Novel: CIRCLES

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UP AUTHORS  Fiction Challenge 2013 - 6th Place

UP AUTHORS Fiction Challenge 2013 – 6th Place


Chapter One

The beginning of change….

Feather Floating In Water woke shivering in the warm lodge.  Dreams like this haunted him more as he became older, but this one—so real—made him jump up from the sleeping robe he shared with his grandmother.  Screams and shouts of people running from burnt lodges still tortured his mind.  Their confused expressions!  And the fires, so real, had warmed his face.

How is it dream flames can burn my face?

He sat up in the dim light and peered toward the top of the lodge, where Father Sun peeked through the flap that allowed smoke to escape.  Sunrise.  I am home and I am safe.

Bright Sun Flower stirred beside him.  She must have heard him, probably felt his every movement.  “Grandmother,” he whispered, “I hear mother and grandfather sleeping.  I need a walk, by myself.  I will not go far, just to my favorite ridge.”

“What troubles you, little one?”  She too whispered, as she broke small sticks and tossed them into the low burning embers of the lodge’s fire pit.

Flames from the freshly fueled fire brightened the lodge.  Bright Sun Flower reached for her thick robe, dense with the hair of the hump-backed animal that thundered across the lands.  She wrapped it around the dress she’d managed to slip on before the lodge’s fire came to life.

“I… I need to be alone.”

“You are just past seven winters old.  Let me go with you, so your mother will not worry when she wakes.”

Most nights, after his grandfather had rolled over to sleep, Feather made his way from his mother’s robes to his grandmother’s.  His mother’s rhythmic, soft snores never changed.  She seldom stirred, sleeping the peaceful nights of one not plagued by dreams.

CIRCLES

CIRCLES by Ruby Standing Deer

Like him, his grandmother had dream visions, maybe the same ones.  After one such bad dream, Bright Sun Flower had taken him out to wander the canyons to help him clear his mind.  She’d told him her dreams showed that he had a destiny, an important one.  They’d talked and walked until he relaxed enough to laugh and dance around her again.

She’d also told him she once held great power, but gave it up to have a family.  Now that her moon times were no more, her power had returned.  Feather, like all of the children, was part of everything that went on in the band.  No one kept secrets from the next generation, and he understood moon times… as much as any male could.

What did all this mean—this destiny?  Feather leaned up on his knees and watched her add a few more sticks to the hungry fire.  Sweat beaded on his forehead and he caught her staring his way when he wiped it with the back of his hand.  He wrapped his own robe around himself and crawled past his mother toward the lodge’s flap.

“Too young for so many worry lines, Grandson.  We should go talk about what bothers you.”

Feather Floating In Water knew his grandmother wanted to help, but first he needed to understand what he needed help with.  “Not now, please?  I need to think.”

Too much confusion muddled his mind to want to speak about it.  She watched, and he knew she would soon follow no matter his protests.

Nine lodges held the twenty-two members of the Fish People, most now sleeping.  Only their sister bands knew of their secluded location nestled amidst the red-orange boulders of the canyon.  The large river north of the camp provided abundant fish, and two days’ walk away, the plains rumbled with the big humped beasts during this time of budding leaves.  The People enjoyed peace and plenty.

The troublesome dream played out again in his mind while he walked the winding path, to the high perch where he could watch Father Sun greet the land.  He sat on the ledge watching the soft oranges and yellows slide across the valley below.

Home.  I am home.  He wrapped his robe tighter.  Was this dream a… vision?

He remembered the elder woman from his vision, with long, loose hair flying behind her.  She’d motioned to several others to follow her into the dense shrubs.  They hid themselves within the branches and huddled together.  A baby cried, sparking shouts in the strange guttural tongue of those they fled.  The People jumped up and ran.  The mother tried in desperation to silence her baby, and ran another direction, away from the small group.  The elder woman yelled at her to come back, but she ran anyway.  The elder grabbed a younger woman, who clung to a girl, and they ran into the thick grass while the other woman’s scream drew the attackers toward her, and away from the rest of her people.

Her sacrifice saved her people, but what happened to her?  These strange creatures must be bad Spirits.  They looked like two creatures, but acted as one.  Only bad Spirits could be this horrible.  Why do they come into my dreams?

Above him, Eagle called, and another came to fly beside the first.  They dove into the valley and faded into the canyon’s deep purple shadows.  Feather smiled and inhaled the cool morning air.  The red-orange land burst into life, as dark dots across the valley turned deep green, and the air filled with birdcalls.

The dream faded, as they always did, leaving him to wonder if his mind had again, as his mother often claimed, made things up.

Father Sun warmed his body and he tossed the robe.  Comfortable in just his breechclout, he raised his arms to pray.

“Great One, Creator of all, I thank you for this day and for everything I will learn.  I am grateful for all you have given me and my people.”  He lowered his head, but only a moment passed before he raised it again.  “Creator, I am scared.  Forgive my weakness, but I am only a boy.  What are these dreams that come to me?  What can I do?  Do I have Power, or does my mind make up things as Mother says?”

He dropped his arms at the sound of footfalls approaching from behind—shuffling with a slight limp.

Bright Sun Flower stopped at the top and breathed hard.  “I see you tossed your robe.  We elder ones do not warm so fast.”

Feather smiled and ran past her, down the path to the bottom of the canyon.  He splashed in the newly formed stream made by the nearby river, which sent its overflow down the dry washes.  He dove down and pretended to catch a fish in his make-believe talons, and fell on his backside in the water.  Unhurt by the fall on the rocky pebbles, he jumped up and stomped his way down the stream, back to his grandmother.  She quickened her pace to catch up to his open arms.

“You caught me, Grandmother.  I was flying so high, I thought maybe you would not be able to reach me!  You are taller than I thought.”

“You silly one!”  Her laughter echoed down the winding canyon.

She put him down and reached for his hand.  They walked beside each other, enjoying the fresh scent brought on by the early season rain that had danced a gentle patter on their lodge all night.

“Grandmother, why are there so many smells, and why does the rain make them smell better?  I bet it is because the rain has special medicine.”

She smiled and rubbed his wet hair.  “Yes, every being has special medicine.  Even you have special medicine.”

“Why can I taste the plants in the air after a rain?  Why do birds only make nests after the snow comes no more?  What about winter?  They need a home in the winter too, right?”

“The birds make nests to raise their young in, where they are safe.  When they teach them to fly, they no longer need the nest—”

Feather raced down to the stream again, arms spread wide.  He sped back his grandmother’s direction, but twisted his body and dashed past her.

