LONG WALK (starring BEAR)
Photo and Story c Elizabeth Woody 2008
Walk in love is my mantra in the morning and at night. Walking is as elemental as water, which is my first medicine and protection. Walking is the hallowed tempo and my expression of vigorous space. It is the calm between words. In between turmoil the calm is preferable. In calm spaces to love is to be both vulnerable and omnipotent. If you love then you can start to fear loss. If you fear loss then you are conquerable. To become fearless with love is both potent and sacred. You move and radiate peace.
I walk twice a day with my dog, Anahui-Anahui (Baby Black Bear). Our walk is in love. Absent of introduction we literally look a fearsome couple even though we mean no harm. My companion is the “King Kong” of dogs. He is a 138 pound black mix of reservation muscle dogs, a “wolf in a lab disguise,” as my friend calls him. Spawned from the hunters and protectors of Indian country he was less than two months of age when rescued as a dumped puppy . He is progeny of the beauty found in survival of the fittest and its bestial elegance. I am a big, brown Native woman of the Diné of the Southwestern United States, and NW Columbia River Plateau peoples, Nusuxmí Tanánma (People of the salmon). There aren’t many like us at all in the world.
I am born from those who survived the arduous long walks of the Nineteenth century. One ancestress walked from the Columbia River gorge to the present day reservation , stopping along the way only for the soldiers to round up more people who up until that time lived free. Perhaps the shortest walk of all, it still was forced, and people could only carry with them what they could hold in their arms. They left their cedar plank houses filled with the finest of cultural accoutrements of the time. The finely woven baskets, nets, and carved wooden standards of their clans went to the abyss of neglect or through hands of Indian Traders to international museums.
I am not a woman to melt into as one would a mother. I am not a woman to lust after as the quintessential naked dark woman of earthy sensuality, the paleo-erotic American fantasy. I am a woman who is statuesque like the heavy basalt palisades of volcanic landscape and one whose core burns with ferocity like a volcano. I am burlesque-ishly bawdy with sympathetic audiences, intimidating to those coddled in the norm, and then some interpret me as robust. I am attracted to few, and most chose to ignore me. I am a Native woman born to the mainstream maelstrom of the perpetually enslaved wage earners. There are those who wish me out the door and out of sight. In the past, there are those who wished my kind dead.
I am the indomitable big brown Native woman, and like the nameless and faceless Yeti or the Sasquatch, can disappear in an instant. The lawless west feared my Navajo ancestors as they did Apaches, the “guerilla” force of the Southwest. Kit Carson hunted and starved the Navajo people and forced a 300 mile long walk to Fort Sumner on the Bosque Redondo Reservation . It was unimaginable oppression. Still, my Dine ancestors’ had an axiom that I thrive in today--- Walk in beauty. Beauty is not a state of attraction, but a state of unity and indivisible spirit. It is the balance of night and day, the parched and the quenched, the beginning of creative will. It is love. With love I protect my rescue stray and our past is hushed.
When we walk we bless the earth with our contentment. We are mixes, mixed up by negligence and historical trauma. Manhandled by veterinarians, and bluff charged by neighborhood dogs, my dog can be fearful. In our puppy 101 class the people of the other puppies pulled their lolly-pups away from us. “My, his teeth are sooo big!” one said. I thought, “The better to eat you with my dear.” but said “They suit his big head.” Though the majority of our class time was spent in “time-outs” we eventually “graduated.” What we really learned was we create peace with our own fearless love.
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Posted by Joy Harjo at 7:53 AM