The Delaware – or, as they called themselves, the Lenape – Indians held a celebration every year in the Autumn after the harvest called the “New Year Big House Ceremony.” Deep in the forest, they would construct a large rectangular building with twelve poles carved into the twelve faces of their creator, Gicelemû’kaong. This building represented the universe to the Lenape, as a sacred space symbolizing the vast everything they understood to surround them. In this space, they would gather in their best clothes and pray together to the creator to bless them and their families if that should be his wish.
To any foreigner listening to these prayers, should he understand their language, he would hear words very similar to those of the Judeo-Christian rites. They pray to the will of an all-powerful creator whom they hope to join in the afterlife in the spirit-world, should their actions on this Earth dictate them worthy. They acknowledge the powers of the Earth and the spirits as being granted by the single creator, and part of his will. Even their talks of morality seem word for word.
And so, in this hut in the middle of the forest, buried amongst the hills and valleys of Northeastern America, this great culture built their churches as a gateway to the Sacred truth, just as people around the world build their own churches for the same purpose. We all need our sacred spaces, whether they be towers or huts, or quiet apartments in bustling cities. Like all symbols, we find a connection to something greater; perhaps a metaphor for that greater power.
Several nights ago, I dreamt of a vivid house, gothic architecture with baroque scroll-work on the wooden door frames. I spent a long time in the house that night, learning all the secret passages and hidden creaks. Unlike most of my pleasant dreams, the memories stayed around with me of this old house. I could smell the dust in the air, the wavy way the light passed through the old deformed glass, the cool touch of the bare wood against my feet, and the warmth of the evening light across my face.
I kept thinking about the house over the last few days, exploring it with my mind on long drives, or while I daydream. I search through each of the rooms in turn, leaving no shelf unbrushed, no crack unnoticed. Only recently, I’ve begun to start adding things, flowers, furniture, etc. I am fixing it up like an old house waiting for my attention. I take my time with it, carefully paying attention to each room. And now, after it is becoming a regular place for my thoughts, I’ve begun to file them away. I place those memories of childhood sports into the spare bedroom closet, organizing them by year and by sport. My ex-girlfriends have shelf space in the great foyer, each with a subtle shrine. My seventh grade math class lives in a shoebox beside the exit to the roof-garden, next to my cutting shears.
A place for each thought, and each thought in its place. My mind is slowly structuring itself, like a good spring cleaning. I don’t know where the motivation came from, but it feels right. The house is more than a way to keep my thoughts in place, though. It is a sacred thing, like my meditations feel. When I am there, I am in prayer, supplication, and prostration. It is a good place for me.