Breaking Illusions

I embrace today’s soul. I embrace my emotional exhaustion, or should I say, welcome the new emotional muscles?

I knew this test was coming. My knowing showed me a fissure, a rip in my illusions about a beloved person. I have had a tendency to imagine particular kinds of others as clean in their intent, imbued with qualities I want them to have, because I want to see them with the shine of the symbol they have become for me. Many of us do this. We make leaders, athletes, movie stars, and other achievers into symbols and lose their human qualities. When they become oh-so human we discard them along with their gifts.

One of the most loaded symbols is “Mother”. Religions have sprung up over the holy symbolic connotations of Mother. To be Mother is sacrosanct. Mother is sacrifice, is love without question, is feeding even from one’s own body, is carrying children and giving birth, is care of the hearth, is the making of food from the gifts of the earth. She is the ultimate creative power. Like anything a symbol embodies its opposite. Mother out of control is supreme control over her children. She smothers them, she demands absolute loyalty, and she force-feeds them with guilt and food even as she eats her children. She is destruction.

Our mothers are demigods until we sprout into our personhood, our potential mother/fatherhood to take our place. Then, they become essentially, biologically, rivals. Either we make friends of our rivals, or we throw them over. Each culture decides differently. In this larger cultural overlay of “civilization” that has supplanted our indigenous cultures (and all cultures have indigenous roots) children are encouraged to make anyone older the enemy.

And then, as we become mothers (or fathers) the story begins again, and we make our way.

Are there archetypes for children? There are for filial behavior. Remember the prodigal son? They aren’t quite so loaded however, as children are expected to malleable, given to youthfulness. What happens though if they don’t grow up, if they cling to childhood?

There can be no Mother symbol (or Father symbol) without children.

There are many paths around a symbol, around how we see and interact with each other. We make symbols of authority figures, and again of particular political leaders, athletes, actors, etc. We even make symbolic figures of each other as friends, colleagues….but I continue to believe one of the most powerful is Mother. A Mother gives; a Mother takes away.

Smashing those symbols, those illusions and setting free the people inside them can be liberating, and even so, absolutely terrifying. Those symbols can be life preservers in the deep, deep ocean of psychological waves and shifts.

I remember the day I decided to see my mother as a human being. I chose to see her as a little child, growing up under the duress of extreme poverty with a mother who didn’t know how to love. She became a human being, someone on the path alongside me. She was no longer a towering figure of perfection gone wrong. I found a way to forgive her, to forgive myself. Our relationship shifted. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t transgressions or failings. There were. There are. We are human.

Yesterday I had to face an immense illusion. I had worked on it for years. Perfected it. I had carefully built a symbol. I used materials of hope, and put together a design made of how-I-thought-it-should-be, and had hammered it together with wishes. Hammering with wishes is like hammering with handfuls of water. I had created someone wasn’t there. And the someone-who-wasn’t-there was who I had imagined interacting with me, was whom I had been relating to all this time.

It broke, as such illusions eventually do. What I had created was no longer there. Instead, what stood, was a very small and raw human being, with immense insecurities, failings and fears.

My first instinct was to defend myself, to fight.
Breath and love began leading me, first to see the illusion I had created, then to act with integrity even as I feel the pain.

And for me, most of all, because of my particular tests, I had to acknowledge my knowing. Knowing is beyond the human mind and emotional field. It has always told me the truth. The truth can be painful beyond measure.

Mvto, knowing.

And mvto, or thank you, dawning. This morning is another day. Each day has a soul, is a being, and loves to be acknowledged. How beautiful you are in blue blue sky.


MNN Column for January 2009

This morning when we left the house it was dark. We wound down the hill, Diamond Head direction to Hui Nalu Canoe Club at Maunalua Bay. I’ve been traveling far, nowhere near these warm seas. It was to be my first time paddling in months. We have a number of paddlers for a 7AM Sunday morning paddle, several canoes worth. I’m happy to be in Jeff’s canoe. He’s one of the best at riding currents. We go out past the blinker buoy where the water turns turquoise and clear. Beautiful. And because it’s relatively flat we keep going straight out to the deep blue. Those waters are ultramarine. I keep a lookout for whales. They return every winter to these waters to give birth.

Then we turn toward Diamond Head and surf the blue. When we turn back, we race. This means picking up the time and intensity of the stroke, and focusing. Focusing means to put your intention straight ahead, so that your vision places your canoe ahead of the rest.

I am in seat two behind an inexperienced stroker. I notice that when we can hear the competition coming up alongside, she turns. When she turns her stroke deteriorates. When the stroke deteriorates, everyone else’s stroke suffers, because we follow her lead. I also notice that when she looks anywhere besides directly ahead the canoe falters. I deliberate whether to say anything or not because I am not the steersman (the person in seat six, who directs the canoe). Then, because we’re falling back, I do.

“Focus! Look straight ahead. Your eyes carry energy. You are the canoe’s eyes.”

It’s almost magic the way the canoe responds.

And this becomes a lesson for me, something both the stroker and the spirit of the canoe is teaching me. Our attention literally goes in the direction we look or spend our time. It’s important to know where we are going, to keep an intention and keep moving in that direction in mind and heart.

And finally, some New Year’s resolutions from tribal members and others we care about from around Indian Country:

From Mvskoke Pastor, Rosemary McCombs Maxey:
“My breakable resolution is to not torture you, Craig, and Ted too much. My nobler one is to mentor and coach Creek youth in our language, history and culture, and to do a better job of recording life lessons I have learned from being a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.” And we’ll look forward to hearing from you, Rosemary.

From Muscogee Nation Second Chief Alfred Berryhill:
“I resolve to do the unresolved.” Okay, we’ll hold you to that, Alfred.”

From the Mvskoke writer Eddie Chuculate: “Write a novel. I bought a fresh journal today (Dec.20), so that’s a start.” We’ll keep everyone informed of your progress, Eddie.

From the inimitable head of the California Muscogee Creek Association Eli Grayson: “My goal for the next year is to try not to throw my shoes at anyone who voted for George Bush.” Everybody in Oklahoma, duck!

Tuscarora singer, songwriter Jennifer Kreisberg of Ulali: “As we make a fresh start this Solstice, I am releasing any past hurts done to me...” This is in the spirit of our traditional Mvskoke New Year, as I understand it.

And finally, from Cree singer, songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie:
“In every dream I can smell the sweetgrass burning
and in my heart - Always hear the drum
and hear the singers soaring and see the Jingle Dancers
and still this love goes on and on
still this love goes on.

Let's honor our traditions.” Thank you Buffy for the ongoing inspiration.



Obama's Inauguration from Vermillion, South Dakota

Left Honolulu last night on a flight jammed with tourists, students heading back to school, and a few business people and local families. Flew all night through the dark skies to Chicago. Then, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where I was picked up by Erin Thin Elk, interim director for diversity at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. She's nimble on ice in her heels! Now that's a skill! We drove over the plains, catching up on families, as if we had known each other for years. I'm impressed by her bright spirit.

Then, as she drove us over the flat plains of her ancestral lands to Vermillion, we listened to Obama's speech. Perfect. To ride the opening wave of change with an old-young friend in the middle of the country. And to perch our ears together to hear the eloquent new leader of this young nation who has vision, who can speak. Obama's mind is clear, without knots and connects directly to his heart and the heart of the people. He listens to his ancestors.

Later, over lunch with students and faculty of the university, we all noted that there was no reference to the original inhabitants of this country in his speech. Yes, there is still much work to be done.

Now I am back in the hotel room, about to crash after being up all night. I am watching Obama and Michelle walk the street the last blocks at the end of the parade. I can see their bullet proof vests bulging in their clothes. I can hear Michelle thinking. She's exhausted, yet high. The responsibility is all hitting her, like the feeling after just giving birth. What have I gotten myself into? Yet, she will walk directly forward and will do her best.

What a day. (Or is it two days?)

P.S. Congrats Elizabeth on your poem!


Top 25 Bushisms...

Thanks to Jennifer Kreisburg for forwarding these.

1. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

2. "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

3. "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"—Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

4. "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."—Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

5. "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican."—declining to answer reporters' questions at the Summit of the Americas, Quebec City, Canada, April 21, 2001

6. "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.''—Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

7. "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."—Washington, D.C., April 18, 2006

8. "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."—Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

9. "I've heard he's been called Bush's poodle. He's bigger than that."—discussing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as quoted by the Sun newspaper, June 27, 2007

10. "And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq."—meeting with Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008

11. "We ought to make the pie higher."—South Carolina Republican debate, Feb. 15, 2000

12. "There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

13. "And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."—speaking on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

14. "We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers."—Houston, Sept. 6, 2000

15. "It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet."—Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

16. "One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."—U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 3, 2000

17. "People say, 'How can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil?' You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you."—Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002

18. "Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."—CNN online chat, Aug. 30, 2000

19. "I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend."—on the prospect of visiting Denmark, Washington, D.C., June 29, 2005

20. "I think it's really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to—the beauty of playing baseball."—Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2006

21. "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."—LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

22. "You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war president. No president wants to be a war president, but I am one."—Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 26, 2006
23. "There's a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, 'I don't want you to let me down again.' "—Boston, Oct. 3, 2000

24. "They misunderestimated me."—Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

25. "I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."—Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008



I want to thank everyone for all the radio and other references for getting my Winding Through the Milky Way out there. This help really matters.


One of my New Year's resolutions was to blog or journal daily. Not all journals are fit for blogging, and some of my blogs aren't fit for blogging, either! And now it's January 8th.

Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts for my brother. He's about to be released, miraculously with no lasting physical repercussions for his attempt. He's getting the help he needs, and he now knows the power of prayers, and that many people care about him.

This poem appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I realized after a few days that it was given to me to illuminate the image of "The Devil", or Extreme Earthiness and Attachment to Earthiness.
Here it is:


I was desire's dog.
I ate when I was fed. I shit where I was told.
I knew how to sit, stand and roll over on command.
When I was petted, I was made whole.
Even when I dreamed, I dreamed a chain around my neck.
I lay at the feet of desire for years.
I died. Rats dug up my bones.
What was left disintegrated by rain and wind.
Still I followed desire, to the end.
Desire is a bone with traces of fat.
It's the wag smell of a bitch in heat.
It's that pinched flower at the end of a beat.
It's a stick thrown into a chase of rabbits.
I followed it out flat, to the other side of me.
I stood up. I took a breath.
I heard my name. It came from within.
I went down to the water.
I put on new clothes.
I walked free.
Then I heard this song, calling me.
It was a woman in a red dress,
It was a man with a gun in his hand.
It was a table filled with fruit and flowers.
It was a person of fire, another of stone.
It was the beginning. It was the end.

c Joy Harjo Honolulu, HI 1-3-2009


The Gathering Everything for Possible Power and Knowledge Being

I got an excellent lesson yesterday, or rather, a lesson strung out over the last few days. When we got back from Oklahoma and made our way home the last leg, in the taxi, I held tightly onto my cell phone. I’m careful, but that day after I’d made a phone call in the taxi as we headed up the hill from the airport, I told myself emphatically, with strong emotion, “DO NOT lose your cell phone.” Well, the Gathering Everything for Possible Power and Knowledge Being within me heard: “Lose the cell phone”. So, my body, whose instincts are first commanded by this being, lost hold of my cell phone. I dropped it in the taxi as we unloaded bags, though I had been consciously gripping it tightly. And despite many calls over two days to the taxi company and the dispatcher at the airport, the phone was not returned.

Then yesterday, I did a tarot layout for the year. (Would like to do my own deck of images more culturally appropriate, however, no matter the culture, we all deal with the same forces.) As I was shuffling I saw the Devil card. I did the same thing I did with the phone. I said to myself, DO NOT get the Devil card. Well what do you know, there was the Devil card in my reading (I rarely get that card) taking over the space of final outcome. I had used the same technique: speaking what I did not want, emphatically.

The Gathering Everything for Possible Power and knowledge Being makes no distinction. Love and hate become the same thing, the same kind of power, just angled oppositionally. Does this mean that force of emotion trumps words? Emotion is the rudder. Desire is the engine.

Since then I am watching my thoughts and reactions.

We do get what we ask for, literally.


Waking Up

It’s the morning after a long journey by plane, and post 9-11 and heightened insecurity. L and I decide to eat at the local diner, Kenny’s, in Kamehameha Shopping Center. The menu is a mix of American and local Asian and Hawaiian. So are the customers. There are no haoles in sight. I usually know someone. Once it was a career military man I met in LAX. We were both traveling with saxophones. We got into a conversation and started a friendship and even jammed together at his place in Kapolei with a funk bass player friend of his who I almost hired for a gig. He was Funky. Once I ran into him while he was having a big breakfast with his family. We’ve lost track of each other. I look for him.

We order simply though I’m tempted to get saimin. It’s my favorite menu item. I’m still blurred; I’m not quite here and I’m no longer there. When I fly I notice that it takes a day or so for my spirit to fit itself into a different time or place. The farther the flying distance, the more adjustment. My spirit loves to fly, and though an airplane is a huge, bulky, mechanical hulk of brilliant human engineering, it’s still flying. It’s in the touching down we accumulate stories. Flying takes us beyond story.

As we wait for our order and begin to plan out the day and week I see the end of a dream, the dissolve between one dream and another. I sense the dream state we are in together and see this life as a dream cloud and watch it disappear. It will be just like that, one day. Our conscious lives aren’t internally constructed by days, or sequential time, like New Year. There’s eternal order. It’s difficult to catch or know as it passes, though poetry, music and art are able to hold it, a little. It’s one of those dreams you are inside and then you are bumped “awake” by a voice, a siren, a child or the phone and the dream shivers and it disappears. You try to catch it, and it’s gone. You retain a taste, a smell, a knowing. Then it’s gone.

The friendly Filipino waitress delivers our breakfast, and we gratefully eat. The house needs cleaning. I need to unpack. I need to call my brother in ICU. He survived a suicide attempt. We have company coming. The Ko’olau’s are greener than when I left, from all the rain. We make a grocery list…

May you wake up this New Year
May you remember that every day is New Year
Thank you, for the compassion that has constructed us