Seven Gifts from the Stone of Death – Part 2

In Part 1 of this two part series, we looked at the first three gifts from the Stone of Death:

Hope – why it is the root of all the other gifts,

Choice – how to stop the feeling of entrapment and become powerful,

Resources – what causes us to think we are limited.

This week, we’ll be discussing the last four gifts:

Attitude – why it is the driving force of your life,

Senses – how they help us interpret our world, 

Action – what you do brings you to understanding

…and Perfection – when and where perfection exists, and why you are already perfect!

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Rolf & Inga Maj, circa 1985

The Fourth Gift – Attitude

Adventures with Inga Maj

“Shhh! Shhh!!!! We can’t let them hear us! We just need to find our way back out to the car. I think the parking lot is over here somewhere…”


And more giggling.

A teenaged girl and a middle aged woman, creeping through the darkened halls and rooms of a small town church, trying to escape the boredom of the women’s luncheon, with its cucumber sandwiches, and twittering gossip. 

The more we got lost, the harder we laughed. The more wrong turns we took, the more we had to stifle ourselves. It seemed as though we were caught in a Trojaborg labyrinth.

What would we say if we got caught creeping through the church?

“Wait. No, let’s try this door. Now shh! C’mon, follow me. It can’t be that far. There has to be a back way out of here. Look, I think I see a stairwell or something!”

And more giggling! 

Oh the giggling… And stumbling over furniture. Creaking doors that seemed loud enough they might hear us in Norway! Rooms and halls so dark we could barely see one of us in front of the other. 

Eventually we did find our way out to the car. And then we sat there, in Inga Maj’s Saab, in that church parking lot, laughing so hard we had tears rolling down our cheeks. What a predicament we’d gotten ourselves into! Again.

During the summers of 1984 and 1985, I spent several weeks in Dals Ed, Sweden with my high school friend Rolf and his mom Inga Maj. That first summer Rolf was working at the Saab plant and so Inga Maj and I were left most days to get into trouble… er, spend time together.

She has always been an adventurous spirit. Even without intention, she would get us – and often her neighbor Rita – into the most hilarious situations. Situations which, thirty five years later, I still recall and retell with guffaws and snorts of delight. 

Attitude is the driving force behind a person’s behavior.

Inga Maj had attitude. 

There is no other way to describe it. She always made whatever circumstance we’d gotten ourselves into, something fun and memorable. From missing the ferry departure on our way to Denmark and having to make another entire round trip to Sweden and back (story for another time)… to midnight drives across the border into Norway with Inga Maj driving me past old abandoned houses and Rita telling me scary stories about them. It was always an experience for the memory book.

Her attitude was one I have admired for all these years. I later found my oldest sister Helen and recognized in her, also, a spirit of fun, excitement, and crazy exploits. The memory of the laughter I have shared with those two women will always be cherished in my memories. 

Point: Attitude is the driving force behind a person’s behavior. Negative attitudes beget negative experiences, responses, and behavior. The opposite is true for positive attitudes. 

Attitude can be fleeting or persistent. It is a commentary on both past and present events. When we encounter something or someone more than once, we usually develop an “attitude” about it. Something we like, dislike, something we find distasteful or pleasant. It is determined by ideas, values, perceptions, experiences. Both family life and societal experiences are formative. 

In today’s vernacular, “attitude” simply means a person who is self-confident, bold, and comfortable in their own skin. Sometimes to a negative extreme.

But, in the case of people like Inga Maj (still alive and feisty) and Helen (sadly passed on for over a decade now), it is/was all that… to the positive extreme.

As the Stone of Death is lifted from your eyes for another day… accept the gift of attitude. 

Be confident, open to adventures, and explorations of all kinds. You are uniquely you. Never forget it. And rest easy in knowing that others won’t either. 

Sonoran Monsoon

The Fifth Gift – Senses

Marvelous Monsoon

Lightning, bright and yellow, traveling in all directions, in ways I’ve never see lighting travel before! Sideways, multiple bolts at once, spider webs of electricity. Thunder crashing so loudly the windows shake. Rain pummeling downward in such quantity and with such force that it looks and feels like all the oceans of Heaven have burst through the clouds at once. 

