In Memoriam: Writings of
Dan Moonhawk Alford
With a little help from my friends (Cynthia Sue Larson, Stacey Duncan, Matthew Bronson, and webmaster Canton Becker), I am pleased to to put together a small archive of writings by our dear ancestor, Dan Moonhawk Alford (1946-2000). Also included below are remembrances from the many people who knew and loved him. We all remain grateful to Moonhawk for his great work in the world, his integrity, warm friendship, and sense of humor. Thank you Moonhawk. You are loved.
Full PDFs are available for each of the following articles:
- A Report on the Fetzer Intitute-sponsored Dialogues Between Western and Indigenous Scientists
- God is a Verb
- God Is Not A Noun in Native America
- Stealing the Fire
- History of an Idea
- Quantum Approaches to Consciousness
- Thoughts on QuAL
- Letter to David Peat
- Moonhawk and Patterson
- Great Whorf Hypothesis Hoax
- Nurturing a Faint Call in the Blood
Friends, colleagues, students, mentors, and admirers remember Moonhawk
We were very saddened to hear of Moonhawk's passing on to the Spirit World. At the same time we know he has gone to a place of beauty, peace and harmony.
We were cheered somewhat by Leroy and Amethyst's scenario of Moonhawk arriving in the Spirit World and being immediately greeted by David Bohm and Einstein, who said they had been waiting impatiently for his arrival. What discussions they must be having!
We were Moonhawk's students, along with Dr. Lloyd Pinkham. All of us are immensely grateful to him for his friendship, support and compassion. If it were not for his extending a helping hand to us, when we most needed it, we may not have ever completed our doctoral studies.
Moonhawk was an incredibly gifted professor. His knowledge in the areas of linguistics and native culture made him unique among all our professional colleagues. We had great respect for his humanity, integrity and personality.
We really appreciated his finely honed sense of humor. When we first met him at the retreat called the Shadows, as part of our CIIS studies, we thought he was one of the gardeners or maintenance people. He was drinking coffee, wearing cut off shorts, slippers, and a backwards facing cap. He did not introduce himself at first and we did not know he was our professor. Without overwhelming us with his academic credentials, he began talking in the most relaxed manner, and quickly gained our respect with his knowledge and precise articulation. After proper introductions he proceeded to give one of the most dynamic and engaging presentations that any of us in the TKN (Traditional Knowledge Program) had ever heard. We all went up to shake his hand at the end of the class. The handshake wasn't just a handshake, but a gesture that communicated our profound respect for his knowledge.
In the years that followed we worked very closely under his tutelage, to the completion of our doctorates. He served on our dissertation committee and constantly supported our traditional native perspective, no small feat in an institution that valued conventional academic disciplines. His editing was so precise and exacting that we gave him a Native American name: Hastiin Hyphen (He Who Gives Many Hyphens Between Words).
made some of the best burritos we had ever tasted, and that is really
saying something since we are from the American southwest. When we visited
him, we would take a break from intense intellectual dialogue and eat
burritos filled with salsa, beans and bacon. He guarded his secret burrito
recipe with a smile. He never told us what the secret ingredients were
and we never asked.
He really understood and knew the value of what we were trying to say, and kept challenging us to achieve the highest levels of professional and intellectual development. Moonhawk knew how to best challenge our minds. Some of the questions that he raised to us, were so profound that it would take a lifetime to fully answer. We have used his teachings constantly since we completed our doctorates.
We are now school administrators and teachers at the K-12 and college levels on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. What we received from him, we are passing on. His knowledge and legacy is going on to the next generation of students.
Moonhawk was an integral part of a world-wide network of scientists, linguists and indigenous knowledge holders. We are so grateful that he introduced us to his intellectual peers and as a result we met many interesting and remarkable people that have become life-long friends. He originated the concept of quantum linguistics and facilitated numerous dialogues between renowned native people, physicists, and linguists.
