Change of Heart

Change of Heart

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March 15, 2012
 

In his book Winterkill, Craig Lesley’s Umatilla/Nez Perce protagonist makes reference to the hairstyle of what he calls “the dreamers” who lived in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon where I went camping in the pine forests as a kid–the dream world where the renowned Chief Joseph and his people raised appaloosas and watched blueback salmon come home to Wallowa Lake, having surmounted the now defunct Celilo Falls in the Columbia River Gorge and made their way up the Snake and Grande Ronde tributaries.

Studying humanities and leadership in graduate school, I remember remarking on this hairstyle when viewing a photo of Joseph taken after, I believe, his famous retreat during the military campaign executed to prevent the Nez Perce from escaping to sanctuary in Canada. A fascinating story in itself, my thoughts as I read the passage from Winterkill were not only the memory of the darling appaloosa mare who was part of our family for fifteen years, but also the deferential tone implied in the term dreamer that in American culture is treated in a derogatory fashion.

Reading this, I recalled being called myself a dreamer by my elderly Irish friend Patrick when I was just twenty-one and not feeling it was a derisive comment, and at fifty-nine I wonder why it is that Americans are averse to dream and afraid of those who do–especially when all the root nations from whence we came treated dreaming with reverence and respect. But I suppose that is a question to be left unanswered until a change of heart transpires between us and the landscape we inhabit and the new stories we then tell about the dreams that were buried in the mountains and have since washed down the many rivers of this land.

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