Randy Kritkausky, Author

MORE THAN A BOOK

I am providing additional information about my book and about my work beyond the book so that you may better understand its origins and meaning. I welcome you to join me on the pathway of discovery.

How Without Reservation came to be.

As my awakening unfolded I initially wrote something like journal entries so that I would have a precise record of wondrous events that were happening in my life. They were precious and I feared that, like fleeting recollections of dreams, the richness and detail might vanish from my memory. I also wrote to colleagues and elders seeking their input on what were often perplexing occurrences that my rational academically oriented mind could barely grasp, no less explain. But mostly I found myself just writing brief stories, accounts of intimate encounters with kin from the world of nature and with what I could only describe as the whisperings of my ancestors. When friends, neighbors and colleagues asked me what I was up to recently, at first I hesitated to describe experiences that I thought they might find strange and unbelievable. However, from the first experience of telling my story, I think it was the encounter with Coy-Wolf, I found listeners eager and relieved. Most were attentive and wide eyed, and they acknowledged that they had rare encounters of a similar nature, but hesitated to share the experiences. They knew that our highly rationalistic culture viewed, quite skeptically, anyone claiming to have direct spiritual encounters outside of the walls and boundaries of recognized religious institutions. When I became aware of this shortcoming in our culture, and my own life, I decided that it would be useful, indeed it was necessary to turn my musings into a book. So I decided to write a book that would give people in the mainstream permission to open the gates to more than just occasional intimate encounters with nature and ancestors. I wrote in the hope that I was not just describing something unique to Native Americans, but that I was addressing a neglected universal human need for spiritual connections and encouraging the cultivation of this capacity.

 

About the book

Without Reservation Awakening to Native American Spirituality and the Ways of Our Ancestors RANDY KRITKAUSKY A powerful story of spiritual awakening, reconnection with Nature, and rekindling of ancestral wisdom • Details the author’s encounters with ancestral spirits and animal teachers such as Coy-Wolf and profound moments of direct connection with the natural world • Shows how ancestral connections and intimate communications with Nature are not unique or restricted to those with indigenous cultural roots • Reveals how reconnection with ancestors and the natural world offers insight and solutions for the complex problems we face We are but a few generations removed from millennia spent living in intimate contact with the natural world and in close commune with ancestral spirits. Who we are and who we think we are is rooted in historical connections with those who came before us and in our relationships with the land and the sentient natural world. When we wander too far from our roots, our ancestors and kin in the natural world call us home, sometimes with gentle whispers, and sometimes in loud voices sounding alarms. In this powerful story of spiritual awakening, Randy Kritkausky shares his journey into the realm of ancestral Native American connections and intimate encounters with Mother Earth and shows how anyone can spiritually reconnect with their ancestors and Nature. Like 70 percent of those who identify as Native American, Kritkausky grew up off the reservation. As he explains, for such “off reservation” indigenous people rediscovering ancestral practices amounts to a re-awakening and offers significant insights about living in a society that is struggling to mend a heavily damaged planet. The author reveals how the awakening process was triggered by his own self-questioning and the resumption of ties with his Potawatomi ancestors. He details his encounters with ancestral spirits and animal teachers such as Coy-Wolf. He shares moments of direct connection with the natural world, moments when the consciousness of other living beings, flora and fauna, became accessible and open to communication. Through his profound storytelling, Kritkausky shows how ancestral connections and intimate communications with Nature are not unique or restricted to those with indigenous cultural roots. Offering a bridge between cultures, a path that can be followed by Native and non-Native alike, the author shows that spiritual awakening can happen anywhere, for anyone, and can open the gateway to deeper understanding. Randy Kritkausky is an enrolled tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He is a founder of ECOLOGIA, an international environmental organization that works on the planet’s more extreme challenges, and formerly professor at Keystone College, research scholar at Middlebury College, and Erasmus Mundus Scholar at the Central European University in Budapest and Lund University in Sweden. He lives in Vermont.  Bear & Company ISBN 978-1-59143-384-2 $20.00  Paper Also  as an ebook 304 pages, 6 x 9 11 black-and-white illustrations.

Release date: September 2020. Pre-orders  through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, and Inner Traditions.

