Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I think they're right, and I say that on the basis of my last novel, Touches the Sky, as well as the one presently in manuscript. Non-Native people in this country really don't care to read about the Sioux or the Winnebago or the Pueblo or Cheyenne. It's not that they don't like them (although that may be a factor, all of those Indians getting rich on gambling!), and Native invisibility isn't occasioned by our guilt for having displaced them and destroyed their cultures (not that there's no reason). I think we just don't care. We don't look. Hence, we don't see.
But then, sometimes I think Native people can be a little over-sensitive because I'm not sure white folks care about anything that happens between the coasts these days, especially those of us in the underpopulated west and the Great Plains.
Take Ted Turner, for instance. For the most part, he's been buying up the thinly-populated West single-handedly. He now owns two million acres out here, in vast chunks of eleven states.
Just this week, he picked up 26,300 acres of prime ranch land in Nebraska for a cool 10 million, pocket change, outbidding locals as if they were the chaff to his wheat.
But if my family had lived in Sioux County, Nebraska, for a hundred years, and I saw Ted Turner's men drive up to a neighbor's auction in search of land my own kids wanted in order to expand their ranching operation, I'd get depressed fast. If I were a school administrator in west-river South Dakota, someone worried about whether or not his or her school was viable, and I heard Turner was interested in picking up more real estate, I'd start putting out my resume.
The man is altering the shape of things in the Great Plains--and more. The man is slowly buying himself royalty status: not long and he'll be King of Plains. And it's all fair-and-square legal, and seemingly under the radar of the national media--as invisible as Native people.
But sometimes I think--as much as I love this land, respect its harsh character and love its gentle lines (the Great Plains look like a woman on her side beneath a sheet, Ian Frazier wrote, only more poetically), sometimes I wonder if maybe we shouldn't have been here in the first place. Oh, I don't mean here in Sioux County, Iowa, where the land is immensely fertile; but I do mean out there on those broad stretches of land where somehow only the buffalo and the Lakota could live in joy and strength, the land Turner seems to treasure, even if no one else does, except those few who live there.
Sometimes, this romantic heart of mine sympathizes with what he's doing, taking land away from the white folks who, a century and more ago, took it away from the Sioux and the Cheyenne and Arikara and dozens of Great Plains tribes. Sometimes--and I know this is blasphemy--I think the idea of a buffalo commons isn't all that bad. "Our village life would stagnate," Thoreau says, "if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it."
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal
simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks. I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of King Tching Thang to this effect: "Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again." I can understand that. Morning brings back the heroic ages. [from "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"]
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Some requests simply aren’t to be denied.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Once upon a time women weren't supposed to wear slacks to church because some people considered only dresses were proper.
Not my grandma. She liked the wrinkle-free double-knit slacks because they stretched enough through the seat to allow her to sit easily in a folding chair--and they almost always held their press. One winter afternoon my Grandma said not wearing slacks to church was foolish and went off to Ladies Aid in her double-knits.
Grandma never walked too fast, so she must have made quite a spectacle waltzing into that fellowship room. But no one said a thing, and the Bible study likely plodded along as usual, most of the women nodding at most everything the preacher said.
After the preacher closed with prayer, a couple of the women got up to set out the coffee and cookies.
"Why, Mabel," Alma said, "I just can't believe you're wearing pants in church."
Grandma raised an eyebrow. "Oh, this ain't the first time," she said. "I been wearing pants to church for years."
Always brimming with jokes, Grandma delighted in pulling fast ones.
And yet, when I remember Grandma every Thanksgiving, the effect is always serious, never playful.
When she was getting older, she was the holiday's queen. Even now, many years after her death, the smell of a roast turkey reminds me of how she used to stand at the table behind the chairs while everyone was seated, then look around at her children and grandchildren and nod, as if heaven itself were only a block down the sidewalk.
I wasn't home for her last Thanksgiving. My sister's family had her over, along with my parents. But in my imagination I can create the scene-the table drawn out into the living room, the inviting smell of turkey and stuffing wafting through the rooms, the tinkling of forks against my sister’s china.
When it was over, Grandma slowly leaned into the car and sat beside my parents on the trip home. She told them it was a good Thanksgiving. Then, her head fell sideways, and my father, sensing something bad, sped off to the hospital, where, not that many hours later, she died.
She played this last little joke on us, dying when she did, so that every Thanksgiving her memory haunts our holiday.
But that's okay. Thanksgiving becomes too easily a recital of "things we have": good health, good food, a nice house, two TVs, a computer, school, friends, church, and an iPod.
Somehow, Grandma's death on Thanksgiving reminds me of the silliness of such recitals. It reminds me of what God gave her--joy in life through faith not earned but given freely.
Thanksgiving is a fine harvest custom, but gratitude owns no special date on any calendar. For believers, gratitude is a whole wardrobe, not just a moth-balled costume we haul out for October or November use.
I like to think Grandma knows she's still Thanksgiving's queen. And I like to think that up there on the right hand where she's got her place at the table today, she still chuckles about that last fast one she pulled.
And then she nods--the way she used to right before the meal. Today, heaven; for her, is no longer a block away.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
How could I? I got me a blessing. Look'a here.