“Little one, come back to me,” she called out.  “I have something important to show you.  I have much to teach you this day, things that you will remember the rest of your life.  Things you will pass onto your children someday.”  She sat on a boulder next to the canyon wall.

He reluctantly turned from his playing and ran to her.

“Walking is not your way, is it?”

He dove onto her lap in response.

“Ugh, little one, not so hard.  I am made of flesh, not stone.”  She pointed to a small group of plants growing out of a crack in the jagged wall next to them.  Tiny white flowers forced their way from the buds that imprisoned them, ready to burst forth.  “See how the buds try to bloom?  New buds struggle to be born so they can become the flowers they were meant to be.”

Feather held up his left hand to shield his eyes from Father Sun’s intensity, and held a flower bud in his other.  He offered it to her and grinned.  “This is for you.  Soon it will bloom like the smiles on your face.”  He smiled as she accepted the flower.  “Tell me the story about my name.”

She could not deny the bright questioning eyes that stared out of such an innocent face.  She stretched her knees under his weight.  He tried to stand, but she pulled him back onto her lap and brushed his damp, shoulder-length hair out of his eyes.

“I know your knees hurt.  You are old now and I must learn to be careful that I do not break you.”  He tightened his lips and stared once more into her eyes.

“Little one, I am not so old that you will break me.”  She chuckled and went on with the story.  “Your name came from your grandfather’s father.  He gave you his name long before you were born.  He said you would carry on with the journey he could not.”

“And then what?  Tell me about the bird.”  He squirmed on her lap.

He’d listened to the story of Hawk Soaring’s father too many times to count, but still he begged to hear it whenever he could.

She held him in place with her eyes.  “Your grandfathers’ father looked up as a big blue-gray bird flew across the river and dropped a wing feather in the water’s current.  He understood right away that he must lead the people to a safer place.

“He heard the call of his Spirit Guide, and went on a Vision Quest to pray for answers.  On the fifth morning, he returned to camp and told us to prepare for a long journey along the little river we children played in.  We would go toward the place Father Sun sleeps.”

She leaned in closer and whispered.  “Visions are not normally spoken of, but he felt the need to tell us.  His Spirit Guide warned him that our people faced a danger, and that we would suffer if we did not move and follow the river.

“For many days, we walked.  Days turned into moons, and the late season of falling leaves came upon us.  We had to stop.”

Feather sat tall, shoulders back.  “He led us to this land, right?  The big waters where we never hunger?  So we named ourselves the Fish People.”

She pulled him closer and hugged him.  “The cold was long and hard, and he knew he would not be able to lead us when the snow melted.”  She paused and sighed.  “He told your grandfather of a boy that would be born to our daughter, and that, in time, this boy would know what to do.  He asked us to give the child his name.”

He pulled his shoulders back further, took a deep breath to push out his chest, and tugged at the fringe on her sleeve.  “I am that boy, right?  But how will I know what to do?  I will know right?”

“Do not worry, little one, the Spirits will guide you.  Besides, it is many seasons away.”

Worry etched crisscrossing lines on her face, and he caressed her cheek as she had touched his so many times.

“It is okay, I will make you proud.”  He wrapped his arms around her, hugged her tight, and then pulled back to gaze into her eyes.  “How do we know things?  Like dreams?  Why do I sometimes have dreams that make me think I am awake?”

“Dreams are often that way, carrying messages we must try to understand.  Sometimes we should tell someone we know about them.”  She reached for his chin and held it in her hand so he had to look into her eyes.  “Someone like a caring grandmother, maybe?”

Feather continued talking even with her holding his chin.  “How do we know when to wake and when to sing blessing songs?  Grandfather says Creator gave animals life first, and they taught us to survive.  He told me we are all related.  What does this mean?”

“Feather, do not speak so many words at once.  Speak slow so your mind will not get confused.  Do you want to talk about your dreams?  I will tell you mine.”

He bowed his head and would not look into her eyes.

With a heavy sigh, she put a hand on either side of his face and stared into his eyes.  “I will answer your most important question now.  All things are joined, meaning one cannot exist without the other.  Everything that exists is part of everything else, making it a single thing.  It all connects in some way to us, to the canyon, to the sky, the stars, the animals, even things we cannot see.  It is only possible to understand something if we understand how it is connected to everything else.”

She placed soil in his hand and put a seed, which had fallen from a plant last season, on top.  “The seed needs the soil, which needs the rain that comes from the sky.  The animals eat the plant and leave the remains on the ground, and it goes back into our Mother, her body.  It is a Sacred Circle.  Everything needs something else in order to live.  We need the animals, and they need food, but what makes plants grow?”

“Water, like the word in my name!  I understand.  Everything needs something else.”  He jumped up and ran over to the water, and stooped down to wave his hands through it.

Before long, he stood with arms spread wide and splashed down the stream again, laughing and racing out of sight around a curve.

***

Bright Sun Flower leaned and stretched her tight back against the canyon’s wall.

Red and yellow quill-work zigzagged around the edge of her dress.  She caressed the colorful artwork with withered hands, wondering how her daughter, Makes Baskets, had created such picturesque detail.  Her daughter’s ability to weave the bright colors so well, using Porcupine’s quills, impressed her—the quills’ sharp tips could stab fingers, if not dampened first to soften them.

A yellow-and green-quilled turtle climbed her right hip.  She followed his path with her fingers.  His colors shone vibrantly, as those of the turtle in her dream had many winters before.  That new hatchling had turned away from the sea, rather than enter it, until she gently guided him back.

She’d also had a vision that Feather Floating In Water would be born backwards.  She’d spent much time away from everyone, to pray for his safe arrival.  Four days later, he’d been born the right way, and with the birthmark of a yellow and green turtle on his back.  The dream had shown her that Feather would need guidance, or he might turn away from his destiny.

She searched for the familiar pair of Eagles who always followed her, but instead heard the cry of Wolf.  Though it echoed far away, it still made her shudder.  Wolves have started to howl in my dreams.  They are protectors, but who needs protection?  Feather?  So soon?

She needed to allow her mind to focus on other things.  She admired the beauty of the canyon’s red, orange and off-white colors—the way they swirled and mixed, forming designs on the canyon walls.  The smell of the damp soil and the freshness of the damp plants comforted her.

Home, this is home.  Many seasons will pass before anything happens.

She looked away, but a tug on her silver-shot braid turned her mind back to Feather, who stood grinning in front of her.

“Are you going to finish your story?”

“I would like to, yes.  Sit on my lap, little one.”

“Grandmother, your smile is as warm as Father Sun.

Bright Sun Flower hugged him to her breast.  “Ready to listen?”

Feather nodded and leaned back when she let go of him.

