Interior and Exterior Landscapes: Art and Transcendence

This is a time of Earth Healing and Renewal. As you read this, world healing has been happening and takes form in the White deerskin and Jump dances. Songs call out remedies to honor and revitalize our common mother, certain steps smooth out the rough edges of evil and wrongdoing, obsidian blades cut through time, and baskets open up passages to new eras and the collective good mind. Here, behind the Redwood Curtain where I live and have married into the Pohlik-lah People, this is happening, and not just for Native Peoples, but for the world community. It is here, in the landscape where I have raised a family and where I make my professional life, that there is one of the few places and peoples in the universe that devotes itself fully to Earth Healing and Renewal.

It’s a special time that only occurs once every two years for the Pohlik-lah. This is the time in the cycle of our lives when the most precious artworks, sometimes very ancient and sometimes newly created, join with their Pohlik-lah People to celebrate, honor, and revitalize Mother Earth. Endless strands of abalone and dentilium shell necklaces sing with the People and the Earth. Redwood canoes dance and cleanse the river, linking otterhide quivers together with scarlet red-feathered eyes adorning white deerskins. Together they fill the days and nights with the dancing and songs, fasting and food, tears and laughter that is northern California Indian ceremony.

How can that be so? You may wonder how a basket can help heal, how a canoe can dance, or how a necklace sings?

I am expressing a core value of Native life – that everything is alive, purposeful, and vibrant. You may have already heard how Indigenous Peoples believe that a spirit pervades everything – places, peoples, artwork, animals, elements, instilling in all an existence and function, making the spirit world and the everyday world inseparable and cooperative. These worlds mutually interact and are true. It’s a symbiosis where each is reciprocal and responsible to the other. This paradigm holds that in their deepest essence, everything from birds to trees, abalone and ocean, wind and rain, has a spirit and can communicate, possess a state of consciousness, and serve a purpose. Artistic creations, whether baskets or sculptures, poetry or songs, also are animate beings.

It may be that the occupation of humanity is to link these dynamic elements of land, community, and collective spirit together through artistic expression. Perhaps part of fulfilling our obligations to the world as members of humanity, to our nations, clans, communities, and families, and surely to the Earth’s diverse societies, is to in some way create, innovate, produce art.

Indigenous arts are the oldest enduring traditions of creative expression that exist in the world. The earliest expressive art forms we know of including rock carvings, body painting and ground designs, which date back many tens of thousands of years in the Americas, continue to be created in our tribal communities today. Their intrinsic connection to spirituality also endures. Beadwork, basketry, literature, music, and painting are also among the many evolving manifestations of our unique cultures and distinct worldviews. Such creative expressions continue to be an inherent part of Native peoples’ core existence, linking the ancient and contemporary worlds and weaving together aspects of our lives, a nexus of the mundane and the metaphysical. It is there that Earth Healing is born.

“Fixing the Earth” will continue in ten-day cycles until nearly the end of September. The Pohlik-lah say that how you feel, behave, and think during this very critical time shapes how you will be for the next two years, until the next cycle begins. That will be in 2012 – a time when many are talking about prophecy and change.

What is the power of a song, a flint, a ceremony? Can a dance realign the Earth, our relations, our hearts? What is our role in transcending the individual rights and privileges into the responsibilities of the good mind and collective spirit?

We all have a role to heal the Earth.

“Fixing the Earth” will continue in ten-day cycles until nearly the end of September. The Pohlik-lah say that how you feel, behave, and think during this very critical time shapes how you will be for the next two years, until the next cycle begins. That will be in 2012 – a time when many are talking about prophecy and change.

What is the power of a song, a flint, a ceremony? Can a dance realign the Earth, our relations, our hearts? What is our role in transcending the individual rights and privileges into the responsibilities of the good mind and collective spirit?

We all have a role to heal the Earth.

© Tia Oros Peters, 2010

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5 Responses to Interior and Exterior Landscapes: Art and Transcendence

  1. VIckie Benson says:

    Thank you Tia for the beautiful reminder that everything that each of us does, everyone we touch, and how we walk in the world makes a difference. It’s easy to simply give up in tough times and start to believe that whatever we do, it’s not enough to heal the earth, to heal ourselves. Your words guide us in a different direction. I will make the most of this special time to make small differences. Thank you. Vickie Benson

  2. Deb Abrahamson says:

    The article about renewal and healing is so timely with the seasonal changes upon us. I enjoyed both stories as they were educational and were simple reminders to continue walking gently on our Earth Mother and the responsibility to protect and enjoy all life forms is a gift and not a burden. I really appreciate your insightful and thoughtful style. LemLempts, Deb Abrahamson

  3. Janet Brown says:

    Thank you Tia. Your comments are thoughtful and reassuring that we can live peaceful, generous lives with generosity and grace as we interact with humans, animals and the earth.

  4. John Briner says:

    Tia, I really appreciate this post of yours concerning renewal and healing. It just reminds me that we need to interact and keep in touch with nature in order to live peacefully and in order to showcase out artistic expressions. Hopefully, I’ll be able to experience first-hand what you are enjoying right now with the Pohlik-lah People. Thank you for sharing your wonderful insight about life, nature and the arts.

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