We have all
heard the expression, "Listen to your mother." There is good
wisdom in that. Mothers care about us, in ways we can't understand.
That's good enough reason to listen to what they're trying to say. They
have special status because they were picked by the universe to bring
us into being, even if only to test our humility. If the day you were
born or the sign you were born under has significance in your life,
it is certainly possible that the mother that spirit chose for you is
no accident. I believe that for many people, there is salvation in a
mother's love, as it is a reflection of God's grace, who loves us all.
I believe that all salvation is based on God's love, and comes in many
forms. Later in this sermon I will attempt to show how the mother earth
loves us as well and is trying to save us from destruction. I've been
talking for years about taking better care of the earth, but now I realize
it's a better strategy to talk about how the earth takes care of us,
so people see the enlightened self-interest in taking care of Her.
mother's mother-that's a lot of mothering energy times three-was a Wampanoag
woman named Rebecca Davis, who was born on a former Indian reservation
named Wah Tuppa, which, without looking it up, seems to me to mean "Good
Whaling Place." Her family ran a whaling business in the old days,
a traditional Wampanoag occupation dating back a thousand years. They
were close to the earth, as was she. That reservation is now Westport,
Mass. Rebecca, who was born a Quaker, as were many Native Americans
of New England at that time, married a great Methodist minister named
Alexander Hamilton. Rebecca was spiritually gifted, as was her husband.
They were both like an extra set of parents to all the parrisioners,
and Rebecca was everyone's mother. Her son Willis followed in his father's
footsteps and became the minister of that same church, the Wesley Memorial
Methodist Church of Old Orchard, which is something like this one, only
rather large, but no less charming. She was also the mother of my Grammy
Violet, who grew up under the pressure of being a PK (Preacher's kid).
(She learned to be very proper as a young lady, then married a Micmac
Indian.) Rebecca sat in the front row during the church services and
used Indian Sign Language to tell her husband when he was getting boring
or going on too long.
everywhere, she worried about all her children. One Sunday she noticed
that two elderly members of the congregation, a crippled man and his
wife, were missing, and it worried her because they were very devout
and never missed a service. She prayed, or meditated on this, and realized
they were in trouble, and began a long series of hand signals to her
husband, telling him that these two people were in some kind of accident,
and that she was going to pray for them. It was 10:45 AM on the clock.
Now, Alexander was used to seeing short signals, like "cut it short,"
or "explain more," or "speak louder;" but now here
were whole sentences! He translated them quickly. Alexander was in full
tilt of of a long, well-crafted sermon, but cut his speech short and
asked the congregation to pray, supposedly for other reasons, but it
was really so he could pray for the missing couple as well.
As it turns
out, that man and his wife overturned their car on the railroad tracks
on the way to the church. The man's wife was pinned under the car, and
a train was due to charge through shortly after the hour. Talk about
the power of prayer. Somehow God gave the crippled man the strength
to lift up the car and save his wife who was able to pull herself out.
They were able to get help, and soon the police arrived to move the
car (this was about 1909, I believe, so it was probably one of those
early touring cars) and to get the couple to safety.
After a few
minutes, Alexander went on with his sermon. When the police inspected
the car they reported that the clock on the dashboard had broken at
exactly 10:45. I have no doubt that Rebecca's prayers had something
to do with saving that couple.
has always been the site of many miraculous events. When I was eight
years old I attended my Aunt Kay's wedding there. She was the granddaughter
of Rebecca Davis and Alexander Hamilton. Naturally the wedding was held
there. While my mother was busy with the other adults, I was playing
alone in the gutter, sifting through the gravel dust and pouring it
on my black suit and brushing it off, you know, things little boys do
when their mothers aren't there to worry about them. There in the dust
I found a little gold ring, and I brushed it off. A lady walked by and
I said, "Look what I found!" I thought it might have been
from a crackerjack box. The woman gasped and grabbed it from my hand.
"Where did you get that? That's the wedding ring! The service has
been delayed for a half hour because the wedding ring was lost. EVERYONE
is looking for it! Let me have it!" So I gave her the ring, and
my Aunt Kay is still married to that man Bob, who lost the ring. Kay
is now the mother of two, and has forgiven me for everything I've done
since, because I saved her marriage even before it started, but I really
think it was the spirit of Rebecca Davis looking over us all as always,
and worrying about us, that made me find that ring.
long after that wedding, a young friend of my brothers came over and
was chatting, talking about how much his mother worried about him, and
how she always seemed to know what shenanigans he was up to. He exclaimed,
"Mothers are like that, yeah they are!"
discussion on the subject of mothers, it was noted how mothers of all
persuasions seem to have a way of knowing what you're up to even when
you're not there. They know when you've been naughty, even when all
clues are covered up. They know when you're in love, they know when
you're too sick to go out and play. They know when you're not really
sick, but don't want to go to school, and later on, know when you're
not really in love any more. As the young visitor spouted out concerning
his thesis on matronly behavior, "Mothers are like that, yeah they
are!" That handy expression took root immediately in our family,
and has fit a variety of uses.
won't listen to anyone's good advice, your mother can kick your butt
like no one else. When you are in trouble and no one else will help
you, sometimes mothers will suddenly find the strength to help you.
Mothers are like that yeah they are.
have is the ability to love us unconditionally. They don't necessarily
use it, but they have the ability. They can say "on the count of
three, jump through this flaming hoop," and mean it. But the unconditional
love is still there, off line as it were. So whatever they say, we should
at least listen.
As all theologens
know there is only one true source of absolute, unconditional love
They don't have accountability! So they can indulge us no matter what.
But seriously, the purest form of love comes directly from God, the
Great Mystery, The Creator. In Micmac we call it Geezoolgh. It has no
gender, so it is not a non-mother, and therefore not non-female. The
word has been translated as the sun of love. It is an all-loving being,
and the first of its creations we speak of is the Grandfather Sun, and
the second we speak of is the Grandmother Earth, Mahamaygo, and her
daughter, whom we call Mother Earth, which is this beautiful green surface
that we see, Oot-sit-ga-moo.
The sun in
the sky brings us all life. If the sun went away for a long time (which
it did for part of this winter) all life would die and wither. Instead
it shines on us, its light gives us plants and animals eat the plants,
and some of us eat both. The sun's love and warmth comes from God, and
the mother earth's love comes from the sun. Mother Earth nurtures us,
brings us food, shelter, medicine, clothing, rest, everything. All medicines
come from mother earth. We are just so far away from the process, so
divided, we forget and continue to despoil the earth. Mother earth also
gives us love through animals.
a lot of love, and now there's something called Animal Therapy. But
it's not new. I've met a lot of really lonely people who call out for
help, and most of them look to pets for unconditional love, and they
get it. Sometimes, it's their salvation.
a book called Drawing the Line by Steven Weiss which shows how loving
and intelligent some animals really are. If we can't get the spiritual
salvation through love which comes directly from God, we can get some
of it through God's own Creations. Of course, most people get their
love and salvation through other people, and this is appropriate, since
we are all family. But we can also get it through nature. Some people's
lives have apparently been saved by pigs, dogs, horses, etc. emotionally
as well as physically. God works through whatever channels are open.
all medicines come from the earth. I'm sure we all agree on this. But
I also want to say what may not be so obvious, that wisdom, guidance
and knowledge come from Mother Earth as well. In the Algonquin world,
we look for signs from God in nature. In Algonquin we have a word for
those miraculous turns of events we call "signs." The word
is "Keegaynolaywoagan" which means "signs from God through
Nature." Literally it means "The Universe is showing you something
wonderful." Which it is, but most of the time we don't listen.
So listen to your mother! You know how your mother often communicated
with you through non-verbal means, leaving that shirt on your bed, or
leaving medicine out for you that you should take, or leaving you a
sandwich, so forth. That's the way Mother Earth communicates with us
as well, silently. We need to listen with our eyes as well as our ears.
For the most
part, these signs from Mother Nature come to us through animals. When
I was younger I was told by "Indians" that animals could leave
us signs to tell us what we should do, and I thought that was the stupidest
thing I ever heard. It wasn't scientific.
the latest tests on animal intelligence, especially those controversial
ones involving several primates and a female human named Dr. Patterson,
have shown that not only are animals as intelligent as human children,
but they are at times quite psychic, and telepathic. All this time they've
been sending us perfectly clear messages, but we haven't heard them.
They were trying to tell us of the future, because they are closer to
our common mother, and they are trying to help us. Dr. Patterson's primates
were able to tell her of fires the moment they broke out, several miles
away, on the other side of a mountain, and also foretell the future.
