I want to share with you some astounding reading. And ideas. Starting from Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places:

Louise. [Worried about] My younger brother…
Lola: It happened at Line Of White Rocks Extends Up and Out, at this very place!
(Pause: 30-45 seconds)
Emily: Yes. It happened at Whiteness spreads Out Descending To Water, at this very place!
(Pause: 30-45 seconds)
Lola: Truly. It happened at Trail Extends Across A Red Ridge With Alder Trees, at this very place!
Louise: (Laughs softly)
Robert: Pleasantness and goodness will be forthcoming.
Lola: Pleasantness and goodness will be forthcoming.
Louise (to dog): My younger brother is foolish, isn’t he, dog?

Then, by way of explaining this dialogue:

Lola: We gave that woman (Louise) pictures to work on in her mind. We didn’t speak too much to her. We didn’t hold her down. That way she could travel in her mind. She could add on to them (the pictures) easily. We gave her clear pictures with place-names. So her mind went to those places, standing in front of them as our ancestors did long ago. That way she could see what happened there long ago. She could hear stories in her mind, perhaps hear our ancestors speaking. She could recall the knowledge of our ancestors.

“We call it speaking with names. Place-names are all we need for that, speaking with names. We just fix them up. That woman was too sad. She was worried too much about her younger brother. So we tried to make her feel better. We tried to make her think good thoughts. That woman’s younger brother acted stupidly. He was stupid and careless. He failed to show respect. No good! We said nothing critical about him to her. We talked around it. Those place-names are strong! After a while, I gave her a funny story. She didn’t get mad. She was feeling better. She laughed. Then she had enough, I guess. She spoke to the dog about her younger brother, criticizing him, so we knew we had helped her out.”

Now, Basso:

“Western Apache conceptions of language and thought are cast in pervasively visual terms. Every occasion of ‘speaking’ provides tangible evidence of ‘thinking,’ and thinking occurs in the form of ‘pictures’ that persons ‘see’ in their minds. Prompted by a desire to ‘display thinking,’ speaking involves the use of language to ‘depict’ and ‘convey’ these images to the members of an audience, such that they, on ‘hearing’ and ‘holding’ the speaker’s words, can ‘view’ the images in their own minds. Thinking, as Apaches conceive of it, consists in picturing to oneself and attending privately to the pictures. Speaking consists in depicting one’s pictures for other people, who are thus invited to picture these depictions and respond to them with depictions of their own. … Apache hearers must always ‘add on’ to depictions made available to them in conversation, augmenting and supplementing these spoken images with images they fashion for themselves.”

“In other words, persons who speak too much insult the imaginitive capabilities of other people, ‘blocking their thinking’ … and ‘holding down their minds.'”

Isn’t this how we speak about dreams? Contact with even the idea of such a finely tuned way of communicating is greatly soothing to me. Especially from the grief-places and from certain other explorations of the last two years, this is the only way of communicating that works.

I am making friends with a woman, with whom I’d not felt able to adequately communicate for the first few times we met, spaced some months apart. It wasn’t until we laid down in the grass and closed our eyes and began to speak this way — starting with dreams but speaking many other places, family and lovers and desires, “places” because we spoke in images and so, with our eyes closed / open only to the vast sky above, we could touch down in each other’s words. That was where I felt myself honestly comminicating with her. That’s how we write. My entire interiority breathes a sigh of great relief at all the things that might now finally be said.

Last night I experienced someone else’s joy at finding that image-place wordstream and my body’s reaction was to dance. When was the last time you danced to a poem?


c.1300, from O.Fr. dancier, perhaps from Frankish. A word of uncertain origin but which, through French influence in arts and society, has become the primary word for this activity from Spain to Russia.

Nu-uh! A word of unknown origin!

Whence comes the place where music and body are expressions of each other? Nobody knows. It’s just a place we go.

Is that the same as a word that goes so far back it’s always had that form? I think not. That makes “Dance” an In Carne Hilarum first.


~ by Arrrow Marie on January 22, 2010.

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