Cold Mountain Musings

How Can You Buy or Sell the Earth?

How Can You Buy or Sell the Earth?

Returning from the freezer with three loaves of frozen bread in hand, I opened the large door leading into the back hallway of the gallery. The two soggy hikers stood before the photographs; they were reading a barn wood-framed, 18” x 24” poster of Chief Seattle, containing a noble image of the weathered warrior and his wise words shared with his people and the new U.S. territorial governor in 1854.  

Having negotiated the maze of Toklat, they had reached the end of their exploration to find the eloquence of Chief Seattle, “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?” They had run out of turns, but they wanted more. You would often catch visitors contorting their necks to sneak a peek around every corner; the bold ones even took a few steps up the back stairs to peer above. I recall my inaugural visit to Toklat, having made it to that same cozy space and taken the time to read that same passage. I, too, felt an authentic desire to stay — to enter in.  

My emergence through the back door startled the two guests who were wrapped up in Chief Seattle’s words, “Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods. . . . We are part of the earth and it is part of us.” They stood transfixed. Their curiosity piqued. I believe they too wished to enter in. In these instances, I always felt as though I were intruding on someone else’s moment, like I was barging in on a prayer service or breaking the silence at a Buddhist lunch room. In retrospect, I think I was actually stepping into that sacred space with them. And, in that space all strangers became friends.

~ from "Toklat: If I Never Get to Heaven" by Trevor A. Washko

 

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