Thoughts On the Wasp Who Entered Home Land from Marilise Tronto

“We have to learn to reconnect with ourselves so we can stand for something greater than ourselves.”                                  —Dawna Markova, from I Will Not Die An Unlived Life

Christopher has invited me to share some thoughts about the wasp who entered Home Land. I am grateful for this opportunity to express my admiration for Home Land and to acknowledge the collaborative gifts of its writer, director, cast, crew and production team—gifts given generously so that through Home Land, the theatre could offer its gift—the living of greater life.

I asked if the wasp had emerged before or after the writing of Standing Bear’s new line: “Do you realize what’s been set in motion?” The answer was: “After.” The wasp’s appearance suggests to me what Home Land has set in motion—and what was set in motion long before the play was penned.

Home Land has arrived in a time when Elders of many native nations are sharing their wisdom, knowing their respectful relationship with all of life is crucial for others to understand. How we live with each other and with Earth is determining our future. The flow of energy between the native and non-native worlds has many rivers, including Ancient Voices – Contemporary Contexts—forums created by the American Indian Institute (www.twocircles.org) to answer the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth’s request to share their perspectives with the non-native world. (To watch a 14-minute video of Elders speaking at the September 2008 Ancient Voices Forum at Flathead, Montana, visit: www.ancientvoicescontemporarycontexts.org/)

At the Forum community dinner at the Flathead reservation, Bob Staffanson—now age 87—told this story of how he came to create the American Indian Institute. More than 30 years ago, he attended a Blood Nation medicine camp in Alberta, Canada. A guest of friends from the Blackfeet Nation, Bob was the only non-native in the camp. During a ceremony, a bird appeared. It was black, with burning red eyes that emanated intense energy. The bird hopped around the circle, landing on the foot of each participant; then vanished.

Shortly after Bob returned home from the camp, he was mowing his lawn when something landed on his head. It was the red-eyed bird. When Bob reached up to touch it, the bird hopped onto his shoulder and stayed there as Bob worked; then vanished.

Around 6:00 the next morning, Bob rose and went downstairs. It had been a cold night and all the windows and doors in his home were shut tight. The same bird was now sitting on the back of his sofa, energy pouring from its red eyes. It regarded him steadily; then vanished.

Bob realized this was no ordinary bird. He understood he had to do something in response to his experiences in the medicine camp. His decision changed the course of Bob’s life and the lives of many when he founded the Institute to support the traditional knowledge and cultures of Native North America. What was set in motion by the visiting bird with red eyes has impacted thousands of Indian people, and is now expanding into a wider circle—one including all peoples.

In some cultures, recovery from snake bite or scorpion sting is considered an initiation. In the Peruvian Andes, a person who survives being struck by lightning often becomes a medicine person. In Nebraska, everyone present was touched by witnessing the wasp who chose to visit, not to sting. Perhaps this unusual behavior acknowledged the unusual powers of the play.

Perhaps this stinging insect, who chose not to sting, suggests how we can choose to live with what is home, with all our relations. The wasp’s home—for its nest was in the tree that became the set—became a home for the vessel of radiant energies named Home Land.

“We make a home for each other, my grandfather and I. Do you know what I mean by a home?  I don’t mean a regular home. I mean I don’t mean what other people mean when they speak of a home, because I don’t regard a home as a . . . well, as a place, a building . . . a house . . . of wood, bricks, stone. I think of a home as being a thing that two people have between them in which each can . . . well, nest—rest—live in, emotionally speaking. Does that make any sense to you…?”

          —Hannah Jelkes, in The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams

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Published in: on June 11, 2009 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Little Help

Yesterday I was getting ready to update our blog when I realized it’s been almost exactly a month since we all met in Lincoln.  I also realized that since it has already been a month the notion of “timeliness” (in terms of discussion topics) isn’t exactly on my side anymore.  In short, I couldn’t think of anything to write about without a little voice saying, “well yeah, but that happened a month ago.  Is it really worth writing about now?”  And the cynic in me said, “I don’t even know if anyone is still reading this blog.”  That said, I need your help…

I want you guys to help me out with keeping the experience, the play, the friendships, the family, and the changes alive.  Maybe my ideas have become untimely, but I think our experience together has had a timeless effect.  I want to hear from all of you constantly—what’s going on in your lives?  What’s next for you?  And, of course, the general ‘How are you doing?’—so that what I continue to write about isn’t simply, “Look at me still writing about something that happened a while ago with me and some people I spent a week with and haven’t heard from since.”  Instead, it’s up to all of us to keep this experience and these friendships alive so that I can keep recording our experience.   Also, general advice is always welcome… advice on things you’d like to hear about, advice on how we can all find a way to come together again, anything.

So, until I hear back from you I leave you with this.  This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors (you may have already seen it on my Facebook page) and as I went back and re-read it I couldn’t help but relate it to our time and Nine Mile Prairie and Maria’s relationship to the sky, and Annie’s to the wind:

“Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth.  He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience; to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it.  He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.  He ought to imagine the creatures there are and all the faintest motions of the wind.  He ought to recollect the glare of the moon and the colors of the dawn and the dusk.” –N. Scott Momaday

Until next time…

Published in: on June 4, 2009 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment