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Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 23.2 (2002) 156-161

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Saturday, September21, 2001—
Before Traveling to Harvard

Inés Hernández-Avila

Before the tragedy of September11, 2001, I was scheduled to participate in the conference "Religious Healing in Urban America" on September23-24, at the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School. I had been asked to open and close the conference with my poetry. The organizers of the conference felt it was important to go on with the conference because the theme gained even greater significance given the circumstances of the disaster. This reflection is about my thoughts the day before I was to travel. I wrote these thoughts down in my hotel room the second night of the conference and offered them in lieu of my poems at the closing.

Today I stay home preparing for a journey no longer ordinary. I realize my intentions from moment to moment as I allow my spirit to guide me through the day. I wonder as I move from my study to the garden to the laundry to the kitchen if I will get on the plane in the morning. My heart is sick, and I know I'm not alone. I can feel the earth's children grieve for what has happened and what is to come. I think of the Aztec and Mayan calendars, the ones that set the time for the shift into the sixth sun of consciousness and justice, which I understand is 2012. I remind myself that we were told it would get very bad before it gets any better, we were told that those who refuse to let go of old patterns of destruction would be left behind. We were told this next sun, which can sometimes be seen as already on its way in, will be one in which the autonomy of spirit will be recognized, honored, and respected in individuals and in peoples. My heart hurts because I can't see right now how we will get from here to there. I move around my home, tending to what is precious to me. My mom is with me, not sure she wants me to go, not saying no to me, being with me, busying herself, helping me putter. She is precious to me.

It comes to me to care for some parrot feathers I received years ago in ceremony. I had put them away in a weathered blue suitcase given to me by my [End Page 156] mom's mom, my kotzah, when I was young. There are other treasures stored with the feathers. I notice them first, a mix that has reason and meaning only to me: a small red Mexican gourd rattle from Michoacan, belonging to my grandson, given to him when he was a baby, now he is fourteen. Old pieces of copal, smudge sticks of cedar, sage, mugwort, saved because of who gave them to me, but my memory betrays me, and I don't see the faces of the givers anymore. Photographs, among them one that reminds me of a past painful love, another of colleagues I wanted to protect from racist attacks on a well-known major campus. Many, many amulets, most of them came to me in Mexico City, at sacred times—the Holy Niño de Atocha, patroncito of travelers, pilgrims, prisoners and prostitutes; el Señor de Chalma, who represents the East and is Quetzalcoatl, the Lord of the Dawn; la Virgen de Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas, called the lawyer of the people, recognized by her ancient names Tonantzin/Coatlicue, the sacred warrior woman. A beautiful Guatemalan Mayan silver marriage necklace I found in a flea market and bought for almost nothing, yet I know it is not for me to wear, but to care for, until I know what to do with it. Two old-time beaded Nez Perce bags from my Auntie Tillie. A man's handkerchief with a penciled portrait of an Indian chief, drawn by a prisoner, and I am sad...