All Across Turtle Island

A year ago I was in Shillong, India, teaching some marvelous students, seeing some remarkable sight, and learning so very much. This year I’m not in Shillong, but warmed by memories of my time there. My not being there, however, doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing the aforementioned activities. It seems that life is rich and sure to bless as we open our eyes. Of course, I know that people go through unbearably difficult days, days that deserve lament. This, too, is a part of life but hopefully not the whole of it.

Some days are gift. Yesterday was such a day. I made my way to the Conestoga Pow Wow held at the Conestoga College complex. I go most years, although I missed last year because I was away. When I entered I was told I could go left or right, which was a bit disorienting because in the past there was only one direction to go. But this year, the Pow Wow had grown so large that they had a separate arena for vendors aside from the arena dedicated to the drums and dancing. I quickly scouted out the vendors before going into the drumming and dancing arena.

As I entered the sound of the big drums just electrified me. The drumbeat has sometimes been described as the heartbeat of mother earth. It certainly felt as though I was close to the heart of the earth: strong, warm, enlivening, inspiring, justice-demanding: the list of words to describe this sound cannot be exhausted. Drums are considered to be animate for many folk who are Indigenous to North America, sometimes called Turtle Island. I can understand why. The sound was life. The dancers were, I think, carried by the energy, by the soul of the drums.

I had occasion to catch up with some friends at the Pow Wow, wise people who I deeply admire. I am always warmed by their willingness to spend some time with me, sharing their insights and helping me to understand just a little bit more of the way of Turtle Island. And I had opportunity to visit with some young folk who I know from my life at the university, strong Indigenous voices who paint the world right, who converse with the earth and lead us into right relations with our mother, who study and teach, dance and sing, fight and write for the good of all creation. My afternoon just filled me with so much hope. Canada is a long way from where we need to be in our nation to nations conversations. But the conversation partners are ready to talk, passionate about a future lived out in a good way.

I came away from my afternoon at the Pow Wow so very thankful to the Creator for making this possible for me. I do not take these interactions for granted. Life itself bids us come and learn how to be, how to listen, how to smile. I saw so many smiles yesterday. I can only hope that one day we will see more smiles on the faces of people all across Turtle Island, faces glowing in their knowing that everything is related, and all life matters because it comes from the Source of life. We are but a speck in the universe, and knowing that sets us free to be humble and hopeful.

For a friend

Ponder,
where trunk
meets earth:
thick that
rapprochement between
muscled anchor and reach for ray.
A kind of clearing occurs when earth makes
space for above and below to meet
as elephant thick stick arrests
me – here I see
hidden hope
holding whole.

Stork-eyed

A stork eyed me
by the ferry for Coronado
Island, wondering whether
the new birth in its beak
was intended for me.

I cried out:
I’ll take that please!
She cocked her head, not
altogether convinced by my
enthusiasm, my eagerness
to leave everything behind
and be made new.

The stork retorted:
Did you count the cost?
In truth, I had to say that
I had only counted the
sailboats near the pier, and
the shekels in my pocket, to
see if I had fee for ferry.

The stork said “satis est.” My
pining was sated; my worries
abated and I fell
into tomorrow.

A Sigh of Belief

You are ever
under siege, Your
mighty right hand
now wearied, and
Your left grasping
after a little rest –
but Sabbath seems
to escape You.

How will You renew
creation, Lord, when
You sit across from me
slumped in the chair
like a soldier about to
surrender?

And yet, Your eyes,
Your eyes still galvanize
in grace, and later when
I read Your latest missive
I am reminded that You
mind Yourself, and so us,
and I breathe a
sigh of
belief.

Deceptively Pedestrian

My walk home from church was unexceptional; aside
from the fact that I can walk and the street-
side tress cannot; and aside
from the fact that the sky
opened for a time and showed
me the divine eye: and aside
from the fact that the wind
whispered my name and the
horizon smiled at me; and aside
from the fact that the blessed
dead watched my every step,
counting each one and writing
them in ‘The Book of Strides’; and aside
from the fact that I remember angels
rambled round King Street, dressed
incognito – although their wings
left tufts of down under
this tree and round that bush.

My walk home from church was
deceptively pedestrian.

A Land of Holy Reckoning

Not far from the land of
gratitude lies the region of
hope – folk only visit
the one via the other, and
no-one begins in either.

It is a geographic miracle – a delight.

Of course, some opt to
tarry in neither, but on
the other side of both
is peace: a land of
holy reckoning.

Pet Dreams

They fall asleep so swiftly,
these animals closer to Genesis
than me and my kind. They
dream of the Lord God
walking their wood,
until then again they
flinch from the pain of
the primal couple stepping
out of the garden and into
their nightmare.

Is there any hope for Your
creatures? To surface from
sleep to discover a sliver
of sanity seeping into this
Homo Sapiens?

These pets sleep –
domesticated by our
regimes, our
treats, our
house training but
every now and then
the wild comes calling
and I sense some
hope for
us all.