She pointed to the flower missing a bud.  “This is an important story, one you will carry in your heart all of your life.  Look again at the flowers and describe their shape.”

Feather knelt onto his bare knees to get a better look.  “As you said before, round.  Even the plant’s leaves are growing in a circle on the ground where the plant came out.”  He looked closer still.  “Even the tiny yellow centers inside the flowers are all round!”
He jumped up and gazed at his grandmother’s face.  “Your face is round too, and your eyes are round.”  He touched his eyes.  “Are mine round too?”

He reached out and touched her face before she could answer him.  “Your face has lines of secrets and wisdom.  Grandfather told me that is why he has them.  I asked him why I did not have any, and he just patted me on the shoulder and told me that someday I would have them too.  He says you have many more lines than he does.  Does that mean you are wiser?”

Well, you old—  “Why yes, that is exactly why I am wiser than your grandfather.  He knows he will never have as much wisdom as me.”  She shook her head.  “Poor man.”

I will stretch out your wrinkles, old man!

She smiled at her grandson while planning ways to get back at her man, Hawk Soaring.  Before Feather could ask what she was thinking, she stood up.
Her knees crackled as she leaned forward.  “Let us take a walk and see what else we can find that is round.”

Bright Sun Flower smiled at the little boy who stood taller, proud of his discoveries.  As they wandered the canyon, he pointed out many more plants, round tree trunks and stones, and a spider’s web glistening under Father Sun’s angled light.

“Look, Grandmother, it has the colors of the rainbow, and it is round.  Spider could have made her web any shape, but she chose to make it round.”  He looked up.  “And Father Sun is round too.  I want to see more!”

Farther down the canyon trail, the boy’s energy finally wore on her.  An oval-shaped boulder nestled into the canyon wall provided a place for her to sit and rest.  She used her hands to stretch her tired back, praised him and held his little body close to hers.  She enjoyed the fragrant scents of all the wild plants he’d been kneeling in that morning.

“So, what did you learn today?”  She held him at arm’s length and looked into his expressive eyes.

He scratched his head and squinted in thought.  “Well, I learned everything is round in its own way, even our own bodies.  Father Sun is round, so our Mother we walk upon must also be round.  This roundness connects us, like the dirt and seeds and rain and the animals.  All are parts of the Circle.”

He tilted his head and grinned at her.  “I also learned you are much wiser than Grandfather.”

He’d learned about connectedness, an important lesson for one so young.

How did Feather understand our Mother is round?  I was much older when I understood, much older….

“You, my little one, are my Shining Light.”

Eagles above called to each other, and in their sound, she heard the future.  She thought of her vision—a future she did not understand.

Strange people cast dark shadows and overwhelm the land.  Animals flee with nowhere to run.  The people take and take more, until they crack the Circle of Life.  Their Mother’s body turns gray, and plants crisp from lack of moisture.

She’d seen all life end, and wondered if the Circle could survive and put itself back together.  No sense telling others her vision—not yet anyway.  They would just think her addled.

The Mother was forever.  Yet even Bright Sun Flower saw the landscape change when boulders became loose after a hard rain.  Nothing stayed the same.  Nothing.

She looked at her hair, once black as a moonless night, now silvered as the starlit sky.  Everything changes.

Chapter Two

The small group of women sat near the edge of camp, under a stand of leafed-out trees, preparing the pemmican for the fast approaching cold season.  Soon ice would hide fish from them, and snow would make it difficult to hunt.  The pemmican would keep the people fed.

Tiny flying bugs tormented Bright Sun Flower’s face and whined past her ears.  She brushed away several loose strands of hair, and the mixture of meat and fat, mixed with small amounts of berries, clung to her hands and now in her hair.  This attracted even more of the flying creatures.

Feather raised his arms and soared around them, screeching with talons ready to strike as an imaginary hawk determined to catch prey.

After a third bug found its way up her nose, Bright Sun Flower snorted her irritation, but grinned at her grandson.  “Feather, you need a walk, one that will slow you down.  Come with me.  I need to wash up.  Then we will go.”

She headed toward the river and let her grandson catch up.  She bent down, splashed cool water on her face, leaned back and enjoyed the sensation of cool drops running down the inside of her dress.  A familiar chuckle came from behind her, as Hawk Soaring cleared his throat.  He opened his mouth to spew his clever words, but—

“Go away from me, old man!”  She shooed him without looking back.  “Go tell more stories of how you saved us from winter starvation when we were young and all the hunters were sick.  This left only you, a mere boy, to feed the entire band of twenty-six people by risking your life in the freezing water, chasing fish with your bare hands.”

She paused to inhale and thought of Feather.  We are much alike, that boy and I.

Her man winced at the growl in her normally sweet voice, and scurried toward another path, a different part of camp.

She grinned—no ornery man would ever get the best of her—stood up, and smacked right into her snickering grandson.

Feather put his hands on his hips, as if trying to look bigger.  “You scared off Grandfather!  I sure hope my woman will not scare me so much that I turn and go another way.”

He faced her, squinting and squeezing his lips tight, but he could not contain his giggling.  Both grandmother and grandson broke into laughter, and quickened their pace toward the canyon.  They looked back only briefly at the five women, who still mixed pemmican while they swatted the small, winged annoyances.

She wanted to climb high, where the breeze would cool them.  “I have my own favorite place I like to go and look out over the valley.  Would you like to see it?”

“Hurry, I want to see this place!  Why have you not told me of it before?  Does anyone else know of it?”  Feather pulled her hand and trotted backwards.

“You are the one leading us, so you tell me.”

“Oh, I cannot take us somewhere when I do not know where it is.  Show me.  Please show me!”  He let go of her hand.  “Why are you laughing?  Are you laughing at me?”

“We walked past it and must now turn around.  May I lead?”

“I thought you were in a hurry to leave too.  I helped you go faster.”

“Yes, you did, but we went too fast!”

The narrow path led upward along a winding trail that echoed with the memory of footprints, both human and creature.  Many had come before the pair, and many more would wander these same trails far into the future.

Bright Sun Flower’s body chilled as an ominous sound touched her mind… and vanished.  It must have been the howl of Sister Wind as she found her way through the canyon.

Eagle’s call high overhead calmed her.  Eagle would warn her, as she always had, if danger lurked nearby.

She reached for small indentations in the stone wall as they climbed the narrow path.  “Look at the carved handholds.  Feel how smooth they are.  They are as echoes of the past carved in stone, whispering secrets of those who put them here.”

He ran his hand inside the carved-out holes.  “Why are they so smooth?  I can see where someone used something to paint a carving above this one.”  He squinted to see the details.  “What kind of animal is this?  It is round and has two tails, one in the front and the back.”

