artwork by Andrea Carlson
I’m reading Susan Power’s Sacred Wilderness in a local café,
as anonymous as possible in a small town on Saturday
when students crowd the tables with books and laptops,
and tourists drop by between Lee’s tomb and Jackson’s grave.
A silver-haired woman sits next to me at the crowded counter,
props up her Kindle, reads while picking at her blueberry scone
like a little chickadee looking for the best bits. She eyes
Andrea Carlson’s “Bear Medicine” on the cover of my book;
she thinks I don’t notice. I do. I wait. Finally, she says,
“Can I ask you about that book?” And I give her a bare synopsis.
Four women, lost sons, separation and healing. Indigenous
literature, I say, of exquisite beauty. I should have known
better. “Oh, have you ever read a book called Jaguar Woman?
It was about Indian medicine. The author’s name was Something
Andrews, I think.” Without missing a beat, I provide that author’s
first name, outline the problematics of White Shamanism,
including economic colonization. “You mean she’s fake?!”
The woman pulls back a little. “Yep,” I say. After a few more
awkward pleasantries, we return to our respective reading.
I think to myself, if I were a good person, I’d ask what she’s reading.
If I were a really good person, I’d offer a reading list. But some-
times in a small southern town, surrounded by Confederate
shrines and cadets in gray uniforms, hiding out from ICE raid
reports at home in California and down in Texas, from videos
of BIA officers beating an Indian woman who dares protest with
a #NODAPL sign, or a President who is re-writing the Constitution
in Tweets, or even just the arrogant email message from a student
blaming you for his own incompetence, well, sometimes
you want one hour, just one hour please, in the company of women
with names like Maryam, Gladys, Jigonsaseh, Ruby Two-Axe;
some days, I swear, you cannot give one more explanation, one more
lecture. Some days you want what is sacred to stay sacred –
and this, this is one of those gorgeous, medicinal days. Amen.
Deborah A. Miranda