My inner magpie
“Life beats down and crushes the soul,” said the great acting coach Stella Adler. “Art reminds you that you have a soul.”
I thought of that after seeing the made-in-Oklahoma movie “The Cherokee Word for Water.” This is the story of the late Wilma Mankiller, who became principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and Charlie Soap, who became her husband. They organized and inspired a small, poor community in eastern Oklahoma to voluntarily dig and install 16 miles of waterline. This brought running water to the town of Bell, Okla.
Of course, they didn’t do it alone. The Cherokee Nation and other donors and supporters were behind them, but these two people were the activists.
This is a feel-good movie that made me want to applaud. It had gentle humor and gentle sadness. The movie felt personal to me because it was shot in a landscape I know, eastern Oklahoma. I saw the resilient spirit of the Cherokee Nation, my own heritage. I saw quiet, courageous people coming together as a community.
I saw all of this and thought: I forgot how much I love turquoise jewelry!
Face it, I told myself, you’re never going to dig a waterline in the rocky soil of eastern Oklahoma or anywhere else. You’re part magpie and attracted to shiny objects.
So, enjoy who you are.
Recently I was assigned to a booth at the Episcopal Diocese’s state convention. My job was to hand out literature about the soup kitchen where I work. I showed up on time, a soldier about to do her duty, when what should I see but an American Indian jewelry booth right next door. No wonder I believe in miracles.
They didn’t take credit cards or checks.
“I’ve got to find an ATM booth,” I said.
“Ask the bishop,” said Mr. Whitebird, the artisan. “He knows where it is because he has already been here buying moccasins.”
It was Mr. Whitebird who told me lots about turquoise. It is a mineral related to copper. The bluer it is, the more copper; the greener, the more iron. I once bought a cheap turquoise ring so blue I suspect it was really a melted Clorox bottle.
When I did some research I discovered that the blue-green gem may have gotten the name turquoise from the French word for Turkey because some believed the stone came from that country. Really, it probably came from present day Iran or Egypt. In Iran, palaces were domed with turquoise because blue symbolized heaven on earth. Aristotle, Pliny and Marco Polo refer to turquoise.
In history, people wore turquoise as a talisman against death or evil. Turquoise is still thought to bring the wearer good luck, good fortune, wisdom, happiness and connection to the spirit world. One legend says that throwing a piece of turquoise into a river will bring rain.
Ancient Egyptians mined turquoise in the Sinai Peninsula, so it is logical that turquoise was found in the dry geography of the southwest United States, in states such as Arizona and New Mexico. Albuquerque has a turquoise museum.
According to American Indian legend, here’s how turquoise was formed: When the rains came, ancient peoples danced and wept for joy. Their teardrops mingled with raindrops and seeped into Mother Earth, where they became turquoise. It has been called skystone, pieces of the sky fallen to earth for our pleasure.
Ah, turquoise, the gem worn by Aztec kings and Jewish high priests and me.
The Cherokee word for thanks is wado. It is more than a cursory, “Hey, thanks a bunch.” Wado means a big, great, genuine, heartfelt thank-you.
I say wado for the wonderful little film “The Cherokee Word for Water.”
Wado for leaders who can bring people together as a community. And wado for turquoise.