Many years ago, I read Ceremony in a Contemporary American Literature course. My memories of this book are confused and fragmented. After reading Kathryn Aalto’s profile of Leslie Marmon Silko, “the world’s first female Native American novelist” (p. 126), I’m ready to give Ceremony a second chance.
Silko’s work weaves together the myths and traditions of her Laguna Pueblo heritage. The main themes of her work emphasize the importance of traditional storytelling and the profound connection between people and the natural world. Pulitzer Prize winning author N. Scott Momady, whose book House Made of Dawn influenced Silko, says the her work also has “a sharp sense of how the profound and the mundane often run together.”
Today’s poem is a found poem from Silko’s essay, “Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today.” I tried to include the main themes of Ceremony and Silko’s other work and have rearranged the order of lines for sense.
We all originate from the depths of the earth,
earth, the Mother Creator,
from the Emergence Place–
a small natural spring
edged with mossy sandstone
full of cattails and wild watercress.
We are all from the same source.
Earth and Sky were sisters.
brought life to all things on earth:
frogs and toads,
the beloved children of the rain clouds.
They imagined the earth and the oceans
the animals and the people
the rocks and the clay.
All have spirit and being.
Many worlds coexist here.
So little lies between you and the sky.
So little lies between you and the earth.
Spirits range without boundaries of any sort.
Everything becomes a story:
The web of memories,
esteemed ancestors bring the precious
gift of their stories.
Stories that teach us how we were,
how we interact with other people,
how we behave toward
the animals and the earth,
in harmony with other living beings,
in harmony with the world around us.
Remember the stories.
The stories will help you be strong.
Previous Writing Wild posts:
Day 1: Dorothy Wordsworth
Day 2: Susan Fenimore Cooper
Day 3: Gene Stratton-Porter
Day 4: Mary Austin
Day 5: Vita Sackville-West
Day 6: Nan Shepherd
Day 7: Rachel Carson
Day 8: Mary Oliver
Day 9: Carolyn Merchant
Day 10: Annie Dillard
Day 11: Gretel Ehrlich