Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fall Pow Wows....and Preparing

Yesterday, we released the small Box turtle we were fostering back into the wild, so that he could eat eat eat before his hibernating instincts kick in. I had planned to keep him a couple more weeks, but I grew weary at seeing him pressed against the side of his container, little feet up, looking out. Confinement, even when well-intended, can seem so cruel sometimes. And while it pained my heart to let him go, I knew it was the best thing for him in those moments.

Look closely...
My son is becoming a very confident, independent young man who also desires freedom, a bit more right now than I am honestly willing to give. Like the small turtle, he wants out - out into the world. He uses terms like 'quest' and 'adventure' and I can remember being his age and asking my own parents for permission to sleep alone in a tent at the far end of our property. The small turtle took baby steps into the wild; my son wants to run and leap into it as most young men do. And while I don't want to confine him, I am still a mother, and mothers hold on tight. We also prepare - prepare our homes, prepare food, prepare our young to go out into the world. The first two things we do instinctively, sometimes almost mindlessly, it seems. The last one, well....

This weekend we attend the Palmetto American Indian Association's 10th Annual Powwow. 

Grand Entry
Grand Entry
 Summer here in the South is intensely hot; we spend more time indoors that usual, too much time indoors, really. So when Autumn finally comes around, it's liberating, and weekends are sacred times spent together, getting out more often, and attending as many Autumn powwows as we can. 

I grew up attending and dancing in pow wows; it was a huge part of my youth and some of my best memories with family are from pow wows. I introduced my son to pow wow dancing as soon as he could take a few steps; he was 4 when he danced solo for the first time. Of course, in keeping with tradition, all of his regalia was handmade by me or passed down to him from someone else. I danced too, and was thrilled to be passing on to him these traditions.

Solidarity with Standing Rock is so important right now.
Last year's rains and subsequent flooding meant that we didn't attend any fall pow wows at all. It took us most of the winter to recover and come spring pow wows, we were still catching up, it seemed. Then the smothering, stifling heat of a Southern Summer settled in all around us. I read. Painted. Took long (and very early or very late) walks with my son. Took care of home and hearth. Gardened. Played. Lived. Loved. But we didn't go out and about too much, especially during the middle of the day. Naps took the place of afternoon outings. 

Edisto River on the drum
Pow Wows are much more than dancing. Culture, history, the ways of our people...this is a place to learn, a place where it all comes alive.
However, the first cooler days of fall have gotten us up and at 'em early on Saturday mornings, eager to get out more often, to quest and adventure, to hit the pow wow trail, see old friends, make new friends, teach my son, as he steps towards becoming a man, the importance of culture and heritage. To instill in him the stories and the traditions that will guide him on his path.

We watched the little turtle we released for a good while, watching the path he made as he went deeper and deeper into the woods, further and further away from us. We could only choose when to let him go; we couldn't choose for him what trails he would make or follow. My heart ached just a little as he disappeared from sight, making his way, instinctively.

With our children it is like this, times infinity. We spend so much time preparing them that we don't even think about what we are, ultimately, preparing them for. We just do it, instinctively. In the three hours since I began writing this post, I had to pause numerous times. I've washed the week's laundry and made breakfast, taken care of animals and checked on skinned knees. I've helped search for lost things, put a pot of beans on to cook for coming week's meals, hung laundry out on the line to dry and prepared the gift for my Mother's birthday celebration later today. I know very few artists, artisans and writers who have hours of uninterrupted time to hone their crafts. No. Most I know work in this same way - constantly pausing. Always preparing.

Fry bread life!
For the next few years I will prepare my son to move towards manhood. For the next few weeks, I will prepare for coming pow wows in Georgia and South Carolina. For the past few days I prepared the little turtle to be released. Today I prepare for the party this afternoon and food and clothing for the coming week. The morning is cool; the earth is letting go of summer to prepare for winter. 

Mothers are always preparing. 

