OT: To Kholmes (N. Scott Momaday)

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by windblade, Jun 14, 2006.

  1. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    Dear Kholmes,

    I was fascinated to read in another post that you had met Scott Momaday. He is a writer that I care for deeply, first knowing him through his books 'The Man Made of Words', and 'In the Bear's House'.

    I remember the first time I encountered him I knew that I had met a great man, a great soul.

    I also admire his brush and ink drawings and paintings. They are strong and spontaneous.

    Did you listen to a lecture, or did he meet up with you and your Navajo students?

    I know he is Kiowa, not Navajo, although he grew up in Shiprock, Tuba City and Chinle.

    I would love to hear any anecdotes that you have. He is a very important writer to me.

  2. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    It's wonderful that you admire Scott Momaday. He is not only probably our greatest Native American writer, but he's a really good guy. He's a big bear of a man (he literally sees himself in traditional Kiowa terms, as having a bear spirit), and has a rich, baritone voice. He's one of the most articulate people I've ever known.

    While teaching my Navajo students, I taught his novel, HOUSE MADE OF DAWN for a number of years. It's a challenging, difficult novel--very symbolic and elliptical in style. I also taught his essay (much easier for the students to read), called "The Way to Rainy Mountain," a reflection on Oklahoma landscape, Kiowa culture, and the death of his grandmother. It's one of my favorite essays.

    In March of '97, I lucked into the opportunity of a lifetime: to take a small group of our Navajo students on a cultural exchange trip to Siberia. Another teacher that went with us had known Scott for years, and she invited him to join us. So Scott met up with us in Moscow, and also we met up with our host, a professor from Moscow State University, who has translated Scott's work into Russian.

    We visited Red Square, a huge outdoor market, and ate at one of the three McDonalds restaurants in Moscow. We also visited a college class at Moscow State, where our students danced and sang traditional Navajo songs, and Scott read some of his poetry. The Russian students looked on, absolutely fascinated.

    Our students were a bit offended, though, when they found out that some Russian people had learned about American Indian dances and songs, and were going out into the woods and having "powwows." They felt their culture was being coopted, and I think Scott felt the same way.

    At midnight on the third day in Moscow, Scott got on a train with us, and we rode the Trans-Siberian for 36 hours, across the Ural Mountains, to a city called Tyumen. The Siberian landscape was frigid and white with snow, and we passed many pine forests and wooden homes. I remember Scott writing poetry in his train berth, and that we all ate horrible cabbage salads with an unknown kind of meat in the restaurant car. But I probably got the best night of sleep in my life on that train.

    We took a bus up to Tobolsk, the oldest town in Siberia. The weather was absolutely freezing, and it snowed almost the whole time we were there. With Scott, our students visited native Siberian artists, musicians, students, and activists. Scott was especially interested in Native Siberian bear stories of the Khanty Mansysk culture. As you might expect, similarities abound between traditional Siberian and Native American culture and beliefs. Walking down the icy Siberian streets, dressed in warm parkas, Scott and I joked that maybe we would meet attractive Siberian women, marry them, and settle down in Siberia.

    On the train ride back to Moscow, someone broke into the girls' compartment in the middle of the night and stole the passport, visa, and money belt of one of our students. We had a KGB agent accompany us on the remaining ride back to Moscow, but the thief must have jumped off of the train at one of the stops. Our third teacher/chaperone and the girl had to stay an extra two days in Moscow to get a new passport and visa to return home. In all, we spent about ten days in Russia.

    I ran into Scott a few years ago at a little cafe in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. He asked how our Navajo students were doing, and expressed a great interest in their college careers and plans. His parents had been teachers at a school in Jemez Pueblo.

    I also went to hear Scott a couple of years ago at the University of New Mexico. He had written a play called "The Yahweh/Bear Dialogues" (or something like that), and he read an amazing poem he had written about baseball. He had been reading the play with James Earl Jones in New York. I didn't get a chance to say hello and reminisce about the trip with him this time, though.

    It's funny that you ask. The teacher who invited Scott and went with us came by to visit me yesterday. We wished we could do it all over again, or have a ten year reunion next year. The trip has left an impression on us that will last the rest of our lives. Scott is still teaching in Arizona, travelling around the world, giving lectures, probably writing and painting, and spending time at his home in Jemez. Having had the opportunity to travel with Scott, I would have to agree with your assessment that he is a "great soul."


    [This Message was Edited on 06/14/2006]
    [This Message was Edited on 06/14/2006]
    [This Message was Edited on 06/14/2006]
  3. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    What a wonderful experience you had traveling with your students AND with Scott Momaday!

    You mentioned in Siberia, the Khanty Mansysk culture. well, in my book 'The Bear's House', he has a poem entitled "The Khanty Bear Feast", written in 1997.

    I loved reading all the details of your journey. Wow - you were there when he was writing a poem. That is thrilling!

