This Book will Haunt You

sacred smokes

Sacred Smokes is available in all the usual places: Powell’s and Broadway Books in Portland, from the publisher (University of New Mexico Press) and online

Watch out for Teddy

I’m beginning to hear voices.

Ted Van Alst’s latest story about growing-up-Indian in Chicago has a captivating spirit that won me over. Completely.

His character—Teddy—gets inside your head.

Here’s a scene in the book (Sacred Smokes) where Teddy’s father won’t let him leave the house until he has memorized the Lord’s Prayer:

A photo from the ‘30s sits on my shelf at home, near to hand at my desk. It’s my grandpa and his sister and their ma. Auntie looks like a big, wide, round-eyed Dorothy Dandridge, Grandpa looks like a swanky Richard Gere as Dixie Dwyer in the Cotton Club, and Grandma Mary Josephine—well, she looks serene, but extra lively, and like she made both of them learn the Lordsprayer, with no small relish.

Teddy memorizes the prayer and takes off with his pals, who roam the streets, smoke cigarettes, drink beer, punch each other, and flee the cops.

To make the book last longer, I read only a chapter at a time.

I often pop the book in my shoulder bag and walk to a local café tucked in the shoulder of our neighborhood Library, order a coffee, and dig in.

On my most recent jaunt I bought a chocolate chunk cookie to savor the last morsels of the book.

The cookie tasted so good I got one for my husband in a paper sleeve and stuck the treat in my purse: upright, so it wouldn’t break when bouncing between my shoulder blades.

On my way home I remembered we needed liquid soap.

Being a California native, a product of the 1970s, and this being Portland, I use Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap—the lavender kind—for showering and bathing.

Our local store not only carries Dr. Bronner’s—the store devotes a shrine to the soapmaker, and you can fill your cart with “magic” soap in scents including peppermint, citrus, tea tree, and—of course—lavender.

If you’ve used Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap then you know you can lollygag in the tub while reading the label on the bottle.

You will learn nine uses for the soap and hear about Bronner’s All-One philosophy.

Teddy—in the book—reads everything: beer flasks, cigarette packages and cereal boxes.

So I wasn’t surprised that he spoke up when I was paying for Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap—the lavender kind.

The cashier asked if I needed a sack and—this being Portland—I demurred and assured her the soap would fit in my shoulder bag.

That’s when Teddy let me know that, in his story, by the time I got home, the soap would spill inside my purse and drench the chocolate chunk cookie.

I told Teddy this is my story, and the cookie will be fine.

As I walked home, Teddy kept telling me to check my purse.

And when I arrived, the cookie—and the soap—were just fine.

I hope you get the chance to read Sacred Smokes—it is wonderful book.

But watch out for Teddy.

He’ll get inside your head.

26 February 2019

Today’s blog is dedicated to my pal, Ted, who likes to read the labels

###

#theodorevanalst

#sacredsmokes

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in allmyrelations, american indian, authenticity, Identity, Iktomi, Indian, native american, native press, Native Science, nativescience, Redskins | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

LITTLE THEORIES

(NOTE: I write from time-to-time about Little Theories, which I see as our assumptions of how the world works: sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. But it makes for good conversation.)

woman

Art by Elisa Riva for pixabay

 Poodle skirts and persistence

 I wrote recently about how something as simple as sewing can make us a bit more mindful, stitch-by-stitch.

The gift of a hand-made item when our personal time has become so meagre increases the value of a present that results from our own labor.

While writing, I was struck by how much the act of sewing enriched my growth.

Here’s what I’ve gained:

  • Engineering skills
  • Planning
  • Persistence

It all started in elementary school.

When I was a lass, all the kids in first grade—girls and boys—learned how to make a wooden tugboat.

The teacher brought us boat-parts: a pentagon-like shape for the hull, a square for the deck, another square for the upper deck (wheelhouse), and a roundish peg for the smokestack.

We learned to hammer and glue the parts together (I was impressed that six year-olds were entrusted with hammers) and then painted our boats with bright tempera colors.

While I don’t build boats any more, I find that sewing flexes the same muscles.

When I’m getting ready to cut pattern pieces for a garment, I first imagine what all the shapes will look like once they are sewn together, just like an engineer building a boat.

Sewing requires planning: some parts get stitched together before others, so you have to be able to envision each step and imagine—or draw on paper—each stage.

