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Finding Asia Update

November 19, 2015

For those of you looking for a deal on an E-Book, Finding Asia will be heavily discounted starting today, November 19. You had your chance at a free copy and now I’m going to charge the beastly sum of $0.99. It’s still a great deal and will be available at that price for a week.

To see where it ranks, check out how it’s done over the past three days.

Not too shabby!

And while I’m at it, starting this Sunday, November 22 “Life, the Yurt and Everything” will be going through the same promotion. Look for it!

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Into the Circle

November 19, 2015

“Are you on your moon time?” the young woman asks.

I overhear the private conversation even though I’m not supposed to. Sylvie mouths the words back to her slowly before the meaning makes sense.

“Uh, no,” she whispers back, a little ashamed, not for the invasiveness of the question, but the ignorance of its implication.

“Sorry but I have to ask all the women. If you’re on your moon time you’re not supposed to be in the circle. They say it weakens the men,” the blonde haired woman says before shuffling along. Taking up the question with other women.

Her walk is deliberate. Her cause noble.

The man in question grimaces under the burden. His pain shared by all of us in the circle.

He is to ‘break free’ only his skin isn’t co-operating.

In two locations, under the man’s skin, through an incision, rests a short wooden stick. The stick protrudes in the middle of the shoulder blades. Attached to each stick is a rope. They connect in a ‘V’ shape to a larger rope. That larger rope is harnessed to a harrow of bison skulls.

With the jaw bone removed, the teeth of the skulls dig into the raw grass. The warrior must drag the harrow around the circle until his skin, weakened from tension, breaks.

On the first pass helpers pull the man along. The resilient skin taught but firm. As the man stops to catch his breath after the first pass, flags are draped for extra pressure. The march commences. The same result.

On the third pass the team makes sure the warrior breaks free. Each takes up a seat on top of a skull. The harrow of skulls will not move.

To release the energy; the burden of prayer, or disease of whatever dispensation the warrior has chosen to dedicate his performance in the ceremony, cannot be achieved until the skin has been broken.

Intensifying matters are challenging conditions: no food or water and a now smoldering atmosphere. The clouds, and more favourable temperate conditions, have given way to an unforgiving sun. Its relentless heat another element to overcome.

The man backs slowly to the skulls. He prepares to run. The sudden jolt an incentive to bust through the skin and release his prayer. The rope snaps! The man staggers to the ground. A grimace emanates through the crowd. We’re with him now, feeling every twinge of energy.

The others help him to his feet. The drumming intensifies. In a circle, attached to their own ropes are the dancers. Instead of an incision through the skin of the shoulder blade, they are pierced in the chest above the nipple. Their ropes are connected to the sacred tree in the middle of the open circle. This is not their time. It will come later.

All eyes turn to the man desperate to break free. He backs up to hitch himself again. We cringe. The shared pain reverberates through the entire circle.

Did we think we would be passive witnesses?

As we doused ourselves in smoke before joining the crowd under the covered boughs of leaves I felt my participation would end there. Cloaked amongst the branches I could watch. Observe. The moment the ceremony intensified those thoughts dashed.

It’s impossible not to feel moved. Feel the drum beat picking up your feet. Your body swaying to the rhythm. Energy releasing out into the collective circle.

It’s nothing like I anticipated.

Finding Asia is now Free until Wednesday, November 18.

November 16, 2015

For a limited time I’ve signed up “Finding Asia” as a free E-book for Kindle.

This isn’t just a travel story per se. At the heart are two professional people trying to unravel the parenting/career conundrum. To have or not to have children.

We’ve all been there haven’t we? Your career is established. You’re successful. Life is great. Except one minor detail: the biological clock. It waits for no one. How do you definitively answer the question of whether or not you’re ready to become a parent? A six-week backpacking adventure to Vietnam and Thailand should do it!

http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Asia-Jason-Hamilton-ebook/dp/B00VTYJFC0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447694455&sr=8-1&keywords=finding+asia

Flail with the Mazeltons

November 16, 2015

It was a race to get to the ceremony in time. Or so we thought. Almost as soon as we arrive, we’re turning around. Re-tracing our steps. Sylvie is deliberately silent. She’s seen me not at my best. She thinks this too, is one of those occasions.

“I’m not upset,” I say.

“Not even a little bit?” she asks me.

“No.”

“You’re not angry that I’m right?”

“Okay, maybe a little bit about that,” I say and we both chuckle.

Heading into Richibucto we take our time getting back to town. Urgency has passed. The Warriors will not break free until Sunday morning.

But even being in the shadow of such a ceremony, Sylvie and I are both excited to experience as much of it as we can. We head straight to Rossy’s, a local department store in Richibucto.

At first I consider waiting in the car. If getting to the ceremony was an adventure unto itself, imagine waiting for Sylvie as she shops. I honestly don’t know what becomes of her when she enters a store for “Five minutes”. Is there a vortex? A dimensional door I (and most men) am unaware of?

I wait for ten minutes before losing patience and checking on progress.

When I get in the store the entire staff is in a frenzy.

“What’s going on?” I ask one of them.

“Is that your wife?” a woman replies, breathless. I bow my head and give it a nod.

Evidently, it can’t be just ANY skirt. It has to look right. The ladies (fighting through the imminent arrival of winter product in the middle of summer) are scouring the place looking for anything long flowing that can be made into a skirt.

I approach the ringleader with trepidation.

“Am I in a Seinfeld episode?” I say trying to sound witty.

“What do you mean?” Sylvie responds.

“I got bed sores waiting in the car for you.”

“Jase, it has to look right,” she counters.

“Okay. But somehow you manage to turn shopping into an Olympic event.”

She considers the statement before responding. She has nothing. She shrugs her shoulders and continues. She rifles through racks before finding the right item.

“This is just how we are. We flail. Come flail with the Mazeltons,” she says.

“That has a nice ring to it,” I confess.

“Got it,” she says and plucks a dress out at random.

Finally, a resolution. I bolt for the door. There’s no shadow behind me. I stop. A negotiation at the check-out?

“I’m going to get changed,” Sylvie calls before taking the dress and a pair of scissors to the back of the store.

Come flail with the Mazelton’s. Why not, we seem to be quite talented.

Book Re-Launch: “Life, the Yurt and Everything” and “Finding Asia”

November 12, 2015

Hey Gang

Since the Christmas season is around the corner I’m getting into the spirit of the thing with a book re-launch. Make that times 2. Starting this Sunday, November 15, 2015 the e-book version of “Finding Asia” will be totally free. But remember, this is for a limited time. Three days to be exact. After that, the price starts to creep back up.

Next month I’ll be doing a similar promotion with “Life, the Yurt and Everything”.

You can order the books here:

http://www.amazon.com/author/jasonehamilton

I will revisit the Sundance Ceremony soon.

Cheers,

Jason E. Hamilton

Ceremonial Dressings (part 2)

November 9, 2015

It’s the first turn after the main road into Elsipogtog. It’s a simple design. One font. About the size of a minor street sign. It says one thing with an arrow: “Sundance”. It points left. After we turn the trail goes cold. No further indications we’re on the right path. We continue several kilometre’s, keeping our eyes open.

For what exactly, I’m not sure. Being former film technicians we’re well versed in seeking out unusual locations. It’s a sixth sense from having driven one too many back roads. And the parade of bright orange pylons (later neon green which threw me off for a spell of time), long and consistent enough to land a 747 Jumbo Jet, taught me to trust that the way would eventually be indicated.

Up the road a spell there is a larger sign for a wellness centre. There are vehicles coming and going. As it’s the summer and the mosquitoes have been surprisingly docile, we turn down the windows. The heavy beat reverberates inside the car. We’re getting close. The road is a narrow two lane paved street with no shoulder. Standing at attention, the forest longs for the moment when it isn’t tamed. It would chew through the asphalt in no time to reclaim its’ territory. The old growth looms large above and stretches out into the thoroughfare.

An easement appears, as though a conciliation from the woods, a sliver of a path opens to reveal a large clearing beyond. The van slopes gently from the pavement to dirt. We slow as the large tee-pee and fenced off area greets us as we enter the grounds. The pulsing beat of the drum hangs steady in our breath.

We pull the van to a stop beside a vehicle with ‘Maine’ license plates. Appropriate, given the fact our guests from Maine were the one’s to incite us to attend.

Sylvie looks back at her camera bag stowed in the back of the van. She glances at it with a forlorn stare. It pains her to not be able to capture what we’re about to experience.

“I don’t think pictures would do it justice anyway,” I say, trying to reason with her. She takes a deep breath before opening the door. As soon as she does she hesitates. I’m out the door and down the path before I see that she’s stopped.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

“Was I supposed to wear a skirt?” she asks.

I’ve turned to notice a couple walking past. The woman is wearing a full length, flowing skirt that skips along the earth. Her hair is tied back in a pony-tail. Arms fully covered down to the wrist.

Sylvie looks down at her comfortable slacks and shakes her head.

The couple is coming toward us. Straight to the vehicle with the ‘Maine’ plates.

“Excuse me,” Sylvie calls out, “should I be wearing a skirt?”

The couple is more than happy to accommodate.

“Well,” the woman starts, “is it your first time?”

“Yes,” Sylvie confesses.

I blurt in, “Have they broken free?”

“No. They do that tomorrow.”

“See,” Sylvie says and punches me on the shoulder.

“I hate to tell you but they prefer it if the women wear skirts.”

