Saturday, June 23, 2007

Superstition Ride - - - Day 4 (morning)

I keep puttering about, fussing over the dwindling stores of food, making sure that the water bags are completely filled and ready. I go through each of the panniers to see if there are things that would not cause any problem to discard. Sally being here to carry the water and the first aid supplies is the biggest thing we have going for ourselves and since she's already going to be pulling more than her fair share I don't want that to be an ounce extra. I take the alfalfa pellets, which haven't been touched yet, over to where the three horses are standing and put them out. I know that there's half a bale of timothy hay in the trailer at the end of the walk, along with a full tank of water. I take the remaining coffee beans out and begin to grind away. I don't light a fire though. I use the little sterno stove and put the finished product into a thermal jug for when the others wake up. Breakfast is going to be light, canned peaches, dried fruit, a little jerky, hardtack and coffee.

Silas smells the coffee and wanders over to where I am. I hand him a steaming mug and the last can of Eagle Brand. He chuckles triumphantly. I take out the jar of peaches and pass it to him. He busies himself slurping coffee, making a canned peaches sandwich with the hardtack. For the enthusiasm he shows it could have been beluga caviar on blini chased by champagne.

The Germans wake up one by one. Pretty soon we are all sitting and eating away. I tell them my plans for the walk. Since Schatzie is a proven rider she can take a turn riding Rosalita with Hans riding double behind. Ingrid is still too footsore to do any walking and can ride behind Silas. The Germans give me a concerned look. They have seen me limp and got a pretty good look at the surgical scars and pronounced thinness of my left leg last night. I tell them not to worry, by walking alongside Sally and the holding on the pack saddle I should be able to keep up and take my full turn walking.

I tell them that there are three very good sources of water along the trail and that by going from source to source at a slow and steady pace we should be able to reach the end of the trail without a hitch. I also tell them that it is already feeling like a scorcher and that they should be aware of the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion. I say there aren't any points given for style on a walk like this. We'll either make it or we'll stop and call for help. I don't tell them about the God of All Ropers coming with a wagon full of water and other goodies.

When we are done I pass out long sleeved shirts for the Germans to wear over their clothes. Anything to keep the sun off is a good thing here. The burlap that used to hold the alfalfa pellets gets cut up into sheets to make neckflaps down the back. It will also take a good soaking of water to keep body temps down.

The horses don't even wait to be called in. They're ready to go. I get Rosalita and Sally tacked out while Schatzie rigs up Ban Fai for Silas. After one last check to make sure everything is ready to go Schatzie hops up on Rosalita and I help Hans up to sit behind. He's a rookie so we give him a quick course on how to sit, straight but relaxed. I show him where to put his hands on the back of the saddle so that he doesn't throw Schatzie's balance off. Then I go over to Sally and show Eva how to hold on to the protrusions on the pack saddle. This will keep the walking easy on us. We start out keeping a nice steady pace. Rosalita is a little concerned to know that I'm there but not riding her. Schatzie is a good enough rider that she keeps everything managed. We keep reminding Hans to relax. Silas comes by Sally and tells Eva that she is quiet enough to be an Apache. She looks down at the ground blushing.

After about ninety minutes of good walking I tell Schatzie that it's time to switch off the riders. While we stop I give each of the horses a decent drink and a licorice bit. They are holding up fine so far, although it is nowhere near as hot as it will be. The air is still and feels heavy. The canyon walls are still blocking direct sun but in about half an hour or so that will change. Before I mount I show Hans and Schatzie how to hold on to the pack saddle and tell them that the old Apache used to outrace their enemies by having four warriors on foot and holding on to each horse. Geronimo was a master of that tactic and used it to devil both the American and Mexican armies. It allowed his light infantry to have even more range than cavalry because it is much less taxing on the horses. When we start out again I can see the surprise on their faces at how much easier it is for them to walk beside the horse at a faster pace than they would be able to maintain by themselves.

I remind them to keep sipping at their water. Much like the way we are covering our ground, we want our water consumption to be constant and moderate. I remind them that if anyone stops sweating we need to stop immediately. Silas jokes that things have certainly changed. He tells them that when he was a boy one of the rites of passage for an eight year old being taken into a warrior society was to run nearly ten miles while holding a mouthfull of water. I tell them that it has changed for the miltary too. They have a huge fixation on the concept of hydration now that wasn't a part of my war. I once told a cherry who wanted a piss break that the fact of his having piss to spare proved I wasn't driving the pace hard enough.

Hans wonders aloud about how long ago it would have been where it wouldn't have been safe for four white people to walk these hills. Silas says that his grandfather and one of his grandfather's brothers were part of the Apache scouts who hunted Geronimo. I tell them that Germonimo's brother-in-law was my great-great-great-grandfater. I also tell them that White Mountain Apaches were one of the first southwestern nations to ally with the Americans. While we would have been safe for them, the Chiricauhua, the Tonto, the Mescalero, Mimbreno, Tewa, Jicarilla, Tarahumara, and most other desert and mountain nations would have skinned their backs for moccasin soles.

The Germans are very interested in learning about the differences among the nations of the southwest. I tell them that it is really no different from Europe. There isn't a typical Indian culture. We all have our distinctions and differences. I joke that you wouldn't expect Bavarians to act like or even get along with Belgians, to say nothing of the French be they Gascon or Burgundian. I joke that the Souix had better press agents than the Apaches and Navajo and have convinced Kevin Costner and the rest of the white people that they are the only Indians in the world. Silas interjects that if the Lakota were so great the Apaches would have let them stay in Arizona.

The banter stays light and easy. We reach the first water in good shape. Both people and critters. There is a stand of palo verde trees which is great shade. Schatzie and I take the saddles off the horses and turn them out to wallow in the water, while we all sit in the shade and drink our fill of water. I pass out little hunks of jerky, except for Hans, who gets a saladido, to help replenish salt loss. Hans showed a big measure of gallantry when we dismount by going over to Ban Fai and taking Ingrid into his arms. He then carried her to the shade so that she wouldn't have to walk on her still sore feet. Silas goes over to a blooming prickley pear and nips flowers for all the girls. When the horses leave the water Schatzie and I towl them off with blankets, give them a good rub and brushing, then it's hoof picks and a thorough check over. While Schatzie is checking Sally's feet we all get a laugh because Sally takes ahold of her shirttail and when Schatzie goes to move back to the horse's back she is held fast. Sally has always had one of the best senses of humor you could find in a horse.

As we start out again Silas comes over to where Eva and I are walking alongside Sally and says to Eva "I bet you are a singer. Am I right?" Ingrid gives her up as a music major. Eva begins to sing a German song that her friends all know. She has a gorgeous soprano.

The sun is about to make its presence known, it is probably close to 100° by now and it's only around ten in the morning. Our little stroll is about to turn into a trudge.



Finally a Picture of the New Pup

This is Gus. He's a whole eight weeks old. He finally held still long enough to snap a picture. He's a bundle of energy and in this picture is attacking Katie (who thinks that Gus is HER puppy)

Katie hasn't shown any interest in becoming a hunter. She will let dove and quail eat out of her food dish. She's also not that interested in fetching things. She's a sweetheart though.

Also, Chico, the rescue burro scored some revenge points for the Barn Monster. There was a stomped to shit rattlesnake out by the barn this morning.

Chico gets extra licorice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (into the dream - - - out into the sun)

Schatzie is wavering on whether or not to re-enter the lodge for the last round. I tell her that this particular sweat has lasted much longer and been more grueling than the normal ceremony because of what we have been trying to do. She guzzles water, pours some over her head and communes with her inner German. She brightens up and says "I want a dream."

Silas sets me to bringing out the rocks that are no longer holding any heat. This is more difficult than you might expect, they are not exactly sorted by degree, and it is murderously dark inside but I do the best that I can. We bring four loads of rocks to bring the new count to twenty and go inside.

While Silas pours the water he is saying a twenty count blessing. It has always reminded me of the old child's bedtime prayer when I didn't really want to call it a night and would sit there and individually list every person I knew or had read about to be the object of God's blessing that night. Silas is pretty much blasting through it for the sake of form. Then he begins to sing in a low voice. I relax and feel myself slipping into the dream.

On a rational level I know that this is mainly a cumulative effect of dehydration and the jacking up of the body's core temperature to past extreme fever levels. Go ahead and call it hallucination if you want. It won't matter to me in the slightest. I know vision when I see it and that is where I go this time.

