/Listen to the dark winds

Listen to the dark winds

By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock

Dark winds are blowing. Some real. Some fictional. 

The real ones are clearly seen. The wild ice storms, droughts and floods of climate change. Ukrainians dying in rainstorms of Russian mortars. Economies shrinking and collapsing under runaway inflation and money markets gone mad.

Bobblehead political leaders nodding and babbling about actions aimed more at re-election than solutions.

The fictional dark winds are in a new television series based on Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels. It premiered in June and another six episodes are scheduled for next year.

Hillerman, who died in 2008, is one of my favourite authors. So, when I heard about the Dark Winds TV series I pulled one of his novels from my bookshelf, just to refresh my memory.

The novel was The Dark Wind, published in 1982. It opens with the discovery of a body near a desert area trail. The bottoms of the hands and feet had been scalped. Jim Chee, a Navajo Tribal Police sergeant, is called in to investigate.

The body was found by a Hopi elder called the Messenger, who was gathering spruce branches for an important tribal religious ceremony. He tells two companions that they must not report the body to the police because that would take people’s attention away from preparations for the ceremony.

“Everybody will be thinking about the wrong things,” he warns. “They will be thinking of death and anger when they would be thinking only holy thoughts.”

And, that’s where the fiction blends into reality. 

The Messenger says the ceremony must be done properly and without interruption or Sotuknang, the God of creation, will be displeased and punish them. Three times Sotuknang destroyed the world with floods, ice or drought because people ignored his warnings and disobeyed him.

“They [the people] kept going after money, and quarrelling, and gossiping, and forgetting the way of the Road of Life.”

Sound familiar? Quarrelling, violence, frenzies over money, are prominent features of life today. 

If the Messenger was a real person living today he would say the dark winds we are witnessing are Sotuknang’s punishment. 

Some might agree; some wouldn’t. Many would agree, however, that we are straying from the Road of Life. It might not be the Hopi Road of Life but most of us follow a road or path or way of life dictated by our religions, or cultures.

I believe many of the world’s problems are the result of not following what I consider the Way of Nature. 

We have forgotten Nature’s greatest lesson: all things on this planet – every person, every bird, animal and insect, every river, every tree and every blade of grass – are connected. 

When we humans ignore that and do things for ourselves only, we damage other things that are part of the whole.

This is obvious in the documented loss of earth’s diversity.

The World Wildlife Federation’s 2020 Living Planet Report says the world has seen a 68 per cent drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian populations since 1970. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature now has 41,415 different animals and plants on its Red List of threatened species – 16,306 endangered and facing possible extinction. 

Among recent extinctions are the ivory-billed woodpecker (Woody Woodpecker), the western black rhino, the Asian cheetah and the splendid poison frog.

Habitat degradation and destruction are main reasons we are losing so many species. Deforestation for development and lumber, burning fossil fuels, overhunting and overfishing, mining and agriculture are taking away habitat these species must have to survive.

We obviously can’t stop living ourselves, but we can begin to start living differently and doing whatever we can to stop impacting other life. That was the message of the Messenger in Hillerman’s The Dark Wind.

Indigenous cultures have much to offer about living differently, but we refuse to listen. 

Tony Hillerman and his novels tell us that we need to listen.

“It’s always troubled me that the American people are so ignorant of these rich Indian cultures,” he once was quoted in Publishers Weekly. “I think it’s important to show that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways.”

 A’he’hee, Tony.