Journey is about a middle school student who meets his
spirit guide in human form during a low period in his life.
He is the child of an alcoholic and feels very isolated when his
spirit guide appears and begins educating him about who he really is -
who his ancestors were as well as who he is spiritually. My hope
is to use the book as an educational tool with middle school students
who are struggling with parents who have substance abuse issues and to
introduce them to journeying through the book. In this chapter, Michael
has been suspended from school for beating up another student. He
is on the first day of his suspension and has just left the restaurant
where his mother works when he again runs into his spirit guide,
Michael nodded his head and quickly left the restaurant. His
stomach felt nice and full but nothing else felt very settled. It
was a Friday and he was not at school. As he walked slowly back
towards his apartment he realized how important school had become for
him. He didn’t always feel completely safe walking through the
corridors at school, due in large part to Jamal and some of Jamal’s
friends, but there was a consistency there that he didn’t have in any
other part of his life. He knew what to expect at school. And he
truly liked most of his teachers. He felt a little lost without
He was thinking about the next few days and what he would do with his
time when he looked up and saw the old man from yesterday, leaning
against the wall of the convenience store, in almost the same place
that he had seen him the day before.
“Hello Michael,” Chief lifted his arm in greeting. “How is life
treating you today?”
“I’m OK,” Michael answered, feeling a little guarded around this
“Isn’t it funny how we don’t appreciate something until we don’t have
it anymore?” Chief asked.
Michael was now standing next to the old man. He looked at him
inquisitively. “What are you talking about?” Michael asked, even
though he had an idea what the old man was referring to. It was
uncanny the way this old guy knew stuff about him. Michael didn’t
trust him and was certainly not going to make it easy for him.
“Well, in this case, I’m talking about school,” Chief answered.
“But it could apply to many things. We just don’t seem to
really appreciate things or people until they are no longer around.”
“Whatever,” Michael responded, not wanting to encourage further
conversation with this guy.
“Yeah, whatever,” Chief replied, turning to lean against the wall in
imitation of Michael.
Michael turned his head to look over at Chief. He was feeling
quite irritated and didn’t like this old guy mocking him. “Don’t
you have anything better to do right now? Michael asked.
Chief thought for a minute and then shook his head slowly. “No,
not really." Then he looked over at Michael and added, “I guess
you don’t either, huh?”
This guy was really making him mad now. “Who are you?” Michael
asked in exasperation.
“Oh I’m sorry,” Chief responded. “You don’t remember my name.
You can call me ‘Chief,’” he said as he extended his hand.
Michael ignored his outstretched hand. “I remember your name. I want to
know what you are doing here. Why do you keep
asking me questions? Are you some kind of pervert?” Michael
looked directly into Chief’s eyes.
The old man stared straight back into Michael’s eyes. Michael
felt mesmerized. There was such a look of caring in the old man’s
eyes that Michael thought he might start crying. He looked down
to break the spell.
“I just want to help you, Michael. I want to be your friend.
You seem like you could use a friend about now,” Chief answered.
Michael remained silent.
“Hey, did you have a chance to ask your Mom about your Dad last night?”
Chief asked, breaking the silence.
“No, my Mom wasn’t in a place to talk about much of anything last
night,” Michael answered, thinking about the previous night.
“Yeah, that must be hard, not really having anyone to talk with at
home,” Chief said. He continued, “You know it’s not your fault.”
Michael looked up at him. Anticipating Michael’s next
question he quickly followed with, “your Mom’s drinking. It’s not
your fault and you can’t do anything about it.”
“I hate that she drinks all the time!” Michael exclaimed, tears now
falling uncontrollably from his eyes. He did not even bother
asking this time how Chief knew this information. He had never
talked to anyone about his mother’s drinking, not even Felicia. Felicia
knew about it, of course. She had seen Michael’s Mom drunk many times,
but they had never talked about it. It felt
good to actually say it out loud.
“I know you hate it, Michael,” Chief answered tenderly. “And your
mother is going to have to find her own way with this. You are
not going to be able to rescue her, Michael.” Chief placed his hand
gently on Michael’s shoulder.