Native American Reflections on COVID-19

Most of Without Reservation was written before the appearance of COVID-19. However, as any reader will quickly note, Native American history, spirituality, and my book continually touch on the perplexing themes about global pandemics that are reverberating across media. The good news is that Native American culture has, at this particular moment in our history, much to offer in the spirit of resilience and healing. Here are some examples from my book:

Chapter 17, “Microbes and Black Swans” directly addresses the appearance of COVID-19 just as Without Reservation was in final edit stage. My unexpected personal encounter with a microbe in the forests of Vermont (Lyme disease), coincided with global news about a potential pandemic originating in China. “Pandemic” presented echoes of my ancestors’ past; ninety percent of them died from diseases introduced by European contact. This coincidence caused me to reflect on how indigenous societies confronted such dislocation, and what the deeper lessons may be concerning our relationship to the natural world that we so often and so erroneously think we control and dominate.

Chapter 12, “The Recreation Story”, is an imaginative exploration of what a grandparent wants to pass along to grandchildren in a time of environmental crisis. It is about the possibilities of re-inventing ourselves and healing our planet.

Chapter 8, “Encounters with Kateri Tekakwitha” is about a young Mohawk woman whose village and family are devastated by a pandemic that nearly blinds her. Ever resilient, she blazes her own trail through the forests, contributes to the creation of a spiritual perspective combing elements of her tribal traditions with a challenging new religious perspective, and literally becomes a saint.

Chapter 10, “Reflections on Warrior Culture” proposes a rethink about what it means to be a hero in the 21st century. I am proud that the ideas presented in this chapter anticipated much of the current recognition of front-line workers who make our world safe in ways that we too often under-appreciate.

Chapter 15, “Rootless in the Botanical Garden” examines the challenges associated with cultivating intimate connections with nature while living in an urban environment.

The entire book explores multiple ways that we may reconnect with and heal nature. With the pace of daily life slowed, many of us are taking walks in the forest, or just becoming more aware of the manifestations of a vibrant realm of nature in our backyards or a window box garden. As we struggle to “reconnect”, Native American culture and spiritual experience can provide guidance about and a pathway toward an awakening to nature. I wrote Without Reservation hoping to make Native American sensitivities more understandable, and intimate encounters with Mother Earth more accessible. I hope that you may find comfort in my reflections and stories. I hope to prove that we can cultivate biophilia even in the midst of a global wave of microphobia.

 

 

About The Author

My writing is informed by three decades of international and domestic grassroots work on environmental issues ranging from environmantal justice matters in the United States to Chernobyl, desertification in China, and corporate social responsibility.  This work is described on the website of  an international non-profit that I co-founded, ECOLOGIA, https://www.ecologia.org/ .


Interviews, Podcasts, Upcoming Events

If you are interested in having me speak to your group or audience via Skype or Zoom, here is an example of how I sound.

 


My Blog

I could hardly imagine the degree and suddenness of turmoil that would envelop our world as I finished writing my book. Looking back, it now appears that my intuition was, even then, pointing to things to come, or perhaps it was my ancestors' history and memories informing my intuition. Or, perhaps it was that spiraling nonliner time I write about, that allows us to occasionally sense the future even as we look backward. In any case, I feel obligated to build on the final chapters of my book which touch on the topics of pandemics and racial conflict, realities of Native American life for 500 years.  Here I offer my reflections on current events. They are informed by my cultural legacy as I am discovering and exploring it. Your feedback is invited. You can contact me at: randykritkausky@hushmail.com

June 2020 - Reflections on Racial Injustice

I created the following poster, which is imagined in the final pages of my book where I discuss mistaken notions of human evolution, race, and white supremacy, and where I offer, literally, an alternative vision.  The visual image below just came to me as do my stories. It incorporates cultural elements of Native American medicine wheels, the four colors found therein,  and one of our sacred herbs, typically grown within a medicine wheel garden. I hope the image can be widely distributed. It is licensed under Creative Commons with the stipulation that it not be sold or used commercially, and that I be recognized as its designer, as per the small print at the bottom. A colored image could not be placed in my book, so I welcome this opportunity to build upon writing just finished.

 

A Single Point of Light: May 30, 2020

We are back sleeping on the screened-in porch where, tonight, I gazed at the Strawberry Moon’s dimming light in a hazy sky. The moon vanished behind clouds as I fell into slumber. Then at midnight, exactly, I was awakened by a single flickering point of light which beckoned. Wawatési, (Potawatomi for firefly) is back. Unlike in recent years, and in particular three years ago when my mother lived her last days with us, and when fireflies in great profusion awakened me nightly, there is just one this night.

