Thursday, June 30, 2005

Summary of The Walking People Reading Circle, Sheltered Valley p. 474

Before we began to read, RC asked, “Where are the Walking People geographically?” Jeanne replied that the Walking People are in the West, the Rocky Mountains, specifically, the Grand Teton, which are the jagged mountains in our story. They are following a mainly southerly path. Donna confirmed Jeanne’s recollection by citing the notes on p. 828 Three Mountain Tellings.

Several of those present had visited these mountains. Jeanne and her late husband, Bob, passed through a valley that they believed to be the one described in this story. Discussion ensued about other nations and their locations. That discussion ended with Jeanne’s reminder that after much walking over many years, the Walking People got to the Mississippi River and ultimately to the East Coast. The entire process, beginning with their crossing of the Bering Strait (which is 55 miles wide – 90 km), took some 10,000 years before they ultimately settled. As a result of this discussion, RC said that he would bring an atlas and dry markers for our use during the next gathering so that we can get a visual frame of reference.

At the top of p. 478 is the following line: “Perhaps the constant movement discouraged the long discussions necessary to an ingathering of thought.”

This passage prompted discussion of modern lives and our preoccupation with either looking forward or backward, but not “being” in the present. We still have much to learn. However, our Walking People reading circle, like our sister circle in Japan, helps us move towards the “long discussions necessary to an ingathering of thought.”

All loved the poetry expressed on p. 479: “LET US REMEMBER TO SING OF EACH PATH, HOWEVER USUAL IT MAY SEEM. So that children born to no Ocean yet remember the taste of salt. So that children born to no mountain remember its height. So that children born to no continuing walk yet hear the footfalls. SO BE IT.”

On p. 480, Jeanne noted Paula’s frequent reference to “my Brothers, my Sisters.” In the Iroquois language, there is a word that includes both genders, but there is no appropriate equivalent in English. The word ”sibling” comes closest, but it is not truly apt. There was some discussion of “all relations,” but that seems too broad for this usage. On this same page, Jeanne remarked that the allusion to the rope they used to bind themselves together when they crossed the Bering Strait is used often as a metaphor throughout the book, e.g., “For a People who had woven themselves together through many disparate circumstances now became a people who sought various ways through ease.”

In the middle of p. 486 begins a new understanding: “NO HOUSE WAS ANY LONGER BUILT IN ANY PLACE EASILY OVERRUN BY A RAPIDLY GROWING STREAM.” The description that followed ended with “so that such sudden water-standing became only a memory.” All present saw humor in this passage.

Then, on p. 488 appears the description of the long house, “long and also high, as if house rested on house . . . an even row of fires.” Jeanne elaborated on how these houses were easily expanded and also that the round houses became “special places for learning, so that regularities of the larger house need not be disturbed.” Some within the circle remarked on how fitting the shape of the round house was as a learning place.

Another purpose for these round houses was as sweat lodges which are described in detail at the top of p. 489, and it was said, “ . . . how the people learned a way to bathe in air as they had bathed in warm pools.” This illustrates the adaptability and resilience of the Walking People.

Following the sweat lodges is a lengthy description of a People whom we recognized as Sasqwatch. They traveled in groups of two or three and “were rarely seen and quickly left.” They were taller than the largest of the Walking People and they came to understand “that this furred condition was natural to them.” These tall furred People came too close for comfort to the Walking People’s houses, “sightings occurred especially at times when many of the women were proving to themselves they expected no young.” Pages 491-493.

Jeanne reminded us that TWP came from dark places, caves hidden in the mountains where they sought cover, but here in the valley, they were exposed to the elements. Donna commented upon the weather getting colder with each passing year. The stretch of increasing cold, coupled with increasing danger, affected the Walking People who “RAPIDLY BECAME A PEOPLE UNWILLING TO STAY . . . AND . . . WITH NO REGRET. . . ROSE AS ONE BODY and found the clearest passage east . . . leaving all behind that they had created, carrying with them each and every learning.”

This raised a question about the ice ages and if the Walking People were, in fact, experiencing one. Jeanne said that the ice receded when they crossed the Bering Strait and that new atlases show warming trends. Vicki Lynn said that Mother Earth shudders as a means of reminding us of the probability for change.

Note: In the San Antonio Express News of Tuesday 6-28-05. I saw an article entitled Shortcuts on Glaciers that stated that scientists believe that as recently as 20,000 years ago, much of Asia, Europe and North America were covered by ice sheets. It also described “moraines” as large piles of rocks created by glaciers. The last noteworthy fact is that glaciers dramatically alter the landscape by eroding and depositing billions of metric tons of rock.

RC restated his earlier observation that all is moving/changing, that we must look ahead and take what we don’t have to create what we need. Further, he said that we cannot let ourselves and our minds become lazy or complacent. RC concluded by saying that our nature seems to be “not letting go.” Jill said that it is difficult to live in the moment. RC responded that there is a growing strength behind the interweaving of the various planes especially the spiritual.

Jeanne asked if global warming is catching up with us. All replied affirmatively.

Vicki Lynn, who is watching the television series Into The West on TNT said that this series is particularly well done because it provides the native people’s point of view. She said that the opening scene of the series is the great universe held together by a web. Jill expressed amazement that we continue to deny our connectedness to all living things. RC held that since we live in the information age, everyone has access to various media. However, Vicki Lynn pointed out that not all people have equal access to media. She supported her view by citing visits to reservations in Colorado where the native people did not have television, as well as many people in third world or developing countries who also lack access.

The following facts support Vick Lynn’s viewpoint: I happened to see a TV program on Tuesday evening on Rocky Mountain PBS from Denver, Colorado. It stated that two thirds of the world’s people do not have electricity and that Brazil has over 20 million people without electricity. Rather, these Brazilians use kerosene that is a cancer-producing agent. People want to remain on the land, but the younger ones have left for the cities and the conveniences they offer. A native Brazilian from the countryside has learned how to harness solar power to produce electricity for the same price they previously paid for kerosene - $16.00 a month. Now, younger ones are returning to work the land since they will be able to take hot showers, get TV and radio. This benefits the family unit.

In closing, Jeanne said that she had recently seen congressional hearings on casinos. This is one of the few ways for Native Americans to make money. She learned that white people are siphoning much money that should go to Native Americans.

I look forward to seeing ya’ll at the gathering.

Semper fidelis, Vicki