They stood this way for a couple of minutes, with Michael allowing
Chief to make contact with him while he silently cried. When
Michael realized he was crying in public and kids from school might see
him, he abruptly pulled away from Chief and brushed the tears away from
his eyes with the sleeve from his shirt. Chief respected the
distance Michael had created between them and stayed right where he had
“Hey kid, you need to leave!” The store owner had come out in
front and was yelling at Michael. “There’s no loitering, see?” he
continued, pointing towards a posted sign a few feet from where Michael
Michael looked over at Chief, who had not moved. “How come he is
not telling you to leave, too?” Michael asked Chief.
Before Chief could answer, the owner had walked over and was standing
right in front of Michael, completely ignoring Chief, who was standing
to his left. “What did you say?” The owner asked angrily. “Are you
going to give me a problem here? Do I need to call
“No, I was just wondering why…” Michael was cut off from finishing his
“Meet me at the park,” Chief said quickly and walked off, leaving
Michael to face the owner alone.
The owner continued staring angrily at Michael. “Just wondering
what?” the owner asked.
“Just wondering….” Michael’s voice trailed off. “Never mind, I’m
leaving.” Michael turned and headed off towards the park, the
same direction in which Chief had walked. Michael felt baffled.
It was as though the owner had not even seen Chief standing next
He was going to ask Chief about this as soon as he got to the park.
There were so many questions that he had for this old guy.
His ability to seemingly disappear was just one of many things he
wanted to ask him about.
Michael got to the park a few minutes later. It had been a little
league field, with a baseball diamond and dugouts. But Michael
had never known it to be anything but what it was today, a hangout for
drug dealers and junkies. Weeds covered much of the field, which
was littered with broken bottles and trash. Michael saw Chief
sitting in the dugout, looking like one of the homeless men who would
often sleep on the dilapidated bench.
“Down here, Michael,” Chief called out. Michael headed to the
steps that would take him down to where Chief was sitting. He sat
down next to Chief. He had so many questions for him; he wasn’t
sure where to start. “Sorry about that Michael, I didn’t think I could
help you much back at
the store,” Chief said, preempting Michael’s first question.
“How do you do that?” Michael finally asked. You keep
disappearing. I feel like I am the only one who can see you.”
“People see what they want to see,” Chief responded.
“Well, how come I can see you?” Michael continued, frustrated with
Chief’s evasive answers.
“Because you are ready,” Chief replied, looking directly at Michael.
“Ready for what?!” Michael could not contain his exasperation.
“Ready to see what I have to show you. I want to take you
somewhere, Michael. On a journey.”
Michael turned his head to look at Chief, feeling more and more
confused. Chief now had a big round drum in his left hand and a
drum stick in his other hand. He began to hit the drum in a
quick, steady beat with the stick. “Just close your eyes, Michael
and listen to the sound of the drum,” Chief advised.
Michael did not want to close his eyes. In fact, he did not want
to do anything that Chief asked him to do. Michael was starting
to feel a little crazy. He was beginning to think that maybe he
had the same sickness that Jake had – hearing voices and seeing things
that weren’t really there.
And he had so many questions for Chief. If he was real, how come
no one else could see him? But the beat of the drum was so
alluring. Michael hesitated briefly, and then closed his
eyes. He didn’t know what to expect.
“That’s it; just follow the beat of the drum.” Chief’s voice was
starting to sound so far
away. And his eyelids felt so heavy, it was easier to keep his
eyes closed than it would have been to open them.
What did Chief mean by saying he wanted to take him on a journey?
And now he was playing with a drum!
But the rhythm of the drum was starting to lull him into a more relaxed
state. All of the other sounds of the park were being blocked out
by the sound of the drum. He couldn’t think about anything else,
just the steady beat of the drum.
Michael started feeling as though he were going down into a hole in the
ground; like he was being swallowed up by the earth. But for some
reason, he didn’t feel scared. He just kept hearing the drum and
kept going down and down. When it seemed as though he couldn’t go down
any farther, Michael
opened his eyes and found himself standing on a hilltop. He was
out in the country somewhere. There were huge mountains, immersed
in a bluish-grey haze all around him. And the smell. He had
never smelled such fresh air before. He looked around wondering
where he was. He saw Chief standing a few feet behind him.
