To Remember

This night we sing the old songs
And with this we remember
Remember all the things we have lost
Remember all of the things we need so much
The flute rings with the sounds of the wind
Much as the transient passing of the birds in the sky
The drums bring the sounds of distant thunder
Much as the Buffalo rolling across the prairie
The voices blend together in the song
And the wafting smoke drifts up from the campfire
This gathering is good

The trek to this place was long
This place where the grass is green, the water cool
Father Sun now gazes through the corn tassel
An Eagle’s call rings out across the evening sky
My eyes close and I listen to the breeze
This gentle wind moving over the hill
Bathing me with both peace and warmth to my spirit
And bringing the gentle whisperings the old ones
Faces of old friends drift past me in the gathering darkness
And moving among them the pale spirit images of my ancestors
This gathering is good

I move to stand before the mountain
My gaze caught by the images scratched into the old stone
Images colored by soot and dyes
The old ones have left this faded record
This record left to be read and remembered
Read and remembered by the people to come after
I see my own fingers reaching out
I see them gently tracing the curves and lines
Feel the need fill me, the need to know
To know the painter, know the story
The need is good

The night swirls, the sounds fade
My fingers are stained
Stained by the colors of fresh paint
Paints prepared from the plants and the earth
I feel beside me a man stands
A tall, bronze, and bare-chested man
Painting this year’s story upon the mountain
The images growing in the evening sky
These once old and faded images, now fresh and new
The meaning, once forgotten, now clear and important
Understanding is good

The people move around me
People clothed in woven fiber, animal skins, and the feathers of Eagle
My hand holds a flint point
The point is thin and finely made, ready for hafting
Its keen edge surprising, the balance good
The color of the stone shows it came from far away
My eyes close again, remembering the old ones now
The stone warms my hand as I remember my ancestors
My grandfather, with his dark eyes full of experience and wisdom
He guides my hand across the point saying,
“It is not difficult to make, I will teach you”
The memories are good

My grandmother smiles at me
“Come sit by our fire, share our food
It is a good life we have here, we have much”
I feel the need, the need to learn much
To smell the grass and trees, the water and smoke,
Hear the children, animals, insects, and wind,
Feel with more than touch
See with more than eyes
Learn and understand with my mind and heart
I begin to know
Knowing is good

But I need to know more
Need to know all
“We will teach you, but that is enough for now.
It is better to fully understand a few words, than to
Half understand many” the old ones whisper
My need is strong, but I respect the ancients
“May I come to your fire again?
I will bring a story from tomorrow.
Will you tell me, remind me, bring me those things forgotten?”
“You are welcome to our fire, welcome to share our wisdom my son”
The future is good

And a new day begins
And my fingers are stained
Stained by the colors of fresh paints
Paints prepared from the plants and the earth.
And again beside me stands a man,
Tall, bronze, and bare-chested,
Painting this year’s story upon the mountain.
I gaze at some of the old images,
Remembering the voice of my grandfather
Telling the tales and legends of long ago.
I give the painter another bowl, another color.
The vision is good.

And the end of the chant sounds.
The songs quiet and die,
I open my eyes and rise.
Tomorrow I will dance again
Wearing the white buffalo pouch
Inherited from my great-grandfather,
Made by his great-grandmother.
The sounds of the one fill me,
The night owl calls, the wind whispers,
The time to dream comes.
Dreaming is good

Below is our village,
The smoke of the fire and the sounds of life drift up over the hill
All rising on the wind, rising to the Great Spirit.
The People prepare for the celebration of harvest,
So thankful for Mother Earth and Father Sun,
So thankful for full bellies and children who laugh,
So thankful for the gathering, the song, and the dance.
The drawing is finished, another year recorded
We silently gather the brushes and paints,
Then together start down the trail,
The new day is good

I stop and turn to look at the mountain once again
To look at the many drawings on this monument,
The great history of the People in this sacred place.
The man turns his head and speaks,
His eyes fall on me as one well trusted,
His voice rings familiar and reassuring,
“Are you ready, my brother? “
I nod and we turn again to the trail.
The wind stirs my hair, awakens my soul
The sound of the voices lingering in my mind,
The bond is good.

And so the wheel turns
I gaze at the stone wall before me
At ancient paintings and petroglyphs.
The watchful spirits of my relatives surround me.
I am honored to be one in a long line
A line reaching from ancient past to distant future.
The wind stirs again,
Bringing the smell of wood smoke
And the voices of family and friends.
I remember and I understand;
Tonight I live again.
And Life is good…

Steve ‘Easy’ Whitacre July 17th, 2006

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