Perils of Being Puala - 2
by Paula Gunn Allen

It’s Mithras eve, before dawn.  I went to sleep at around 4 yesterday afternoon and got up around 6 this am.  Sometimes I get really sleepy, usually when I’m coming down with something....again.  I don’t want to live on antibiotics (imagine, ANTI-bio-tics.  What a concept!) but it seems I do a course at least once a month since April 2005.

I had been on a long tour back east promoting Pocahontas book (my $$, publishers singularly uninterested in promoting it from the beginning).  This was when the pb came out.  Among the places I visited was Virginia...Charlottesville, where I got to appear on CSpan, which turned out not the way I had hoped. I tell you, those Manitou have a quaint sense of humor.  Won’t go into details because there’s too many.  Suffice to say I went, I participated, I was conquered by an Anglo American scholar who was pissed off that I said things about Powhatan life and ways including the old Wahasunacock was NOT  P’s father.  I was also conquered by a chief of the Chickahominy’s who had some great things to say and I was glad they had him on the panel, but he ate up most of my time!  Then I went to Massachusetts to visit my usually estranged sister and her family...we had reconciled, sort of, when Gene, my 42 year old son, died.

Did some gigs in New England thanks to the kindness of university woman I had met in San Francisco and the Mohegan Tribe, another super cool women, Mohegan, I believe, Trudy ? who has a series and class at their library/ museum.  From there on to Grand Rapids Michigan for talks to the Native community at local museum, a local high school and at the University.  Great time had there.

Returned to Ft Bragg, determined to quit smoking....which activity I had curtailed a lot mainly because traveling requires abstinence, which was part of the plan.  However, within a few days I came down with a severe case of bronchitis.  It was passing like a firestorm through the geriatric community, of which I had just  become a member, at 65, or so the medical establishment holds.  I was pretty close to chucking it in then, or so my dear Charlotte who came over, she and her husband Dreux, and first fed me then took me to emergency.  On the way she asked, “are you ready to die,” and, recognizing the seriousness of the question, it’s reality, I thought for a few moments.  Realizing that I wasn’t, I said, “no.”

But it’s been a horrific struggle.  I remained ill for months, sometimes feeling pretty good then down again.  At one point, I think it was that August, I was feeling great and was out in the yard doing something.  My shoe caught on the edge of a flagstone and I fell, breaking my wrist.  GEEZ!  That month my son Sulieman and his wife Milissa came to help me.  Long story, but circumstances forced them to remain in Fort Bragg, at my trailer, for a year, after which they moved into a place of their own near the cottage where I sit typing.  (Where it’s 7 am and dawn twilight is beginning to lighten the sky, which is overcast, of course. Where I’m leaning over to type this and my back is gonna ache pretty soon, of course)  As I say, the Manitou have a quaint sense of humor, because their staying was because Milissa became abruptly unemployed.  But I was taken care of, fed at least, had company, though I kept to my room and they to the rest of the place.  Looking back I wonder, what the heck was going on?  (Why me, lord)  During that time span I was hospitalized three times, twice for bronchitis, once for pneumonia.  Each time I had no idea what trouble I was in.  It took others, Charlotte, Milissa, and Mary Churchill who was visiting then the pneumonia hit) to get me to the hospital.  I guess deNile is one of my brain circuits.

So by the time of the fire I was again living alone, feeling a lot better, beginning to cook and do for myself, sort of.  Elaine Jacobs came to stay for several weeks and built the beautiful redwood deck that today stands next to the porch that was already there divided by some lattice and a lattice gate.  They hang there, almost gliding off into space.  The trailer is gone except for huge dumpsters and debris on the lot.  There is also a small back deck, free-standing, and the retaining wall I had built, and the white graveled space below it.  Eerie, funny, not as sad as a couple days ago.  Looking a bit hopeful.

I am hopeful I can get a trailer to put there.  I love that space, there’s a small stream that feeds right onto my lot (the lot I rent, that is) and great pine trees that tower up into the sky on the land just beyond my back fence.  It is perched ever more precariously on the rise that goes up from my yard to the White Ranch land just beyond.  There’s talk of some developer building a thousand house-lets on the Ranch and opposition to it, of course.  Hope the opposition wins.  (Though local folks might need the work, or maybe not, construction going great guns around here, alas.)

Anyway, it’s Christmas Eve.  Christmas carols...well, christmas-pop is playing.  I don’t have a lighted tree, no presents under it, alas and alack.  I miss the Christmas eve’s of my childhood and younger adult years, terribly.  They were so filled with Christmas!!

Before we children went to bed (early so Santa would come...and so we’d be out of mother’s hair while she worked to make the Eve as BIG as it was gonna be) we had a traditional supper.  Because we were Catholics and in those days Ember Days meant no meat, and the Night before Christmas was an Ember Day (can’t remember what Ember referred to other than dying fire).  So mother made a huge put of frijoles, an almost equally large pot of chili con torta, and fresh made wheat tortillas.  (No Spanish rice, PLEAZE!!)  The red chili was Laguna stew...no cumin, oregano, white flour to thicken.  Just rich thick red chili paste made from dried red pods (recipe some other time and place) and the tortas were painstakingly made from whipped egg whites into which the whipped yolks were folded.  The resulting batter was dropped a T at a time into hot olive oil, and tiny omelets browned and sizzly emerged to be put into the thick red chili broth.  Oh, boy.  Sometimes it was snowing and I remember going over to the store (Cubero Trading Co, next door to Grandma and Granddaddy’s, which was across the lawns next door to us) one year.  I had a LONG stocking cap, all the rage among 9 or 10 year olds that year (1948?) and the snow was falling at a good rate and I tilted my head skyward and turned around slowly.  It’s an image that has stayed with me all these years.  YIKES.  There’s been a bunch of them (years).

Another Christmas I remember (among so many) was one a few years ago at my daughter Lauralee’s home in Mill Valley.  She and her s/o now husband Roland, Gene and Sulieman, my two sons, and I were together.  I think that was the year when she didn’t do a tree but decked the large water bottle-stand with lights.  And they had a fire of course.  What I remember is getting up Christmas morning and opening the door between the hallway and the livingroom.  As I opened it I heard Gene say “Mommy!” in a piping voice, and there were my three babies, all in a row on the couch, huddled under a single blanket.  Lucky me to have such a memory.

Today went by Sulieman’s where he’s baking and candy-making up a storm.  The man is a dessert genius, among other kinds of genius he is.  Ingenious, that’s my son.

Anyway, my hands are tired.  My brain will keep writing, but the typety-type must cease for a while.

And remember, quoth the Raven, who I saw looking absolutely Royal atop a thick electricity cable earlier today, “Evergreen.”

So, here’s wishing you a solacing Solstice and hippy New Round.  What’s the new Chinese/Vietnamese et al year, does anyone know?  I know it begins about the time the Pueblo year begins, in Feb., but is it a lucky one for us rabbit/cats?  That’s what I want to know.

So, Merry Whatever to All and to all, for me I think it’s G’night.  Or so said the jolly old Elf.  Has anybody noticed what the guy who wrote The Night Before Christmas DID?

Bet not!  As it goes in a New Mexican Spanish version of “The Night Before Christmas” Sister Conrad at St. Vincent Academy -- where I spent most of my lower schooling years -- taught us, Carumba! Que Pasa?

Paula
shimanna@yahoo.com

Back to index for Perils of Being