The washes – aka dry river beds – flood almost instantly with runoff from the rains. The ground is so hard and dry, it doesn’t soak much in. Instead, it just allows it to roll off mountainsides and down through flat lands, cutting its way through the desert floor in a violent and tumultuous flow over rocks, boulders, and around trees. 

Less than 30 minutes ago, the sun was out and we could watch the thunderclouds building higher and higher overhead. Darkening, spreading, moving ever closer. At first we simply watched the lightning from afar, heard the distant rumble. As the storm moved closer, the winds blew themselves into a frenzy, moving dust and grit through the air. Sometimes you can even feel the grit in your teeth, so fine, and foreign in your mouth.

The sense of sudden humidity is unmistakable. You can smell it in the air as it approaches. As the rain actually begins to fall, there is a smell of something like tar… acrid, intense, and thoroughly intoxicating. The chaparral bushes – aka, creosote and greasewood – during a rainstorm are by far the most distinctive smell in the desert. It is the smell of something that has been dry as dust, suddenly drenched. The ozone from the intense lightning also fills the air, bringing with it the clean smell of charged ions. 

When living in a place where rain is so scarce, there is particular enjoyment feeling the big fat drops of water pelting your skin. They are heavy, and hard hitting – nature’s water massage. 

During Sonoran Monsoon, all five senses are engaged. We see the lightning, hear the thunder, smell the desert florae, taste the grit in our mouth, and feel the touch of the raindrops on our skin. 

Accept the gift of your senses. They are the gateway to your understanding of the world around you and how you choose to communicate experiences and information to the outside world.

It is one of the most magical times in this beautiful, colorful, and flowering desert my family and I now call home. 

Point: As human beings, we process all information (experiential that is, both internal and external) through our five senses. And then we turn them into language! 

We all experience things differently, however. For some of us sight is more acute and for others, it is our hearing. Usually one sense or the other is dominant, and for that reason it becomes our language and how we prefer to communicate our experiences to others’.

If one sense or the other is lacking, the others will make up the difference. For instance, if someone is blind, their senses of hearing and touch, is likely enhanced. And therefore, their preferred way of communicating may be to tell you about things with references to those senses. 

As the Stone of Death is lifted from your eyes for another day… Accept the gift of your senses.

They are the gateway to your understanding of the world around you and how you choose to communicate experiences and information to the outside world. 

Icy rushing waters.

The Sixth Gift – Action

The Icy Log

Many years back I lived in a lovely place in the middle of the (then) Cuyahoga Valley National Recreational Area – now a National Park. There were trails of every difficulty level, and the CVNRA was my introduction to the joys of hiking.

My initial forays with my hiking buddy were short, flat, trails that could be accomplished in an hour or less. Then I began to venture onto longer, steeper, more challenging trails. Even one night hike where we were rewarded with a coyote serenade under the light of the full moon!

In Ohio, people hike year round. Except for blizzards and drenching rains, you can see people on the trails during just about any month. 

One day in the deep of winter, my hiking buddy and I decided we needed to get out for some fresh air. We’d been cooped up in a small apartment for too long, and the smell of the pines was calling to us. We went out to one of our favorite areas to explore a trail we’d not been on past a certain point. The map listed it as a relatively easy hike. There was snow on the ground, so we decided an “easy” trail would be most prudent.

We left the car and headed down to the trail head. The trail wove its way through some old farming land, a hemlock forest, and along a river gorge. We were bundled up in heavy jeans, coats, boots, etc.

Down we walked to the creek bed, per the map, and the trail literally disappeared into the creek. The fast… running… creek.


A line of stepping stones across the water were barely visible. They were clearly meant to be the path across the water – but they were mostly submerged. Snow had melted recently and the creek was running deep and fast.

<squeak again!>

That was it for me! I was ready to about face and head on up toward the parking lot. My hiking buddy had to call me back to the creekside.

“Where are you goin’?”

“Back to the car!” <duh> “If we can’t cross the water, we can’t do the trail. What am I missing?” (No one ever accused me of being the most tactful person when I’m disappointed about something.)