It starts almost like those hyperkinetic films we used to think were so cutting edge back in the 60's and 70's. Robert Evans on coke editing. I see all manner of images flashing and begin to feel a little dizzy so I lay down on my side facing the heap of steaming sizzling rocks where Silas still sings and pours. Without getting specific and betraying the ethics of the ceremony I am able to tell you that in a space of time that I have no rational sense of I see clearly and face several things. Things like the fact that there's no particular shame in my failing to halt the war in Iraq all by myself. I've been taking the deaths here at home personally because I dedicated so much time and effort toward bringing them home. I certainly expected more from the people I helped get seats in Congress than they have given. Still, personal responsibility is misplaced here. I'm also far more at peace with the last of my kids moving out into the world and on with his life. It's a great thing to see, and will be a joy to watch as he takes his own life in his own hands. He's a great kid, a much better kid than I've ever been a father. He's known what he wanted to do and be since he was in junior high and he is by god going to do it. He lets me help out a little, but he is making sure that when his goals are archieved they are his and his alone. I respect that, even all the while fighting my natural instinct which is to meddle and fix. Most importantly I arrive at a place of applying my focus far more locally. There are still problems on my reservation, there are kids there who need our attention. Along with my cousin and the other Raven Soldiers there are things we can do to make that better. I have a daughter who is about to enter her third year of Med School and is thinking seriously about going to the rez to practice when she's finished with her training. I can help her make that happen and have promised as much. There's far more, some of it is still burbling around the fringes of my conscious thought.

I don't know if we were in for six minutes or for six hours, time perception was something that had disappeared in the steam. I vaguely remember feeling a blast of cooler air coming from the opening when the blanket was removed. I went from the lodge to the creek and simply went down into the snow melt run off face first. At one point I sat up out of the water and was amazed to see the water steaming off of my shoulders. Hans calls out to me and offers one of the water bags. I drink greedily. Then I remember a couple of prizes that are hidden in the panniers of the pack saddle. I spend some more time to bring my body temperature a little closer to human life and go up to grab two lemons and a few saladidos. I fix them both up and bring one to Schatzie and show her how to suck the salty lemon juice out of it. She is transported by this. I look around for Silas and see him off by himself. Sitting in the moonlight with a serene look of contentment. I squeeze off the last of the lemon juice and head back to the creek. I finally begin to feel the cold and decide that it's time to get myself dressed.

I ask Hans if he has managed to arrange someone to meet them at the trailhead where our things are and he nods happily. I tell him that we should be up and out of here at first light. I remind him that the temperature tomorrow might easily reach 40 degrees Celsius and that an early start is imperative if we are to cover the ground we need to cover. I also have a flash of inspiration. I take the satphone and make a clandestine call in to the God of All Ropers. I explain the situation and ask him if there's any chance of his bringing his tandem horse wagon down the trail in the morning. He thinks about this, for a whole 3 seconds, before saying "Of course, it will be a good workout for the pulling team." He promises to have the rig rolling our direction pretty soon after dawn. Now I'm really starting to relax about trying to walk the Germans out without calling in the rescue folks. I know that Ingrid is still footsore, they haven't really been able to replenish much more than water from their ordeal of the day before. Still, they're young and strong, and if a couple of old farts like Silas and I can make it they should be able to do the same. Then I remind myself that Silas and I were both born and raised in this desert and there isn't anything even close to it in Germany. Though with the possiblity of 112° heat and, and, then I get a grip and decide that I will simply watch them closely for signs of trouble, and force the stop if I begin to doubt in the slightest.

When I get back to the camp I realize that I haven't the slightest idea of the time and it really doesn't matter. There's plenty of work to be done. I don't know how the rest of you camp, but for me it's about minimizing the impact of my visit. Pulling the cattails and harvesting the cactus stuff was not something that I would normally do, if it wasn't for needing them to treat an injury I would not have done it. Still, there are many things to do. I begin by putting out the fire that we used for the sweat. When it has cooled off enough to handle the things I begin to scatter the ashes about. There's no need to just leave them in a bunch so that a rain storm can turn out a run off of lye. The stones get dispersed too. Hans lifts his head from his blankets even though I'm seriously trying to be as quiet as possible. I answer his questioning look with "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints." He goes back to sleep.

