It has been a good week. On Monday the Rabbi included Native American voices in the annual community Sedar. Today, the pastor at our local UU church mentioned the ongoing crises at Pine Ridge. Jennie and I have been advocating for the inclusion of Native voices at synagogue and church or many years, and it is a joy to have this finally happen; may it continue. Continue reading
Sometimes blessings come, unannounced and unbidden.
Tuesday was the last day of class for the semester. Around 5:10, as the last student was giving his presentation, I glanced out the window. Just above, and northeast of our classroom, four or five vultures circled. I interrupted the poor student and invited the class to come to the windows. As soon as everyone had seen the vultures and turned away, the vultures departed.
I then explained my sense of excitement, awe, and gratitude.
One of my most beloved teachers, Ipu, Dr. Bernardo Peixoto, died three years ago. Ipu was a condor shaman; when he was here, in Vermont, he was often followed by literally scores of turkey vultures, the “little brothers” of the condor. They would circle above him, spiraling for long periods as we walked or talked. Continue reading
Last evening I went for a walk along the lake. It was chilly and there had been snow earlier in the higher elevations. Still, a few people were out, some with their dogs. This morning dogs, and their people, were out in force. Spring must truly have arrived! (I just looked out the window and noticed a large raptor circling while being harassed by the inevitable smaller songbird.)
I’ve been noticing how human I am. Even though I am in my late sixties, spring brings out the younger man in me. As the weather warms I become more playful, get out and about more, and begin to notice other people. As a result, I am reminded that I am a primate, biologically hard-wired to be social. Dogs, while not primates, are similarly wired. They can tell when one enjoys their presence, and will often, with the permission of their owners, reach out to make contact. For us humans, to take a dog, or a baby, out for a walk is to invite social interaction with others. Continue reading
Tuesday my class met with Alicia Daniels from the University of Vermont. Alicia is a field naturalist who has devoted many years studying with Indigenous healers, and to understanding the Medicine Wheel. Now she respectfully shares its teachings with students and elders.
We met in my classroom, then, needing a place to construct the wheel that was out of the public eye, walked down the hill to the land that was recently sold for development. The students led us to a small grove of trees, prickly ash and aspen, sheltered from view. Continue reading
A lovely, chilly, raining day. It is good to have rain, as the Earth here has been quite dry, and the fire danger high.
Saturday Jennie and I hosted a workshop focused on using personal stories to nurture and protect beloved spaces. Those gathered shared stories of the places they hold dear, and the fates of those locales. Some of the places remain, others have disappeared under the miner’s or developer’s bulldozer.
Holding places as sacred is a risky business. So often, that copse of woods, lake, or deserted lot we grow to love are taken from us. Yet, given the opportunity, we humans seem hard wired to fall in love with landscapes, corner lots, and ecosystems. We form deep bonds with boiler rooms in a tenements or the Natural world, including parks; sometimes they are our only childhood refuge. Continue reading
Indigenous people give value and preference to story. Stories arise from place; it is often said they come from the land, but it is more accurate to say they arise from places, which might include the water. Seafaring peoples depend on water for food and commerce, and many speak about the ocean as a First Place, a location of origin. These notions of storied places are inherent in shamanism and other Indigenous healing traditions, although they are largely erased from New Age and neo-shamanistic renderings. It is easy to forget, or ignore, that in the Americas, Indigenous healers have traditionally been instrumental in both resisting colonial power, and in healing individuals and communities harmed by colonial violence, including racism. In this context, shamanism is inherently political.
It seems to me that our preference for stories is difficult for folks of European ancestry to grasp. That is true for Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and folks from the U.S.. Many of us Native people understand ourselves to have been born from place, our tribes emerging from specific places: mountains, springs, caves, inlets. We traditionally understand the Earth to literally be our mother. If one stops to think about this, it makes profound sense: at the very least we are birthed from the stuff of this planet, the building blocks of place; clearly, one should not harm one’s mother, should not act in ways that defile the physical or spiritual environment. Continue reading