Thursday, February 28, 2013
Thursday's Opening - Whispers out of Yesteryear by JanetLane Walters
Whispers Out of Yesteryear
Janet Lane Walters
Whispers Out of Yesteryear
Willow Who Bends stood at the entrance of the Long House and stared at the sky. Though the sun shone brightly, to the west dark clouds gathered and carried the threat of a storm like the one she felt inside.
She knelt beside the father of her spirit. Corn Dreamer had raised her and taught her the ways of healing. She prayed he would wake but feared he wouldn’t. Sorrow rode the beats of her heart and threatened to spill in a rain of tears.
"Corn Dreamer, must you travel to the spirit world and leave this one behind?" Her voice cracked and she caught a breath to still the ache in her throat. "The men have taken the warriors’ path in answer to Waraghuyagey’s call. The-Man-Who-Understands-Great-Things speaks for the redcoats, those men who want our help. What have we to do with the ones who fail to live in harmony with the land?
Not all the pale-skinned men, she thought. A smile crossed her face. There was one who often stayed in the village and sat at Corn Dreamer’s feet to learn.
Near a moon ago, a message had come for Hair of Fire. He had left the Long House and journeyed west. A shiver crawled her spine. Was he safe? In these days, danger rode the currents of the air the way carrion birds circled a kill.
She returned to her teacher’s side and pressed her fingers against his wrist. What had made him fall into sleep yet not sleep? Why did his heart flutter like humming bird wings and then slow. She wished for a way to rouse him for he would know the answer.
"Corn Dreamer, spirit father, medicine man, this woman is not ready for you to leave. What can this one do to help?"
She closed her eyes and sought among the things he had taught her. An answer arose. "This one must go into the forest to gather fresh leaves and bark."
From her sleeping place, she lifted a bark basket by the carrying strap and left the Long House. As she stepped outside, she heard the children’s laughter and the voices of the women raised in the growing chant. The sound chased her sorrow.
Across the clearing, her sister sat with the ones too young to work with the women. Though born of the same mother and on the same day, she and Willow by the Stream had been raised at different fires. On the outside, they wore a single face as reflected in a still pond, but their inner natures were different. As the first born, Willow Who Bends had been given to Corn Dreamer to learn about the ways of medicine and the spirit world. Her sister had been raised as a woman of the clan.
She drank in the sight of her sister. Soon Willow by the Stream would take a husband. That was good and right, but the change would further separate their lives.
Willow Who Bends sighed. We are alike and not alike. This one has been trained to stand alone. Willow by the Stream needed someone to care for her.
The small ones giggled. Willow Who Bends waited until her sister finished the story of the fox and the bear. Then she approached the group.
"Corn Dreamer is no better. This one must go into the forest to gather fresh medicines."
"A gift for you." Willow by the Stream presented a small deerskin pouch. On one side dyed porcupine quills formed an image of the sun, and on the other precious trade beads patterned the Three Sisters -- Corn, Squash and Beans.
"Are you not afraid to go into the forest alone?"
"Who would harm a medicine woman?"
"The enemy. Those despoilers and their pale friends move along the trails like weasels seeking prey."
"They were seen to the south and west a moon ago. This one will go north and east to the place where the willows grow beside the stream. Since you fear for me, listen with the ear that opens between us. If this one finds danger, she will cry a warning."
"This woman will listen."
At the edge of the trees, Willow Who Bends paused, and for a short time watched the people of the Long House. Her foster mother and the mother who had given her life worked side by side in the garden. Four nearly-grown boys practiced with their bows under the eyes of the warriors who had remained to protect the clan. With a wave, she stepped into the shadows cast by the forest.
As she moved among the trees, she stopped to gather medicines -- birch leaves, bloodroot, ginseng, bee balm. Slowly, she made her way to the stream where chill waters swept down the hill to join other streams and form a river.
The leaves of the willows had darkened from pale spring green to the darker hues of summer. All the catkins had dropped away. She pressed her hands against the largest of the cluster.
"Sister Tree, one who shares your name has need of your bark. Will you let me cut your skin?" She pressed her forehead against the tree and waited for an answer.
The scream that sounded in her head caused her to stagger. Her legs refused to hold her erect. She slid to the ground. With a terror that matched her sister’s, through the link between them, she witnessed the destruction of the Long House. The faces of the enemy burned into her head.
"Not the children!" The scream caused the earth beneath her body to shudder.
"Not the children!"
Willow Carey jerked into a sitting position. Her heart thudded in her chest. Waves of terror flooded her thoughts. She gulped deep breaths of air.
She stared at the familiar surroundings and wondered why the bedroom seemed alien. Like a shroud, the sheet had twisted around her legs. She tugged it free. Her sleep shirt, soaked with perspiration, clung to her skin. She shook her head to dislodge the fragments of the nightmare that had awakened her. Terror, grief and rage had followed her into consciousness. What? Why?