All entries for Monday 15 October 2007

October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

It's a little late in the day, but I just discovered that today is Blog Action Day: as the website says, "On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future."

Well, I'm going to contribute by posting an extract or two from Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony because one of the novel's main concerns is with nature and the landscape, and also because the writing is beautiful. Silko's work is informed by Native American concepts of the land in which the land is experienced as an intrinsic part of being: as Paula Gunn Allen writes, "the fundamental idea that permeates American Indian life" is the notion that "we are the land […] The land is not really a place, separate from ourselves, where we act out the drama of our isolate destinies [...] It is rather a part of our being, dynamic, significant, real." However, the advancement of modern America over Native lands is not only resulting in economic, social and political marginalisation for traditional cultures but threatening the land that constitutes such an integral part of Native American identity; as Silko writes, the landscape is scarred by the effects of man and provides a constant reminder of destruction, “every day they had to look at the land, from horizon to horizon, and every day the loss was with them.”

Yet Ceremony works to reclaim the sacred spaces that are increasingly becoming lost and through the protagonist Tayo, Silko reforges the connection between people and place. The following couple of extracts draw demonstrate the drawing together of these elements in relation to two other features that are central to the relationship with the land, storytelling and the Native American concept of time. The extracts offer an enlightening perspective on the environment from a culture that cannot comprehend threatening the land for human gain.
The sky was hazy blue and it looked far away and uncertain, but he could remember times when he and Rocky had climbed the Bone Mesa, high above the valley southwest of Mesita, and he had felt that the sky was near and that he could have touched it. He believed then that touching the sky had to do with where you were standing and how the clouds were that day. He had believed that on certain nights, when the moon rose full and wide as a corner of the sky, a person standing on the high sandstone cliff of that mesa could reach the moon. Distances and days existed in themselves then; they all had a story. They were not barriers. If a person wanted to get to the moon, there was a way; it all depended on whether you knew the directions – exactly which way to go and what to do to get there; it depended on whether you knew the story of how others before you had gone. (19)

The ride into the mountains had branched into all directions of time. He knew then why the oldtimers could only speak of yesterday and tomorrow in terms of the present moment: the only certainty; and this present sense of being was qualified with bare hints of yesterday or tomorrow, by saying, “I go up to the mountains yesterday or I go up to the mountain tomorrow.” The ck’o’yo Kaup’a’ta somewhere is stacking his gambling sticks and waiting for a visitor; Rocky and I are walking across the ridge in the moonlight; Josiah and Robert are waiting for us. This night is a single night; and there has never been any other. (192)

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