Thursday, July 24, 2008

Get To Know Me

Jesse Suggested This

He wants a semi-autobiographic "This Is Who I Am" kind of post so that we can all get to know one another. Sometimes, though, immediate events will supercede even a good suggestion.

The photo is my new niece. My sister adopted her. She has spent the bulk of her young life in foster care and has been brought into our lives and our family. I wrote a series about her being adopted into the Apache.

Asking For Vision (day 1)
Rez Drums
In the Kiva
Hoop Dance
Itsa Ga'an

You might also want to read The Origin Story of the Raven Soldiers

I am the sum of my life experience. Some of it has been noble, some of it cool, a lot of it violent and tawdry. I needed all those lessons to be where I am today, and I needed them all with this little girl yesterday afternoon.

I was spending the day with Dani. She is a total and complete charmer, with beguiling eyes and deep dimples. We were puttering around the kitchen and having ourselves a ball. I was doing cleanup in the kitchen and Dani went into the den to go and get some cartoon time. She took a glass of cranberry juice.

She spilled it on the carpet. Now, you're probably thinking, great big honking deal, nine year old girls spill stuff all the time. Any rational adult should know this. I heard the spill and grabbed the cleaning gear ready to be "uncle-on-the-spot."

This darling girl was in a state of panic, and terror. She was pale and trembling, her breath was coming in pants between sobs. I remembered what my sister had told me about the day she came into our lives. She was removed from her last foster placement by her social worker on an emergency basis, with only the clothes on her back. Most of our inquiries regarding her history of care have been met with silence. This girl's history has more gaps than a 25 year CIA black ops veteran's. There are things that happen in foster care that the state is unwilling to address because it would expose ugly truths about the system.

Think Dickens.

I was looking into those beautiful eyes and all I could think of is that this darling young girl had been beaten terribly. Over spills.

I dropped all my cleaning stuff and scooped her up in my arms. I held her for nearly half an hour, trying to soothe her fears and calm her sobbing. I told her that she was far more important to me than all the carpets in the world, including the ones that fly. I told her that I was her very own personal Raven Soldier who would stand beside her always. I told her that she was one of us now, and that no adult was ever going to hit her for any reason.

While this was happening my tribal side, my combat veteran side was thinking about making a night visit to the sons of bitches that dared to beat this child. Throats would be cut, blood would be spilled, the hands that did the beating nailed to the doorway, scalps taken back to the rez, with the rest left for the scavengers. Vulture food, coyote food, that would be the deserved burial.

Just as quickly I noticed that Dani was sensing this welling of anger inside me. Poor little dear was thinking it was her. I stuffed my anger, quickly and deep. Of course, it stayed there and has festered all night and all morning. Stuffing does that.

I poured this out to a couple of friends. I talked myself down from my anger.

I know a thing or two about violence, and revenge. I know that neither of them would be any sort of a healing for me. I know that they would not help my niece do any healing from her previous life.

She needs me here, loving her. Loving her unconditionally. Loving her without any holding back. Loving her with all my heart and soul.

There's an old story from Xenophon about the Greek mercenaries on their way home from a Persian disaster (read Anabasis). They are sitting around a fire talking about philosophy and life. Talk turns to the old heroes of Greek history, Achilles, Ajax, Theseus, Heracles and such. An old veteran, a grizzled sergeant from Sparta named Glyppus says he wants nothing to do with those heroes of old. They break the integrity of the phalanx to do single combat. Because they don't know the fears of mortal men, they take risks that are unneccesary and often stupid. Glyppus doesn't want those kind of men with him in the line of battle. He wants me who know fear, but also know something else. There are things that matter more than fear.

Courage, he says is not the absence of fear. Courage is knowing that there are things more important than fear.

What then, he is asked, is the opposite of fear? What matters more than fear?

Glyppus sighs at their silly ignorance and says "Love."

There. Now you know a lot more about me than I usually let on. We'll talk more.