#303 Shamengwa- Louise Erdrich
Shamengwa is an old man living among the Ojibwa community. His arm was broken when he was young and healed in a mangled way, like a broken wing, and was given his named after the Monarch butterfly. His father played the fiddle but traded it for religion when his brother dies young. The fiddle was put away, and the parents turned despondent and had, in many ways, lost their music. Shamengwa needing life, found it:
“It was a question of survival, after all. If I had not found the music, I would have dies of the silence. There are ways of being abandoned even when your parents are right there.”
Despite his mangled arm, or perhaps because of it, the music he created became the soul of his community:
“The sound connected instantly with something deep and joyous. Those powerful moments of true knowledge which we paper over with daily life. The music tapped our terrors, too. Things we’d lived through and wanted never to repeat. Shredding imaginings, unadmitted longings, fear, and also surprising pleasures. We can’t live at that pitch. But every so often, something shatters like ice, and we fall into the river of our own existence. We are aware.”
When the violin was stolen, we learn of its incredible history, and when we find out who stole the violin, we learn of his incredible history as well. Instruments, like music often find people most in need of spiritual healing.
This is just great story telling.
Notable Passage: “I do my work. I do my best to make the small decisions well, and I try not to hunger for the greater things, for the deeper explanations. For I am sentenced to keep watch over this little patch of earth, to judge its miseries and tell its stories.”