AFTER WAITING A LONG TIME, YEARS, IN FACT, I was finally able to buy two tickets to Robert Mirabal’s performance here in Santa Fe, at the old Canyon Road restaurant and bar, El Farol.
Performance is not the right word for what Robert does, in these rare appearances. He offers us a ceremony: rattles, singing, the swooping motions of the eagle dance, the sacred corn of his ancestors, as well as his gentle insistence on limits: warning us that he would never describe what happens in the kiva, the sacred space on pueblo reservations, he said, “The secret is sacred. The sacred is secret.”
In the Episcopal church I attend here, a couple stood up recently to announce that finally, here in New Mexico, they are able to marry—a possibility that became real last week. One woman explained that most of their many years together were spent under the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rule of the American military, which spread into our culture.
This is a hard issue to talk about without raising the spectacle of prejudice—but was this couple’s long-term union blessed by its becoming, in the eyes of some, finally legitimate?
I don’t know.
The “legitimizing” our culture offers comes at a price: we are folded into the mainstream. I felt that each time I married; it did not seem to be me who was going through the ceremony but the woman the ceremony expected me to be, and which I knew in my bones, even at twenty-one, I could never be.
But perhaps if one has been on the outside of the ceremony, always, the inclusion seems authentic: a real and final acceptance.
The congregation of which I am a somewhat uneasy member has just gone through a quiet convulsion with the sudden dismissal—it is not called that—of our beloved, long time woman assistant pastor. This was caused by some obscure, to me, dictate of the bishop and had nothing to do with her, but with the rules—the rules of the institution, not unlike all the other rules that govern, or attempt, to govern us. That she was deprived of her mission and of her livelihood is not something anyone feels free to discuss. The farewell party we gave seemed like a meaningless gesture in the face of her loss and our loss of her—a loss unimaginable in the Taos pueblo for which Robert Mirabal is an ambassador to the enthralled ignorant.
Of course there is always exclusion, and the exclusion the three women I am mentioning here suffered happens to everyone who does not possess the power of presidents or CEOs.
At least there is still the ungovernable wild all around us here, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. During the church service this morning, a small yellow fox patrolled the ledge outside the high windows, unselfconsciously turning her pointed face to glance inside—not particularly interested, and certainly not frightened—before curling up in the sun to go to sleep.
Like Robert Mirabal, the fox shows us the way—but it is not the way of inclusion.