I want to sigh again, but what can you do.

“Thanks,” we say in unison before turning back to the van.

“Back to town?”

“Yup, back to Richibucto. I have to find a skirt.”

Jason and the “Ah-Ha” moment

November 7, 2015

At seven a.m. on a Saturday morning I could be forgiven for being a bit slow. It was the third week-end of hockey. I knew it was coming. The manager was going around the room with her plan for a fundraiser.

“We have a tournament in Saint John, blah, blah, blah,” she went on. I wasn’t awake yet.

“You can either pay me $175 or take these tickets to sell wreaths,” Helene continued.

“Sure,” I said quickly, “give me two envelopes.”

We squared it away. I put on my gear and went out on the ice to help coach. It wasn’t until the blood warmed and we were mid-way through our third drill that what I agreed to do started to sink in.

“Okay. Fundraising. I had to do it as a kid. You bang on doors, sell some tickets and raise some cash. No big deal. Uh, wait. I’m going to be spending my time selling someone else’s product to raise money. It’s like a logo on a shirt, you’re paying a company to promote their product. I can’t count the number of people I know who dress head to toe in Under Armour product. Don’t they know they’re just a walking billboard? And, the coup de grace is they PAID to advertise for someone else.”

I sighed. Twirled around the ice a few more times.

“If I’m going to go door to door, why don’t I sell my own product?”

I jammed on the breaks. Snow flew in some kids face. Oops. Sorry. I picked up the unsuspecting victim, brushed off the snow.

“That’s brilliant. I’ve got books to sell. I can just donate the proceeds to Dustin’s tournaments. It’s where the money is going anyway. Sylvie wants to raffle off her photos. We could set up a web-cam when we do the draw so everyone knows it’s legit.”

Then my brain kicked into over-drive: How many sports organizations have to do the same thing? Could I partner with them?

But wait, the language in both of my books can be a bit ‘blue’ at times. Hold on: What about the Prince of Acadia and the River of Fire? But it’s not finished. Pre-sales.

We could do a raffle for a free week-end stay at the yurt? That’s a brilliant idea.

There’s just one problem.

Why didn’t I think of this idea BEFORE hockey season started!?!

Ceremonial Dressings (part 1)

November 5, 2015

The schedule has been cleared. Our son, 7-year old Dustin, dispatched to his grandparents for the weekend. The X-Factor removed from the equation. But even with him out of the picture, Sylvie and I still can’t seem to get our act together.

“I’m sure they break free this morning,” I say with conviction.

“It’s the third day. That’s what I know,” Sylvie responds.

Each of us has conflicting information. With a place, purpose and stalled action, I start to pace. I abhor being late. Or worse, planning my entire weekend around attending the ceremony and potentially missing a critical moment. The reason for going in the first place. Finally confident her attire is appropriate, yet fashionable, she saunters behind me on her own time. I sigh yet another time.

Sylvie, unperturbed by my passive-aggressive behaviour, calls attention to my state of mind, “What’s that, your fiftieth sigh today?”

“Oh, does that mean you’re finally ready?”

“I’m allowing myself to let the moment make my actions for me.”
She’s feeling it. I’m not. She’s in the right state of mind before she gets to the grounds. I’m a hurry up and get there kind of guy.

She floats to the front seat. Calm. Serene. So Zen it’s almost irritating. With each mystic movement I can feel the grains in the hour glass slip away.

“We’re missing it!” I let my voice bellow in my head.

“Ready?” I finally say with a touch of sarcasm.

**                                                                                                                        **

“It’s not at the same place as the Pow Wow?” I blurt as se slow near Elsipogtog.

“No. It’s totally different from the Pow Wow,” Sylvie replied.

“Then I have no clue where it is.”

“You’d think there would be signs.”

“I hate being late. Because when you’re late then you get lost.”

“Jase, it’s a spiritual ceremony. Try not getting so worked up. So what if we miss it? So What?” her voice is strong. She doesn’t force her point. It isn’t necessary. I get her message. It’s starting to register.

“I’m sure we haven’t missed anything.”

Writer’s Note

November 2, 2015

Due to the sensitive nature of the forthcoming material on the Sundance Ceremony I have opted to deliver this preamble.

My motivation for writing about this ceremony – and other less known events – in New Brunswick is to shed some light on them. Reveal them. Expose them for the wonderful and engaging experiences that they are. New Brunswicker’s. by nature, are a very reserved bunch.

The Sundance Ceremony, however, is not, by its’ nature, a public affair. Over the course of five years I received snippets of information about the event. Bits here and there. Mostly from those I presumed weren’t closely associated with Mic’Maw ways and traditions.

