On an island above the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater Rivers, surrounded by a stark, high desert landscape, six curved low-lieing basalt structures invite the visitor to sit and simply listen. Idle chatter isn’t appropriate, and even whispers may be out of place. Appearing like sound waves, the Listening Circle is a place to come together,a place to restore a connection back to the land.
At dusk, I walked to the fifth Maya Lin Confluence installation, ready for tomorrow’s morning’s public dedication. The path began directly under an active osprey nest; the fish hawk kindly allowing me unhindered passsage. A white pelican glided by and the crickets were reveling. When I arrived at the natural amphitheatre, the day’s last lights reflected silver off the tops of the structures and there was just enough illumination to read: “The earthwork commemorates the Nez Perce ceremony in which the women faced north, the men faced south, and the elders faced east with no one passing behind them, leaving the eastside open to the admit the new day.”
The next morning, I appreciated the irony of setting up a sound system for the dedication ceremony, yet in a place of wind, important spoken words could be lost. The Nez Perce Tribal Chair welcomed the 500 guests: “We are a living culture where listening is very important”and at the end of his speech, “Leaving here, know there is something deeper.” The Yakama Tribal Council member spoke about the 2005 Blessing Ceremony at this same spot, “There was no condemnation of what had happened to their homeland, but simply a welcome to all those gathered.”
We have come a long way from the destructive patterns of “We talk, you listen” to a day when no one talks…and everyone is listening. ~