Mark A. Schroll, Ph.D. was very gracious in including my writing within…
Mark A. Schroll, Ph.D. was very gracious in including my writing within…
Holy Niłchʼi Diyin Wind
As a graduate student in multicultural counseling, I was given the opportunity to conduct a practice counseling session with a man who was Diné, of the people of the Southwestern U.S., or Native American Navajo. In discussing his recent dream, I was intrigued by aspects of his culture concerning dream people and wanted to learn more about Navajo beliefs and healing forms. In Healing Symbolism in Navajo Religion, discussing the similarities between Diné healing rituals and psychotherapeutic processes, Donald Sandner (1972) said, “deeper still are the fundamental forms that underlie cultural diversity, the archetypes of healing, that must be sought anew in the raw materials of each culture (p. 132).” In researching a few of the “thirty-two to thirty-five principal ceremonials, also called chants or ways (Sandner, 1972, p.133),” I was fascinated by what could be called the archetypal roots of the words within the songs that accompany the rituals and are the foundation of the Navajo way of life, wellness and healing.
Sandner (1972) said,
the Navajo religion must be considered a design in harmony, a striving for rapport between man and every phase of nature, the earth, and the waters under the earth, the sky and the land beyond the sky, and of course the earth and everything on and in it. Harmony with nature is the core and essence of Navajo myth and ritual (p. 133).
The ceremonial sings are too complex and too numerous to give a thorough discussion here, but an important aspect of Navajo ritual is that the Medicine Man does not come to ritual to sing healing songs, but to sing the songs of the people as they have been given by the Creator. Sandner (1972) said, “all illness of body and mind is viewed by the Navajo as emanating from a basic disharmony within the patient or between the patient and his environment. It is to cure this disharmony, thus striking at the root of the illness, that all religious energy is directed (p. 153).”
In Diné Bahane’, the creation story of the people, the first creation was the Niłchʼi Diyin, or Holy Wind. It is said “using signs but without speaking, the gods tried to instruct the people. The gods appeared on four days in succession and attempted to communicate through signs, but their efforts came to nothing (Erdoes, 1984, p. 39).” Finally, after having been left by the Holy People to contemplate and being gifted a message in their own language from one of the gods called Black Body, the other gods returned about 12 days later and told the people to “stand back and allow the wind to enter (Erdoes, 1984, p. 40).” They followed the instructions and began to say the words that became the words in the chants that are passed orally from one generation to the next. The deity Changing Woman said, “Do not forget the songs I have taught you. The day you forget them will be the last. (Haile, 1938, P.12).” The legend as recounted by Washington Matthews (1897) said, “It was the wind that gave them life, and it is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life. When this ceases to blow, we die (Erdoes, 1984, p.39).” Navajo healers speaking to Bassett et al. for the Trauma Survivors Outcomes and Support Study said, “Native people are very spiritual. That’s a gift that the Creator gave us versus other people. There are people who don’t know that about themselves and… they’ve never grown up with their culture, and they’ve never had guidance from elders (Bassett, 2012).” It was apparent the healers were not claiming to have a special ability spared the rest of the world, but rather, they had the benefit of having been taught by the elders of their culture that such an innate healing ability existed in each of us, gifted to us by the Creator.
Michael Anderson (2005) said,
Counseling and psychotherapy have generally become taken for granted aspects of Western culture. When social artifacts become so seamlessly sutured to the rest of society it suggests that they have become such integral parts of that society that they cease to be seen, even less examined (p. 282).
After making an exploration into the traditions of some of the first inhabitants of the western world, it becomes less difficult to realize not only how many advantages we enjoy that have their origins in our first nations, but also the power of the archetypes to carry the patterns to us down through the ages.
Some of the rituals of the Diné are Mountain Top Way, Evil Ghost Way, and Blessing Way, but often the Blessing Way song is added to the end of any of the other rituals for the sole purpose of insuring that no word that should have been said has been left out of the ritual. One aspect of the Blessing Way ritual involves sandpainting, a design that illustrates man’s journey through life. The Blessing Way “legends, songs and prayers are…concerned with the creation and placement of the earth and sky, sun and moon, sacred mountains and vegetation, and the inner forms of these phenomena. After passing through the gateway formed by two Holy People…man is created between their outstretched arms…said to be the gods through whom the spirit of man must pass in order to be made substance, the individual is blessed and now enters the Pollen Path (Sandner, 1972, p. 135-136).” While the ritual effects a change in the psychological, physiological and social aspects of the community, the ritual is held for the individual who has come suffering and asked for help of the Medicine Man, who draws him back into the web of life of which he is a part and harmony with nature is restored. The very last act on waking from the last night of a sometimes days long ritual, the one the Medicine Man has done the singing over goes into the morning sun and takes the first breath of dawn. This breath, then, serves as the one’s first breath of new life, and now in the telling, we each are given the same hope as it was given by the Creator.
