Waaaaaaay back in 2007, I bought my first Pagan-centric book. Walking on the Wind by Michael Garrett, Cherokee tribe member and counselor education professor at UNC-Charlotte. It is a new age spiritualist book from a Cherokee perspective, using stories and lessons from the Cherokee people to help modern man connect with the Earth and with himself.
I ate this book up. I highlighted it with different color highlighters to match the flags I placed on the sides of the pages. I read though it once to read it and to find everything I was going to do. Then, I started to re-read it but this time more for meaning and completion than for exposure and knowledge. It was at this point that cultural appropriation was brought to my attention- I shouldn’t try so hard to “be” Cherokee because I’m not Cherokee. While my husband can claim some very very minor heritage to the Cherokee, he doesn’t culturally affiliate with them so I also cannot claim culture by marriage. I should just stop and move on to something else.
It was this cultural appropriation discussion which brought me to the Norse pantheon by way of tribes in Ireland, before realizing that I have Scandinavian heritage therefore have the right to claim Norse pantheon as my own.
I left the Cherokee teachings a few years back, but they never left me.
Every year, I conduct pre-assessments in a variety of areas for the students I’m assigned to. One of them is a reading assessment which includes a non-fiction passage about the beaver. After going through this passage, my memory triggered back to one of my favorite lessons from the Cherokee book. It’s also a thought I had while I was sitting on the beach Saturday, enjoying the breeze and the Sun and the company of Hubby and Witchlette. We had such a wonderful day despite us not really doing anything. We just were, all three of us, together in the moment and it was amazing.
Being and Doing: A Raccoon’s Toughest Job Is Simply To Be.
For copyright purposes, I am not willing to share the whole story word for word, but here is a summary:
Raccoon is playful. All he knows is to play. That’s how he spends his day. He has no where to be and no job to do. Chasing butterflies, wrestling logs, swimming, and scoping out honey are his only objectives…unless he sees something else, in which case that new fun thing becomes the most important thing to do in the moment.
He runs into his friend Beaver and tries to entice him to play, to eat honey, to dance in the flowers. Beaver continuously turns him down because he has serious work to do. Winter is coming and he needs to finish his home. Silly Raccoon has no home to go to. Raccoon wisely corrects Beaver- so long as he thanks Mother Earth for all that she has provided him, she will continue to provide, including a lodge.
Beaver ignores Raccoon and continues building. Raccoon becomes distracted by berries and scurries away to pick some. He finds a hole in a tree and snuggles down for a nap. Beaver continues building. It starts to rain and Beaver keeps working. Rain turns to downpour and Beaver becomes trapped in debris from his lodge and dam breaking with the wind and the current. Raccoon sees his friend needs help and comes to his aid. They scurry off together into the hole in the tree to finish eating the berries together. From then on, Beaver takes breaks to dance with Raccoon in the flowers and Raccoon sometimes helps Beaver to build his dam.
Raccoon doesn’t have any responsibility other than to be. Some days my toughest job is related to EC paperwork, or English teaching, or student behavior management. Somedays some people have really hard times at work and come home to a tough family situation. While all Raccoon has to do is be himself.
The point of the story is to find balance between being- who you are as a human being– and doing- your occupation. “Hi, my name is ______ and I’m a ______.” Most conversations start out that way. What if that was changed to “Hi, my name is ______ and I’m _______”. Not a doing, but a being.
Our wealth is not made up of what we do. It’s made up of who we are. For those of us who are dreamers, believers, wanderers…be you. Do you.
There are many of us who are doers. Lets face it, I wouldn’t have my laptop or the internet to write the post if it wasn’t for the doers. If you are a doer, do it. Do you. So long as you are being true to who you are.
I’m thinking I’m going to go back through this book and try some of the exercises again.