Sacajawea

Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo

In the previous blog, Making War on Everything, I mentioned I’m reading Sacajawea by Ann Lee Waldo.  Charboneau, Sacajawea’s husband, was an abusive man.  Sacajawea’s thoughts during and after her final beating were an inspiration to me:

She thought of her own words, “If you whip me again, I will leave, and you will not see me again.”  Ai, she would leave.  There were other lodges, other people for friends…

Another blow came, and her head felt large with pressure.  She came up gasping as the lash uncoiled around her.  A warm trickle ran down her side under the shredded tunic.

Two more blows came with long pauses; they lacked vigor.  Did Charbonneau hold back, or was it the strange, kind smile and look of exultant triumph in his woman’s eyes that made him stop?

…Like someone driven by an unconquerable obsession from which she was not yet freed, Sacajawea mechanically gathered up her blanket and placed it beside the door.

…He had never seen her like this.  She seemed to tower high above him.

Sacajawea saw his shoulders beginning to sag.  She felt pity, but pushed it away.  She had pitied him before.  She carried the bag to the door, found some steel firesticks, and picked up the folded blanket.  She pushed the door open and walked through without looking back…

Facing the sun she said, “Thank you, Great Spirit, for giving me the courage to leave my man at the time he was no longer safe to live with…”

My heart goes out to those who stay in abusive relationships because of pressure from the institutional church, where they are taught that it is a sin to get a divorce.

There are other forms of abuse that leave no visible scars but create an environment that is emotionally unsafe, that can slowly kill a person one day at a time: Addictions, selfishness, greed, harsh words, indifference, etc.

Sometimes God gives us the grace to endure – perhaps to separate without divorce.  People can change, after all.

May God give us the wisdom to know the difference between an unhealthy relationship that is not beyond repair and a toxic relationship that is physically or emotionally unsafe.

Sometimes God gives us the courage to walk away.

I’ve done a little less blogging and a little more reading lately.  Right now, I’m reading Sacajawea by Ann Lee Waldo.  Here’s an excerpt, which I found to be comical, but true.  The context is that Sacajawea and Otter Woman, the wives of Charboneau, a sniveling, cowardly Frenchman, have come to live among the white Americans in St. Louis:

That night, Otter Woman tossed on her pallet of pine branches thinking of other things she had noticed.  White women could not make peace inside their lodges.  Day after day they fought dust and dirt.  They made war on everything – clothes, pots, floors; fighting with lye soap, scouring ashes, straw brooms, and feather dusters.  Otter Woman felt sorry for these white squaws who did not realize that dust and dirt were just a part of life to be endured like a bad cold, hunger, or mosquitoes.

This passage caused me to look at housekeeping a little differently.  Is that what we do?  Make war?

It’s good to wave the dirty white flag of surrender every now and then, to let the dog hair collect, like little tumbleweeds in the desert with purple mountains on the distant horizon – mountains of laundry.  Read a book.  Be at peace.  (For a while, anyway.)