Newfoundland. Part II: DRUM drum DRUM drum



The Smudging Ceremony

From the blanket
A drum offered to the Scottish woman,
“Drum like so,” says Kevin.

Shell and Sage Leaves. Painting by Ana Lucia Fernandez

On the blanket
a shell to hold the sage leaves,
a match to ignite them.

Kevin bearing the shell to each of us in the circle
clockwise, each in turn scoops the smoke
over face, chest, mouth, heart.

To purify
To ward off evil spirits
DRUM drum DRUM drum.

Kevin asks, “What does the drumming make you think of?”
“A horse,” I pipe up.
A heart,” offers the man with the red-and-blue-collared dogs.

“Yis,” lilts Kevin, returning the shell to the red blanket.
Sits legs crossed.

                                                         park program turned worship


The Lessons


The Moose and the Calf.

Kevin tells us a story. “My grandfather and I were moose hunting. We saw one by a bog, but Grandfather squatted, lit his pipe, and smoked in silence while I fidgeted, thinking of my mother’s frying pan sizzling with moose meat. Eventually a moose calf walked out of the woods. Grandfather knew all along that it would; he had noticed that the cow moose was full of milk. He snuffed his pipe and we moved on across the barrens.”

“The first thing Grandfather did after killing game,” adds Kevin, “was to say aloud, ‘Your spirit will live forever. Thank you for giving yourself to feed our family.’ “

”One time, as a teenager, I shot a robin,” he continues. “Was Grandfather angry? No, but he cried when he saw the worm in the robin’s mouth.”

“You see,” he reflects softly, “Every action has a consequence. Aboriginal people seek to give, not take.”

NORTH.           Black. (Bear print)


White (Cottongrass)

Red. (Sundew)







SOUTH           Yellow. (Caterpillar)



Kevin looks around at our rapt faces. “Did anything you ate today come from something that was not once alive?”


Grandmother and the Blueberries. Kevin tells another story. “One day, my grandmother and I walked to the barrens to pick blueberries, each with a container to fill so grandmother could bake a blueberry grunt for supper. We scooped berries by the handful – there were SO many – and I wanted to return home to get a larger container.”

“ ‘But,’ said Grandmother, ‘what if we pick so many that Mr. Stewart’s wife won’t find any when she decides to make a blueberry grunt and comes picking?’

‘And what about Mrs. Goudy?’ “

                                                                     Squirming of congregants
                                                                     I want to tell Mrs. Goudy to hurry up
                                                                     The well-fed dogs sleep







Newfoundland. Fire Circle, Part I: Mi’kMaq


Possibly you wonder where Chief of Operations and the Blog Editor, also known as Lew and Audrey, retreat on summer holiday: It’s to the Canadian island of Newfoundland, also known as The Rock. What follows is an account in four segments of an experience from Summer 2014.


Lobster Cove Lighthouse



The Park

Gros Morne National Park on the western coast of Newfoundland offers visitors an array of naturalist programs such as Stroll through Strata or The Night Life. One August, an interpreter named Kevin Barnes led Lew and me and others on the Medicine Walk.  We didn’t get far: there at our feet, Kevin knew every plant and its value. A year later we attended his evening program Fire Circle at the Lighthouse.


The Chapel

Kevin’s Talking Stick. Painting by Ana Lucia Fernandez

It’s raining; there won’t be a fire this evening. Kevin moves the talk into a shed. We nine visitors from Germany, England, Canada, and The States sit on benches in a semi-circle around a red blanket on the floor. Kevin sits across from Lew and me holding a feather attached to a stick. He’s a man of square build like many Newfoundlanders; his salt-and-pepper mop of hair matches his jeans.

This Fire Circle is the very last one of the summer.


The Welcome

“I’m Kevin,” he tells us, looking around at the tidy faces. “My ancestors are Mi’kMaq, the aboriginal people of Newfoundland. I pronounce our name in the soft French way, MEEG-mahq. It means ALL KIN PEOPLE.”

“You may wonder why we’re having this talk at the lighthouse,” he lilts. “My people believe that when a person dies he or she visits everyone and every place that mattered. The family keeps a fire going for four days and four nights to guide the spirit back home. My people call it The Sacred Fire. The lighthouse guides people home in another way; it’s on purpose that I give the talk here.”

“Whoever has the feather, we will listen to,” says Kevin. “Listening is the most important skill.”
The German woman nods.


NORTH.           Black.           (Boulder field)


White. (Foxglove)








For Lew’s photo journal of Newfoundland, go to: