Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Oklahoma Spirit


     Been up since 5 a.m. working on this novel. This is the best part, when I can't lie in bed, eyes flying open with an idea at the crack of dawn. So, I take my cup of coffee out to the porch, while the dogs (and one crazy ass cat that I can't leave alone because he beats up the neighbor dog,) wander around eating grass that I know I will clean up from the floor later. It's quiet in the morning, even in the middle of a major metropolitan area. I always say, Oklahoma City is the smallest little big town you'll ever see. It has that feel about it. People are generally nice, especially fully rooted, honest to goodness, Oklahomans from way back. It was no surprise that this state would embrace an NBA team, not just because they are pros and winning (the arena was full when they weren’t winning,) but because these folks appreciate hard work and team play.
     It’s in the nature of Oklahomans to be helpful and supportive in the community. We may not all agree with the politics of the state, but in a time of need, no one asks what you do for a living, what church you go to, or whom you’re sleeping with. Just read stories of how this community pulled together after the bombing downtown. It was a miracle to behold. It’s no wonder that this state fell in love with a basketball franchise, whose motto is “TEAM.” That unselfish, we are one people theme is repeated throughout this territory’s history. They may squabble amongst themselves, but when faced with a communal need, rise together as one. It began a long time ago with the people from which the state gets its name, Oklahoma, a combination of the Choctaw Indian words "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red. The American Indian valued community and family above all else.
     I guess when you live in a state where your house could be there one minute and gone the next, people learned to depend on one another. Weathermen out here are like rock stars and get plenty of face time. My recent wrangling with an Oklahoma storm was an experience I do not want to repeat. Yesterday, the weathermen called for a “windy” day. A simply “windy” day out here was tossing my Hummer around like a hot wheel car. The weather is unpredictable even with the best in weather technology. I went to work one day in shorts and came home that evening to six inches of snow on the ground. Will Rogers, a native son, said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it’ll change.” Every year communities are devastated by storms, and every year folks rally and build them back. It’s in their nature, this hearty stock, a mixture of Native Americans and pioneers. Perseverance is part of their ancestral inheritance. They call it the "Oklahoma Spirit."
     Anyway, early in the morning and at dusk, it's quiet around here. I guess I’ve learned to tune out the highway just a block away, but even the tire and muffler noises are diminished at those hours. There are lots of trees in my neighborhood; big, old growth trees that somehow manage to keep growing back in the wake of the storms screaming in from the plains, ravaging them repeatedly. The trees around here are full of all types of birds. I regularly see Blue Jays, Cardinals, Pigeons, Finches, Sparrows, Black and Red birds, many I don’t know the names of, and am entertained daily by the antics of the Great Tailed Grackles that have taken up residence in the tree across the street. Then there are a plethora of squirrels. I’m not a fuzzy tailed rodent fan, but they are funny, chasing each other through the trees, tight walking down the power lines, taunting the dogs from tree trunks, chattering at them from just out of reach.
     Late at night, it’s eerily quite. Trains, unheard in the daytime, wail their lonesome calls into the night sky, where it is carried on the wind, echoing through the sleeping town. The raccoons, skunks, and possums come out to play, foraging for a nightly snack. It’s in those moments of quiet, the sounds of man a distant humming, that I find myself wondering what it was like to be here before the settlers came. If I close my eyes, I can imagine I’m in the wilderness, listening to nature all around me. As we drove away from the city yesterday, out into the rolling hills, I imagined what a magnificent land this must have been once, before modern humanity left its mark. There is an old American Indian proverb, attributed to no tribe in particular, that states, "Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
     As I sat on the porch this morning, I thought about the Native American people I’ve been researching for this next novel. I wondered what they would think of us now. If some of the legends are true, these “beloved,” those that have gone on before us, are here in the land, the trees, the grasses, and flowers that bend in the wind. What must they think of a people who are so divided down political lines that they’ve lost sight of the real message of faith, love one another. I wonder why it is only in times of great struggle that we put aside our differences and work as one for a common cause. Shouldn’t our cause be to leave a better world for our children? If only we could stop yelling at each other and begin to listen, we might actually accomplish something.
     People often ask me why I don’t move out of the reddest state in the union, because I’ll never be treated as equal due to my sexuality. I am planning to retire back to North Carolina, but not because I feel defeated here amidst the predominately extreme right wing politics. North Carolina has its own conservative problems to clean up. It simply is my homeland, and I am privileged to be able to go back there. I will stay here in Oklahoma for the time being and make the best of it. Just living my life is an example to those who would condemn me to hell. The more Oklahomans that know me as a real person, with a loving family, the more of them we sway to look beyond the offensive, archaic dogma. Not too many years ago, people stood on this same soil and called for the extermination of the entire native population, deemed savage and unholy. Now, people proudly proclaim any minute blood relation with the tribes and an American Indian warrior sits proudly on the top of the Oklahoma State Capital building. If the Native Americans could learn to love their white brothers, after years of broken promises, displacement from their homelands, and the loss of an entire way of life, then anything is possible. I believe that one day, (Okay, I'm not naive. It will take a long time,) these people will join together and find the peace in simply learning to live together, one family, one community. I believe in the Oklahoma Spirit.

1 comment:

  1. Just now read this soothing narrative. Gotta, say, I sure enjoy the introspective Decky Bradshaw. Thanks!
    Barrett

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