Sunrise or Sunset?

It is the kind of clear morning that doesn’t offer a spectacular sunrise, yellow and pale blue sky announcing the coming day without the fanfare of purples, pinks, or oranges.  Rolling over, I see sunlight on the western mountains–the desert floor around me still shaded by their height.  I pull myself from sleeping bag and the sleeping forms of my tent mates, tying shoe laces and zipping jackets, my nose buried in my scarf. 

I walk straight out onto the desert floor and it is flat, ridges made by water and wind so faint that I can walk with my eyes closed without hitting anything.  Two ravens hop along with me for several minutes, cocking their heads and making gentle croaking noises as they watch me move.  I cross the line where dark volcanic igeneous gravel meets pale fine sand, imagining the lava that once stopped at this exact point, slowing its gradual crawl to leave this distinct line of black and white. 

As I walk I glance repeatedly over my shoulder, watching the eastern horizon of tall mountains for the sun. I finally decide to sit down, my original destination farther than I’m willing to walk due to the ways the desert makes distance deceiving.  I settle onto the sand, cold in the morning air, wanting and waiting for the sun to rise.  I watch the mountains for several minutes, admiring shafts of light that break through lower passes and ridges, before closing my eyes and breathing into my body.  Opening my eyes I glance up at the mountains and in these precious seconds the sun crests the mountains and fiercely strikes the desert floor.  Although I know it irrational, I half expect triumphant music to burst through the air, signalling the coming of the day to all senses.  I am met instead with deafening desert quiet, my ears ringing with my own heart beat and the pounding whooosh of silence.  The desert floor around me is instantly transformed.  The temperature rises several degrees, song birds dart out into the light, the day begins. 

It happens in a second and had I looked away I would have missed it.  We wait for the sun, praying and hoping to be touched by it’s warmth.  The sky is light for minutes, even hours, before the sun slips over the horizon but when he finally reaches up to pull himself over the horizon it happens so fast we often miss it.  Every time I see the sunrise I feel as if I have witnessed a small miracle. 




it is important

I sit here in the morning knowing that just over two weeks ago feet were stomped and hands were shaken and that with every quiver of the ground the beast shifted and something shook.  I sit here and I don’t know what to say.  Over 40,000 people in Washington DC.  Thousands more gathered in cities all across the United States.  My mother was in DC on that day when all the people came together.  When she called me Sunday morning her voice was open and raw,

“Maya, there are so many people here.  Listen–can you hear them cheering?  Listen to how many people there are.”

She held up the phone and in the distance I could hear the faint cry of the beast, the sound of the world shifting, the noise that we make when waking up.

It is important to know that you are not alone.

As people walked and sang in DC I marched through the streets of Los Angeles with a thousand of people because I needed to feel I was not alone.  They carried signs with words that I recognized, their voices rose up to demand change I understood–it was good to know I was not alone.

When we reached the front of city hall an indigenous leader stood to offer prayer and blessing for this gathering.  She said that she had been unable to march but that as she had waited at city hall she had observed something special.  She said that as we rounded the corner towards city hall the wind picked up and blew gusts down the street.

“In my culture the wind represents your ancestors and today our ancestors are here with us.  All this cement here,”  She pointed at the ground with forceful intention, “it doesn’t matter to me.  I know what was and is here–the earth.”

It is good to know we are not alone.

Standing in the sun in LA I listened to speaker after speaker demand that President Obama reject the construction of the KXL pipeline and I was glad to hear them request this.  I was also sad, however, because as they talked about what the construction of this pipeline would do to human, animal, and plant communities I could only picture what has already been done to the community that raised me.  Listening to cries that called for change I thought of the land that has been scraped clean, the long curving snake, the pipe where light shines through, the men, women, and children who I know who were not given a choice about this new neighbor on their land, in their community, next to their school.

As the afternoon wore on my throat became tight–it is true that the northern sections of the KXL pipeline should not be built but what of the indigenous communities already being ravaged by Tar Sands extraction?  What of the Texan communities where pipe has already been buried?  What about my people?  My place?  What about our world?

“There are people in Texas who have been working to stop the southern arm of the pipeline that has already been constructed.  They have chained themselves to machinery, sat in trees, interrupted conferences, spoken up, organized.  It is time that we all take notice of the work being done by Tar Sands Blockade.  It is not enough to only care–we must act.”

Listening to these words spoken after hours of hearing them beat in my own head I wanted to shout,

“Hey!  I know those people!  They have sat next to me in church, I have listened to their stories, hugged their necks, allowed them to change my life.”

It was a small statement, a small part of the speeches but it helped.  It felt like an acknowledgment of the ongoing work there is to be done. I felt less alone.

Our voices are small separately.  We must act and speak together in order to feel we are not alone.  This is important.  There is pipe in the ground in Texas, there are gaping wounds in the Canadian soil where Tar Sands extraction is already ripping indigenous communities apart.  But… under the all this cement that we have wrapped like ribbons we know that the earth is still there and every time the wind blows our ancestors remind us that we are not alone.  Two weeks ago 40,000 people came together and as I walk to work today I will wait for the wind to touch my cheeks and, when it does, I will be grateful because I will feel a little less alone.  And this is important.