It Ain't Easy Being Indian


People move on, that’s what they do; it’s the nature of life. There are some people who couldn’t move out of my life fast enough and there are others like Cat Whipple whom I will miss dearly.

We first met in Minneapolis when I worked for Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). I have deep respect for her skills then as now and Cat is certainly not afraid of hard work, just refer to her tenure as Editor of The Circle newspaper these past 13 years. The readership should know that Mz Whipple is an amazing artist too; I’m saving up to buy one of her cat pieces which I will display at feline-eye level for my furball family to admire.

Last month I called Cat from Rezberry, I told her I had just completed a Master Naturalist class and she asked what that was? I explained that I was in a nature class with some really cool people for five days and that I was in the woods! I was so excited and I could tell Mz Cat thought it was amusing by her shout of laughter. I told her that I could now identify toads from frogs, know what poison ivy looks like and differentiate fur-bearing trees.

Wait? What? The first day in the forestry area the instructors began to give very detailed commentary on the hundreds of plants and trees in the area. I furrowed my brow to indicate I was very interested and somewhat knowledgeable about the vegetation but really I hadn’t a clue about any of that stuff and I proved it many times over.

While walking and talking to another student I mentioned ‘fir-bearing trees’ and a gentleman overheard this and asked out loud that he would love to see a ‘fur’ bearing tree and speculated that it might have muskrats hanging from it. Of course I meant pine trees but I had to show myself up. Then some of us were examining a tree and the instructor says after seeing the tree had two trunks that merged into one, “Look! It has legs!” My response? “It’s an Ent!”

The same man was behind me and asked what was an Ent? I know! I couldn’t believe it either, how could he not know what an Ent is? I patiently explained that Ents are walking trees from J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Ring series, dah! Then I felt so exposed for being the dork-in-disguise that I really am. Jerry, that is the gent’s name, simply looked puzzled and backed away from me slowly.

I don’t recall if he was within ear shot of my next brilliant observation; Instructor Nikki asked us, “does anyone know what a plantain is?” Me: “It’s like a banana!” I was so happy I knew something! Nikki shot me a ‘look’, later she told me she thought I was kidding…..! Hey, you can take the Indian out of the city, ennit? I thought I left my urbanity long ago but apparently not, I still give myself away with every step I take not walking on cement. ;D

Well, I learned a lot thanks to some really great, dedicated instructors; Nikki, Courtney and the (two) Shannons. They can be proud that I took away very valuable information like wood frogs can literally puke their guts out, wood ticks are good for bird food and that I can identify wild ginger. I did have to ask if ‘the little’ man was in its roots though….. I wasn’t trying to be hard-headed at all! I just didn’t know….anything much.

Somehow I survived that grueling week in hot sunshine, cold rain, humid bogs and bloodthirsty bugs. I am so proud of myself! Not one peep of pain or discomfort escaped my lips, take that you up north people! Urban Indians represent! Then I went to sleep all weekend.

I gave Cat an abbreviated version of all this and we laughed together. She asked me if I wore my platform shoes and a halter top in the woods? We laughed some more; I’m gonna miss that, but not too much because I’m gonna stalk her on FB so I will always feel close. Hehehe.

In fact I was envious of Cat for a minute, I wished I could pack it all up and leave for new adventures! Then I realize I already had, moving up here to Rezberry and leaving my groovy, pampered urban lifestyle behind for the fresh smells of sweet grass, pungent sage, pine trees and morning birdsong. I am soooo full of it! I’d trade this right now for a deep whiff of mass transit exhaust to choke on while listening to emergency sirens. Actually….nah!

Mz Whipple, I wish for you to live long and prosper! You have a permanent home in my heart. Now go have some big fun, Ricey-Wild style!