Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Creating Ceremony: Healing the Spirit of Suicidal Veterans

Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Creating Ceremony: Healing the Spirit of Suicidal Veterans

Article excerpt

The only cure

I know

is a good ceremony,

that's what she said.

-Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony1

I hit a moose.

I was riding a Honda Sabre 700 motorcycle around 60 mph one night, eight miles south of Pinedale, Wyoming, and I took my eyes off of the road, for just a moment, in order to watch the red, flashing airport lights in the distance.

I wore black Navy flight deck boots, grey wash jeans, a white T-shirt, a black leather jacket, and a black, full-face Shoei Z-100 helmet that saved my life. When I looked at the road again, a large moose was directly in my path. She had emerged from the willows on the right side of the road and was moving slowly across to the left. You're not getting out of this one, I thought to myself.

In the moment before we hit, I felt her presence, and our spirits merged. Then my right side hit her left side, and I was flooded with information about her life. I bounced off of her body. My left side hit the pavement, and the gas tank of the motorcycle folded around my left knee. The momentum threw me forward, and all of my weight pressed into the front of my helmet, as I slid along the road like a free diver entering deep water, my face an inch from the pavement. I relaxed my body almost completely. Instead of contracting the muscles on the back of my neck to raise my head, I lengthened my neck, lightly firmed all of the neck muscles, and lightly pressed my face further into the pavement to stabilise my neck, allowing the helmet to protect my face. Then I lost consciousness.

When I regained consciousness, I looked around and assessed the situation. I noticed that I was lying on a paved road in motorcycle clothes. Something's wrong, I thought. I must have been in an accident. The last thing I remembered was standing at the head of Pier 12 on the Norfolk Naval Base at 4 AM, taking one final look at the aircraft-carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), before I turned to ride to a new duty station in San Diego. Three years of memories flooded my mind - the scream and fire of jet engines during night flight operations, the smell of jet exhaust and nonskid, and the water - so much beautiful water.

A man approached me on the pavement. 'Are you still with us, buddy?' he asked.

'Yes,' I replied. 'Where am I?'

'By Pinedale,' he responded.

'Pinedale, I'm from Pinedale,' I said.

A semi approached, and the man stood in front of it and waved until it stopped. A short while later, an ambulance came and took me to the Pinedale Clinic. They quickly decided to send me to the hospital, seventy-seven miles away in Jackson.

In the ambulance, the pain was significant. My abdominal muscles contracted and froze, as if to protect me from further trauma. I felt like I had been hit by a wall-sized sledge hammer. I am accustomed to high levels of pain, but this level was new. I gathered my energy at the base of my spine, and then I flowed like a river of wind up my spine, through the top of my head, and out of my body. I rested outside of my body for a moment, and then I entered again. I visualised a thermostat and linked my pain to it. As I turned the thermostat down, I turned off my pain. Then I turned it back on a small amount, so I could monitor my body.

In the hospital, they moved quickly and performed emergency surgery. My most significant injury was internal bleeding from a lacerated spleen. I was fortunate - the medical team was exceptional. The surgeon wrapped my spleen with a portion of omentum and saved it. I was left with a scar from just below my sternum to a few inches below my navel.

Six days later, I was out of the hospital. It took me over a month to walk well again. The first time I drove afterwards, my body shook steadily for over an hour. Then it simply stopped shaking.

And a Moose Hit Me

And in the belly of this story

the rituals and the ceremony

are still growing.

-Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony2

Years later, I was walking one summer night in Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, and I misread the mood of a young male moose. …

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