The Way to Rainy Mountain
By N. Scott Momaday
University of New Mexico Press | 89 pp | $16.95
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Discussion »
“Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth. I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it.”
N. Scott Momaday
"The Way to Rainy Mountain" is about a journey of discovery. Discovery of myth and history. Told in three voices that merge myth, history and memoir into one short narrative, the compilation of the three reads like poetry.
First published in 1976, "The Way to Rainy Mountain" is a treat to read over again. Written by Pulitzer Prize winner N. Scott Momaday, Kiowa, and filled with illustrations by his father, Al Momaday. He was awarded a Pulitzer for his novel "House of Dawn" published in 1969.
"The Way to Rainy Mountain" provides a brief glimpse into Kiowa history, while acquainting the reader with Momaday's grandmother. Momaday journeyed back to Rainy Mountain in the July to see his grandmother's grave. She had died that spring.
Grandmothers universally are special. Within American Indian families, they are revered.
In his remembrance of his grandmother, Momaday captures the essence of Indian grandmothers familiar to our own minds of our own Indian grandmothers. Yes, they may be of different tribes, but still Indian grandmothers, nonetheless. Momaday writes of his own grandmother:
"Now that I can have her only in memory, I see my grandmother in the several postures that were peculiar to me: standing at the wood stove on a winter morning and turning meat in a great iron skillet; sitting at the south window, bent above her beadwork, and afterwards, when her vision failed, looking down for a long time into the fold of her hands; going out upon a cane, very slowly as she did when the weight of age came upon her; praying. I remember her most often at prayer. She made long, rambling prayers out of suffering and hope, having seen many things I do not speak Kiowa, and I never understood her prayers, but here was something inherently sad in the sound, some merest hesitation upon the syllables of sorrow."
"The Way to Rainy Mountain" is full of beautiful writing that is not necessarily easy to fully comprehend on a first read, especially the Kiowa myths. Perhaps, that is what has given this short book staying power for several decades. It is a book that readers can read and go back for seconds, and thirds and beyond. I like to read it at least once a year.
It makes me remember my own Potawatomi grandmother, who was a woman of prayer.
updated July 7, 2012 10:20 am edt; posted February 4, 2012 10:20 am est
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