You Go for the Water, You Stay for the Family

You Go for the Water, You Stay for the Family

I grew up feeling like a black sheep, out of place, like I would suffocate at any moment in my hometown.

Then, I discovered yoga several years ago, and in this community I found compassionate, open-minded friends that not only took the time to hear my story, but could relate to many of my experiences. I found a way of life that I knew would be a part of my lifestyle forever, but I was still missing a bigger calling. 

When I started traveling a few years ago, I slowly recognized a sense of belonging, one so close I could almost taste it. 

Then in 2016, I traveled to:

          Rockford, Illinois
          Windsor, Ontario, Canada
          Priory, Jamaica
          Denver, Colorado
          Las Vegas, Nevada
          (and briefly, the Hoover Dam in Willow Beach, Arizona)
          Put-In-Bay, Ohio
          Pymatuning, Pennsylvania
          Denver, again
          and Standing Rock, North Dakota.

Going from city to city, I discovered mentalities that were closer to my own. In many different U.S. states, and even in Jamaica, I heard soothing words spoken by others that I thought were only found in my head.

I saw both the Great and Laurentian Continental Divides, in the Loveland Pass mountain range in Colorado at 12,000 feet, and on the drive to the reservation in North Dakota.

While at a local beach party in Jamaica, overwhelmed with relief, I realized my true calling to be a traveler. 

I ventured as far south, west, and north as I have ever been before.

Then in Standing Rock,
          I saw my first tumbleweed as we drove into camp for the first time.
          I saw my first coyote on a solo drive to clear my head.
          I saw my first wild eagles, all while engaging in risky actions against corrupt authorities.
          I saw my first shooting star during Water Cannon night as I walked back across the bridge to my tipi, never the same again. 
          And in Sacred Stone Camp, I found my Home, with a big capital H.

I found my tiyospaye, a Native American term for "clan," in which deep familial commitment runs through your veins, regardless of the blood it flows with. 

As soon as you join the circle of Water Protectors around the Sacred Fire, once you show up to help stand against the powers that threaten us, and once you put your life on the line next to friends you just made over breakfast, you never go back. 

You realize you’ve never felt like this about another person before; you realize how deep and unconditional your love for them has grown in an instant, and you realize you feel this way about everyone around you. As you face the same tear gas, the same grenades, and the same freezing temperatures, you also hold hands, hold space, and hold onto each moment you remain standing. You become warriors together.

You don’t wake up the next morning and look at these people the same way.

You see flashes of the night before, and remember their faces buried in their hands as they dropped to their knees to pray, remember them grabbing your hand to pull you from tear gas you didn't see coming, and can still see the resilience that seeps from their pores show through their “good mornings.” 

You feel it rush straight to your heart when someone says a simple Thank you, sister for a morning cigarette.

You face the riot police behind the grandmother in a poncho who just trusted you to charge their phone the day before.

You realize how much you can appreciate another human being for everything they bring to the world.

I was meant to find these people that make me feel so human, that make my heart melt in relief to know there are others out there like me, that there is a place I can feel loved and accepted for everything I am. Their support is deliberate, and their smiles are genuine.

I may not have loved the North Dakota winter, with its lack of vegetation, mercliess wind, and mislead townspeople... 

but I found my tiyospaye, and in their hearts I can rest mine, and rest easier knowing I belong.