Canyonlands Journal
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Prayer at a Time of Adversity

I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself. ~ Isna-la-wica (Lone Man), Teton Sioux

The kiva ladder is enticing, and although it's quite rickety, long ago tied together by strips of sinew, I can't resist climbing down into the underground chamber.

inch worm

dragged into darkness

by red ants

I sit in dim light, looking up through what has become a doorway to the outer world. A flock of cackling pinyon jays flies over. A bit later, a silver bird streaks across followed by its string-like contrail. Both invitations to rejoin the upper world?

There's circular, shallow indentation at the bottom of the ladder – a sipapu – thought by today's pueblo peoples to be an entryway through which their ancestors escaped the ordeals of the previous world. So different than the Christian myth I was raised with, where as a means of escaping the trials of our lived lives and enter heaven, it's necessary to die. Or are they so different?


 the passage blocked

by silt

Having arrived, these ancient ones faced yet another crisis – a hundred-year drought. They either escaped to places with water or failed to find a new place to raise children and crops.


a nighthawk's 

search for sustenance

I climb back into my world of small adventures, back to all those vital things I thought I had to obtain. A violet-pink sunset brings to mind an ancient prayer: the one great thing is to live to see the light that fills the world.*

Yet on my return home, the crowding, noise and pollution make it difficult to witness that light.

a few coins

in the one-armed

panhandler's cap

TV news

again and again

the four horsemen

dawn's light
outside my bedroom window

dogs barking

* Parts of this paragraph and the title are taken from an Inuit song "Prayer at a Time of Adversity."



Kiva Ladder, Slickhorn Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Utah