Well, this is it. The end. I know it took a while for me to post this, but I appreciate you all reading, reviewing, and waiting patiently. In the previous chapter I wrapped up a lot of loose ends such as Johnny letting Craig know he heard everything Craig said about his own brother being abused. I also had Johnny tell the rest of the A-shift crew about his past and his true age.
Where the previous chapters took place in the late summer, before Johnny's August birthday, this chapter jumped ahead several months to March. I needed the setting to be in the spring for the ceremony I had designed. I may at some point go back and write stories that fill in that gap of time, but they will be standalone stories.
A note on the Medicine Wheel Ceremony I have in this chapter. I researched and read about several interpretations of the Medicine Wheel and this is the one I felt reflected my perceptions the best. The page it comes from is /wheels and the name associated with the particular passages I chose was Bonnie Cehovet. I did add some of my own personal touches in to it, because, as I mentioned in the story, there is no one set Medicine Wheel, each is personal to the one who makes it.
Thanks to all who have continued to encourage me with your kind words. As always Feedback "feeds" the writers. We live for it and love to have it, so please leave feedback if you can. Thanks.
The legalese was mentioned at the beginning of the story so please review it there, no use in repeating it here.
Johnny stood in the big open field facing the East as the rising sun broke across the top of the mountains and spread its golden rays across the foothills on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The ground shone like diamonds where the sun struck the morning dew that clung to the tender new shoots of vegetation. The air was crisp and fresh, blowing from the mountains heavy with snow. The winter had been good, with just enough moisture to fill the mountains with snow and the foothills with rain, but not too much to cause the deadly mudslides on the coasts. Behind, he could hear the crunching of tires on the gravel road heralding the arrival of the first of his family and friends. He had asked them all to join him on the land that Jack had left him to celebrate the coming of the spring and a new beginning.
Turning, he was not surprised to see the De Soto family clambering out of the car. Johnny smiled, he didn't know how Joanne did it, but she always had her family ready and on time, if not 10 minutes early. Chris and Jenny ran across the open field and threw themselves into Johnny's outstretched arms. "And how are my two favorite munchkins?" Johnny said as he pulled them into a big hug.
"I lost another tooth," Chris said grinning and pointing to the new gap in his mouth.
Johnny leaned back and looked impressed. "So you have. Did you put it under your pillow for the tooth fairy?"
"You bet! She even left me a whole quarter! Mom and Dad said it was because it was one of my bigger teeth."
"What are you going to do with all that money?"
"I got me a new Matchbox Firetruck. It's one of the new Superfast series."
"And how about you, Miss Jenny? What has my favorite girl been up to?" Johnny asked while tweaking her nose.
"I helped Mommy dectorate the rocks you asked us to bring." Jenny smiled.
"Well then, where are these rocks you helped decorate?"
"Come on, I'll show you," Jenny said as she grabbed Johnny's hand and started pulling him toward the car. "We painted Mommy's yellow, Daddy's black, and Chris and mine Red, just as you asked."
"Morning Johnny," Joanne greeted him with a big hug, "Chris, go help your father get the stuff out of the back of the car."
"Jo, you are looking as beautiful as the morning sunrise," Johnny said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.
A red blush crept up her cheeks as she playfully swatted him on the arm, "Flatterer."
"Hey Junior, go find your own woman, this one is already spoken for," Roy said as he came up beside Joanne and put his arm around his wife's waist.
"Can I help it if you've got the two prettiest ladies in the entire County? Guess I'll just have to keep looking." Johnny grinned as he looked down and ruffled Jenny's hair. "Come on princess; let's go get those rocks you told me about."
Jenny turned and skipped to the car, chattering away like a magpie. Over the next half hour the remaining guests arrived. Ray Two Ponies had driven down from Montana with Johnny's sister, Amy; Johnny's cousin, Erin; and Carol Kemp. Johnny's Aunt Rosa drove in from Berkley along with her life partner Barb and their two charges, Susie and Billy. Everyone was amazed at how much the two youngsters had flourished under the excellent care of the two women. The courts too had been impressed, and with no relatives stepping up to claim the children, had granted them the right to adopt the two. Johnny now had two more cousins to add to his growing list of family members. Chet and Marco brought Marco's mother who doted on Johnny, declaring him too skinny and promising to make a double batch of her famous Enchiladas. Mike and Hannah, and their two boys were followed in by Hank and Maggie and their two teenage girls. The girls, much to their father's dismay, followed Johnny around looking all doe eyed and giggly. Dixie, Kel, and Joe completed the gathering.