She too had pondered this strange creature many times.  “I have no idea.”

She reached out and felt the smooth, cool, reddish stone.  “Many hands touched them long before us, and their hands made them smooth.  They offer us a hint of what the Peoples saw in their time.  They chose to honor these creatures here, as they too made their way up this very path.  Now, even though the Peoples who carved these are long gone, we know they lived and had families.  Maybe they lived right where we do now.”

She ran her hand over her grandson’s shoulder-length hair, and bent down to look into his eyes.  “Never take humans or other beings for granted.  I need your grandfather, and he needs me just as much.  Being alone would be a terrible thing.”

Inside, she scolded herself, not Feather.  The words were for her—for having growled at her man beside the waters.  She would make much time for him this night.

At the top of the path, she sat on a flat, shady spot where the cool air caressed her.  She leaned back against a boulder, stretched her legs, and smiled as Feather played a game of “Diving Eagle.”

Her grandson’s imagination took him toward the ledge, where he spread his arms and pretended to float out on the currents.

“Don’t get too close to the edge, little one.”

The warm day cast the horizon in a shimmering, hypnotic wave.  She focused on the distant red hills, tinted purple where they melted into the turquoise sky.  Late mid-season colors dominated the land, with dots of green here and there in the light red soil.  Far below them, the azure river wound along the canyons and faded beyond sight.

Trees followed the river’s course, forever chasing the water they needed to survive.  Three deer grazed lazily along the bank, while two others rested in the shade of Cedar trees.  Occasional clouds floated by and hid Father Sun’s face, offering temporary relief from the heat.

She whispered to herself, “Beautiful.  So peaceful and calm.”

Her aunt had told her that her own mother came up here to speak to the Spirits, to ask questions she would not share with others.  Her mother, when she tried to rescue four-winters-old Bright Sun Flower from a fast-moving current, had drowned in the early season run-off.  Now an elder woman, Bright Sun Flower had her own questions, perhaps the very same ones her mother had asked.

Yet the answers did not always come.

She thought back to the day of her first vision in this place.  Was I eleven winters old?  It is nearly always the same—an invasion of strange beings, animals running in terror before them as the land dies.

She shook it from her mind and reminded herself that today was not that day.  This day belonged to her and Feather.

She stood up to adjust her dress, worried that the rough stone would harm her quillwork—too much labor and too many sore fingers had gone into working the hollow, sharp-pointed quills into the smoked leather.  A deep breath brought fresh, cool air into her lungs, which made the long walk to the top worth the pain in her knees.

Feather still played with his arms spread in pretend flight, calling out as Eagle would.  All children his age played, content to be in their own world, but Feather, as usual, poured forth a flood of questions.

“Why do flowers not bloom in the cold season?  Why are there hills and valleys?”  He stopped long enough to hand her a stone.  “What makes some stones different in color from others?”

Off with arms raised, he again danced along the canyon’s ledge before she could answer.

She raised her voice.  “I wonder about some of these things myself, and must be honest—I do not have all the answers.  I know plants need warmth to grow.  Like us, plants do not like standing out in the cold.”

“It is all right.”  He ran to her and wrapped his arms around her middle.  “Only Creator knows all the answers.”

Surprised by his answer, she squeezed him back until he gasped for air.  I am happy his mother came back to live with us.

Hawk Soaring and Bright Sun Flower had welcomed Makes Baskets back into their lodge six winters ago, after the boy’s father lost his life fighting in a battle.  Strangers had come in search of easy food, and the attacking band had lost many lives, but the band of Fish People had lost some too.

Makes Baskets had refused another man even after her grieving time had ended.  Many had offered, but her heart could not bear another loss.  The baby boy brought enough joy into her life.  Bright Sun Flower took care of the little one while his mother did extra work for the four of them.  Her daughter worked hides, fished, and made her exquisite baskets and quilled clothing for trade.  The child filled the old lodge with laughter and gave his grandparents much joy.

Bright Sun Flower sighed, happy with her memories.  She turned to see her grandson inspecting a big black bug on the ground.  He pushed at it and giggled.  When he shoved it toward the end of the cliff, she rushed forward to stop him.

Feather jerked back in surprise.  “Why, Grandmother?  This is just a bug.”

She stood over him with hands on hips, her voice stern.  “Why, then, were you going to push him over the side?”

He looked down at the bug, crinkled his nose, and looked back up at her.  “I wanted to see if he could fly like Eagle.  Did I do something wrong?”  He stared at the ground, not looking up at his grandmother.

She eased to her knees and hugged him.  “Do not be sad.  Everything is all right.  You need to remember how special the creatures are that we share our Mother with everyday.”

He gazed into her eyes.  “I remember now.  Grandfather told me if not for them, we would not have lived very long when Creator put us humans here.  The creatures have taught us much.”

Her knees ached, so she sat on a grassy spot, stretched out her legs, and pulled her grandson onto her lap.

He reached for her necklace, the bug momentarily forgotten.  “What are these stones you have around your neck?  They have so many different shapes.”

He turned each one in his fingers.  “I do not remember seeing this color before in the canyons.  Why are they blue like the sky?  Why is the sky blue?  And the water too?  Why is the water not blue when we swim in it?  Why—”

“One question at a time!  Too much spills from your mouth all at once.”  She laughed and stared into his dark, bright eyes.  The eyes of wonder stare into mine.

She pointed to the strand around her neck.  “These are sky beads.  Your grandfather brought them back from his trip down into the land where it gets very hot.  The Peoples there dug them from big rocks and caves.”

She took off the necklace so he could hold it.  “Our ancestors said that when Creator made the sky, some pieces fell and landed in the hills while they were still soft—a very, very long time ago.  The hills hardened and caught the sky pieces inside.  When I was young, the storyteller of our band told of how the sky had no color and was sad, so Creator asked the big waters to share her color with Sky.  It was then some of the pieces fell.  The color made the sky feel heavy.  Soon, Sky adjusted to the weight and thanked the big waters for the color.  That is why the stones around my neck are called sky beads.”

“Chases Butterflies told me Turtle made the ground.”  His eyes squinted as he cocked his head.  “Is this true?  If it is true, how did Turtle do this?  Chases Butterflies said Eagle asked Turtle to do it, but my cousin didn’t explain the rest.  Why did Eagle ask Turtle and not us?  Were we too busy?  What were we doing?”

“Yes, Turtle was a great help to Creator, and I will tell you this story when the time is right.  Every story must be told in its own time—”

“What time is it now?  How do you know when it is time?  Does someone tell you?  Who tells you—?”

