At the recent Oregon Country Fair, I had an opportunity to visit again with my friend and sister Agnes Baker Pilgrim. Grandmother Agnes is a renowned spiritual leader and keeper of the sacred Salmon Ceremony for her people, the Siletz Indians of Oregon. An 83-year-old great-great-great grandmother, she is Chairperson of an international group, the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers; who travel the globe praying for the healing of the earth and all its creatures.

The Grandmothers have prayed with the Dalai Lama, at the Vatican, and wherever they go they speak of the dangers of a materially-driven culture that exploits the earth and threatens the survival of lands, plants, and way of life.

We sat in the shade while drinking morning coffee and as is the custom with a younger brother, she has license to tease me at any opportunity. When Agnes looked at me she said what’s with those ski poles? I told her that I have a balance problem especially at nighttime and they help get around these dirt paths in the dark.. “You could just use a cane” she said, to which I responded that I thought I looked better walking with the poles.

She smiled and said you need an attitude adjustment brother and shook her wooden cane at me. I call this my attitude adjuster, I can reach my grandkids if they need a reminder to change their behavior. She poked at my leg and said “get rid of those poles, you need a walking stick, a wooden stick, look at it as a gift from the Earth Mother who is holding your hand as she guides your feet on her face. She will keep you in balance.

She blessed me before we broke camp, fanned me with her eagle feathers asked the Great Spirit to watch over me as I continued to walk this path of life. When she finished we hugged, and she whispered in my ear, you could walk with a cane and still be a man.

I thought I was coming to the Fair to speak, but I really came to listen to my older sister share her wisdom. In spite of all the reminders it’s still difficult to let go of my preconceptions. Every time I think I’ve got it, something happens to remind me how full of it I am.

Nobody gets it, we are always getting it, so stay connected to your relatives and listen to their wisdom.