Birds for Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Tashunca-uitco My land is where my dead lie buried. A flock of red birds or a necklace of stars. He wished to be black leaves--flying over water...

Crazy Horse Tashunca-uitco
My land is where my dead lie buried.
A flock of red birds or a necklace of stars.
He wished to be black leaves–flying over water…

Crazy Horse wanted little to do with other people, red or white. He was happiest out wandering in nature. He was as content to sleep in a cave or a hole, as he was in a camp. He loved being out under the stars and was comfortable with his own company. There was a reason the Oglala Lakota referred to him as “our Strange Man.”

His nonconformity set him apart in a tribal culture. He had much responsibility in his tribe. He was among the most fierce of warriors; a brilliant tactical fighter and a superb hunter, and to his tribe, he was necessary and he was up to shouldering his immense responsibility to his people. He hunted buffalo, he led war-parties and raids, but when the opportunity arose, he would go off by himself to be in nature and fast and seek visions. He was curious about the spirits and the next world and he sought wisdom. Like Basho, he was always searching and seeking knowledge.

In Tokyo, I visited some Shinto shrines and was struck by how much Shintoism reflects the beliefs of some Native American beliefs as well. I’m not religious at all, but do tend to cede the power most attribute to god, to nature. The Shinto teachings have an intense reverence for the natural world and the shrines are sublimely beautiful.

In battle Crazy Horse adorned his forehead with three hailstones and red lightning bolts on each cheek. He also carried a small pebble or hailstone behind his ear. These images were powerful talismans in his life and visions. When it would hail, the Native American believed it was raining stone and, depending which text you read, this was alternately ominous and hopeful at the same time.

It may sound odd that I once went to Japan to better understand Crazy Horse, but I think it helped. In every culture, there are these odd-spirited men who don’t quite fit into the world easily, yet they push that culture forward for better and ill. They are necessary people who don’t want to punch a clock or color inside the lines. There is an otherness about them. In Japan, the Haiku monks were thought to be oddballs in their day. Basho was an admirer of Li-Po, the great Chinese poet of the 8th century, another wandering spirit enamored of wandering in nature. It is not an accident that Haiku is rooted in nature and reflects the seasonal shifts of one’s lifetime.

I hope that after Crazy Horse was murdered, he went somewhere. He certainly deserved better than he got. I don’t believe in the afterlife, but I’d like it if he had one. Haitians refer to the land between the living and the dead as the “Gray World” and there is no time continuum; it is a place where Basho and Crazy Horse could meet. I hope wherever Crazy Horse went, he wore a necklace of stars.

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Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Spider Music

The Spider MusicWhen my daughter Gaby was small, I used to read her my favorite children’s book, Charlotte’s Web. it was a gorgeous allegory about right and wrong by E. B. White.  It gently explained the mystery of the life-cycle without all of the punitive religious horse-shit.  Charlotte’s legacy were a hundred little parachutes with her babies tethered to the end of them with silken threads.  Charlotte is alive through her children and the kind lessons she bestowed upon her friends in the barn-yard.

I am still kind of a pussy about spiders, but I don’t immediately kill them like I used to.  Now I sweep them out of whatever place I am inhabiting, but I don’t stomp on the poor fuckers like I used to.  Spiders are among the most useful of creatures; eating flies, mosquitoes, nits, centipedes and other harmful bugs.  Still, they give me the willies; especially the big fuckers–they still spook me.

In Japan, of course, spiders are looked on with favor, as useful makers of silk-like thread and as nature’s artists. Much Japanese art references the glistening geometry of spider-webs.  It appeals to the Japanese sense of elegant order.  All through the wood-cuts and etchings of Hiroshige and Hokusai there are hints of spiders and their webs as benevolent elements.  In haiku, Issa, Buson and Basho all write of spiders and the rigorous mathematical poetry of their webs.

My friend, Steve Earle, told me a couple of years ago that after reading a lot of haiku that he didn’t want to kill things anymore.  He used to hunt deer and fish for trout for eating.  Now he is content to merely humiliate the cutthroat trout he catches and lets them go.  After visiting Japan and reading a lot of Japanese poetry, the reverence for life is something I share.  I don’t want to kill anything either.  In New Orleans recently I let a cockroach saunter by me without stomping his ass.  He was a big motherfucker and he walked by with no urgency.  It was if he were daring me, like, “Hey….Want some of this?”   In New Orleans, they want to pretend cockroaches are something else, so they call them pretty names like “palmetto bugs” or the banal “waterbug.”  Bullshit.  They are cockroaches. Granted, they are the size of a Buick and they fly, but they are still fucking ROACHES.

And I still have no desire to kill them anymore.

And this is something.

Published in: on October 13, 2009 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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