I was conflicted, not so much about getting married, but about moving to Chicago. It was hard to imagine myself living in a big city. So I went to the Oracle.
By a traditional Sioux quarry in southwestern Minnesota there is a grandfather known as the Oracle, a profile of a face in the low hills of what is now called Pipestone National Monument. Whether other people talk to it, I don’t know. All I know is that I went to the 282-acre park still sacred to the Lakota and other First Nations, went on a walk with questions in my heart, and found a craggy face to listen to my troubles. It was in 1982 and I was 26.
I saw that other folks besides me sought this place. George Catlin visited the site in 1836 and ended up having the workable, red mineral named after him. Joseph Nicollet was there two years later, stopping at Winnewissa Falls to carve his name on a boulder, a bit of history that caught my eye when I was there. But I was looking for something much more ancient, something found in the rocks themselves and nurtured by each offering of tobacco, each song and blessing, each pipe made into what is essentially a portable altar. I was at a fork in the road.
“What shall I do?” I asked. “How can I move to Chicago? I am not a city person.” Yes, I had gone to schools in New York City, Vancouver, and San Diego, but I was essentially a small town girl from Northfield, Minnesota. Not that I felt at home there, but I was accustomed to forays into the country and long summers up north at the lake. I lost my shape in the city, pounded by concrete and noise into a flattened version of myself. Marrying Donald meant moving to his apartment in Rogers Park, the north part of Chicago. I had a job I liked, but he had a real career going, so we figured I should be the one to move. Was that enough reason to compromise myself? Surely, this elder of the Earth would tell me to stay close to my roots.
But no. “Change is okay. Change can be good,” I heard. “Be of the Earth.” I guess the Earth included Chicago.
(See part 2 tomorrow.)