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March 02, 2006

Moving beyond Feather Woman's longings

There's a book I read to my first graders in Los Angeles, it's a Blackfoot Indian fable called Star Boy, and here's how it goes.

Feather Woman falls desperately in love with Morning Star, son of Moon and Sun. "Together they flew into the sky as magically as the spider casts his silken threads." Moon teaches Feather Woman the ways of the Star Land.

Feather Woman and Morning Star were married, and had a baby named Star Boy. Moon said to Feather Woman, you must learn the ways of our people if you want to stay up here in the Land of the Stars. Moon showed her which plants were edible, but also pointed to a particular large turnip root, and told her never to dig there.

After a while, Feather Woman became homesick for her own family and community in the earth world. Forgetting her promise to Moon, she curiously dug at the forbidden turnip. When it pulled up, she saw underneath its roots a portal to the earth world and a view of her own family. She became very sad and filled with longing.

Sun recognized the sadness instantly, and knew Feather Woman had seen the earthly world. There was no room for sadness and longing in Star Land, so he sent her and her son back to the earth world, condemning Feather Woman to a life of always knowing two worlds, both beautiful to her, but always desiring pieces of the life in the other one.

In my last day in Khao Lak last spring, I felt consumed with longing, as Feather Woman did when she realized her heart was in two places. I could hardly bear to leave the pure work and good friends that were my small community in Khao Lak...but I couldn't stay without G. and the many people in the community I love in LA. I knew what I needed to do, but I was sorry to have to choose, and the depth of the realization of having these two loves made me feel both melancholic and ever the richer.

Native American teachings acquire deeper meaning as we interpret the symbolism and fable for ourselves. Unlike Feather Woman, I don't feel condemned to my life in one of my worlds, and I try to incorporate the beauty and strength of what I learned in Thailand enrich every corner of my lives.

As Native American educator David Risling learned from his father, I hope to construct all of my experiences into spokes for wheels that turn for myself and others. It's a wonderful story he tells.

But seeing the good and the strength in these experiences doesn't make getting in the taxi to Phuket a whole lot easier today. It will seem better in hindsight, as these experiences grow like seeds and intertwine their stems and branches with the others until they can't be separated, even from the roots.

Posted by sedda at March 2, 2006 08:12 AM