I see Silas still off by himself. He has a pipe out and is smoking something that smells noxious and the smoke looks and feels positively greasy. I don't even ask. I return to my tasks, mulling over the best way for us all to be able to walk out. I also remember in my planning that the desert has a vote in all of this and must be listened to and attended. I don't view the desert as hostile or something that comes after humans with any bad intentions. I quit looking at nature that way in Viet Nam. I was still a cherry, new to the whole thing and was on a pretty hard trek through the boonies. We had to pause, strip and take the leeches off each other for what seemed like the forty'leventh time that day and I started to seriously freak. I started to shiver, despite the jungle heat and was saying stupid shit like "this jungle's out to get me. . ." A grizzled old Cambodian mercenary came over to me and laid his rough hand on my shoulder gently. He whispered "Jungle no get you. Jungle no care." It doesn't mean that I take the danger and risks of this place lightly though. The desert, especially during a sudden hot shock can kill as impersonally and blithely as a teen aged crackhead. And nearly as suddenly. We have some serious miles to cover in the morning. Desert miles. There are people who have entrusted themselves to me. I am a Raven soldier, I carry their souls in my quiver. I promise myself to be kind, and careful.



Friday Random Ten: Courtesy of Pandora

I could get to like this. It is a break from the usual fare on my collection. I never have to deal with work stuff bubbling up through the mix. (I will put stuff in progress onto the iPod so that I can maybe hear what needs to be done while I'm shoveling horse poop, which is really the job I'm best qualified to do). Anyway, this morning's Pandora lineup was great.

You Know My Name (look up the number) - - - The Beatles
Behind Blue Eyes - - - The Who
Avalance - - - Leonard Cohen
My Oklahoma Home Blowed Away - - - Pete Seeger
No Good Rider - - - Leadbelly
Love In Vain - - - Robert Johnson
I'll Be Back Home Again - - - Big Bill Broonzy
John Henry - - - Pink Anderson
Sat Down On My Bed and Cried - - - R.L. Burnside
Hard Rain - - - Bob Dylan

Bonus - - - (instead of hitting random twice i just waited four songs)

Please Don't Talk About Me (when I'm gone) - - - Billie Holiday

Another cool thing about Pandora is that the tunes have the "buy" option in case you want to add them to the collection. I like that.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cohen and Lorca Together At Last

this Leonard Cohen song was inspired by this poem by Lorca, from his book of Poeta en Nueva York


En Viena hay diez muchachas,
un hombro donde solloza la muerte
y un bosque de palomas disecadas.
Hay un fragmento de la mañana
en el museo de la escarcha.
Hay un salón con mil ventanas.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals con la boca cerrada.

Este vals, este vals, este vals,
de sí, de muerte y de coñac
que moja su cola en el mar.

Te quiero, te quiero, te quiero,
con la butaca y el libro muerto,
por el melancólico pasillo,
en el oscuro desván del lírio,
en nuestra cama de la luna
y en la danza que sueña la tortuga.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals de quebrada cintura.

En Viena hay cuatro espejos
donde juegan tu boca y los ecos.
Hay una muerte para pian
que pinta de azul a los muchachos.
Hay mendigos por los tejados.
Hay frescas guirnaldas de llanto.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals que se muere en mis brazos.

Porque te quiero, te quiero, amor mío,
en el desván donde juegan los niños,
soñando viejas luces de Hungría
por los rumores de la tarde tibia,
viendo ovejas y lirios de nieve
por el silencio oscuro de tu frente.
¡Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Toma este vals del “Te quiero siempre”.

En Viena bailaré contigo
con un disfraz que tenga
cabeza de río.
¡Mira qué orillas tengo de jacintos!
Dejaré mi boca entre tus piernas,
mi alma en fotografías y azucenas,
y en las ondas oscuras de tu andar
quiero, amor mío, amor mío, dejar,
violín y sepulcro, las cintas del vals.

Those of you who speak and read Spanish will see that the Cohen adaptation is true to the original in both style and impact. Those of you who don't read Spanish are invited to study the fuck up.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Politics

I've left this little nugget as a comment a couple of places like over at litbrit's but I figured why the hell not post it as a standalone here?

This by no means should suggest that you don't link your hinies over to litbrit's or over to Shakesville or Rez Dog's they are all fine writers and fine people.

