March 16 – Night skies a long ago healing time – Rev. Lynn Ungar, March 11, 2020
Sabbath and memory
(September 18, 2019; Pine Ridge, SD) Two Lakota sisters, Carmel and Serena Two Elk, caught my attention today, during a morning alive with memories from 1968 and 1969 when I spent two summers living on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation. This past March weekend, awash as it has been with frightening and shocking news of the Corona Virus ramping up here and across the world, six readers of the Work Day, Hard Time Poetry list have sent me Rev. Lynn Ungar’s new poem, “Pandemic.” Her words have touched the nerves, apparently, of people whose attention to Corona Virus is forming a community with a broad global scope. Rev. Ungar invites her readers to imagine technologies of containment and cautionary testing as Sabbath, “the most sacred of times.”
Keeping up with news about the pandemic brought me back to two Lakota sisters, soul friends since the late 1960s. The past September they both told me their childhood memories of a prairie hill top on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation where I lived what turned into a compelling Sabbath summer. Here are my notes from last summer when they surprised me with their memories of that long-ago time.
“Carmel and Serena Two Elk, two sisters now in their sixties – – reminded me of when they were children during my second summer living in the Tios’paye of Luke and Rose Weasel Bear deep in The Rez. Everyone there knew that some hard inner attention was eating at my spirit all that summer. It showed every night after it got too dark for our kerosene lamps to provide light to read by. Each night I walked c. a quarter mile away from our camp and up a hill that framed our horizon. I stood on top of the hill looking into the sky, for perhaps an hour each night. I remember those darkening night skies as a time when I began to heal, very gradually, from a deep, year-long depression that would end some weeks later and seven miles down the road when Caroline Tobacco told me the story of the tragic death of her husband Steve Tobacco and welcomed me more deeply into her and her family’s life.
This morning when Carmel and Serena told me their memories of those long nights on the hill in the dark, I took this picture. It happened that a soft rain storm came to rest on the hill top where I used to stand.
These long memories remind me that ‘sabbatical’ comes from ‘Sabbath’ which for several thousand years has meant a time when stillness reveals a sacred moment of human presence in the world.”
Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.
Have a blessed mid-week,
Today’s post: “Pandemic” Lynn Ungar
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.