The Self is a Very Complex Event

My friend, the poet William Pitt Root reminded me I'd said: "The self is a very complex event"--during a recent appearance at Bookworks in Albuquerque to promote a new CD release (which I haven't officially announced yet) of a spoken word CD: She Had Some Horses, to accompany the re-release of the book. It's been in publication for 30 years, an imprint of Thunder's Mouth Press, no part of Avalon Publishing.

I don't always remember what I say. Speaking is or can be a creative act, as much as writing.

The self is a complex event and this particular self is under reconstruction.

Interesting the comments when I tell people that I am teaching at UNM only in the fall semester. "Oh, so you're on vacation?" I've heard this frequently during this season of getting together with family and friends, and non-professional associations. My musician, writer, poet, artist friends know that what I will be up to without asking. I have many writing and music projects in the works. Everyone else thinks I'm not working. I've battled with that all of my life--"oh, since you're not doing anything" (I'm writing away with monies from an NEA grant--{I could use grant or award money these days for my projects, if anyone has ideas...])"can you pick up my cleaners?". I've noticed that male artists don't have this problem, not to the extent of women. I always admired my male musical partners who appear to always be creating. Usually they have or had wives or girlfriends who made sure they had meals and washed their clothes, who take care of the domestic aspects of their lives. They didn't or don't have the primary responsibilites of children or (extended) family. Those tasks are ongoing, even when the children are grown.

Many questions, and knots of problems are gathered around me as I stand at the precipice of the new year (the new year according to the Christian calendar). Every day is literally the beginning of a new year, but this particular time which marks a changing of the seasons, towards winter and introspection. I'm concerned about the direction of the tribe and a lack of a cohesive and energetic vision, I'm concerned about the general state of compassion or lack thereof, about the fascist governement in power in this country, about the squeezing of my heart with the pressures of sadness that is all of the family (blood, in laws, ex laws, outlaws, etc etc) stories and recent deaths around alcohol, drugs, abuse, about the recent destructive trends in weather--all of this has been predicted. We have been duly warned that if we do not actively take part in and acknowledge the gifts of this earth, and the very spirits of the earth and skies then we will forget who we are and it will all fall apart.

We are in the falling apart. And we're in it together. We have to keep going.

Tonight I figure I'm either exhausted or depressed. Tomorrow I will get up and the sun will give me energy to keep going--I am going to have to find another way, though--this particular route has been exhausted.

What delighted today, however, was a monk seal who crawled up on the beach and enjoyed the sun with all the picnickers and surfers and (a few brave) paddlers (I wasn't one of them...did not wish to brave the break). They are rare. And the three whales frolicking just off shore.

And then there's what I don't write here, what I don't say, the ghost blog. Maybe next time.


Classic Vine

And then, sometimes I sing and nothing happens but inspired noise!

Yesterday we held the memorial reading for Vine at the UNM Library's Willard Room. Mary Bowannie told us about the family's memorial in Golden, Colorado and her stories of Vine. We heard many stories, jokes and touching vignettes about the powerful influence of this man, his words and his actions, from students, staff, faculty and community members. I left with renewed vision and energy to keep going in this place.

Here's one of my favorite stories from his classic, Custer Died for Your Sins, first released in 1969, a primer of inspiration for Indian people everywhere. Enjoy.

“On the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota my grandfather served as the Episcopal missionary for years after his conversion to Christianity. He spent a great deal of his time trying to convert old Chief Gall, one of the strategists of Custer’s demise, and a very famous and influential member of the tribe.
My grandfather gave Gall every argument in the book and some outside the book but the old man was adamant in keeping his old Indian ways. Neither the joys of heaven nor the perils of hell would sway the old man. But finally, because he was fond of my grandfather, he decided to become an Epsicopalian.
He was baptized and by Christmas of that year was ready to take his first communion. He fasted all day and attended the Christmas Eve services that evening.
The weather was bitterly cold and the little church was heated by an old wood stove placed in the center of the church. Gall, as the most respected member of the community, was given the seat of honor next to the stove where he could keep warm.
In deference to the old man, my grandfather offered him the communion first. Gall took the chalice and drained the entire supply of wine before returning to his seat. The wine had been intended for the entire congregation, and so the old man had a substantial amount of spiritual refreshment.
Upon returning to his warm seat by the stove, it was not long before the wine took its toll on the old man who by now had had nothing to eat for nearly a day.
“Grandson,” he called to my grandfather, “now I see why you wanted me to become a Christian. I feel fine, so nice and warm and happy. Why didn’t you tell me that Christians did this every Sunday. If you had told me about this, I would have joined your church years ago.”

Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins, 1969