She put a finger to his lips.  “Let me speak.  Someday you might run out of words because you used them all up.  It is time for you to listen to my words now.”

“Because it is time?  Time for the story you are going to tell me now?”  His voice raised in tone.  “Tell me, Grandmother!  You better hurry, or there may not be enough time.”

She gently shook him by his waist.  “Oh, how do all your words even fit into your mind?  Do not answer.  Such a silly one you are.”  She snuggled her nose against his, then leaned back.  “Close your mouth and give your mind a rest.  I must tell you a story about our Spirits.  Listen well to me.”

She gathered her thoughts with a deep breath, gazed up to watch Eagle play on the air currents, and then set her breath free.  Eagle, give me the words I need.  Her Spirit Guide never left her sight, so long as she felt Eagle in her heart and offered thanks everyday for the raptor’s guidance.

She turned toward the boy’s attentive face.  “Everything on our Mother is alive and has a Spirit.  That bug you were going to push over the edge would not have flown.  Did you think he would just vanish and be no more?”

She wrapped her arms around him, and leaned backwards so she could stare into his bright eyes.

“I do not know.  I have never thought about such a thing before.  Would he just vanish?”

“No.  That bug has a Spirit—just like you.  You would have shortened his life, and Creator would have had to come get him.  He would not have lived long enough to fulfill his life’s purpose.  We all have a reason for being here, for living.  Some find out early on what they are to do, while others wonder for a long time.  It could be many little things, or it may be one big thing.”

“A big thing?  How do we know?”  He glanced up.  “Look at that cloud.  Do you see—”

She put her hand over his open mouth, tried to look serious and not laugh at his raised eyebrows and widened nostrils.  “The Creator’s Spirit exists in everything, and this is how we are joined.  Like Spider’s web, one strand must depend on another, to keep it safe from coming apart.  That bug is connected to you through Creator.”

She made a circle in the dirt, took his finger, and put it along the edge in one spot.  She then put her finger in another spot.

“Watch what happens when I move my finger.”  She put a line across the circle.  “Now you do the same.”

He did, and then looked to where his finger made his own line.  His face widened with a smile.  “The circle has two breaks in it.  One is me, and one is the bug!  I understand.”  He drew the circle whole again.

She pointed to a little Cedar that struggled to grow through a crack in a large boulder.  “Where there is life, there is Energy.  Where there is Energy, there is Creator.  Energy is what makes everything grow—even little boys.”

Feather Floating In Water curled up in her lap and relaxed.  “I love you.  I am glad Creator made you my grandmother.”

They sat on the hill and watched as the sun lowered in the sky in a burst of soft peaches and pinks.  Feather’s chin dropped to his chest, and he fell asleep leaning against Bright Sun Flower’s side.  She gently brushed away his hair to look at his closed eyes.  He smiled and his little nose twitched.

He was still just a little boy, but soon the season would pass and he would gain another span of time—eight winters.  She saw the baby in his face, but she felt much more.

From above the ledge behind her, Sister Wind’s fingers reached out and wrapped themselves around her, unusually cold for this time of season.  She shivered, laid her head back, and allowed her mind to find the silence.  Sister Wind brought with her voices.  Bright Sun Flower made out one to be her own mother’s soft cooing; the same cooing she’d heard when she was a child.

My little Flower, my sweet child, listen to your mother.  Do not dismiss your dreams or those of the boy, my daughter.  They are not just thoughts passing through.  They are the future.  Your future, your grandson’s future, the future of all your Peoples.  All of the People who listen will be safe, but those who do not will have a very different future….’

She wrapped her arms tighter around the boy.  A different future could only mean one thing: the end of their comfortable lives as another pushed forward, trampling into grey dust everything the Fish People knew.

Did the People even have a chance?

Chapter Three

Hawk Soaring walked with his grandson, Feather Floating In Water, on this cool day of changing leaves.  The landscape embraced them with richly colored leaves of bold yellow, shimmering gold, deep maroon and bright orange.  Birds chattered, invisible in the thickets.  The blue-green river teemed with hungry fish, which jumped from the water to catch hapless bugs flying too close to the surface.  Eagles with outstretched wings disappeared and reappeared in effortless grace through the clouds.

He breathed in the changes—strong smells of seeding Sage, musty leaves crunched underneath their feet.  He walked straight while his young companion bent over to gather rocks to toss in the slow river.

Today would be a good day to teach him about why we have a cold season.

He watched as Feather tossed flat stones in the hopes they would skip across the river.

The boy stopped and turned to him.  “Grandmother said she had too much to do this day to play with me, but that you had lots of time, and that I should take you out for a walk.  She did not want you getting stiff.  What does stiff mean?”

“Ah, stiff means bent over from too much work.  I work so hard, she worries that I might get sore.  Such a caring grandmother you have.”

Feather’s wide eyes and big smile stopped Hawk Soaring from telling his grandson he was not about to get stiff.  He couldn’t help but grin.  He’d spent so many winters with his woman that he couldn’t remember them all.

She remains as beautiful as ever.  Perhaps just a bit more opinionated.  I could love no one else.

Feather grinned back.  “Why are you smiling so much?  Better be careful—you could lose some more teeth.  They could fall out!”

Hawk Soaring bent over with laughter.  His grandson had long been amused by his nearly toothless bottom jaw.  “Little one, if I lose any more teeth, you will have to feed me, because it will be your fault!”

He stood up, reached out to Feather for support, and wiped happy tears from his eyes.  “There, now none will fall out, because I am standing up.  You are such a joy.  You should walk me more.  I would like that.”

“Really?  Grandmother says you sit around with your old friends because, at your age, you cannot do as much as you used to do, and she says you need lots of rest.  I would not want to tire you out.”  He maintained his serious tone, tightened his lips, and squared his chin.  “Will I wear you out?  Because if I did, Grandmother would have no one to help her when she gets as old as you.  I would have worn you all out and used you up.”

“You will not wear me out.  I am just as young as your grandmother.”  I will get that old woman.  We shall see who needs more rest in the morning!

“Grandmother says you are really old, past sixty winters now, and that you’re long hair is filled with stardust.”

“Stardust!  My long hair does not have stardust in it.”  His eyes squinted as he knelt beside his misinformed grandson.  “My hair is sprinkled with wisdom.”  He leaned forward, allowed his hair to fall over his knees and shook it.  “See my wisdom now?  Many women of our band say I am good to look at.  That my body is strong and I have the face every woman wishes her own man had.”

His grey-white hair fell below the middle of his chest, over the elegantly quilled yellow and green arrows that started at the top of his tunic and shot down in pairs to the bottom edge.  Bright Sun Flower had quilled the middle of his leggings with the same design, and had nicely fringed the sides.