In short order, Johnny had everyone arranged in a large circle around a smaller circle of stones. Johnny stood looking at the circle of his family and friends. It had been almost 7 months since the lid to his Pandora's Box had been lifted, and some of the demons of his past let loose. Those gathered here today learned of his abuse at the hands of his step-father and the bullies at school. They knew of his escape to L.A. and of his real age. And instead of turning this knowledge against him or avoiding him because of it, it brought them closer. These people knew him for who his is and who he was. They were people who he trusted not just with his life, but with his past. For it was in confronting his past that he had found a future, a future filled with the promise of acceptance and love. And today he would honor that love and acceptance, and all those who have gone before, all those in the present, and all those yet to come.
Stepping into the center of the circle he addressed the group, "I want to thank you all for coming here today to help me build a Medicine Wheel on the land Jack left me. Some of you may not know what a Medicine Wheel is and that is okay because it can mean a number of things depending on who is building it and why. A Medicine Wheel is a physical connection between us and the Spiritual Energies of the world. It protects us and guides us when we are lost. It soothes and comforts us when we are lonely. It spins and dances with us when we are joyous. It is also a connection between all of us who stand here, for we cannot stand alone. The Wheel has bound us together in our Journey through life and as we move through life so will our position on the Wheel."
At this point, Johnny stepped up to the persons standing at the eastern point of the circle. "Mamma Lopez, Maggie, Hannah, Joanne, you stand in the East. The East represents birth, creation, beginning, and family. I asked you to paint your rocks yellow because yellow is the color of the East, the color of the rising sun that brings us a new day and new hope. I have included a yellow rock as a place of honor for my mother as she was my beginning."
Maggie laid her rock down and spoke, "The direction of the East represents spirituality and enlightenment. Through the East we begin to see where we are. We have an inner knowing that comes from our understanding that we are united as one with all things. Here we find the courage to extend our visions - to see the broader picture of our lives. Here we learn perspective."
Hannah stepped up next and laid her stone down; on it was painted an Eagle. "The totem of the East is the Eagle. The Eagle soars high and has the ability to see great distances. Eagle receives inspiration from the Great Spirit, and brings balance into our lives. The element of the East is Fire." Mamma Lopez stepped forward, placed a candle on the ground and lit it as Hannah continued, "Fire is the radiant energy of transformation. Fire contains the great power of expansion. The time period of the East is momentary. The power of a moment lies in the quality of that moment. That is why it is important to live "in" the moment.
Joanne now stepped forward, "The season of the East is Spring. Spring is the awakening of new life. It is becoming aware of what lies within ourselves and what lies outside of ourselves. Let us use the time of the East to see where we are headed in our life."
Johnny turned toward the South and addressed those who were standing there, "The South represents youth."
"Hey Gage," Chet broke in, "I think you had me paint my rock the wrong color. Mine's the same color as the kids." Chet said, as he looked at the rocks sitting on the ground in front of Jenny, Billy, Susie, Chris, Mikey, Jimmy, Lora and Lisa. "Shouldn't it be the same as Marco's and Mike's and Roy's?"
Johnny tried to not look annoyed at the interruption, "If you wouldn't interrupt, then you would understand why your rock is the same color as the kids. Now if I can continue? …. the South represents youth, passion for life, friendship, and learning self-control"
"The direction of the South is the Path of the Inner Child; to access that part of ourselves that uses the faith, trust and innocence that we had as children to make our way through life. I include a spot for my sister Anna, for in my eyes she will always be the embodiment of trust and innocence. From the South we are able to see things with greater clarity and to begin to understand our own individual natures."
Jenny stepped up and smiled and recited what her mother and father taught her, "The color of the South is red," She said, pointing to the red rocks on the ground. "Red is the color of our blood." She paused and looked up at Johnny with a small pout on her face, "I can't remember the rest."
"That's okay Jenny, you did great," Johnny said, finishing for her, "Our blood is our life force, our health and vitality."
Susie spoke up next, "The South is where our journey through life begins, with knowing ourselves. The quality embraced by the South is trust and innocence. It is enjoying the experience of discovery, finding joy in new knowledge and letting go of fears. Like Billy and I did when we went to live with Rosa and Barb, right Johnny?"
"That's right Susie," Johnny smiled at the bouncing young girl and then turned to Chris, Mikey and Jimmy. "You guys ready?"
