Tori Isner, Poet: ‘You Are a Vehicle for Spirit’

Tori Isner says look for Spirit in nature. Monzogranite rock formation at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Barbara Newahll

Monzogranite rock at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Barbara Newahll

I encountered dozens of wonderful people — artists, activists, preachers and business people — in the course of conducting interviews for “Wrestling with God.” Tori Isner was one of them.

An adopted Lakota Sioux who traces her roots to the Eastern Band of Cherokee of North Carolina,  Tori is an Army vet and a grandmother. But as I edited the transcripts of our conversations, I realized that she was also a poet.

Here’s what — the Whitmanesque — Tori Isner had to say about Spirit. — BFN

Tori Isner’s Song

It’s a family thing, the spiritual world. It’s a connectedness to everything around you, Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun.

Everything is part of the family. The buffalo is your brother. The standing people are the trees. They’ve been here a lot longer than you have, they can teach you.

Go stand next to a big rock, see how big you really are. Go look at the ocean. That’s Creator, that’s beauty.

With us, it’s Creator who created the food, created the buffalo, created the rocks, the grass, Mother Earth, and everything we have. Creator did that. And we’re honored just to walk on it, just to live, just to be.

The trees are the standing people, says Tori Isner. Here, the limbs of a joshua tree seen against a rich blue sky at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A Joshua tree. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Creator is in everything we do. And in everything we do, we give thanks. If I eat a meal, I make a Spirit plate. I take a little bit of food from everything that I have on my plate, and a little bit of tobacco, and put it out on the back porch.

That’s giving thanks to Spirit for the food that I have and for the abundance that I have. It’s just a small thing I can do for the gifts that I get.

You acknowledge that everything comes from Creator and that none of this is truly yours. You’re just borrowing it.

Your body is a vehicle. Like the trees, that’s their form. And the plants, that’s their form. And the buffalo, and the horses and everything, those are their forms. These are all vehicles to carry the Spirit around.

Everything that I am is from Creator. The greatest gift I can give is myself back to the one that created me. I am the only one that can authorize the offering of myself. No one else can. And I do that willingly.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like “Anne Lamott on Gettting Older — Drop That Rock.” Also, “On the Shores of Lake Michigan — A Wild Place Tamed.” For more about my book, go to




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