Moonhawk was renowned for his research on Benjamin Whorf. He was constantly looking for a Hopi to validate some of Whorf s assumptions. Instead of the much longed for Hopi, we came into his life: Nez Perce, Navajo and Cherokee/Navajo. Moonhawk was able to able to validate much of his linguistic research on native languages through us. But he still wore a tee shirt that proclaimed Don't worry, be Hopi!
Moonhawk was always gracious and available to help us. We will miss him greatly. It is often said that you do not realize the value of someone until they are gone. The passing of our beloved friend Moonhawk will definitely leave a gap that may most likely not be filled. In the case of Moonhawk, teacher, mentor and great friend, this tribute is extraordinarily true and heartfelt.
To Moonhawk: May you dwell peacefully with the hawks up high and in harmony with the Great Spirit. Hagoonee.
David H. Begay
Many know me as Dan's teaching and presenting partner for twenty years. I give this poem which I wrote upon learning of his death.
Upon Hearing of the Death of Moonhawk,
My Best Friend
The phone rang early, found me in the bathtub:
She told me: "Moonhawk has flown back to the moon".
He collapsed like a little bird into a ball of light that came out of his mouth, lingered at the bedroom window, blew out into the suburban night on the force of her surprise and into the velvet sky.
So, this is how the stars welcomed his traveler¹s soul-with outstretched arms, hot with the dance of atoms. I can discern the arc of his trajectory even now in the sad, still darkness of my heart -- a shooting star against the inky stage of what is not, or what can never be known.
She told me, "Moonhawk will now be conjugated only in the past tense," and I tripped on this sharp edge of grammar, fell into a hot tub filled with tears and memories. Moonhawk: Each week, you and I flew, fearless, wing-to-wing, over langscapes of hieroglyphic mountains and alphabet trees, into the face of infinity with love as our only compass.
She told me Moonhawk had flown back to the moon and I wondered: Moonhawk, What part of me did you take with you, slipped into your pocket with your stash, like a secret? For now, I can only trace the perimeter of the round hollow in my chest - the path you took on the way to the other world passed directly through my heart.
Perhaps when I¹m a wiser man, longer of tooth, I will discern at last the sentence beyond this period. For now, I linger at its roundness, trace the edges of my pain with my finger, feel the full weight of all the tales of power already told.
She told me this morning that Moonhawk had gone home to the Moon. He left suddenly and the wind took back his vowels, she said. Listen: can you hear him whispering some new tale in the shuffling of the leaves?
Those remembering Moonhawk's mind and life will recall the subtle moods of celebration and joy. He lived triumphantly and lovingly. He had loving warmth and humility, a kind of synthesis of intellectual inquiry and romantic sensibilities that surrounded his discourse and discussions.
We remembered his "linguaposophy" approach that transformed into quantum linguistics. We recalled his awareness, his mind of extraordinary agility and alertness, his rich humor, his kindness, thoughtfulness and his humanity. We recalled quite remarkable—and still insufficiently recognized—achievements and to his capacity to embrace ideas and concepts and transform them. His experiences were the gateway to the insights that lay at the foundation of cognition and thought itself.
In his capacity as thinking man he penetrated consciousness to insights into the world of spirit and sound. Avoiding the crystal clarity of reasonable thought and its conventions that defined knowledge, Moonhawk was able to acknowledge the validity of the imagination as a tool of intellectual research. He enjoyed how the particular combinations of sounds and words worked on the mind. He found extraordinary magic in it. He revealed the epiphanetic magic of sounds, which not only gave pleasure but also reacted on and expanded meanings. This insight of the transforming force of Aboriginal sounds and languages engaged his brilliant mind into not only the history of consciousness and the origins of language. The development of prismatic, multipolar human consciousness, as he saw it, was the key to the whole mystery of humanity.
Moonhawk was, however, no ivory-tower academic or bland academic. He could have been a noted academic, had it not been for a burning interest in "real-life" questions. He was a gifted teacher and an exceptional learner. All who talked with him discovered an open mind, a courteous and joyful dialogue. He was ready always for a profound conversation about life and its meaning, discussions which were full of an almost angelic grace, humility—to say nothing of humor at any new thought or insight.