Bassett, D., Tsosie, U. and Nannauck, S. (1986.) Our culture is medicine: Perspectives of native healers on posttrauma recovery among American Indian and Alaska Native patients. Perm J. 2012 Winter, (16)1. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Bethesda, MD. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
Erdoes, R. (1984). American Indian myths and legends. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, A Division of Random House.
Haile, B. (1838). Origin legend of the Navajo Enemy Way: Text and translation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Moodley, R. and West, W. (2005). Integrating traditional healing practices into counseling and psychotherapy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Sandner, D. (1972). Healing symbolism in Navajo religion. Spring: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought. (1972). New York, NY: Spring Publications.
On Wearing Suits
My grandfather had one black suit in the back of his closet he refused to wear. He used to say…
But first today,
An old woman walks beside the highway in black, long skirts flowing over cautious black boots in measured steps. A bright orange vest for safety on her way to the vegetable stand.
I look down and see my long black sleeves, black pants over shiny black shoes as I drive to work in the morning fog.
An old veteran wrapped in black plastic bags sleeping under a bush in the churchyard.
A little ninja boy eats an ice cream cone and Dale Carnegie crows from the speaker to dress for success.
A slippery eel, the priests robe, a grizzly bear as I slide my mind out of sleeves of understanding.
“Monkey Suits! You can bury me in it one day.”
Alamy Stock Photo Credit
– When Words –
His head snapped up then,
and he looked me in the eye.
I knew he was looking for…
a sign that my gaze could not hold him.
But the words held my truth.
No one had known,
how far he had come,
because no one had asked,
where he came from.
I hadn’t asked.
I heard it in the first sentence he ever spoke to me.
“You’ve come so far.”
That is all I said.
His head snapped up, then
and he looked me in the eye,
and my heart broke a thousand times,
for every step that he had suffered,
to arrive today.
I like to remember that this path into the woods leads back to Africa.
I am making my way home.
I want to always pause to view the world like my ancestors do.
So that when I tell you this tree points the way to Harmonia,
You can believe me.
I am making my way back to the Africa that I never really left.
In the Dreamtime, I go there to play, and it is always the same.
My Africa, my home, my Dream.
I will hold your hand and we can go there together.
I am learning to Dream aloud. I bring Africa with me now, and when we say, a new day is dawning, we awake and the sun shines on our shoulders.
The same shoulders.
The leopard resting in the morning sun,
lounges on my lawn. Listen
to the digeradoo singing us home.
Library in Time
It’s story time and the little ones gather around her knee
On a soft pink rug for rugged knees in tattered jeans from too much playing at
The setting where we venture in some wild adventure into the land of man or animal or Buddha, maybe it was Geisha then,
or an Amethyst with a name
in the windowsill, or in the wood, or in the box, or in the wardrobe, it matters not
who knows, as our minds wander in the morning sun, warmed by the fire
of lost boys,
or girls or puppy breath,
what’s next and then
the plot we know not.
This one stands for majesty, an oak of understanding or
Was it sparkle pump in the profile then, no
the Buddha girl with curly peppered hair who said a circle of friend, just one, with a little help from that book of music.
Oh how they mingle in the windowsill, branches touching in some unspoken meaningful array of
Cobwebs hanging on a wing touched by Oklahoma, no
A tortoise shell, I’ll tell you.
This one stands for then and that one stands for now passing on the mystery to some future girl of tiny gifts in a tiny town invited.
To gaze at a windowsill in wonder, swaying pines, newspaper clad artifacts, and handmade cloaks in closets above a green box of mementos more
I gather you.
The singing trunks in guitar tunes in the wind of my imagination singing Wagon Wheel over air plants two and two in blue clouds on glass.
Tears marching under the palm of that angel, little tyrants hell bent on a sugar compost high.
Oh and that one with football shoulders playing scrabble carrying dust to the sea anemone to the left of the quartz, or quarterback or
Was it a tick filled skull.
Ouch that hurts.
Dusting things with watered down resin.
I’ll carry that with me forever and you have a peach seed in your pocket now,
How did the story go tell me? Shhh. Let the windowsill speak of the circle of elders watching above a gnomes home in June.