What does a solitary living point of light in total darkness mean? Perhaps it is acknowledgement of my day spent tending and securing a small raised bed of full of strawberry plants during a strawberry moon? I have been disappointed with my strawberry non-harvests of recent years. Chipmunks seem to think that we raise strawberries just for them. They wait until the berries ripen and then gnaw each one as it reaches the peak of perfection. This year there is a profusion of chipmunks. I was nearly tripping over them as I worked in the garden. Without the fine wire mesh cage I have placed around and over the berries, we two-legged would have none. I hesitated to barricade what must be a seasonal treat for adorable little rodents. But this year wild strawberries are everywhere in great profusion. Those delectable and accessible wild berries will be more than adequate for our smaller kin. Please Mother Earth, let us also enjoy our healing strawberries this Strawberry Moon. In 2020 we need this traditional healing medicine more than usual.

Perhaps it is such healing, and such a healing message, that Wawatési brings to me tonight? If so, it is a comforting affirmation of the message hanging in our house entryway, printed on a poster from the Bread and Puppet Theater which gifts Vermont with its presence in the town of Glover, near our northern border with Canada.

Photographer: Etienne Georges, Image courtesy of Bread and Puppet Theater

This is a welcome echo of other hopeful aphorisms about light in times of darkness. “Tis better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” Or “a thousand points of light”. President George H. Bush invoked the latter notion repeatedly, and even created a Points of Light Foundation to officially recognize volunteer efforts aimed at community improvement. A small college where I taught nominated me for the award because of my involvement in local grassroots environmental work. I was unaware of their effort to bring attention to one of their faculty until my consolation prize arrived in the mail. I was not an official Points of Light awardee. Instead, I was given a facsimile signed card with a raised golden embossed presidential seal and some nice words about my work being “a shining example for us all”. I felt like a tiny birthday cake candle rather than a lighthouse beacon.

I have struggled, my life long, with local grassroots efforts which sometimes feel like “a candle in the wind”, to borrow yet another light metaphor, this one from Elton John’s song of the same name. Recently the headwinds have felt like they pack hurricane force. And holding that flickering point of light, so that it does not go out, has too frequently seemed next to impossible.

Until earlier tonight. I attended a demonstration in the nearby town of Middlebury, Vermont. The impetus for my action was the death of George Floyd, the latest in a growing list of black people who have been murdered by police. I was concerned that only a few dozen dedicated members of our local social justice advocacy community would show up. But, hundreds of people of all ages, and many racial and ethnic backgrounds, lined our town’s streets and bridge holding signs protesting the continued senseless violence and an affirming that “Black Lives Mater”. I carried a sign stating “Native Americans for Racial Justice”.

It was comforting to be surrounded by so many points of light in a small town of only 8,500. Masked and socially distanced, we were never the less emotionally and politically close to one another. Such individual actions, flickering points of light holding their own against the headwinds, really do matter. That is the message that Wawatési affirms this night. Miigwech, Wawatési. I needed to be reminded. ***************************************************************************** Related Background on Native American Culture

Strawberries, or “heart berries”, are considered medicine in many indigenous cultures across North America. June is known as the “Strawberry Moon” in some Native American calendars, particularly amongst peoples of the eastern woodlands and Canada. The Cherokee consider strawberries to be bearers of good luck. For the Navajo they are sacred life medicine, and they are being grown as part of Navajo efforts to address problems of living in a food desert. (There are only about a dozen food stores serving 15,000 tribal members spread out over the nation’s largest Indian Reservation with an area nearly the size of the entire state of South Carolina.)

 

RED, BLACK, WHITE, YELLOW WE ALL HAVE THE SAME ANCESTRAL ROOTS IN MOTHER EARTH Our skin colors are similar to those found in a Native American medicine wheel. Sweetgrass, one of the sacred herbs found within a medicine wheel garden, is colored here to represent human racial diversity, and is braided to represent our common ancestry and shared future. This image is available for replication and distribution, free of charge under a Creative Commons license: http://ecologia.org/news/Racial%20Diversity%20Poster.pdf