Whether smoking the mildness of natural herbs or joyfully assisting in the emptying of any bottle, or silently typing on his keyboard, one could not finish such encounters with Moonhawk and just put the encounter away. The thoughts and insights kept coming back. Like gravity, one was pulled further into the thoughts to make sure he said what you thought he said, and to be convinced all over again or just to hear him say it one more time. Few consciousnesses exist that communicate to others what he brought—the subtle, astonishing gift of changing the way one thinks.
Moonhawk has a consciousness that did not flinch from exploring fringe or marginalized writings. He transformed them through care and integrity into the light of wisdom. Such a quality is so rare and precious in our time. Similar to the hazards of any prophet, he studied and wrote without honor or glory. Yet, is safe to say that his consciousness manifested a greatness will be recognized more fully and richly after his death than it was while he was alive. We were always waiting his next insight, rather than comprehending his latest insight. His destiny allowed his spirits and thoughts to remain with us to intrigue us through time. His teachings, I may say with confidence, will grow in stature as the century unfolds and as it become more possible to appreciate what he achieve, what he searched for. We remember his consciousness and his humanity with gratitude in our hearts and mind that he strove to make us aware of our consciousness and how it worked.
From my ceremony on Winter solstice, 2002.
Moonhawk was a man of words, yet on his crossing, I have memories, images, senses of time and experiences. My words are few, for they don't seem to matter just now. What matters is the vision my friend Moonhawk had, vision that he shared generously with other minds. Moonhawk saw how differences in ways of knowing the world were reflected in the languages, and he talked about these. Are Songs Alive?, he would say, voice like butterscotch, look in his eye that told you he knew. "That was [my friend's] song," the Elder in his story would say. "Haven't heard it in oh, 80, 90 years. I guess it must have been getting lonely."
Must've been getting lonely, so it came back and plopped itself, alive and vibrant, in someone else's head. These are stories of endless possibility, the stories of Moonhawk's beliefs, of his vision, of a reality he shared that was not limited by the sure, the visible, the measurable. It was a world that opened to the possibility of Phoenician travellers in Canada, to the possibility that language differences were based on culture and ways of seeing.
Moonhawk is not gone, just in another dimension, just on the other side of the veil. His work will live on to inspire others, not only directly in and through his writings and teachings, but in the ways he inspired those he touched, those he brought into his circle.
I was one of those, one of the ones he encouraged, one of those who shared his vision, and his view of what was possible. And for the time he spent in my life, as my friend, my mentor, someone who challenged and encouraged me, I will always be grateful.
This is a small item from Moonhawk's list, Relational Languaging. It shows so much of who and how we were. . . . in loving memory:
A One-act Play
Language lives as a spirit inside a people... all of whom are joined by a common understanding, a "group knowledge" if you will. One day, a herald comes with a trumpet and a parchment. He says that from that day forth, all the people may speak only from the left side of their brains... for it has been determined that this is the side closest to "god" and therefore the "best"...
And language can no longer move about, for it has lost its feet, and it can no longer feel, for it has lost its hands and its heart, language can no longer sound happy or sad, no longer offer solace for woe or companionship in joy and gladness, for it has lost its voice. Language can now only run in circles, for it has too much energy for its task, and it can only consider "disembodied" information, and has no way of validating it, for it has lost its "body of knowledge". And language becomes lonely and dispirited. It lives alone in the minds of those who are left, unable to reach its companions. And having lost its connection with others, it begins to lose its connection with itself, for it has lost its balance and its joy. ... And alone, it dies.
. . . , I think it's truly excellent, Mia! Especially the running -- not the slower walking speed, in circles -- perfect for unbridled, ungrounded left brain as Emperor.
warm regards, moonhawk
I am heartbroken that my dear beloved teacher, mentor, and guide into the Indigenous World has left. He passed on my dear son Craig's birthday, and although I did not consciously realize it was he who was gone...I felt a deep abiding loneliness, like when my mother passed on...same feelings. I was concerned about my ex-husband, called him a month later ... and somehow he felt my withdrawal and sadness ... and my son telephoned me after ten years of silence between us.