“Perhaps it is your grandmother’s fault.  She makes me such nice things to wear.”  He stood up and mumbled to himself before taking his grandson’s hand.  “Boy, soon it will be time again to sit around the fire, while the cold and snow take over the land.  The band will get together in the Counsel Lodge to tell stories from years past.”  He turned and made sure Feather listened.  “This way, no one will forget where we came from, or why.  Without the stories, we would have no past to link us to the future.  Those who had already gone to the stars—their memories—are as important as those who live today.  Those people were the ground—the rock—upon which the band now builds their lives.”

“What rock?  Where is this rock?  I would like to see it.”

Hawk Soaring tried to make himself appear serious.  “The rock I speak of only means—”

Feather let his hand go, ran ahead and started picking up stones to skip in the river again.  “Perhaps I will find it by the water!”

Hawk Soaring sighed and grinned.  He wanted to use this time to teach his grandson important things, while he was still able to do so.  The boy was growing fast, and he had many personal stories to share with his only grandchild.  He’d taught him to fish and hunt small game, as an uncle would have traditionally done.  Sadly, Makes Baskets had been their only gift from Creator.  A son would have been nice, but for reasons only Creator knew, they’d not brought one into the world.

The river trickled peacefully, interrupted by the occasional plop, skip, skip of a stone.  Purple and yellow wildflowers blended with the silvery sacred Sage.  The elder inhaled deeply and thanked Creator for the gift of all living.

He picked out a nice thick splay of grass upon which to sit, and called to his grandson, whose many stones spilled over his tunic.  “Let the stones go free and come sit beside this old man.  I have a story to tell you.”

The stones fell from Feather’s tunic as he turned and ran to Hawk Soaring.

“Dust off your breechclout and sit.”  Before Hawk Soaring could add, “away from my face,” sparkling dust sprinkled his cheeks and eyes— and his mouth tasted of dirt.  With his grandson now sitting, he stood to brush himself off.

The young boy looked puzzled by his dirty tunic.  “How did you get so dirty, Grandfather?  I do not remember you throwing stones.”

“Oh, I think it was maybe some boy who tossed dirt on me.”  He laughed as Feather turned looking for that boy.

“I did not see him.  He must have been very fast!”

“Yes, he was very fast.  Too fast to see.”  He sat down again.  “Fast, all right.”

“Why do birds have wings and we just have arms?  That boy was maybe a bird, but he was too fast to see for sure.  If we all had wings, would the sky get too crowded?  I bet then birds would have to walk.  But then—”

“Feather!  Too many words spill out of your mouth all at once.”  He grabbed his middle and laughed.  “You will make this old man’s belly come apart if you do not slow down.”

The boy’s eyes widened with disbelief.  “How could your belly come apart?  Everything would fall out, and then I would have to run and get Grandmother and Mother to sew you back up before you turned into nothing but skin!”

Hawk Soaring fell and rolled onto his side, until he choked and had to stop to catch his breath.  Tears streamed down his cheeks and chin.  “Oh!  Oooohhh, you are a precious little one.  I hope you never grow up!”

He rolled back over, sat up, pulled his hand through the soft hair on the boy’s head, and yanked on it.  “Soon, your hair will be as long as mine.  You will grow up to be a proud hunter with a woman and children.  Maybe even more than one woman.”

No sooner had he said it, than he wished he could stuff the words back into his big mouth.

Feather Floating In Water’s jaw dropped.  He cocked his head and stared at him.  “Why do I have only Grandmother?  I bet she would love it if you got another woman.  She would have somebody else to help her and my mother, and they could all be friends.  I would have two grandmothers, and they could take turns cooking and helping each other with all the hides after a hunt.  And when it was time to move our people deeper into the canyons during the colder winters, we would have more help.  And….  Why do you look like you are holding your breath?  Are you choking on something?  Why is your face a strange color?”

“I… I just took too much air in all at once.  I think a drink from the river will help me feel better.”  Learning not to let words spill from my mouth before my mind has a chance to think would also help!

He leaned forward and used his hands to pull himself up.  He laughed and shook his head as they walked to the river.

The boy mimicked his actions by kneeling beside him at the water.  The drink soothed Hawk Soaring’s throat and gave him a chance to catch his breath.

The boy also sipped the cool water from the bank’s edge.  “What if we sucked up a fish?  Would he just go down with the water?  I bet that would tickle.  Have you ever sucked up a fish?”

Hawk Soaring choked and spit out his water, and choked some more through his laughter.  He would definitely have to let the boy walk him more.  He had forgotten how much fun a child could be, especially one as amusing as Feather.

Man, then boy, stood and turned around… and remained still.

An unexpected guest stared at them from just a few steps away.

Hawk Soaring reached in vain for the bow and arrows he’d forgotten to bring.  He could not help but stare into the amber eyes that stared back.

He whispered, “Do not move.  Just be very still.  We must honor his presence, thank him, and move away.”

Looking directly into the wolf’s eyes could spark aggression from the great creature, but this one remained calmA grey colored wolf?  I have heard of them, but the wolves here are red-brown.  Where did this one come from?

“Do not worry, he is just hurt.”  Feather pointed to the wolf’s swollen front left paw.  “He needs our help.”

Before Hawk Soaring could grab him, his grandson was in front of the wolf.  Feather bent down, held the wolf’s swollen paw, and pulled out several deeply lodged porcupine quills.

Hawk Soaring stood behind the boy, his breath barely moving his chest.  This wolf was different—he could feel it in his Soul—but instinct readied him to do what he must to protect his grandson.

Feather acted as if he and the four-legged had always known each other.  He gently squeezed the wolf’s swollen paw and talked to him as he would another person.  “There you go, no more quills, no more pain!”

The boy ran his hands over the wolf’s front legs and nearly white paws.  “I have never touched a wolf before.  I am sorry it hurts.  It is okay to cry.  I cry when I’m hurt too.  How did you get so many quills in your paw?  It is so swollen, they all came right out.”

Feather relaxed, perfectly at ease.  “I only had to squeeze them, like Grandmother did for me when I was silly enough to sit on some.  I did not tell her what happened.  I tried to keep it a secret, but they hurt so much after a few days, I had to tell her.  By then, bad Spirits had found their way in.”

He turned the white paw sideways, as if to make sure he’d gotten out all the quills.  “After she warmed them with a soaked piece of scrap hide, she squeezed them and they popped out, and the bad Spirits came out too, just like yours did.  Good thing you found us.  Now you will not get sick.”

Feather and the wolf locked eyes.  “Your eyes are like golden drops from Father Sun.”

