Thursday, June 21, 2012

Home Away from Home

"Where's Papa?" Little Somana asked her mother. "He's gone to the river for water." She responds without looking up from repairing a basket. "When will he be back?" "I told you already, tomorrow. He and your uncle Hakataya went to the river with the large pots to fill." She responded still focused on her basket. "Maybe they'll bring back some rabbit to eat too. I'm getting tired of these dried beans." "Me too." Somana agreed. "Me too." Somana's little brother Moqui parroted. Somana and Moqui are the children of their Anasazi parents Lummis and Alisal. They are on a long trip from Chaco to Oraibi. "I miss him. He said he would fix my dolly." Somana held up her unraveling doll made from agave strands. "He will, he needs some pine pitch to repair it. I miss him too, honey." Lummis and his family started their trip just before the spring Equinox. The weather was still quite chilly when they left. Snow clung to the north side of the rocks, and it was still too early in the season to plant any crops. They were citizens of Chaco in what was one of the largest communities in the southwest. "I'm thirsty." Somana said. "Me too." Moqui squeaked. "We're almost out of water. We'll have to hike up the hill to see if there are any potholes with water left in them. We'll need some with dinner anyway." "Okay mama." "Bring that fabric swatch here and a bit of cornmeal." Somana took the fabric, cornmeal and her dolly. With Moqui in hand, Alisal began the difficult climb on the narrow path through large red sandstone scree. Huffing and puffing little Moqui tried keeping up. "Mama, carry me!" He cried. "Okay, baby." But you have to walk back I can't carry you and a pot of water. The ascent was steep. At the top of the canyon, the valley started opening up and the beaten trail leveled out a bit on to slick rock. Skirting the dry water fall they followed the wash up to the top and through the deep sand. After about a half an hour of walking through the dry juniper and scrub oak they returned to slick rock again. "Looks pretty dry up here." Alisal said while scanning the terrain dotted with small basins carved out of the rock over time.

 "Caw Caw." The raven standing over a small puddle drew Alisal's attention. "There! Thank you mister raven." She said. "Caw Gak." The raven replied, a little put off for being disturbed. He hopped a couple of times and retreated to a nearby boulder. "Tanks Mista Raben." Mimicked Moqui. Alisal put Moqui down and grabbed the peice of cloth from Somana. She dipped the cloth into the pothole and began wringing it out into the pot. She repeated this until the pot was full. "There. Now Somana and Moki, what do we do to say thank you?" "We give offering of cornmeal!" Samana declared. "That's right." Alisal took a pinch of meal and flung some into the water, and some toward the raven "And here's for you Mister Raven." "Caw." "Did I tell you the story of the Coyote and Raven?" "No
mama." "I'll tell you over dinner tonight."

The family began their decent back down to the round stone habitation snug in the arched cave high on the canyon wall. The light began to create long shadows on the surrounding cliffs. A few small puffy clouds hung low close to the distant spires. The harsh light slowly began softening. Alisal began to start a small fire, and put the small pot of water on it. "You hungry kids?" "Yeah." They said in unison. Alisal reached in to the cist and pulled out some beans. She then began to grind some corn meal on the metate. She put the dried beans in the pot, and with some ground pulp of prickly pear, thickened the corn meal into little patties, then cooked them on a slab of rock hanging over the fire. She served the beans on the little tortillas. "Now tell us the story of the Raven and the Coyote mama." "Okay, but then right to bed." The sunlight succumbed to dusk, and a cool breeze blew some sand and ash from the fire into a little dust devil. The fire light danced long shadows on the burnt sienna cave walls. "Many sunsets ago, at the edge of a canyon there was a large juniper tree. Under that tree there was much sand. It stood out in the open twisted and sunburned. One day a Coyote came by and heard a couple of Ravens singing and dancing under the tree. Each Raven had on his back a large black bag. He came up to them to watch and became interested. "Raven friends, what are you doing?" "Caw Caw, we are dancing with our mothers." "That's pretty, can I dance too?"

"Yes, but you have to go home and put your mother in a bag and come back to the dance." The coyote went running home and found his old mother sleeping by the fireplace. The young dumb coyote picked up a large stick and struck his mother in the head, and put her into a bag. He hurried back to the dance with her on his back. The Ravens were dancing happily singing: "Mama, mama I am shaking, shaking." The Coyote joined the dance and began singing along. Just then the Ravens began to laugh. "What did you bring in the bag you dumb Coyote?" The Ravens jabbed. "My Mother, just as you told me." The Coyote showed them. The Ravens emptied their bags full of nothing but sand, then flew high up into the tree laughing. The Coyote finally saw they had played a trick on him. He hurried home and returned his mother to rest next to the fireplace. "Mama mama, why wont you wake up?" The coyote cried. She could not, for she was dead from the blow to the head. When he realized she would not wake up ever again he vowed to follow the Ravens the rest of his life, and eat them all. From that day forward he will always be hunting them and always be at war." Moqui began to cry. "That's horrible mama. I will never put you in a bag." Somana said holding back her tears. "This is why you must not trust the Raven. They will play tricks on you and laugh at you high on the tree limb." Alisal warned. "Yeah but that raven showed us where the water was today." "I know, but he didn't want to share the water." She quipped. "The story tells not only why the coyote and the raven are enemies, but that how easily mean people can take advantage of the innocent. This is why we had to leave our home. The elders and elite have tricked us. They lead us to believe that if we gave up more of our crops and built more buildings for them, the gods would look favorably upon us. The Shaman's prayers and offerings have been made in vein. We did everything they asked of us, and yet the rains have not come. We gave all we had to the elders, and have not received anything they promised. Our crops yielded less and less, yet the elders asked for more and more. They sit in their houses, and stock pile food and goods. When it comes time for them to share, they don't distribute their wealth, but rather ask for more. When they don't get as much as they want, they just take it. They fooled us every time with promises they never keep. They don't understand it is unsustainable, because people like us will just leave. They will find out when everybody is gone."

"I miss home." Moqui squeaked, still teary eyed. "I do too, but your aunt and uncle will take us in. It will be our new home, with new kids to play with. It will be a place where everybody works to support their neighbour, and no one will come and take what we all worked hard for. Now go to bed." Alisal said while rolling out their small mats. "Cover up, it will be a cold night tonight." She said as she tucked them in. Soon they were fast asleep, Somana clutching her tattered doll.

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