A thanksgiving

    A thanksgiving

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Those who stood at Standing Rock
show us how the rocks stand
so that only earth itself can move them,
so that they move with earth,
dancing earth’s dance with sky
so their shadows tell the years.

They show us that to stand in place,
standing in your rightful place,
is to go the right way,
going the way the earth goes.

Those who stood at Standing Rock
have shown us the way and blessed it.
A dark way we have to go
yet it is blessed in its beginning.
May it end rightly,
so that we stand with them there,
so that we dance with them there
where they stood for us at Standing Rock.

—Ursula K. Le Guin
4-5 December 2016



A thanksgiving — 12 Comments

  1. Thank you.
    And even more thanks for all the brave people at Standing Rock!

    I’m so glad Obama finally did the right thing; though I can’t understand why he waited so long, while people were getting badly hurt.

  2. This is beautiful. Your words have been among the first to restore my spirit amid the election grief. The water protectors of Standing Rock have given us a gift, a model for moving forward.

  3. As we make camp (really a city-state and commune) in the Cannonball River valley on the sun-dance grounds I am drawn to Lao Tzu again and again. We have gone to the low place where humans disdain to dwell. Strategically this makes little sense when the police mass atop bluffs looking down on us. But we yield to the hard. And police and pipelines can only move in straight lines. But Oceti Sakowin is many circles, arcs, crescent; that is, a spiral. When a line meets a spiral it must bend.

  4. Those who stood at Standing Rock are still standing there. I am thankful for them too but I fear the past tense of this thanksgiving poem is premature. The pipeline company has stated that despite the ruling, their plans have not changed.

  5. Thank you. As usual your words heal.
    Circumstance prevents me from going to Standing Rock, but I did make a donation, necessarily small.
    I took the liberty of sharing this with friends

  6. I’d like to say to John: sure, you’re right, the company’s dug in and the D.T. administration will support them. But does that mean the resistance at Standing Rock was or is useless, meaningless? What’s at stake is not only these water rights. The water protectors are protecting us — our common rights, our future. In doing so, they share their strength with us, they show us how to keep standing, protecting what matters.

    • Oh please, don’t let me be misunderstood. In answer to your question, no the resistance at Standing Rock was not, nor is not, meaningless; perish the thought. As I said I am deeply grateful for those who have stood and are standing at Standing Rock. I am aware of and humbled by this moment in time when so many have come together with principles of peaceful resistance guiding their way. My intent was merely – and I feel a little silly about it now – my intent was to speak out against what I have perceived as an early victory celebration that might take the pressure off and let the movement disperse before the goal has actually been achieved. But now David Archambault is calling on people to call it off and go home and let the next phase be a legal battle and I definitely think the water protectors should feel proud of their success as they leave the protest behind so your thanksgiving poem is completely appropriate and I withdraw any insinuations otherwise.

  7. Dear Mrs. Le Guin,

    A thanksgiving to Standing Rock, and
    A thanksgiving to you.

    When I was young, I had a good fortune to read one of your books. Then I read all of your books I could get my hands on. Your words are a part of who I have become – one of the people who stand with those at Standing Rock.

    Today I found your blog. (What took me so long, I wonder?) I am overjoyed that I can thank you here. Thanks for your words and being a part of me. I fondly wish that I can also tell you in person sometime. Till then, I wish you health! A thanksgiving to you…

