29
Jul

Many Winters I Have Lived - July 2018

From Many Winters, 1974, by Nancy Wood

 

Many winters I have lived

Ever since the beginning of time

When the first snow fell

Covering the tired earth

Which played with endless summer.

Many winters I held the water captive

On the tops of many mountains

Still warm from the earth's beginning

When the moon and the sun gave birth

To one full circle of beauty.

Many winters I blew the stars around

So that the place where each star fell

Was where a river grew

Taking as its course to the sea

The path of the winter sun.

Many winters the trees slept with me

And the animals walked on my breast

Just as the birds drew near

Seeking warmth from my fire

Which took the sting from the night.

Many winters I have been

Companion to the lonely moon

Chasing after the raging sun

Which listened to our song of thanks

Before releasing earth from winter.

Many winters I have lived

Ever since the beginning of time

When out of the melting snow

Came the first frail flower which said

I am the spirit of spring.

16
Jun

Of Mountains and Women - June 2018

From Spirit Walker, 1993, by Nancy Wood

 

The hearts of mountains

and the hearts of women

Are both the same. They beat to

an old rhythm, an old song.

 

Mountains and women

are made from the sinew of the rock.

Mountains and women

are home to the spirits of the earth.

Mountains and women

are created with beauty all around.

Mountains and women

embrace the mystery of life.

 

Mountains give patience to women.

Women give fullness to mountains.

Celebrate each mountain, each woman.

Sing songs to mountains and to women.

Dance for them in your dreams.

 

The spirit of mountains and of women

Will give courage to our children

Long after we are gone.

1
Jun

Nancy's Thoughts on Understanding Native American Spirituality

From the Preface to Spirit Walker, 1993

 

These poems, like the others, are based on my long association with the Taos Pueblo Indians, who shared their deep spirituality. From the time I first met them, in 1961, I was impressed by their values and by an unshatterable outlook that stemmed from their interconnectedness to the earth as a living whole. Was it possible for me, a white woman, to understand these values? For years I merely observed, absorbing what I could. Slowly my perceptions and, ultimately, my way of life began to change.

 

What did it take to become "in tune" with Indian beliefs far removed from my Judeo-Christian background? Learning to listen, for one thing; letting go of old, worn-out cultural ideas, for another. Solitude was necessary if I was ever to learn anything, so I retreated to the mountains for long periods of time. I still live that way, twenty miles from Santa Fe, at the edge of an old Spanish land grant. Loneliness is part of the lesson, my teacher Red Willow Dancing used to say. Empty your heart and mind. Do not become distracted.

 

But that was the catch. I was distracted - by the realities of having to support four children. After a time the children left, my life moved into a middle-age phase, my consciousness expanded. Distraction meant taking time to watch a red -tailed hawk soaring above my house or witnessing the drama of huge clouds rolling down from any one of the four mountain ranges I can see from my window. This is what matters now, acquiring what the Indians call the quiet heart. In so doing, I have learned to live life from the inside out.

 

We all are a part of something largely undefinable, call it God or the Great Spirit, Buddha or Allah, Krishna or Mozart. I feel connected to this mystery on rivers, in deserts, and on the sea, but mostly in the mountains. Twice a year at summer solstice and again at autumnal equinox, I make a pilgrimage to the top of Independence Pass, at twelve thousand feet in the Colorado Rockies.

 

As I am perched on top of the world, my ritual never changes. I carry a portable tape deck, tapes of beloved Vivaldi, the Mozart horn concerti, and Beethoven's Triple Concerto, and hike out across the tundra until I am far away from people. I choose a spot on the knife-edge ridge that forms the division between the eastern and western watersheds of the country. There I unpack a long, billowing purple silk dress from my day pack and slip it over my parka and jeans. The music of Vivaldi plays to the wind, and I dance, on and on along the Continental Divide in my hiking boots, paying homage to the mountains, renewing my claim to a stubborn, persistent force that anchors me to this earth. Here is where I am free. Here is where I bend to examine, with a geologist's loupe, a tiny yellow flower no bigger than the head of a pin, and weep because the Great Spirit has seen fit to create such perfection.

 

This is what Red Willow Dancing meant about interconnectedness. A blade of grass was where he said God lived; the wind was the breath of the Great Spirit, renewing us once again. To me, this is what life is all about.

 

There, between earth and sky, suspended in time, I begin to understand.

 

Nancy Wood

Santa Fe, New Mexico April 1992

15
May

Knowing the Earth - May 2018

From Spirit Walker, 1993, by Nancy Wood

 

To know the Earth on a first-name basis

You must know the meaning of river stones first.

Find a place that calls to you and there

Lie face down in the grass until you feel

Each plant alive with the mystery of beginnings.

Move in a circle until you discover an insect

Crawling with knowledge in its heart.

Examine a newborn leaf and find a map of a universe

So vast that only Eagles understand.

Observe the journey of an ant and imitate its path

Of persistence in a world of bigger things.

Borrow a cloud and drift high above the Earth,

Looking down at the smallness of your life.

The journey begins on a path made of your old mistakes.

The journey continues when you call the Earth by name.

16
Apr

The Fire of Life - April 2018

From Sacred Fire, 1998, by Nancy Wood

 

Every day I bathe myself in light

and write my name in stars across the sky.

Every day I am the Fire of Life, burning

with the intensity of the Sun. The Wind cannot

 

blow away such passion, nor can Rain drown

the ash of love, knowing it will burn again.

Every day I bathe myself in light and dance

 

to the music that rivers make on their

way to the sea. The Earth hears my prayers

and gives my body a familiar form,

feminine in nature, strong and surviving.

 

Every day I write my name

in stars across the Universe: I am love.

The power of my flame

rises with the fury of my dreams.

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