Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is it because I grew up with this that the air of late October seems especially thin to me and the saints seem especially present?

Yep, sonny this is sure enough Injun summer. Don't know what that is, I reckon, do you? Well, that's when all the homesick Injuns come back to play; You know, a long time ago, long afore yer granddaddy was born even, there used to be heaps of Injuns around here—thousands—millions, I reckon, far as that's concerned. Reg'lar sure 'nough Injuns—none o' yer cigar store Injuns, not much. They wuz all around here—right here where you're standin'. Don't be skeered—hain't none around here now, leastways no live ones. They been gone this many a year. They all went away and died, so they ain't no more left. But every year, 'long about now, they all come back, leastways their sperrits do. They're here now. You can see 'em off across the fields. Look real hard. See that kind o' hazy misty look out yonder? Well, them's Injuns—Injun sperrits marchin' along an' dancin' in the sunlight. That's what makes that kind o' haze that's everywhere—it's jest the sperrits of the Injuns all come back. They're all around us now.

"Injun Summer," two pictures and a little story appeared in the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine in late October every year from 1907 through 1992. It's gone now, outlived its usefulness. I'm sure it's offensive to Native Americans--after all, it's wrong to say "they all went away died," when really they were pushed, cheated, manipulated, sickened and murdered by white European settlers.

But still--this piece captured my imagination when I was a child. I remember reading it out loud to myself and studying the similarities between the daytime picture above and the nighttime one.


When we sing of "mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won," the music somehow connects saints on earth with saints in heaven. Or at least it feels that way. Someone more insistent than I on correct theology might locate that unity at the communion table, in the bread and wine becoming Christ's body and blood. But to me, music is as real as a wafer on the tongue or golden wine in a cup. And the tears that well up in the throat are sacramental, God embodied in our grief. Salty and substantial.