TCS: Stealing Time

Good Morning!


Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

“Someone had been digging. Someone had been looting. A pot hunter. A Thief of Time.”

― Tony Hillerman,
A Thief of Time


It’s said you can’t turn back time, and yet we do it every year. Yesterday, we got back the hour we “lost” last spring.  Everything from now until March 11 next year will happen in “regular” time in the U.S.A.

Discontent with the way things are — that’s as “American as apple pie.”  We want the newest, and we want more of it, and it’s got to be better and faster. For almost 250 years, it’s made us excel at competition and innovation, but it’s also landed us in troubles that are cumulative, and the ever-growing bill for them is coming due fast.

November is Native American Heritage Month, a good time to take a look at some of the peoples who were here first, and who are still here, the ones that Columbus mistakenly dubbed Indians.

Tony Hillerman, one of my favorite mystery writers, isn’t a Native American, but spent many years learning and writing about the Diné, who were renamed “Navajo” by the Spanish. Hillerman’s books are a small but fascinating window into another America.

“From where we stand the rain seems random. If we could stand somewhere else, we would see the order in it.”

― Tony Hillerman, Coyote Waits

“Terrible drought, crops dead, sheep dying. Spring dried up. No water. The Hopi, and the Christian, maybe the Moslem, they pray for rain. The Navajo has the proper ceremony done to restore himself to harmony with the drought. You see what I mean. The system is designed to recognize what’s beyond human power to change, and then to change the human’s attitude to be content with the inevitable.”

— Tony Hillerman, Sacred Clowns


Here’s a more direct source:

When Roots Are Exposed

by Esther Belin


The empty of stomach
manifests silence
a stillness
that levels
coffee in a cup
and in a respectful manner
allows steam to penetrate
the surface.
Reversal of action
has created my sandstone canyon
rooted cedar and sage at my feet.
This movement is where
a tranquility stems.


When my child creates
bubbles through a soapy wand,
I occupy the action of fate
that bursts the perfect form.
A halcyon absorbed
nesting within
the existence of the form
that no longer exists.
The formless form
is where my mind floats.


It is easy to give form
especially with English words
a promotion of mechanical ligaments
binding spirit with assembly-fabricated molds.
Just as my hair poses an appendage of my brain
my tongue poses an appendage of my heart.
I cannot classify this thought as a typewritten symbol.
An ideogram of essence
cultivates my stillness to action.

“When Roots Are Exposed” from From the Belly of My Beauty, © 1999 by Esther Belin – University of Arizona Press

Esther Belin (1968 – ) is a Diné multimedia artist and writer who grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her first poetry collection, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Her second book, Of Cartography: Poems, just came out last month.

Belin’s parents were relocated from the Southwest in the 1950s as part of the federal Indian relocation policy, and her work reflects the experience of a Native American living in urban Los Angeles. The attempts to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American culture, as well as racism, alienation, and substance abuse are frequent themes in her work. In a 2000 interview for SAIL (Studies in American Indian Literatures) Belin said, “I see myself as an interpreter of what happened in my parents’ generation, and I want to let people know about their experiences, especially with boarding schools and relocation. I see my books as an anthropological text—telling what it’s like for Native people.”


The complex patchwork of reservations, in the “Four Corners” area, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. 


Tsé Bii Ndzisgaii, “Clearing Among the Rock” — Monument Valley




The Diné were luckier than many other Native Americans — the first white Americans who came into their land thought it was ugly and desolate. It didn’t arouse white greed or envy, so more of the land the Diné hold sacred has remained theirs. But they are having to fight to keep it unscarred now, as outside pressure for change and exploitation keeps building. And the monetary value of ancient artifacts left behind by the mysterious people who inhabited the area long before the Diné keeps spiking, drawing pot hunters, who destroy the fragile evidence at archaeological sites in their searches, Hillerman’s ‘thieves of time.’


 In our obsession with “exact time,” an entirely artificial construct, we stomp right through the endless dance space of the real Time, which has no second hand, and spins majestically on, ignoring all our attempts to control it.


What’s taking up your time today? 


About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 45 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband and a bewildered Border Collie.
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