Tuesday, July 5, 2016

An Apsaalooke's Tale - 2

Even in my old age I still see the walls of that old cavern.  Some of my best memories are there, and also one of my most hated.  In my dreams, I still feel the coarse, cold stone on my hand.  It was an uncanny feeling touching the stone.  It pulled at my spirit leaving me feeling like a hollowed out tree stump.  It was as though it wanted me to remain in that cave, to suck me up against the wall in profile, to join the great hunt as it played out, forever unchanging.  And lose my memory as mine became etched and intertwined with those who came before.
This cave was a relic of my people.  It was as sacred as it was old.  For centuries my people had come there to celebrate the Old Coyote and the plenty he provided for us.  It seemed whenever we went to that cave we had no need of anything.  The herds of buffalo on the plains below the cavern seemed to make the whole of the earth shake.  We lived as the Great Coyote had decreed.  We took no more than was necessary from them, and we lived in harmony and in balance.  The buffalo was our brother, and once we took its skins for our tepees it became also our mother.  The wild turnip root was our sister, and we always made sure to leave many for the next harvest.  We had learned to appease the Old Man Coyote.
And our learning was written on those walls.
Long ago, when I was just a boy, I arose late one night.  A strong wind blew the skin of our tepee that night.  Entranced by the flapping of the great buffalo, I walked quietly out to touch my cousin the wind.  He struck my face pointing me towards the smoldering embers of the dying fire.  There was something strange about that night.  My fiery cousin always signified the instability of nature, and our elders were careful to never allow its capricious nature to dance alone.  I walked to the fire and found the remains of one of the sticks still burning.  Mesmerized, I lifted the fiery brand in a high arc above my head.  As I did so the embers sparked and my cousin came back to life.  He danced enticingly as if inviting me to a faraway land.  I gasped as I remembered where I was.  I stood on a large plateau below the great sandstone cliffs.  A gully, which I had only seen my elders walk stood directly in front of me.  As I peered at the old path, I felt my cousin the wind push me, and the fire reach forward, they urged me forward.
And I obeyed.
I remember all my nimble movements that night.  I moved like our brother the antelope.  I was careful to not extinguish the light, and I made sure that any rustle I made was the mere swishing of the wind.  From rock to rock I climbed, wondering what awaited me at the top of the gully.  As I neared the top I heard the soft rushing of water, and looked up to see through the darkness.  I spotted it on my left side.  It was a small waterfall, barely covering an opening to a cavern I found out later it concealed.  It was a weak runoff during the summer, but I learned later that during the spring the monolithic cliff face could be covered in the torrential downpour of the great life-giver.
But my path did not go to the waterfall.
Instead, it led me straight and then wound up a steep incline to the right.  I followed obediently, up that last steep incline.  It was there that my heart was to be fused with history, where I was to touch my ancestors, and where my story was to begin.  I reached the top of the climb and found the cave.  It was enormous; I’d never seen anything like it before.  I walked forward trying to find the back to it, and found it wasn’t as large as I had supposed.  Its walls, although recessed, were easily accessible less than 20 paces inside.  I looked around the cavern somewhat carelessly, surely this couldn’t be what I had come to find.  But then I saw it!  It was a soft glint of red on the wall to my left.  I crouched in fear, what could it be?  After some time in that mode, I overcame my fear and crept towards it, and there on the wall I found it, written in red and black, the history of my people.  I reached forward and touched the wall, touched those sacred murals of that cave, and suddenly I was transported…

I was there!

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