He reached up, rubbed the wolf’s ears and scratched behind them.  The wolf lowered his head, and the boy sniffed the thick grey fur, inhaling his scent.  He then turned around, the wolf’s paw still in his hand.  “Look, Grandfather, he has nearly all white paws.  And he smells of Sage.  Can he stay with us?  Can he?”

Hawk Soaring remained motionless.  Never had he seen what now played out before him—Wolf and human boy acting like the best of friends.  “That wild animal is not meant to be with us humans.  Somewhere he has a mate, maybe pups.”  He looked around for movement.

The grey wolf licked the boy’s face, turned and trotted off with his nose to the ground, and disappeared into the shrubs along the river.  Feather sat in silence and watched where Wolf had gone, and shivered as if goosebumps raced up and down his arms.

“Well, this is a Sacred Happening.  Wolf just claimed you as part of his pack.”  Hawk Soaring shook his head.  “And for the first time, you are silent.”

The boy may have touched Wolf’s fur, but Wolf had clearly touched the boy’s heart.

Feather spoke with a wisdom that belonged to an elder of the Band, not a boy.  “I have looked into Wolf’s eyes and seen his Soul.  He and I are now one.”  He walked to the river and picked up stones to throw into the water, but turned.  “I’m hungry.  Can we go home and eat?”

The elder looked with new eyes at his growing grandson.  So much more than a child.  He couldn’t put his feelings into words.

Here I came out to teach my grandson a lesson, and the boy teaches me something about life I do not yet understand.  Does he understand it himself?

The two of them walked side-by-side back to the camp.  Hawk Soaring remained immersed in deep thought, absorbed by the strange incident.  Feather wandered close to the river and looked back several times.

He too must be trying to understand it.  What Power is at work here?  I must tell the band what has happened.  My grandson is, as my woman said, special.

 

Chapter One

 

He dropped his arms at the sound of footfalls approaching from behind—shuffling with a slight limp.

Bright Sun Flower stopped at the top and breathed hard.  “I see you tossed your robe.  We elder ones do not warm so fast.”

Feather smiled and ran past her, down the path to the bottom of the canyon.  He splashed in the newly formed stream made by the nearby river, which sent its overflow down the dry washes.  He dove down and pretended to catch a fish in his make-believe talons, and fell on his backside in the water.  Unhurt by the fall on the rocky pebbles, he jumped up and stomped his way down the stream, back to his grandmother.  She quickened her pace to catch up to his open arms.

“You caught me, Grandmother.  I was flying so high, I thought maybe you would not be able to reach me!  You are taller than I thought.”

“You silly one!”  Her laughter echoed down the winding canyon.

She put him down and reached for his hand.  They walked beside each other, enjoying the fresh scent brought on by the early season rain that had danced a gentle patter on their lodge all night.

“Grandmother, why are there so many smells, and why does the rain make them smell better?  I bet it is because the rain has special medicine.”

She smiled and rubbed his wet hair.  “Yes, every being has special medicine.  Even you have special medicine.”

“Why can I taste the plants in the air after a rain?  Why do birds only make nests after the snow comes no more?  What about winter?  They need a home in the winter too, right?”

“The birds make nests to raise their young in, where they are safe.  When they teach them to fly, they no longer need the nest—”

Feather raced down to the stream again, arms spread wide.  He sped back his grandmother’s direction, but twisted his body and dashed past her.

“Little one, come back to me,” she called out.  “I have something important to show you.  I have much to teach you this day, things that you will remember the rest of your life.  Things you will pass onto your children someday.”  She sat on a boulder next to the canyon wall.

He reluctantly turned from his playing and ran to her.

“Walking is not your way, is it?”

He dove onto her lap in response.

“Ugh, little one, not so hard.  I am made of flesh, not stone.”  She pointed to a small group of plants growing out of a crack in the jagged wall next to them.  Tiny white flowers forced their way from the buds that imprisoned them, ready to burst forth.  “See how the buds try to bloom?  New buds struggle to be born so they can become the flowers they were meant to be.”

Feather held up his left hand to shield his eyes from Father Sun’s intensity, and held a flower bud in his other.  He offered it to her and grinned.  “This is for you.  Soon it will bloom like the smiles on your face.”  He smiled as she accepted the flower.  “Tell me the story about my name.”

She could not deny the bright questioning eyes that stared out of such an innocent face.  She stretched her knees under his weight.  He tried to stand, but she pulled him back onto her lap and brushed his damp, shoulder-length hair out of his eyes.

“I know your knees hurt.  You are old now and I must learn to be careful that I do not break you.”  He tightened his lips and stared once more into her eyes.

“Little one, I am not so old that you will break me.”  She chuckled and went on with the story.  “Your name came from your grandfather’s father.  He gave you his name long before you were born.  He said you would carry on with the journey he could not.”

“And then what?  Tell me about the bird.”  He squirmed on her lap.

He’d listened to the story of Hawk Soaring’s father too many times to count, but still he begged to hear it whenever he could.

She held him in place with her eyes.  “Your grandfathers’ father looked up as a big blue-gray bird flew across the river and dropped a wing feather in the water’s current.  He understood right away that he must lead the people to a safer place.

“He heard the call of his Spirit Guide, and went on a Vision Quest to pray for answers.  On the fifth morning, he returned to camp and told us to prepare for a long journey along the little river we children played in.  We would go toward the place Father Sun sleeps.”

She leaned in closer and whispered.  “Visions are not normally spoken of, but he felt the need to tell us.  His Spirit Guide warned him that our people faced a danger, and that we would suffer if we did not move and follow the river.

“For many days, we walked.  Days turned into moons, and the late season of falling leaves came upon us.  We had to stop.”

Feather sat tall, shoulders back.  “He led us to this land, right?  The big waters where we never hunger?  So we named ourselves the Fish People.”

She pulled him closer and hugged him.  “The cold was long and hard, and he knew he would not be able to lead us when the snow melted.”  She paused and sighed.  “He told your grandfather of a boy that would be born to our daughter, and that, in time, this boy would know what to do.  He asked us to give the child his name.”

He pulled his shoulders back further, took a deep breath to push out his chest, and tugged at the fringe on her sleeve.  “I am that boy, right?  But how will I know what to do?  I will know right?”

“Do not worry, little one, the Spirits will guide you.  Besides, it is many seasons away.”

Worry etched crisscrossing lines on her face, and he caressed her cheek as she had touched his so many times.

“It is okay, I will make you proud.”  He wrapped his arms around her, hugged her tight, and then pulled back to gaze into her eyes.  “How do we know things?  Like dreams?  Why do I sometimes have dreams that make me think I am awake?”

