Allan EricksonMy father went on talking to me in a low voice. This is how our people always talk to their children, so low and quiet, the child thinks he is dreaming. But he never forgets. ~ Maria Chono, Papago

This quote is from 365 Days of Walking the Red Road: The Native American Path to Leading a Spiritual Life Every Day. A very long title for a small 4×5 book of daily quotes. Sometimes I read the quote for the actual day, other times I skim along like a butterfly let loose in a garden until I get to one that seems just right. My father went on talking to me in a low voice. That was my dad. He was not a yeller or shouter. His voice would rise in volume when he laughed or sang. But his speaking voice was just a regular pitch.

It was when he was disappointed in us, or angry, or explaining something that was really serious that his voice was low and soft. It was like a sound wave signal–listen up, this is something you need to remember. Like the time my sisters and I got in trouble for using indelible pencils on our skin. Granted, we were quite young, but the lesson was taught in the quiet voice.

Or the time in my young adulthood when he brushed away the tension of a family argument. His low voice and few words cleared away the frustration like a hand wiping crumbs off a table.

Or the encouragement he gave in one short sentence when stage fright struck a young man at a meeting. “Go ahead. You can do this.” Six words in a low voice. Then he added six more, “The next time will be easier.”

Some of his low quiet talks became my own self-talk. And I wonder if I dreamed he said those things. But I haven’t forgotten.


The full story of the indelible pencils is in Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort, my first book depicting family, twinship, and the comfort of a special place.