Ghost River

October 5, 2006 at 4:54 pm (Ghost River)

There are miles and miles of emptiness. Driving through it you are easily lulled to sleep. But if you are out alone in the emptiness, where there are no roads you will see it is actually quite alive.

Once this emptiness belonged to the people of the wind. They have almost entirely vanished. The last fluent speakers of Kanza lived over 30 years ago, and six years ago, the last full blooded Kanza died. In a small museum in Council Grove you can see a drawing of an old Kanza song prayer from the 1880s. The songs are addressed to the Kanza deities.

There are 27 of them – the sacred pipe, the venerable man, the old man with a cane, the four winds, the planet Venus, the bow, the sacrificial offering, the deer, the elk, the old man who makes night songs, a certain large red rock, the wolf, the crow, the moon, the yarn belt, a very old man, the sun, the shade, he who brings restful sleep, a certain small rock, the Wichitas, the new moon, the buffalo bull, the planting season, cooking, stilt-walking and the owl.

The drawings are very simple and not especially haunting except for the 27th deity, the Owl.

Alone, at night, I spend hours staring into his eyes. I begin to feel that everything I know is just on the surface – that something else entirely lives in the depths.

A few years ago, a Tibetan Lama visited. He looked around and asked, “Are we near the sea?” “No” I said, “we are a thousand miles from the sea.” He looked around again, as if the sea were very close, and I thought not that sea – he can’t be seeing that.

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