203 Slices
Medium 9781771870849

To See In a Sacred Manner

Ratzlaff, Lloyd Thistledown Press ePub


But let not revelation by theses be detained.

— Emily Dickinson

WHEN BLACK ELK WAS AN OLD MAN, he recounted a dream he’d had at the age of nine, and said of this experience: “I saw more than I can tell, and I understood more than I saw, for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that it was holy.”

The boy was very ill at the time of his dream; but while those around him feared for his life, he was spirited into a world of wheeling horses and flowering trees, of ceremonial hoops and ritual pipes. And he saw a tepee with a rainbow door, and inside were six grandfathers whom he recognized at once to be the Powers of the world.

When the lad’s quaking had subsided, the apparitions began to speak. The sixth grandfather, the spirit of the Earth, had long, white hair, and a wrinkled face with eyes that were deep and dim; yet he seemed vaguely familiar. As the boy stared, the old face began transforming itself backward through time, shedding its years until it reached childhood; and Black Elk saw that it was himself, “with all the years that would be mine at last.” And when the spirit had grown old again, it said, “My boy, have courage, for my power shall be yours, and you shall need it.”

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Medium 9781771870801


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Medium 9781771870801


Forrie, Allan Thistledown Press ePub
In “Phantom Limb” Theresa Kishkan remembers Lily, a dog who was adopted from a nearby reservation and quickly became a member of the family: protecting the yard from deer, raccoons, and bears; training the new puppy Tiger; and sharing family picnics and walks before the end of her too-short life.
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Medium 9781771870801


Forrie, Allan Thistledown Press ePub
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Medium 9781927068304


Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub


Joe and I were picking hazelnuts one afternoon in southern Manitoba twenty-five years ago, when a little animal startled us as it scurried off through the bush. We had startled it, I suppose, and Joe chuckled in Low German at “that little Vixat” as it left us for parts unknown.

“What’s a Vixat?” I asked.

Joe thought awhile and said, “It’s something that appears suddenly.”

But he seemed hesitant, so I probed. It didn’t mean this or that animal, he said after another pause, or necessarily an animal at all. If an unexpected thing pops up, it’s a Vixat. The popping-upness is what makes it one.

Joe and I were born Mennonites, but where Low German was his mother tongue, mine was a corrupt High German spoken in deference to my Lutheran grandfather who had converted after falling in love with the daughter of a South Dakota Mennonite minister. Grandpa never spoke more than a dozen words of English or Plautdietsch, and Vixats were not among the phenomena we recognized. I’m sorry that my tradition sacrificed the vivid diction of Low German to the rantings of frontier revivalism. We became so preoccupied with going to heaven that we never noticed, for instance, that a vacuum cleaner is really a Juehlbassem — a howling broom — or that a locomotive is an Iesehinxt — an iron stallion. Joe taught me these things long after I left home.

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