I saw two hawks circling and felt I was getting a message sent...and then a hawk came by all raggedy and looked like he had been through hell..or a long flight...and as I remember back now, there was a whole group of white feathered hawks flying over above my roof about twenty feet high.... and I never knew such a thing was possible... and telephoned a friend to ask if there was white feathered hawks...and all flying to the eastern direction of the sunrise and the Bird Nation. She did not have an answer, but said it was an Omen.
I just tonite initiated a Cherokee/Irish woman back into the medicine circle and cherokee pipe ceremony, and we made tobacco offerings, and she drummed and chanted with me for the first time ever. I brought her across all her fears and anxiety, apprehensions, of the Great Mystery...Spirit World...and the Ancestors. I turned on the website to show her some Cherokee websites and tracking her relatives...and first wanted her to see Moonhawk's website, the guide and teacher and dear friend who brought me home to my ancestors and the continuing education and communication which Moonhawk never failed to share with me.
I miss him already...and sent my smoke to the Great Grandmother Moon and told her I will always hold him dear in my heart.
Tonite, I went back out at midnite to bury some crystals, and she was sending me her light, and a rainbow was circling around her... for the first time in three nights I was able to feel and connect with the lunar consciousness and draw down the moon.
I know he is continuing his work in the spirit world and we shall meet again among the Starseed Tsalagi ancestors. The Adawees are the guardians of the four directions, and he is with the radiant stars.
Please add me to your list of Moonhawk's Community. I have an article on my website about my mentor and the link to your website. He sent me the chapter on Whorf, and his summary for The Secret Life of Language. I do hope this will be published posthumously.
I deeply appreciate the Navajo conferences and his colleagues at Seed University.
Please give dear Matthew Bronson my deepest sympathy and kind regards for his loss and separation from his partner in teaching and consciousness, education and healing. I know what Matthew meant when he said they flew together. Ah.
May his great teaching and his presence always be a reminder and reassurance that we can change our minds....and learn shamantalk, a medicine way of speaking.
Blessings be upon you for maintaining a website for this great being.
The day my father died, you told me "we are the continuation of our fathers." You might also have said that we are the continuation of our teachers. For it is the teachings of our elders that must be remembered, and although you only lived to be a baby elder, your contribution within your life span was great.
So much of what you gave is not traceable by writing, though your writings were powerful. You had a facile, brilliant intellect and you and those around you were always fascinated by your contagious passion for language, culture and meaning. Still, the most significant contribution you gave was your love and your warmth as a human being. This is what we miss the most; this is what the world needs the most.
Back in 1983, you introduced me to the worldview of Native America in a classroom at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Matthew Bronson and Leslie Gray were your co-teachers. The course was called Anthropological Linguistics, but the beautiful thing was that it was so much more than about a human centered world, or logic, or even linguistics. Instead we learned what it is to be a two-legged human being, not as separate from, but as an integral part of the web of existence. We learned about indigenous wisdom as perennial wisdom, as valid today as ever. We learned to see the world in fresh, new ways. We learned that in Native languages, people could go all day long without uttering a single noun, and we learned the profound implications of that thought. Most of all, we learned to speak from our hearts. You asked us to keep a diary, because you knew this course would change our lives.
You participated in the historic Bohmian Science Dialogues initiated by Leroy Little Bear, bringing together David Bohm, David Peat, your mentor Sagesh Youngblood Henderson and others, the first of which occurred in 1992, exactly 500 years after Columbus came to Turtle Island. That gathering of Native elders, quantum physicists and linguists helped to undress the great Western myth of trying to stop and name everything in the world, because the English language ran out of words to describe and name the "things" of the quantum realm. As you were fond of saying, in the quantum realm, there are no things - only process and relationship. Those dialogues brought together Native American elders on equal footing with the high priests of knowledge in Western culture, and the result was respect/respect thinking. Years later, you were the catalyst that made it possible for my organization, SEED University, to continue the tradition of the Bohmian Science dialogues under a new name, The Language of Spirituality. We are very honored to carry on the tradition that you taught to me, and that you learned from your teachers. Mutual respect, deep listening and dialogue are the ingredients of a peaceful world.
