An Interrelated Reality

Navajo_Hogan,_Monument_Valley

While the patient’s brother and I clean the fresh sand for the painting, Blackhorse goes off with the patient to the desert to make an offering. On his return, he invites Tom to enter the Hogan for the sand painting and the remaining ceremony. I am glad that he is there because I am nervous when I get asked to help with the sacred patterns for the first time.

(From The Way is Reality, Not Belief)

The water/center/sky/medicine floating in the light, the shapes/colors of the deities growing through the white/black/yellow/red/blue sand running through our fingers. The balance, the connections of elements, male/female aspects dancing in clouds and lightning. I have only a little knowledge of the intrinsic meaning of every drawn line, and there are many, many lines. Blackhorse explains certain relations and meanings, but mostly we work silently on our hands and knees for a long time.

Then the rattle/song/medicine/basket/white shell – the offering of pollen with the wishes for the patient and whatever you truly desire … The actual herbal medicine made with more ingredients than I could possibly tell – it takes many years to even learn a fraction of the herbs and their effects. For a moment, before everything got wiped away, the water, the pollen, the light, the painting, the rattle/song/human/??? presence came alive in my eyes and taught the lesson of interrelated reality.

Well, take it as you like. These are only words from a fortunate guy who was allowed a glimpse into a world beyond our great scientific/intellectual age of reason and material blessings.

We drove to the wedding in the afternoon. Late, but not late enough – if you know what I mean. Following the morning experience, I would rather have sat somewhere in silence, smiling like a lighthearted coyote. Instead, we got our asses blown off by a mean sandstorm. The place we had helped to get ready for the wedding was a complete mess. Tables, chairs, food, decorations … had to be hauled to the gym of the nearby Mission. Ironic?! A traditional part of the wedding:

In the Hogan, the groom’s people (Mowhak) on one side, the bride’s (Navajo) on the other. All in traditional garments, I stuffed in the middle between the bride’s grandma and mother, Tom pushed against the doorframe with his back closing the opening against the sandstorm … The medicine man, the basket, the gourd, the water, the introductions, prayers, advice … the sharing of the cornmeal. The ceremony got hurried along, because – to our surprise – a Christian wedding was prepared for the mission, and it happened amongst balloons, wedding cake, rings …  you get the picture. No more about this.

I was just glad that we found our way back to the main highway before complete darkness and drifting sands swallowed us up. Bless you, and sweet dreams to all, Shash

Day 8, 10th June 2002:

Another early rising and conversation accompanied by herbal tea. The subject is “cultural differences” and homesickness. Today we are supposed to visit Barney Bush (Shawnee from the Ohio Valley, writer, teacher, political activist, one of my first mentors and friends in the Indian country from the old days) at his log cabin in Cuba/NM. Blackhorse wants to drive us there, and that means leaving at eight sharp. Tom just about manages to get into his pants, and I get a bit pissed off about the stressful start to of the day.

Uneasy drive past the Shiprock Powerplant and the heavily watered (owned by whites) fields. And the hot wind blows … the papers are saying that this is the driest season on record, and it will be getting worse. Huge forest fires raging all around, and other parts of the country are drowning in excessive rainfall.

Intertribal relations are a tricky subject, Barney and Mitchell sway between respect and, let’s say, lack of appreciation and issues of possessiveness as regards us. Tom and I are a little worried, but the guys start joking ( “hey, you blue-eyed Indian …, don’t look at a pregnant woman, she will get scared and give birth to a cross between Dolly Parton and Schwarzenegger …”) right away and soon hit on their common subject of expertise: education.

As always it is interesting and infuriating how fucked up and deeply unfair the US system is in reality. Cash or no cash, that is here the question … Anyway, as is a Shawnee tradition, we get fed by Barney with his stews and pies beyond stuffing point. By the way: he will be in Vienna some time in September on a reading tour to promote his latest book of poetry. A couple of friends of his show up (Cherokee and a tribe I can’t spell) and the conversation turns to family matters, planting corn, who is drinking and still alive (or already dead) and the stupidity and meanness of the government … everyday stuff.

In the course of it all, Blackhorse gives us permission “before witnesses” to communicate our experiences to a larger audience and suggests that I finally write a book about the issues with the guidance of the people themselves. Well, of course, there is already a lot of information out there, but maybe we can find an angle that sheds some fresh light on things. Let’s see. Turned out to be a pleasant day, and I am writing this while watching a Clint Eastwood movie with the guys …

This reminds me to send my best wishes to my Dad in Austria and to the whole family, wherever they are in this round, beautiful and crazy planet! Shash needs some rest – good dreams to all!

Credits

Image Title Author License
Navajo_Hogan,_Monument_Valley Navajo_Hogan,_Monument_Valley Wolfgang Staudt CC BY 2.0