Waboose, Spirit Keeper of the North Wind

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I’ve always been very connected to Native American traditions and beliefs. The connection between the earth and the spirit has always
resonated with me. In times when I’ve needed healing, writing and
nature have been my two biggest healers. When my mother was
diagnosed with cancer and under went a bone marrow transplant,
there was so much uncertainty and grief. I would frequently go
to nature to find clarity. I decided I wanted to write about grief.
I have always felt, even prior to my own mother getting sick
experiencing other personal losses, and as a therapist that deals
with grief on a daily basis that we are really good at teaching
people to win. We don’t ever teach people how to lose. In doing
research for the book, I went to the medicine wheel. It was from
there I began to read about and learn about Waboose, The
Spirit Keeper of the North Wind. There was so much there. I and
my mom were born under the moons of Waboose. Renewal and purity is the Power of Waboose.  The North Wind represents new life enclosed in death or new growth protected in rest.  The Season of Waboose and the North Wind  is Winter. I grew up in the far north, frequently
hearing about the power of the north wind. The animal totem of Waboose is the White Buffalo who gives us the  medicine or lesson of  Prayer and Abundance, which is something greatly needed when
you’re dealing with a family member who has cancer. The poem below
was written to capture the night I learned my mom was sick. There
was a blizzard. There was also a blizzard the night my mom brought
me into this world. The time of day represented by the North is night.
When I read the following passage, I was amazed at the connections


“The North is the most paradoxical time of the Medicine Wheel. It is the time when things seem to be sleeping.  This apparent dormancy is a time for some of the deepest growth to occur.  It is in the winter when seeds lie frozen within the earth that they take into themselves all of the earth’s energy that allows them to grow in the seasons that follow.  It is in the north that our bodies cannot move as easily as they have in the past or will in the future.  During this time we seem forced to take into ourselves the wisdom of the Spirit that we will use as we continue our journey.”

This felt like everything I was feeling put into perspective. Waboose
is the ending and the beginning, which could not have felt more true.
Often people are forced to face or come to an understanding of their own lives, recognizing what they have. In the uncertainty of loss,
the world feels hallow like winter. There is scarcity when you look around you; however, underneath the surface of what we see, winter is the earth’s time to rest, to get ready to renew itself. In winter, we have to find abundance. It is not just given. It comes from within us. Each day of my mom’s battle with cancer, that was the landscape. It felt scarce when you looked outside; however, there was no other way to get through it but to find quiet, prayer, reflection, and gratitude for each moment.

The poem is part of collection of poems about that time, about grief. It is the telling of the night I discovered or knew my mom was really sick. It also flashes ahead one year to the day I found out she was coming home, about a year later. The weather that day was not a blizzard, but it was late fall and one of the first days it was clear winter was about to start again. I remember staring out my window at work before I got the call she was coming home. I had just done a group and had gone kind of off-script, I remember. As I was looking out the window at the weather, I remember realizing I couldn’t do the group I had planned because I had changed. I saw things differently and sitting in that group realized the individuals in that group probably were going to or currently going through the same experience, as life shifts us often
without notice, just as one day the seasons have changed without notice. I hope you enjoy the poem.


The Moons of Waboose




It snowed so hard that night, they let most of the workers at the hospital go home.
You were already there when I trudged in heavy with snow.
We talked about how bad the roads were.
You hate driving in the snow, and I pictured you gripped tight to the steering wheel.
Those blue nervous eyes darting with caution. 
I had removed my snowy clothes and sat on the couch
As you began talking about how bad                                                                                               your leg started hurting at work.


It was casual like when you talked about the lump on your hand.
It seemed ,a detail, a flake of snow in a blizzard.
Only when you asked me to help you to the bathroom,
Did I see the blizzard was inside you,
The the flake of snow was me.


All night winds howled, halls wreaked of Ben-Gay.
I did not sleep that night, getting up every time you got up,
Standing on the the other side of the bathroom door, 
Listening for a CRASH, a fall, the door to pop open.
Giving you my arm as you limped to your bed.


A pause. listen. waiting to hear the bed creek.
There is wind and there’s the wind of the north.
When the north wind blows it’s impossible,
Not to bow your head down, to the nobility of its force.
It stings you. North winds are tricky,
They come in blizzards or bronzed by the sunniest day.


The contrast of the sun and the brutal cold,
Mixed with the brightness of the reflection of the sun off the snow
Fools you into wanting to go outside. The north wind 
Has many ways of making itself known. Once stung
You never know cold in the same way.


You, brought me to life in a blizzard. Birthing
A child of the Big Winds Moon, the last moon 
Of Waboose, Spirit keeper of the North Wind. Your life nearly taken
For a child whose stone mineral totem was turquoise,
Ruled by water, a son of Poseidon, Pisces in all directions.


The cougar, my spirit animal, deeply misunderstood.
Hunted to near extinction because of its quiet & secrecy.
The climber, the swift runner, the ghost cat that cries like a baby in the night.
You saw me and named me after a doctor, a writer of scripture.
You knew my elements and my nature. 


Raised near great pine forests of the north, I felt
Twigs always snapping beneath my feet. I knew the landscape,
Understood trees are deeply communal, as are you and I.
My roots started feeding yours that night. Northern children 
Know winter intimately, can smell rot and decay.


As we shoveled the driveway, I looked my dad 
With my deep earth toned eyes and said,
Bring her to the hospital today. Almost a year later,
Winter’s presence washing in again, you call from the hospital.
You’re coming home tomorrow.


All day I sit in rooms of people whose minds cannot find peace.
Winds howl inside them, many of them hollowed out 
By drugs to keep the internal voices down, some numbed
By years of heartbreak or drugs. A man asks
 “Do you believe my retirement could be causing this depression?”


I go through a speech about how we move through Acts 
In the production of our lives, abandoning it mid-sentence.
“Sometimes,”  I begin again,
“We go to bed and wake up to find life has provided us new glasses. 
The way you saw the world, in the trash with your old specks.”
No choice, you have to see the world through a new lens.”
A girl raises her hand and tells me, “My new glasses 
No longer allow me to see my dead best friend.”
                                                                                                                                                 An elderly woman takes her hand and says, “Since I got lung cancer,
I see nothing but anxiety.”  The group goes on to share their new world views.
I am there with them, but I am therapist. The one who nods
Reflects, and thanks rooms for sharing so bravely,
All along, knowing I’m just like them- only silent.


Back in my office, a light snow starts to fall.
You’ll be home when I get there.
I wonder if it will feel foreign and strange after months of
Midnight medications through tubes, Jello for meals,
And nurses changing shifts. I watch the wind snap a twig in half.


I feel stupid for not knowing a twig is a lucky break.
The north wind can tear down houses, power lines, and trees.
I thank whatever God did not tear you down.
I look out and see the flag in the wind blowing wildly.
Just yesterday it  drooped and barely moved.


Learning cancer is like being that flag.
Somedays I drooped unable to move
And other days I rippled robust in the strongest winds,
chafed and rattled but still flying high, hopeful, and brave.


It’s the same window I looked out a year ago
as the wind whipped and tossed around the snow.
It’s the same, but I am surely not the same. I speak
To my patients differently,  I think, reflecting
On the group I just led in that afternoon.


I think of the old lady who has lung cancer,
who during an ice-breaker when someone asked,
“If you could change one thing 
About your physical appearance what would it be?”A smile,
She breaks into, the only smile I have seen from her 
After weeks of her being on the unit and proudly states,
“I would find the smile I lost from my face.”












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