I recently finished The Round House by Louise Erdich, which is the story of 13-year-old Joe who lives on a reservation in North Dakota in the late eighties whose mother is brutally attacked and changes everything he held to be true. On a large scale, this book brought to light the inane politics and laws surrounding crimes against Native Americans by non Native Americans, both on and off the reservation land. And on a smaller, it shows how people move from being the protected and defended as children to wanting to be a protector and defender.
If you’ve been reading here lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about living with a sense of rootedness–so when life gets busy or difficult, I am able to remember deep truths about life–and this lens is informing my entire reading life and what stands out to me in a text, and this book is no different. There is a moment mid-story when Joe hears his parents come home and instead of his father sleeping in the guest room, as he had been doing on request since the attack, they both went into their shared room: “I heard them shut their door with that final small click that meant everything was safe and good (210).”
There are things as children that enable us to feel secure and be able to rest. (I’ve written about it before here and here.) Part of growing up is becoming aware that life is fragile and often uncontrollable. I often miss the sweetness of being young and thinking that everything “was ok” once both my parents made it home from work and we were all safe in the house. And yet, I’m convinced that there is still truth behind feeling safe: resting in the fact that I am not in control, seeing patterns in the natural world, and knowing there is something bigger beyond that holds us together as humans. It’s a sense of safety that allows me to breathe deeply and not live in fear.
My school had our “Quality Review” last week and in the months, weeks, and days leading up to it, life at work was tense and stressful–a constant balancing act of hearing about the politics of education and things I needed to check off my list to play the game and remembering to look at my students and see them as people and remembering why I love my job in the first place. On the second morning of the review, it started to snow pretty heavily. My stomach was still in the knots it curled into since September, so I decided to take a minute in each class and turn off the lights and direct my students’ eyes outside. We sat in silence and watched the snow fall for a few moments and took deep breaths. It was amazing. And healing.