Last election cycle I supported Harry Mitchell, mainly because he was running against a dyed in the wool authoritarian nutcase crew cut son of a bitch. I also figured that the bastard from my district Jeff Flake would successfully ram one of the dirtiest nastiest campaigns down the throats of our district and there wasn't much I could do to change that outcome. I supported Mitchell with both cash and with some free music at fundraisers.

So I get this call. It's one of his earnest and sincerety dripping staffers. Wanting money. For the campaign. For the kids. What the fuck ever. I told the staffer that:

"I am far too busy playing the harp and bagpipes at the funerals of kids you guys haven't managed to bring home yet. I haven't a moment to spare worrying about whether or not Mitchell has a job after the next election."

Or words to that effect.

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (18 Coyotes)

This is another Apache thing. Many times, rather than saying something directly, or making an interpretation of things like my answers to the questions he has asked, an elder like Silas will launch into, or ask the person they are talking with, to tell one of the stories of our history. Usually the lesson, or what they would have said is contained in the narrative.

I tell Schatzie that the story I am about to tell is not, for the most part, legend, but oral history. This isn't a Coyote story from the land where animals talk and stuff. This is a part of our history. It has been painted on skins and canyon walls. It has been told in the winter lodges and repeated in the councils.

Tsebitzidah Ma'atose(18 Coyotes) was a healer and a leader. She had proven herself many times in both peace and war. Two of her sons had married into other bands of the Apache and had also become well known and respected by those people. Her husband came from the Tewa band and was both a leader in times of war and a gentle protector of the people.

Traders and other travelers had been bringing stories from the lands of the south that there were new people in the country. We now know that they were the Spanish people, but back then all that anybody knew was that they had terrible weapons and followed powerful gods. For a while the stories were about how they had brought down the tribes of the Maya and Aztec. Soon the stories turned into people fleeing the advances of the new ones.

Now the stories said that they were coming our way. One of the sons of 18 Coyotes who had married to the Chiricauhua people came to his mother and asked that she bring food, healers, and warriors south to them because the Spanish with horses and cannon were very close.

When the White Mountain people got to the Chiricauhua stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains they found that something had arrived before the Spanish. It was called "Red Flower Sickness" (probably smallpox) and there was nothing in the knowledge or arts of the healers that could stop its ravages. While the disease raged through the people, the Spanish (we now know that they were led by the warrior priest Marcos De Niza) advanced through the lands of the Tohono O'odham near what is now Tucson.

18 Coyotes understood some hard truths all at once. She knew that the sickness traveled with people. She gathered everyone together and told them that those who were not sick needed to move themselves at least two days walk from where they were. That they should take nothing with them. Not clothing, blankets, clothes or anything that had ever been around one of the sick. Every two days the people who left should camp and wait for two days. Each time this happened those who were sick needed to leave the main body of the people and come back to this place. She asked that when they arrived in the White Mountains that they tell the stories of what had been tried by the healers here to cope with the new sickness and to tell them that the people who were sick and stayed behind would fight the Spanish to slow them down. She said that runners should be sent to the Dineh people of Canyon de Chelly, and to the Hopi people of the mesa Pueblos.

Once the people who were still healthy had left 18 Coyotes gathered the ones who remained and she told them:

"We who remain here are already dead. We have taken this new sickness inside of us. There is nothing for us to do but to try and stop these new people for as long as we can so that our people might find a way to escape them."

All agreed and a place was chosen that is now called Apache Pass. It is a very high and narrow canyon that has been easily defended for as long as the Chiricauhua have been a distinct people. Those who were too sick to move easily were placed along the high points of the pass and great stones and other things were piled up beside where they lay. They were told that if they were still alive when the Spanish soldiers came through this place that they should send down the stones and logs on top of them. Those who were stronger were divided into bands that laid ambush zones where archers, lancers, and slingers would leap out upon the Spanish as they passed and kill as many of them as they could, along with their animals.

The battle of Apache Pass lasted for eight days. For eight days the Spanish paid with nearly two lives for each step they took through the pass. They still moved forward though. At the place where the pass gives way to the high plateau of pine and ample water 18 Coyotes built a big trap of fresh pine logs that were dripping with its volatile sap that ran for many yards along each side of the canyon. When the Spanish were almost through she lit these on fire and sent them down to the bottom of the pass. The fire was enormous. It killed many Spanish. It was still burning when 18 Coyotes and the rest of her Army of the Dead were finally taken by the disease.