    Yes, 'The Bear - God dialogues - You Are Urset. I Am, Yahweh.', and five other sections are in the Bear book also.
    I re-read them last night, and understood more as they became more familiar.

    I did have a hard time with 'House Made of Dawn'. It was so surrealistic and almost hallucinatory, that I only made it half-way through. I think an introduction would have helped me, as I had just come from reading the essays with their clarity, and compassion and empathy for other places and cultures. Maybe I will try it again.

    In 'The Man Made of Words' there is a lovely essay on Navajo Place Names. I must be a Navajophile.
    From reading Hillerman's novels and Momaday's essays I came to love Navajo humor, culture and sacred traditions and ceremonies.

    How beautiful that you had a Blessingway Ceremony before going to Siberia.

    Have you read the authors, Linda Hogan and Leslie Marmon Silko? Linda Hogan's 'Solar Storms' had such a powerful pull to it, bringing me to an entirely different way of seeing the world. I've only experinced that pulling in before, in Checkhov's writings.

    Well, this is so interesting. I don't know anyone else who is interested in Native American life, people and writings.

    Hope your day is a good one,
  4. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    Another Momaday fan! Do you remember what he spoke about at the conference you went to? How wonderful that you were able to see him in person.

    Have you read any of his essays? I was looking at his drawings and paintings last night - they are done in a wonderful, bold, expressionist style.

    I'm going to have to try 'House Made of Dawn' again. Maybe on a second reading it will be more comprehensible to me.

    Take care,
  5. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Share some more when you have the energy.
  6. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I'll definitely have to read THE BEAR'S HOUSE.

    There is actually a movie version of HOUSE MADE OF DAWN from about 1974 (you can look it up on IMDB.com), but it's pretty awful.

    I wish Scott would work with a good Native film director on making a new adaptation. But, of course, he has long since gone on to other things, and is probably tired of the HOUSE sensation. And on the other hand, I think some books should be left alone and not made into films.

    I like other Native writers--Erdrich, Hogan, Silko, and Michael Dorris (who, sadly, killed himself a few years back). Leslie Silko's book, CEREMONY, is sort of the other classic Native book, and is also difficult, like HOUSE MADE OF DAWN. But Momaday remains my favorite, especially when he's writing about the canyons, mountains, and deserts of the southwest, and their relationship to Native culture.

    I was completely fooled, recently, by the writer, "Nasdijj." Nasdijj claimed to be a half-anglo, half-Navajo writer who had grown up on sheep camps in the fifties. He had written a few books about raising Navajo boys, one with fetal alcohol syndrome and one with AIDS.One book, THE BLOOD RUNS LIKE A RIVER THROUGH MY DREAMS, I thought was incredible. The only problem is, "Nasdijj" turns out to be a white writer from Michigan! and all of his "nonfiction" books were completely fictitious and very derivative of Sherman Alexie. Do a Google search on this interesting literary hoax.

    [This Message was Edited on 06/15/2006]
  7. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    Have you found any books on tape to listen to? Hangininthere has posted on the very same problem, of not being able to read for years. She has been taking certain supplements which helped her to concentrate.

    She was able to read a book for The Book Club which Kholmes started. I'll ask her what those supplements were, keeping also in mind that everyone is affected differently.

    But maybe there is something that can help you.

    My favorite book by Leslie Marmon Silko is 'Gardens in the Dunes'. I loved this book so passionately, thatI started it right over again when I finished, something I rarely do.

    Also her book of letters to James Wright "The Delicacy and strength of lace" was wonderful. I love reading letters, the way people gather together all the daily elements in their lives and capture them there.

    I had a cognitive problem with music for about 6 years - I just couldn't take it in at all - it was painful to listen to. I didn't understand until I read an article on CFS symptoms that spoke of this.

    Now I can listen and enjoy music again.

    I'm hoping the same thing for you - that you will find a solution. But meanwhile I hope your library has good books on tape - if you find you can listen to them.

    I'll ask hangininthere about the supplements that helped her.

    Take care,
  8. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    Hope you're having a good day.

    You mentioned Michael Dorris - I was so shocked and saddened when I heard of his taking his own life. Even now it is so upsetting. After reading BLUE RAFT.., I had read THE BROKEN CORD and was so admiring of his great struggle to track down the cause of foetal alcohol syndrome, and then spending 2 years writing letters to all the families who wrote to him trying to understand and help their own children.

    What a great thing he did for so many people. I stumbled across the knowledge of his death by just looking to see if he had a new book out. I pray for him and his family. What a sorrow.

    About Scott Momaday, did he speak Navajo with your students? I read where he grew up hearing the language, then later learned the complex grammar, and has a special love for Navajo Name-Places.

    If I have the dates right, the poem THE KHANTY BEAR FEAST with the note T'umen 1997 could have been written on your trip!

    I'm now reading his essay ZAGORSK: TO THE SPIRITUAL CENTER OF RUSSIA. He certainly has a wide-spectrum kind of mind.

