Part Two: Carol Hand interview: River Teeth

By Lara Trace Hentz

(Part 2) My extended interview with Carol Hand (Anishinabe Elder Scholar)

The Prophet, a book that changed minds and lives

One book you mentioned in the article “Living in the Space Between Cultures” was The Prophet. How did that one book affect you and change your life view? I know it changed me when I read it.

CAROL HAND: Trace, let me begin answering your question by citing a brief passage from the essay I wrote for Jeff Nguyen’s blog, Deconstructing Myths (http://deconstructingmyths.com/2014/01/11/mic-check-carol-a-hand/). (NOTE: PLEASE READ THIS)

“Because I grew up between two cultures, I never felt that I really belonged to either. There were no family members or classmates or teachers to serve as guides to teach me how to walk in two worlds. But I quickly learned that the liminal space between cultures is often a lonely place to live.”

How does a child, teenager, or young adult come to terms with the feeling that one never quite belongs anywhere? I suspect from reading your memoire, One Small Sacrifice, that you understand this feeling all too well.

Gibran’s eloquence and depth helped me realize that others shared this experience. While other authors spoke of this existential sense of aloneness (e.g., Camus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus , Sartre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus , Dostoyevsky http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyodor_Dostoyevsky , and Flaubert http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Flaubert ), The Prophet touched my heart and helped me realize that this sense of aloneness was shared by many others in different times and different cultures.

Now as I look back on some of the “river teeth” experiences that made me feel different I am amused (http://carolahand.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/the-fools-prayer/ ), although other experiences were excruciatingly painful at the time (https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/reflections-on-river-teeth/ ). In retrospect I am grateful for the lessons I learned and grateful that I found Gibran’s work. His writing offers wisdom and hope.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/khalilgibr386848.html)

Overall, I have learned to accept this existential sense of difference with humor and humility, knowing that much of the pain and suffering in the world comes from trying to escape the reality that we are all ultimately alone. We are all unique. Each one of us has unique gifts to offer if we are willing to take the risk to express who we really are and care enough to face the possibility of rejection and ridicule.

Gibran’s work continues to be an important source of guidance in my life.

“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where the sunset left us.

Even while the earth sleeps we travel.

We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and scattered.” (Kahlil Gibran, pp. 82-83).

Chi Miigwetch for asking this important question, Trace. I hope my answer does it justice and conveys my gratitude that as wonderers, our paths have brought us together.

 

Note: River teeth are the hard resinous knots that are all that remain after the softer wooden fibers of pine trees have been dissolved by the river waters into which they have fallen. (David James Duncan, 2006). Applied to life, they are the memories that remain decades later as transformative experiences and epiphanies.

Works Cited:

Duncan, J. D. (2006). River Teeth: Stories and writings. New York, NY: Dial Press Trade Paperbacks.

Kahlil Gibran (2002). The Prophet. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

(to be continued) NEXT POST will be Dec. 20 (4 parts)

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