A Sacred Connection to the Sun Joy Harjo's Native American heritage taught her that the sun is a relative to be honored. The Muskogee Creek Nation poet believes that in doing so, we connect with nature and the sacredness of life.
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A Sacred Connection to the Sun

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A Sacred Connection to the Sun

A Sacred Connection to the Sun

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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Robert Smith.

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in mystery.

Unidentified Woman: I believe in family.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in being who I am.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the power of failure.

Unidentified Man #4: And I believe normal life is extraordinary. This I believe.

SMITH: For our series, This I Believe, we hear today from poet Joy Harjo. Harjo now divides her time between Hawaii and New Mexico. But she's a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: In her "Eagle Poem", Joy Harjo writes, to pray, you open your whole self: to sky, to earth, to sun, to moon. And it is in the heavens that Joy Harjo finds the belief that guides her life. Here she is with her essay for This I Believe.

Ms. JOY HARJO (Poet; Member, Muskogee Creek Nation; Resident, Honolulu, Hawaii): I believe in the sun. In the tangle of human failures of greed, fear, and forgetfulness, the sun gives me clarity. When explorers first encountered my people, they called us heathens, sun worshippers. They didn't understand that the sun is a relative and illuminates our path on this earth.

Many of us continue ceremonies that ensure a connection with the sun. After dancing all night in a circle, we realize that we are a part of a larger sense of stars and planets dancing with us overhead. When the sun rises at the apex of the ceremony, we are renewed. There is no mistaking this connection, though Wal-Mart might be just down the road. Humans are vulnerable and rely on the kindnesses of the earth and the sun; we exist together in a sacred field of meaning.

A few weeks ago I visited some friends at a pueblo for a feast day celebration. The runners were up at dawn and completed a ceremonial race that ensures that the sun will continue to return. It is a humble and necessary act of respect. And because the celebration continues, the sun, the earth and these humans are still together in a harmonious relationship.

Our earth is shifting. We can all see it. I hear from my Inuit and Yupik relatives up north that everything has changed. It's so hot. There is not enough winter. Animals are confused. Ice is melting.

The quantum physicists have it right; they are beginning to think like Indians: Everything is connected dynamically at an intimate level. When you remember this, then the current wobble of the earth makes sense. How much more oil can be drained without replacement, without reciprocity?

One day, recently I walked out of a hotel room just off Times Square at dawn to find the sun. It was the fourth morning since the birth of my fourth granddaughter. This was the morning I was to present her to the sun, as a relative, as one of us. It was still dark, overcast as I walked through Times Square. I stood beneath a 21st century totem pole of symbols of multinational corporations, made of flash and neon.

The sun rose up over the city, but I couldn't see it amidst the rain. Though I was not at home, bundling up the baby to carry her outside, I carried this newborn girl within the cradleboard of my heart. I held her up and presented her to the sun, so she would be recognized as a relative, so that she won't forget this connection, this promise, so that we all remember the sacredness of life.

ALLISON: Joy Harjo with her essay for This I Believe.

All are invited to write for our series. You can find out all about it at npr.org/thisibelieve or call toll free 888-577-9977. Fort This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

SMITH: Next week on npr.org, a This I Believe essay from Jeffrey Hollender, CEO of the household products company Seventh Generation, on the belief he's trying to hold on to since his brother's suicide.

This I Believe is independently produced by Jay Allison, Dan Gediman, John Gregory, Viki Merrick and Emily Botein.

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