Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Enduring Spirit

For the Lady of Willow Manor, on the Occasion of her Birthday

This week I introduced my class to Tecumseh (read more here and here), the great Shawnee war chief, political leader, and statesman of his people.  Just over one hundred ninety-eight years ago, Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames in Canada, but, having lived here in his old homeland for a couple of years, I am sure his spirit lingers.  I left campus late Tuesday afternoon, with cloud-swept skies overhead, and saw this deer, all by her lonesome:
She is standing on the railroad track, in much the same way as Tecumseh's family found themselves standing in the way of westward expansion into the Ohio Country and beyond.  And so it was that I had Tecumseh and his people on my mind as I drove home, past this:
I drive past Tecumseh's birthplace every day.  There is some confusion about this, as the Shawnee town in which he was born was called Chillicothe. Some people, therefore, have assumed that he was born near present-day Chillicothe on the Scioto (home to the outdoor drama), but actually he was born in "Old" Chillicothe, now called Old Town, north of Xenia.  On more than one occasion, just south of Old Town, I have seen this hawk:
It's a red-tail, and because I have seen it so many times near the birthplace marker, I have taken to calling it Tecumseh.  The name itself is the Shawnee description of a meteor or "shooting star."  The hawk usually flies off when I slow down, but one day it just sat there, as if keeping vigil, so I was able to stop and take several pictures, including the one above and this one:
The same day I talked about Tecumseh and saw the deer on the track, I saw Tecumseh, the hawk, perched on "his" favorite wire.  He pulled his usual trick of flying off as soon as I slowed down, but I felt so blessed to see him and I felt the goosebumps pop.  This is a sacred spot...I feel it in my bones as I drive past.  The story of Tecumseh is a tragedy...it could have been written by a Russian...but it continues to inspire.  About this time last year, I wrote a sonnet in response to one of Tess's Magpie prompts.  I repost it now, my humble gift to a person who celebrates her Native American DNA and who has become a dear friend.  She has inspired me, perhaps more than she realizes, with her talent, her passion, her wit, and her spirit.  I know I am not alone in feeling this way.  Here's to you, Tess!

Artist's depiction of Tecumseh

The Open Door
A Sonnet

The day grew cold; the moon eclipsed the sun.
I took the Shawnee warrior's path toward home
Through shadowed lands where buffalo had run,
And restless spirits from the past still roam.

The whisp'ring waters sang of one who fought,
His name became a terror to his foes.
Tecumseh, valiant leader, bled for naught,
His dream had died, not so his children’s woes.

They sang of little brother, clumsy lad,
The Noisy Rattle, much too fond of drink.
His wife had watched him waste, her visage sad,
As long he lingered nigh unto life’s brink.

But from death’s bed the Open Door had ris'n,
The Tenskwatawa, prophet for a seas'n.

George Catlin's portrait of The Tenskwatawa

Happy Birthday!
Love, Dr. L (M)


ellen abbott said...

Enjoyed this

Tess Kincaid said...

These are a few of my favorite things...(sung in my best Julia Andrews voice)...history, Ohio, the Scioto, my Native American DNA, deer, and a beautiful sonnet written by a dear friend. Thank you for making my birthday extra special, Dr. L. <3

NCmountainwoman said...

What a great post!

"Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws..."

Carolina Linthead said...

Thank you! This is precisely the kind of thing I visualized doing with this blog, but life has gotten in the way of blogging. I am glad my gift has been received by you, my friends!