It is my hope that we are finally ending the industrial age with its concomitant domination attitude toward nature and coming back full circle to the ecological age. It is a time when the storehouse of knowledge kept in Native America will be listened to with respect and not for misappropriation of knowledge for profit. It is a time of new paradigms that recognize how all things are synergistic, interconnected and interdependent. It is a time for educational models that don't offer isolated specializations in "subjects", but instead offer trans-disciplinary approaches to learning that are in alignment with the natural world. Our greatest teachers are found in the natural world. We can no longer arrogantly assert the supposed laws of the universe nor assume that things will continue as they have. The only constant is flux. The best we can do, as Leroy Little Bear puts it, is to observe the "regularities of nature" and then to help maintain that balance.
Moonhawk, you were right in the middle of it. You were right in the middle of making history and you were a giant. And even though you are not in the world physically anymore, your energy remains. And you did everything so sweetly and gently…
You were very influential in my life. And even though your ideas were fantastic, the way you shaped my life the most was in seeing the joy you took in relating…a joke, a pun, a toke on your pipe, always having fun. Thomas Moore was here at SEED to give a talk and he was lamenting that one never reads in an obituary about how somebody had a lot of fun. Well, this may not be a newspaper obituary, but for whoever is reading this that knew Moonhawk from the Internet only, believe me, he had lots of fun and he was great fun to be with. But even the people that knew him from the Internet already probably sense that.
Moonhawk, because you were so highly kinesthetic, I think you understand how painful it is that we can not touch you anymore. But you touched us all on so many levels that the work will live on, and we will make you proud . We are the continuation of our teachers. Thank you, Moonhawk, for everything that you gave us.
I am studying for an MA in Applied Linguistics in The Netherlands. Well, for my first essay I chose the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and started doing some research on the web.
I came across "Demise of the Whorf Hypothesis" by Moonhawk and I was hooked. I am a mature student, a 47 year old father of three, so I have been around the block a time or two so I am not easily swayed by hyperbole.
What Moonhawk wrote just seemed so sensible to me.
I have long held the view that we must be more holistic in our everyday lives. I believe in "what goes around comes around."
Moonhawk made me question the accepted view on Whorf. He made me look deeper into the whole linguistic relativity issue and formulate my viewpoint.
I am saddened by his passing, and hope that he finds all he is looking for in the next world.
Greetings Dear Dan Moonhawk Alford, wherever you may be!
We can still talk to you, can't we? You do understand the significant relationship of language with culture! Please allow me to speak to you from my cultural point of view:
When you were among us, most of us talked to you and spoke with you in the language of humans. You appreciated it partially, since you knew how "narrow" our capacities were and how short-sighted our visions. You knew much more languages than only that of the humans. You were a respectful child of the Mother Earth; therefore she had taught you all the possible and the impossible languages of her creatures. You could understand the tongue of the hawks as well as that of the doves; of lambs as well as the lions; of possums as well as the elephants; of "children, dogs, horses, and other pets, Kanzi and other enculturated chimps, etc.". This wonderful capacity is the gift of the Mother Earth to those children of hers who truly understand the meaning of being in harmony with "Nature" and "Life" and appreciate language as "inclusive of Nature…"
Out of your Native American heritage you told us about "the Cheyenne Tower of Babel" that:
Long ago, humans and spirits and animals and plants all communicated in the same way. Then something happened. After that, we had to talk to each other in human speech. But we retained The Old Language for dreams, and for communicating with spirits and animals and plants.
And now, Dear Sir, you do not have to communicate any more in the one-sided and narrow human speech with all its shortcomings. You have returned to the sphere of "The Old Language" of "dreams" where "spirits and animals and plants" speak one language and understand each other fully.