The Spanish fell back to Tucson. They very rarely came much farther north after that. They were insatiable in their lust for gold and would send men up into the mountains to look for it. Sometimes they would find it and send the army and its priests to make slaves of the people nearby to work until the gold or silver was gone. Then they would leave. They found that Apaches make very bad slaves and even worse enemies.

After a few generations the Chiricauhua people went back to their home in the Dragoons. They found many ravens at the site of the battle. Since that time the warriors who dedicate themselves to the protection of our people, who stay behind in wartime to defend our elders and our children against attack have taken the Raven as their emblem.

When I finish this story Silas says to Schatzie "Our friend here is a Raven Soldier, he just forgets that from time to time."

Then he says that we need to go get some new rocks from the fire.



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (sweat lodge)

When I get to the rest of the group I see that Ingrid is presiding over a fire built over a good number of stones. Since we're so close to the water I can only hope that there aren't any explosions in the lodge. That sucks. But, Silas has this thing where he says he chooses the stones that speak their desire to him. OK. I just hope none of the desires involved a sense of humor or a wish to burn people with flying chunks.

Silas is dressed traditionally too. He is also wearing an exquisite turquoise pendant. Not the treated and formed from jeweler's dust crap they sell at the roadside stands, but big, gorgeous chunks of rock twisted into a rope the thickness of a baby's arm, and a healthy baby at that. He is seated near the fire and the cooking stones and has his pipe bag and accessories out in front of him. He points to the ground in front of him and I go and sit. Silas takes an old chipped pottery bowl that is filled with a smudge mixture. He takes small coal from the fire and drops it into the bowl. He fans this with an golden eagle feather until the smoke is billowing. Up the left side, circle the head, down the right side, up the center, washing the smoke over himself with the feather. He passes the bowl to me and I do the same. I look over at our German friends and then give an inquiring look at Silas. He smiles and nods. I walk in front of them, one by one, and repeat the smudge procedure. I tell them that the mixture we are using is sage, lavender, and cedar. Hans asks me why we do it and I say for the same reason Catholics burn incense. He asks about the eagle feather and I tell him that to us the golden eagle represents truth. That for us, truth is a living thing. I also say that the feathers themselves have no power, they are used as visible reminders of things. I also tell him that he has a pretty good sunburn on his head and neck and that if he becomes uncomfortable in the heat of the lodge to not be ashamed to leave. It is not supposed to be a place of suffering. He relaxes with that. As I finish with each of them I touch the feather to both shoulders and the top of their head saying "Yexahidela go deya jooni tc'indii" (having been prepared you walk in beauty)

Silas has been filling his pipe while I do this. When I return and sit, giving him back the smudge bowl and the eagle feather he takes another small coal from the fire and lights his pipe. He offers smoke to the four directions of the compass, to the as above and so below. He speaks his medicine name biyi'siziini oyih (soul flyer), sásh (bear clan), doolé (butterfly soldier), itisgo (honored in council). He sees the Germans about to explode with questions and says kindly "We will be doing many things in Apache, not to be rude, but because that is who we are and how we do things. When we go into the lodge I hope you will feel comfortable enough to pray to your own gods, in your own words. If you have questions when we are finished we will answer them gladly. Only the questions that matter will last that long. The ones that don't stay with you really don't matter. We are only introducing ourselves at this point. When there is something you must know we will be sure to speak to you so that you may understand." Ingrid looks about ready to say something but Silas silences her with a smile and a gesture. He then passes the pipe to me and I take a smoke, washing the fragrant wild tobacco and mint smoke over my face and head. I introduce myself in the same way Silas did, (I am going to dispense with the Apache words right now, it is a very tedious thing to type in HTML on a Windows keyboard) Singing Snake, flute clan, raven soldier, battle honors, snake dancer. Silas motions for me to pass the pipe to Schatzie, I show her how we do this, using two hands, looking into each other's eyes, just before I let go of the pipe I wink at her and whisper "Don't inhale just give it a light puff." She does. She gives her first and last names and the city in Germany she is from (Hamburg), she runs out of things to say so I hold out my hands for the pipe and she gives it back to me. I take the pipe to each of them, one at a time. When I get to Hans he seems worried, so I sit in front of him and give him a questioning look. He says "I promised my grandmother I would never smoke." I tell him that is a good promise and that we value things like that. Especially promises to grandmothers. I also tell him that personal autonomy and individual freedom are precious to us, and he has no reason to fear giving offense. I ask him if he would like to hold the pipe, and not smoke it. He does. I go back to sit in front of Silas and pass his pipe back to him.

