Reverence For Life Through Nature

For instrumental music while reading, choose: hi-fi (broadband) or low-fi.

A few years ago, Janey and I were walking along a deserted beach on the Pacific side of Mexico. A lone figure approached us, and as we converged, we struck up an easy conversation. She felt like an old friend. It wasn’t long before we had made plans for a campfire beach dinner of local fish, rice and fruit.

It was her birthday, so we offered to provide an impromptu concert after dinner to help celebrate.

It was a wonderful evening. We were accompanied by Chis, a marvelous harmonica player and percussionist from New Zealand, and Jake, an accomplished guitarist and didgeridoo player from the U.K. The music was magical.

As the evening progressed, we learned more about our fascinating birthday girl. She was a multi-faceted jewel shining bright with a rare depth and beauty. I immediately appreciated her grasp of common-sense spiritual principles and her rock-solid dedication to her inner guidance. She was wise, worldly, and other-worldly, all at the same time. I recognized her as a shaman of the Native North Americans. We learned her name: Spirit Walker Standing.

At the end of the evening, as I was packing up my guitar, she approached me with a well-worn scrap of paper in her outstretched hand. She said, “These words came to me a couple of months ago, and I haven’t known what to do with them. Now, I know I’m supposed to give them to you.”

On the paper was written about a dozen words including the phrase, “story belt.” It made no sense to me. She explained a story belt is a tool that helps a shaman keep track of all the people of the tribe, as well as past generations. It’s a tool of remembrance – each person is represented by a colorful bead on the story belt. She is called “the keeper of the bones” for her people, and this is traditionally done with a story belt.

“A people without history is like wind on the buffalo grass.” – Sioux Native American Proverb

The next day, first thing, I grabbed my guitar and the scrap of paper, and a song simply poured out in about fifteen minutes. I showed it to Janey and after another few minutes, she had the perfect harmony vocal and dulcimer part.

We were eager and excited to show Spirit Walker Standing what her scrap of paper had grown into, so we walked to her camp with instruments in tow. We met her about half way — she was walking toward our camp. Janey said, “We have a new song for you.” The reply came, “I was thinking you might.”

Once again, we were delighted by her uncanny timing and nonchalance, although by now, we were no longer surprised by it. (Curious coincidences are a regular occurrence around Spirit Walker Standing.)

As we played the song for her, she went deep into the music, and into herself. As she concentrated, listening fully, I noticed her face seemed to morph until she looked completely different. She settled into a very peaceful place, deep within. As the song came to an end, she surfaced just long enough to ask us to sing it again. And then again.

The song obviously struck a cord with her, so I wanted to find a way to record it, then and there on the beach, so she could take the song with her. Things kept falling into place to make it easy for us to make a good quality recording that evening. (Again, we weren’t surprised.)

Jake just happened to have a DAT recorder with him in his backpack. We had an assortment of microphones, cords, and a mixer from our stage set-up, so in the spirit and tradition of Mexican ingenuity, we cobbled together a rustic recording studio . . . right there on the beach. We recorded the song that night, complete with guitar, dulcimer, didgeridoo, harmonica, percussion and harmony vocals.

We presented Spirit Walker Standing with the digital master and a cassette copy of the new song titled, “Story Belt,” but felt like it was we who were given a valuable gift.

We went our separate ways until a few months later, when we were able to spend a few more days together in a charming little stone village named Real de Catorce in north central Mexico. She explained how the song had been put to good use since the last time we were together.

One of the many humanitarian activities Spirit Walker Standing was coordinating was a gathering of the shamans. At her request, they had come from all over North and South America for the purpose of consecrating an area of spiritual importance. They were also likely comparing and combining their wisdom for reasons beyond my current understanding. Spirit Walker Standing was hosting the proceedings and began by playing the song, “Story Belt,” three times in a row. She said it set the tone for the gathering.