Dear Moonhawk, we pray now with you in The Old Language, appraising and appreciating our animate cosmic existence.
I talk to you directly, 'cause I believe you ain't really dead, but more alive than ever before. You are only transformed into a new "form" with a much more pure "meaning." In the language of Jalal-Ud Din Rumi (Mowlavi):
[You] died from mineral, and plant became;
Died from the plant, and took a sentient frame;
Died from the beast, and donned a human dress;
When by [your] dying did [you] e'er grow less?
Dear Dan Moonhawk, we honour and appreciate your new garment, knowing that in the language of Wakidezhinga, the old leader of Omaha, you have returned into the "mind of the Wakonda," "the maker of all things."
We appreciate and congratulate you with your new "garment of brightness:"
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
With gratitude and respect,
never had the chance to contact Moonhawk while he was alive, having happened
upon his webpages years after his passage; but I still return to these
pages every once in a while to reread what he had written while with us.
I am one of those people who picked up a copy of Whorf's "Language, Thought, and Reality" and took it to heart. I happened upon it in a university book store during my first year of post-secondary study: it wasn't a text required for any of my classes but I bought it anyway, because I thought that it looked interesting. It was.
Never having taken an anthropology or archeology course, I don't quite know where it might have fit in that academic setting. I do remember using the odd quote from Whorf's book in essays I wrote in my chosen discipline (philosophy), and doing so without raising an eyebrow (let alone any academic objections).
Now, a quarter century later, I am still quoting Whorf! That is why I have enjoyed reading Moonhawk's pages so much: I can't recall encountering anything written by anyone else who had actually understood what Whorf was doing, and why it was so important.
It would have been nice to have had the chance to share the research I've been doing with Moonhawk: I am sure that he would have enjoyed reading it. Perhaps some of his students would be interested in what I've been putting together. I have a website outlining my research into the original form of image writing used during pre-Colombian times by the First Nations of North America; it is located at:
News travels slowly to this part of the world. I have often thought of Moonhawk, but I have not returned to my native San Francisco in many years, and I just happened onto this site. I was saddened, but not surprised to learn of his passing. I was Danny's student, colleague and friend, 1990-1996; our association was all too brief. My finest memories of him were at SAC meetings, gatherings of kindred spirits; it was a venue where his wit and wisdom waxed full and eloquent. I am grateful to have shared a pipe or two on the path with Moonhawk, man of the highest integrity. I will always remember him as a wisdom-carrier, frontier thinker in his field, and cultural bridge. Until our paths cross again, I will carry his gentle spirit in my heart.
Auckland, New Zealand
I was first captured by Moonhawk's ways of thinking about the relation between thinking and languaging, especially in the context of science, when he posted a message on the Quantum-Mind list. After we exchanged a few private emails, I was determined to meet him face-to-face.
That meeting occurred in Monterey the day before he, Andy Hilgartner, and I presented our panel at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Systems Sciences on June 30, 1999. I was not disappointed. We bonded immediately.
We relished our kinship in spirit, enjoying a laugh every time someone mistook us for brothers. We joked that we were twins separated at birth -- by eleven years. I could not love Moonhawk more if we were biological brothers.
I will miss his easy humor, soaring intellect, unyielding integrity, rigorous scholarship, and passionate sense of justice -- qualities that were amplified, not damped, by his unassuming self-appraisal.
Illustrating Moonhawk's modesty is the story of how I came to host his web pages. In 1999, I asked his permission to publish a couple of his papers on my site, and he shook his head bemusedly. "Who'd read them?" he wanted to know. "Folks you've never met and never will," I asserted, "from all over the world." He reluctantly agreed, largely to indulge me I think. Within weeks after I put up the first rendering of "Moonhawk's Pages," he began receiving emails from new friends all over the world. Only then did he begin to enthusiastically support the project.