“Where are we?” Michael asked. It was beautiful, wherever they
were. Michael had never really left the city limits before.
He felt overcome by the beauty and serenity of the place in which
he now found himself.
“Come, follow me.” Chief started walking in front of Michael.
All Michael could see in every direction were huge pine trees. He
could tell that they were on a path on a ridge that dropped down a
hillside, but he could see nothing but green everywhere. He felt
like he was in a Tarzan movie. There were huge shrubs and trees and
vines in every direction. It was like nothing he had ever seen
before, except maybe on TV. And the path that they were walking
on was so soft. Michael looked down at his feet and saw that the
path was padded with layers of pine needles, making it feel as though
he was walking on foam.
Chief finally stopped walking and when Michael caught up with him, he
saw that they had come to a clearing. Chief was looking down into
the clearing from the edge of the path. Below them, in a valley
wedged between the mountains, was what appeared to be a village of some
sort. There were a bunch of log huts covered with something that
looked like mud. They seemed to be in some kind of pattern,
spaced around a larger dwelling. It seemed so primitive. Michael could
not see any people, but he sensed that there were
people living down in the huts, in the village below him. This
too was not like anything Michael had ever seen before.
We are at Nantahala, ‘Land of the Noon Day Sun,’” Chief replied. “They
called it that because there were so many trees, the sun
can only get through when it is right overhead, at twelve o’clock
Michael looked over at Chief questioningly.
“We’re at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. There is so much
vegetation here, so many plants breathing all at the same time, they
give off hydrocarbons which is what makes the mountains look smoky,”
Michael still didn’t have a clue where they were. He had heard of
the Great Smoky Mountains in geography class, but he had no idea where
they were or how he and Chief had gotten there.
Chief continued, “We’re at the home of your ancestors, Michael.
Their original home, before the Removal. Your father’s
great, great, great grandfather was born right down there, in one of
those huts. This is a Cherokee settlement.”
Chief turned his head to look over at Michael. “You know,
Cherokee Indians.” He turned his head back to look down at the
village and continued. “They were forced by the government to relocate
to Oklahoma in the 1800’s. But this is where they first lived. Right
down there,” Chief pointed to the village.
Michael thought that he could see some smoke coming out of one of the
huts, but maybe it was just the hydro-somethings from the plants that
made it look like that.
Chief continued with his story. “Your ancestor was a Cherokee
shaman. You know what that is?”
Michael wasn’t sure he knew anything right now. He shook his head.
Chief explained. “A medicine man. You’ve heard of a
Michael nodded slightly, still feeling so confused by everything that
“They were the healers of the tribe, Michael. They were consulted
about every major decision that a tribe would make. They yielded
great power and were looked up to by all the members of the tribe.”
Chief stopped talking and again turned his head to look down at
the village below them.
“Are you saying my Dad is an Indian?” Michael felt like his whole sense
of reality was being distorted.
“He is a descendent of an Indian. He is a mixed blood, like you,”
“A mixed blood. What are you talking about!?” Michael said
with irritation. He had never heard of that expression and it
sounded like a put-down, like something Jamal would call him.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a mixed-blood, Michael. Most
everyone is nowadays. It just means that you are part Indian and
part something else. There was so much inter-marriage among
different peoples that the bloods got mixed. That’s all.
It’s not a bad thing,” Chief concluded.
Michael was trying to figure out what all of this meant when he sensed
something moving behind him and turned to look. He jumped back
and fell into Chief when he saw a huge black cat coming toward him.
Chief quickly put his arm around Michael to steady him. The
big cat looked like a panther, like some huge beast that might attack
“Don’t be afraid Michael,” Chief reassured him. “He won’t hurt you.
He belongs with you. You two have been separated a long
time and now he is being returned to you. He is here to help you
on your path.”
Michael watched the big cat walk closer and closer to him. He had
no idea what Chief meant about the cat being there to help him, but he
felt his original feelings of fear dissolve. He had a strange
sense of connection to this animal. He had never been
particularly fond of cats, but this one was different. As the
panther came almost within touching distance, Michael reached out his
hand to make contact.
At the sound of his name, Michael’s eyes flew open. He was back
in the park, sitting on the hard dugout bench.