Photo by Michael Janke

From ‘Black Elk Speaks’

· Earth Initiative, Essays · , ,

as told through John G. Neihardt

After the conclusion of the narrative, Black Elk and our party were sitting at the north edge of Cuny Table, looking off across the Badlands (“the beauty and the strangeness of the earth,” as the old man expressed it). Pointing at Harney Peak that loomed black above the far sky-rim, Black Elk said: “There, when I was young, the spirits took me in my vision to the center of the earth and showed me all the good things in the sacred hoop of the world. I wish I could stand up there in the flesh before I die, for there is something I want to say to the Six Grandfathers.”

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Photo by Rakesh JV

From ‘An American Childhood’

· Earth Initiative, Essays · , ,

by Annie Dillard

A dream consists of little more than its setting, as anyone knows who tells a dream or hears a dream told:

We were squeezing up the stone street of an Old World village.

We were climbing down the gangway of an oceangoing ship, carrying a baby.

We broke through the woods on the crest of a ridge and saw water; we grounded our blunt raft on a charred point of land.

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The Dream That I Told My Mother-in-Law

· Creative Expression, Essays · , ,

by Elizabeth Alexander

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Photo by Grover Schrayer

The Return of Ma ah shra true ee, the Giant Serpent

· Earth Initiative, Essays · , ,

by Leslie Marmon Silko

The old time people always told us kids to be patient, to wait, and then finally, after a long time, what you wish to know will become clear. The Pueblos and their paleo-Indian ancestors have lived continuously in the southwest of North America for twelve thousand years. So when the old-time people speak about “time” or “a long time,” they’re not speaking about a decade, or even a single lifetime; they can mean hundreds of years. And as the elders point out, the Europeans have hardly been on the continents of the Americas five hundred years. Still, they say, the longer Europeans or others live on these continents, the more they will become part of the Americas. The gravity of the continent under their feet begins this connection, which grows slowly in each generation. The process requires not hundreds, but thousands of years.

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Photo by Andrew Petersen

No Birth, No Death

· Teachings · , ,

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Hear, Shariputra, all dharmas are marked
with emptiness. They are neither produced
nor destroyed.

Dharmas, here, mean things. A human being is a dharma. A tree is a dharma. A cloud is a dharma. The sunshine is a dharma. Everything that can be conceived is a dharma. So when we say, “All dharmas are marked with emptiness,” we are saying, everything has emptiness as its own nature. And that is why everything can be. There is a lot of joy in this statement. It means nothing can be born, nothing can die. Avalokita has said something extremely important.

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Photo by Claus Tom Christensen

From ‘Between the World and Me’

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Essays · , ,

by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the far west side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.

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Photo by UN Relief and Works Agency

Listening to the Other

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Essays · , ,

by Gary Paul Nabhan

A chunk of pale, limey dolomite sits on my desk, a fragment of my ancestors’ homeland. Sometimes I fit it inside my fist, as a way to remind me of the very ground from which my grandmother was torn around the time of World War I. Once a chink between larger cobbles in the dry masonry walls of the hut where she resided during her girlhood, this rock speaks to me like no other. The day I plucked it from the wall, I noticed how similar its texture and color were to the ridges flanking the Bekaa Valley, along the present-day border of Lebanon with Syria—a place less than one hundred fifty miles from bullet-riddled Jerusalem, and less than two hundred miles from bombed-out Iraq.

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Night Singing

· Essays · , ,

by W.S. Merwin

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Tending the Tigress: An Apprenticeship in Clay

· Teachings · , ,

by Jody Hojin Kimmel, Osho

Recently, somebody asked me how I was turned into a vessel before my eyes. found Buddhism. I found it through a crooked tea bowl. At the time, I had been studying with a teacher who was very formal. Everything had to have these exact proportions, and everything had to be straight. He would actually come around with a ruler to measure—is the foot in proportion to the body? Is the lip in proportion? It was very trying for me to make a pot this way. I thought, “What ever happened to feeling it? Can’t I just feel this vessel as it takes shape beneath my hands, as the wheel turns fast and slow?” But I figured, “Okay, I’m here to learn.” And so I’d get my ruler out. Then somebody invited me over and showed me a bowl by Rengetsu, a 19th–century Buddhist nun renowned for her poetry and her pottery. This bowl was cracked, repaired and asymmetrical. Yet it was deeply, deeply centered. The first words out of my mouth were, “Who accepted this? Who let this happen?” I wanted to know whose hands and mind put that bowl together. It felt so alive.

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Photo by Tim Wang

From ‘When God Was a Woman’

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Essays · , ,

by Merlin Stone

There is something in all of us, I tried to dismiss my fascination with this women and men alike, that makes us feel deeply connected with the past. Perhaps the sudden dampness of a beach cave or the lines of sunlight piercing through the intricate lace patterns of the leaves in a darkened grove of tall trees will awaken from the hidden recesses of our minds the distant echoes of a remote and ancient time, taking us back to the early stirrings of human life on the planet.

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