I'd never seen anything so perfect.
I was alone on a ridge overlooking a small valley. I wasn't worried about the lightning: I was sitting on a rubber mat with my backpack 30 feet away. I set my back against an old oak tree and pulled my hat down a bit lower.
I closed my eyes for a minute, ignoring the trickle of water that slipped under my collar. I listened to the rain on the trees, the wind tearing through the valley below, the drops hitting my hat, and the approaching thunder.
I withdrew a wad of pipe tobacco from my right jacket pocket. From the other pocket, I produced a box of matches and a metal plate. I turned my back on the view of the valley, and set to work in a hollow in the tree. I placed the tobacco atop the metal plate inside where the ground was moist, but no rain or wind entered. I struck a match and began to burn the tobacco.
"This is an offering to you, Ancestors. I remember you and honour you. Protect me and guide me in my life. Hold me close to your breast that I may learn from you."
I struck another match and continued to burn the tobacco.
"Know that I do not forget you. Know that I hold you dear. Know that I respect your ways and your wishes. Know that I listen."
I struck a final match and burned the rest of the tobacco. I removed the plate, leaving the charred remains of tobacco in the tree trunk. I again placed my back to the tree, and I looked out again over the valley. The winds were still howling, the sky still crashing, but the storm was no longer violent.
Through the rain, far below, I could see a cemetery. I could see no road leading to it, and I could not find it on my map. In my mind's eye, I could read the headstones. Each was a grave of a family member, each was well kept and the inscriptions were renewed to keep them clear after erosion had begun to take its toll.
I began to recite the names of ancestors. I began to remember them. I called out, asking their blessings. I remembered their deeds: battles fought, loves declared, enemies defeated.
The storm eventually blew itself out, and the sun set under the western clouds. I knew it was time: not only must I speed home, but the dead must as well. When the sun's rays no longer illuminated the valley, the cemetery disappeared. I packed my backpack again and began my trek down to the next shelter for the night.