It was also revealed through her experiments that the great apes are
terrible gossips oh by the way.
the Micmac have known about this secret motherlode of future information
for literally thousands of years, and a few still try to communicate
with the eagles, the bears, the whales, the moose, etc. and people still
make fun of them for trying. But science is finally starting to catch
up! These experiments have also found that these higher primates also
tire quickly of nouns, verbs, etc, and immediately turn to metaphor,
nicknames, and slang, like many Native American languages do. Their
name for Dr. Patterson was "lipstick." It fascinated them
that she wore lipstick, because it was unnatural.
We have a
song "Yo ho yo ho yo honday
" which was originally a
lullaby. It tells the baby that the eagle will hear the prayers of the
little one and take them to the Creator. The next morning, it will return
with the answers. It's a beautiful song, which Micmac mothers still
sing to their children. Algonquin mothers worry about their children
too. Mothers are like that yeah they are.
I have in
my hand a dreamcatcher made by a Munsee Indian, a Native New Yorker
who still lives near here. Native moms used to place these near the
cradle to catch all the bad dreams in the spider's web, so only the
good dreams come through. That's how strong a mother's love is. The
trees of the mother earth filter our polluted air, and the soil filters
our polluted water, but only reasonable amounts of it. There's a limit.
I handed one of these to Manhattan Boro President Virginia Field, soon
after 9-11, and she grabbed it gladly and said, "Thanks, we need
all the help we can get!" She was mothering all New York City,
worrying about us! Mothers are like that, yeah they are.
at one time had shamans who were able to go into a trance or altered
state and communicate with the eagle, bear, moose, or whale, and get
messages about what they should do. As part of Micmac tradition, I often
had prayed to the bear spirit for protection and strength. I will never
forget the night I heard a noise outside my door at 3 AM, someone going
through my garbage. I flung open the door and found myself face to face
with a huge wild mother black bear, going for the fishheads in my garbage,
the trash can leaned over, with her hands inside it. She looked at me
deferringly and placed the can back upright and carefully turned around
and ran across my lawn like thunder. Zoo bears seldom look directly
at you. They're faking it. But not wild ones. They look at you as an
equal, if you're lucky. I'll never forget the beauty and intelligence
and love in that wild bear's eyes. I thought, "Where can I find
people eyes like that?"
I have, but for the most part, I found them in mental institutions.
They belonged to people that society had given up on. That untamed animal
consciousness is not welcomed in our mechanistic society.
But I learned
that the Micmacs were right again. There was a message in what the bear
was doing, a personal one for me, and also I learned the Micmacs were
right in saying that the mother earth loves us all, and can pass that
on through nature's creatures if we listen! Most of us don't know how
She has been
telling us to get our act together in millions of ways, in the way the
whales beach themselves, in the way that the ozone layer is breaking
up, in the strange long winters, in the frog problem, in the way that
more children are being born with birth defects. Lyme disease is an
environmental disease, and everyone is getting it. Like the silent hand
signals from Rebecca Davis, mother earth is silently trying to warn
us of danger. Something is wrong, but we haven't learned her language.
She has been telling us that we must return to the ways of nature, respect
nature, and each other, or there is going to be trouble. She loves us
very much, so she keeps trying to spare us, to save us from ourselves,
which is what mothers, and God, try to do, but ultimately, there's going
to be the switch.
call it "Nipeesba'an," which is the spanking rod or branch,
ie the switch. It hangs on the wall, and the mother (or father) says,
"I don't want to have to use the
.. NEE pees ba'an!"
Then everyone behaves. But if one won't listen, the mother uses it for
sound effects, like a clap of thunder in the night. She whaps it against
the wall. We listen, and stop doing bad, selfish things. But there's
always one in every family that just won't listen to their mother and
so will be punished and they'll cry.
In the world
stage there are also one or two that just won't listen, and they are
going to get a spanking, and they will be an example for the rest of
us. The prophecies of practically every Native American nation foretell
of a time when the people stop listening to the earth and are punished.
Its not that the Mother will stop loving us, its just that we didn't
listen to all her other warnings, and there are no options left. Mother
doesn't like to see her children fight with each other. She says, "I
don't want to have to come down there!"
earth loves us very much and has given us everything that the Creator
invested in her. That love is everywhere. If you are angry, go to the
woods and the trees will absorb your anger and cool you down. If you
seek wisdom, go to the wilderness, like Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed,
did. If you seek peace, go to the woods; its right there waiting for
you. If you seek solace, if you seek understanding, if you seek love,
go to the woods. The Mother has more love for us than anyone can imagine,
and in that love may be our salvation as a race. Cause mothers are like
that, yeah they are.