A few weeks ago I was stacking wood outside when I saw two middle school boys next to the abandoned dorm across the street. I paused to watch them and saw that they were throwing rocks at the windows. Six months ago I wouldn’t have thought twice before going over and telling them to stop, but as I stood there, I thought to myself, “How long has that building been abandoned? 10 years? Are they really ever going to use it for anything?” The answer that came to me was “Probably not.” And so I stacked the remaining logs and went inside. Two days later I shared this story with my coworker, Sean, and he laughed and said, “You’re resified!”
While I also found this amusing, I knew he was right, and the implications of being “resified” reach far beyond humor. One day recently when Kristin and I were driving home from work there was a man lying on the shoulder bank of the main road through town and several EMTs were standing around him. They looked like they were smiling and maybe joking so I assumed that he was unconscious but otherwise okay. I said this to Kristin and she said “They also don’t seem to be in any hurry.” And just like that we both acknowledged the possibility that the man we just drove past might be dead. And then we drove home in respectful, thoughtful silence. This was the moment I realized I was resified.
Living here doesn’t make one numb, but it does give a whole new perspective on life. Through the sadness and suffering here, I am reminded every day of what is truly important. When I see a dog eating the remains of another dog, I view it as life’s cycle. When I see someone drunk on the side of the road, I say a prayer or send angels. When someone asks me to drive her home because she’s wasted and another woman just punched her in the face causing her to fall through my front door, I drive her home with Love, patience, and compassion. I transmute all of these daily interactions into Love and light because that is what I must do. For me, this has been my resification.
Today was beautiful and I spent the afternoon working in the yard. It’s quiet at the Fort on weekends and as I was wiping my feet to go inside, a car full of old white tourists passed my house. I nodded in greeting and went inside. Two minutes later there was a knock on my front door and one of the old men was there. “There’s a horse stuck in the cattle guard over there,” he told me. “Is there anyone we can call?” I scanned the Fort in hopes of seeing one of the security guards that are always making rounds in their car but saw no one. So I told the man I would take care of it and came back inside to call 911 for the third time in six months (For the record I have never felt unsafe here–the first call was for a domestic dispute next door and the second because there was a drunk man staggering along in the middle of the highway at night).
I walked to the cattle guard to be with the horse. I didn’t know what I could do, but I felt that I needed to be there for her. She had broken at least one of her legs, and it was stuck awkwardly so that she couldn’t move the rest of her body. People in cars glanced and then continued on their way. A man in a truck stopped to stand with me and stayed until a policeman arrived about about five minutes later. (I think he literally thought that as a young white woman, I might need someone to be there with me, and I was thankful that he was) After taking one look at her, the officer shook his head as if to say, “This doesn’t look good.” I asked if he was going to shoot her and he said he had called the livestock something-or-rather and he’d wait for them to get her out. Then he told me that it would be a half hour until they could get there. So I sat and waited with her. She made sounds of agony and every so often would try unsuccessfully to get up, which only hurt her more. I felt so helpless. All I could do was be a calm, comforting presence, and so I focused all of my energy toward Being so. I prayed for her to pass out and never wake up. I talked to her and stroked her mane when she would hold still, and that small amount of soothing was all I could do. Eventually (probably 20 minutes later) another policeman arrived and immediately started planning the best angle from which to shoot to put her out of her misery. I was grateful that he was willing to shoot her and my only wish is that he had come sooner. She could sense what was about to happen and hid her head as best she could. I told the horse that it was okay to die and everything was going to be all right, and then I stood behind the policeman, plugged my ears, and watched as he shot her square in the forehead.
Looking back, it occurs to me that until today I had never seen anyone shoot a real gun, nor had I ever seen a living being be shot. The only animal (other than fish) that I had watched die was by my own hands when I slaughtered my rooster a few years ago. A horse is a big thing to see die. When the bullet hit her skull, her body shuddered, blood came streaming out of her nostrils, she urinated, and then her head fell. I kept my ears covered for a long time, eyes closed, listening to my own deep inhales and exhales, imagining her spirit getting up and galloping away with the rest of the horses at the Fort. When I opened my eyes, her body was completely still.
I am writing this here mostly because I need to write about it, but also because I think it’s important to remind people living off the Reservation(s) how fortunate we often are not to see this kind of death close up in our lifetime. The horse’s death was a necessary reminder of all I have and I choose to welcome it not with guilt, but gratitude. I don’t feel guilty; I feel grateful. I am grateful that my parents loved each other and have stayed together to this day, not because they feel they have to, but because their love is true. I am grateful for my brother and sister and all my genuine, kind, intentional friends that inspire me to follow my own path. I am grateful for the innocence of my childhood that lasted far longer than most. I am grateful that I have always had a warm house, hot clean water, and access to healthy food. I am grateful for my education. And now I am grateful for this experience. I am grateful for the perspective that I have gained by living here. To know what people experience is to start to know what I can do to help make things better, and I know that change begins with mySelf. I will think about the dead dogs and horses of the Reservation and they will remind me that just as their lives had a purpose, mine does too.
After Sean told me that I was resified, he referenced the Serenity Prayer and said that he felt it was the mantra of Reservation life. I couldn’t agree more.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.