Friday, August 18, 2017

On My Way Home With Ohiyesa

I found myself standing at the counter returning a book to the Spooner Memorial Library yesterday. The book I was returning, like usual, was a few days overdue. And, like usual, the friendly young lady working the counter waved the fine. As I was standing there I noticed to my right, sitting on the counter ready to be checked in, a small red book titled, "The Soul of an Indian." Since the title contained "soul" and "indian" I was automatically interested. Writing this I think it's interesting that at one time there was question and great debate amongst intellectuals in various institutions of The West if indians even had souls. Here, it's 2017, and I'm looking at a soul book by Ohiyesa (Charles Alexander Eastman). So after outwardly expressing my turmoil to the young lady of whether or not I need another book to read I decided to check it out. She smiled, laughed, and did what she had to do on the computer and in the system to make this happen. Moments later I was on my way out the door with Ohiyesa and the book I attempted to return in the first place. Admittedly, the accumulation of books "to be read" is becoming a greater weakness of mine. There could be worse habits, I guess.

Well, less then 24 hours later I am 15 pages into it. I couldn't resist the temptation to put down another book and pick this one up (another worsening habit). I had to know if Ohiyesa's orientation was in line with the worldview layed out by Daniel Quinn in Ishmael and his other teaching tool novels. I know, I know, I was warned by Jim Britell's words on the cover of Ishmael when I first picked the book up around the turn of the century: 

"From now on I will divide the books I have read into two categories--the ones I read before Ishmael and those read after."

Another book, this time Ohiyesa putting his soul to paper, that reaffirms Britell's observation. And to take it perhaps a bit deeper is its affirmation that there really is a different way to be ("B") in the world, and things really don't have to be this way despite the stories most of the modern mythmakers make up. Take these words of wisdom by Ohiyesa, the indian with one foot in the white man's world and the other in the way of the ancestors and ancients of our tribal past:

"In our view, the Sun and the Earth are the parents of all organic life. And, it must be admitted, in this our thinking is scientific truth as well a poetic metaphor.

"For the Sun, as the universal father, sparks the principle of growth in nature, and in the patient womb of our mother, the Earth, are hidden embryos of plants and men. Therefore our reverance and love for the Sun and the Earth are really an imaginative extension of our love for our immediate parents, and with this feeling of filial devotion is joined a willingness to appeal to them for such good gifts as we may desire. This is the material or physical prayer." (Pg. 8-9)

In a world collapsing into fundamentalism, literalism, extremism Ohiyesa's words, to me, are a balancing act, and perhaps a lifeline if taken seriously.   

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Mother's Day Moment

We're at The Prime Bar and Restaurant in Trego WI. It’s Mother's day morning. I'm seated at the head of a long table. Sitting at the table are 15 of my family members from my mom's side. I'm generally feeling uncomfortable. It's not Christmas uncomfortable, but it's ranking up there for some reason or another. I look over at Hayden, my 7 year old son sitting about halfway down the table. Across from him is my cousin's 6 year old son whom my dad calls LP. I turn my attention away and moments later, LP kindredly and excitedly remarks, "He picks his nose too!" 

I look over, and there's my son shamelessly picking his nose. And I wonder what I've got to worry about.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fathering and Fiddleheads

Sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by books, bookmarks, and notebooks. Enjoying the silence, except for the hum of the old freezer. Everyone but my oldest son sleeps. He's sitting out in the woods somewhere listening to a myriad of birdsong I imagine. The other day he returned from the woods with some fiddleheads. He boiled them in a pot along side a frying pan of scrambled eggs with chopped sweet-white violet leaves and flowers. I begged some fiddleheads off him. My first time ever having them. After a lot of butter, salt and pepper were added they weren't too bad. 

Yesterday, while going for a barefoot run in our yard, I noticed broken robin egg shells. Something about seeing them lifted my spirits after delivering over 400 boxes and 100 miles of mostly junk mail yesterday. Days like this I wish everybody would sit down and write a love letter sealed with a kiss, drop a postcard to a friend, write their representative about something that really pisses them off, or you fill in the blank. Anything to help people get in touch with their soul, elevate people above products, and make my job a bit more satisfying and worthwhile. 

