Just 1 Feather!

One thing about travelling is, that your daily spiritual practice has to go travel with you, to provide continuity. Some personal rituals may have to be adapted to fit seamlessly into the ever changing days of a traveller. Peter and me on the road in the “Turtle” quickly fell back into an old routine, established loooong ago, when we travelled the continent first in our old VW bus and later in the larger “Bumblebee, our Mercedes motorhome, that was roughly the same size, but had none of the comfort that a small modern motorhome has. Back room and space was at an absolute premium, especially because we had a full jewellery making workshop on board, but today there is no need for that and so there is space in the many cupboards for among other things a box containing my smudging shell, some herbs, a small Rattle and a small Medicine Pouch, things that will make up a portable Altar.

In another cabinet there is my bag with my travelling Drum.

This is the one I first created for the trip to Nepal and that has since then always been tossed into the back of one of our cars, when we were away for a few days – be it to an out of town craft show or a week’s vacation in Algonquin park.

Here is a post about this drum:

Drum front side



Here at home in Canada I can take along pretty much any “Medicine item” I want, but on this trip we were going across the border into the USA. That means we can not have any feathers or other “Animal products” on board and we and our vehicle have to weather hours of searches and interrogation before being allowed to pass.

NO FEATHERS!?? How am I ever going to do that?? Rip off all the feathers and fur off my drum?? NO WAY!

I decided to just risk it and leave the drum as is and ifffff custom rips the feathers off I would replace them with whatever I found on the road.

My beautiful Rattle however had to stay home…..


But for my Night Prayers, for my nightly “giving Thanks to my Miahanits and Ancestors” and my prayers for my clients and charges I realllly wanted to have at least 1 Owl feather – to focus my thoughts. So I hid one large Great Horned Owl feather among our travel brochures.

At the US border we ended up being rudely questioned as to our motives for travelling, finances, jobs, family situations, affiliation to bomb makers and terrorists for 5 1/2 hours. The Turtle was searched through – top to bottom twice. They did not confiscate my 2 onions and 1/2 cucumber, or our yogurt and 2 pieces of bread from the fridge, they did not care about that feathered noisemaker in a bag, they did not take away our 3 pieces of firewood from home…… They were just loooooking for guns and bombs. We have none of those.

Finally we got our visa stamped and were on our way.


What a degrading experience that was!

But that rainy evening, on a loud rest area South of Duluth I dug out my Owl feather and said Night Prayers for us and a safe journey, for everyone, that has to endure these kinds of indignities and for all the people that are being kept out of the ”Land of Plenty” bu bureaucracy and fear.


DSCN4421 (800 x 440)

2 thoughts on “Just 1 Feather!

  1. Hello in there, Mi-Shell 😀

    That’s the problem with o/s travel, even if you cross the borders by land, eh? Customs… I totally understand why diseases and etc need to be contained within the country they originate from, and why Customs must take such things seriously, but, in a world of global communication, it is frustrating to see things that are exquisite and Spirit-rich and yet won’t ever make their way here… 🙂

    I was on a bus in India when it pulled up suddenly in the middle of nowhere. I was the only non-indian on the bus, and no-one beside me spoke English, and my Hindi and Urdu didn’t extend beyond please, thank you, hello, one tea with no sugar please, etc, so I had no idea why a bunch of policemen with guns swarmed through the bus… I thought they were looking for a deadly weapon or something, but I found out later it was an alcohol-free state we were entering!

    When we crossed the border from Canada to US we went through not just finger-printing, but the whole eyeball photos and etc… That was something I hadn’t heard of… 😮

    It’s sad that even clean, disease-free feathers are disallowed, though. I use such things at home all the time, or often find feathers where I travel, and i take one of my NA flutes as my form of prayer, but I can see how limiting such restrictions would be for one who, like yourself, uses all your sacred items in your daily work. (((((((hug)))))))

  2. Yes, crossing the border especially into the USA has gotten a lot more involved and also strict – since 9.11. On the one side that is understandable, but what really irked us ts the nasty degrading demeanour of the immigration officers we encountered. I just hope that tone of voice and conduct is only to be found on that one particular border crossing – which I rather not name……
    we also got fingerprinted and got our irises scanned……

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