Just to know

manhattan flags.jpgFor many years now, I’ve had a loop of the song “City of New Orleans” finding it’s way into the front of my memory. The fact that it’s resurfaced for so many years now tells me that it has found a home in my subconscious and just raises its hand from time to time as some type of release or reflection for my soul. I hear Willie Nelsons version for which I am thankful for. I like Emmylou Harris’ comment one time that if America had a voice it would be Willie’s. “Good Morning America, how are ya?, don’t ya know me, I’m your native son!”

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In these days where it’s easier than ever to find heartaches, sadness, division and every other adjective that makes us feel like the good fibers of our world are frayed and thinning, the opening line to City of New Orleans feels like an internal barometer for me. I hear that line as the eternal optimist reaching out with his open heart saying ” hey everyone, what’s going on, you doing ok?” . I also hear him saying, “me too, I know it’s tough. But we really are in this crazy thing together”. There is a common road and everyone is traveling by his own light, culture and accumulated experiences. I think we need to remember our commonalities, those threads that hold us together. Love is an eternal language and it slides in and out of music, art, 4 legged creatures. Yes 3 legged too. The winged ones, the trees, the landscapes all speak in their own ways to us. Bringing us a sense of belonging, balance and peace.


The natural world will bring us more truth than CNN or Fox, believe me ! There are the eternal truths, the one the Creator passes along through everything that he made. And there is the nonsense that the news brings us. Headlines of fact, but that’s where it all ends and where the big spin begins. The spin of misdirection, confusion and doubt reigns supreme.

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I wish you peace my friends. I wish for you a balance based in the deeper truths of the universe. Not to sounds crazy full of double talk and new age yak yak. This is simple stuff. Look to what the Creator made. Find the good stuff in your loved ones. Watch their smiles and how they love each other. Listen to the trees and the birds. Know you are loved. Know you matter.

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Know we all hold the same doubts. Know you are not alone.


I hope the reminder to you and me that we all share the same stuff is comforting to your spirit. If you are hurting, know the continuum of life keeps going. The new reality will present it’s own gifts. Know our hearts beat and grieve with you. For we are all a thin veil from each other. Aloha, Peace, Blessing, Aho, and any other kind cultural gesture you wanna pass along, I’ll take it !


Joshua Tree, California

Flags, Brooklyn NY

Glenn Simmons and Josey, Nashville TN

Paden Simmons and Dylan Simmons, Amtrak Train NY state

Tamra Simmons Nashville TN

Cross, Pensacola Beach



I am

I am American. A Southerner and Floridian. I am English, Czech and Indian. I am perfectly imperfect and imperfectly perfect. Significant beyond measure and yet a speck of sand in the great deserts.

I am lost and found. A believer in the goodness of mankind and scared to death of my own dark possibilities.

A seeker and deep wanderer. Complacent and moved by selfishness.

I am moved by ceremony and many times untouched by beauties and graces that surround me.

I am thankful yet much of my life shows no sign of that.

Many times I can’t say what I mean and I wonder if it’s a lack of command for words or if deep down it’s my heart.

I know there is something bigger than me but can rarely define it.

I am insecure and yet completely comfortable with who I am and the journey I’m on.

I am full of the world. Full of love and many times full of shit. Sometimes I have a hard time knowing the difference.

I am here and I am gone. I reach out and hold close.

I am you and you are me.

Do you know me? Does any of this ring a bell?

Thank you for lending me your ear. I have written this straight and from stream of conciousness. No editing.

Reading List: The Wisdomkeepers

Another book of some white guys grabbing up crystals and trying to find out why the Indian is “one with nature”. Another book just to make a buck and done in a way that makes less of an authentic life. A life lived close to the ground. Well not only no, but in this case, it’s the furthest thing from the truth.

Former National Geographic journalist Harvey Arden, and Steve Wall, were relentless in gathering stories from the elders of many Native American peoples. And done in a way with nothing but respect.

They visit elders from nations that we’d expect like Ute, Lakota, and Hopi. But they also visit with elders from peoples that aren’t as common to the tongue such as Lumbee, Onandoga, and Seminole. Folks living close to the ground, close to the Creator, and a life that is entwined with God at every breath.

