Monday, May 23, 2011

The Crow and the Beaver

A good friend e-mailed me and shared a vision they had and asked me to comment on it.
I went out yesterday evening for my prayers during that mysterious "in-between-time" when the ancestors come and sing and dance. Although I can't share their vision, this is what I saw and heard in a story form. It seemed so appropriate for many walking the red road that I had to share the story I wrote.
You know who you are.
Enjoy and understand ...............................................................

Back in the time when Turtle Island was still young and the people spoke with the animals,
there lived a Holy man who had two daughters. Both of the daughters desired knowledge.
The first daughter wanted knowledge so she could walk in harmony and balance on Turtle Island. The second daughter wanted knowledge so she could teach others to walk in harmony and balance.

The Holy man knew that knowledge was useless without understanding so he sent his daughters on a journey out in to the world to seek understanding. The sisters were as sisters should be, always helping each other, almost as if they were one. The sisters traveled many suns and finally came to a wide stream. They spent the night at the stream trying to figure out how to cross it. The sisters always shared their dreams with one another and today was no different. The first sister said she dreamed of a big crow that swooped down and carried her away. The second sister said she dreamed of riding on the back of a big beaver.

They walked down to the stream and saw that there were now large rocks going halfway across the stream. After they had eaten their breakfast they decided they would try to cross the stream by walking on the rocks even though the rocks only went halfway across the stream.
As they stepped out on to the rocks they noticed that one portion of the stream was quiet and slow moving while the other part was fast moving and rough with waves. They were shocked to see that the rocks disappeared as they stepped off of them. There was no way back. Carefully stepping on the slippery rocks the sisters walked out to the middle of the stream and stopped. They could go no further.

The sisters questioned each other as to what to do next. Suddenly they noticed a crow feather floating by … going downstream. The first sister became excited because she had dreamed about a crow. Surely this was a sign they should travel downstream. Another crow feather floated by, yes, this had to be a sign. The sisters didn’t know what to do. Six more feathers floated by, the sisters looked at one another in amazement. As another feather began to float by, the first sister stepped out onto the feather and started floating gently down the stream. The second sister stared as her sister drifted off. Again another crow feather floated by, should she step out on to it and join her sister floating down the stream? Suddenly she heard the call of a crow and turned just in time to see her sister turn into a crow and rise up from the stream and fly off.

She was sad because she had never been separated from her sister. She decided when the next feather came by she would step out on to it and float down stream. But another feather never came by. The second sister waited and waited …. no more feathers came by.The sun was beginning to go down and she knew she would have to do something soon. She sat on the stone in the middle of the stream waiting.

Just then another stone rose up out of the water. She stepped out on to it. She would wait for another stone to rise up and then she could walk across the stream. As she stood waiting for another stone to appear she felt the water start moving faster.
It became difficult to stand on the rock. The water was rising. She felt her toes grasp the surface of the rock. She looked down and was surprised to see that the rock had turned into a huge beaver. The beaver sunk lower in the water and began swimming upstream. As she clung to the back of the huge beaver she was not afraid. She knew the Creator had made the beaver for such waters as these.

She knelt down for a better grip and noticed her fingers and toes had grown long hairs and claws like the beaver’s. She was not afraid as she held on to the beaver. She noticed more hair growing on her arms. She was becoming one with the beaver. She smiled as she swam up the raging stream, she had become the beaver.

On a small hill far away sat the Holy man. He opened an old beaver skin medicine bag and took out a long black crow feather. He caressed the feather lovingly and took the medicine bag and softly touched it to his weathered cheek.
He smiled.
His daughters had learned well.
You can’t always choose your stream in life. For some it may be a gentle, easy flowing stream. For others it can be an upstream battle filled with rough currents, whirlpools and sharp rocks. Only when we become one with the stream and content with our position in it …. does the journey become easy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Am

I am the stillness of the receding night, I am the touch of the morning dew on the green corn.
I am the sound of the Katydid singing to the rising sun, I am the buzz of the Honey Bee dancing across the face of the Sun Flower.
I am the warmth of the early morning rays of Grandfather Sun warming the People’s lodges.
I am the breeze that makes the leaves of the Standing People sing, I am the breath of the grass as it dances to and fro.