Each boy read a line in turn.
"The totem of the South is the Coyote. The Coyote is the trickster, he shatters illusions and laughs at himself."
"His lessons may sometimes be harsh, but they do bring us knowledge of ourselves."
"This teaches us to examine our own feelings and emotions - and to be guided by them."
"So is that why Chet is standing with us, because he is like the Coyote?" Chris asked.
"Yes, Chris. That is precisely why Chet is standing with you guys. "That and also because sometimes he acts like a big kid." Johnny said while smirking at Chet. Chet meanwhile was doing his best to look innocent. Johnny then turned to Hank's two girls, "Lora, Lisa, if you two would be so kind as to continue."
Both girls giggled and then read their part together, "The element of the South is water. This refers not so much to the physical quality of water, or even its ability to cleanse, but to the essence of water - that it flows through life. Here we are asked to allow our emotions to flow freely." The girls picked up a large glass bowl and a canteen. They placed the bowl on the ground in front of them and poured the water from the canteen into it.
Johnny turned to Chet, and with all joking aside, Chet proudly recited his part. "The time period of the South is the past. Emotions that we are holding on to, that are blocking us, are from the past. This is where we need to heal. Through the South we become as children, we understand, and we heal."
"Thank you Chet," Johnny said before turning to the next group of people. Before him now stood his sister Amy, her fiancé Ray, Marco, Mike, Erin, and Roy. "The West, in which you stand represents adulthood, stillness, going inside oneself, and reflection."
"The direction of South was our beginning of knowing who the "self" is. The direction of the West deepens this knowing through dreams and visions of the future." Amy said as she smiled proudly at her brother.
Marco spoke next, "The color of the West, as represented by the color of our rocks, is black. Not the black of 'nothingness', but the black of 'all things'. It is the color of mystery and unconscious."
"The totem of the West is the Bear. Bear brings us strength and connection to Mother Earth, and represents the quality of introspection. Bear seeks truth." Ray said while stepping forward and placing his rock with a picture of a bear paw print on the ground. "The power of the Bear is the power of knowing, the power that allows one to enter dreamtime and walk the path of questing for answers, the internal path."
Erin stepped forward and placed a pot of soil down in front of her, "The element of the West is earth. Earth is passive, receptive and nurturing. A deep connection with earth is needed to bring ourselves into balance with Universe. The season of the West is Autumn, a time of gentle change brought about through turning inward."
There was a quiet pause, and then Mike spoke up, "The direction of the West represents introspection, looking for knowledge within ourselves. Here is where we find that which we need to change to make progress in our lives. This is the emphasis of the West, change and transition."
Finally Roy stepped up and put his hand on Johnny's shoulder, "The time period of the West is the present. The present is the only place that we can invoke change. Our future is created by the beliefs that we hold in the present. Changing those belief patterns changes our future. Use the time of the West wisely to see how your current goals are affecting your future."
The two stood there for several minutes in silence for no words needed to be spoken. Blue eyes and brown eyes proudly meeting, sharing everything. Roy pulled Johnny into a hug that spoke of brotherly love, before stepping back into his spot in the circle.
Clearing his throat from the lump that had started to form there, Johnny turned to the final direction and faced those who had nurtured him, taught him, and guided him on his path in life. "Hank, Dixie, Kel, Joe, Barb, Rosa, Carol, you stand in the North, the place of our elders, the place of wisdom."
Holding a piece of paper out in front of himself and donning his reading glasses, Hank peered over the top of both, stilling what was bound to be a smart remark about age perched on Chet's lips. "One smart remark out of you and it will be latrine duty for a month." Looking back down at the paper he read, "The quality embraced by the North is knowledge and wisdom. This is the sense of understanding that one gains through living, through personal experience."
Dixie stepped up and gave Johnny a big hug, "Johnny, wisdom comes from applying the knowledge we gain, to our lives, in a meaningful manner."
Joe Early stepped up next, "Like these rocks on the ground and the hair on my head, the color of the North is White, the combination of all colors. White represents ones highest aspirations, that of balance. Johnny may you find balance in your life before your hair turns white."
"Thanks, I'll try." Johnny said with a grin.
Kel stepped up next and shook Johnny's hand, "Johnny you've come a long way since I first met you. I'm glad to be considered not just a colleague, but a friend. And with that being said, I guess it's my turn to talk about the totem of the North. The totem of the North is the Buffalo. Buffalo energy is that of abundance, in supporting the sustaining of life through the giving of itself for food, clothing and more, and of prayer, the giving of thanks for all that has been received."