I was inspired to go out to more Pow Wows this autumn by Evenbrite's Get Out More Often (GOMO) campaign, which is all about spending your money on experiences this fall rather than material things.  For information on how they can help you plan your next event, e-support ticket sales and other features, including discounted options for non-profits, please visit their event management page. For more information on pow wows in your area,visit or Six Directions Traders Pow Wow Page.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Recess and Redo, Turtle Shells and Memories

After work I attend an art reception, where my piece wins an Honorable Mention. I'm stoked by this given the caliber of work in the show, and also because I am dipping my toes back into the arena of exhibiting my art after an almost three year break. But it's a school night, and after a bit of socializing I hurry home with my son so we can begin homework and end-of-the-day routines. First, however, he grabs my hand shovel and I follow him into the woods, aware of the quickly diminishing sunlight. It always seems darker deep in the woods, I think, as he digs with the small shovel until he finds what he is looking for - a fat, writhing earthworm. We are fostering a young Box Turtle for a couple of weeks before releasing him back into the wild. The survival rate of these little guys is pretty low, and we wanted him to have a fighting chance. However, in a short time he'll need a foraging area about the size of a football field, and we can't provide that, so we'll be letting him go. No matter how good one's intentions are, too often wild things die in captivity - first the spirit, then the body.

At my son's school, there is an occasional special day called Recess or Redo. On this day, students have the choice to enjoy a variety of sports-based recess activities or redo work that they may not have done their best on. I love this concept. You can enjoy a bit of fun and freedom from regular school routines...or you can go back and change the final outcome of a test, assignment, etc. by redoing it.

It would be nice to have a recess and redo in life, wouldn't it? I groan many mornings lately when I check Facebook and discover it's dredged up particular memories from a few years ago. Joking with a friend over coffee one evening, I made the comment that sometimes I wish I could disable that memory timeline feature. "Don't you just wish you could go back and not have wasted so much time and energy on mess that didn't deserve it instead?" She says, and we laugh. Recess or Redo, I think.

I don't believe everything is a lesson. I believe some things are just gloriously poor choices that we make, usually when we are trying to confine ourselves to inauthentic ideas of who we are or should be. I'm not proud of the times when I chose to not respect myself and who I am by allowing myself to be treated poorly or to be in a relationship that wasn't right for me because I felt I needed someone else to be whole. I don't look for lessons in all the choices I made regarding this, and given the chance, yes, I would redo - or rather undo - a few memories, ones which resulted in my losing focus on my goals, which took years to get back and, as my friend said, ultimately amounted to just a lot of wasted time and energy.

Would I redo every failed relationship? Of course not. I wouldn't redo meeting my son's father because then I wouldn't have the handsome, amazing boy who is the light and love of my life. I moved across the country for love once, and I wouldn't redo that either, because the experiences I gained from that time of my life were amazing. These were ones where I truly learned lessons about who I am and who I am becoming. Were it not for these lessons, I, too, might have died in captivity years ago. First my spirit, then my body. A few since then, however...yeah...I cringe when Facebook spontaneously pops up with unpleasant (to me now) memories. Not because of the people in them, no. I cringe because of me, and how out of touch I must have been with who I really am to have even created those memories to begin with. That's what I'd really like to redo -  my choice to settle for much less that I deserve, to remain deep in those woods even when I knew darkness was approaching.

A friend calls to ask me if I would like to have three Box turtle shells that he found in the woods. He's collected them over the years, but now feels the call to let them go."I thought of you," he says, and I smile. Twenty-five years ago, my father brought me turtle shells from the wilds of Florida because when he found them, he thought of me. In my son's room, there is a rattle that I made from a turtle shell that I found in the woods near our home when he was an infant. He carried it for years when he danced in pow wows. Now it has a special place because it, too, has the power to call forth memories. Good memories. Memories of life. Memories of dancing.

There is a full circle in this, in seeing ourselves as the true, wild beings that we are, able to remain in captivity for only short time periods before withering away, no matter how carefully cared for, because the space we need to grow just isn't there. As I am writing this, my son runs downstairs. He's found a box we were missing, a small box of toys and mementos that were mine when I was a child. We have been searching for this little box, afraid it was lost in the flood last year. But he's found it, and together we open it.