At the end of Kaw Council’s Prairie Roots: Thinking Like a Prairie event, Nancy stood up, and said that as an elder, it’s her prerogative to honor people within the community. Then, to my surprise, she explained that this person was me, for my work organizing for the Kaw event, and everything else. Or something to that effect. I was so moved that I’m not sure what she said, only that it ended with her giving me a Navajo blanket, which weaves not just yarn into art, but prayers and chants into the warp and weft.
So much lately — from radio interviews to poet herding, plans from all directions coalescing to plans just glimmering on the coming horizon — signifies that it’s the end of an era. In my last month as Kansas poet laureate, plus many other projects fruiting and flowering, receiving such a gift dazzles me into a contented stillness, the kind that says, “It is done.” What comes next, if I’m lucky and ready to recognize it, is “Relax,” or even, to quote many Buddhist teachers, “Rest in the alaya,” which is the essential of everything.
So I’m resting under, upon and against this blanket. For the next four renga readings — in Downs, Beloit, Salina and Manhattan, Kansas — I plan to drape the blanket over the back of my car seat, and lean into this gift. On cold nights, such as right friggin’ now, I’m sleeping beneath it. I put it around me on cold mornings and lean against it in my work chair. The cat also has her time napping on it.
When I’m staring into space, at increasingly frequency, I turn my gaze toward the blanket. I look at the shape, the colors, the consistencies and inconsistencies. Ken and Forest look into the rug also, counting the tiers of the gray tree at each end to find the purposeful mistake which, according to tradition, is necessary. Pofessional weaver Ron Garnanez explains this in an article in the Native American Times, “It must be done because only the creator is perfect. We’re not perfect, so we don’t make a perfect rug.” Which makes this rug even more endearing to me although I don’t have to purposely make make mistakes in whatever creations come through me.
“Are you sad your poet laureate term is ending?” well over a dozen people have asked me in the last two weeks. Not at all because it has been a beautiful, lively (too much so at times) and outlandishly satisfying time, so much so that I’m not burnt out either (although I am tired). Community in so many forms has wound itself around me, allowing us to co-create good work. Generosity has astonished me at many turns. Wrapping the rug around me, awake and sleep, over these coming weeks makes the ending even sweeter because I’m literally embraced by prayers and chants, poems composed of texture, color and time that are leading me to whatever is next. Thanks with all my heart, Nancy.