More in Less

Richard Wagamese wrote One Native Life. I am impressed with his seemingly easy acceptance of folded identity inside his humanity. He was told so he could tell me that he was born to be a human first, then a man, then an Ojibwe.

I am a human. I am a woman. I am. . .

Tired of summer.

The calendar reads September, but not yet autumn. Job applications flip away into exhaled air. Seven more cucumbers find their way from the garden to the counter. I am not happy to see them. What difference could one more jar of dried slices make? I don’t have any dried tomatoes like last year, but still. Full of something different, is not the same, and the heat fails each day to produce tomatoes, only sweat.

I am a human. I am a woman. But what comes next? Which me comes next?

I am. . .

An outsider.

The Sunday morning television hums. It sings low and I don’t know I’m listening, attempting to sing, until the streaking colors of prairie grass flicker across the screen. “It’s a calling, like as a preacher,” the correspondent repeats. She echoes the description of the rancher who speaks of her land. “It goes to the highest bidder.”

“The American Prairie Reserve.”

“Yes.”

“The outsider.”

“Yes. The land will never be anything. The next generation can’t go into ranching.”

The outsider represents the native? Or, somehow, is the native? The nonprofit worker informs my heart that grasslands are the most endangered ecosystem on the planet. More acres of prairie are lost every year than the Amazon rain forest. I have been to my own kind of rain forest, the exotic pilgrimage towards difference to make less difference by making a difference. And suddenly again it’s more important to stay near my father’s land than to work outside of it.

I am. . .

Rooted.

I didn’t need to read a book to know how I felt already, that you need to know animals in order to “save” them, if that is your goal. It is no different than how anyone who strives in a missionistic life to serve people as “precious and individual” creatures. The story about prairie only reinforces my desire to sow clover instead of corn and soybeans. I suck on spoons of honey desperate to inoculate against my allergies. The home remedy is made by the bees that too are threatened by a homogeneous onslaught.

Carl Phillips wrote a collection of poems Wild is the Wind. I am shook to shiver at two poems in particular: Several Birds in Hand But the Rest Go Free and If You Go Away. In the first, I see the visitor walk the restored prairie. In the second, there is no visitor, only his surroundings that make a separate life, a part of prairie life, in death.

I am a human. I am a woman. I am. . .

In my interview I am asked to describe myself in the words of my friends. Past. I am asked to describe what I want them to see. Present. And the future? Those words must belong to me. I once believed if you really understood something, you could say it in few words. What does this say about my understanding of myself? I don’t know, but I hope I find myself in poetry, where I am able to be more in fewer words.

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