Tapestry Institute

Burning Through the Roots, Part 3

Scholars of myth such as Joseph Campbell, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Carl Jung have pointed out that the most important myths are universal, expressing basic truths held in common by people around the world at various times. They explain this universality as resulting from our shared biology and consciousness (Footnote 2) as a single species, Homo sapiens. But to Indigenous peoples, the common ground that produces powerful universal symbols of myth and art is the Earth itself, the Land. So to Indigenous peoples, art and story are real rather than representative, and the components referred to as "symbols" or "metaphors" by Western culture are instead parts of an actual whole (Footnote 3). Please bear this in mind as I tell you the story, now, that was first told to me by the Land of Sowbelly Canyon.

I met Sowbelly Canyon when I was only 22 years old. The dirt road that unspooled across the high plains of northwest Nebraska to its rim gave me no hint of what was to come (Figures 2-9). Pine-studded white cliffs rose from a valley floor knee-deep in rich grass. Cottonwood and ash trees followed the creek meanders, trout at their feet and golden eagles overhead. The power of the place touched me so deeply that I could hardly bring myself to leave. Of course I finally did, but I was so certain I couldn't leave it a second time without dying of grief that I vowed never to return. I named my only child, a son, Harrison after the nearest town to this Place, a village of fewer than 300 residents. I told him his name meant antelope and elk, mountain lions and eagles, and wild places that were still living the way the world was meant to always live. But I didn't go back.

Nearly thirty years later, in the spring of 2001, I had a very important dream. In a worldview that recognizes and uses all the different ways of knowing and learning, dream is a source of information -- "Mythic" in the typology I've just explained. In this dream, I saw three tornadoes in a specific configuration and at specific distances with respect to myself and one another. A fairly large group of people was discussing what to do to get away from them and held a vote during which they decided to stay where they were, which I thought was a bad idea. I saw a map overlaid across the scene, and on the map was a road that went almost straight north of where I lived then in Texas. When I woke up, I knew that the dream meant we were to go north -- all of Tapestry -- and that it had something to do with the tornadoes or whatever the tornadoes represented. I thought perhaps they indicated there was some sort of danger we needed to get away from by going north. So we began to look for the place we were to go and the means by which we could relocate. After three long years we found the place -- and to my unspeakable surprise it was Sowbelly. We moved there the summer of 2004.

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