Sunday, June 28, 2009

Burn This

The news is heavy...there are beasts loose that make the long walks,
Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Bhopal and Chernobyl pale in comparison.

---Barry Lopez
from his eulogy for Edward Abbey, 1988

...When we first moved here, pulled
the trees in around us, curled
our backs to the wind, no one
had ever hit the moon--no one…

From our snug place we shout
religiously for attention, in order to hide:
only silence or evasion will bring
dangerous notice, the hovering hawk
of the state, or the sudden quiet stare
and fatal estimate of an alerted neighbor.

This message we smuggle out in
its plain cover, to be opened
quietly: Friends everywhere--
we are alive! Those moon rockets
have missed millions of secret
places! Best wishes.

Burn this.

---William Stafford, 1993
from the Move to California

We begin with thanks—to Bob Katz for the Lopez quote and to Scottalatyl for the Stafford quote. We continue as “we”, because it is imperative at this time that we understand we are not alone. We are in the company of countless others---creatures, plants, minerals; we are not at the top of the heap. We are dispersed throughout a divine and temporary mix. We remember we are dangerous.
Last week I walked through rose-gray light to the Deschutes Public Library. I went upstairs and took a seat with perhaps sixty other people lucky enough to live in Bend on this particular June night.
It had been ten years since I had last seen the compact man whose hair had gone gray, whose face was gentle. Barry Lopez stepped in front of us. “Thank you for coming to hear me,” he said
He read a story remarkable for the mysteries and hard wisdom hidden in its its austere elegance. He read of a marshland in Northern Nevada and violation and the failure to listen to the old knowledge of the people who have lived here long the colonizers.
When he was finished, he called for conversation. I’d brought two tapes recorded at Edward Abbey’s Memorial Service. I gave them to Barry and told him the bones of information the Hopi elder, Ferrel Secacaku had given a few of us in Spring 2008.
Barry listened. Then he spoke of watching Barack Obama receive the elders of the Civil Rights movement---and young African Americans born a decade after those battles. He spoke of Obama as an agent for transition.
My turn to talk was over, so I did not tell him and those around me that the Obama administration had recently opposed the Supreme Court reviewing the case of thirteen Southwestern Native American tribes vs. the Snowbowl ski resort. The ski resort had been granted permission by a lower court to make artificial snow from treated wastewater on one of the San Francisco Peaks. The tribes were hoping to appeal that decision at the highest level. They know that the act of making snow from wastewater on their sacred mountain is equivalent to pissing on the main altar at the Vatican.
I did not stand and tell those around me that the San Francisco Peaks are the holy of holies for the Hopi tribe. Their Katsinas live on the mountain. It is there that the Holy Ones make rain and snow. I stayed in my seat and I listened to Barry Lopez call for deep community, for listening to the old knowledge of indigenous peoples.
I thought of that which was loosed among us twenty years ago, and how the beasts have devoured so much. I studied Barry Lopez’ gentle face and, behind him through the huge windows, the delightful downtown of Bend, Or. I understood that it was hard from that vantage point to see the cracks continuing to open out in what we might believe is our world---and the beasts that have come through them and are with us.
Burn this.