The storm that came through last night was wilder than he thought. The Thunder beings were in full force and the rain poured for what seemed like hours. Lightning struck the ground all around him and the earth shook.
His small camp was drenched and he just laid there in the wet trying to stay warm even though his bedroll was soaked all the way through. He could not sleep or find comfort in any way he tried. So he just did what mitoo minogha (his Uncle) said and just prayed.
Pray he did. He was scared and unsure of what or who he was. He apologized to everyone that was in his life. He cried because he felt so helpless and wet and cold. He was full of self doubt. Still, the storm kept coming. His Ch’adita mist’odi (holy pipe) sat by his head on its little altar and the knife stabbed into the ground next to it with the red cloth blowing in the wind almost to the point of flying away.
All his tobacco ties surrounded him and gave him just a small bit of comfort that he was alright. Until the next thunderbird opened their eyes. He was scared but he prayed.
He cried himself to sleep because there was nothing else he could do.
He woke to the rustle of a flock of waxwings feeding in the bushes above his head. They were not afraid of him and seemed to be surrounding him with offerings to feed him. Isaugh told him that animals will not be afraid of him during this time because he was now in the spirit world. Real life and time stopped for him for 4 days.
“Nothing else will matter for you,” his uncle told him in a stern voice.
“Everything you thought was important don’t mean anything. So get any ideas you have about what you are seeking out of your head right now!”
His uncle was almost scolding him as he listened and thought about what got him here to this morning.
“You have to become a man this year Grandson.”
“But I am a man now, Isaugh. My voice has changed and I am way stronger than I was last year,” he replied.
“Even that girl “Dii Dłi Shi” I saw at that friendship centre is pretty.”
“No Grandson, You have to go through ceremony. Remember we are asking many things from you.”
“Maybe you think your body is that of a young man but your mind still thinks it is a little boy who can do no wrong.”
“Kunshi took care of you all these years and taught you how to take care of yourself around a house but now you have to learn to take care of yourself in the world. Just learning to work around the ranch is not enough.”
He went to see his uncle who told him what to get ready for and what he needed. It took him a couple of weeks but he managed to collect all of the items except for a Mist’odi (pipe). His other Isaugh gave him one to use for the time being and said to treat it properly.
“It’s like a baby and you must take good care of it and it will take care of you and guide you.”
“Your mitoo minogha (uncles) are expecting you.”
He made his way to their house. They lived not far away. Some of his cousins were there as well. They had all gone away and fasted before and it was just his turn.
They sat around the fire and watched the fire heat the rocks. The sound of crackling wood. The rocks starting their job of heating up and turning red. Getting ready for him to enter the lodge.
[They told him that this is the way it has always been since time immemorial. Young men had to go out and be alone with only the bare necessities to help them for as many days as they needed. There was nowhere else young men went. It was important for them to know what was expected of them in their life. Some would become great providers and others leaders of men. While others would become spiritual people. It was all what the creator requested of them. They can choose to listen or they can carry on with what they thought was important.]
Some would end their lives early while others would exist is a fog where vision was unseen.
“That is the way it is,” Isaugh said to him. Nothing more had to be said.
His cousins were practicing singing the songs as they waited. They sat around smoking and telling stories. They were lost to him as he just sat silently and watched, and waited, and was deep in thought.
“Wakinyan Duuta!!! it is time.”
Darkness enveloped him and the rocks spoke. It wasn’t as hot as he knew because Mitoo Mishitla asked the rocks and ancestors to be gentle to him. Twice they opened and closed the door.
The final round he stepped out into the open air and things felt different. No words were spoken but his Isaugh was there standing and smiling at him. He gathered Ch’adita mist’odi and together they walked up to the distant hills. Isaugh sang song after song and talked to beings who were around asking them to take care of his grandson for the next little while. He said he was old and tired and his grandson had to learn the ways so they will not be forgotten after he was gone.
There was not much of anything to find for shelter but he could see down the hill as he laid out his tobacco ties and set up his small camp. He could hear Isaugh’s voice singing as he watched him head back down the hill until he was just a speck. He could see the remaining fires from different houses where people had been cooking outside on this warm early summer evening.
The Milky Way emerged even brighter as the sun went further down. It never really got totally dark but he sat there on his bedroll and thought of his young life so far.
He dreamed of building a house for his grandparents. Buying a really nice sorrel horse that he could ride forever. Going to college one day. He dreamed of the good things he could do. He stayed awake and watched the sky become light once again. Creation itself made him cry as he lit his sacred pipe and welcomed the Sun.
The day passed and he drifted in and out of sleep becoming less and less aware of time. All he felt was the hot sun and he wished he chose a place where he had some shade. Sleep and more sleep is all he could do. He was very thirsty. He was beginning to have a hard time swallowing anything.
Finally the sun set and it was cooling down. He smoked his pipe again and thanked the Sun for the day.
Self-doubt began to enter his mind. He wasn’t as confident as he was the first night. he began to hear strange noises walking around somewhere in the darkness. Fear became his companion and it was doing a good job on him. he hid under his bedroll and just wanted to go home. His knife was there in the ground so he could use it if he had to he thought to himself. he just laid as close to the ground as he could and slowly fell asleep.
He slept thru the next sunrise and woke up quickly. Damn it! he cursed to himself. He was suppose to wake up with the rising sun and smoke his pipe again. The sun was well up by now and he apologized to whatever was around for not doing what he was suppose to. His only friend around there were couple of red and blue dragonflies sitting on some tall grasses watching him. Still he smoked and it calmed him down. He was really hungry and thirsty. Two more days to go, he thought to himself. Maybe Isaugh will come around today to say hello or something.
The day passed very slowly and no one came around. He thought maybe everyone forgot about him. He could see no sign of anything around. Just deer and porcupine off in the distant trees.
A very loud growl scared the deer away and his ears became alert as his heart pounded away. He did not want anything to show up anymore. He wondered if it is just in his imagination or if it was real. Things were getting so fuzzy he passed out from the heat and lack of water.
He could feel a hot breath breathing over him but he was too scared to even move. He thought he could just jump up and that might scare it enough so he could run over to the trees and climb up as high as he could. He was frozen with fear and could only close his eyes tight and hope whatever it is goes away. He wanted to be back at Kunshi’s place and helping around the kitchen. He didn’t want to be brave anymore.
Then it was gone. Did he dream it all? he couldn’t know. He couldn’t even get himself to stand up. The weather was changing and to the west he could see a thunderstorm coming. The thunder beings were gathering strength and they would not be quiet. He realized how ill prepared he was all along. What could he do? He watched helplessly as the storm got closer.
So now the waxwings were all around him. He was aching all over and he was miserable. He did his best to smoke his pipe. The matches were damp and it was hard to light them but he managed to smoke it. He had one more day and night to go but he felt lighter than yesterday.
He hung his bedroll over some bushes and waited for the sun to dry it out. He slept on the bare ground all day not caring for anything but sleep.
He sang songs in his mind from what he was taught. He repeated them over and over again.If he got the words wrong he didn’t care he just sang to himself while he came in and out of consciousness. He woke once to see old people standing around him but he was too tired to do anything about it and fell asleep once again.
The sun had set behind the mountains when he woke again. He was chilled but he was glad his bedroll had dried out completely and he set his camp up again. He tried to sleep but just laid there looking up at the stars. A falling star shot across the sky. A curlew was doing his dance somewhere up in the evening light. The constant whoop whoop whoop of his wings as he dove down was as natural a sound to him as the coyotes in the distance. Creation was humbling him once again.
He wondered what the future would be for him. All the things his grandparents told him about how his life was going to be made him a little uneasy. He didn’t want to be anyone important right now. He just wanted to enjoy his young life. He knew his grandparents’ time was short and he wanted them to stay alive forever. He didn’t know how he would survive without them but thanked them for what they showed him so far.
He heard songs being sung again and recognized his Isaugh’s voice. He became emotional and started to cry. It was mid-morning and he was in the same position as he was the night before. Where did the night go?
“Isaugh is that you?”
“Makokins it’s me. It’s time to come back to the real world now.”
“I am sorry for being such a bug to you Isaugh.”
“You have never been that at all Makokins.”
“I don’t want you to leave me Isaugh. I am going to really miss you.”
“Well I am still here right now. How can I leave when you are here with me now?”
“I can’t stop crying Isaugh… I am sad for you and Kunshi,” he wept for a long time as Isaugh held him in his chest.
“You will be fine Grandson.”
“No I am not.When you leave I want to go with you. It will be hard for me.”
“Yes it will be hard for you just like it was hard for me and everyone else here.But We need you to continue on for us.”
“Lets go now and have a sweat. Your uncles and cousins are waiting for you. Auntie Doris made some good bannock with raisins just for you.”
They sat outside around a large picnic table and the whole family was very proud of him for making it the whole 4 days.
He was the same but somehow he felt different. He just drank water because it felt so sweet. Maybe one day he will understand what he went thru.
He looked back up the slope of the hill and saw a large figure standing there looking at him. He smiled at it and turned back to the feast in front of him.