Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Blessed Standing People..

Walking into a forest is like coming home to me. Whether it was Snow White and the magic and enchantment of the birds and the bees in that darkened forest or the cold chill of Christopher McCandless' solitary hike into the wild, somewhere my spirit knows itself best there. Since my time in the Indigenous program, I re-enter the natural sanctuary each time with different eyes and each time, a little more of the colonized veil punctures and I am aware of man's dominion over rather than relationship with. It feels like such a big peice of us becomes lost in our dis-connection with the natural world, recognizing our wild nature as part of our place within this awe invoking and mysterious universe and more clearly the ways we have denied our space in it. We have done it for so long, we don't even seem to recognize that we've lost it and it's heart breaking.

On my first medicine walk, Anishnabe-que, Kathy, instructed us to give tobacco to the land before we enetered the forest. She explained that giving tobacco is a sign of respect and honors the value of reciprocity (to give before taking), and asks the community that dwells in the parts of the forest that you will be walking in, permission to pass through it's territory. I was humbled by the degree of respect inherent in this act but well aware of how awkward it felt for me to "ask permission" from a tree.

As we entered the forest, Kathy advised each of us to pick a place that we fell drawn to and introduce ourself to the community, explaining why we were there and what we were seeking. I immediately approached a tree, or as the Anishnabe of Turtle Island have taught me one of the Standing People. Again, being introduced to a tree as a Standing Person at first felt really awkward. My mind has been taught to see a tree as a "thing", with no real value or essence, nevermind "personhood". Yet as I gazed in perfect awe of the mystery and wisdom, solitude and pacifism of the Standing People as I wandered through the forest today, I couldnt imagine how I only knew this magnificent part of creation, a few short years ago, as simply a tree. A paper source, that thing that provides oxygen, a source of shade and pretty to look at. Oh no. As I reached out to touch their mosaic of size, texture, strength, shape and way of being with eachother, one at a time, the Standing People shared with me their gifts, a comforting witness to the beings that passed there, an open acceptance of what nature delivered to them. They supported eachother,

unconcerned with the entanglement of their branches, or the ways in which some leaned on others, while others were standing solidly alone. They bring life not only to us, but support an entire community of life in the eco-sphere. They teach me of a soulful surrender, allowing the breeze of the winds to sway them when it comes, sometimes breaking parts of themselves that simply get cast away and still they stand there with open arms, calling to the sun. They, birth life, allow its skin to shed when it's season has passed, await it's death and continue to grow again. All of this they do quietly, soulfully and humbly.

As Madison was keeping five feet ahead of me, excited about the diversity of sights that called her to explore their mystery, I focused on walking within the rythym the forest gave to me. Thunder Bear, one of my teachers, always reminds me to refrain from running as I walk this journey in life, to walk slowly and breathe deeply. Here, in the foilage and serenity of these wise elders, and the amass of critters, creatures, stone people and water, it takes no effort to remember Thunder Bear's words. All one has to do is walk within the rythym the mother provides, the rythym that when I look around me, most other life has not forgotten. Still, as I felt her rythym pulsing within me, I saw signs of our disconnection everywhere. Joggers came whipping along the trails, immersed in their music and excercise routine, pausing only to smile at fellow trail walkers along the way. The solitude of the place they were in affecting only their subtle energy fields no doubt contributing to the joy on their faces, yet as the kept up with the briskness demanded of rigorous workout it was clear they had no idea how many things they were missing. I looked at Madison, in her youthfulness still experentially curious about any new little finding and as she walked through the forest, told her to pay attention to what she saw, what she heard and how things felt. When the wind shifted through in a swift but warm flutter, Madison mentioned she could feel it on her skin. "What is it saying to you?" I asked. She looked perplexed. If you listen close enough from that place we talk about that's quiet inside, you'll hear what the wind is saying to you. Everything in nature brings us a message" I said. She looked curiously around her for a moment and walked some moments in silence. It's important to me that she learns to build this relationship with the mother, while she's still young, inquisitive, interested and constantly questioning. That way, even if she abandons all of the ways in which I have raised her by adolescence, her foundation will always be strong.

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