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2010

Voice of the Hawk Elder by Seneca Wisdomkeeper Edna Gordon - Book Review by Harvey Arden
Sunday, 18 April 2010 03:24
by Harvey Arden
Voice of the Hawk Elder by Seneca Wisdomkeeper Edna Gordon - We need changes in this world, really big changes. I'm prayin' they'll be peaceable changes, not violent and bloody ones. I'd like to see a peaceable revolution, a revolution of broomsticks instead of guns.Call it a Broomstick Revolution. That's right. The People pick up their broomsticks and march together and Sweep Injustice Out! Make a clean sweep, a big cleanin' like's never been seen before. Broomsticks against Injustice. Now that'll be the day! We'll take our broomsticks and we'll sweep Leonard Peltier right out o' prison, along with all the other innocents. Yep—a Broomstick Revolution! That's what we need!
"Welcome to my umbrella tree," says Hawk Elder Edna Gordon, seating herself opposite me at her well-weathered backyard picnic-table, gesturing with a wide sweep of her hand at the rich tapestry of overhanging branches arching all the way to the ground around us, creating a kind of natural gazebo.

She nods at the tree as at a cherished old friend, and nods at me, her visitor.

"This old tree's the whole of Creation, you know, if you got eyes to see…," she says, and her throaty voice trails away thoughtfully.

I look upward into the drooping canopy of heavily leafed branches all but encasing us.

"Like a house of leaves," I say.

"More'n that," she says, "…the whole Creation's right here in this tree, if you can see it… You're sittin' right inside o' Creation itself! Don't you see it? Can't you feel it?"

I put the palm of my hand on the rough bark of the trunk.

"I …I can feel it, I think," I say.

"Your hand on the tree, that's Life on Life," Edna says. "This Umbrella tree here's at the center of the Universe! And so are we!"

Certainly, when you're with a visionary like Edna Gordon, the Universe, the Creation itself, occupies not the background of your consciousness but the foreground. She's continually reminding me—and all of us—of the oft-forgotten fact that We Exist! that the World, the Universe, the very Creation itself is here and now with us at every magical instant—and that it's our privilege, our joy, and our duty as living beings to realize this in every conscious moment, to see it, to appreciate it, to be ever-thankful and ever-marveling at all of this unthinkable vastness and infinite particularity around us and within us. She insists that we see—and, yes, feel--this miracle that we ourselves are an integral, even essential part of this Mystery beyond all mysteries.


"Yep, it's all a Mystery. A Holy Mystery," Edna says, "No matter how far you look, that's all you're ever going to find at the end of your lookin'—a Holy Mystery."

"But how are we individual human beings essential to that Mystery….? " I ask.

Edna smiles that radiant smile of hers. With her bare toetip she lightly taps a tiny bloom in the grass at her foot.

"Is a flower essential to the Universe?" she asks, "Some folks'll tell you, 'Oh, no It's just a flower! It lives and dies in a day or two. What does Creation need that silly little flower for?' "

"Well, I tell you, that little tiny flower…you see it there by my toe…that little white one, no bigger than an earring… That flower is essential—that's right, I'm telling you, essential—to the whole wide Universe, same as you and me and everybody else. We're ALL essential, each and every one of us!

"Why, without that tiny little flower there it'd be a different Universe, a different Creation, not this one we have. D'you understand? So THAT's a mighty power, don't you think? One little flower can change the entire World! Just like one person can!"

She chuckles, amused at her thought.

Some might see a 'quaint little old lady' here. But of Edna Gordon I can tell you from years of personal observation: quaint she ain't. No, in this diminutive octogenarian—maybe 5'2 on her stretched-taut tiptoes—I see a fearless warrior against injustice, a bold partisan on behalf of Mother Earth, an implacable defender of her People and of ALL indigenous Peoples.

I see her also as a natural-world philosopher, or Wisdomkeeper, a kind of aboriginal existentialist….but not the Sartrean Existentialist of the 1940's, whose tremulous confrontion with the naked Being of a tree's root (as in Jean-Paul Sartre's novel Nausea) elicited terror and spiritual nausea.

No, in Edna's world, a tree's root or a tiny flower or a red-tailed hawk in flight or a sudden windstorm elicits not fear and angst but joy, celebration, total communion with and immersion in the wonder of being in this world—the wonder of Being itself, of the whole vast living Mystery of Creation. Edna radiates that wonder, that devout appreciation, that thankfulness, that celebration in every word of this little book.

I first met Edna Gordon some five or six years ago, when I was (alas, unsuccessfully) trying to create a website—dreamkeepers.net—that would be the digital portal to an ever-growing constellation of personal websites for and by indigenous Elders. It's motto was "Bringing the Elders to the World & the World to the Elders."

Itself the successor to another (alas, equally unsuccessful website named wisdomkeepers.com, dreamkeepers.net was to be the culmination of more than a quarter-century travelling among and working with indigenous peoples, begun while a staff writer for 23 years at National Geographic magazine, and continuing after my 1991 'retirement' in such trade books as Wisdomkeepers: Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders and Dreamkeepers: A Spirit-Journey into Aboriginal Australia.

One day I answered the phone. A rough-gravel woman's voice said:

"You Harvey Arden? This is Edna Gordon. I got some books for you to publish…"

"You do? Books you say? How many books?"

"Oh, maybe ten, maybe thirty."

"Hmmm… Really! Paper books? I'm trying to create a website for the Elders, but I've never published a book—though I've had half a dozen of my own books published. You're maybe talking about a digital online book?"

"Nope, a paper book…a REAL book! I got thirty of'm. Maybe forty!"

"Already published?"

"Had'm printed myself. Got a few copies each. Whaddayou charge?"

"We don't charge anything to Elders at dreamkeepers.net, but we don't publish books—certainly not paper books."

"Well, you WILL!"

And so, against all odds I might have given at the time, here is Edna's book Voice of the Hawk Elder—to my mind, an incandescent torch to light our way in these dark times.

Harvey Arden was a National Geograpic staff writer for over 23 years. He has continued to pursue his desire to collaborate with extraordinary people to share their stories, life lessons, and messages as an author and editor. Click here to learn more about Harvey Arden

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