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Reflections on Sacred Places
Note: This is the third in a series of personal accounts, by people of various backgrounds, commenting on their own experiences and their own feelings about issues related to sacred places. The place described in this poem is Oheyawahi or Pilot Knob, an ancient burial place and sacred site for Dakota people in Dakota County, Minnesota.
-June 26, 2005
Ancestors are Woven in the Fabric
Clothes hanging on a line
The breath of ancestors twisting and turning the fabric
40 years ago my mother and I washed clothes in a wringer washer
40 years ago I hung wash on this line
Hanging clothes on a line with clothespins
The dust of the ancients mingling in the threads
The flesh and bone that swirls in the air
Goes back beyond white man’s record of time
The Grandmother gently cautions me;
“Make sure you do your best to conserve;
this is the best use of the pins,
place them in a way to make the best use of space.”
Dancing between the lines;
The Re-membering of
Hands and Feet
Muscle and Tendons
Eyes that see this world and others beyond
This time and place.
Grandmother is lively and ever so patient with her children
I feel her warmth and comfort in this sacred place in between
She gives a knowing smile and a nod
She knows how to make the work purposeful.
Grandmother, still here, steady as a rock.
Now the pants legs dance a sacred dance
The sun and the wind work their magic
Like the way they hugged the bodies of ancestors
Comforted in a hide that would later be part of the dirt
My work is getting lighter and I find myself singing
As I hang my clothes
Where did this song come from?
It is not one I learned in school.
Is it from an ancestral prayer?
Only Grandmother knows for sure
As she gives me a wink and
Vanishes under the billowing sheets.
Jeanne Souldern lived with her family north of Acacia Cemetery, on Pilot Knob Road from 1964 through 1967. The house they lived in was once a tavern, Kate's, that had been converted in rental property. The poem has its roots in her experience of washing clothes on Saturday mornings with her mother and hanging the wash out on the clothesline. Even at a tender young age she understood the place was magical. She is also a current member of the Pilot Knob Preservation Association.
The house on Pilot Knob Road where Jeanne Pinette-Souldern lived between 1964
and 1967. The photograph was taken from an airplane, in 1959.
Minnesota Historical Society photograph.