In English Silas says "We were planning this ceremony before you came to us. Our intention and purpose has not changed with your presence. We will do this in four rounds. We will do a traditional round of prayer and then Snake and I will go into our original purpose. If you feel the need to leave the lodge, please direct any requests to me. It works better that way because I'm much nicer than he is. In the first round I will say a traditional prayer to call upon the spirits, then we will pray for ourselves. In the second round we will pray for others. In the third round we will give away something of us that is beautiful and useful to our people. In the fourth round we will dream."

He nods to me and I get up and begin to take off my clothes. I tell the Germans that they are welcome to enter wearing as few or as many clothes as they wish. The speed with which they get naked leads me to believe that they have made some trips to the south of Spain or the Greek Islands. I put a stack of folded blankets outside the entrance of the lodge for when we are finished. Ingrid has chosen to stay outside by the fire so as not to put any strain on her feet. Right before Silas smudges me again and touches me with the eagle feather on the back of my neck I turn to Hans who is right behind me and say "I'm going to say 'All my relations enter with me' in Apache, you may say something close to that in German or English whichever is most comfortable to you." He nods and I go into the lodge.

I crawl clockwise to the northeastern position in the lodge. There will be plenty of room with only five of us in here. In the middle is a nice indentation that Hans and the girls scooped out of the clay while Schatzie and I were out gathering plants. Silas smudges each of the Germans into the lodge and goes to the fire. He has a big, charred shallow wooden bowl that he fills with four big rocks. One at a time he passes them to me through the entrance of the lodge. With each rock I take an elk horn and use the tines to bring the rock over to the indentation. I sprinkle each rock with dried lavender and welcome it into our ceremony. Once the initial four have been brought in Silas brings the bowl with four or five rocks at a time until we have twenty total in the lodge with us. I can see that the Germans are starting to wonder what is next. Before I can say anything Silas comes into the lodge and pulls the blanket over the entrance down behind him.

It is totally dark except for the glow of the rocks. Silas takes a horn ladle and pours the first dipping of water over the rocks. The steam billows and churns. A couple of the Germans cough and wheeze a bit but, they are toughing it out. Silas says his opening prayer in Apache and then prays for himself. In English he says "I am finished speaking." He turns to Eva and says "Please say your prayer for yourself." Eva prays a short German prayer. Then Schatzie has her turn. She spends a much longer time at her prayer. When it is Han's turn he tries to pray in English and gets a little tied up and is embarrased. I tell him that it is alright and to please feel free to pray in any way that he is comfortable with. He just says that he is finished. When I have finished my prayer, Silas begins to ask me questions. They are very pointed questions about what is going on with my life. At every question he puts a dipper of water onto the still very hot rocks and the steam churns up, scalding and feeling like it is alive. I answer each question simply and directly, almost without thinking. Then, almost without warning, Silas announces that the round is over. He raises the blanket and tells everyone that they may go outside the lodge and drink. We all go outside. The Germans are guzzling water greedily while Silas and I are pulling new stones from the fire and into the carrier. We add ten stones. When we are ready to go back into the lodge Schatzie is the only other one who wishes to continue. Hans touches his sunburned head sheepishly and I tell him that I am impressed that he endured this much. I suggest that they all drink plenty of water and eat something if they can.

We bring the fresh stones in and Silas smudges us into the lodge. The initial prayers go swiftly. The heat and the steam are even more active this round. The stones from the first round are still pretty active, adding the others has really upped the action. A lot of the time in a sweat lodge it isn't the heat by itself that will set the environment, it is the activity of the steam. This steam is almost like cartoon steam. Sometimes it is like a line of dancers, other times it feels almost caressing, then, without warning it will surge past you in a billow that lays into you like a lash. Silas again starts with the questions. Probing and incisive questions about the people in my life. He probes about my mother's health and finances, he digs about my sisters and their children, he goes through my children and the people I work for and with. He goes through a lot of very specific questions about my service in Viet Nam. Again, the answers come instantly and easily, although I can feel fatigue beginning to climb up my spine. As suddenly as he did before Silas announces that the round is complete. He motions for Schatzie and I to stay in the lodge and he disappears out of the opening. Just before he leaves he says to me "Sing Coyote's Hunting Song." I sing.