Once again, I was touched and amazed by this intriguing person (but still not surprised). Of all the awards and recognition available to singers and songwriters, this experience of “Story Belt” will forever remain in the most prominent and reverent place in my heart. What an honor!

Spirit Walker Standing received a spark of inspiration for this song and was interested and disciplined enough to write it down, and when the time came, pass it on to me. She felt something powerful, deep, and important through this song but it was I who received the most valuable gift . . .

· The birthing of this song helped me to remember the oneness we all share with all people and all things.

· It allowed me to reaffirm the magic and wonder of life . . . experienced through communing with nature.

· It allowed me to revisit my strong connection with the natural world and experience the awe and wonder of life and the oneness with nature.

· The entire experience of “Story Belt” reminded me that we are all one with each other and one with life . . . inner-connected. How many of us are there? One.

· These bodies are all hallow vessels, suitable to temporarily host what is known as the Great Spirit in the Native American tradition. When we get out of the way and let it flow, miracles happen.

If you chose to listen to the background, instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article, you have been hearing “Blue Sky Traveler / Story Belt” from the CD entitled, “Celestial Sounds of Harmony and Light — Volume One.” (Spirit Walker Standing handed me a scrap of paper one other time and said, “You have some beautiful instrumental music in you too, and here’s the title.” When I unfolded the scrap of paper, I saw only six words: “Celestial Sounds of Harmony and Light.”)

As of this writing, there are now two “Celestial Sounds” Cds: Volume One and Volume Two.

The version of “Story Belt” with the lyrics ended up on our CD entitled, “Here Like a River.” You can listen to the song by clicking the link above or at the end of this article.

Story Belt

A bead in a story belt, it is as I was told.
It was the way of the people,
It’s just as it has always been.
And I am only a bead, a bead in a story,
A bead in a story belt am I.

And I am a reed, a reed in the river,
A hollow reed.
It’s just as it has always been.
And I am only a reed, a reed in the river,
A reed in the river of life am I.

And I am a song, a song that’s singing me.
A song of the people,
It’s just as it has always been.
And I am only a song, a song of the people,
A song of the people, singing me.

- from the song, “Story Belt,” by Spirit Walker Standing and Tupelo Kenyon

Reverence for Nature

Janey and I both have always loved the peaceful inspiration offered by the wilderness. We have traveled to many incredible, remote places through the years and have made our homes far from the clamor and pollution of cities. Our sense of home is a peaceful place in the country, a few miles from a small village. We have insisted on this way of life since we first met in the mid ’70’s in Kodiak, Alaska. Since then, we have built cozy homes in out-of-the-way places including Monaska Bay on Kodiak Island, Spruce Island, and Homer, Alaska, the Big Island of Hawaii, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, and now in the Little Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. (We like to say that we had to move to Wyoming because Alaska got too crowded.)

As I write this article, I am on the beach, at the end of the road, outside of the charming little fishing village of Charlottesville on the island of Tobago, a few miles northeast of South America, in the Caribbean,. The wild, unspoiled places nurture creativity and make it easier to stay in touch with the things that really matter.

“Hills are always more beautiful that stone buildings, you know. Living in a city is an artificial existence. Lots of people hardly ever feel real soil under their feet, see plants grow except in flower pots, or get far enough beyond the street lights to catch the enchantment of a night sky studded with stars. When people live far from the scenes of the Great Spirit’s making, it’s easy for them to forget his laws.” — Walking Buffalo, Tatanga Mani, Stoney Indian

Even when surrounded by these serene “scenes of the Great Spirit’s making,” it is all too apparent to see evidence of man’s short-sightedness. It seems as if many of today’s world leaders and corporate CEOs treat the earth and her natural resources as if this is the last generation who will ever need them.

