When I arrived, the kitchen was already filling with chatter, laughter, and the smell of sautéed onions. Quilt Artist stirred a pot of lentil soup. “The greens are from my garden,” she said. Math Teacher set out a salad covered with blueberries and walnuts. I began cutting up the baguette I’d bought on my way.
It was still warm enough to sit outside in short sleeves. We carried our full plates out to the backyard, where pine trees surrounded us, a circle of eight women who talked busily as we ate, catching up on the news of the summer. It was getting dark by the time we tackled the plate of homemade brownies. Every good potluck includes chocolate.
Quilt Artist had given us each a tobacco tie: just a pinch of tobacco wrapped in a square of fabric. She’d brought a talking stick, too, and a smudgestick so that we could cleanse the night air with the scent of burning sage. Gathered around a crackling fire, we watched the moon rise through the conifers and passed the talking stick from woman to woman. We began with gratitude, of course, as is the tradition in this region. Then, quietly, each woman said aloud her wishes, her difficulties, her prayers.
When I was done talking, I knelt by the fire to set my tobacco tie on a log. I like to hear the tobacco crackle and smell the burning. Then I sat back my chair to watch the flames and listen as the women around me shared their stories.