A favorite author of mine is William Least Heat Moon, and my favorite book of his is Blue Highways. What struck me when reading this book was his descriptions of the land and scenery as he drove the blue highways on the map, purposely avoiding the major roadways to better appreciate the country and the people who populate it. He was describing what he saw in his travels, but his descriptions showed me a connection to nature and the land that was so different from my experience. Was it his Indian heritage that connected him in that special way? I thought so.
I’m currently reading his River Horse, and have been for months. It’s in Kindle so I can resurrect it whenever I feel like it, and I’ve forgotten about it for weeks on end. In it he is attempting to cross the country by river, which, it turns out, is a much more complicated undertaking than I ever would have imagined. But just now I came across a passage that really spoke to me. He was quoting the famous Lakota holy man who says in Black Elk Speaks:
Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave us peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance.
I’m certainly not an Indian, and not a deep thinker, but those words struck me because I saw my own journey into the past as a completion of a circle. And I don’t think that having made the connections that I made on my trip has closed that circle in any way. The heart-warming whole that it created is still with me…