“Well! We’ll just cross the water. Look, there’s a fallen log there. We’ll use that to get across.”

A feather could have knocked me over at that moment. Fallen log??? No….. ice covered, slippery, “fallen” log.

It was then that we had “the discussion” about our next course of action. Do we give up and leave? Or do we attempt to cross the water. You already know what my choice was. But “the hiking buddy” was dead set on pressing onward. 

I was on an ice covered log, in an Ohio forest, praying to all the gods that were, to please please please not let me fall into the rushing water below.

I’d never attempted such a thing. All I could think of was high school gym class where, as <ahem!> a plump teenager, I could barely “scooch” my way across a balance beam. It was 1998, and at 32, I was still quite plump and just couldn’t imagine myself “scooching” on ice, over quickly running icy water. It seemed, to be frank… stupid. Wreckless. Nonsensical. Insane.

But he did have a way of making anything sound possible and even excitingly adventurous. So… I stood on the bank watching how he did it – all 6’6” of him with long arms and legs. He made it look perfectly doable, and not nearly as scary as my first impression. 

Before I knew it, he was on the other side, smiling and laughing and encouraging me to come over. 

Uh huh.

Onto the log I scrambled. My fat short little “herron legs” (as my family calls them with such irony) hanging off either side of a log that suddenly felt waaaaay thicker than it looked. I felt like I was splayed in two. And now I realized I had nothing – no thing – to hold onto other than the damn ice covered log. 


I reached in front me and down to the log – per the instructions shouted to me from “the other side” – and began to attempt to pull myself along, inch by inch. The seat of my jeans was already soaked from the melting ice. I moved as a sloth on a hot humid jungle day.

Except I wasn’t in the jungle.

I was on an ice covered log, in an Ohio forest, praying to all the gods that were, to please please please not let me fall into the rushing water below.

It was touch and go, literally, for the fifteen minutes or so it took me to actually get to the end of the log. At one point there was a… knot… in the log, over which I had to move without skewering myself. 

<spoiler> Eventually, I made it. But you knew that, right? I’m a pretty determine person once I get started on something. “Persistent” they call me these days. 

I made it. My butt wet and cold, my boots soaked because I hat to step in the water to get off the damn log. But… I made it.

Laughing. Squealing. Breathing hard. 

What a rush! I did it! And I didn’t die!

Point: I made the decision to stop agonizing and just take action. And that is precisely what led me to the conclusion of, “Laughing. Squealing. Breathing hard. What a rush! I did it! And I didn’t die!” 

Sure, I could have fallen in, and been gravely injured or worse. But I didn’t. I trusted the person with me, but most of all, I trusted myself to take that action. 

I talked to you last week about choices. We all make the best choices we can at the time, and usually it is to act in some way. To do something. All actions have a purpose and a positive intention, and through our actions, we begin to understand. We engage, and we practice. And we learn.

As the Stone of Death is lifted from your eyes for another day… Accept the gift of action.

Make your choices, and then take action on them. What you do will bring you to the next step of your learning. How you act will determine your next choice, and your next action, and so on.

Nothing can stand in your way unless you choose to take no action. Keep on, keepin’ on. 


The Eagle flying over the Great Turtle Island. Original art by Jim Great Elk Waters.

The Seventh Gift – Perfection

The Eagle and the Pine Tree

In the time before time – long before there were two leggeds – there were the finned people, winged people, and four leggeds. All creatures went about their lives, swimming though the oceans and rivers, flying over beautiful turtle island, and roaming the bountiful forests and plains. Life was very good. Bellies were always full, and everyone had enough of everything they needed to be happy. 

And they were very very happy. They were so happy that they began talking with one another about how to express their gratitude to Creator. 

Many ideas were proffered but it was agreed the Pine Tree had the best idea. Pine Tree was the tallest tree in the land. His branches soared towards the heavens. 

“My trunk is tallest and I will grow even more branches that will reach up to brush the face of Creator and express our Joy and Gratitude for everything He has gifted us.”

All agreed this was a great idea! 

