Water Man Spouts

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Peace

{1} Water Thanks
The drop of water
hangs from the faucet
pulsing, the heart
of the well still beating

I never drink water
Harold Elm told me
even from the sink
without saying
a prayer of thanks

the drop of water
trembles, holding
the face of all the worlds.
--Joseph Bruchac

Thanksgiving time was when I used to be asked to speak at schools, often with Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, about "Indian issues." I always thought it presented a good opportunity to talk about "human being issues." Part of being human is how we relate to ourselves, other people, and the environment. So if I were in front of a grade school or university classroom, I liked to take about how Harold Elm related to a drink of water.

One nice thing about Thanksgiving is that we have an opportunity to slow our world down. When the world spins at the speed that the United States is spinning today, it’s a good idea to slow down. There is a very significant difference between Harold Elm pouring a glass of water, and a person buying a 12-ounce bottle of sparkling water from a vending machine. The water is the same; it’s the state of mind that differs.

Harold Elm’s wife grew the corn they ate on Thanksgiving in her garden. She had a different relationship with the corn she fed her extended family, than the person who buys a can of corn at the supermarket. The corn is different, too.

{2} "The modern American family is the smallest and most barren family that has ever existed. Each newly married couple moves to a new house or apartment – no uncles or grandmother’s come to live with them. The children live with their peers and leave home early. Many have never had the least sense of family.

"I remember sitting down to Christmas dinner eighteen years ago in a communal house in Portland, Oregon, with about twelve others my own age, all of whom had no place they wished to go home to. This house was my first discovery of harmony and community with fellow beings. This has been the experience of hundreds of thousands of men and women all over America since the end of World War II. Hence the talk about the growth of a ‘new society’."
--Gary Snyder; Earth House Hold;1968

That quote is taken from a chapter of Snyder’s book titled "White Indians." In it, he discusses attempts that focus not on pretending to be "part Indian," but rather on finding a state on mind that embraces a different relationship with the world than our modern society allows for.
It’s important to learn about our nation’s history, including the chapters about the colonist/US relations with Indian nations. It is especially meaningful, because there are issues today that involve if the US will honor its laws and treaties with Native Americans. And more, we can learn different options that we have for interacting with other people, who are from other extended families, clans, tribes, and nations.

Chief Waterman taught that sharing is "divine intervention." It isn’t restricted to Indians sharing a feast with some cold and hungry Pilgrams. It’s how we relate to those who are cold and hungry today. These are concepts that we can all understand, especially if we take some time to slow the pace of the world. Put down the bottled water, and drink from Harold Elm’s cup.

{3} "Q: Do you have any closing message for our readers?

"A: Live. Don’t be afraid to live. We can live through this time.

"I did reburials at the Penn Site. Germ warfare killed them. At the Bloody Hill Site, it was small pox. Some burials were of parents and their children. They were holding hands. This seems to happen when germ warfare kills families.

"But we are here today. It’s our turn to live now. And if you are reading this, it’s your turn as well. Make the most of it. Enjoy your family."
--Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman

That was the ending of a four-part series of interviews that I did with Paul. I feel a mixture of happiness and sadness when I read those words, because I really miss that man. I’m confident that anyone reading this can relate to how the holidays are a mixture of the good and bad.

Commercials on tv tell us that the rest of the world is very happy at holiday time, especially if they have bought the newest and most improved products. When people feel the range of emotions that most of us do at holiday time, they can feel that something is wrong with them. It is important to know that this is not true. It is okay to remember those who have passed.

Likewise, we should not feel that everything is bad. That isn’t accurate. This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 22, and many of those people who grew up reading or living disconnect that Gary Snyder wrote of will think of JFK’s death. No matter what one believes actually happened in Dallas, it was a dark time in our history. But it wasn’t "the end" of everything good. In fact, we do best to remember what John Kennedy’s living message was, and what it was about him that meant so much to the American people.

It’s still here.


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