Morning Poem

This morning smoke
curves up
the hillside trees.

And last night drifts
across our faces
like a poem.

“Like smoke we take
advantage of the wind,”
you said.

~ Ron Talney

I have some things to say about smoking.

It’s been building up for awhile.

While I do agree that pack a day smoking of chemically laden cigarettes is harmful to your health, I also have a beef with the current notion that intermittent or hidden smoking is something to be ashamed of in all cases.

You see I am a closet smoker.

I love smoke. I love tobacco. I honor it.

Ever since the roof tops of my adolescence, the Mediterranean benches and graduate school writer’s block, the twice daily sissy benders of the La Palabra days and the finally-they-are-all-weaned secret front-porch ceremonies of grit and vision, I have loved smoke.

Sure, I have had my time of thinking that smoking was just plain bad. But in the background, I also had the traditional teaching that tobacco is a sacred plant. It is the communicator plant that allows one to cast off the burden of the ego boundaries and crack open the veil of spiritual understanding.

“Tobacco has been used for many generations as offerings to the spirits, for planting, for gathering food, for healings, and for ceremonies. Tobacco is medicine. I have heard it called a communicator plant between the physical and spirit worlds.” ~ Danny Vollins

It is used in:

• Rallying forces for warfare
• Trading goods
• Ritual dancing
• Medicine ceremonies (healing)
• To discuss war or peace
• To negotiate for a bride
• While settling disputes over land

A Navajo herbalist explained it this way. “Tobacco is Diyin – a Holy Person. Use it with respect and it rewards you. Use it the wrong way, it kills you” ~Danny Vollins

Perhaps our lack of respect for this sacred connection to spirit is what fuels tobacco addiction.

Until we recover our ability to know our heart’s wisdom and use it instead of our heads we will continue to be drawn into addiction.This is an important teaching from indigenous people: “The earth people use their hearts to find peace, But his brother white men use their heads instead.” ~ Joe Medicine Crow

Trauma plays a huge part in this numbing of heart wisdom and true shamanic healing practices (not the new age rip-offs) offer somato-spiritual remedies for navigating and integrating trauma rather than leaving it unresolved and hungry for the ghosts of what western culture calls depression and other mental illness.*

Indigenous relationships with plants, including Cannabis, Peyote and Ayahuasca must be restored or the earth will certainly be ruined. This is not a tall tale. It is a story of universal truth.

In the resilient dancing self, there is a sacred holy place for tobacco use. I have seen it in my own life. I teach it to my children and share it with you here.

Let’s bring ceremony out of the closet and see the sky again.


* I do not acknowledge the symptoms and syndromes of mental illness except in resisting them and participating in a global effort to remember the ancestral truth that mental illness is caused by western civilization and it’s attachment exclusively to “head” knowledge, it’s eradication of indigenous ways of knowing and continued denial of it’s debt to global victims (including themselves) of colonialism in all it’s forms. I see grief itself as healing and despair and delusions the conditions of our current civilization. I never diagnose or treat mental illness. Instead I seek wholeness and repair for all.