Symbolic Totem Pole

Bird Droppings January 30, 2022

Symbolic Totem Pole

Growing up in my family, my father had made numerous totem poles in our backyards over the years. Each was painted images of creatures. Eagles, bears, wolves adorned the totem poles. The last one was torn down or fell only a few years ago. In Cub Scouts, when I was eight years old, we made balsa wood totems carved with our scout knives. I have depicted totems in my artwork over the years. Perhaps that is what intrigued me about this exercise.

It has been some time since I even accessed my Myspace account. I borrowed this from a friend on myspace years ago because I liked the idea. The point is to list the ten things, people, animals, concepts, etc. Which are of the most value in your life? Like my friend Tikarma, I have listed the things I treasure in the traditional Native American way. So, here is the totem pole I have built with words. As I have already said, the essential elements are listed at the bottom of the pole. I decided which things belonged on my list before I put them in order, and putting them in order took ten times more time and effort than writing them.

We live in this world as a matter of symbols. Around us are symbols in many shapes and forms. Before they could read, my children knew the golden arches of McDonald’s. I found a book a few years back while searching for another book actually in Barnes and Noble. The book is titled The Sacred Tree and is written by several Native authors who put the book together to assist Native youth in recovering their past.

“Symbols express and represent meaning. Meaning helps provide purpose and understanding in the lives of human beings. Indeed to live without symbols is to experience existence far short of its full meaning; Ways of expression and representing meaning include the symbols systems of mathematics, spoken and written language, and the arts.” The Sacred Tree p. 8

I am not tagging anyone, but I recommend this self-examination exercise. It is always surprising to discover where our hearts, souls, and values lie in the scheme of what we deem necessary in our lives. If any of you do this, please send me a note. I would like to read what you write – bird

10. Gardening has become a point of reference for me over the past few years, and my herb garden is a meditative point in my life.

9. Photography has been a crucial part of my life for forty years or more, and the many tens of thousands of images I have taken and saved are each a piece of who I am. Often, I will go back and look at old black and white photos from the late 1960s and ponder the moment.

8. Understanding and patience have been a blessing for me as I deal with students and people I have met in life.

7. A sense of humor is perhaps a bit far away from the starting point but essential to being a human being and being a good teacher.

6. The ability to read and write would be next on my list as these are integral to what I do daily.

5. Education and learning are essential to me, and I do not see myself stopping any time soon. In being a learner, I find I can teach better.

4. My extended family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws are scattered about the country and are always in my thoughts and wanderings.

3. My mother and father had influenced me, directed me, and aided me when I was in need and when I was not. Along with this are my immediate family, brothers and sisters, all of the nieces and nephews, and grand nieces and nephews. This, too, would lead me to my brother John who has been an inspiration and blessing though he never spoke in all of his years. He led the way to Georgia those many years ago and influenced each member of my family in so many ways.

2. My family is of utmost importance to me as I walk this earth. My grandchildren, sons, and wife all have special meaning, and I cherish each moment I have with each of them.

1. The sacredness of all and empathy for all within. That would be where I would start my totem. That is what I treasure the most in life, and through it, I can more fully grasp all else about me. I consider all sacred and have come to this over many years of searching for that sacredness of all and for all that is a driving force in my life.

I first did this nearly twelve years ago, and many of my words have gone unchanged. Take a moment and try jotting down the top ten items for your symbolic totem pole. Today I have been pondering a bit much as I have gone through the day will you please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)


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