WHAT I’VE ALWAYS KNOWN by Tom Harmer

WHAT I’VE ALWAYS KNOWN

Living in Full Awareness of the Earth
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A continuation of Harmer’s first memoir (Going Native, not reviewed) and of his apprenticeship to Okanogan Indian elder Clayton Tommy Jr.

In the 1980s, Harmer lived along the Washington-Canada border. He had studied with Tommy in the past, learning the ways of the Okanoga and their rituals for hunting, but now he worked in an overheated office. During what was supposed to be an uneventful winter walk, Harmer nearly froze to death in a sudden snowstorm. But as he was losing consciousness, he heard a voice telling him to build a fire; it saved his life. As a result, the author decided to reconnect with Tommy and continue his apprenticeship; the result is this lengthy description of his spiritual education. Some of the passages are quite moving. Harmer is “given” dreams that correspond to future events: a dream of a young woman with two children leads him to venison and to a friend whose safety was in jeopardy; another vision tells him that a runaway boy nicknamed Boot will be fine, and that Harmer’s closest friend has a flat tire and will be late returning from a trip. The author has a fine eye for nature writing: “Showers swept over the lake in a blurring of nearby brush, a slapping of tiny drops on a rock, a rustling of ironwood shrubs. The ironwood hung with wispy sprays like dried foam, what had been brushed off as hairy seed-dust on my coat sleeves.” Harmer closes as he sets out on a new journey arranged by his mentor. On this “long wander,” he must find specific power places and accomplish certain tests. The reader is left with a sense of hopefulness; surely Harmer completed his apprenticeship successfully.

Fits snugly on the shelf of books by European-Americans who acquired native lore, but transcends the category with its prose.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 2003
ISBN: 1-4000-4855-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2003