An Ecology of Being and Non-Being

by Randy Lundy

Randy Lundy is a member of the Barren Lands (Cree) First Nation. Born in northern Manitoba, Randy has lived for most of his life in Saskatchewan, first in the bush and now on the prairie. Coteau Books published his first two books of poetry, Under the Night Sun and Gift of the Hawk, and he has a third manuscript of poetry, A Backyarder’s Guide Toward a Vocabulary of Faith, that will appear in 2016 from Hagios Press. His poetry has been widely anthologized. Currently, Randy teaches Indigenous literatures and creative writing in the English Department at Campion College in Regina.

Yesterday, the first day of spring. Today, large flakes of snow flutter in the absence of wind, drop like ghosts of heavy, wet-winged moths from another world. But there is only this world. No need to grieve.

Look at the chickadees in their black caps, huddled in the spruce tree in the south-west corner of the yard. Listen to the starlings raising a racket in the cottonwood across the street. Take up your walking stick, pull on your boots, and meditate that way—one foot after another. Stop wishing for the sky to clear, better to clear your mind with walking and breathing—into the open fields, winter stubble and ice cracking beneath your feet, sun a half-remembered dream, possible only in another season.

Being is straightforward: Before you is the field. Behind you is the village where you live. Geese in the distance eating seed. Coyotes hunting geese. Trees and songbirds. Snow on the brim of your hat. Red tail of a fox disappearing into earth. Breath drifting in clouds, up to where no spirits are gathered. Ten thousand thoughts rising from, descending to, the void. Simple.

Return to your small house. Light a fire. Make an offering of tobacco. Burn sweetgrass. The smoke will rise to the rafters of the sky and beyond. Listen to the dogs yelping at two doves hunkered down on the power line. Warm a bowl of soup and eat. Let your home harbour idleness, some peace, a brief respite from the habitual traps of mind.

But then, there’s memory. That old ache in the knee. Your father. Your friends. Aunts and uncles and cousins. All the holes you have dug in your heart to bury your dead.

But here’s another memory: You stand in the new-moon night—among Ponderosa pine on a mountainside, half a mile above Okanagan Lake, twenty paces from the retreat house—watching the Perseid meteor shower. The falling lights strip you bare of thought, strip you bare of yourself.

March. Try to remember:
For today, there is no need to grieve.

When spring finally arrives, by its own path and in its own time, take to the backyard, try to nurture something like simplicity: Lupine, coneflowers, bergamot, and wild roses. Chokecherries, crab apples, currants, and plums. Rearrange the rocks you have dragged home from the shoreline of Buffalo Pound, the way you rearranged your thoughts, endlessly, in the long hours and days of winter darkness.

At nightfall, when you come tired to your bed, leave your self outside among rocks and roots. There will be sleep. There will be dreams—of a winter yet to come. Fallen seeds. The remnants of clinging fruit to feed the remaining birds.

 


Randy Lundy is a member of the Barren Lands (Cree) First Nation. Born in northern Manitoba, Randy has lived for most of his life in Saskatchewan, first in the bush and now on the prairie. Coteau Books published his first two books of poetry, Under the Night Sun and Gift of the Hawk, and he has a third manuscript of poetry, A Backyarder’s Guide Toward a Vocabulary of Faith, that will appear in 2016 from Hagios Press. His poetry has been widely anthologized. Currently, Randy teaches Indigenous literatures and creative writing in the English Department at Campion College in Regina.

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