We're headed south to Bloomer this afternoon. It'll be the 4th baseball game this week I will be attending in the capacity of fan and proud father. I will most likely see about half of it or so. The rest of the time will be spent playing catch with whatever kid wants to play catch, and there's never ever been an instance where this wasn't the case.  I pretend that it's a chore, but it's really not. The only time I can focus in on a game is in the capacity of coach or player. I like to keep moving I guess.....

Spring just keeps springing along.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ishmael Forgotten?

The other day, while delivering a package to a customer, I told him I admired his statue of the Buddha that sat in a grove of pines just outside his house. He's a retired professor that spends a lot of time writing in simple but beautiful house just off the gravel road. We talked briefly about some of his missionary work, religious leaders like Thomas Merton, children, and writing. And, like usual, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn entered the conversation. I've pretty much resigned myself to this phenomenon that occurs in my occasional exchanges. It's a pattern that’s been occurring for close to two decades now. I presume it'll continue until I no longer walk the earth.

Once I brought up the book his face lit up and he said, "Oh, yes! Ishmael. That was written way back..."

"In 1992, the year I graduated high school." I said.

"That’s right. I loved that book. It's probably one of the most important books of the 20th century. Now it's sadly been largely forgotten" He added.

"Did you know," I added "that Quinn studied under Thomas Merton briefly when he was a young man."

"No, I had no idea"

"Yeah, it was brief. Merton thought Quinn needed more real world experience so he had him leave the monastery. He wrote about it in "Providence," his autobiography." I informed him.

"Well, I had no idea he had an autobiography out. I am going in the house and ordering it from the bookstore right now!"

And off he went. I got back in my mail jeep and headed on down the dusty mail trail. Just as I pulled up to the next mailbox a half-a-mile or so away it occurred to me the professor's assessment on the longevity of Quinn's masterpiece was a bit off. We wouldn't have been talking about the book and its' author and he wouldn't be in the house on the phone with the bookstore ordering the autobiography of the man behind the book.

These words on page 248, I believe, still ring true to these ears today:

What you do is teach a hundred what I've taught you, and inspire each of them to teach a hundred. That's how it's always done" - Ishmael, p. 248

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Command, Control, and Compulsion

I was thinking of Derrick Jensen's book "Walking on Water," which does a really good job laying bare the effects of compulsory schooling, yesterday while sorting mail. Compulsory schooling, which almost all of us reading this has experienced and champion, prepared me for working in a command and control buisness like the USPS. One parallel between the two structures is there is very little, if any opportunity to offer feedback to change the structure. You're expected to show up, listen to authority, and do what you're told. Because look around you, there are people more than willing and happy to do what you do. Both structures are far from being democratic, and they operate on this assumption so eloquently laid out at the beginning of the 20th century by the founder of scientific management, Fredrick Winslow Taylor:

"In the past man has been first; in the future the System must be first."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Snowballs at Night

I wrote this poem this morning. There is no form to it. The only form I know and have practiced is the haiku. I've had fun with that so far. I never regret my attempts ato creating with words.

Standing under the night sky
with shoulders and toes pointed
toward the old, red barn wall.
Sophia, son and I let snowballs fly.
The boy of beginnings returns
with bats, balls, and boundless time.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kids, Spit, and Snow Leopards

I just got done being sprayed with spit. Somehow the morning conversation between my 3 kids led into snow leopards. Sophia, my daughter of 4, is wearing a leopard print shirt. Daniel, son of 17, says it looks snow leopardish. Hayden, my son of 7, wants to know if it's "real" snow leopard. This is where I enter the conversation. I explain to him that they're rare and you'd probably never see anyone around here wearing snow leopard skins. He immediately wants to know if the President and police are putting up signs to protect them. I assure him they're being protected. It's not enough. He pulls out his snow leopard sword and proceeds to show me how he would protect them from killers by wielding his imaginary weapon and slashing and slicing it in the open space between us with full sound effects of the blade doing its job. The problem is that he's missing his two front teeth. Their job, in this instance, would be to catch the spit being forced out of his mouth from the sound effects of my son's heroic slaying of snow leopard killers. And that's why I am using my sleeve to wipe off my face. 

His head, hands, and heart are in the right place. Just would've been nice if his two front teeth were too!