One of the Cherokee stories around light involves the Western hemisphere being enveloped in darkness until Grandmother Spider created a little pot of clay with which she traveled to the other side of the world where it was rumored light existed. She was tiny so none of the people there noticed her. Quickly she snatched up some of the sun, put it in the clay bowl and scrambled back home. As a result, Grandmother Spider brought
the sun and fire to the Cherokee.
the sun and fire to the Cherokee.
I didn't know this story Saturday when I found a spider at Clingman's Dome in East TN's Smoky Mountains. Actually I didn't find the spider, a kid in front of me did. She was screaming, "A tick, a tick." I don't mind ticks as long as they stay off my body, but I really don't like drama over insects. They're so small compared to us yet companies label them "Pests" and market poisons to kill them. Seems to me we're more often the real pests to the environment while unknowingly sabotaging our own health as pest control sprays seep into earth and ultimately into our water supply and bodies.
On the spiraling concrete path up to the lookout, I assured the distraught girl then realized she was alarmed not by a tick on the guardrail but by a spider, a little spider with a yellow ball on its back.
A couple of hours later in the Museum of the Cherokee Indian I heard the story of Grandmother Spider bringing sun and fire to her people.
While downloading photos and digesting my experience, I realized Grandmother Spider through this child offered herself to me for a photo.
The little spider had been on the side of the rail so I randomly snapped my camera not knowing what I was getting.
I was gifted with the perfect shot for a beautiful story. See the sun in Grandmother Spider's bowl as she makes her way over the horizon?
Ah, stories....As Indigenous people around the world do, the Cherokee shared stories of creation and the ongoing conversation with the animals, plants and Nature. These stories and their teachings were passed on through word of mouth. Although my trip was just a day, I sensed the fire is returning to this community of people, that Grandmother Spider is emerging again very much alive and a light.
Yet in white man's world, we've stories of little substance providing little sustenance. Many people feed on fast food stories offered at the drive-through of instantly accessible media outlets serving up the latest titillating, provocative political, Hollywood scandal that's here today and gone tomorrow.
There are also the unconscious stories in which we're immersed whether we're afraid of a tick or ticked off at someone or something. These stories quietly affect and direct our looking-awake moments.
This week I came across a December 2007 journal in which I had noted: Scientists estimate the average person has 60,000 thoughts daily. All but 2 % of the 60,000 thoughts are the same ones we thought from the day prior.
Don't ask me to quote my source beyond my December '07 journal with the cover that's an imitation of 17th century brocaded paper in gold, green and orange.
I don't think I have 60,000 thoughts in a day but if this is true (and a couple of on-line sites suggest it could be) I imagine many days only a tenth of 2% of them are actually new.
I may have reacted to the alarmed girl on the spiral path, but I alarm myself with the stuck sameness of my thoughts. This unconscious stuckness creating an amnesia in the masses is what fast food stories appeal to offering a quick jolt or shock to the system when most folks don't even realize they're stuck or asleep. Temporarily folks wake up through vicariously experiencing another person's misery, victory or humanity. Then stuckness and sleep returns.
Nature, music and art help me get unstuck oftentimes when I intentionally dig in the dirt or tend my garden. Then there are experiences of unexpected grace like those with the spider waking me, prompting me to pay attention to the simple, ever present aspects of beauty in my day and the mysterious layers of unfolding story in my life.
The spider reminds me the animals and insects are here to partner with us. Their messages surround us, helping us find our fire.
They remind us we come here travelers from afar, each with our own pots of light, suns illuminating wherever we are.
Imagine the shift if you stopped to notice and listen for a moment each day to the animals on your life's spiraling path. Imagine the story being offered to sustain you.
-Dawn! The Good News Muse, 13 June 2011