“Dreams are often that way, carrying messages we must try to understand.  Sometimes we should tell someone we know about them.”  She reached for his chin and held it in her hand so he had to look into her eyes.  “Someone like a caring grandmother, maybe?”

Feather continued talking even with her holding his chin.  “How do we know when to wake and when to sing blessing songs?  Grandfather says Creator gave animals life first, and they taught us to survive.  He told me we are all related.  What does this mean?”

“Feather, do not speak so many words at once.  Speak slow so your mind will not get confused.  Do you want to talk about your dreams?  I will tell you mine.”

He bowed his head and would not look into her eyes.

With a heavy sigh, she put a hand on either side of his face and stared into his eyes.  “I will answer your most important question now.  All things are joined, meaning one cannot exist without the other.  Everything that exists is part of everything else, making it a single thing.  It all connects in some way to us, to the canyon, to the sky, the stars, the animals, even things we cannot see.  It is only possible to understand something if we understand how it is connected to everything else.”

She placed soil in his hand and put a seed, which had fallen from a plant last season, on top.  “The seed needs the soil, which needs the rain that comes from the sky.  The animals eat the plant and leave the remains on the ground, and it goes back into our Mother, her body.  It is a Sacred Circle.  Everything needs something else in order to live.  We need the animals, and they need food, but what makes plants grow?”

“Water, like the word in my name!  I understand.  Everything needs something else.”  He jumped up and ran over to the water, and stooped down to wave his hands through it.

Before long, he stood with arms spread wide and splashed down the stream again, laughing and racing out of sight around a curve.

***

Bright Sun Flower leaned and stretched her tight back against the canyon’s wall.

Red and yellow quill-work zigzagged around the edge of her dress.  She caressed the colorful artwork with withered hands, wondering how her daughter, Makes Baskets, had created such picturesque detail.  Her daughter’s ability to weave the bright colors so well, using Porcupine’s quills, impressed her—the quills’ sharp tips could stab fingers, if not dampened first to soften them.

A yellow-and green-quilled turtle climbed her right hip.  She followed his path with her fingers.  His colors shone vibrantly, as those of the turtle in her dream had many winters before.  That new hatchling had turned away from the sea, rather than enter it, until she gently guided him back.

She’d also had a vision that Feather Floating In Water would be born backwards.  She’d spent much time away from everyone, to pray for his safe arrival.  Four days later, he’d been born the right way, and with the birthmark of a yellow and green turtle on his back.  The dream had shown her that Feather would need guidance, or he might turn away from his destiny.

She searched for the familiar pair of Eagles who always followed her, but instead heard the cry of Wolf.  Though it echoed far away, it still made her shudder.  Wolves have started to howl in my dreams.  They are protectors, but who needs protection?  Feather?  So soon?

She needed to allow her mind to focus on other things.  She admired the beauty of the canyon’s red, orange and off-white colors—the way they swirled and mixed, forming designs on the canyon walls.  The smell of the damp soil and the freshness of the damp plants comforted her.

Home, this is home.  Many seasons will pass before anything happens.

She looked away, but a tug on her silver-shot braid turned her mind back to Feather, who stood grinning in front of her.

“Are you going to finish your story?”

“I would like to, yes.  Sit on my lap, little one.”

“Grandmother, your smile is as warm as Father Sun.

Bright Sun Flower hugged him to her breast.  “Ready to listen?”

Feather nodded and leaned back when she let go of him.

She pointed to the flower missing a bud.  “This is an important story, one you will carry in your heart all of your life.  Look again at the flowers and describe their shape.”

Feather knelt onto his bare knees to get a better look.  “As you said before, round.  Even the plant’s leaves are growing in a circle on the ground where the plant came out.”  He looked closer still.  “Even the tiny yellow centers inside the flowers are all round!”
He jumped up and gazed at his grandmother’s face.  “Your face is round too, and your eyes are round.”  He touched his eyes.  “Are mine round too?”

He reached out and touched her face before she could answer him.  “Your face has lines of secrets and wisdom.  Grandfather told me that is why he has them.  I asked him why I did not have any, and he just patted me on the shoulder and told me that someday I would have them too.  He says you have many more lines than he does.  Does that mean you are wiser?”

Well, you old—  “Why yes, that is exactly why I am wiser than your grandfather.  He knows he will never have as much wisdom as me.”  She shook her head.  “Poor man.”

I will stretch out your wrinkles, old man!

She smiled at her grandson while planning ways to get back at her man, Hawk Soaring.  Before Feather could ask what she was thinking, she stood up.
Her knees crackled as she leaned forward.  “Let us take a walk and see what else we can find that is round.”

Bright Sun Flower smiled at the little boy who stood taller, proud of his discoveries.  As they wandered the canyon, he pointed out many more plants, round tree trunks and stones, and a spider’s web glistening under Father Sun’s angled light.

“Look, Grandmother, it has the colors of the rainbow, and it is round.  Spider could have made her web any shape, but she chose to make it round.”  He looked up.  “And Father Sun is round too.  I want to see more!”

Farther down the canyon trail, the boy’s energy finally wore on her.  An oval-shaped boulder nestled into the canyon wall provided a place for her to sit and rest.  She used her hands to stretch her tired back, praised him and held his little body close to hers.  She enjoyed the fragrant scents of all the wild plants he’d been kneeling in that morning.

“So, what did you learn today?”  She held him at arm’s length and looked into his expressive eyes.

He scratched his head and squinted in thought.  “Well, I learned everything is round in its own way, even our own bodies.  Father Sun is round, so our Mother we walk upon must also be round.  This roundness connects us, like the dirt and seeds and rain and the animals.  All are parts of the Circle.”

He tilted his head and grinned at her.  “I also learned you are much wiser than Grandfather.”

He’d learned about connectedness, an important lesson for one so young.

How did Feather understand our Mother is round?  I was much older when I understood, much older….

“You, my little one, are my Shining Light.”

Eagles above called to each other, and in their sound, she heard the future.  She thought of her vision—a future she did not understand.

Strange people cast dark shadows and overwhelm the land.  Animals flee with nowhere to run.  The people take and take more, until they crack the Circle of Life.  Their Mother’s body turns gray, and plants crisp from lack of moisture.

She’d seen all life end, and wondered if the Circle could survive and put itself back together.  No sense telling others her vision—not yet anyway.  They would just think her addled.

The Mother was forever.  Yet even Bright Sun Flower saw the landscape change when boulders became loose after a hard rain.  Nothing stayed the same.  Nothing.

She looked at her hair, once black as a moonless night, now silvered as the starlit sky.  Everything changes.

 

Chapter Two

 

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