I spent the other day at the American Museum of Natural History. I went to the space show in the rose center (felt at home really) and then walked every floor from top to bottom. The Dinosaurs were awe inspiring and some of the exhibits were so realistic that I felt I could step into the landscape and be transported to another time. It was also an exhausting day because my rumbustious four year old had the energy of ten children and I had the nerve to tote around my 13 pound newborn close to my heart in the carrier. What was I thinking?
As the day came to a close we headed to the museum shop to look for butterflies. My daughter a social butterfly herself had to have every book on the subject. As we wandered into the store, I couldn't see anything for children and watched my daughter's every move nervously. We stopped at the Native American display, which housed the flutes, drums and rattles and these beautiful dolls. Then I suddenly realized there was a woman in front of me, beating a drum and singing. She rhythmically hit the drum and sang the "ya", "hey" and "loi" - all familiar sounds of the pow wow.
I would never have pegged her to be an American Indian, but she was. Her flaming red hair although short, peeped out from under a distressed cowboy hat made of straw. Dressed in jeans and t-shirt, and beautiful silver jewellery, she leaned on a walker. As her song concluded, I thanked her and complimented her singing. She proceeded to explain that she was from Arizona and Cherokee and her wish would be for more people to respect Mother Earth. She was always telling her grandkids that. (She didn't look old enough to be a grandma, but who am I to judge.) Anyway, she explained about the instruments in front of me and how we have to respect the drum, etc. I was semi-mesmerized not because I wasn't interested, I was, but I was also extremely tired.
I stood there holding my child's hand, while the other dangled. The nice lady, (wish I had asked her name) continued. She said, "don't let the walker fool you. When the drums and singing starts and the music gets in your bones, the pain leaves my body!" She then unfolded her shawl and draped it around her, dancing, singing and moving to the sounds of her ancestors. She waved the shawl as if her fellow dancers were next to her in the pow wow ring, moving it from arm to arm and and explaining the moves as it seamlessly floated back into place. I didn't know what to say. I could not even remember to mention my good friend, who is Choctaw and the many pow wows that I have attended.
Anyway, she waved the rattle around my body and talked about why it is done, she wished me well, good health, respect, family, love and all that Mother Earth can provide, she hoped that the great Spirit would bless me and my family and smiled and pushed along in her walker to do some shopping.
I was embarrassed, enthralled and mystified. I forgot how to speak and ask questions in my usual nosey way. I just wished her well, and smiled a weak smile. I was too tired to even realize that I had just had a wonderful encounter. All the way home, I was reminded that you do have to have respect, for all things and people. There is just no other way to live.
I thanked the great Creator for the enriching experience when I thought about it the next day.
If you get a chance, check out your local pow wows. We have two big ones in NYC every year and a few smaller ones, so I am sure you can find one to attend in your area. The music really does get into your bones.