I met a shaman in Santa Fe at an early morning Pueblo dance. Winter, snow on the peaks, no cameras allowed. As the sun rose, the snow began to glitter so beautifully in the distance. I was dressed in my warmest, wool, handwoven-in-deep-reds poncho, with a black wool hat and my bright red sheep wool-lined UGG boots. I was warm, one of the hot apple ciders given to guests in my hand. Very few this morning, mostly the Pueblo people who lived here, drinking their apple cider.
Sound of drums, deep male voices that seemed to join the rising sun. The hair on my body stood up. A group of men entered the plaza drumming, singing so sweetly in the freezing air. They were dressed warmly as well. They stood together drumming and singing, waiting. A Pueblo dance might be 'scheduled' for 10am and actually begin at noon. Indian time. But usually, when the drummers and singers emerge, the dancers aren't far behind. A line of masked men, deer antlers swayed, two sticks in front...their four legs...slightly hunched over, they danced. The deer. Their chests and legs were bare, they danced. A hunter joined them. A sacred hunter. The sacred deer. They danced. To the rising sacred Sun...into the Fifth Hopi/Pueblo Sun...into the Sixth Mayan Sun.
"I used to dance this way in my younger days. Now I need a warm coat these cold mornings, hay-ya," he laughed. This is how I met him, no name, no description, as I promised I would not ever write about him directly. We met, usually about once a month in Santa Fe, to talk, exchange dreams. Him telling jokes, making me laugh, then back to being serious. He was my first 'character' and I didn't realize it, of course. He was my first guide into the fictive dream...that first line a few years later. His voice, his laughter, stays with me.
I was camping at Chaco Canyon during the week of '9/11'... and in our last talk in Santa Fe, he told me the elders were dreaming a very bad thing was going to happen on the East Coast, that would affect the entire world, this century. He told me about the Hopi Blue Star Kachina, Saquasohuh, the faraway blue star, yet invisible to our human eyes, which must not ever dance in the plaza. On our home, Earth. Saquasohuh's song was sung at a Hopi ceremony in 1914, just before World War I...in 1940, before World War II. And again, in 1961. Dream, song, warning. The night before I left Chaco Canyon, I dreamt a dream of immense human suffering, death...I saw it unfold like a movie. Then a young magician appeared and said, very gently, "Without death, there is no life." On my drive back to Santa Fe, the radio broke the news to me. I pulled over and wept, and I remembered, "Without death, there is no life."
My shaman told me to get hold of BOOK OF THE HOPI, Frank Waters, and read it very carefully...we'd talk further. At the very back of the book is a dictionary of Hopi words, which reads like poetry: siyamtiwa, object disappearing over flowers...sakngoisi, one who runs after green plants... Tuwanasavi, Center of the Universe...polikwaptiwa, butterfly sitting on flower...masawistiwa, wing spreading over earth...kuwanlelenta, to make beautiful surroundings. I began to write poetry using these beautiful words, and these poems began to guide me. Toward the fictive dream, although I had no rational idea...only instinct, only song. (These poems will be in my new book, GRACIAS, to be published this year.)
I didn't see my shaman the year I drove down to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He was off traveling, as he did between Hopi to Pueblo lands, and eventually he would become a young man character in my novel, SONG OF THE GOLDEN SCORPION, completely hidden within the heart of Hank (his Hopi name, Hototo...Warrior Spirit Who Sings). His dreams are safe with me, but his Spirit sings within Hank/Hototo, who taught me to sing to the sacred Sun. As my Yaqui Indian Mamacita sang to the Child Sun every morning, rattle in hand. I would meet my characters, in the flesh, in Mexico, as well as arriving, in the flesh, in dreams...each one transformed to life, the fictive dream. That long journey/pregnancy of the novel.
I would miss the sacred Pueblo dances...no cameras...and be comforted by the gathering of Native dancers here in San Miguel de Allende, as they take over the town, the central plaza. With drumming, singing, burning of copal, and dancers, from toddlers to the elders, in their brilliant, feathered dress. The cameras offended me in the beginning, but finally I brought mine to record the beauty...though never the invisible sacred. My characters began to arrive, I continued my notes, describing them...they began to arrive in dreams, angrily staring at me. Or just eating breakfast; I could feel their breath on my neck. "Write the first line, pendeja, write the first line."
But I refused, as the Blue Star Kachina, Saquasohuh, continued/continues to dance far away from our home, Earth.