[Marxism] The Owls Speak To Us (three related posts)

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at hunterbear.org
Wed May 8 04:12:08 MDT 2013


May 6 2013 (Hunter Bear)   A photo of my father's oil portrait of Nadine is attached.
I slept late this morning -- arising at about 4 a.m.  Cold water, coffee, pipe and smoking tobacco.  Nothing unusual.

And then I began to hear Them talking right close to our home -- obviously more than one.  Owls -- and they kept it up for almost half an hour. This is very unusual.  Owls only rarely come down from the higher rough country that rises immediately above us.  Maria, oldest daughter, who arose a little later and took our now one dog out for a few minutes into the pitch-dark, heard them also -- very, very up-close.

They were talking to us.

But why and what?

In some tribes, and I've discussed this before, there is the belief that, when an owl calls your name, it is a signal of your impending passage into the Spirit World.

But that is not the case with our Native cultures.  We always see the owls as simply very good and learned friends, no more and no less.  There are other living entities to which we do attribute very positive supernatural characteristics -- bears and wild felines, for example.

So what did these verbose visitors have on their minds?

It took me more coffee and pipe-smoking to figure it out.

They're saying that it's high time for me to return to the regimen that I faithfully followed for several years before Lupus struck full blast, now almost a decade ago:  a daily five mile hike up into the high hills, some of them actually smaller mountains.  Initially, I did this day-time, but then switched into the pre-dawn period.  And then I used to encounter all sorts of wild entities -- all of them friendly -- and that included owls, one of whom, very large, always waited faithfully for me each very early morn.

Never carried a firearm on any of these junkets.

All of that ended with the Lupus.  But that Horror is now gone -- though it's taken awhile for me to recuperate on several fronts.  Quite recently, however, there has been very marked improvement in my leg strength and their resiliency.  They were OK in the early post-Lupus period but now they're virtually back to normal.  Interestingly, this particular rejuvenation has been accompanied by vivid dreams in which I'm walking just as always in various locations.

The Owls are telling me, "Time to start coming again 'way up into our High Country, Hunter Bear."

And I think their firm mandate includes Maria as well.

Now that's pressure -- real pressure.  We'll comply.

Here is a relevant post, written not long before the Lupus War:

By Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear) 2003

It was completely new -- just a few early mornings  ago.  I jerked to a
sharp, abrupt stop on the rough downward trail. I had never heard
anything like that in the wilds before.

It boomed out in the pre-dawn darkness from a ridge across the valley -- a
half mile or so ahead of us -- a howl, deep and heavy and eerie,  rising far
up and above the very high, steep mountain slopes. The primeval cry flowed
in over the dark green junipers and the brown sage and the thick red maples
in the canyons.

The Great Howl  had been preceded by coyote yelps and cries at some
distance from it -- and it was followed by a few more of those.  But I know
coyotes well, have all my life, and had one as my close companion
in my native Arizona for two years until he left home and got married
on the Apache National Forest.

This wasn't Them.

Hunter, my faithful Shelty, tensed tightly, peering intently ahead.
He's always extremely interested in wild canines but, living with
four house cats and my half-bobcat, pays only polite, cursory attention
to bobcats and mountain lions.

This was a wolf.  I had heard they were coming back.

For years,  now, I've been walking each day for several miles and a few
hours in the 'way up steep and rough country that
begins almost at our back door. That's all public land -- Bureau of Land
Management [BLM] and Caribou National Forest.  And more recently -- all
winter long -- I've been doing it in the predawn darkness  Cold winds, high
winds, snow, ice and even mud don't deter me.  I don't need much sleep
and I do see very well in the dark.

But there is considerably more to all of this.

Ever since we returned to the Mountain West -- coming here in '97 to
Southeastern Idaho and living right on the far up western "frontier" of
Pocatello  -- we've encountered various kinds of hostility from so-called
"lawmen" and racists.  Almost all of our neighbors -- of many ethnicities --
are just fine.

But last fall, when I was doing my trek in the daytime,  I began to see signs
in the new  snowfall indicating that I'd been human-followed  the day
before. And then there was the bizarre situation where, for whatever reason,
several BLM  guys gathered down at the road to intercept me -- and look me
closely and surreptitiously over -- one day when I was returning

After that, although I still do some hiking in the daytime, I began to do
almost all in the very early morning darkness.

And that's a whole great world of its own.

Often there are Stars, sometimes the Moon.  Frequently there are dark and
roily clouds.  Sometimes snow.  And the winds on the ridges can occasionally
get up to 50-60 miles per hour.

And there are always the friends. After dozens and dozens of our trips, they
know us very well indeed.  The darkness belongs to them -- and now to us as

There's a huge  gray/white owl whose hoots can be heard for more than a mile.
It loves to sit high on an ancient Forest Service pole that once carried a
heavy, naked No. 9 wire as a telephone link.  It waits, and when we get
right up to the pole, it gazes down at us and then flaps noisily away --
only a few feet into the branches of a nearby juniper.

Going down the long remote trail into a special valley, a yellowish and
brown mountain lion once waited in the very nearby dark brush -- probably
assuming I was a tasty mule deer.  When we came close to it, Big Kitty
suddenly realized who we were -- and broke noisily and ran -- but only a
hundred feet or so down the slope adjacent to us.  And at that point,
it began to travel with us, paralleling our course in buddy fashion.
It's one of  several lions whose pungent marking spray we sometimes smell
down in the game-filled valley and who we occasionally hear in the thickets
of juniper and red maple.

And early this very morning a bobcat did the very same thing.

And virtually every dark morning, there are several gray/tawny coyotes that
follow us -- close behind and paralleling  -- for at least a mile and
sometimes two on our journey.

They and others all know us well.  And we them. Bears and rattlesnakes
are sleeping but they'll soon be up and about.  The snow is now gone.

And I know we'll see the wolf before very long at all.

We never -- never -- see any other humans.  But in the dark wilds we have
many friends.


 I think I'll talk about Owls. One story is sad and the other is glad.

All things are consciously meaningful to Native and to other tribal
people -- and to others if  those roots are  genuinely close.  And this
certainly includes animals and birds. These thoughts are about owls of whom
I've been lately seeing many.

I'm not really an owl person at all.  But every Indian is attuned in some
fashion to those essentially lone fliers of dusk and shadow.  And whenever I
hear, as I so often do in the evening or early morning, the hoot of an
owl -- or see a big, heavy bird flying slowly in the darkness low above and
around the trees -- there are for me some very special memories.

I remember Nadine -- of a long, long time ago.  I was in my early teens
and she, an extremely attractive young Native woman from a tribe with few
members in our immediate area, was in Flagstaff to attend Arizona State and
especially my father's art classes.  He painted her -- a fine oil portrait
which caught so very well her composed and quietly reflective and pleasant

And then one day she went with several other Native college students on an
outing to the edges of the vast Sycamore Canyon wilderness area southwest of
Flagstaff.  At one point, still afternoon with the sun 'way up, they parked
their car on the edges of the relatively rough forest road surrounded by
yellow pine mixed with scrub oak.  They had just stopped and Nadine was
sitting in the front seat.

And then suddenly, down -- fast, fast down -- came a shadow, landing on the
hood of the car.  It was an  big owl, whose daytime appearance was as
unusual as snow in Northern Arizona in August.  It can happen but  it
virtually never does.

Planted on the hood, faced by several startled young people, the owl looked
through the glass windshield at only at one -- and to that one, Nadine,  it
looked hard and directly into her eyes for a long, long moment.

And then it flew away.

And Nadine said, " He has told me that I am going to die."

She was the only person of her tribe in the car. And there are as many
different Native cultures as there are Native tribes.  This was not the
belief of the others and, although shaken, they attempted to talk her out of
it -- pointing to her excellent health.  But she said virtually nothing and
they all then returned to Flagstaff.

Three days later she was dead.  The causes were "natural" -- but never even
remotely delineated.

Her portrait, the young and serene and assured person of a vastly long time
ago -- another age --  hangs  timeless and full-of-life right here in our
Idaho home.

