Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Asking For Vision (Day 3, In The Kiva)

Kivas are found all over the southwest. Most of us use them. Imagine a circular structure that is three quarters underground. Entrances vary. Most involve a small door, that must be entered in carefully, a small landing with a ladder to complete the descent. The top sides are often a combination of adobe brick and woven fronds which can be added or taken away depending on the amount of ventilation needed. Being mostly underground there is a natural cooling that is very welcome in the summer. There is a firepit at the center of the floor, which is packed dirt, or, if you're dealing with civilized Indians like the Pueblo and Hopi, tiled beautifully. Kivas are used for gatherings in council, for ceremony, or for teenaged lovers to sneak a little alone time when they aren't being used for other things.

It's dark when we enter our kiva. It's also pretty cold. The first order of business is to stoke up a fire. Pine knots are soon blazing away, kerosene lamps are lit and soon the space and the light are both warm.

There are nearly fifteen of us gathered to seek vision on a name for our new girl. There really isn't a particular or regimented way that this is done. After all, we're Apache, and we just don't take to shit like that well. Autonomy is big stuff for us. Silas and a couple other elders sit close to the fire and begin to sing softly to themselves. I busy myself making sure that they are comfortably seated and have water or tea in easy reach. There is a big bowl of toasted pine nuts and other foods. A couple of pipes are produced and passed around. One smells like wild tobacco, one doesn't, I smoke from the tobacco pipe.

Silas has his medicine pouch with him and he begins to rummage around inside it, bringing out bits of cactus and dried herbs and mushrooms. People come up to him and he thinks for a bit, then gives them what he thinks might be the best for them. I refrain. It's a personal choice that I made when I got sober. There have been some times when, in ceremony, because it was integral to the task at hand, I have taken peyote and other "teacher" plants. It's not something that I seek out. I mostly figure that since I spent so many years using them for recreation and just for the hell of it, that I can show a better form of respect by refraining. This is one of those times. I will seek my vision through sitting quietly and going within my own heart and thoughts. If it comes, it comes; if it doesn't, so be it.

I wish I could tell you that this is a constant and true connection that Native Americans have with spirit or "other" worlds. Like there was this switch that we flipped and "poof" we were all tuned up and singing the music of the spheres. It's not like that. The best we can do is to try and be tuned in enough to notice when something is obvious, and not try too hard to force issues when nothing is occuring.

We settle into our individual thoughts and silences. We wait. Time sort of springs out of joint in places like this. I'm not sure about the time frames. I figure that after a few hours of sitting in silence some of the folks got bored and figured that they should seek their vision back at the party which is still going strong. A couple of people come up to Silas and talk quietly to him. I'm not sure if they have had a vision for a name or what. To one of them he says something dismissive and clearly displeased. That's how it tends to go with these things. Even though I am getting no pictures, no inspiration, and no sense of what might be the right name I know when someone else is in vision. We all know what is true and what might be something that sounds nice and gets everybody back to the party.

Two of the elder women come in and take places near the fire. Another person leaves the kiva. That is just too much for Silas. He speaks, softly, but with great authority that from this moment the kiva is shut. Nobody in, nobody out. We will either get our vision from the people we have in the circle or we will say that there was no vision which came to us. I ask him if he would like me to sit up by the door and he motions for me to come sit by him instead.

I don't have any idea how long it took. We went in just after nightfall, it is night again when we finally leave without anyone having any real vision for a name. It's like that. Sometimes nothing comes. If we tried faking it everybody would know so we just don't bother. It's not a failure, there's no disgrace, we'll just have to try again some other time.

We go back to the party and I tell my sister that we weren't able to find any vision for the naming. She doesn't reproach us in the slightest but tells Silas and I that we should watch our new girl to see if we are able to see the same thing that my sister has seen.

We do. We watch. We are eating and making the rounds of clan relatives and invited guests from the other clans but mostly we are watching my little niece as she plays and interacts with her new family. Then, at about the same time we see. Everywhere that she goes there are Raven Soldiers and their families drawn to her. It's not all that unusual, the Ravens are one of the smaller warrior societies, there aren't a lot of us, usually someone becomes a Raven after being tested and proven serving in another society. Every time we see this girl, there is a Raven close by. My sister saw it, but wanted to see if Silas and I would see it too. I lean in and whisper in Silas' ear Kilkii Dani'oshonni Ga'age (keelkee dahnee oh show nee gah ah geh) Girl Loved By The Ravens? Silas beams his thousand watt smile of glee and says "Ya'aa set kilkii." (yes, that's our girl)

We go around to other folks and say what we think the name should be to them. Instantly people sense the rightness of it. We call people's attention and bring her forward in front of the people gathered. We introduce her formally to our clan, the other clans and tell people that we will be dancing all night in celebration.

While we were in the Kiva another cousin of mine arrived. He is one of my very favorite people in the world. His name is Tsa Ka'alim and he makes a very good living traveling the Indian Casino circuit as a Hoop Dancer. I haven't seen him for over a year and we are doing some catching up when little Kilkii Dani'oshonni Ga'age comes to us and is introduced to Tsa Ka'alim. Her eyes are huge as she says "Grandmother told me that you are a Hoop Dancer. Will you be dancing tonight?" He tells her that he would be honored to dance for her. Just before he leaves he tells her that she won't be a real Apache until my other cousin, the brilliant attorney, and I do the Eagle dance for her.

That bastard.



Blogger Unknown said...

Beautifully told as always. Thank you for including us in this event.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you ...

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it physically possible to do the Eagle dance with bum knees? :)
Keep the episodes a-comin' ...

10:54 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

no, it is not physically impossible, but it is absolutely unwise.

of course, that little detail never fucking stopped me.

12:01 PM  

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