The Human Trail

This morning in Glenpool, Oklahoma I woke to a grey winter sky. I miss the sun. Haven't seen it since Saturday morning in Albuquerque as we lifted off and headed East over the Sandia Mountains for Dallas. This has been quite a tour. Started off from Honolulu last Monday to LA. Spent the night in an airport hotel of coming and going passengers and crew. Then to Albuquerque and directly to a warm greeting and short visit at UNM. That night up to Santa Fe to prepare for a residency at IAIA. Between Wednesday and Thursday noon I had back-to-back individual appointments with talented student writers, and a workshop and a reading. Everytime I have visited the school the high school student I was there at the old IAIA campus in the late 60's hangs over my shoulder. She's long, lanky in a pair of worn, cheap bell-bottoms from a department store in Tulsa. Wears a Navy pea coat and silence. Silence defines her. She's listening, taking it all in. Doesn't know the basics of communication yet. Slides into a room sideways. She will have to learn how to address people, the wind, the sun, the spirit of a poem or a song.

This is not an unusual story. It's common. Especially in Oklahoma. Last night I was blessed with a wonderful audience at OU in Norman, Oklahoma. The event was set up with little notice by Robert Warrior and Craig Womack. They paid attention to every detail. This kind of care lets the poetry and music know they can take off their coats and hang, have a good time. And that's what happened. Starting with the readings of two students poets, a Choctaw student, Steven (if anyone can tell me his whole name I'd appreciate it so I can include it here) and Jeanetta Calhoun. Then a wonderful introduction by Rosemary McCoombs Maxey, mostly in Mvskoke. Quite an honoring. Then the performance of music. I dedicated the song "Grace" to my mother and spoke about her struggle to make songs and sing....how I saw her sing once with the hot country swing band, Leon McAuliff and his Country Boys, and how she had contacted a Hollywood publisher and her her tunes ripped off; one became a Johnny Mathis hit, and how behind this was a problem that has come to be known in recent lingo has a "self-esteem" problem, which I attributed it to being a woman in Oklahoma in the 1950's. I feel the ache of the need to sing in that song...That night the performance flew. We ended with a wild round dance to funky, the whole standing room audience, around the room.

Another thing I've noticed on this trip from Honolulu to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Tulsa, Stillwater and Norman is that those students who are fluent in more than one language appear to have more confidence. Each language is a library of history, mythology, culture, being. Each gives entrance to an amazing field of knowledge, deepens thought and character. So I'm back to practicing Mvksoke every day, little by little. And in Albuquerque freshed up my Navajo some speaking with my Dineh son-in-law Tim Chee.

At the dinner Saturday night at the Red Fork Native American Film Festival in Tulsa, provided (I believe) by the Hickory Ground Church I spoke with my cousin George Coser who reminded me of how most of the older people knew both Creek and Cherokee and often Spanish,too, as well as English. At the film festival, (which used to be known as the Muscogee Nation Film Festival but the name was changed because the audience thought they were coming to see films about the town of Muscogee, Oklahoma) Lurline McGregor, the Hawaiian videographer showed two DVD's: Eagle Song, the music video, and "Reality Show" a little 8 minute piece of a bit of my life. Despite my general uncooperativeness with having a camera on me, they came out gracefully. The audience appreciated them. And then I performed.

The theme of this one week tour has been: "Be careful of what you say and your behavior because no matter where you are someone is watching and listening." Every day someone has come up to tell me of how something I said to someone on the road, ten years ago, five years ago, a few, evoked some change, made some kind of difference. In one instance the person was furious because I called them on something they didn't want to see. Some of these moments attributed to me I take credit for, or remember saying. Others I don't. I have been mistaken for my cousin Suzan Harjo, for any other Harjo out there, and Leslie Silko and Mei Mei Berssenbrugge and I used to be constantly mistaken for each other. And who knows, maybe we all have doubles out there.

To conclude, before stepping out into the mad holiday preparations I want to remind myself once again, and whoever is listening, that whatever we say and do is being recorded...well, maybe it is,too, by U.S. surveillance, but in the end even that will fall away. What won't fall away is each of our kind acts, each of our words, thoughts and deeds. Taking a daily account of all these every night, and making fresh resolve will help the trail through this too human world. So here we go again.

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