I am the heart beat of Mother Earth as she gives the rythum to life.
I am the quiet murmer of the People as they awake.
I am the soft voices of the women at work.
I am the laughter of children at play.
I am the snap of a bowstring as young men hone their skills, I am the silence of the Elders as they meditate, speaking with the Ancestors.
I am the smoke from the Sacred Fire carrying prayers up to the Creator.
I am the soft song sung by a Grandmother as she weaves a reed basket.
I am the rythmic sound of women grinding corn, I am the gentle rocking of a Grandmother as she comforts a child.

I am the Anisahoni clan making medicines to keep the children well.
I am the swishing sound of the Anigilohi clan as they strut through the camp with their long hair flowing.
I am the Anitsiskwa clan repairing their bird snares and practicing with their blowguns.
I am the Eagle catcher as he prepares to hunt the mighty Eagle.
I am the Aniwodi clan as they sit making medicine for the People.
I am the Anikawi clan as they stalk through the woods hunting the deer.
I am the Anigatogewi clan as the walk the swamps and streams seeking wild potatoes and roots for the People.
I am the Aniwayah clan as they prepare to track the Wolf.
I am the War Chiefs and the Peace Chiefs that defend and keep order in the village.

I am the crackling of the fire as meals are prepared.
I am the flash of lightening followed by the distant voice of Thunder.
I am the freshness of a shower and the smell of fresh moist dirt.
I am the Sunset as Grandfather Sun begins to give up his light and warmth.
I am the “In Between Time” that sacred time between light and dark when the Ancestors return to sing and dance.
I am the brightness of Grandmother moon as she shares her healing energy as she searches the Great Sky Vault for her lost love.

I am the voice of the story teller as he tells of the joys and sadnesses of the People.
I am the stories told around the campfire, a living history of the Peoples.
I am that which never dies ….. I am the spirit of the People.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How The Bee Got its Stinger

As a young kid there was only one thing better than walking down to Weaver’s pond and swimming on a hot afternoon. On the way back to Grandfather’s it was going by his bee hives. These were old bee hives made out of hollowed logs with the tops covered with old oak planks. They were always loaded with honey and the bees were always busy working to make more. Ududu (grandfather) had been tending these hives for as long as I could remember.

I would stop at one of the hives, remove the rock that held the planks on the top,
take a long stick and poke it down into the hive. When I removed the stick it would be covered and dripping with delicious fresh honey. I did this almost every day. I may have just been a kid but I was smart enough to make sure ududu was no where around. My sweet tooth got so bad (greed) that I took one of Ulisi (grandmother) silver spoons and hid it by one of the hives. You can get more honey with a big spoon then you can with a stick. The bees never seemed to bother me and tolerated this invasion.

They say all good things must come to an end. My attacks on the bee hives finally came to a terrible end. One hot summer day as I lifted the planks to get several spoons of honey, apparently I caught them in a bad mood.

By the time I had run to the back door I had already been stung about twelve times. Fortunately or unfortunately, depends on how one looked at it, Ududu was sitting on the back steps stripping some willow branches.
Still swatting at honey bees I sat down next to Ududu and tried not to cry out in pain.

Ududu continued stripping the willow branches in silence, not even giving me a second glance. As the tears began to roll down my face and the red welts began to grow larger, he finally spoke.

“Usdi Duya, have you been in my bee hives again”? He rose from the steps and walked over to where he had some special tsola (tobacco) growing.

I sat there wiping away the tears trying to figure out how to get out of the trouble I knew I was in. How did he know I had been robbing the hives? I respected Ududu to much to even consider telling an untruth. I was raised not to lie, that was the Tsalagi way. One only spoke truth.

He returned chewing a big mouth of tsola and sat back down and said,
“A question usually requires an answer. “ His voice was stern but not angry.
“Yes Ududu, I have been in your hives,” I said. As I said those words I could feel the shame in my voice.

Ududu turned to me and spit out the chewed tsola into his weathered hand.
He began smearing the chewed tsola on the bee stings. The red welts began to become smaller and the pain eased.

