Knife edge blue sky and sun on the winter-weary rhododendron leaves make me long for a campsite, a tent staked upon it, with night falling and woodfire kindling.
This poem is from Coming to Rest (LSU Press) and is part of the sequence Singing to Salt Woman.
Bring your knife and your coloring book,
an old woman’s voice said,
so I tried to follow. I knew
day was waiting downriver. I heard
many voices advise me along the way,
mumbling in ancient Apache
or old-country Gaelic, a shudder
of Gullah tongues parting the salt
water. Native or non-native,
sometimes we hear the same voices,
like Zuni corn chanting
my grandmother up from the dust
into one last day walking her bean-rows
and suddenly so much green
singing around me, I take out my knife
and cut through to daylight.
The Zuni people call her Ma’l Oyattsik’i, the Salt Woman. For the moment she rests peacefully in her domain, a gentle refuge nestled among purple mesas, lush grasses, and tenacious trees. Zuni oral history tells how she used to live closer to the Zuni people, but grew angry with them and moved far away to Zuni Salt Lake, 50 miles south of the Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico. For centuries, great pilgrimages have been undertaken by the men, not only of Zuni, but of neighboring Acoma Pueblo, the Navajo, the Apache, and others, to collect salt for their ceremonial life.
from an essay by Winona LaDuke