I have a feather.
It’s long and black and white and gray. It has leather and beads on one end. It was given to me to honor my leadership. This was something I did not ask to do or receive, only acting out of my pain during a time of great loss. I did this to just simply hold things together for myself and others, to hold the circle.
The feather, in it’s current form, was crafted by a man of violence and misogyny, blessed by a holy man and given by a woman who’s known poverty, violence, love and pain her whole life.
And I look at it and wonder if I should have accepted it, having known the violence. Having been violent, I wonder if I should have kept it. But I know there is no other way, my violence in self defense is part of the dance that’s seemed to sunder all of us. I have my part in this, even though I’m not sure what. So I take it onto myself. We are strong like this. It should be accepted.
And I look at my feather and wonder if the Medicine man, honored to our family, knew the source and story as he blessed it. I wonder if his spiritual bells were going off as he did his work, or if that sense had worn off of him somewhere. I wonder if it had worn off of us. Maybe his Medicine was stronger, I tell myself.
If I can carry this like a Lakota, then I could finish the story, I know that; but every step I take on my grandfather’s side of the path decries every step I take on the other doubting, coldly consuming, western way of me. That is the other that, too, holds a value.
The feather brings me back to violence, heritage, love and doubt. It holds a lot for me.
The man who made it was Sioux, and so afforded some right to craft the thing, the gift of the sky, and our sibling spirit bird – his destructive violence somehow overlooked. But I can’t believe that – I think it’s carried in the eagle’s call across the land, splitting the sky.
The Medicine man was loved by me and mine, part of our family. I will never know, nor want to, what his spirit told him of this while he did the blessing. I carry that paradox as a door to my own spirituality. I gave up needing the right to call on the spiritual decades ago. Whatever I am, I am spiritual.
There is no badge or credential that opens the door. There is no feather or feathers we can cover ourselves with that will grant us entrance. No act of courage or leadership will allow us to say we’re forgiven, in order to simply keep on walking. It’s the stories that weigh us down, hold us back. They do that until, so sick of the morass, the same stories propel us forward to do, and be, something else.
There was a fence on the reservation that I needed to get across. I would ride my pony to my friends house, where we would all get together and go ride in the hills. Once you got to a certain point, it seemed like there were no more fences.
But, getting there, I had to ride along a fence to get to it’s end. And I would always wish I could just pass right through, take a straight line. But the poles were there and the wire. the barbs had already taken parts of me. I fear them.
So I would daydream that I could just float right through without being touched, me and my pony ( a mare named Mike). I could feel us just passing through, but it would never happen.
So my path became a fence, that called the pain. I know the answer, and I can sense a chap named Genesh on the other side.
But I need other feathers.