“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Sort of Homecoming

And you know it's time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light in the distance

And you hunger for the time
Time to heal, desire, time
And your earth moves beneath
Your own dream landscape

As I've discussed, I recently took a trip out west for some training. Back to the part of the country I grew up in, where my roots and family come from.

Oh, oh, oh...
On borderland we run...

I'll be there
I'll be there...
A high road
A high road out from here

The last time I was even in this part of the country was ten years ago - career, family & life have led me to where I am now, and I just don't make it back to a place where all my acquaintances have moved on. Still, I was very interested in visiting - both for a chance to see things again - my mountains, the landscape and all - as well as for the fact that it's a place that my wife and I have discussed as a possible "someday."

The city walls are all pulled down
The dust, a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance

And we live by the side of the road
On the side of a hill
As the valley explode
Dislocated, suffocated
The land grows weary of its own

This was the view out my window every morning for the first week - mountains in the high desert, a scattering of snow and just that bit of altitude. For those not familiar with the southwest it's like that - clear skies horizon to horizon, with mountains rising straight from the land below. It honestly took a bit to get used to again; very much different from the rolling hills and green trees of Virginia where I am now, from the urban sprawl and interstates where I work most of the time. But, as the tropics call to my lovely wife, the mountains call to me...

I was lucky enough to have the weekend to myself - no classes, no obligations, and a free rental car. So, I had two goals in mind. For the first part I went up to visit Albuquerque and Santa Fe for a bit. I haven't been to either town since about 1987, but had fond memories of visiting both - and I wasn't disappointed this time either. Santa Fe was by far my favorite of the two -

Oh, oh, oh...on borderland we run...
And still we run
We run and don't look back
I'll be there
I'll be there

I'll be there tonight...I believe
I'll be there...somehow
I'll be there...tonight

I love the architecture, the diverse cultures which have blended together, and the shops and plazas and everything. All of it nestled in the mountains, winter or summer both surrounding the town with a feel I have always associated with growing up in places like this. I spent the day just wandering around, poking my head into anyplace that seemed interesting, and soaking it all in. Had a good lunch and a great dinner, bought souvenirs for myself and my family, and did the whole "tourist coming home" thing.

The second part of the weekend was going to be the more important for me.

For those unaware, I'm half Native - through my father's side. Due to an early divorce, plenty of moving around when I was growing up, and my own travels, I have unfortunately not been able to spend as much time with that side of my family as I would wish. Sure, I know the culture, bits of language, etc. - but I've never gotten the prolonged time around certain parts that I would like. In fact, the last time I'd been anywhere near had been 15 years go, to say goodbye to the father I hadn't seen in longer than that. So, part of the plan was to drive the extra few hours up to the reservation and visit. See the cultural center, talk with some people maybe, just look around. While I certainly couldn't fit years into a day, it would be something.

Unfortunately, reality conspired against me.

I called to make some plans and contacts pre-arrival. A wonderfully nice young lady answered the phone, listened to my questions and answered with a mixture of sorrow and almost shame.

"No, the museum is closed - it's in a two-year renovation, and we don't have anything taking it's place. No, all the tribal offices are closed because of weather and the weekend. Yes, we'd love to help you track down some relatives, but unfortunately the folks who could do that won't be around."

"But, um, we've opened a really nice casino with a spa, if you'd like to come see that. No? Well, I understand, I'm sorry."

It embarrassed me too - there's something wrong with the fact that across this country those who have been here longest have nothing to offer a prodigal son on his return but a trip to a blackjack table, and maybe a floor show... A people who once ruled the mountains of five states are reduced to yet another entertainment in order to make ends meet - where once we were allowed our rodeos and sideshows we now can entertain the conquerors with billboards for the best house odds around...

The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb-blast lightning waltz
No spoken words, just a scream...

Tonight we'll build a bridge
Across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again

So... instead of a cultural trip with people, I took one on my own. I spent about 9 hours driving through Indian country - deep in the reservations of several tribes, highways and back roads. Past the pueblos and the trailer parks, the small communities and the lonely ranches. Routes full of travelers, and others where I saw no cars but plenty of elk and coyote. Alone with the wind, my thoughts, and maybe the whispers of the past...

There is plenty more I could say in this post - judging my people and others, discussing the paths that history and the world have taken, or just my musings in general.

But I won't.

I am home now - because where the family and life I have made IS my home. The west still calls to me, as Africa does to her. And, someday, we will be in a position for one or the other, or someplace new - a whole lot can happen between now and then.

I'm glad I went though - for, while the trip wasn't all that was planned, it was still something I needed.

And your heart beats so slow
Through the rain and fallen snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light's in the distance

Oh don't sorrow, no don't weep
For tonight, at last
I am coming home
I am coming home

*Lyrics from U2, back when they were cool and before Bono's ego needed a separate tour bus.
Crappy photography by the author.*


Unknown said...

I feel your pain a bit. I grew up in Texas and am now stranded in South Carolina. Shortly though I will be headed to your adoptive state of Virginia for testing for a PD there. Honestly I am a bit intrigued as to whether it might be your dept. Anyway, if you have any advice for a LEO hopeful headed to the Hampton Roads area, I am all ears.


Front Porch Society said...

I am part Cherokee - my line of relatives can be traced to the ones who escaped during the Trail of Tears and hid out in the Appalachian mountains. And some day I would love to learn my people's language. You are lucky to speak some of yours. :)

Loved the pictures and the telling of your time out West. It is sad, I have to admit, that the lady offered a trip to the casino and that there was no way to dig into your past more while you were there.

Jannah Swiftwing said...

This is an amazing post and hit home hard.

I, too, grew up in the mountains. Now on the West Coast, I miss my mountains and the prairies that rest against them. On a recent trip to test out for a PD agency in the middle of the country, I had a stop-over in a town just 100 clicks from where I grew up. It always brings a deep sense of longing to go 'home' whenever I see the mountain range.

I am saddened by the reception you received, and I hope that when you visit next you'll be able to make better contact.

Captain Tightpants said...

Travis, not in the Hampton Rhodes area - a bit north of there, but willing to help if you need. Shoot me some contact info at the blog here or just post any questions and I will help as I can.

How far along are you in the process?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful entry.

One of my all time favorite songs from my favorite U2 album. I had it on tape first, until it fell apart.

Beautiful photos too. I miss it out there. So glad you got to go!
We're at that age with the bits and pieces, eh? A scrapbook life. S'alright.