Every time I go outside more and more beauty. To see, to smell, to touch. Pine and cedar, damp. To hear: coyotes. To feel.
Breaking, resisting, refiring, giving in, giving up, a sidelong gaze; wonderment, a vague mistrust, an uncanny confidence.
I cannot sidestep obsession.
|Elliott on the trail.|
Here is what happened. At the market one of many favorite customers showed me a letter he had written to President Obama requesting a pardon for Leonard Peltier. The letter is handwritten in black ink on a piece of birch bark well over a foot square. Attached to the bark is a feather. The letter writer says he spent weeks obsessed with the project: the composition of it, the design of it, the writing of it on the bark—his wife points out how difficult it is to write without mishap on birch bark—and then he asks: Am I crazy? Crazy to do this? To put so much time into something? Into this? I say no, not at all, just the opposite, and I mean it, and, for a few different reasons, I am moved nearly to tears.
A couple of days later, all that forgotten, I am checking the score of the Cleveland Indians-Toronto Blue Jays game and I see a picture of the Indians celebrating. I am struck by the logo prominently displayed on their caps and uniforms, as if I’d never seen it before. It’s downright creepy, and I am stunned, because it is a caricature of a so-called Indian. I get on Wikipedia and learn this creature is called “Chief Wahoo.” I read that the Indians name and logo have been protested against since the 1970s, and, just this week, there was a case in a Canadian court attempting to ban the name and logo in Canada. Now why wasn’t this on NPR? Or did I miss it? And do Indian fans really go around wearing this Wahoo dude on their chests, on their caps? Do they really proudly display a blatantly racist image and for the most part do the rest of us just ignore it?
Yes. Of course.
I remember the letter written on birch bark and being asked “Am I crazy?” and I think again by golly no. But these people—running around with a caricature of Leonard Peltier or his ancestors, I guess, on their baseball caps—without a thought? That’s crazy.
Maybe they think it is only their perception that matters.
But I am crazy, too, running around with a cubbie bear on my belly. And thinking and writing stuff like this. I once had a “Free Peltier” button. That was long ago. Where did I get it? Where did it go?
I read interesting articles about the history of the Indians name and a player named Louis Sockalexis and about the origin of Wahoo (links below) and I see reflected in the stories some of the history of our society and culture, the history of our racist natures.
I mean no offense to Indian fans—from now on to be referred to as “Wahoos”—or anybody, for that matter. If I had been raised in Cleveland probably I would be attached to this little guy, would not want to part with it or the Indians moniker just because some outsider didn’t get it. On the other hand, maybe I would be at the forefront of the “Bring Back the Spiders” movement. We could have hats, T-shirts, buttons—and Charlotte as our mascot!
Oh, the tangled web we weave …
Mosquitoes bounce on the windowpane, circle electric lights.
|Elliott and Josie on the island.|
Is obsession is a physical energy? I feel it one morning realizing that if the Cubs are not in the World Series by Sunday, I could go to Chicago Sunday and be there for the Sunday game the Cubs could win to get in the World Series … I could be there. I sit on the sofa with sunshine just beginning to stream in to mix with the warmth from the woodstove and I am so aware of this vibration coursing through and bouncing around within my body.
What to make of it?
And then I get back to this Wahoo business.
The image is racist—there is no way around that. It’s not a matter of opinion. A silly caricature of an Indian based on a white person’s impression of Native Americans circa mid-20th century is, almost by definition, a pejorative racial stereotype. There is nothing nice about it.
Nope, it is not a favorable stereotype. Of course not. I mean, seriously, if we were thinking highly of the people native to this land, why did we kill these people? Why did we isolate those we didn’t kill? Why did we take their children, put them in boarding schools, teach them only the white man’s way? Not your language, our language. Not your ways, our ways. Not your self-image, but our image of you. No, it’s not a matter of whether this image is based on racism or not: we know it is. Is it offensive? You decide.
I have already decided. Wahoo is a creep and Wahoo makes my skin crawl as if with some memory I have no right to. And now we have to play these Wahoos in the World Series?
Wait a minute.
Did I just say World Series? As in Cubs v. Wahoos World Series 2016?
I’m sorry. Did we just enter a new dimension?
|Josie watches for squirrels.|
And this is what I have learned.
Don’t give up.Oh, don’t listen to me. The Cubs are in the World Series. And that moment came at Wrigley Field. So for all that may be wrong with the world, last night there was that one little thing in that one little place that seemed just about right.
Stick with it.
If you love it, stick with it.
If you need a break, take a break.
Work on your strengths.
Don’t sweat the weaknesses.
Work with your weaknesses—they can turn to advantages.
Try not to suck.
Listen to your own counsel.
Celebrate your teammates.
Let others yak on and on about your shortcomings, or on and on about those who are so much better.
So what? What do they know?
Do it differently.
Study the game.
Play the game.
Enjoy the game.
Steal home if you can.
If a goat wants to watch a game at your ballpark, LET HIM IN.
Nothing is static.
Take your walks.
Swing away, hit a grand slam.
Above all, respect.
Respect history, respect change, respect distance.
Take a road trip.
Wear a onesie.
And sing after every victory.
|This is kind of how it feels.|
Those links I mentioned:
Cleveland Indians: The Name, by Joe Posnanski
Sockalexis Addendum, also by Joe
The Secret History of Chief Wahoo, by Brad Ricca
Wahooism in the U.S.A., by David Nevard
Wahooism Revisited: Louis Sockalexis, also by David with responses and queries from others
Game Two NLCS: Dodgers 1, Cubs 0
Game Three NLCS: Dodgers 6, Cubs 0
Game Four NLCS: Cubs 10, Dodgers 2
Game Five NLCS: Cubs 8, Dodgers 4
Game Six NLCS: Cubs 5, Dodgers 0
World Series begins Tuesday