What a gift she gave, of herself, of the old ways, and an example I hope to pass on to the young people in my life who allow me to be their friend. She used to call me out of the blue, once saying she wanted to give me something. I went to visit and she regretfully stated she had something that had come over the Trail of Tears, but had broken it that morning. She had placed the blue and white pitcher and bowl. She had put the bowl in the sink to wash it and the temperature of the water had broken it, into 3 pieces. She explained it's history, first the trip from the Cherokee homeland, then how it was buried packed with hay along with many of the other family treasures in their backyard during the Civil War. It glued back together and the set has been a joy now for over 50 years.
Generations of separation begin not to matter when we simply take the time to talk through them and understand the significance and pass them on.
Evans Ray Satepahoodle, say that fast, was a great big full blood Kiowa who remembered all the old songs, and created many for his tribal family members. He would call late at night and tell me the story of how a song was created, where and who was there, and why and then sing it. He was desperate to pass these on. He called me one evening and said he was in the 4th quarter, and as a former football player, he meant he had made it to 75 weaving in his football heritage. I would try desperately to take notes of the story and try writing the Kiowa words by how they sounded. But thankfully Huge Foley at Rogers State University learned of Evans Ray and recorded many of his stories and the accompanying songs. You can find them on YouTube, honest.
Evans Ray had been an Indian Counselor during many of the same years I had been, so we knew each other well enough, if he had had a bad day at work, serious issues lay on us as counselors, he would call and say simply, "The counselor needs counseling," as a signal it had been one of those heavy days. As a counselor, sometimes having a listener made all the difference.
We were connected even before I ever heard of him. One of my distant Cherokee cousins Sparlin Norwood had told a story about meeting ER as we called him, when life was not going so well for him. What Sparlin did after listening was to reach over and tap him on his chest and say simply, "There is a good man in there." Those words made all the difference to him and he spent the rest of his life being that good man. Sparlin was known to speak up and out for cause.
These elders allowed me into the tail end of their lives and have given that generational sharing gift I intend to pass right along.
And this week, a young woman who I had come to know after she knocked on the front door at LEAD Agency as a freshman at NEO College, Maddie Geiger came to visit, bringing her love and her loved one with her. We talked of the past, only slightly, but on to the lives we live now. One of my questions was how to have a Poetry Slam at this year's National Environmental Conference at Tar Creek Sept. 17-18. Did I learn a lot? Oh, yes, so get to thinking now about the poetry, or the story you want to share with the broad topics we will cover this year: Tar Creek, of course, BF Goodrich, lake level flooding, Poultry and by golly climate change.
Are friendships only with people? Not so to me, this land, this piece of the earth I live upon and the earth that stretches beneath all of our feet, leaving still room for others. We have not filled each spot, we have room, and all of it needs our care, our, if you would dare to say, it needs our love.
Our earth, much of the solid ground we have been counting for the future will be going under, as the ice melts at the poles, in the glaciers around the world, our seas will cover more of our ground. There will be less ground to share and peoples along the coasts, and our island people will be heading for higher ground. As Sally Whitebird said 25 years ago, "We have only one mother." She meant our mother earth and all of her children are going to be scrambling to stay dry.
That Sparlin Norwood, I spoke of earlier had a great deal to do with the establishment of the National Indian Education Association and they had a conference in Alaska that I won a trip in a raffle to attend. And while there was able to visit briefly a glacier. Peering into the ice was a blue I will never forget. Old ice. Our old friends are passing on, our old ice is melting away adding daily to the steady rise of the oceans.
I'd like to keep my old friends longer and keep our glaciers and poles frozen longer.
One is silver and the other blue... Friends are warm and the ice caps cold, (my new versions of that song about friends sung by the Brownies/Girl Scouts).
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim