Incredibly emerald blue and full of energy. The elements of nature are so wonderful.
We are standing near the beautiful Kootenay River and Sequoyah Trueblood tells us in an inspiring way about the important connection between humans and nature. We are all quietly listening and I notice that his words touched something deep in my heart. An intense feeling of peace comes over me. He is so right. Will our life lessons begin?
Together with my family I am a guest at the ‘Cross River Wilderness Centre‘ bordering Kootenay National Park, in the west flank of the Rocky Mountains. Coming from the highway, we follow the directions, turn off onto a small forest road which takes us along the Kootenay River to the cozy cabins near the small ‘Cross River’.
What a location!
Rob and Marilyn Patenaude treat us on a warm welcome. Since 1996, they share this amazing place with their guests. They both speak proudly about the nature, offer educational programs, and offer 8 rustic cabins for overnight stays. These rustic cabins are tucked away in the forest and all have hot and cold running water, a toilet and shower, fireplace and solar power. This is an experience where Europeans can only can dream of.
During dinner we meet more guests and I can’t help noticing how ‘contagious’ everyone’s friendliness is. Brad, a very kind and motivated chef has prepared a delicious, organic meal for us and during dinner time we meet Sequoyah Trueblood, a 72-year-old First Nations elder who lives and teaches here.
Born in Oklahoma, his father is Choctaw-Cherokee-Chickasaw, and mother German-English. As a young Native boy growing up in the 50’s, like many, Sequoyah was separated from his family and forced into the residential boarding school system in an attempt to civilize the so-called ‘native animal’ in him. When Sequoyah left the boarding school at age of 17, he joined the army. He excelled quickly becoming a Green Beret in Vietnam, running Special Operations in connection with a First Special Forces Group and Military Assistance Command. Sequoyah is also the first to admit that his ‘glorious service’ is darkened by his many insights into the wrong doings of American policy makers at that time.
Since his time in the military, Sequoyah has worked extensively with First Nations youth wilderness programs as well as youth treatment centers for substance abuse. Through Native teachings and practices in the sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies, and vision questing, he is beckoned across this great mother earth to guide those who request his help. As a Choctaw Wisdom Keeper, Sequoyah has spoken at the United Nations, advised top business executives from prominent international companies, counselled numerous celebrities, government agencies, and has held council with the Dalai Lama.
The next morning, after breakfast, we follow Sequoyah to his Konkurra Medicine Lodge in the forest. He manoeuvres his tall and frail, but flexible body over a narrow trail and when you see him walking on his flip-flops you would’t give him 72 years of age.
One of the teachings he has shared with us is that of leadership – how to “work from the circle. In the circle, all are equal… leadership is then from within… all have a voice, no one is more important than another.”
He also explains to us that everything flows from the Divine. “Everything that comes through comes through in its own perfection. We human beings, with our intellect, try to divide it up. When we can get to that place in our lives when we can accept each thing that comes to us as just another opportunity to heal ourselves, we can be at peace with it all. Even though it may not look like that at the time, as soon as we are able to say “I don’t know,” that’s when we are able to allow Great Spirit to work in our lives,” he says.
We then leave the spiritual lodge and head out for a hike together through the rugged Rocky Mountain wilderness, wade through the Cross River and learn about edible plants and their healing powers.
Back in the wilderness centre, Rob asks us if we would like to use the wood fired hot tub. Of course we like that and by the time the first stars appear on the sky, the hot tub measures a comfortable 38 deg. C. And while we watch the bright galaxies above us, Brad prepares a bonfire, gets his guitar and plays a couple of songs for us.
Life is so wonderful and Joe Cocker’s lyrics ‘the best things in life are the simple things’ come to my mind. I then close my eyes and repeat Sequoyah’s mantra:
GREAT THANKS – GREAT PEACE – GREAT LOVE.