I looked at Ududu and said, “I am sorry, I did not ask permission of the bees before I took their honey. I am sorry that I did not ask your permission. I don’t understand why the Ulnelanvhi (Creator) gave a little insect such a hurtful stinger.”

Ududu reached over and picked up his Mason jar of iced tea, offered me a drink, then took a big drink himself and put the lid back on it and sat it down.
He leaned back and stretched out his legs and let out a sigh.

“Usdi Duya, In the long ago times when Turtle Island was still new and the people were more pure and could talk with the animals and the Unelanvhi (Creator) would visit with them, the people asked the Unelanvhi for something that was uganasdv (sweet) to the taste. So the Unelanvhi sent the wadulisi (bee), but the wadulisi had no stinger. The wadulisi found a suitable tree in which they could build their hive. A place to live in and produce honey, multiply and feed its young. Soon the people came to the wadulisi and asked for some of the sweet syrup and the wadulisi gave each person a atlisdodi (bowl) full. The people loved the syrup and greedily ate it, then went back to the wadulisi for more.

But the Queen wadulisi (the wadulisi had a matrilineal society just like the Tsalagi) replied, 'I have no more to give you for a while. You will have to wait.' The people were not alihelisdi (happy), as they craved the uganasdv syrup. So they called upon the Unelanvhi, saying, 'the wadulisi does not give us enough of the uganasdv syrup. We want more.'

The Unelanvhi listened and sent down the Atsilvsgi (Flower) People. The Atsilvsgi People began to spread all types of anitsilvsgi (flowers) across the land giving the wadulisi greater access and variety of anitsilvsgi (flowers) to pollinate and make more honey. The Atsilvsgi People spread all kinds of beautiful wild flowers around to attract the wadulisi; bright blue, red, orange, purple and yellow. More wadulisi were created to help pollinate the anitsilvsgi.

The hive grew to be udohiyu equa (very large). The people seeing how equa the hive was went to get more of the uganasdv (sweet) syrup. So the wadulisi gave all the syrup to the people but left enough to feed their young. The people devoured the syrup and wanted more. The wadulisi responded, 'We don't have anymore, you will have to wait.'

The people were angry and asked the Atsilvsgi People to make more flowers so they could have more of the uganasdv syrup to eat. The Atsilvsgi People responded, 'We made all the flowers we could and they are all pollinated. You will have to wait until Spring.'
'No, said the people, 'We want more now.' So they went back to the wadulisi hive and tore it apart killing almost all of the wadulisi and taking the syrup. The remaining wadulisi were angry.
They asked the Unelanvhi what to do. The Unelanvhi (Creator) was also upset at the behavior of the people, so he told the Atsilvsgi People to create some 'briar bushes' and for the wadulisi to eat the briars.

The wadulisi did as the Unelanvhi said, they ate the briars and these were transformed into stingers. The Atsilvsgi People created an entire briar patch around the bee's tree.
The next day, the people came back and started toward the wadulisi hive for more syrup; but the briars around the tree scratched and tore at their bodies. Some of the people made it through the briars to the hive. Covered in welts, they yelled at the wadulisi, 'Give us some more syrup now, or we will do the same as we did yesterday, kill your young and destroy your home.'
The wadulisi became angry and a loud hum came from the hive in the tree, and out they swarmed. The wadulisi stung the people all over until they were covered in welts and sent them running.

After that day, the people treated the wadulisi, anitsilvsgi, and digakohidi (plants) with great respect and always promised to ask permission and replace whatever they asked for and never be greedy or take more than they needed.”

“Now, Usdi Duya, I have work to do. Perhaps you can find something to do also.”
Ududu stood, gathered up his stripped willow branches.

“Wado, Ududu,” I said as he walked off. He nodded his head as he headed toward the water pump. I got up and immediately headed to the wadulisi hive.
The wadulisi were still buzzing around the hive but I had no fear of being stung.
I apologized to the wadulisi for my greediness.
I got grandmother’s spoon and headed to the house to apologize to her for taking it without asking first.

It seemed to me, although I had done wrong, that all was right with the world.
I may have learned a good lesson about greed but to this day honey is still my favorite sweet. And to this day I never take more than I need.