back in oregon. the next three days will be all language work, all the time. then to a meeting of people working on north coast languages. then home. home! and then i will avoid cars as much as is humanly possible. in the last four days i've spent easily 24 hours in a car. and 10-12 more lie between here and home, but let's not talk about that now.

let's talk about verdena, my language consultant. because in the last two days i think i learned what it means to be an elder. i already knew i liked her, knew i could even come to love her as i get to know her better. at 71, her eyes sparkle and she has this mischievous grin that just kills me. and the way she chuckles when she knows she's said something naughty. she tells us stories of when she was a girl and she could beat up any boy, she would throw cow pies on them, she would ride around the reservation on her motorcycle and then put on her fancy white pinstripe suit and pillbox hat with a little veil and strut her stuff into town. the girl had more marriage proposals than she knew what to do with. this is a woman who is, and has always been, full of life, fire, color. just totally vital.

on our trip to the reservation, though, i saw more of how she is in groups of people. she sits quietly and you never know if that's because she can't hear you (she is hard of hearing, especially when there is ambient noise) or just because she doesn't feel like saying anything yet. but then suddenly she'll just start talking, in a very low voice. and everyone falls silent, everyone leans in and strains to hear her every word and nobody speaks until she is done. this woman holds so much knowledge, she has an incredible memory for detail, and something about her presence just commands quiet respect. she doesn't sit there and spout proverbs or platitudes; hers is a deeper wisdom.

but still, when i think of verdena, i mostly just see her laughing.
and i think i'm so lucky that this is the side of her that i get to know.