Girl in the Tree.
I’ll be there but I might not be me
Sporting gray buns smelling like bay leaves
medicine smoke come
tall time tales.
Rocking back and forth in a fork of solace mountain where we met in apple picking days stacked on the shelf,
telling the children that never came to some
same seen Library
I died before the guests arrived.
Part V of A Story in Parts. A True Story.
So I’d recently moved to Black Bear, and it was my first time coming home after a good rain. I saw the water on the bridge, watched the pickup truck tool across, and down the hill to the bridge I went, driving right across. The men on the other side were waving their arms and when I got across, they told me never to do that again. Explained the “orange rock,” to me. If you can’t see the orange rock, it’s not safe to cross. They told me, “you took the cake.” (You can look at the river video I posted earlier of the bridge, and see, there was no orange rock visible on the opposite bank, so looks can be deceiving. That bridge was down under a good ways. And that is why I stopped and made the video, instead of driving across.)
I had no idea, just followed the truck, but as I soon learned, trucks had a different marker for safe crossing. The orange rock was for cars, and I should feel lucky to have made it across. I also learned that getting the brakes wet like that will rust them up and cost some money afterwards, and driving too fast on the dirt road will cost some new struts and you’ll have to wash the car pretty often.
So I’d asked, “What are you guys doing out here?” And they’d replied,
“Making sure no one gets in that doesn’t belong.”
They went on to tell me what a good community we were, and they liked to keep everyone safe.
I learned it was true, since during the flood ins, it was often necessary to help one another out. Somebody had bread that someone else needed, someone knew how to work on things that might go broken during the flood, a plumber, an electrician. I usually had a freezer full of Girl Scout cookies, and so we made do, and checked on one another. Course, Bob had a plane or helicopter or something up at his end, if we found ourselves in dire straits with a real emergency. That was the rumor, though I never saw it lift off a single time. We had cards for playing and decks for sitting and chatting too.
That’s when I first heard about it, why they liked to guard the bridge before a flood in. Once you’re in, you’re in for a good while, and we don’t want anyone stuck on the wrong side that doesn’t belong.
I once knew the names of the victims in the tragic Black Bear Crossing story, but time and distance prevent me from recalling them now. That can all be verified later.
From what I do recall, as I received the story, a divorced woman was living in her home at Black Bear Crossing and on this evening, she and her new beau were at the house.
Her ex-husband had hidden himself in the surrounding woods, and laid in wait for her return home and the cover of darkness, before entering the home and confronting the couple with a gun.
There is more to the story regarding the altercation, but I do not now recall the details.
To the best of my memory, the woman’s ex-husband shot his former wife, taking her life. The woman’s boyfriend struggling with the ex-husband for the gun, shot the ex-husband, killing him.
The woman or her boyfriend one, had called 9-1-1 and when the police finally arrived, the boyfriend exited the home carrying the gun, and was shot and killed by the responding officer.
Of course, there was an investigation and speculation regarding how such a tragedy could transpire. The officer had claimed it was so dark, visibility was poor.
And the bridge was closed while the police searched the woods in case there’d been an accomplice, and as I said, the woods connect to the national forest up the mountain… so folks at home stayed at home behind closed doors. And those away had to stay away.
As I’ve mentioned, to be sure, it really is very dark in Black Bear Crossing of a night.
So, the first time I had occasion to be visiting the new residents of the home where the tragedy had taken place, and they were a kindhearted couple, they made sure to tell me two things. One, they’d had just a few things happen that had them wondering if they had guests, the smell of a sweet perfume for instance… but for the most part, the visitor was a kind, warm person, if there was a visitor, and they weren’t bothered about it. They told me all about putting in the pellet stove, and then they made sure to point out to me the house had motion sensor lighting. And, the motion sensor lighting was already there when they moved in. They didn’t go into any detail to explain the information to me. But I understood it to mean they questioned the details of the triple homicide. And many other folks did too. Since I had on occasion left the motion sensor lights off at home, and had to stumble up the porch steps and struggle in the dark to unlock the door, it didn’t necessarily point to foul play to me.
But it did cause one to walk a little more reverently on a summer evening passing by that way, and it did add to the mystery that flowed with the river. You never knew what might wash up, carried in by the river. I’ve seen all sorts of things, large and small, including a deck, lawn chairs, a toilet and a sofa.
I don’t much like bringing up such a sad tragedy… but you can trust that I have my reasons for doing so.
“Don’t go home alone.”
