|morning time, fixing coffee, the view out the kitchen window.|
that's our garage on the left, the clotheslines, Deacon's house and our propane pigs
It is 8F this morning.
He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts forth his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold?
We were twenty miles back the dirt road, the gravel ruts frozen and rigid... most of the rest of the year, the thick gumbo mud swallows the gravel and anything else that slows down too much --roads like quicksand pits, but not on this day. The ice formed thick barricades around the patches of snow at the edge of the road. The edge of the fields frozen fortresses...
Joel and I had seen two large coyotes running through the field together a few days ago --I couldn't tell if their jet-speed dash was in fear or jest. What I could tell is that they were perfectly at home in the frigid landscape --their thick rich reddish coats puffed out. And I worried for them... it is always open season on coyotes here....
But twenty miles back the dirt road on this day, deacon and I couldn't see past the edge of the field for the fog --the fence posts lilting like lazy buoys in a frozen sea, the barbed-wire tinseled up like cheap dime-store decorations, or cheap Christmas lights from one buoy to the next.
We got to the church early. I left the motor running, we put our seats back, and we slept. Blanketed in the frozen fog. We were awakened by the grind of ice and tires, bundled faces laughing at us wiping the sleep from our eyes. A constellation of laughter come to pray. Come to give thanks for another day, week month. Come to eat together at the altar and in the parish hall --no running water, no bathrooms, but heat and noise and laughter enough to shed an outer layer and entice the skunk that lives somewhere close by to announce itself.
Meat. Potatoes. Rice. Beans. Macaroni salad laced with cheese. Biscuit. Cake. Heaped on plastic plates. Hot cowboy coffee in small foam cups.
Is that the sacred kind of cedar --the one that grows north of the church there? I ask. Yes, I am told. The abalone shell rests quietly full of ash. It is always best to dust any place off with a little sacred smoke. We pray. And then we eat.
And the talk --full of salt and pepper, a dash of this and that. I didn't know the buses that crowd the neighborhood with blasts of their horn early every morning and disappear without a child in sight were for the Takini school --I thought they were merely community alarm clocks, a tribal town crier of sorts.... But Takini is an hour away, I gasp. No, they are supposed to take kids to Takini --but you never see the kids go because they can graduate from school down there without ever even going to school. They kids love to be enrolled down there. You can live any where and send your kids any where. Dupree is a public State run school --Eagle Butte is BIA and Tribal school. Takini is a grant school....
And so we talk about overlapping jurisdictions --I can't speed through town, I will get a ticket. The city has jurisdiction over me. Tribal members can speed through town and they can't get a ticket. The city has no jurisdiction over them. I can speed on the highway and not get a ticket. The Tribe has no jurisdiction over me. Tribal members can't speed on the highway, they will get a ticket. We live in the city --over our back fence is Tribal land....
What happens, I ask, if there is a domestic violence call and the man is white and the woman is native? He has to wait for the Tribal officers to call County officials; she gets taken to Tribal headquarters. And the County officials and the FBI won't ever do anything.... I shake my head.
Did you know that so and so broke in to one of the teachers' house --and those houses are under the BIA, so the FBI is called and now they are going to Federal prison because it was a Federal offense. That wouldn't happen if it were on Tribal land. And if your house is broken in to --that isn't Tribal or Federal, so nobody would be able to do anything....
Did you know that the Tribe just passed a law requiring everyone who drives to have a license --that didn't used to be true. Any one could drive. No one needed insurance either --that's going to change. It's going to be better for everyone. The license makes you somebody --you need a license to get a job off the Reservation. So the license makes you somebody. It's going to be better for everyone.
I think we all ought to be under the same laws on the Reservation --under the same jurisdiction, I say, mildly, always uneasy here to express an opinion. New territory for me.... No, is the response --having multiple jurisdictions keeps the Tribal authorities more honest. Otherwise, everything would be left up to who you were related to....
It was asked, Did you ever know Father Bear's Heart? --I used to love to hear him pray. He was fast, church was always over in a hurry. I was his daughter in the old Indian way. My father was his best friend so they claimed each other as brothers, so as I was growing up, I was called his daughter. Deacon responded, I am his sister --first cousin in the white way, but he adopted me as his sister so that I would write him letters during World War II.... I asked, pointing at both, So, does this make you guys related? And everyone laughed and sipped some more coffee and said Yes, of course. Deacon said, Today, since Father Bear's Heart called me sister, I have a new daughter.
On the way home, Deacon slept. The dusk crept through the fog. Four o'clock and nearly dark. Someone had a plastic Santa in their yard beside their home, with a light shining in his belly so he was mostly a robust pink in the middle and his gloves and feet and hat glowed a dull red --perhaps like Rudolph's nose. The cluster of white lights by Santa's side was the sleigh or some mis-shapen deer --I couldn't tell from the road. Someone else's barn was a stanchion for a limp star.
In the dusk, the snow and frozen fog gathered on to every branch and line and blade of grass shone with a strange light all its own. Like it was related to the moon.
And the line that closes every prayer prayed in Lakota --hey, all my relatives-- wove its way deep in to my heart... and then I remembered I had preached to the kids, just last week at the Baptisms, that we were more than just all related, we were One. One Body. One Spirit. One Hope. One Life. And this week, when I remembered in my sermon the unthinkable act of violence and all the dead left in its wake in small little bodies in a small school in a place with too many trees far from this wide open place, and the questions by all of John the Baptizer, "And we, what should we do?" I had said, What the world really needs is to remember what it means to be human... not perfect, not always law abiding, but humble, sharing, giving, feeding --all that John the Baptizer says... and we are preparing to greet and to know and to learn to love the one who shows us what it means to be perfectly human....
--we need to remember what it means to be a human being....
At prayer this morning (beginning at 2 Peter 1:1)
[From] Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,Like a string of pearls --faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, love... nothing about hope.
To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.
For this very reason, you must make every effort to support
your faith with goodness,
and goodness with knowledge,
and knowledge with self-control,
and self-control with endurance,
and endurance with godliness,
and godliness with mutual affection,
and mutual affection with love.
For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a people, there is too much noise between us --too many divisions --we are too removed from the desolation of a wilderness landscape --we don't have to deal with each other.... We can flip a switch, roll up a window, listen to our own noise. We have forgotten the terrible wonder and danger of living with faith.
--and by divisions, I don't mean the godly divisions --diversity.... I mean our little walled camps of like-minded friends....
We need the wilderness to remember we need each other. We need the wilderness to remember we are all related, we are all One. We need the wilderness to remember...
--instead, we pave it, hunt down the wild beasts, give ourselves over to fear and law, place pink plastic glow in the dark Santa's in our yards and hang limp stars.... And abandon the children to teach themselves....
Let's face it. We are ineffective and unfruitful.
It is not just the Lakota who have a culture in distress.
It is time to roll up our sleeves....
And give our lives away....
Canticle: A Song of Christ’s Humility (Philippians 2:6-11)
Though in the form of God, *
Christ Jesus did not cling to equality with God,
But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, *
and was born in human likeness.
Being found in human form, he humbled himself *
and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.
...emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was born in human likeness....
Let's not wait for God to do it.
It is time to roll up our sleeves....
And give our lives away....