The path of the ancients, of the First Peoples, still winds it way through the forest of humanity. Indeed these paths are nearly innumerable. But I was born on the highway, with the rush of cars and semis, where the Spirits dared not dwell, and the one god was a Man in a building on a skewed cross. And even then, that god was worshipped on one day. The other six days belonged to other gods: the dark gods that slipped their fine needles into the heart and sipped our blood, drugging us into obedience. The god of wealth, the god of security, the god of acceptance. They flourished on our creativity, on our spirit and our femininity. They drained it from us and grew fat. They are manifested in the multi-national corporations, war, and George Bush. We live in a culture that feeds these swelling parasites, a culture that perpetuates the illusion that excess is nourishment.
In her essay “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination”, Leslie Marmon Silko writes, “Hopi Pueblo elders have said that the austere and, to some eyes, barren plains and hills surrounding their mesa-top villages actually help to nurture the spirituality of the Hopi way.” The difficulty of physical existence meant that the Hopi “must live by their prayers.” In that culture, relationship with all beings, both tangible and intangible, provided the nourishment that sustained the spirit, which was of primary importance.
But I’m just writing about this. I don’t really know this. I’m not Hopi. I’m not even Celtic. I’m this weird white thing. Modern American. Rootless. Highway born. The one god of my recent ancestors split us from our relationships with the sacred Earth, placed the sacred heart under the dominion of the one-man-god. This is a story we know. We read about it in the newspapers, in the stories of our beginnings, we’ve driven on its highway, and tasted its deadly fruit. But the ancient heart beats in us. So while I’m not Hopi, I am human, and I have the same spiritual needs as a Hopi. They are simply unmet, tangled up with the weeds of American life.
I could mourn this. I could resign myself to a Matrix-like existence. Instead I consider it my choice, and the barren highway a place that begs for the prayer. I take root where I am, and undertake the work of reweaving relationship, of learning to live by my prayers. The place to start? The Creation Story.