Back to Stories

The Eternal Sacred Dwells In This Moment

Lois Red Elk writes and speaks using the ancient human language of the continent. In her latest poem, she offers a universal truth: Be present and aware in the here and now

About this artwork: "Adolescent Girls," a pastel by artist George Carlson of Tarahumara sisters living in the Copper Canyon of Mexico.
About this artwork: "Adolescent Girls," a pastel by artist George Carlson of Tarahumara sisters living in the Copper Canyon of Mexico.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It is mindbending when one thinks about it, the way in which we normalize our own (mis)perception. Every month for a few years now, Mountain Journal's wonderful "poet in residence" Lois Red Elk has been sharing her works which speak to the inseparable, indisguishable essence of physical presence and earthly spirt. Part of it involves the total interrelatedness of everything—the opposite, in many ways, of the human-centric world that views existence as us and everything else. Delightfully, Red Elk shares her native language, though to some the words and phrases are treated as foreign when, in fact, they are powerful descriptive sophisticated evolved and ancient language reference points carried forward and spoken for many thousands of years. In Lois's latest dispatch to us, below, enjoy the wonder and power of indigenous expression that will widen your thinking about place and landscape on this shared continent.  —Todd Wilkinson

By Lois Red Elk

Hello all MoJo Friends,

Love this time of year —harvest, school starts, settling in for next season, planning new projects, more serious writing. 

I come from a family of female dream interpreters, warriors, buffalo hunters, herbalists, medicine healers, police, judges, and educators. They shaped my life for the road I walk today. Their knowledge is always reflected in my writings. 

Once again, as a grandmother myself,I have been reflecting on my visits to my grandparents house lately and praying over all their teachings. They prepared for the change in season and saw these days as a time to be thankful. My Grandma Louise and Grandfather Paul High Back said that no matter what the hardships are, they are lessons to be learned and to be mindful that the present is always sacred. 

Always acknowledge and remember the sacred.  Be present in the present. After all that has happened this year—fire, pandemic, flood, death—there is always the sacred, the spirit that survives. What this means was shared with the family in stories after every ceremony I participated in and this tradition continues today. This poem is a sharing of several of those experiences.
"The Night Follows Close," (2008) a painting by George Carlson featured in the new biography "George Carlson: The American West" published by Rizzoli
"The Night Follows Close," (2008) a painting by George Carlson featured in the new biography "George Carlson: The American West" published by Rizzoli

The Eternal Sacred

by Lois Red Elk

I can always feel them approaching. The 
air begs to be inhaled a little deeper. A
movement among the leaves and petals
is slight but wanting. My head tilts for
the inner sound of a new stirring saying
these spirits are more familiar than the 
dreamlike. It is always after the smoke of
sage and sweet grass perforates my skin,
settles in my hair, encouraging my eyes
to see into their space. One time it was 
Tazuska, then Mato, then Mni, Today 
it is Kimimila. I walk out, toward the 
sweat lodge, find a seat among the logs. 
Kimimila follows. She was glad to see 
the Wakanyeja earlier, fluttered among 
their play, laughter and joy. Taku skanskan 
descends. It is delicate, takes this moment 
into eternity then returns with a fresh cloak 
sending all present anger and injury into 
non-existence. All that has life begins to
speak, their spirits glow, essence becomes 
mine. I sense the center of the trees move, 
inhale the message of plant roots, Kimimila
wings fan my mind toward understanding. 
“We are the Eternal Sacred, look for us in 
all you see living from Maka Unci, we are 
always here to restore your spirit.”  She
then flutters away, the cloke thins to air, to 
spirit, to remain eternally sacred.
©Lois Red Elk

Tazuska – Ant nation
Mato – Bear Nation
Mni – Water
Kimimila – Butterfly Nation
Wakanyeja – Children
Taku Skanskan – That Which Makes Everything Move
Maka Unci – Grandmother Earth

: We are pleased that Lois is working away on a new collection of poems and will let you know when it is published. In the meantime, ask for her other volumes at your favorite local bookseller: Our Blood Remembers, winner of the best non-fiction award from Woodcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers; Dragonfly Weather; and Why I Return to Makoce with a foreword from Montana's recent state poet laureate Lowell Jaeger and nominated for a High Plains Book Award in poetry.  Given headlines that continue to appear about the discoveries of new atrocities committed at boarding schools for indigenous children, we encourage you to read Lois' contribution to MoJo that appeared in June, The Unspeakable Past Of Indian Boarding Schools 

Make sure you never miss a Lois Red Elk poem by signing up for Mountain Journal's free weekly newsletter. Click here: 

Lois Red Elk-Reed
About Lois Red Elk-Reed

Lois Red Elk-Reed is a poet who calls the high plains home. She is Mountain Journal's poet in residence.
Increase our impact by sharing this story.
Defending Nature

Defend Truth &
Wild Places


Related Stories

October 10, 2021

The Trickster Renders Us Invisible
Lois Red Elk writes a poem about coyote that reminds how the essence of being is not material, but everything else ...

July 24, 2018

On Motherhood, Nativism And Immigration
Lois Red Elk offers two poems reminding that dreams of better lives are planted in the young