Thursday, April 30, 2009

Veils 3

You must leave your home and go forth from your country.
The children of Buddha all practice this way.
---The thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices

I stand firmly on the ground on the other side of the Veil. Here, loneliness is transformed to honed and solitary awareness. Here, longing is transformed into the path to my own door. Here, places are re-named. A people reclaim themselves.
My friend and I head for the Olympic Rain Forest. We never arrive. Somewhere around Sequim, he feels the northwest pulling him as far as it will be possible for two humans to go. Beyond that point there are cormorants and orcas. There is a blue-black horizon and light fading down into the sea. There is air vibrant with salt.
We stop along the way to the last stop. I go down to water’s edge. I scoop handfuls of liquid mineral. I touch my forehead, my heart and belly with my wet fingers. I take away my cool wet touch, and a gray-white pebble flecked with mica.
At the Makah Cultural & Research Center, I learn that the people regard the knowledge in that place as “a canoe” carrying them and a “war club” shattering assumptions and prejudices. I learn that their real name is kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx which means People who live by the rocks and the seagulls. Makah is a name given to them by another First Nation. It means Generous with food.
My friend and I walk through the exhibit that is a canoe and a war club. Much of the weaving and pottery, toys and weapons, cooking and burying objects were found during the excavation of Ozette Village. We look into the cases together. We say little.
We sit in a reconstructed cedar longhouse. It is dark and fragrant with cedar. There is silence except for soft chanting from the hidden stereo speakers. Later, my friend says, “I was there.” I nod.
We drive out to the trail that will take us to the furthest northwestern point of what never really was The United States of America. We walk through prisms that break the gray light into particles of green. Then, we stand on a cedar platform a hundred feet above dark sandstone and silver spray.
You will not find the kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx name for this place on any map. You will find, instead, “Cape Flattery” and when you research the name you will find this:
...on Sunday, March 22, Captain Cook saw, between a low cape and a steep island just off the cape, “a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding an harbour”. The hopes lessened as the ships drew nearer. Cook decided that the opening was closed by low land and turned the ships away. He named the point of land Cape Flattery...
...Cook’s activities at Nootka actually had a far greater impact on the future history of Washington than his brief excursion past Cape Flattery. He and his crew were able to trade with the Nootka Indians for sea otter furs, which were highly coveted by Asian and European merchants. When Cook’s expedition finally returned to England following his of the wealth available on the Northwest Coast inspired the fur trade that brought many more Europeans and Americans to the Pacific Northwest.

I look down on the dark fingers of sandstone, on the cormorants gliding in and out of the darker caves. There is a dwarfed cedar to my right. Salt spray beads on its boughs. I know I will write about what I see. And I know I will write that the fur trade brought genocide. I know I will not be able to call the place “Cape Flattery.”

The day after we return, I e-mail the Makah Cultural & Research Center. I ask to know the kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx name for the furthest northwestern point. A woman writes back:
I hope I understood your question right and that you are asking for the word in our language that describes or names Cape Flattery. If that is the case, the name kwih dich chah uhtx IS the name we use to loosely mean the area of the Cape. ---Vickie B.
The people and the place have the same name. The people and the place are the same.
You must leave your home and go forth from your country. The children of Buddha all practice this way. The kwih dich chah uhtx go forth from “Cape Flattery”. They travel in a great canoe. They carry war clubs of knowledge. They circle out from “Cape Flattery” and back into their home. The kwih dich chah uhtx come home to kwih dich chah uhtx There is more than one way to practice.

Note: When you look down from the furthest northwestern point in kwih dich chah uhtx, you might see this: