Saturday, November 22, 2008

(4) The Shield

My thesis was accepted, and USD presented me with a Master's
Degree. I guess that I now could consider myself a cultural
anthropologist--of sorts. Then came the question: now what?

I really had no desire to go on for a Phd nor become a professor.
Perhaps I might write a book, though I had barely scratched through
a thesis. That prospect didn't seem in the works; but, as it turned
out, it was!

My anthropologist professor friend came to the rescue. He was
very interested in my approach regarding the Indians relationship
with the environment. Times were changing in academe, and
during this period more emphasis was given to the topic of
Environmental Ethics and Ecological Literacy. My work as a
park ranger was a "plus," along with my newly acquired status
as a cultural anthropologist, when it came to these growing
popular topics.

So just in a few years I became a co-author, along with my friend,
of a few articles on these now evolving topics that were becoming
more and more important in light of such issues as Climate Change
and the Environmental Crisis. Gads! We even had our articles
discussed, we even talked, at university conferences.

Still, I felt quietly driven towards another "quality" when it came to
all this activity. I thought back to my Indian spirit guide, to the
handing over the shield, to the depiction of the painting on the
shield. The point taken from this experience was that overall we
need focus on the Spirit, or upon our relationship with the Earth
as a spiritual undertaking. After talking with my agreeable friend,
I decided to pursue this spiritual perspective and see if we could
blend it with our so-called scientific or technological perspective.

As luck would have it, while at a small USD conference, I ran into
an attendee who had recently returned from a retreat given by a
Sioux spiritual master. I decided to find this fellow--and my pursuit
led me to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Flying up, I had to take a couple of puddle-jumping planes to reach
Rapid City, South Dakota. Renting a car, I drove on out into the
Badlands, on to the Black Hills, where I had made an appointment
with the Sioux spiritual master. He lived at a reservation not far
from Crazy Horse Monument--and we agreed to meet at the large
Indian Museum of North America located at this site. I was genuinely
struck by the size of both the monument and the museum--really
huge, really impressive!

This great museum also provided education, and the Sioux master
I was meeting gave retreats there. He had agreed to talk with me
personally, and I agreed to attend one of his retreats that focused
on Sioux Spirituality as it related to the People's special relationship
with Mother Earth. Throughout the retreat I was really impressed
with this Sioux scholar, in that he had compiled generations of
creation stories, of deeply embedded outlooks brought forth via
oral tradition, that he was able to present in a thoughtful manner
when it came to what was becoming a new field: Eco-Spirituality.

The Sioux master had already made arrangements to publish his
pathfinding work. Regardless, I asked if he might eventually agree
to be a contributor in a book that I and my anthropologist friend
intended to write, wherein we would blend the Eco-Spirituality
approach with the American Indian cultural-technical approach
towards intelligent land use. He agreed, and we slowly have
set-out to put this work together.

Working to develop a book, especially an academic-type book,
isn't easy. And sometimes the effort can seem tedious and painful.
Anyway, we are still plugging away on this. Time continues to
roll on, but I remain patient in this endeavor. Much older now, I'm
pleased that my anthropologist friend has taken the lead on this
proposed book. Hence my own personal time is not so much
consumed by this project--albeit, I do remain content that I took
this route, working as a cultural anthropologist.

At this point I was more than happy to rest, to put my feet up
and ponder and play with my thoughts. More often I went down
to a local park looking out on San Diego Bay. Sitting in my
camping chair, looking out on the sparkling water, I strangely
began to wish that I was "back in the field." I missed being a
park ranger, I guess.

And as I was engaging in this wistful thinking, I spotted my
Indian spirit guide gliding towards me, across the bay, sitting
straight and tall in a roughly hewn wooden canoe. Coming
close, he said "Work where the waters meet." Then he was
gone, leaving me nearly breathless.

Once again I knew that I was in for a change; and, oddly, I
welcomed the prospect.

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