Brenda and Tanya
Black Bear Crossing
Sacred Tricky Crow Leveling Plain-speak
(A story within a story within a story for times when you can no longer tell up from down, times like these.)
August 20, 2017
Inspired by a dream, a poem, a song and a riot.
Next day far from Charlottesville on the late night news.
Crow sauntered off the front walkway…
a red envelope with a raised gold letter left in his wake.
“Supreme Man Kind,” a song.
From Solomon to Ward all the way to Jay Z,
Sometimes a song wants a song you see.
Waddlin, swagger or stuntin all work.
Inoculated from the snakes and the fakes but not perps.
But this bird knows his rhymes and jingles and fees.
My religion was born in the dark, briny sea.
Come on over to San Quentin I’ll tell you a plan,
Thirteen minutes of time can really change a man.
Colors don’t matter I’ll say it again,
Chasing Jacuba to the cave with his devils and friends.
A trick is a trick no matter the hour.
He’s got science and math and a cult like power.
Slaves up buttercup,
But you can’t tell them the facts,
I’m a privileged Crow client
And you’ve got my back.
Pop and circumstance, funk and some blues,
A Crow and a story, a rap that rings true
to white lies, whatever it takes, ah now, we’ve lost the tune, tune, tune…
snap my fingers, shake a feather, as above so below,
Mecca or Paradise on the road to Cairo.
A bird had a dream, for a pretty penny.
Who’s paying who, henny penny henny penny.
It’s the same evermore, quoth the Bird,
Guess my name and skin a hare from right to left ear.
A book and a number, paper to pen. As without, and so within.
Dear Hue Man,
Music Myth Maker, sweet good god.
I’ll be sending my original in voice. Remit to source.
Thank you later,
Part IV of A Story in Parts. All true.
I haven’t seen Brenda since that year, though we did have conversation after that day. We had said all there was to say about it at the time, and afterwards, our conversations were not about anything of such consequence. Our lives were intricately entwined only briefly.
Brenda was the first to leave Black Bear Crossing. No one knew she was leaving. She just left one day and never came back.
I took care of some things afterwards. Found a retirement home for her old dog, so she could live out her life happy and free on a big ole farm. But that’s a different story.
From time to time I’ll read a story about living life on a river. River life has a mysterious quality all its own from the start.
But Black Bear Crossing, being on the river bend, is practically surrounded by the river on all sides, excepting the narrow spot where the bridge crosses.
Of course, when the bridge floods, Black Bear Crossing is like an island to itself. Islands have their own mystique about them.
Being on an island with no entry or exit is pretty peaceful, restive, removed from the usual chaos of town living. People pay good money to spend a week so removed from civilization. Yet, seclusion of this sort has its dangers, the living treacherous beyond that of tree-lined sidewalks and golden streetlights, with unexpected mishaps.
For one thing, it’s very dark at night. Pitch black, as it’s said. In fact it’s so dark, and absent any light pollution, I was able to see the giant fireballs flying across my front lawn in the wee morning hours from what I believe were the Leonids, fireballs like I’ve never seen anywhere else before or since.
And so, most folks in Black Bear have the motion sensor lighting outside their homes to avoid stumbling over a stone, or for illuminating the keyhole to unlock the door, and for catching sight of a bobcat or black bear, a hare or a fawn, the occasional fox and the wily raccoon.
I had the motion sensors. One in front facing the driveway, one in back that shone beyond the deck into the sloping woods that led down to the river, and a corner light shining out into the garden.
So when I sent a message out to Brenda this year (2017), having not spoken to her or seen her since she left Black Bear in the 90’s, (20 years!) I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t beat around any bushes, and got straight to the point, much like our conversation all those years ago. “I’ve been asked by a friend to write about my anomalous experiences, and I wanted to include our experience in Black Bear all those years ago. Do you remember?”
She replied, “I was just thinking about you and your daughter last night. My memories are still very vivid of that time and I remember your kindness even with all you were going through.”
She gave me her number so we can speak, and I can hear the story from her perspective. I haven’t called yet. That was in January. I need to call. I will call before I formally write. I need to hear the rest of the story, ask the questions I was too frightened to ask at the time.
But I also wanted to give a telling of my own account, prior to hearing any other details or perspectives. Things come to mind in the telling.
I was never afraid in Black Bear Crossing, in spite of the darkness, the tragedy or the tales. I loved the sound of the river running, the cool night air, and the living greens that sheltered the wildlife.
I always felt safely held there.
Brenda and Tanya
Black Bear Crossing
A photo of Brenda, much like I remember her.