“In our way of life, in our government, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seventh Generation to come. It’s our job to see that the people coming ahead, the generations still unborn, have a world no worse than ours — and hopefully better. When we walk upon Mother Earth, we always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.” — Oren Lyons, the Onondaga Faithkeeper

I wonder how long we can keep behaving as if future generations don’t matter before harming the planet irreparably. For instance, in the last few weeks, I have been to some very remote beaches in Trinidad and Tobago, rarely visited by humans. Still, human trash preceded me to these otherwise pristine jewels of nature. The same scene of careless litter has met us on the beaches of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Hawaii and even Alaska.

We spent the last couple of days with new friends Dan and Sandra, who have been circumnavigating the planet in their sailboat, Mariposa, for the last fifteen years. They reported seeing disheartening heaps of human garbage accumulating in the most remote places on earth, including isolated atolls hundreds of miles from human habitation. Our litterbug mentality is no longer threatening just where we live. Our garbage is literally filling the far-flung corners of the earth.

“We do not inherit the land, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

Thirsty for a Better Idea

One quick example of blatant short-sightedness: One human is thirsty at a particular hour on a particular day at a particular place. He buys a plastic bottle filled with water. It takes about one minute for that one person to quince that one thirst. The bottle is tossed away, and quickly forgotten. Eventually it ends up in one of the world’s oceans, rolling on the waves for a few years and then coming to rest on a beach far away, decorating it with a 21st century motif for thousands of years.

Multiply that scenario by billions of people, each thirsty again and again throughout their days, throughout their lives, and the number of plastic bottles used once, then discarded to litter the planet is beyond comprehension. Is that really the best we can do? Doesn’t anyone have a better idea? Aren’t we smarter than that? How many years of this will it take for our beaches to be a foot deep in plastic bottles? Three feet deep? Will we find a better idea then?

How about this? Invent a new kind of plastic that doesn’t last forever. As long as the bottle is full of water, the bottle is impervious. As soon as the bottle is opened and air comes into contact with the inside of the bottle, a chemical reaction takes place and the plastic begins to break down in a reasonable amount of time, a year or two. I’m no chemist, but something like this should be possible. Consider it a challenge — here’s a million dollar idea – somebody needs to come up with a better idea than millions of discarded plastic water bottles lasting for centuries.

“Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.” – Red Jacket, Seneca Native American

Sharing the Planet

It’s not all about us humans, although we like to think it is. Other creatures, great and small, are also manifestations of the Great Spirit, and they are also paying dearly for our carelessness . . . with their very lives.

We recently witnessed the ancient magic of a 700 pound leatherback turtle laboring up the beach to dig her nest, lay her eggs, camouflage the nest, and then return to the sea. These majestic creatures have a life span as long or longer than humans, but just one plastic bag can cut their life short. They feed on jellyfish and easily mistake our litter for lunch. It just takes one to end the life of one of these marvelous, endangered reptiles who have flourished on this planet for eons before man showed up. And now, there are millions of plastic bags floating in our oceans.

Is our consumable, throw-away society more important to us that the creatures we share the planet with? How many more species have to become extinct before we become more responsible? Do we really understand that extinct means forever?

“To honor and respect means to think of the land and the water and plants and animals who live here as having a right equal to our own to be here. We are not the supreme and all-knowing beings, living at the top of the pinnacle of evolution, but in fact we are members of the sacred hoop of life, along with the trees and rocks, the coyotes and the eagles and fish and toads, that each fulfills its purpose. They each perform their given task in the sacred hoop, and we have one, too.” — Wolf Song of the Abenaki tribe

What is our given task . . . our purpose in the sacred hoop of life? That purpose is unique to each one of us who cares enough to ask the question and look inside deeply enough to discover it.

Our race appears to be at an important crossroads, right now, in our lifetime. We have the opportunity to choose like never before in human history. We have the opportunity for education. We can learn. We can know more than ever before, thanks to this rapidly growing age of information. But, we must remember that all knowledge doesn’t come from books. The quiet and peaceful places in nature can teach us important life lessons and help put us in touch with our true selves . . . not the selves that are the shallow byproducts of current societies and cultures, but the deep, everlasting self who we have in common and share, in spite of the short-comings of whatever culture we happened to be born into.

