There are very few books out there that can blow open your mind and your soul, leaving you with an entirely new perception of the world in a deeper, more integrated way. Jason Kirkey's The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality is one such book.
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Finding ourselves together in Crete after attending a conference, four friends and I set out to visit the caves of Eilitheia in Amnissos and Agia Paraskevi in Skoteino. As we drove along the coast toward Amnissos, I recalled that caves have been understood as sacred from the dawn of religion. When people knew the earth as their mother, the cave, the opening in the earth was her vagina and womb, the passageway to her deepest mysteries, the secrets of birth and rebirth.
The Eilitheia Cave is in the hills above the ancient port of Amnissos. We arrived in the morning, accompanied by the guard who came with us to unlock the gate. The cave has one large, long room, with a wide mouth, and a low ceiling. There is a belly stone near the entrance that women rubbed to insure conception. Near the center of the cave, in shadowy darkness, are two stalagmites, one squat and the other tall, surrounded by the remains of ancient walls that enclosed the sacred space. The guard told us that they were worshipped as the Mother, seated, and the Daughter, standing. Their heads were chopped off with the blow of an ax. In the back of the cave there are small pools of water, used for healing.
For some, winter is the time of dreaming. The long dark night, the glow of the fire, and much of nature seeming to be inactive or hibernating, can be suggestive of human sleep and resting. Winter can be the time of storytellers. It depends a lot on your way of life though, as it can also be a time of hunger, cold, struggle and death.
For others, spring is suggestive of dreams because it is the time of new beginnings. Everything is growing afresh, new life is coming into the world and this suggests possibilities. We can throw away the old, make something new and dream big....
By candlelight we sat together on the king-sized bed as a family engaged in something we rarely do in our home or our nation. With the power out and our bellies full of grocery store deli food, my partner, children, and a few of our cats, sat or wriggled about as I read a short story about a clever feline who saved a town. My partner, daughter, and I each selected a book we thought appropriate and let the toddler decided which of the three to read from.
Town Cats by Lloyd Alexander, Dada's selection. My daughter groaned because she wanted Percy Jackson.
I read the first story, candles flickering, and little fingers playing with the corners of the pages. I held the hand light over the book, and smiled when my daughter laughed at the funny parts. I waited patiently each time my son interrupted with his Rarity plushie or demands the cat move out of his way.
Once the story ended and the call to give the little one milk came from his little lips, we ran back to our bed and snuggled until he fell to sleep. When I stood up to head back to my partner's room to talk, I paused in the hall and felt how clean and pure the sensation to be in the house in near dark with no electric noises on. The hum of the refrigerator. The almost imperceptible buzz of the computers and monitors, my partner's clock radio droning on about news or playing jazz, the J-Pop coming through my daughter's earbuds another room away.
Their absence left me feeling calm, whole, at peace.
We live in the woods and outages happen often, but usually in winter, when we can't appreciate the stillness because we're working hard to stay warm and the additional layers are uncomfortable.
But the outages in warm months are rare and beautiful. I seem to be the only one in the house who takes pleasure in them. I don't mind being temporarily deprived of the stove or the computer, because when we don't have these constant distractions and electronic noises that only I notice, we're a kinder family, and we do more to connect.
It's not a new sentiment: to feel joy when relieved of our technological burdens. To escape into nature. But it was Saturday night, as I lay in bed, and a cool breeze brought in the honeysuckle and muddled plum fragrance of summer's farewell....
My bounty is in moments of despair and hopelessness
that break like waves on the shore
and make way for sunrise.
My bounty moves quickly
fluttering like a butterfly
and traversing continents of desire
before alighting on a thistle
In my line of work, you have to develop patience.
Whether I am at the dentist or a dinner party, as soon as someone learns that I am a teacher and writer of Native American Studies the questions start flowing. Most questions are asked out of sincere curiosity, and I am usually glad to educate these folks. However, sometimes people will flatly say with a huff, "I thought all the Indians were dead" or "Indians can't read and write." As I said, over the years I have developed a lot of patience! Because of so much benign, and sometimes obviously racist, ignorance, I have dedicated myself to teaching about Indigenous cultures and histories as widely as possible--most people are respectful and genuinely want to learn more. But what we need is everybody to work on raising awareness about Native people today, not just educators like me....