  8. Gentile Mrs. Le Guin,
    I’m from Italy (aka “Sorry for my bad English”). I just finished yesterday the last novel of the “Ekumene” saga. I’ve read sometimes this blog and your posts (including this last one, that reminds me a similar situation here, near Turin, about the high-speed train which should pass under the Alps).
    Of course I have to put myself in the line-up: reading your works is always a pleasure, an occasion for reflecting about our present society, and most of all a great emotion. The lines of Tenar about the meaning of death are impressed for ever in my brain and my bones.
    It’s the first time, in my life, I can write some words to an author I really love or consider a “myth”. Might you imagine a Catullo’s blog? Or the chance to send an email to Alexandre Dumas?
    The web makes the distance shorter, or so it seems…
    That’s what I’d like to share.
    What “shocked” me deeply it’s the fact in your novels it’s shown an other way to consider the concept of “hero” and “heroin”. It’s a matter of writer’s courage and brilliance.
    For example: Ged. He’s one of the most powerful magicians. And he became in the second part of the saga just a figure in the background. He sails away from glory and celebrity. To me it’s revolutionary: as if Harry Potter abandoned Hogwarts during the fifht year, saying: “Hi Ron, hi Hermione, I’ve done enough. Now I’ll risk to muster too much power in my hands, so it’s better for everyone if I’ll retire”.
    It’s the personification of an italian saying: “Everybody is helpful, nobody is indispensable”. Not even the “Hero”.
    A lot of anti-heroes have been told during the last decades, almost in movies. But Ged is not this kind of hero. An anti-hero is a character that prefers to hide in shadows, but always, at a certain point, he jumps into the limelight. The anti-hero is not missed, because – more or less – is present untill the end. Ged is different: firstly he searches for the greatest goals, but after his almost-death he becomes humble and aware he can be more dangerous than useful.
    Tolkien as well made a first step into this direction, but not as radical as yours.
    And there’s another telling-tecnique to help creating this “unindispensableness”: the main characters of your stories are often in danger but it’s rare seeing them in extreme situations. For example, Sutty in “The telling”: she helps a lot, her knowledge of history catalyses the events, but she’s never like Frodo and Sam at Barad-dur. She never has to save the whole world, or the Universe. If you save everybody, you can start to think you’re necessary.
    That’s a lesson!
    Like Ghibli’s movies and stories, Earthsea and Ekumene novels show Evil and Good not cut with a knife. While reading, you choose which side you’d belong to; it’s natural. But one of the most important qualities of a story is when you feel more and more unconfortable in your side. It means you’re reflecting, you’re questioning yourself about your values. It means the author is guiding you into the contradrictions of reality and human society.
    Well, I overwrited!
    Thanks again,
    I wish you a happy 2017, and the best recovery.

  9. i found a typo in your poem “Skin”, maybe?

    see redundant ‘am’ in brackets
    (taken from your web site)

    and somehow doesn’t seem to fit
    as seamlessly as once it [as] did.

    Also, I felt compelled to repost it moments ago, but now ask your permission, after dropping first few lines, and instead (with ellipsis), starting:

    “…If we were skinless, like a cloud,
    would we not mingle with the crowd?

    Would not our little bodies be
    more boundless even than the sea,”



    But if you wish, i will restore, as written, in full!


    – John Potts

    P.S. a girlfriend years ago did some house sitting/plant sitting for you a few times, Lauren Worsh.

    PPS You are a huge hero, inspiration, i could weep with delight gratitude for your seeming endless gifts to us in word and feeling and wisdom.

    PPS I have experimented some with reading aloud, for friends, sometimes Rebecca West, or W.G. Sebald – a few others- the largest I have tried yet being your amazing piece “Bones of the Earth” It is superb for that, but- i cannot get past the heart of that astonishing story- without choking up speechless with emotion for a long moment, before i can speak again. 5 times out of 5 so far!

  10. apologies for posting this in a random place on your blog, wasn’t sure where to go

  11. Mrs. Le Guin,

    I listened to your speech from the Hugo Awards and at the time I was writing my first Science Fiction novel and it really pleased me that you called for ( I am sure this is a paraphrase) Science Fiction to empower humans to be the super hero. I won’t shamelessly name the book here but once I saw your post about Standing Rock I was struck again as the main character is an American Indian (Algonquian) born in 1602 now 400 years later having evolved through natural means to be a super hero ready to step in when the time is right to save the world and it’s people. He teaches lessons about what he knows to empower humans to realize they have more control over their live than they are taking and he is battling those who would try to make us believe that GMO’s and fossil fuels are really the way to go no matter who gets in the way.
    You seem such an interesting person with a lovely mind.

    Thanks to you and all the best

    Charles Harwood