Jump far ahead in time to the Navajo Nation country, 'way up in the
beautiful, very isolated  Lukachukai Mountain region -- in what's
technically Arizona, not far from Four Corners where Arizona and New Mexico and Utah and Colorado intersect.  There it is very high altitude   -- 7,000 feet above sea level -- at Navajo Community College [now Dine' College] where I was then teaching and doing some other academic and some activist things.  But the Sun is bright and generally very warm even in the winter -- the season
at which this particular event occurred.  And it isn't all that windy right

I was in my classroom with about thirty Native [mostly Navajo] students --
where I was trying to take western/world sociology and, through  intellectual and
psychic alchemy, transpose it into something meaningful for both the Navajo
and American worlds.  And then -- something very unusual -- a young
policeman came to the open door, immediately drawing the attention of my
students and then, of course, myself.  He was a friend, a campus security
officer, as well as a student.

"Could you come with me for just a few minutes?" he asked.  "It's important
and I know you are the one person who can help."  We walked out of the
building as he added, "Some people are a little concerned."

He pointed to the towering Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center  about one
hundred yards away -- reaching six stories above ground toward the deep blue
turquoise sky. The Center is named for my father's long-time art student and
old family friend, the late trail-blazing Navajo educator who was the
principal founder of the College.  Ned  had also known Nadine.

My security officer friend pointed to the very top of the Center.  "See
that," said he.

I saw --  'way up, sitting on the very top -- a huge super-white owl.
Looking right down in our direction.

"My God," I said, "I'd have to go to Maine or Canada to see that."   I went
on, "That's Snowy Owl." I looked hard.  "Probably a male, given his size and
the way the feathers look."

He grinned, relaxing slightly.  "I knew you were the only one around here
who could help us."

Then he grew serious again.  "Tell me, is he O.K.?"

"He's O.K." I said, "Nothing to worry about.  No witch thing.   Just  a
little off his regular trail."

The officer now  relaxed very visibly.  Then I looked around.  Most of the
class had quietly followed us. They were grouped  a bit self-consciously and
cautiously at a distance. Calling them over, I explained that Snowy Owl is
an Arctic and Sub-Arctic friend that goes a little further south to winter
and was undoubtedly forced 'way down into our area by the rough storms
coming through the  Plains and Rockies -- right into the not far away San
Juan range of Southwestern Colorado.

"What safer place for him?" I asked, "Than the top of our Cultural Center?"
Agreement was widespread on that.

Other people were now gathering.  Class was obviously over -- co-opted by
our extremely impressive visitor.

And people were glad he'd come to see us all.  "Maybe he's bringing us
something good," one of my students quipped.  Another, with a practical
bent, added seriously "we'll take all the help we can get."

Snowy Owl stayed around through that day and the following night and the
next whole day, immobile and impassive -- impressively so. His is the only
flesh and blood entity I've ever known who could play to his audience
without an apparent flicker of motion. But sometime that next night,
undoubtedly sensing the cessation of storms to the north and far up and
beyond, he quietly left.  And we missed him.

But I remembered -- as I always do -- Nadine.

And all of the things so very deep and so very old and so very precious. 

(Some photos of my father's art, including Nadine:  http://hunterbear.org/my_father_was_micmac_and_st.htm )

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk 
Member, National Writers Union AFL-CIO
www.hunterbear.org  (social justice)

See the new expanded/updated edition of my "ORGANIZER'S
BOOK." It's the inside story of the rise of the massive Jackson
Movement -- careful grassroots organizing, bloody repression, sell-out 
and more.  It also covers other organizing campaigns of mine through
 the decades since Mississippi. It's replete with grass-roots organizing
examples and "lessons."  And it has my new 10,000 word 
introduction.  Among a myriad of positive comments and reviews:
 ". . .a local activist's important account of the deleterious effects
the involvement  of national organizations can have on indigenous
protest movements."  (Historian David Garrow.)

See the related:  http://crmvet.org/comm/hunter1.htm

Stormy Adoption of an Indian Child [My Father]:

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