The gentle love story of Mohawk Tom Porter, or the wise words of Oren Lyons who is Onandoga “Man sometimes thinks he’s been elevated to be the controller, the ruler. But he’s not. He’s only part of the whole. Man’s job is not to exploit but to oversee, to be a steward. Man has responsibility, not power”.

Lumbee elder Vernon Cooper says “Everything I know i learned by listening and watching. Nowadays people learn out of books instead. Doctors study what man has learned. I pray to understand what man has forgotten”.

Understanding of the natural world has no equal. It’s straight from God.

I’ve had my copy of Wisdomkeepers since 1992, and have re read it almost every year since. It’s been great to point the way. To remind me where wisdom is to be found. In nature. In the quietness of a winter morning, or the sunset on a California beach.

Wisdomkepers is a wonderful read. Done with care and respect. Words worth hearing.

For those of you in the Nashville area, Belmont College is hosting a great conference of Native American leaders and teachers from October 10-13. Open to the public.

What’s A Patriot?

By definition a patriot is “a person that feels or voices patriotism, support for their country”. That seems like a simple definition, but it sure has sparked battle lines in our country the last few years.

So how do you define someone who is a patriot? And what would that person be patriotic to? So he could be wearing a uniform and in many cases isn’t. Can we successfully support our boys and girls in harm’s way and yet speak out against an administrations choices for war? If we go back to the definition then we should be able to. That perhaps all that are raising their voices love this country, but don’t care for the leadership at a given time. If they didn’t love this country I don’t think we’d hear from them.

Are we all fighting for what we want our country to look like? It gets complicated quickly doesn’t it? So many different sides to look at and it gets harder as time goes on. Our country becomes more and more of a gumbo every year. A natural progression if you ask me. Native Americans were the last indigenous folk. After that everybody is a new comer. The English, French, Swedes, Germans. We were all good with that because most of us couldn’t remember anything different. Then came the Vietnamese, and now the Mexicans ! If I was a Mexican, I’d be trying to get here any way I could !

So it keeps changing as everything has to. It brings new cultures and new religions. New ways of looking at life. It seems unfair to say this is where the change will end so we can hold on to some idealist memory. That brings the question of what kind of America do we want to fight for? What is worth risking our children’s and their children’s and their children’s lives?

That is always the question for me. What would seem like a suitable reason for my children to give their lives?  The world wars may have been the last time I would have felt like that was an honorable death. But to die for a political strategy is a hard pill to swallow. Life is too precious and I don’t believe my Creator wants us killing each other, I just don’t. I don’t believe every other option has been exhausted. I’m all for finding Bin Laden, but that seems like a war we are not in to win, and Iraq, well that’s just a whole other issue.

I would venture this idea. Maybe if no one country had to be the top dog, it would open up everyone’s ears and we could listen to each other. Just like in any relationship, we have to listen too. We are in a relationship with the world.

I know there will always be evil in this world and sometimes we have to draw an arrow. I’m good with that. I’m good with being a warrior to protect my family and my country when someone is drawing an arrow against me. but after those arrows fly, I’d like to know if it could have been avoided. For the next generation. The world can grow and it can seek humbleness if it wants. I hope it can start with you and I. The reason our country is great is because it really is made up of wonderful folk that want the same things. We all pray for peace. I like this Willie Nelson quote “The worlds problems will never be solved politically, but spiritually”.

Worship: How Do You See That Word?

I suppose before we even begin to answer a question about the definition of worship, maybe the initial question would be how do we see our relationship with God.

Am I nothing without God? Is adoration and worship the same thing? If someone is in awe of this creation made by God, is that person in worship?

Our Christian faith has always used terminology like “God is our Father and we are his children”. If that is how we are to look at God, then I have difficulties with the “adoration” approach. I want my children to be in relationship with me. I want them to love and respect me. I want that lifeline to always be in play, but I don’t want them to “worship” me. Now I know I’m not God. but more of Gods example of imperfect man.

