In This house Made of Dawn

DawnA rainy morning following a wet night, the moisture most welcome in this dry summer. It rained much of yesterday as well, the soft female rain alternating with a pelting male rain, soaking deep into the thirsty ground. For the first time in a while we donned long sleeve shirts against the damp and chill.

In this misty, damp weather, the clouds have settled low over the lake, an almost fog in which I find myself thinking about M. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn, the now seminal 1960’s  Native American novel about healing and war. Momaday’s work holds a special place in may heart, having in many ways led me home. He reminds us that we form a sense of self through connection with community, story, and nature, and that healing comes as we reconnect with them.

Momaday’s title draws from the Navajo Night Chant, perhaps the most sacred of the Navajo chantways, and likely the most widely known, being oft reproduced, in part, as poetry.I have come to deeply appreciate the Navajo understanding that we live in a house made of the natural world. We are born into a day bookended by dawn and sunset, and shared by innumerable plants, creatures, and weathers. In this Great House of Being, water is sacred, as are air, earth and fire. Our home is mostly water; water, as T.S. Eliot noted, is all about us, the sea carried within us. We are constantly called back to the sea, without which we have no life. Of course, without fire we lack movement, without air we cannot utilize fire, and without earth we have no shape. This is knowledge deeply ingrained in the everyday lives of Indigenous people everywhere, and given deeply moving expression through the Night Chant.

Yesterday I spent much of the day here, at the computer, doing work tasks. My computer sits facing south, a widow to my west, through which I can watch the world. Light from three large windows floods the room, and there is a sense here that the boundary between house and nature is permeable. Even so, I often feel removed from the greater world, and must consciously choose to breathe, take time to go outside, and connect to a larger life.

Perhaps we are at a turning point as a species and as peoples. We spend much of our lives indoors, often without windows. Many of us live and work in buildings with minimal natural light, and windows that cannot be opened to allow the world to enter and touch us. Even our “free” time is consumed by the demands of our various electronic devices. Increasingly, we live lives without referents to the Great World into which we are born, a gift of life we too often fail to acknowledge, or even recognize.

It seems to me that healing work is mostly about inviting the Healer who lives within us to awaken. As healers, we may draw upon acts of engagement in the natural world, ritual, and ceremony, as we aid individuals and families to remember they are embedded within, and loved by, something larger than themselves. We may call upon the Ancestors, and the spirits of the natural world to be of aid and support, and remind those seeking healing that we live in a Holy place.

I wonder how, if we continue down our present path, our children will learn to care for, and nurture, one another and the larger world. How will we heal truly and deeply in a world devoid of spirits and nature? How are we to grow and heal when we have forgotten who we truly are? How will we find our way home?



9 thoughts on “In This house Made of Dawn

  1. Very good questions. How to encourage and facilitate a re-connection with the Great World? Working at a conservation foundation, I wrote a grant proposal this spring to develop a nature preserve. It got accepted, and I’m working with an Eagle Scout to do a project on our other preserve property – one that will collect and share data rather than leave a brick-and-mortar footprint on the land. I hope to engage people in environmental education somewhere on the spectrum from awareness, appreciation, attitude and action.

    1. The project sounds awesome! I hope you will write about it. It seems we continue to offer opportunities for connection and engagement. One could do worse, eh?

      I so appreciate your notes, presence, and words/writing. Blessings.

  2. Thanks for reminding me of the challenges I face in growing older in our society. I engaged in connecting to my new great-granddaughter this past week and attempted to connect with a grandson who loves me dearly but believes he has to learn on his own. I have been thinking of my own grandmother. I feel the Great Lakes calling me. Yes, you spoke for me. As I read, I felt connected to you.

    1. Thank you, Pat for this note. I feel deeply touched by your words. After I wrote the post I had two conversations with individuals about alienation and hope, loneliness and connection. Seems to be in the air.

      I love the Great Lakes. Here, on the shore of Lake Champlain, the “other Great Lake”, we can almost imagine we are on the ocean, almost.

      Yes, aging is a challenge. My students remind me often that being a young adult is as well. I worry about them, and my grandchildren. Still, we play and create, offering one another comfort, pleasure, and joy. But you know this already.

      I am glad we connect.

  3. Thoughtful post Michael, your posts use to make me think 😀
    I find it most easy to connect, while I stay close to the sea, where I both do my meditation and send healing and love.
    Many years ago I did my best to teach my kids to be empathic to our world. Today I can see, that they are successful in this, for what I’m very grateful.
    I think, that each of us have our own place, where we best find the inner peace and being able to call this home for our soul.

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