Blog #36 Another Yellow Woman Story

Posted on : 26-04-2010 | By : Lynn | In : Uncategorized

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As told by a part English, part Scotch, questionable Apache, questionable Northern European woman….

This week, our American Literature class read “Yellow Woman” by Leslie Marmon Silko. In this story, “Silko also explores the nature and function of storytelling, which in Laguna (Pueblo) culture, she has observed, is “a whole way of seeing yourself, the people around you, your life, the place in the bigger context, not just in term of nature and location but in termsof what has gone before, what’s happened to other people. It’s a whole way of being”. L. Silko – Storytller (1981).

“Many stories about the Kochininako, Yellow Woman, a powerful female figure, are always told from her point of view, and are part of the Laguna and Acoma Pueblo cultures of New Mexico.” The Bedford Anthology of American Literature Vol II, P.1474, 2008.

As I understand the basic cosmology of the Pueblo people, it is the belief that life (humans, plants, animals, rock, water, etc.) are an interdependent web of all existence and that nothing and no one exists in isolation. You’ve probably heard the saying about how a butterfly flapping its wing on one side of the planet can cause a sunami on the opposite side. We are all connected in other words.

In the Pueblo tradition of the Yellow Woman, she is usually either kidnapped or runsaway with a man/spirit and usually has some task that she has to do and always returns with something to benefit the tribe. Our Prof explained today that some of the common elements of the Yellow Woman stories are that the woman always goes away with another male figure (not her husband) moves somewhere else and mediates this movement between two worlds which brings about change and renewed balance to the Pueblo people. I should add that Pueblo people are one kind of Native American peoples who have never been displaced (as told by this Professor).

It would be easy for me, a white middle-aged, middle class woman, to interpret this story in a way that Leslie Silko did not mean (or at least I don’t believe that was her intent in this story) and that would be of a new mom with a husband who is living with her mother and anxious to get away who falls into the waiting arms of “another man”. The way the story is written, there is a sensual element woven throughout in her description of the Katsina Spirit (mountain spirit man) who she “wakes up” with near the river at the beginning of the story, after an apparent night of love making. But when the woman tries to recall the evening, all she can remember was him all around her–not the specifics (and I don’t know about you, but I usually have no problem recalling the specifics…).

I too believe that we are all connected and that what one of us does affects/effects others in ways we may know or never know. I also believe that when we humans can move beyond the reptilian portion of our brain’s interpretation of sex, we can move into the overall sensousness of all that we are connected to that is around and within us.

There have been times in my life that I have felt the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and the ground under my feet with such intense feeling that I have felt as if I could disappear into an infinite number of dots in the sky and just become one with all that is. I know I’ve felt this running along the Netanya, shoreline in Israel. But, I’ve also felt overpowered by the sheer beauty of our own backyard in the early morning hours when the birds are all first waking up and establishing territories, or swimming laps mid-day and becoming hypnotized by the sun sparkling on the waves in the pool to the expansive night sky with the breeze moving the Cottonwood Tree’s leaves. It’s times like this that I go lay out on our diving board and just gaze up into the sky with gratitude for this feeling and my arms wide open.

I’ve had the other kind of Yellow Woman story too, the one where that I used to have a lot about year five or six of my marriage, where I would shuck everything and run away to New Mexico. For some reason, it was always New Mexico and I’d always get a job as a waitress (?!?!) and look like Flo wearing a polyester pastel pink or blue uniform with a pencil stuck behind my ear and cattail glasses. Don’t ask, I think my fantasizer is broken… But I digress, I think this kind of Yellow Woman story is really just the beginning before maturing into what is truly a Yellow Woman story that can benefit all.

What Yellow Woman stories do you know of and pass on for others to learn by?

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