“Everything is connected, but not everyone has eyes to see, or ears to hear the Creator’s everyday ways.”
Moving to a new city late in life is stressful. Getting an old house ready to sell, and a new one ready to live in, is simply an ordeal. Near its completion, my wife suggested a respite, and volunteered to take me to our favorite Western warehouse, about an hour’s distance. As we were driving and talking, a golden eagle suddenly swooped across the hood of our car—so close, he almost hit the windshield. Startled and stunned, we had no idea what to make of the near collision.
The Monday afterward, I was charged with clearing out the woodlands behind our new house, in preparation for a visit from an old friend. I had bought a special attachment for my Weed Whacker that could take down small trees. Armed like Arnold for the challenge, I set about clearing brush and sawing down holly, poplar, and oak saplings. It was a huge task in the high summer heat and humidity, and took all day. Halfway through, it dawned on me that I was ignoring everything that I had learned about honoring the Creation, explaining intentions, and treating the sacrifice with respect. The tool was seducing in its power. Chagrined, I initiated a token effort, but was too drained to take even more time to get the daunting job done.
On Thursday, I drove a hundred miles back to our old house to check on things and finish a few leftover tasks, to put it on the market. When I pulled up in the driveway, there was a black tail hanging out of the straw bed at the front of the house. It lay unmoving. I walked around the shrub for a closer look. A black snake was waiting, with raised head. “What are you doing?” I asked, remembering my respect.
In his silence, I got the impression of a response that went something like, “Stupid two-legged, can’t you see I’m hanging out?”
“You can’t stay here,” I protested politely. “We’re trying to sell the house.” He gave me a lingering look, then ducked his head, and slid slowly into the straw, disappearing in mere moments. I knew to leave well enough alone. The first snake I had seen there in nearly 30 years.
On the way home that evening, dark clouds piled the horizon. Bad storm brewing. I figured I would be in for a treacherous commute. Suddenly, the sun broke through, but only in two adjacent small holes. The light poured out in twin lasers. It felt like I was being glared at by the Thunder Ones. In a few moments, the phenomenon passed. But not my growing concern about the apparent portents.
The next morning I took my truck in for servicing at the Toyota dealer. When it was ready, a young woman came to tell me. She noticed my medicine wheel pendant. Her name was Angel, she said, a Chickasaw who had just moved here from Oklahoma. Another interesting connection.
It seemed to be taking a long time for my truck to be brought out. A service manager finally came. “Mr. Hutcheson, there’s been an accident. I’m sorry.” An oil delivery truck exiting the service lot had clipped my front bumper and ripped it off. The truck and the driver looked similarly massive. Man and machine, unified in mission. In a hurry. The message was beginning to register.
A Cherokee elder told me once that assimilation has been a challenging problem for Native Americans. Wanting to belong, we tend to go along to get along. When heritage sets us apart from the larger culture, the pain of estrangement may claw and gnaw on the roots of truth, bend back the memories, and rebury old bones more deeply. In time, shredded leftovers become the unrecognizable refuse of yesterday’s refugees. The cost of belonging is almost forgotten.
More than a clash of cultures, the elder was speaking to the differences between two universes—one where the Creator is recognized in the Creation, and one where the creation consists mostly of commodities to be commercialized. But once acculturated to the first, a person can never be fully at home in the second, however earnest the endeavor to belong. Moreover the voices of the Ancients may be drowned out by drama, but can never be stilled. As an adopted Chickasaw, I’m afraid I may need to keep on encountering reminders that Creation consciousness is not optional. This time it was just a bumper.