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.