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.