“Oh yes, I went to the white man’s schools. I learned to read from school books, newspapers, and the Bible. But in time, I found that these were not enough. Civilized people depend too much on man-made printed pages. I turn to the Great Spirit’s book, which is the whole of creation. You can read a big part of that book if you study nature. You know, if you take all your books, lay them out under the sun, and let the snow and rain and insects work on them for awhile, there will be nothing left. But the Great Spirit has provided you and me with an opportunity to study in nature’s university the forest, the rivers, the mountains and the animals which includes us.” – Walking Buffalo, Tatanga Mani, Stoney Indian

I feel that my life has been greatly enriched by the opportunity to study in the school of nature. It is also a constant reminder of the abundance available to all of us. Just look around at the diversity and tenacity of life as expressed through nature. What we see out there is not something separate from ourselves that operates with an entirely different set of rules. It’s all part of one thing, one reality, one nature . . . and we are very much a part of that oneness. I sincerely hope that awareness of the divinity of nature will continue to grow and people will once again revere and honor mother earth, jus as our wise native ancestors have, for thousands of years.


“The Indian loved to worship.
From birth to death he revered his
Surroundings. He considered
Himself born in the luxurious lap
Of Mother Earth and no place to
Him was humble. There as nothing
Between him and the Big Holy.
The contact was immediate and
Personal and the blessings of
Wakan Tanka flowed over the
Indian like rain showered
From the sky.”

- Luther Standing Bear, Ogallala Sioux chief

Wakan Tanka is simply another word for God, the Great Spirit. The word may be new to us but the idea of spirit flowing over us like rain showered from the sky is a universal understanding expressed by people all over the world.

Experience is the Key

Book learning is shallow. Politics, philosophies and even religions tear us apart more often than bring us together. It’s up to individuals like us to get beyond the words, get beyond the dogma, get beyond the minds of men with their short-sighted agendas, and experience the oneness we share on this tiny blue ball, forever streaking through endless space.

Each one of us comes to the planet alone and we leave alone. We are each “only a bead in the story belt” of life. That is the outer appearance.

Beyond appearances, we all share something profound. We share this incredible place we call home and take for granted — planet Earth. And we share this sense of aliveness, this awareness of “I am.”

We, as a people, are diverse, but through one of the greatest enigmas of all time, we are also one.

· Here’s hoping, as a race of people, we continue waking up to that fact, and then behave toward one another and our planet accordingly.

· Here’s hoping we learn to act as if the Great Spirit in all things really matters.

· And here’s hoping we learn to act as if “Good planets are hard to find” . . . before it’s too late.

Look at our brokenness.
We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the sacred way.
We know that we are the ones
Who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the sacred way
Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion, honor
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.

- Ojibway prayer, author unknown

While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.

Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.

Related Songs
Story Belt
Celebrates the importance of keeping things in perspective while being a part of the bigger picture.

Deep Sea Blue
A simple love song to the wonders of nature in general, and mother ocean in particular.

Songs by Tupelo

Related Links

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The Trouble with TV
Does TV enhance our life experience or get in the way of living our lives? Celebrate life with this refreshing perspective on the boob tube.

Being Present through Sensuality
The idea is to occasionally turn off the senses in order to better tune into the aliveness that lies beyond them. The realization that there is something beyond the world of the five senses can provide an “aha” experience, especially at first. With the senses turned off (or even turned down), there remains a vibrant sense of aliveness – the world of feeling and the realm of being.

Your Passion as Your Compass
Allow your passions to stretch their wings and the direction of your life could surprise you – in a good way. Celebrate life with passion!

Articles by Tupelo

This is the end of the article entitled Reverence For Life Through Nature published by Tupelo Kenyon on May 11, 2007 at 6:00 am | In Awareness, Music - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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