Lost Wind Sailor Lake

Lost Wind Sailor Lake

Under the banner of a magic ship
we gather to kindle a strange light

lonely wayfarers, wandering folk
whatever fears we bring with us

what will we choose to pass on
in our slowly unfolding epic tale

if this is where gentle hands
have woven very soft spells

into our mostly new versions
of the vast unraveling

of these incessant there &
back agains, & so

we will wish for friendship
to fill the sails in our stories

with mysterious fire, our pale
transparent fabric, everyone

everyone is welcome here
all the joy and all the suffering

finding our way under the hour
of another shining star

I guess I might have slept
it certainly felt like dreaming

yes I dreamed one evening
of magic animals on the street

a woman very wisely
set one enchanted creature

beside another, little avatars
of optimism in this journey

and a man spoke in the dark
wishing to remind her of

our effortless sense of hope
our effortless destinations:

“The Lost Wind Sailor Lake”

at the edge of a forgotten sea
east of the Blue Mountains

it made sense to assemble
the other side of elsewhere

a shimmering of silver starlight
that lit our way as we wandered

shining with our miraculous
sublime rumors in those days

“articulating a cosmology”
an aesthetic of the journey

it will bring us near enough
to almost see the pretty signal

of bonfires becoming beautiful
along the parapets of castles

when we listen to the curve
of our echoing magic circle

and if we strike our tents
and if we abandon our ships

if we withdraw from the piers
at the end of the myth

what shall we pass on together
if not the way we faced our fears

Lost Wind Sailor Lake

The Mythic Seas of Middle-earth

Mythmaking is not something that just happened long ago in antiquity, in the forgotten shepherd’s huts of pre-Classical Greece.  It is not something that flowered and faded away forever under the mysterious star referenced by the Old English poet who cited “earendel… ofer middangeard” (Earendel… over Middle-earth) and thus launched Tolkien’s quest to mythologize English communal identity.

The making of mythic meanings, I suggest, is something that all humans do.  And we do it in our daily lives and in our communal storytelling.  In fact, we make “myth” in order to make sense of ourselves and to explain in our stories what matters to us.

In order to situate ourselves in the competing master-narratives of our age, we must tell stories that transcend the daily details of our lives because everyone enacts those mundane details, and we must say what our lives signify beyond those details.  So we tell stories, as Kelly Cowling says, to express the meanings of our lives, not just explain them.  It is meaningful that she says this here in Colorado, in a small High Plains city near the Rocky Mountains.

The Mythic Seas

Tolkien situated Mithlond (Grey Havens) in Middle-earth beside the Blue Mountains on an inland bay of the western seas.  For this reason, I find it interesting that the Rocky Mountains were once known among the Arikara kin of my Pawnee ancestors as the Blue Mountains.  And this truth is made even more fascinating from the fact that the Colorado Front Range overlooks a long-vanished coastline.

I learned this when I served as archeological monitor for the building of the Denver International Airport.  I first visited the construction area for the DIA terminal in April 1991.  Coming upon the site in the rolling grasslands east of Denver, two long rows of giant cranes suddenly stood up, hovering over a vast trench in the earth.  This deep excavation had uncovered fossilized fronds of stone hidden in deep sediments.  Here were ancient seafloors that had drifted into sleep under the shallow waters of the world thousands of centuries ago.

In the enchanted mythology of the Grey Havens Group, an ancient sea once washed the feet of the Blue Mountains.  And one day at the beginning of the Seventh Age of Middle-earth, standing at the edge of this invisible ocean, Kelly Cowling founded Grey Havens.

And so when a star shines upon the meetings of the Grey Havens Group, as we gather to share the mythic meanings of our lives, we must treasure the transcendent sense of inexplicable magic that forever washes at the shores of selfhood.

At the Feet of the Blue Mountains

Everyone knows that Grey Havens is located in the west of Middle-earth at the feet of Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains.  The Elves journey to Grey Havens under the Blue Mountains to take ship to another world, to Valinor, land of the gods.  To the Elves, Grey Havens is a kind of spiritual portal to Valinor, not found by following the bent seas of Middle-earth.  Only the magic Swan Ships of Grey Havens are capable of following the Straight Road to Valinor.

And Grey Havens today is located, I suggest, at the feet of the Blue Mountains.  We gather every so often at Barbed Wire Books in downtown Longmont, Colorado.  To say this, it might sound to some like a strange tale, but it is a true story.

Attending the April 2011 meeting of Grey Havens I premiered a small sculpture garden, something I call a Magic Circle Dreamscape.  These are small scenes with figurines posed in the midst of another enchanted world.  We sat at our table in Barbed Wire Books and we discussed The Fellowship of the Ring and we peered at my sculpture in the middle of the table.

But my mind was on something else that day.  In the afternoon I had worked on a project involving the connections of my father’s ancestors to the ancient Rocky Mountains.  My ancestors called these mountains Those Distant Rocks in a Line.  The Distant Rocks served as the westernmost boundary of their homeland.  And I don’t know for sure, but this name could have inspired the name “Rocky Mountains.”

Our kinfolk to the north – with whom we had once formed one ethnic community – they long retained another name for the Rocky Mountains.  This ancient name was still remembered over a century ago.  A folklorist named George Bird Grinnell recorded that name around 1890 from an elder of those people and he published it as part of their origin story.  His unpublished notes specified that the name referred to the Rockies.

The Blue Mountains.  Those folk today no longer recall this old term.  It is forgotten today.  They have no memory of the Rocky Mountains in those stories.  But some of our ancestors wandered down from the Blue Mountains and they brought that memory with them, and when they talked of their history they said to one another that they came from the Blue Mountains.

Blue MountainsAmong my ancestors, this ancient history has been forgotten, too.  Vague fragments of memory endured through the years, but people looked at  one another one day and they forgot what those remnant memories meant.

It is reasonable to suggest that the association of the color blue in the ancient name “Blue Mountains” could refer to the sky.  This would certainly fit the name that my ancestors had for Pike’s Peak: The Mountain That Touches the Sky.

In one unpublished manuscript in the Field Museum in Chicago, a man of my people wrote down this information from oral tradition: “The old folks also told the people that far to the west where the skies touch the earth, sits a buffalo who sits there as an open way to the spirit land[.]”  The story mentions the name for Pike’s Peak, but the man who wrote it down did not mention that fact.  The story goes on to prophesy the future of humankind and the end of the world as the magic buffalo loses its hair.

This is an ancient memory of Pike’s Peak and what it once meant long ago.  Where the blue sky touches the earth, at the edge of the Blue Mountains, my ancestors located there a portal to another world, an enchanted place where history and fate circle together.

In another tradition a gambler journeyed to “the end of the world, where the sky bends down and touches the ground.”  Here stood a buffalo bull guarding a gateway to a distant land filled with people who served “the Father.”  So this story also mentions Pike’s Peak, and it also does not mention that fact.  And this story of the Mountain That Touches the Sky (in the Blue Mountains) speaks of a portal to a far-off land, a realm of the gods.

So in April of 2011, driving across Longmont with Withywyndle, I pictured myself going to Grey Havens at the feet of the Blue Mountains.  In this land stands an ancient gateway.  It connects us all to another world.  But the path to that other world is mysterious, enchanted – made of forgetfulness.

In this version of history, the destiny of humankind is full of mysterious collisions and beautiful conjunctions.  I think we need strange tales like this one.

That evening I set down my sculpture in the middle of the table at Grey Havens and we talked together.  And as our words faded around us, around that table, a slow sunset cast long shadows down from the Blue Mountains upon Grey Havens.