Wednesday, 15 January 2014

to be told

Last night I dreamt of sitting around a table with some of my favorite elders--a family friend, an uncle, and a great aunt.  As with most dreams, I don't remember the details of what we talked about or where we were, but I woke up feeling connected.

I am not surprised they were in my dream.  I have been thinking of them, constructing letters in my mind, hoping to find the time to write down what I want to say to each of them.  And while I have many things I want to share, I know that what I really hope is for them to tell me something. I want to know something of their wisdom.  I want to be told something, anything, about what they value or what they have learned or where they have been in life.  

I don't know why this urge is so strong in me. I remember a few years back when I was pregnant with my fourth child, well into my 40's, I desperately searched for the crones (wise women) in my life.  I found some in the pool actually. They were the women who were well into their 60's who stopped me in the middle of my lap to see if I was okay and how the pregnancy was coming along.  They were my cheerleaders, encouraging me to keep swimming, to keep fit, and to try to find time for myself each day.  Occasionally, they shared stories from their own lives--of a sister who died too young, or of a battle with cancer, or of the sadness about a daughter who lives half way around the world.  They even shared their birthing stories with me. These women stood in place of my mother who could not be with me when I birthed my child.  My searching for them, I think, has something to do with my search today for connection, and this search has something to do with my letter writing.

I recently  found a copy of National Geographic Magazine from July 2012 in which there was a story about dying languages.  The Seri people from Mexico is a population of people whose language is near extinction. Their language is based on the idea of hant iiha cohacomaxoj (one who have been told the ancient things) in which folk sayings are passed on.  To be told  means pass it on in Seri.  Embedded in their culture and in their language is the idea that one has a responsibility to tell, to pass on wisdom.  It is a gift. It is a connection.  It is the life of their language.

As I move into middle age, I am aware of this desire that rises in me to tell, to share, to pass it on, whatever it is, but for now, I know I am still collecting the wisdom from loved ones with whom I share a personal history.  Even if our language and culture can't capture this idea as successfully as the Seri, I know my loved ones are ones who have been told ancient things. I can feel it when I am with them.

I wonder, then, while I am a just niece or a girl who has grown into a middle age adult, am I one in training to become one who has been told ancient things someday? I hope so. 

For now, there is so much I don't know, so many things still to learn, and I delight in being the recipient of this ancient wisdom.  This is the connection I dreamt of last night.  This is the connection that currently fuels my letter writing activity.

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