It never ceases to amaze me: the ways the Divine finds to speak to my heart.
It is corn planting time in Iowa, and watching the umpteen tanks of anhydrous ammonia being trucked to the empty fields around me, had cast me into a sort of passive despairing of life in this world.
Let me explain…
I grew up near a thriving Native American Reservation. Unlike some of the other Reservations in the immediate area, this one had found ways to profit from the Western culture that overthrew their prior way of life. That is, sorrowfully, not the case for most Native American Tribes…
As someone who has always felt an inexplicable connection with Native American peoples and their traditions, I’ve spent a great deal of time studying the religious beliefs of the Great Lakes Tribes. As well as their history. And I’ve benefitted greatly from the knowledge and wisdom gained in friendships with people of Native ancestry.
When I moved to the Great Plains two years ago, something inside me suffered such great sorrow. So many fields of corn…. rooted in the near total extinction of what was once a thriving Eco-system. For roughly 10,000 years, Native peoples lived here in harmony with this prairie biome. Taking only what they needed, and cultivating a deep religious respect for the natural world around them.
Then came “progress”. The same Western ideas that set out to subjugate (“colonize”) less “civilized” parts of the world, took fruit here, with the arrival of European settlers. And as progress is never content with just fulfilling its basic human needs, this spirit of Greed set out to systematically expunge the Native way of life.
Now, not even 200 years later, we ALL are suffering for the Greed of those handfuls of wealthy, power-seeking men. Our waterways are polluted, our agriculture has raped the once fertile land, and an inexcusable percentage of Americans (Native and otherwise) live in poverty. Barely able to meet their most basic human needs.
The monocropping, industrial farming methods at work around me, remind me of how much evil Greed can commit against creation, ourselves, and the members of our human family. I don’t fault today’s farmers for anything more than choosing to be ignorant of American history. Which speaks to the fact that it was theft, murder and wholesale enslavement which provided opportunities for settlement and land ownership here. They are a generation caught in this inherited system of Greed. In the same way that I am.
The land around me feels as if it still grieves what once was. And my heart along with it. What can one human being do to combat Greed and right its historical wrongs?
This is the question that had thrown me into my despair.
Then, as I took a drive the other evening, to set my mind upon resolving these feelings of despair, a white-tail deer ran smack dab into the side of my vehicle. I tried to find this suicidal deer– to no avail. Then drove home both angry and confused.
That anger awoke something in me.
The following night, I had a dream. Outside of the marsh I was hiking through, I stumbled upon 5 dead deer lying, artificially posed, on the side of a hill near a roadway. This dream was pregnant with a personal truth I needed to realize. And what I hadn’t been able to find in my study of Scripture or traditions of my Christian Faith, came to me in a graphic occurrence in reality and then explained to me in my dream-life.
The deer, for me, represented my feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. Also, my deep compassion for those preyed upon by the predators in the world. But if I continue to remain so full of grief and sorrow and helplessness in reaction to the plight of humanity, I can do nothing but join the other victims of Greed. If I want to do more than accept this fate, my compassion and sense of Grace needs to be reborn in a new, active form. In this dream, it was in the form of a well-trained, domestic dog; a loyal companion and discerning protector. In other words, a predator that serves and protects rather than preys upon the weak.
This coincides with the Gospel passage that has troubled me of late, in which Jesus warns of the need to be as wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Im convinced that this is my personal, interior task right now. To learn how to harness the wisdom of the serpent without falling into its predatory ways. To domesticate my inner wolf, instead of allowing myself to continue in ways of being that lead to feelings of helplessness. I can be compassionate, and gentle, without becoming prey myself. I do not need to be the deer.
This is my new vision of wholeness. It’s source: nothing other than the same Divine voice that spoke (and still speaks) to the Native American Tribes in the language of animal symbolism and dreams. Where it takes me, is my next adventure:)