N. Scott Momaday’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, House Made of Dawn includes the line “a druidic procession”. These were not words that I expected to see in this poetically written and at times brutally violent prose of Native Indian culture. Momaday creates stunning imagery that ground the story in all the landscapes: physical, social, and imaginary. But Druidic? The words stayed with me.
In a recent writing group, after we had finished discussing House Made of Dawn, we were tossing different topics around for a free form timed writing practice (see earlier entry for a broader discussion on how this works). Everyone went silent when I offered ‘Druidic Procession’. It was different and our group leader seized the pause to say, let’s write.
When we walk as a group in meditation, single file, stepping in near unison over the flagstone and amongst the tangled roadway grasses, I wonder if the casual observer would take us more seriously if we wore matching black robes with giant hoods. Instead we slip by in shorts, cargo pants and sun dresses. The dust shows imprints of flip flops, sandals, running shoes and loafers: Sperry, Birkenstock, Teva, Nike, Prada and Crocs.
Not that being taken seriously is important to us. I personally knew much ridicule when I was younger. Cloaks and robes, the raiment of Priests and nobleman fascinated me. In particular the enigma of a shrouded face when hidden behind a mask of shadows. The face can peer out without giving away any secrets. I was surrounded by these images in the books of King Arthur, Merlin, or Tolkein’s Gandalf. I desperately wanted to be more than an awkward 6’, 125lb character more likely to be cast as the bean stalk for Jack. I needed mystery.
My brother had this giant army surplus coat that could be combined with a hooded black sweatshirt. A wardrobe staple of most kids, the kind of with a swim team logo on the back and white strings that if you pulled tight enough, would pucker your face with just the nose and the upper lip poking out. When these two items came together with a vivid imagination my costume was complete. I would stand like a gargoyle along the walls of imaginary stone buildings, or bow my head and walk in a slow druidic procession.
To anyone watching, it was a ridiculous sight. My older brothers would shine daylight onto my charade. Where was magic when I needed it most!
So now I walk in shorts and a t-shirt, feeling the balls of my feet press against the still warm and carefully swept flagstone. I feel the smooth hardwood floor while my eyes trace the intricate patterns in the wood. Together with my fellow writers we don’t need a hood or require a false sense of mystery, calming our minds is adventure enough. Each day as we come together to sit, walk then write, we will take our own procession through this sacred place. The sagebrush and adobe our henge, and anyone watching will feel connected with our footfalls as we pass by.
Natalie Goldberg leads a walking meditation in Taos New Mexico