Finding Balance

SunsetSpring is near, although the weather remains cold and snowy. The maple sap is flowing intermittently and, on warmish, sunny days, birdsong fills the air. The equinox arrives Friday, and Passover and Easter follow.

This morning I had coffee with a dear friend who is Mohawk. He was adopted into a European family and, like me, came to his Native identity late. He’s fiercely proud of his heritage and excited about the return to traditional values that underlies the rebirth of the Mohawk Nation. He and I have been asked to speak, together, about Native America at the upcoming community Sedar, and met this morning to consider what we might say. Continue reading

Conversations With The Ancestors

Snowy_TreeEarly music wafts through the house this early Sunday morning, as light snow swirls past the window. Listening to Harmonia on our local Public Radio station is a Sunday morning ritual in our house. I have loved early European music for as long as I can remember; I hope my European ancestors take as much pleasure listening as I do, that they listen through me. Continue reading

A Thorny Problem

Winter_TwilightA while back I received the Spring edition of Contemporary Shamanism. The first article was a piece by Hank Wesselman, Ph.D., entitled Australian Aboriginal Wisdom. I read the piece, or most of it, put the journal down, and forgot about it. Last night Jennie was rummaging through our magazines and brought it out.

In his article, Dr. Wesselman discusses the Australian Aboriginal word, dadirri (deep listening/stillness) as defined by Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann. Dr. Ungunmerr-Baumann who, according to UNIYA, “was born in the bush near Daly River in 1950…. is a member of the Ngangiwumirr language group (and) speaks four other local languages.” I encourage you to watched the You-Tube video of Dr.  Ungunmerr-Baumann speaking about dadirri, if you have not done so already. Continue reading

The View From the Orphanage

View_From_The-OrphanageLast night we were honored to be invited by our Abenaki brothers and sisters to drum as part of the opening ceremony at an all city meeting. The event was a  Neighborhood Planning Assemblies meeting called to discuss the proposed development of a large lakefront parcel of land presently owned by a local nonprofit educational institution. The current proposal would place about 700 housing units on prime recreational open space, and is drawing considerable opposition even before the land sells.

Prior to being “owned” by the nonprofit, the building and grounds had been a large orphanage owned and administered by a major religious order. Over its nearly 100 years in operation, the orphanage built an almost incomprehensible history of abuse. During the 1980’s I was part of the legal team that represented about 80 adults who had been victimized at the orphanage as children. Over three years a colleague and I listened to the stories of these courageous people, and supported them as best we were able, as they faced an angry public. Sadly, their court cases were dismissed due to an expired statute of limitations. Back then, few people in the community believed their terrifying stories of abuse. As in many communities, that would change. Later, a few former residents of the orphanage received large settlements from the church. Continue reading

Christmas

Christmas_snow

Our Back Yard.

Christmas Day. I’ve been in bed with a virus for the past couple of days, so I probably should not have been surprised when I awoke this morning at 3:30. (My nose looks a lot like Rudolph’s.) Eventually I got out of bed and wandered through the dark house to the sun room, where I could look out across our yard and into the woods. To my surprise and pleasure, the snow was still there, at least in our yard! We had a white Christmas in spite of mid-40’sF Street_Viewtemperatures and periodic rain! Continue reading

Thanksgiving

Autumn PathAs I write, the season’s first snow is falling in the November night. It is cold and the streets are empty. Downstairs, Jennie is cooking for tomorrows feast. I’m taking a few minutes to write as tomorrow promises to be very busy, being Thanksgiving Day here in the US. Given the news this week from around the country, it will be a troubled day for many. Thanksgiving Day itself has a troubled history, or rather multiple histories. Yet we continue to gather with family and friends on the last Thursday in November to celebrate the harvest and express gratitude to the Creator. Continue reading

Silence, Story, and Healing

Autumn_PathThe woods are increasingly silent. Now and then a blue jay or a nuthatch calls, or a squirrel scolds. The wind in the trees is low-pitched as it moves through the bare upper branches of the golden-yellow birches and beech trees.

As the world grows quiet, our voices fill the evenings with story; it is a holy time. Soon the first snows will fall and the ancient stories will be told. Some of those stories will be about the First Beings who created and organized the world as we know it; others will be stories from our histories. In the end, for Native people, these are inseparable. Cultural, family, and individual stories and histories are interconnected, and fluid in time; when we approach a medicine person in search of  healing, they remind us that we are the First Beings as well as their progeny. Continue reading