. This
man's timing is exquisite! He leaps to the side without an inch to spare
to avoid the sharp hooves which straddle the spear. The movement is a blur
to me and I am watching from the inside! "He brought children to this?"
I think. "People must get killed doing this work"
In only moments it is all over. There is no shouting or mad rushing
about. No one has forgotten the lions feasting in the clearing. Several
from the herd have been brought down and all hands are instantly busy preparing
them for transport back to the village. With the easy flow of command,
my host sets his brothers to gutting and trussing the carcasses onto long
poles. As soon as one is finished being tied to its pole, it is carted
out of the clearing. In only a few short minutes all is complete. One small
animal is left behind with the entrails of the others as gift to the lions
who had helped make the hunt so successful. As far as I am concerned, it
is left to insure that the people won't be followed back to the village
as potential prey themselves.
Once more, thoughts of the gift of this hunt entered my host's mind.
With a plentiful catch and no casualties, surely this is no small omen
of the year to come. I even catch a glimmer of thought that perhaps there
is a way to keep a larger catch longer before it spoils. Cold water maybe?
This passing thought is quickly replaced by the developing plans for his
next job as he turns to head back to the village. He has no further responsibilities
until the ceremony in the evening. He is befuddled by the need to ritualize
such events. He only knows that he has been chosen for this job whether
he likes it or not. Images of dances and special words go through his mind,
feasting and loving in the darkness. Hmmm! Not so bad after all, we both
think, and plunge back into the jungle.
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