know Moonhawk only through his writings, collected on this web site. I'd
read Whorf's LTR in the 1950's and felt even then that he was saying something
germinal concerning human cultures. Dan Alford -- when I finally found
his work -- seemed to be exploring those insights even more deeply. A
few years ago I put this poem together, trying to express a little of
what I've come to understand. Was
It Well? The
infant smiles and gestures to the child And
so our men and women meet Later
to ask, was it well? Tom
always found Dan to be very open, with a willingness to explore new territory
and to question assumptions that did not add up. I also found him to be
extremely passionate about his work, of his love of teaching and showing
students what was going on with language. Moonhawk
is in the trees. He
is there, where the heart aches. Ralph
and I started working together such a long time ago at Safeway and were
immediate friends doing a lot of great events together through the years
- working on his TV show, classes at CIIS, native gatherings and private
had the good fortune to live close to Dan, Marilyn and Elizabeth making
visits quite convenient. I have learned so much about so many facets of
life from Danny, he was my greatest resource and I will miss him greatly. The
world has truly lost a very gifted person. Ellen
A. Fowers I
was looking up information on internet, and came across a review Dan Alford
wrote on Stephen Pinker. I read it, and remembered my correspondence in
2002 with Moonhawk. He had emailed me regarding an abstract of a paper
I presented on animism, and I found his essay on "Nurturing a Faint
Call in the Blood" fascinating. I
thought I would email him again, and catch up on conversation regarding
animate mind. But I saw, sadly, that he had died. In
my brief correspondence with him, he struck me as a maverick thinker,
and I admired him for that. He mentioned that he had been ill for awhile,
though I cannot find that email now. But I thought I would send you the
correspondence we did have. I
wish I had gotten to know him better. He seems to me to have been one
of the rarest birds: someone free and enthused with learning, who found
ways to get at those deeper levels of human realities hidden yet open
to anyone free enough to find them. Gene
dancing toward tomorrow
Then having learned to shrink a thought to words
the children turn
to sons and daughters
struggling through time
bearing invisible baskets
heavy with thousands of years
looking at sunrise with old eyes
to plant in new children an old world
Later to ask, is there more?
I never knew Dan Moonhawk Alford personally as we only interacted through emails.
His work will live on; of that we can be assured. His love and passion for language will live on also through the students he touched and the many others he shared emails with.
It was an honor to have interacted and shared with Dan.
With deep gratitude and respect,
I know Moonhawk only through his writings, collected on this web site. I'd read Whorf's LTR in the 1950's and felt even then that he was saying something germinal concerning human cultures. Dan Alford -- when I finally found his work -- seemed to be exploring those insights even more deeply.
A few years ago I put this poem together, trying to express a little of what I've come to understand.
Was It Well?
infant smiles and gestures to the child
so our men and women meet
to ask, was it well?
always found Dan to be very open, with a willingness to explore new territory
and to question assumptions that did not add up. I also found him to be
extremely passionate about his work, of his love of teaching and showing
students what was going on with language.
Moonhawk is in the trees.
He is there, where the heart aches.
Danny and I started working together such a long time ago at Safeway and were immediate friends doing a lot of great events together through the years - working on his TV show, classes at CIIS, native gatherings and private gatherings.
I had the good fortune to live close to Dan, Marilyn and Elizabeth making visits quite convenient. I have learned so much about so many facets of life from Danny, he was my greatest resource and I will miss him greatly.
The world has truly lost a very gifted person.
I was looking up information on internet, and came across a review Dan Alford wrote on Stephen Pinker. I read it, and remembered my correspondence in 2002 with Moonhawk. He had emailed me regarding an abstract of a paper I presented on animism, and I found his essay on "Nurturing a Faint Call in the Blood" fascinating.
I thought I would email him again, and catch up on conversation regarding animate mind. But I saw, sadly, that he had died.
In my brief correspondence with him, he struck me as a maverick thinker, and I admired him for that. He mentioned that he had been ill for awhile, though I cannot find that email now. But I thought I would send you the correspondence we did have.
I wish I had gotten to know him better. He seems to me to have been one of the rarest birds: someone free and enthused with learning, who found ways to get at those deeper levels of human realities hidden yet open to anyone free enough to find them.