[-empyre-] I.

lucian o'connor lucianoconnor7 at gmail.com
Sat Nov 16 06:50:46 AEDT 2019


“How am I supposed to hold this?” I asked, as my hands came together
and my fingers uncurled, exposing both palms to the bright hovering
sun. He met my nervousness with a confident gaze and tone, “It begins
with an open heart, which you have.”

But all I felt was doubt. In a flash, a barrage of troubling images
colonized the theater of my mind: mascots in headdresses performing
tomahawk chops; tall and musty wooden figures staring out of cigar
stores; drunk Europeans dancing in salacious leather costumes, adorned
by turquoise and feathers…

Was I about to betray the principles I claim to value so deeply by
committing a dreadful act of appropriation?

My lungs lured an excessive piece of the atmosphere into our body’s
center, and held it there, paused, until the mind refocused on our
worldly task. Slowly returning air into the biosphere, I let those
awful images go, too. It was no longer a time to worry. Being present
with him and the fruit tree was already a commitment to the ritual.

He gently placed a piece of asemaa into my palms and directed my
fingers to cover it, tenderly, protectively. For a moment, the weight
of my arms was not mine to carry. He held my hands and my gaze with
intense familiarity, a reminder that he is the person I know and love
most in the world -- the person with whom I have built a life and a
family, in the aftermath of estrangement from the people who raised

I was doing this for him and for our kin -- not for myself.

Closing my eyes, I took another deep breath. Then I looked down at our
hands as he explained how to pray to Gitchi Manitou and make an
offering to the plants who give us parts of their bodies so that we
may be nourished. Like the elders taught him to do. After quietly
listening, I nodded, and slowly stepped forward under the canopy of
the tree to make an offering of my own.

“Miigwech, thank you, ….”

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