A letter that offers thoughts on Nature. Perhaps it can be of use to those who, fearing earthquakes, floods, blizzards and storms of all kinds, now find Nature less of a comfort and far less beautiful. I discovered it as I was clearing my computer of old files. Please overlook the writer’s shoptalk.
August 12, 2005
70800 Ostrava –Poruba
Dear Karla Simcikova:
At first I thought your name was difficult to pronounce, because it was unfamiliar to me. Now I see it is quite easy after I have carefully looked at it several times. That is how it is, I think.
Thank you so much for your fine book, for which you must feel no nervousness. It is beautiful and explores my work in just the way I have wanted someone to explore it. It is hard for some people, academics and reviewers especially, to let one grow, move on, remain alive. For many, The Color Purple is all they wish to consider. While for me, The Color Purple, whose characters I love because many were inspired by my grandparents’ and parents’ lives, was a gift to ancestors whose gift back to me was The Temple of My Familiar; a novel much closer to my own ways and time, as you clearly grasp. And that, too, is the way it is. There is a circle always happening between life and “art.” And one is forever being moved and moving one’s self along the spiral.
I have only a few comments: on page 39 is it the “Burmese” who use the iron necklaces? (I don’t have a copy of that book and thought it was the Ethiopians.) Please check. On page 183: that is not my prayer but Jean Shinoda Bolen’s: I am quoting her. Page 197: Of course nature is “violent” – in the sense of frequently causing pain, destruction, or suffering – but my sense is that this “violence” is unintentional and more an expression of Nature’s completeness than anything else. (I can feel this in my own being, when I wound or injure something or someone, not by design, but in the process of being me). I would not become angry at a tree in the forest if a tree limb fell on me; at a bear that mauled me in the park; at a shark that bit me in the ocean, etc. Or if I froze to death in Antarctica or was done in by heat in the desert. There would be no personality for me to be angry at. Only an indifferent force, the same force that makes lilies and pecans. (Which I enjoy.) That is closer to what I mean. I accept all of it because all of it is so magnificent and amazing. Such a gift. And I try to avoid falling tree limbs. Renegade bears. Etc. When I was a child I was shot and partially blinded, by my brother, two years older. My parents (gentle, non-violent people; though of necessity killing animals for food) bought the gun, knowing what guns do. He shot it, knowing what guns do. Unlike humans, Nature just goes on Being, (a kind of ceaseless blooming) it seems to me, without any premeditation or inclination to behave outside its own Way. Does a snowstorm think about us? No, and it may wreak havoc and be sublimely beautiful. The freedom of this behavior awes me. (And is what it means, I think, to be God/Goddess.) My “insistence” on the “goodness” of nature is more correctly my insistence on my love of Nature. The truth is that I don’t really care what it is doing – flooding, quaking, storming, freezing, wild things killing and eating each other, ticks biting – I still adore it. And I adore myself as part of it. I wish more people, all people, could feel this. When I see a windstorm I think: One day I’ll be the wind in the storm! It’s clear to me I’m not leaving the cosmos. I am home. The deep comfort of this, I believe, is what earlier mystics referred to as ecstasy.
I think the last line “Let’s all have faith in Walker” is not right. The tone is wrong for all that’s gone before. Perhaps simply delete it? The faith we must have is in ourselves, and if after all this writing and thinking we’re counseled to have faith in someone else, other than ourselves, then what I am attempting to share about my journey has not been understood.
I would only add for your consideration, though your book seems finished, that my greatest spiritual teacher was my mother. I believe this is true for most people on earth; male dominant religions have been created to obscure this reality. I have been especially pleased that the Dalai Lama, almost alone among world spiritual leaders, credits his mother with being his primary teacher of compassion. My mother was of African, English, Native American ancestry, possibly also Irish and Scottish. So I could see race as defined under American apartheid was senseless. She was moreover capable of creating something out of nothing, or so it seemed to me, which made her a goddess even before I understood there could be such a thing. And like Buddha, when asked about the meaning of “this,” meaning Creation, she pointed to her flowers. When one grows up, as I did, virtually wrapped in Nature, finding solace and freedom there, one does not have to learn to be a pagan, one has only to discover the word later in life. And so my spiritual journey has seemed to me to be about remembering what I already knew, which is how Buddha says it is! A huge comfort, that one.
If you don’t mind, I will keep, for my archives, your ms. Or, do you wish it returned? I am in the country, having a wonderful summer, but can bring it down and mail it by September.
P.S. There have been many more essays and especially talks since you finished your book, I would be happy to share some of them if you wish. Let me know.
Posted on: Mar 23, 2010