The other morning, while visiting my grandmother’s grave, I lifted a pinecone off of her headstone. I looked at it’s woody cradles and cursed its audacity: It covered the “Que” from the Madrecita Querida inscription and I launched that pinecone clear across the cemetery so that it couldn’t again block the words that formed my life’s mirror.
People ask me: “Why do you visit the gravesite? There’s nothing there…”
I say to them: “Because I like my reflection from that sacred site.”
Every time I visit my grandma’s grave, I stop being a grown man and become an eight-year-old boy with hurt and fear in my eyes, but safe sitting secure on my grandma’s lap.
And I stare at the sky-touching pine tree that hovers over the headstone and it becomes the apricot tree in the middle of grandma’s jardin.
And then innocence returns: I see me sitting on a branch on that apricot tree and the air is moist and new and clean. I’m filled feeling all that’s attainable: my eight year old life didn’t have to be about uncle’s vodka-induced-calcifying liver or my dad’s beer fueled rage aimed at my mother’s black fueled bitterness: I could sit in the jardin and watch a blue-winged butterfly sip morning glory nectar and I could smile a simple smile riding the butterfly’s subtle strong wings gaining nourishment and fuel from flowers.
I’d flutter from a story about my grandma’s life on San Ildefonso Pueblo to a story about the arrival of Los Americanos. I’d drink in stories about ceremony and dance and gather strength from learning about honest prayer to a God who listens.
Somewhere in those stories, I swallowed the knowledge about the black.
My grandma’s eyes glowed when she spoke of the Pueblo, but when she spoke of Los Americanos, her eyes pooled tears and she seemed to look through a lens into another time and place.
One time, I asked her: “de que pienseas, gramita? I needed to know about the place she saw that could make her cry: She carried her entire family on her slight and steel shoulders and I never knew weakness from her. She responded by saying (translated),
“The Americans took away our land, our language, and our faith, they took the mirrors of our lives. My mother could not live without those mirrors and one day, her soul left on he wings of a hawk...”*
When she finished speaking, I climbed the apricot tree and watched a red-tailed hawk circle overhead, it’s been with me ever since.
Every time I visit my grandma’s grave, I stop being a grown man and become an eight-year-old boy with hurt and fear in my eyes, but safe sitting secure on my grandma’s lap, with a grown man’s knowledge that if I can restore the mirrors of people’s life, the black is nothing more than soil waiting to begin again.
* the Americans took away our land, our language, and our faith, they took the mirrors of our lives. My mother could not live without those mirrors and one day, her soul left on he wings of a hawk