Black dogs and new patterns

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By Jody Benson

A Native American story goes like this:

There is a cave in which lives an old woman who for years has been weaving a garment – a special garment, sewn from porcupine quills. Its pattern is sacred to honor the ceremony for which it is intended, because it is this ceremony that sustains the world soul.

 If she wove the quills without altering them, the quills would poke at the pattern and tear it open, so she flattens each quill with her teeth. Over all these years, her teeth have worn to nubs, but she keeps working, for without the robe, the ceremony cannot take place.

In the back of the cave, over a fire, hangs a cauldron that contains all the seeds of the Earth. The old woman must get up now-and-then to stir the cauldron so the seeds don’t burn.

 As she stirs the pot, a black dog, who also lives in the cave, goes to the garment and sniffs it. He sniffs it all over and finds a loose thread.

He takes that thread between his teeth and begins to pull. He pulls and pulls until the garment is unraveled, and when the old woman comes back, she sees her quills and thread in a pile on the floor.

 She stares for a moment. She stares. But then she finds the end of the thread, picks it up, sits down, gathers her quills, and begins weaving again, thinking of the new patterns that she will put into this new robe.

That’s the Native American story.

A European-American story might end differently. The old woman finds her garment destroyed; she collapses against the wall and weeps.

In her horror of what the dog had done, and in her faithlessness in herself and her work, she beats the dog, departs the cave, and leaves the seeds to burn.

Right now, the whole world seems to be in a black-dog moment. What we wove together for financial security has unraveled. But let’s move out of the financial and into the world of soul values.

It’s true, money keeps body and soul together (not to mention providing all the pleasures that delight that body), but how about using this black-dog financial meltdown to define new values?

Let’s look at it the old woman’s way – the unraveling of our finances gives us the opportunity to start again, and to create a culture focused not on resource extraction to support consumerism, but on what supports life itself. In reassessing the patterns of our culture, we can weave our relationship with the environment as the central image.

And why not? Here in Los Alamos – where you can walk 10 minutes and be in wildlands, where nature strolls in to munch our roses, where every street has a view of mountains and heavens, where we watch as life reclaims Cerro Grande’s 48,000 acre – here  in Los Alamos it would take only an instant to shift from being subsumed by financial fears to falling in love with the Earth.

When you love something, it’s … natural … that you do what you can to protect it.

The thing is, losing money is bad enough. But worse would be that poor planning and wild schemes to protect our money cause the loss of the Earth and the life it supports. We need to pay attention – we need to penny pinch our behaviors, and invest our actions in sustaining life. You know what to do.

It’s … natural … that when you love something ... like 9-11, this black-dog moment will change the world.

We can give up, kick the dog and run away, or we can settle back down to recreate the world in a new, more beautiful pattern.

It’s exciting, and it’s up to us.