Tracks to Potiki

With regard to Louise Erdrich’s Tracks, in lieu of repeating much of the same reflections from previous entries I’ll simply say that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend her novel. It’s wonderfully dark and weaves together bits of Chippewa tradition, struggle on the reservation, and the threat of losing future generations to the settler society and culture in the early 1900s.

For Patricia Grace’s novel Potiki, I feel similarly. Though, I must say one of the greatest parts for me was how relationship was described between the people and the trees used for whakairo. The figures molded by the carver “developed first in the forest, in the tree wombs, but depended on the master with his karakia and his tools, his mind and his heart, his breath and his strangeness, to bring them to other birth….It is as though a child brings about the birth of a parent, because that which comes from under the master’s hand is older than he is, is already ancient”(11-12). The person and the tree can through each other, come to another kind of connection and existence with each other. The trees become a profound grounding medium through which connection to ancestors is honored; given the depth of life and history within those oldest trees, it is among the most beautiful of ways to honor the relationship between the land (as creative origin), its people, and those gone before. When Mary carefully cleans each wooden poupou, she places her face and body against them, and she and the tipuna hold each other and listen to the other’s heart – places of sounds and silence.

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