Silas comes back with ten more stones. He has me scoop out some of the old stones before he put the new ones in. They are shimmering and glowing a bright orange. The blanket comes down and we are in a different level of light. The stones are giving off enough light that it is like looking through an orange night-vision scope. Then Silas pours water and the steam jumps again, and again. Silas sits motionless and silent for what seems like forever (probably less than ten seconds in outside the lodge time) and he says "Tell us the story of Tsebitzidah Ma'atose. (18 Coyotes)



An Observation and a Question

The observation is that Senator Clinton was just spouting the same bullshit about the failure in Iraq being the fault of the pretend government or the Iraqis themselves.

At one point she said "We asked our military to overthrow Saddam, they did."

'Scuze me Senator. We asked our military to invade and break up a connection with Al-Qaeda which didn't exist, to take down a chemical weapons program that didn't exist, and to end a nuclear weapons program which didn't exist.

Instead of leaving, and saying something along the lines of "Oops, silly me, I thought you had stuff. . ." Bush made up a whole raft of new reasons for invading. Some of which Senator Clinton has bought into. She has also bought into the whole "Our military has behaved superbly" myth. When the facts are that they were ordered to destroy three things that didn't exist and in the process of that mission created one of the very things that they were sent to take down.

Again, Senator, please. Abu Grahib? Haditha? Fallujah? Guantanamo? A superbly led and functioning military would have refused illegal orders. A superb force would have had more general officers with enough spine to stand up to a bullying frat boy president.

Now a totally off topic question.

Has anybody else noticed from the trailers of A Mighty Heart that Angelina Jolie is using the exact same accent she used in Alexander?

Or is it just me?


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Straight Up Political Rant

I just finished watching Mitch "The Chinless Fuck" McConnell on the tube doing the standard "blame somebody else for our murderous failures" thing. He was railing, ranting against the failures of "the Iraqi government." Setting them up to be the fall guys. They will say, once they finally cop to the fact that their surge won't work, never could work, and will only get more Americans killed, that the failure wasn't their own flawed policies, their own failed schemes, but the Iraqis weren't worthy of their noble efforts and dreams.

The "Iraqi Government" is not a government in any rational sense of the word. It is a puppet colonial regime put in place by invaders. It is no more legitimate than the Military Government of Maj. General John Burgoyne in Massachusetts or General, Lord Howe in New York during our revolution. It has no moral authority with the people (Locke's "consent of the governed" principle) it purports to govern. Their parliament sits inside a heavily guarded enclave, within a heavily guarded compound, within an American Fortress. They have been bombed and mortared by their own people even there. If there were no Americans there, bombing and shooting Iraqis this government would not exist and never would have existed.

Every single time the President or other American refers to a "freely elected government" regarding Iraq they are lying through their fucking teeth.

He also decried the decision of the "Iraqi Parliament" to take the next two months off like it was some moral deficiency or shit like that. Most of the members spent decades in exile before returning on the heels of our invasion to take control of the country (and mostly, it's oil). Some of them might have even had a decent hope of building something new and beautiful in their troubled land. Most were cynical opportunistic graspers scrabbling for what ever crumbs and nuggets would be thrown their way by Halliburton. The best use they could make of their two months off would be to arrange their return to exile in Europe, The U.S. or some other place where they can walk the streets without being shot. They must know, as certainly as the government ministers of Thieu, Somoza, Duvalier, Pinochet, and Marcos that the American party is over. They have to know that we will bail, and when we bail it will be rapid, and if they are left behind they will be nothing but food for the wolves.

Tommy Franks and Rumsfeld made sure there was no infrastructure for providing the most basic services like electricity and clean drinking water. Grover Norquist made sure there would be no tax base for ever providing them. Dick Cheney made sure that Halliburton would keep all the money it steals and banks it in its new foriegn headquarters. Eric Prince made sure there were plenty of guns for hire available to back all the plays the Americans can't back. Now they are all leaving the sandbox because they keep digging up catshit with their Tonka trucks.

The Iraqi Government is a creature of our invention. Its failures are ours alone.