All I can say about my life since the last blog entry is PHEW! I just finished with my fall retreat in Joshua Tree. Marisa Ryan, David Lintner, and I put this on every year. Every fall, we sweat blood over it. Every fall it is wonderful.
It’s over. Until May, when we have our spring retreat in Idyllwild. Time to start planning that one now. I know it will be as wonderful as ever too, but only because we all put in so much effort to make it seem effortless.
This year, at Joshua Tree, our Sacred Journey theme was Native America. We made spirit rattles, experienced a sweat lodge, had a drumming circle that included my ginormous (spelling?) Pow Wow Drum. We danced, meditated, and had our sacred journey to our source.
This whole thing started me thinking about my own Native American Heritage. I am such a hodge-podge of nationalities that I have sort of placed that one in the background. The only time I played the “Indian Card” was in Taos some years ago. I went to a place where the Native Americans were selling jewelry, blankets, rugs, and such. I spotted an old woman sitting on the ground with all of her beautiful turquoise and coral jewelry spread around her. She reminded me so much of my grandmother.
I knelt down and saw a turquoise and pink coral rope necklace that I fell in love with. AAAHG! Sticker shock. So, I introduced myself and casually mentioned my Native American ancestry. Her craggy face smiled and she gave me the “special” price. I almost refused, until I looked at the sublime expression on her face. She reached out and touched my arm and said, “Even with a drop of true blood, we need to stick together.” My heart melted and I bought the necklace, plus a couple of other pieces.
I’ve never forgotten how beautiful she was with her silver and black hair, sleek and shiny braided into a thick rope that hung down her back. Her eyes were as black as the jet and contrasted with her creased, bronze skin. Her aura was of a proud heritage that is struggling to maintain its special place in the world. At that moment, I connected with my own Cherokee and Apache ancestors. But it wasn’t the right time to move into that phase of my life. I returned to my mulligan stew heritage and forgot, until recently, how that moment felt.
At the Joshua retreat, I again started feeling the stirrings of interest in that part of my past. The Trail of Tears that forced Cherokees through miles of harsh landscape to relocate them in Oklahoma. So many suffered and died. Were my people on that trek? The fierce and proud Apache, now relegated to rampant alcoholism and despair. How did my great grandfather cope. He was hung by the Klu Klux Klan. Perhaps because he had married a white woman. No one really knows.
I have long believed that Native Americans are, by many people, falsely lumped into a neat package of people who thought the same and had the same traditions. They have been mythologized. Is that a word? I guess it is now. The noble Indian, mystical, spiritual, taking care of the land. Peaceful. Innocent victims of white America’s greed and cruelty. Although much of that is true, it is also true that each Nation is unique. They have tremendous differences. Some were peaceful; others warlike. They fought among themselves so much they couldn’t unite and drive back the white American invaders.
My grandmother said once that if all the tribes had been able to unite, no one would have been able to dislodge them. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. We’ll never know. My grandmother was part Cherokee. My grandfather, half Apache. I wish I had been interested in their heritage when I was a child and living with them. But, I wasn’t.
Spirit is now directing me toward learning more about the beliefs, practices, and traditions of the Cherokee and the Apache. I am finally ready to adopt those parts of myself into consciousness. I believe it can only bring me closer to completion of a spiritual being having a physical experience. I have memories of past lives as Native American. What tribe? I don’t know. How long ago? I don’t know. I haven’t explored that either. Time to unite my spirits journey with the physical and honor the ancestors that have made this life possible.
What about your people? Do you relate? Do you know about the traditions of your ancestors? Is it important? How do you relate your physical heritage with your spiritual? Is one more important than the other? Let me know what’s on your mind. Thanks.
O’ GREAT SPIRIT
help me always
to speak the truth quietly,
to listen with an open mind
when others speak,
and to remember the peace
that may be found in silence.