Saturday, January 25, 2014


When Zulu tribes people approach each other in the bush, they call out “Sawubona”, which means “We see you”.  The person replies, “Yebo sawubona”, “Yes, we see you too”.  It implies more than an individual recognizing another, invoking the “we” in all of us, according to Orland Bishop, who is a brilliant man working in healing and human development, mentoring at-risk youth and creating urban truces.  He believes that seeing is a dialogue that establishes you as a witness to each other’s presence on this earth. “My seeing includes my ancestors and the divinities. Seeing has empowered us to investigate our mutual potentials for living,” he says.

I began several years ago to call out “Sawubona” to my horses each morning as I walk down the path to the barn and they stick out their beautiful red heads to greet me. They murmur in acknowledgement and I respond, “Yebo sawubona”.  I look my horses in the eye and communicate more deeply with them than I do with most people I interact with throughout my day.  With these frigid, snowy conditions this winter, I am visiting them in the barn every couple of hours to be sure that they are drinking water, eating and moving around enough to avoid getting sick. Last night, the wind whipped up, whistling and rattling the branches of the trees as I filled water buckets at 10 pm and dispensed a couple of carrots along with extra flakes of hay.  It was hard to walk away from them, back into my warm, cozy house without wishing that the horses could come along with me.  Still, my older mare, Silk, pressed her face against my arm, resting on me and then pushing me to go,  and I understood that she was telling me that they would be fine --they were able to take care of themselves in the cold.  And this morning, when I dragged my aching bones out to feed them and called out “Sawubona!”, I received the enthusiastic “Nnnmmmm, nnnmm!” that let me know everything was all right.

Why is it easier to establish this “mutual consent”, as Orland Bishop calls it, with our animals than it is with each other?  I have heard that some indigenous elders have been urging us to “change the Dream”.  Clearly, the Dream that we have right now is not leading us down a path that many of us want to follow. We look each other in the eyes less and less these days, and it causes so much suffering. “If we see each other, something is happening that would not happen unless we are together,” Orland says, ”If I’m by myself, it will never happen. So I must look for those who are looking for me… And if we do what we are here to do, what would the world look like?”

With each person that I encounter today, I am going to take an extra moment to make good eye contact and allow them to tell me what they want me to see about themselves. I believe it only takes a moment to change the conversation.


billie hinton said...

Interesting - I often call out the words I see you to my herd as I walk out, but also when I'm inside and suddenly have the impulse to look out a specific window - and when I do, I realize one of the herd is out there looking in at me.

My teens often get frustrated with me because when we go anywhere I end up talking to everybody we come into contact with - often someone who just happens to be walking beside me. I think it's because I make eye contact and open the "door" to conversation. I have learned how to turn this "off" too when needed - which occasionally it is. But mostly it just feels normal to me to engage with people I come into contact with out and about in the world.

Hope you are staying warm!! We're warming up today after several very cold days. Then heading back to cold on Tuesday. I'm carrying buckets out as well. :)

Victoria Cummings said...

Billie - It doesn't surprise me that you do this too. Kindred spirits!

Kate said...

Lovely rituals we can have with our horses.

I think we're often trained not to "see", and it takes letting go of some of that to begin to be able to - with animals or people. I've always found animals easier too.

Victoria Cummings said...

Kate - I believe you are right that we are trained more to "do" than to "see".

Lori Skoog said...

A beautiful ritual and for a good reason. Thank you for sharing!

C-ingspots said...

We do miss out on so very much when we're not together...all this electronic communication can make some parts of socializing easier, but it lacks so much. I'm afraid our society will be forever diminished because of our lessening of human contact with each other. Deeper, more meaningful relationships are what we need, not more social media. I think animals are so much more honest and are in tuned with the "now" than most people ever are, and they are completely without an agenda, which is something busy people are always dealing with. My horses and dogs enrich my life so much. I simply cannot imagine my life without them.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Lovely post. :D

I wandered everywhere when I lived in NYC. Everywhere, day or night, usually on my own. Never felt uneasy or in danger.

My secret weapon was acknowledging the folks I passed, at least with eye contact, and often with a hello. We all deserve respect and acknowledgement.