More people are distressed by the fact that I don't have a cell phone than the fact that I don't have a cornfield. In fact, about the cornfield, no one really cares. When I bring it up most think I'm being funny or metaphoric.
The entire family works the field. It unifies us. Each person prepares the ground, even the littlest ones, toddling around, are important. Their lives are like the seeds each one is given to place in the earth, once the ground has been broken. The youth witness the process, planting, and in this way bring prayer inside them.
If you care for the earth, it cares for you.
Last month was our New Year, the time we turn our focus to our fields. After the corn stalks have been gathered, the time for rest begins. We move to our winter homes. We gather medicine. We eat and prepare food and we wait for the stories that come, once a year, after the first frost.
When I was growing up our winter house was Mamacita's on Texas. We lived around the block on Mississippi. October, with its winds, marked the time we'd start meeting, all of us able, at Mamacita's. During the day she and I would tend her chickens, make "Mexican coffee" and keep food cooking so that whenever someone arrived something was ready to be served. At four, five, six years old, it was my honor to serve them beans, nitsidigo'í, and piñon. Me and Mamacita sat by the oven door warming ourselves and laughing. By dark we'd be waiting for my Grandma. Late night, all night, every night we'd sit and talk. Mostly about work down at the flower mart, my mom and my Grandpa, the not so original coyote.
My Grandma doctored well. She was a surgeon with the embroidery she applied as skillfully to our bodies as to fabric. Mamacita grew the plants she needed for her potions and between the two of them our health care was covered.
Dá'ák'eh, the cornfield, has been good to us for generations, unifying our families. We all go out and work it. Everyone helps to balance—work, daily life, the cycles we move in—light/dark, work/rest, water/wind/sun, shelter, our animals. Fuel, we gather that, it rests in wood, in sockets, and in the stories that come now, after the frost, when we come together here at our little Mama's.
As we moved into the month of the thin winds, November, we continued grinding corn on our metate, preparing corn for storage. The men hunted, once it was deer and prairie dog, now they were Union men, hunting wages down at the docks. The rains here in California, were our first frost, reminding us to continue our telling of migrations between worlds, of first man and first woman. My Grandma had her own tales.
We entertained ourselves. At night, with Babs, my third mother, I would learn probability games. I thought they were games of the possible, not the probable. English a language we took on like string to be played with. Babs would do her league sheets and I'd learn "odds." Even after my Grandma died, during this my most beloved month, November has remained my favorite.
The nights were an endless endless that started earlier and earlier. I learned three card monte, liars dice and readied myself for the Day of Kings—my Grandmother's life asserting itself in unfailing rhythms we took , like breath, inside our soul.
The snow blesses the sacred mountains during this month. The animals hibernate and the sun rises a little later, so when we rise in the dark I am reminded of my Grandfather's power to pull shoots from the soil. His long days in late winter tasting the soil to ensure its proper balance. He supplemented the family's income with his knowledge.
The winds blow across the earth's surface and we take this time to shape ourselves into ourselves.
Not one of these moments require cable, digital equipment, or a cell phone. They require a field and a family willing to work it, together. My family, once, had little money and yet we were rich because we had each other. Those times come back to me most clearly during these two months, because we gave ourselves something then, something stronger than the alcohol that ate our brains, stronger than the Catholic church that taught us to hate ourselves because we were ourselves, and stronger than the city that demands we focus our energy on its priorities.
- ► 2009 (13)