The thing about projects like sewing and boat-building is that they take time.

Typically I spend a few hours on a project one day, and then resume the following day, and the day after that, and the day after that.

The task may take several days, or even weeks, so sewing requires persistence and a leap of faith that your labor will result in a completed creation.

Pity that sewing seems to have gone the way of poodle-skirts and eight-track players.

I discovered schools in California (where I learned my tugboat skills before moving overseas at age 10) no longer offer classes where students learn sewing, mechanics, building and cooking.

Learning the skills to create something—whether it is changing the oil in your car or hemming a skirt—lasts a lifetime with surprising payoffs.

Sewing helped me become a better writer because I know if I keep at the task of refining and pruning and polishing that I will (eventually) have a completed project.

I see college students struggle with their writing and I’m convinced one reason is they lack persistence: they don’t have the patience to chip away at a task that may require hours, days or weeks.

Maybe we should require that college students first take sewing instead of statistics, or carpentry before calculus, so they can flex their muscles and learn persistence.

5 February 2019

###

Today’s blog is for my pal, Jen, who is always looking for ways to be a better teacher

#littletheories

#persistence

#sewing

#gifting

#homeeconomics

#shop

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

 

Posted in gifting, home economics, nativescience, persistence theory, sewing, theory | Tagged | Leave a comment

Gifting

pj

Jam-packed with feeling

 I dusted off my sewing machine to construct a pair of jammies for my husband and was struck by the lessons sewing can teach us.

For me and most of my pals, time is a true commodity, and one that companies like Amazon recognize fully.

Rather than spending your precious time searching at the mall for the right Instant-Pot, Amazon can deliver one straight to your door.

Same for pajamas.

Why toil over cutting, stitching and ironing a pair of PJs when you can find your size with a few strokes on your electronic wizard?

One reason I decided to make my own jammies is because I could choose a flannel fabric with just the right colors, and make small adjustments you won’t find in a factory-made pair.

Adjustments like just-the-right-size elastic for his girth and the custom-made hem.

I see the hours spent in labor as a gift of love.

Every stitch in is infused with meaning, even if we can’t see it.

But I know it is there.

###

#gifting

#bearpeople

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#cetisawkin

#kiyuska

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#thebuddhaway

#deplorable

#dumptrump

 

Posted in nativescience | Leave a comment

Toilet Paper: Art and Conversation Piece

Cynthia Coleman Emery's Blog

For Molly

scottissue (1) The eponymously named toilet paper

Seems toilet paper has become front and center.

I got somewhat obsessed during my recent visit to India.

After just a few days on the journey, I ran out of the purse-packet size of Kleenex I brought for the trip, and ended up stuffing my bag with fistfuls of toilet tissue from our hotel.

The reason?

Most public toilets in India avoid paper altogether (it clogs the drain) and users rely instead on a blast of cold water from a hose in the loo.

The method is simple and basic, unlike the porcelain bidets of my youth, growing up overseas.

Bidets were commonplace in homes and hotels in the Middle East and Europe, where they’re plumbed right next to a Western toilet in high-class bathrooms.

Experts are uncertain how the term “bidet” evolved.

Oxford says the French term refers to a pony, and…

View original post 409 more words

Posted in nativescience | Leave a comment

Toilet Paper: Art and Conversation Piece

For Molly

scottissue (1)

The eponymously named toilet paper

Seems toilet paper has become front and center.

I got somewhat obsessed during my recent visit to India.

After just a few days on the journey, I ran out of the purse-packet size of Kleenex I brought for the trip, and ended up stuffing my bag with fistfuls of toilet tissue from our hotel.

The reason?

Most public toilets in India avoid paper altogether (it clogs the drain) and users rely instead on a blast of cold water from a hose in the loo.

The method is simple and basic, unlike the porcelain bidets of my youth, growing up overseas.

Bidets were commonplace in homes and hotels in the Middle East and Europe, where they’re plumbed right next to a Western toilet in high-class bathrooms.

Experts are uncertain how the term “bidet” evolved.

Oxford says the French term refers to a pony, and the verb (bider) means “to trot.”

The word takes on a new meaning when you consider our expression for “tummy” troubles when we lived in Iran: we called them the “Teheran trots.”

As kids we would play with the bidet’s many knobs and shoot water into the air, rather than using it for the intended nether regions.

My husband loves the method, but I prefer paper.

