Recently I've been a bit quiet here. In part because I've had some things happening in my life and heart during the last few months (as viewers of my paintings and readers of my poems probably guessed), but also because I've been investigating my ancestry a bit more, and it's not turning out the way I expected. At least not yet.
So I've been doing some soul-searching, and just have been quiet and cautious. And doubtful.
I've written before about the fear of "missing pieces", but finding some new evidence that makes a heritage you thought you had look less likely... well, it shakes you a bit, makes you question what you thought you felt and heard and experienced, and generally just brings back fears that you thought you'd gotten past.
Besides writing a pair of poems (here and here) I've only shared my fears and feelings in private with a few uncles and a friend. The uncles have been reassuring and encouraging as always.
Uncle Randy Woodley wrote me something that lodges deep inside and brings tears from deep inside:
"If your ancestors are calling you, there is nothing more that needs to be proven. It does not change our relationship with them, the earth, our stories, our ceremonies, etc. Same Creator still speaks in the same ways. Dreams from the plants and animals still visit us. Creator Jesus speaks through everything and sometimes nothing. The point is just to accept it and live with a good heart, teach your children in the good ways and be of service to your community, whether Indian or not. Being Cherokee is being and doing but never fearing what another says about you. Nothing to prove, just something to live..."It's the part about being called by the ancestors that gets me. Even more than being called by the Creator, interestingly. (I must ask Him about that in the future...)
I think back to the experiences... the "welcome(s) home", hearing my ancestors, and more. There is a warmth and a love in there that, while it doesn't quench all my doubts, nevertheless does help and fill me in some way.
Parallel to all of this I've been struggling with illustrating a book project I took on two years ago a few months after all of this began for me. When I first read the story I was impressed and deeply moved. It was beautiful and I could hear something in it calling—the Creator, my ancestors and the ancestors of many, and the voices of the spirits of living elders. I was honored to be asked to participate in the project.
But it was more challenging than I had anticipated—calling for a different kind of painting than anything I had done before. I was stumped and stunted. In the two years since I tried making some paintings but wasn't satisfied, except for one. And I felt terrible because I knew people were waiting and depending on me. I questioned a lot whether Creator had called me to illustrate the project or not.
Last week when praying I realized that my uncertainty about being called to the project paralleled my uncertainty about my heritage. They were tied together.
Because of doubts about my heritage and lack of proof about that, I've pulled back in a way instead of more fully "diving in", and stayed in places that I knew were more "safe", so to speak.
And for me, illustrating the book requires that I "dig deep" to see those paintings in my spirit. But I couldn't fully "dive in" because I couldn't fully dive into my heritage... for fear that it wasn't there.
As I took that fear to Creator, I could finally hear Him tell me that He had called me to the project, just like He called me into my heritage. He's calling me to dig deep into both. And as I do, the paintings will come (two more have come already, and it's already lighter and easier for me to work on the paintings).
He told me not to be afraid. I'm praying that the pictures He brings out of my spirit it will be a sign that in parallel, my heritage will also be brought out.