Barb, with the help of Rosa drove a tall Sheppard's hook into the ground and hung a wind chime on the curled end. "This wind chime represents the element of the North, air. Air is movement and freedom, the clearing of thoughts and the carrier that allows us to manifest our dreams."
Rosa stepped over and gave her nephew a big hug, "The season of the North is winter. But do not think of winter as a cold, desolate time; instead, think of it as a time of preparation and regeneration."
Carol reached out and took Johnny's hand, "Johnny, I knew you in the past, I see you now in the present, and I look forward to what the future brings for you. The time period of the North is the future. We create our future in many ways, by the decisions we have made and actions we have taken in the past, by how we interact in the present, and by what we are destined to do with those future energies. Use the time of the North to find your soul's purpose for this lifetime."
"I close the circle with a white rock for Jack Kemp and one for my father. Jack was my mentor and my savior in so many ways. I know his spirit has continued to watch over me and bring me strength. And although I never really got a chance to know my father, I have been told I have many of his traits. I hope I will honor him and the name he has given me in all that I do."
"Although the circle is now closed, it is not complete, for the center too has its own attributes." Stepping into the center of the circle Johnny continued to speak, "The center of the Medicine Wheel is the center of our own being. It is our conscious awareness of who we are."
Bending down Johnny picked up a bundle of Sage and lit it. As it began to smoke, the sweet aroma carried to those standing in the circle. "The totem of the center is smoke. The smoke drives away all the bad spirits; it cleanses and carries our thoughts and prayers to the gods. The element of the center is Aether, the source element for Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Our center is pure essence, formless, spaceless and timeless. The time period of the center is timelessness, it is stillness and perfect balance."
Several voices spoke up at once, "Good luck with that one Gage." "Johnny, be still?" "Eh, hem." "Are we going to see pigs fly Daddy? Cause you said that the day Uncle Johnny is able to stay still is the day pigs will fly." "Jenny!"
"No Jo, its fine. She's right," Johnny said with a smile, "You are all right. It is difficult for me to stay still. But that is what this this ceremony is all about. The journey of the Medicine Wheel is one of change and transformation. As we take all that is around us, all that has formed us, and bring it into our center. It is then that we can make contact with our Higher Selves, take responsibility, and focus our energies to form what we want ourselves to be. May this Medicine Wheel service not only me, but all of us, in our Journey through this life and beyond. Now that our circle is complete, let's enjoy the food that we all brought and each other's company."
As the group began traipsing back to the cars, Roy turned and looked to where Johnny still stood in the center of the circle. "Aren't you coming Johnny?"
"I'll be there in a sec; there are just a couple things I want to finish up here."
"Okay, but I can't guarantee how long Mamma Lopez's enchiladas or Jo's brownies are going to last."
"You better save me some."
"I'll try, but no promises." With that Roy turned and headed to the spot where blankets were being laid out.
Johnny watched as the kids ran around excitedly and grownups began setting up card tables and loading them with food. 7 years ago when he came to L.A., he knew no one. He had no family and he had no friends. Then, slowly he began to let people into his life. Now, he marveled at all the people he counted as family and friends. Sighing he looked at the stones in the circle that represented his mother and father, his sister, and Jack. "I wish you could have been here to see this."
From the woods to the North, the skree of a Hawk sounded. Turning toward the woods, Johnny faintly saw the forms of 4 persons standing there, two men, a woman, and a young girl. A gentle breeze brought the soft words of his mother's voice to his ears, "We are here for you Johnny, we always will be, we will always look out for you, we are part of your Medicine Wheel."
A quiet childish giggle brought a smile to his face, "You hear that John John," came the young girlish voice of his sister Anna, "Now I get to take care of you and watch out for you like you did for me all those years."
Then a voice that only his heart recognized spoke next, "Johnny, I'm proud of you son."
"Go now Johnny," came Jack's deep bass voice, "they're waiting for you. Give Carol my love."
As if on cue, Chet's loud voice rang across the pasture, "Come on Gage, Roy said we can't eat until you get over here, and I'm starving."
Turning and heading toward the group, Johnny yelled back to his sometimes annoying friend, "Geez Chet, hold your horses. I'm coming." Half way there he was greeted by a pack of kids clambering for his attention, drowning out the departing skree of a hawk as it took flight and disappeared into the sky.