And handi-wipes. And towels. And warm water.

Hotels in India stock toilet paper, but in small bundles.

New rolls are about one-quarter the size of our American rolls.

Turns out an Indian toilet roll fits snugly into my purse, so my fears of running short were assuaged.

As a young lass I made objects from toilet paper.

My sculpting career started because I was never sleepy at nap-time and, in the evenings, I stayed awake long after night lights were switched off.

While my sisters slept, I invented songs and stories, or I’d sneak off to the bathroom where I discovered I could fashion little animals from fresh toilet paper, soap and water.

Continue reading

Posted in bidet, ex-pat, nativescience, travel to India | 1 Comment

A Pescatarian’s Dream

boat

Fisherfolk in Kovalom. Photo by the author.

I looked forward to sampling the local fish in India as we made our way farther and farther south.

We landed at the southern-most tip in the lovely city of Kovalom at a resort with a pool, hot-running water and a beach view.

After a restful New Year’s sleep, we looked out our window and saw a line of anglers pulling in a net.

The process—which looked like a game of tug-of-war–was well-organized, with men yanking on the line, pulling fist over fist, and chanting a hauling song.

We grabbed our clothes and trotted down to the beach.

Once the net landed in the sand, we saw about 40 bite-sized silver fish flutter and sigh.

Not an impressive catch.

That evening, we joined our fellow travelers and struck out toward the touristy section of town.

For the first time in weeks, we weren’t the only Westerners in sight.

We saw a bevy of blonde, tanned tourists in shorts and sandals, keenly on the hunt for beer. Continue reading

Posted in american indian, authenticity, India, Indian, Kerala, nativescience | Leave a comment

Travelling the World?

81h2s3gqkbl._sx700_

Here’s an idea: Pack for one week

What’s amazing is that even after five decades of trekking the globe, I’m still learning how to be a competent traveler.

My first solo trip was as an eight-year-old.

My parents loaded me on a Greyhound bus for a 300-mile trip from Long Beach to Salinas to visit my cousins.

Since then I’ve honed my packing skills and know to pocket Dramamine, extra cash, Kleenex and bottled water wherever I go.

We just returned from India where I needed …

  • Dramamine for five hours of endless curlicues to the high plains of Munnar (and I still threw up)
  • Extra cash for the restrooms that charge a user fee
  • Kleenex because there’s no toilet paper in the restrooms that charge a user fee
  • Bottled water to avoid diarrhea-inducing tap-water

The biggest life lesson for me was learning how to pack fewer clothes.

The epiphany emerged when I spent a summer in Washington, D.C. on fellowship at the National Museum of the American Indian.

I packed and repacked and packed again, until I made a fateful decision: Just pack enough for one week.

Taking one carry-on bag was liberating.

I packed only enough clothing for one week and used the washing facilities at my sub-let.

I learned to limit my clothing palette to the basics: white or beige and black or blue, with colorful scarves and sweaters to add spice.

When we travelled to London this month I sported one vibrant scarf, one dress, one pair of leggings, one pair of socks and one pair of boots, which I wore for three days and then packed in my carry-on bag (along with my winter coat) and stored at the hotel while we traipsed from London to India.

To plan for India, I had tucked a smaller bag inside my carry-on when I arrived in London.

Once packed for India, my bag and purse weighed 2 kilos less than our allowable 7 kilos (15.4 pounds).

I boarded the plane at Heathrow with sandals (in December)—sturdy, sole-supporting and breathable Keens—and took three pair of capri leggings, four summer dresses, one lightweight wedding-appropriate dress, one summer nightgown, one sweater, one scarf, and a week’s worth of underwear.

With bright, hot weather I needed sunblock which doubled for body lotion and found a lipstick that lasts 24 hours, which I topped off with chapstick throughout the day.

After years of searching for the perfect purse I settled on a cross-body—rather than a backpack or shoulder bag—constructed of thick fabric rather than heavy leather.

The sturdy and light-weight bag has three distinct, zipped compartments and holds my wallet, passport, cell-phone, book, medicine bag, large water bottle and leaves enough room to close the top zipper.

Turns out I had everything I needed to traverse India: cool clothing, bottled water, and motion-sickness meds.

It only took 50 years to sort it out.

###

8 January 2018

#nativewriter

#nativepress

#osage

#wahshashe

#whatstrending

#packfortravel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in nativescience | Leave a comment