    What have you been reading lately, if that's not too nosy to ask?

    Your dog looks ultra-cozy in your pic. A pretty collie. I'm hoping when my husband retires in 2 years to get another dog.

    Take care,

    p.s. I like your way of capitalizing book names - much easier for me then quotation marks, which I never get quite right anyway.

    P.S.S. Do you have any good poems to share for the poetry thread?
  9. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I have read A BROKEN CHORD but not YELLOW RAFT.
    Dorris's death was a terrible loss.

    It's funny; I had neve heard of Momaday's poem, "The Khanty Bear Feast," but I'll bet he wrote it when we were there. I have a picture of him somewhere, standing in front of Khanty art work in a museum we visited in Tobolsk. I hadn't heard of the "Zagorsk" essay. Where can I find both?

    Momaday didn't speak much Navajo with the students while we were there. I think they felt shy around him at times, but they grew less so as the trip went on.

    Hmm..I've been reading Nicholas Sparks's TRUE BELIEVER. One of the members of our new book club on this site selected it for June. Have you joined our book club yet?
    Each month, we're all reading the same book and then posting opinion, quotes, feedback during the last week of the month.

    I just finished an amazing novel called THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It was a huge sensation in Europe, but not in the states.

    I have tons of good poems to share with the poetry thred, but have only shared one so far. I really like the poet, Billy Collins.


  10. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    The poem "The Kanty Bear Feast" - T'umen 1997 is in IN THE BEAR'S HOUSE - pub. 1999 by St. Martin's Griffin, N.Y.

    It also has "The Bear-God Dialogues" with 'You are,Urset. I Am, Yahweh,' 19 poems, a Kiowa legend and an essay. Also his marvelous bear paintings. I found it in softcover.

    THE MAN MADE OF WORDS, pub. 1997 by St. Martin's press has
    "Zagorsk: To the Spiritual Center of Russia." , also "Navajo Place Names", "Sacred Images" and many other wonderful essays and stories. I have a beautiful hardcover.

    That was my first reading of Momaday.

    My introduction to his writings came from Kathleen Norris in a book called AMAZING GRACE: A VOCABULARY OF FAITH from a chapter entitled "Imagination (Or, How Many Christians Does it Take to Balance N. Scott Momaday?)"

    I would recommend her books highly! She also wrote THE CLOISTER WALK, and DAKOTA: A SPIRITUAL GEOGRAPHY.

    She is a poet and an excellent prose writer. I've read these books about 4 times. I feel that they keep my mind and imagination open and expanded. And also think that she is one of our finest Christian writers.

    So, for me it was a fun way to find Momaday's writings.

    I love Billy Collins' poetry! We have "Sailing Alone Across the Room" on our coffee table, and my husband and I enjoy their wit and humor tremendously. He reads them aloud for us, which is a total treat.

    Yes, the Book Club. I loved your choice of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT..., an excellent book. I came to love Christopher - he's one of my heroes. I think I will be re-reading that book quite a few times!

    I think somewhere you mentioned reading about Near Death Experiences (Was that you?). I also came across them at a very low, beleaugered time in my life, and they gave me hope and sustenance by filling in my imagination about the next life. That was about 16 years ago. Right before or while I was getting sick with CFS, but they took away my fear of death.

    Also, have you read Peter Kreeft, another Christian apologist? Going to look up a title of his book.

    [This Message was Edited on 06/18/2006]
  11. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    The name of the book I just checked on is EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT HEAVEN... BUT NEVER DREAMED OF ASKING. by Peter Kreeft. It has a solid theological base, and a wonderful use of imagination.

    Whewwww, that is my book report of the day.

    Take care,
  12. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I'll definitely check out the Momaday titles. You'd think after travelling with him I would have read these by now! I guess when they were published, I was busy teaching.

    My wife has read A CLOISTER WALK and really liked it. I'll have to give Norris a try.

    Isn't Billy Collins great? There's a simplicity and clarity about his poetry that I really like. But he's funny and profound as well. I like to hear him read aloud on A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION.

    That probably was me talking about NDEs. I've read quite a few NDE books in the last year (Paul Morse, Kenneth Ring, Betty Eadie, Raymond Moody, Kimberly Clark Sharp). Isn't there something really wondrous and comforting about reading these stories? I don't think that they can be explained as hallucinations or physiological processes at death. These books have gone a LONG way toward taking away my fear of death.

    Peter Kreeft is amazing. I'll have to look for EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT HEAVEN. Try MAKING SENSE OUT OF SUFFERING (my favorite) or HEAVEN: THE HEART'S DEEPEST LONGING. He's a theology professor (Boston College, I think), but his writing is clear, passionate, and accessible.

    I've been using interlibrary loan a lot these days. I've had books sent in from as far away as New York and Oregon lately, and our my library only charges $1 for each book on interibrary loan.

    What would we do without books?


    [This Message was Edited on 06/18/2006]

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