MNN Column September 2008

You never know where you will find yourself, I told myself a few years back, as I marched along a Townsville, Australia street dressed in surf shorts, carried a canoe paddle, in a parade of outrigger canoe paddlers from all over the Pacific, including Tahiti, Aotearoa and Canada. I was with the Hawaiian contingent, marching behind the Hawaiian flag, singing Hawaiian songs. We were all there to take part in the International Outrigger Canoe Sprint Championships.

This summer I finished a regatta racing season at Hui Nalu Canoe Club. The season involves three to four practices a week, and other training. I continued weights, and added other aerobic training. It was a time of many firsts for me. I managed to “do a change”, that is, leap from an escort boat into the ocean and swim to the outrigger canoe, jump in and keep paddling, as part of the club’s 100th year anniversary around the island paddle; win a couple of medals, including a gold, and I even made it to States with a crew.

I was never an athlete. I decided this when I was four and was given a pair of roller skates for Christmas. When I clung in fear to the chairs in the kitchen and refused to let go, my father snatched them off my feet. My fear made him angry. After that, I saw sports as something I couldn’t do. When a ball came in my direction, I ducked. I had no body confidence, unless there was music involved. Then I could even dance under a stick and win the limbo.

I thought of all this yesterday as I biked several miles along the ditch here in Albuquerque. I felt body confidence, something I had never felt for most of my life, beginning with my growing up years in which I escaped into forgetting, eating, and hiding.
This last week I was invited to perform at the fifty-year anniversary program for the organization Wings of America, a Santa Fe Indian Market event. The mission is to empower native youth with running programs. Running is a “catalyst to empower…Native youth to take pride in themselves and their cultural identity, leading to increased self esteem, health, and wellness, leadership and hope, balance and harmony.” Participants in Wings programs around the country showed a 99% high school graduation rate, and 94% went on to college. They also used less alcohol and drugs, and were healthier. Impressive.

I think about how this body confidence would have helped me bypass so much heartbreak in my coming up years. We need the power and blessing of breath moving dynamically through our bodies, cleaning us, giving us fresh thoughts, no matter what age we might be. It’s never too late. You never know where you might find yourself.

And finally, I also did a little running around the south a few weeks ago. Craig Womack invited Rosemary McCombs Maxey, Ted Isham and me down to Atlanta, where Craig is now teaching at Emory University, to work on a translation project together. Everyone was on their best behavior because I said I was writing everything down they said or did. I now have enough for several columns. Stay tuned. One of the problems, I understand, that is troubling our Mvskoke language specialists, is, coming up with a Mvskoke word for Viagra. Any ideas?

1 comment:

Tara said...

I just found your blog! You're my favorite poet and I'm so glad to find more of your writing here on the internets.