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Native Language

Dreamed 1996/11/17 by Chris Wayan

I'm at the beach on a calm day. Cliffs, a cove, the Golden Gate Bridge far off. A seal plays in the water just offshore.

I'm trying to learn the language of the Ohlone, who lived here before San Francisco was founded. Feel sad that the local names have mostly been lost, but I miss their grammar even more--how they divided up the world, saw time and action and emotion. An ephemeral hollow appears in the water as two wave-troughs intersect. Does that have a name? The seal is rolling on its back in the surf for sheer pleasure. But would they say that, or see it another way--the wave-mother playing with the seal, not the seal playing with the wave?

Yet... though my thoughts about the experiences are expressed through English, the raw experience is there. I'm not cut off from where I live, just because my birth-tongue evolved elsewhere. That's a lazy shortcut to despair. Words are secondary. All I have to do is shut up. And look, and listen, and feel.

That's my native language. And yours.

And I wake...

ink drawing of a seagull perched on a seal

At least... I wake as much as I'm able to. With dream advice on what waking is: not just having your eyes open.

Your mind.

LISTS AND LINKS: heritages and inheritances - languages - seals - Native Americans (Ohlone/Costanoan) - home - ink drawings - I meet that seal at a party

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