As I became more curious about the scope of the ceremony and what it entailed, the first person I turned to for information was Harry. Our neighbour at the yurt on Wilson Road in Upper Rexton is also a resident of Elsipogtog who belongs to the Mic’Maw band. He spoke freely about the ceremony, answering my questions as I became more curious, but indicated he wouldn’t be in attendance. It wasn’t that he lacked passion about the ceremony, or pride in his people. It was more that he didn’t broadcast the event for all to hear and know. Initially, my interpretation was that it was a festival. I couldn’t have been more wrong or felt more foolish for believing so.

In order to fully grasp the sanctity of the ceremony I was going to have to do some research.

The Sundance Ceremony, as it exists presently, is attributable to the aboriginal tribes of the plains of North America: The Lakota, the Cree and the Sioux. Many other native tribes had ceremonies of a similar nature. Or so it was believed.

Unfortunately, the thinking of the time (late 19th century and early 20th century) was that native people’s would be better served if they could be assimilated. Native languages, customs, culture and religion were outlawed. Sacred ceremonies in particular.

In fact, the desire to do away with native customs was so obscene, that those who managed to gain the trust and transcribe the language onto paper had those volumes of text burned for blasphemy. Not only language, but culture and ceremonial ways were lost as well. (In Canada the Sun Dance was barred from 1895 to 1951. In the United States, the ceremony has only been ‘legal’ since 1978.)

Yet, in secret, away from vengeful, spiteful authorities, those plains tribes continued the tradition of the Sundance Ceremony. Because most traditions were lost, other native tribes throughout North America turned to the plains Sundance Ceremony as a means to revive their culture. The Mic’Maw of Elsipogtog started their ceremony over twenty years ago.

Naturally, the distrust of outsiders has remained constant – the Lakota even banned non-natives from participating in the ceremony for a period of time because of the threat (real or perceived) that the sanctity of the event might be compromised. (Given our track record, who can blame them.)

And yet, the continuation of the tradition depends on it being passed down. It’s a challenging dilemma: Expose yourself – your culture, language and customs – and you risk those customs becoming altered, or worse, commercialized and diminished in importance. But if you throw up barriers in order to protect yourself, those same customs may diminish and die out if they’re not shared and spread.

This is the very fine line that I, as a writer, walk. The ceremony has very strict rules regarding its’ recording. No photos and no media are allowed whatsoever. Initially I thought writing about the event would be acceptable. I was just about to share my experience when a nagging thought went off in the back of my mind: Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to write freely about it.

The research I conducted shared that sentiment. So I contacted my client, who contacted the chief in charge of the ceremony. Here’s what he had to say: “As a writer he can write his opinion and how it felt to him. As long as he writes pertaining to himself, his story, no one can really object.”

And so, dear reader, I will do my very best to give due respect to this ancient tradition while sharing with you what it was like to bear witness to such an incredible ceremony.

New Brunswick: Frontier of the Canadian Dream

October 21, 2015

“Say what?”

“New Brunswick is the Frontier of the Canadian Dream.”

“What the hell does that mean and why is it your next book?”

“You just said finding things to do that we can take advantage of locally, right?”

“Yeesss.” Sylvie wondered.

“There’s a shit-tonne of things to do here that nobody knows about.”

“Okay….”

“Take the Leaf Run in Richibucto. It isn’t advertised. It isn’t in the newspaper. No one knows about it. And yet, every year there’s a friggin’ regatta at the head of the river. Everyone gathers around and this amazing event takes place.”

“Okay, now I see where you’re going with this.”

“The Sundance Festival. The Leaf Run. And those things are just in the Richibucto area. I bet every part of New Brunswick has their own happening that no one knows about. They’re not advertised. There’s no coverage. The only people who know it’s happening are the locals and they don’t want anyone to know about it.”
“You don’t think so?”

“Nope.”
Sylvie stood, dumbfounded.

“Here’s my theory: you always here about how New Brunswick is called the drive-thru province. It’s the province in the way between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. You have to go through it to get somewhere else. How do we get them to stop? If we wanted tourists to stop, wouldn’t we do a better job of sharing the best events we have to offer?”

“Yeah, you’d think so wouldn’t you,” she agreed.

“But if you those tourists discovered those amazing events they might be inclined to stay. They might discover that New Brunswick is the frontier of the Canadian Dream.”

“Alright, then what’s the Canadian Dream?”

“Are you ready for this?”

“Spit it out Jase, you know I get bored quick if you don’t get to the point.”

“I met this guy at work and do you know what his big motivation in life was.”

“Nope,” Sylvie said and started to fidget. I had to speed up my sermon.

“He wanted to have enough money so he could have a big piece of land. And on that land he wanted to be able to sit on his front porch with his gun and shoot it whenever and at whatever he wanted without his neighbours knowing or caring.”
I was all worked up. I had her attention. Now was the time to deliver the knock-out punch.”
“The Canadian Dream is to be rich and anonymous!”