[a short story in two parts, by Sha’Tara]
(This short story is a bit long for a blog post so I split it in 2 parts. Hope you find it enjoyable, at least as much as I found writing it! Remembrances? Oh the wonderful mysteries and mystical ways of the mind as it wanders ‘the star paths’.)
(and, for Roger of Woebegone but Hopeful, if you read this, note the colours of the flowers mentioned here and see if they remind you of someone! 🙂 )
“My son, it is time to tell you about your mother.”
The man and his young son were sitting on a log by the river, as the moon rose over snow-covered peaks. The water made a lapping sound and somewhere across the little river, in the bushes, an owl called. It was followed by the evening ritual song of the coyotes.
“You were just past three Summers when your mother left us. You hear many strange stories about her, but I must tell you what I know, so you will be less confused.
They say your mother was a great Shaman — she was. They say she was crazy: she was not. Many Summers ago, a party of hunters from another village came upon a young girl wandering alone in the mountains along the big River. She could not speak our tongue, and she was different than anyone they had ever seen. She had very large eyes the colour of water in ice. Her hair was like the water when a small breeze moves it, and it resembled the bark of the cedar in colour. They kept the girl through the hunt. In one moon cycle, the girl had learned to speak our tongue perfectly. When asked where she came from, she explained, “From a cave full of fire. I was in an egg which was shot out of the flame and when it stopped rolling, it opened and I do not know anything else. I remember a name which in your language sounds like ‘She-ya-neh’ but I do not know what it means.”
The hunters came to our small village with their captive. My father, the chief, had the women clean the girl and inspect her. He decided to buy her, if she displayed a healthy bleeding. There was much feasting at that time. The hunters stayed in our village, enjoying the food and the girls were happy. Some babies were made at that time, yes. I was very young then, too young yet to enjoy the girls, but I made friends with the strange slave girl. She did not speak much, so we just sat together, or swam in the river. She was very strong and fast, faster than any boy. She won all the foot races, and could climb trees as if she had a squirrel’s claws. She became fascinated with our canoes and soon could paddle away so fast, only the strongest hunters in the bigger canoes, could catch her. She was forbidden to use the canoes then.
At her bleeding, my father decided to buy her. Again, there was much feasting. Then he made a ceremony in which she was set free from bondage, and could become my wife. After two more Summers, we were finally married. It had been expected that she would be very fertile, and give me many healthy sons. However, no child could she grow. Years passed and the women began to shun my wife. She became a loner, mysterious, sometimes disappearing in the hills for an entire moon cycle.
During these years, she demonstrated the ability to heal broken bones and to prevent disease from spreading. She talked to the animals, and even the spirits of the plants and the land, obeyed her. Yes, she was a great Shaman, my wonderful and barren She-ya-neh. She never seemed to miss not having children. She was full of curiosity and everything to her was a wonder. She was, hmmm, very promiscuous also — well — she went with many men, and they told stories of her ways which were strange to us. I was not jealous of this. One could not get jealous of your mother, unless one were a woman. Many women in the village came to hate her popularity, her crazy, wild ways, and especially her freedom among the men.
Your mother’s physical strength was known across many valleys. How she shamed the men in their hunts, their sports, their fights! She could outrun any man, outsmart and outfight anyone. She had skills with her hands and feet we had never seen. She was as fast as the lightning: when she struck a blow, it was impossible to see where it came from.
During the high water season, when the canoe races are held, she would taunt the men to best her. She was not, by law, permitted to compete with the men. So she would sit quietly in her canoe, behind the starting line, wait until the men were into their race, then push her own canoe in the race, soon overtaking even the fastest one and always finishing first. How my own heart swelled with pride to see her win that way, yet how puzzled I was, that such a woman could not bear a child for her man, or for any man.
Let me now speak of a time, many summers past our wedding. One day, just before the long shadows, she came to the shore where I was preparing my canoe for the fishing, and took my arm. Her eyes spoke a powerful thought and her body gave off a strange, pleasant and irresistible scent. I tried to explain that I was very busy and we could do that later, at night, but she spoke again, from within her mind, and I went with her. We walked for a long time, through places I had never been, until we came to a clearing. In the middle, there was a small hut, large enough to accommodate two adult people. All around were flowers, and even on the roof: red and blue flowers. They gave off the same scent she did. It was like a drug to me. I reached for her, as you have seen the young men and women do, but she stopped me. She undressed me, then herself, and together, we rolled our bodies among the strange flowers. Soon, my head was buzzing like a nest of wild bees, and my heart sounded like our drums at the great feasts by the ocean. She then took my hands, and pushed me inside the hut. I felt as if I were inside one of those great black clouds that give off lighting and thunder.
At that time, we made you. When she was pregnant with you, she became more normal. She was careful for you, and after you were born, she was a perfect mother. She took you everywhere, and you always slept next to her. She gave you her milk freely and you never went hungry and seldom cried. All her energies were spent on you. No more sports or men or wanderings in the forests. She stayed near the village and attended to her duties as healer and midwife with great diligence. She began to be liked by some of the women again.
But one day, she disappeared. She left you in the care of her best friend, and just walked away. This was bad luck, because in the village were five strangers, hunters, who had heard the stories about her sexual prowess, and her fighting abilities were now a legend. These young hot-blooded fools decided to track your mother to see where she would go, and perhaps to beat her down and have their way with her.
They followed her until she came to the edge of a small lake. She made several signs in the water with her fingers, then stood facing the sun, not moving a muscle for a long time. It was as if she was asleep they said later. They approached stealthily, as trained hunters can do, two from one side, two from another and one from behind. When the one behind her was close enough to grab her, he stretched out his arm to put his hand around her throat. As he did so, she turned and let out a blood-curdling screech. Her right arm shot out and at the end, what seemed like huge talons, locked around the man’s neck and snapped it as if it was a dry twig. Still screeching, she unfolded huge wings and flew away to the west, over the trees.
[End of Part 1 of 2]