May 15th, 2012

"The Green Frog Skin" by John (Fire) Lame Deer

"The Green Frog Skin – that’s what I call the dollar bill. In our attitude towards it lies the biggest difference between the Indians and the whites. My grandparents grew up in an Indian world without money. Just before the Custer battle the white soldiers had received their pay. Their pockets were full of green paper and they had no place to spend it. What were their last thoughts as an Indian bullet or arrow hit them? I guess they were thinking of all that money going to waste, of not having had a chance to enjoy it, of a bunch of dumb savages getting their paws on that hard-earned pay. That must have hurt them more than the arrow between their ribs.

The close hand-to-hand fighting, with a thousand horses gally-hooting all over the place, had covered the battlefield with an enormous cloud of dust, and in it the green frog skins of the soldiers were whirling around like snowflakes in a blizzard. Now, what did the Indians do with all that money? They gave it to their children to play with, to fold those strange bits of coloured paper into all kinds of shapes, making into toy buffalo and horses. Somebody was enjoying that money after all.

The books tell of one soldier who survived. He got away, but he went crazy and some women watched him from a distance as he killed himself. The writers always say that he must have been afraid of being captured and tortured, but that’s all wrong. Can’t you see it? There he is, bellied down in a gully, watching what is going on. He sees the kids playing with the money, tearing it up, the women using it to fire up some dried buffalo chips to cook on, the men lighting their pipes with green frog skins, but mostly all those beautiful dollar bills floating away with the dust and the wind. It’s this sight that drove the poor soldier crazy. He’s clutching his head, hollering, ‘Goddam, Jesus Christ Almighty, look at them dumb, stupid, red sons of bitches wasting all that dough!’ He watches till he can’t stand it any longer, and then he blows his brains out with a six-shooter. It would make a great scene in a movie, but it would take an Indian mind to get the point."

- John (Fire) Lame Deer, "Seeker of Visions"

The Monad and Flowering May

Now that I finally found my old drawing compass, I started today on getting more deeply into sacred geometry and mathematics. The two books I am using as texts are: A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science, A Voyage from 1 to 10, by Michael S. Schneider (HarperCollins, 1994) and How the World Is Made: The Story of Creation According to Sacred Geometry, by John Michell with Allan Brown (Inner Traditions, 2009).

I am of course starting with the Monad, the Circle, which represents the unity and wholeness of creation: "The goal of many religions and mythic ordeals is to return to a los state of Divine Oneness. But we have no need to return to a state of oneness because unity is axiomatic and we already are integrated in it. Barely recognizing our situation, here and now we live in a whole and beautifully harmonious wonder world. Only a self-imposed illusion of separateness keeps us from recognizing our own center of awareness and identity with the One" (Schneider, p. 20).

There are three additional principles that can be deduced from the Monad/Circle:

1. Point, the center = Stillness, the beginning, and then equal expansion (rings, waves). Nothingness: zero-dimensional point.
2. Circumference.= Cycles of movement, time, etc., always with both increase and decrease, rising and falling, but also Everythingness, without end.
3. Radius = Most efficient geometric space; maximized efficiency, the most enclosure (space) with the least exposure (smallest perimeter). Everything is contained between Nothing (the point/center) and Everything (the circumference).

At sunset, after studies, I took a walk around the neighborhood, to observe changes in the signs of the season (phenology) as well as look for examples of the monad, in the tree trunks, flowers, and more. The evening was clear, but humid (for here) and the day had been very warm (it got to about 87 F today).

The apple and crabapple blossoms that were blooming so luxuriantly last week, fragrant in the breeze, have dropped all their petals, so the calyx (blossom as a whole) is not longer as evident. Yet the inner parts of the flowers are still attached to the branches, where the ovaries will swell and the fruits will develop.

As the apple blossoms declined, the lilacs have gone into full flowering, and their scent fills the evening air. Bumblebees wobbled among the lilacs. Chokecherries too are still in bloom, as are the mountain-ash (relatives of the rowan). American linden (or basswood) flowers are not as showy, but they are evident for those who take the time to look.

All the trees are finally in full leaf, the elms the last ones, especially the old Siberian elm. The mushrooms at its base have disappeared now, a week and a half after their one-day rush to the surface. There should be another fruiting cycle sometime this season. The evening's impression was one of fruitfulness and sultriness.

The Legend of the Sleeping Giant

I grew up in this valley and there was an old Ojibwa man named Eddie Barbeau, who told us stories about this place, and the people who lived here long ago, Salish, Blackfeet, Shoshone, and others.

One of the stories was the legend of the Sleeping Giant.

The Sleeping Giant is a simulacra, something seen as the shape of something else, in this case, of a giant sleeping on the northern horizon of the Helena valley, feet to the west, head to the east. He is made up of a series of hills and peaks.

His nose is also known as "The Bear's Tooth." This rock pinnacle was a landmark on the Old North Trail, the trail along the Continental Divide that the Indians traveled, all the way back to the Ice Age, dispersing across North America and eventually even to South America. Much later, Lewis and Clark noted it in their journals as they ascended the Missouri River and passed through the Gates of the Mountains next to it.

Back to Mr. Barbeau's story...this is the legend he told us about the Sleeping Giant...

All of these illustrations are by me, as part of a series I have been drawing over the last few months.