So Pine Tree grew and stretched… and gre-e-e-e-ew and stre-e-e-e-etched. He reached as far as he could reach and still, he could not come close to touching Creator. 

“I should do it,” cried Eagle. “I will fly up into the sky, high enough to touch Creator’s face and share our feelings!”

Eagle flew higher, and higher, and higher still. She flapped her wings harder than she ever had… and still, she could not come close to touching Creator. 

She came back, exhausted, out of breath, and ashamed of her failure. Everyone was sad and despondent.

“How will we ever let Creator know how happy and grateful we are? He must know. He has been so generous with us.”

They talked and talked until finally Pine Tree looked at Eagle and said, “If you go high up into my tallest branches, you can begin your journey from there and certainly you will be able to reach Creator then! We will work together to bring the message of the People to Creator!”

Not one of us is broken. Creator is perfection, and therefore brings forth perfection in all things.

Everyone perked up and clapped and cheered. “Yay! Pine Tree & Eagle will deliver our thanks!”

So Eagle flew up to a branch of Pine Tree, and there she rested. Again, she flew up, this time to a higher branch still. And she rested. She repeated this until she got to the very topmost branches of Pine Tree’s tall grandeur. 

From there she could see all across the Land. The beautiful mountains and valleys, crystal clear rivers and streams, deep blue seas and oceans. What a gift they had been given! It was breathtaking indeed. 

With a renewed sense of obligation and energy, she soared even higher. Before long, she had flown high enough. She gently brushed Creator’s face, sharing the People’s gratitude through her wing feathers and the cry of the Eagle. 

Creator understood and was so very proud of them.

Afterwards she flew back down to the Land, and told everyone of her adventure – what she’d seen on the journey, and how she had delivered their Message. 

They were enthralled with the tale and celebrated well into the night, honoring Pine Tree and Eagle for working so well together. 

Everything Creator has ever made is perfection. And, from that point forward, they knew always that their individual perfection could create compounded perfection when they worked together to accomplish a singular goal. 

Point: Not one of us is broken. Creator is perfection, and therefore brings forth perfection in all things. 

Sometimes we are disappointed in ourselves and come to believe we cannot accomplish our dreams. At worst, we give up. At best, we acknowledge there are only bad choices and strategies, not bad or broken people.

When we combine our own perfection with others’, and an excellent strategy… we can accomplish amazing feats. 

As the Stone of Death is lifted from your eyes for another day… Accept the gift of perfection. 

Your own. Others’. And all of Creation. 

Don’t doubt it. Don’t fight it. Be it. 


Over the last two weeks, I’ve shared with you the story of the Stone of Death and of the Seven Gifts we receive each day the stone is lifted. 

These gifts all have their roots in the Four Stepping Stones of Life – Fear, Time, Joy, and Vision. We must remind ourselves every day that to be, do, and have everything we need and desire (for they are not the same thing), these seven concepts are guides to success.

Hope – It is the root of all the other gifts, for as long as you have hope, all other things are possible.

Choice – End the feeling of entrapment and become powerful. You are never without choices, they are as limitless as your imagination.

Resources – There is no limit, we have no limits. Endless supply is yours for the making, acknowledge your power and create that which you need to take your next steps.

Attitude – It is the driving force of behavior. Stay confident and open to adventures that remind you… you are uniquely you and unforgettable.

Senses – They are your interpretation of the world around you. Through them, you develop a language to communicate your experiences to others. And others use theirs to speak to you.

Action – Choices bring you to actions which bring you to learning and understanding. Take action, follow through, and you will be lead to higher learning.

…and Perfection – We are all perfect and unbroken. Remember it is only your choices or actions which may be imperfect. Alone or together, when we have good strategies, we can accomplish most anything. Accept your perfection and that of others.

Adien. (It is done.)



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The Keepers

Jim Great Elk (kiji) and Kelly Talking Heron (Ashá) are Wisdom Keepers,
who believe everyone walks their own path on the Circle of Life.

Through the Powaka Experience, you master four basic Stepping Stones to
your center… where you learn to Walk in Balance and discover Your Destiny.