So where does that leave me? Does it mean I am arrogant? does it mean I think I’m on equal footing with God? There might some who’d say since I don’t sing out, cry out in public, follow the well worn path, that my relationship with God doesn’t exist. There are those that if they don’t see the result they way they think it should be, then they don’t think you’ve “got it”.

I saw a description that said worship was an acknowledgment of God. An understanding of it all. I don’t think I need to tell God how great he is, because I don’t think that’s what he wants to hear from me. He wants me honestly, raw, angry, happy, confused, peaceful, searching, and homebound. but that’s just me. And maybe that’s the beauty of God. He wants us to “worship” him in our own way, allowing everyone to sing out, cry out, preach out, walk quietly, watch the morning wake up, etc, etc.

Maybe it’s humans that makes things difficult. We usually do. I usually do. Live and let live and know that there are some who won’t. Some roads are narrow and some are wide. I will continue to greet God in the morning, with the trees full of birds, a cool breeze and a cup of coffee. This is a big part of my worship, where I am quiet and God is letting creation do his talking, or better yet, he is in the wind and birds. We are both just enjoying the moment.

I am thankful, on the post 4th of July, to be living in a country and society where I have the freedom of worship and the freedom to express my views openly.

I have much to learn and re learn. I have much to shape into fuller thoughts. I don’t think anyone should ever apologize for searching and digging for truths, and asking questions of themselves or the world.  I welcome thoughts and reflections on this.

Thanks for the ear !

William Lee Golden: The Singing Painter

What words would you use to describe Dixonville Alabama native, William Lee Golden, of the Oak Ridge Boys? Well I guess you could use many, Friend, Son, Father, Brother, Grandfather and Great Grandfather. You could mention his American Mountain Man appearance with his recognizable long hair and beard. Supporter of Native American rights, visionary, spiritualist, husband. Obviously singer would be thought of early on as he has been the baritone singer for the Oak Ridge Boys for 38 years, singing lead on hits like “Ozark Mountain Jubilee”, “Thank God For Kids”, “Tying To Love Two Women” and “I Wish You Could Have Turned My Head”. Here’s another word to add to that wonderful list, painter.

That’s right, about 15 years ago he began nurturing a hidden talent for painting. William Lee’s work has been on display in galleries across the U.S. as well as the Nashville International Airport and a recent show featuring his work at The Tennessee State Museum. Among high profile friends that have William’s beautiful work is George Bush. William gathers inspiration from Gods artwork. Being highly connected to the earth, William captures the beauty of the land with an eye few of us would have.

With painting as well as anything William shows an interest in, his passions run deep. Deep for country, deep for God, deep for family and friends. His interest in Native American culture has been strongly evident for over 30 years, and as a historian, he can teach you a few things.

William Lee Golden is a man that has chosen his own path in this life. He has done so with gentleness and dignity, even when he was faced with oppression and ridicule. It’s not always been an easy road, but it’s been a road that has inspired many to follow their own way, and to be true to themselves.

There is a new CD coming called the Singing Painter, which will be avaialable on William Lee’s site and info on the Oak Ridge Boys site. He has been a friend to me for 21 years and has shown me many a road in a very quiet guiding way, whether he knows it or not. Go check out this mans art and his music. It comes from the heart, I promise you !



Pow- Wows

Spring is coming and so is the Pow Wow season. Young and old, full blood and mixed blood alike will be gathering. Traditions continue in the honor of cultures and our fathers. Check out http://www.powwows.com for a Pow-Wow near you.

Take your children. They will be fascinated and it will hopefully ignite a desire in them to understand the culture of the Host peoples of this land.

It is a time for singing, dancing, connecting and learning. It’s a time to step out of our boxes, shed the everyday that lives in us all. In a world where traditions get lost for the next new thing, and honor and place get misunderstood for beliefs of entitlement and selfishness. Pow-Wows are community, connecting to God and honoring this earth that bares the weight of all we do.

So do yourself a favor. Find a Pow-Wow grab your family and friends, check it out. You never know…you might like it !, and you may connect in way you never thought you’d understand. “Mitakuye Oyasin”, we are all related.