Posted in Essay, First Peoples, General Interest, Michael Watson, Nature

Walking In Beauty

Lake-ChamplainThe fog is lifting, revealing a lovely spring day.

There is a Navaho word, Harzo, which can be translated as a life in Balance and Beauty. Balance and Beauty are complex concepts, changing as they move across tribes and cultures. I’m not Navaho and only understand Harzo as it has been explained to me by friends and colleagues. My felt sense of Harzo comes from living in the mountains of New Mexico as a grad student. There one is surrounded by Beauty and Vastness, and reminded of the insignificance of one’s self. It is not that we are unimportant, rather, we are simply part of the unimaginable Vastness of Nature.

One of the challenges many urban folks face is no longer recognizing our place in Beauty. We are drawn to the picturesque, yet so often we are unable to experience ourselves as part of the Beauty of Nature. Perhaps this difficult is rooted in our use of English. I am told by those who speak our tribal languages that most Indigenous languages in North America are verb based. The landscape and the living beings who live there are understood to be complex, evolving processes, rather than things. One is simply a process within a context of other and greater processes.

Walking in Beauty encourages us to recognize our relatedness to one another and All-That-Is. It is a good road that teaches empathy and reciprocity. As we live we begin to understand there is Beauty before, behind, and all around us. We also learn that we are unimaginably complex, filled, as is the world, with nuances of light and dark, and that, too, is beautiful.Trillium

Beauty exists even in the darkest of times and the most violent of places. Walking in Beauty implies remaining open to its presence and influence even when we are afraid or suffering. This can be a difficult task. My Navajo friends families’ held stories of The Long Walk, a trail of misery and suffering, a time when the Beauty of the Navajo homelands was lost, although the memory of Beauty and home was not. Eventually the Navajo went Home to their land bordered by the four sacred mountains, the place of Beauty. Sadly, that place remains under siege.

I imagine most of us have stories about the loss of Beauty, about exile and suffering, and about the journey Home. As I write this, a development project threats the natural beauty of our neighborhood, and perhaps the cohesiveness of the community itself. It is an old story: greed and avarice distract a few powerful people from the Beauty of place. So often, development is simply a code word for the further acquisition of power and the endless search for more wealth. Perhaps greed is simply a part of human nature, sometimes held in check by a collective focus on the good of the whole, and other times freed to wreck havoc on the world. It can only exist when we forget we are totally and irrevocably interconnected, when attachment and empathy fail, and when culture condones placing one’s desires over the good of the whole.

Evening-Sky The sun has broken through and the sky is a brilliant blue. Over the lake a layer of clouds, white and bubbly, hangs. Trees and gardens are  abloom, and the scent of lily-of-the-valley and lilac saturates the air. The day is beautiful. May we walk through this day in Beauty, together.

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Beauty, Creative Nonfiction, find yourself, General Interest, Karen Fayeth, memoir

The Turtle and The Hare

As a little bit of back story, in the course of my life, I spent quite a few years in the company of a blues musician. By spending a little time with him, I also spent time around a lot of different blues musicians.

Men and women with a deep vein of soul and history and rhythm.

When you are around blues people, you hear a lot of stories. Telling stories is pretty much the foundation of being able to play the blues. As a storyteller in my own right, I used to soak in these stories, letting them enter my pores and fill my soul and tap my DNA on the shoulder and ask it to dance.

The stories are in me. Not all of them are true. Few of them are pretty.

All of this is a long winded lead up to a particular story I have in mind.

It goes something like this:

Back in the 1950’s in a small suburb of Dallas, Texas, two talented brothers grew up together.

Both had music in their bones and talent for playing the guitar. The world knows a little bit more about Stevie Ray Vaughan because of his breathtaking musical style and early death, but Jimmie Vaughan has also seen a fair bit of success with his music.

If you listen to each of their music, you can hear their very different styles. Stevie’s music was intense, complicated and at times frenetic. Jimmie likes to play a bit slower and wider and easier.

Legend has it that back in the day in Oak Cliff, Texas both boys not only liked guitars but they liked cars.

Stevie, unsurprisingly, liked real fast hot rod cars that he could jump in and race around town. Stevie used to vex the local police who couldn’t slow him down.

Jimmie on the other hand liked to cruise. He liked big, heavily finned, tuck and roll upholstered, Buick with a “smile” kind of cars. He’d put his girlfriend beside him on the bench seat and slowly roll through town, vexing the local police who wanted him to speed up.

I think of this story pretty frequently in relation to my own roll through life. My approach is more Jimmie than Stevie, though I admire Stevie very much.

Perhaps this owes to the slow “land of mañana” pace of where I grew up. We don’t move with alacrity in New Mexico and tend to be suspicious of those who do. When I still lived in the state and traveled to San Francisco or Boston for work, I was always comforted to come home, get off the plane, and visually see how slow people moved. Then I would match my pace to theirs and know I was home.

There is a great comfort in moving at a calm pace.

I find, however, that is not how the world thinks one should move.

Let’s take for example, New York City. In New York, you are supposed to walk fast. Very fast. Head straight, eyes forward, and walk.

Despite how much I love Manhattan, I have quite a hard time keeping up. The Good Man (my husband) was born in Brooklyn so moving at that pace comes natural. It does not come natural for me. I prefer to toddle along closer to the buildings and let the people pass me by on the outside of the sidewalk.

I am the person that New Yorkers yell at for walking too slow.

This all came back to mind this past week. It is New York Fashion week and I follow Nina Garcia, Marie Claire magazine’s Creative Director, on various social networking sites.

She has been posting photos from all of the various designer shows and I have been lapping them up like at kitten at a bowl of milk.

I may not have a figure for fashion, but I love it. I love seeing how textiles and stitches and notions come together to create something fantastic or ugly or offbeat.

So a couple of days ago, Ms. Garcia posted a photo of a sign she saw backstage at the Michael Kors Spring show. Oh my, I am a huge fan of Mr. Kors.

Here is the photo:

I read the words and my heart sank a little. I am happily romantic, strong and my own version of gorgeous.

But I don’t walk fast and with energy.

I would love to kill them with chic, but instead I must maintain my killer sense of humor.

For some reason, this really got under my skin and whispered to those demons in my head who heckled me and said that if I can’t walk fast and with energy, I am a nobody. They said I don’t measure up, don’t belong, don’t matter because I can’t keep up.

And that’s when I remembered the story about the Vaughan brothers.

I don’t need to race up and down the streets of New York. There are plenty of people who have that covered. I want to cruise the Manhattan blocks and tip my head upward to wonder at the buildings and smile and give my lungs room to breathe.

Slow though I walk, I always get where I’m going. Pink cheeked, a little sweaty and smiling.

Perhaps I am taking this hand written sign a little too close to heart. I’m sure this was simply a note of encouragement for the models walking the runway, reminding them to keep it peppy and light.

Perhaps it just hit me on a bad day when the demons were a little closer to the open door than I would like. I let them out to play awhile, really let them run, then I whistled and corralled them back into the pen.

And I remembered that a strong, courageous New Mexican doesn’t have to walk fast unless she wants to. That is true both when walking the Bosque or NYC’s Broadway.

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.

–Coco Chanel

Thankfully, I am both.

–Karen Fayeth

© 2013, essay, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved

Photo from the Instagram feed of Nina Garcia. All rights belong to her.

webheadshotKaren Fayeth ~ is one of our regular writers. She is our tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine, an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet, and a short story in Foliate Oak. Her story “What Leibniz Never Learned” will appear in the Fall edition of The Storyteller.