Turtle Dance

"NEW DAY", 1990, 5' x 5', pigment on wool flannel

"NEW DAY", 1990, 5' x 5', pigment on wool flannel

On December 26th, the TURTLE DANCE is performed at the nearby San Juan Indian pueblo.

I think of it today as all the schools are closed here because of the snowstorm which passed through last night.


Like it always is when I see this dance.

White people continue to embarrass me with their disrespectful behavior at native gatherings of any kind so I don’t usually go anymore.

But this dance is different.

I keep thinking of it as kind of a secret as so few anglos attend.

The mood is reverent.

Everyone is on their best behavior; native and anglo alike.

This is solely a male dance.

A long line of men in two’s dressed only in deerskin around their waist, snakes through the plaza so you can’t see the opposite end from where you stand.

The sound of singing and turtle shells jingling tied ’round their ankles and smoke from pinon tree fires and the men holding pine boughs and the constant rhythm of voices ascending and disappearing as they move out of sight and the clouds of frozen breath from their heavy exertion as they dance is an experience of a lifetime.

The Turtle Dance marks the beginning of their year..everything new and fresh..

A time to pay homage to what matters and move forward into the unknown.

With hope.

Always with hope.

And respect for what was.

Early this morning, a woman I hired to help me with chores around the house showed up.

I thought our appointment was tomorrow morning.

I was not dressed and the house was a mess.

This was our first meeting and I was a total wreck.

I acknowledged my mistake after a bit of prideful fantasizing that it wasn’t me who had made the error.

But it was.

And this kind of thing is happening more frequently.

My cognitive capabilities are now clearly affected.

Crying doesn’t help.

Humility seems to be the ticket.

And letting my small ‘self’ be moved into her bigness.

And guiding her with utter tenderness toward hope and beauty and mystery and forgiveness and the innate promise of the new…

And as I write, the tears dry and are replaced by a spaciousness that can include it all; judgement, humility, recognition of change, tenderness and above all, the solace in shifting one’s point-of-view toward some place open-ended and compassionate; inclusive of it ALL.

I will let the Turtle Dance help move me there.

It can’t come soon enough.


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