Short Stories

It’s A Good Day

March 2, 2016

Branch feather 1

It’s A Good Day

            My old sleeping robe is warm; the soft fur touches my skin as a loving woman might. Sleep, though comforting, is a time of dreams, the realness of the world outside, waiting for me to engage life, should I choose it. Yet my dreams and wakening argue with one another, both deciding, what is to best be done with me. Visions of my sleep are friendly, reassuring, a world detached from the senses and earth and leaves beneath me. My robe keeps the chill away, persuading me to stay while my belly protests in hunger, a struggle, a reminder; life is outside my shelter, a day waiting for my arrival, a day with unknown promises.

I hear the crackling of a fire outside my lodge, noisy, energetic, a familiar sound of many seasons, varying little in my memory. My arm reaches out to touch the sides; it was once the skin of buffalo that covered these poles but now a painted canvas with symbols, their meanings different from the words on a printed page. There is the sound of children laughing, playing games, the merriment competing with the noise of crackling wood; these are the same joys I shared as a child, uninhibited, free and wild. It is good to remember such things.

The fire next to me, glowing, casting off an imperfect warmth, battles the frigid cold outside, keeping it at bay. The smoke is not unpleasant to my senses, familiar, soothing, rising above to escape the confines of my conical walls, dark streaks pushing upward through the smoke hole.

Unenthusiastically, one eye opens, the light flooding into it from above, suggesting Father Sky is in residence. The second eye submits to the demands and follows suit, the space in the smoke hole filled with a bit of blue and white clouds dancing in the heavens. Herbs and animals hang from the poles in flight from the ground, awaiting any malady that may befall us.

Grandmother used this one to help me breathe when I was ill and this other to ease my pain. There is one, over there, which helps heal broken bones and another to calm my belly. She knew so much, yet never spoke of it, only administered to our needs.

It is enough for my naked frame to release itself from the womb of fur and contemplate things beyond dreams, life in the world. They were dreams of grandfather and grandmother, long passed from the earth, their bodies returning to it, to begin again. I remember them, their wrinkled faces like the land we live on, bodies of skin with bones pushing their way from the inside. Grandfather did not fear death; “The cycle of life,” he would say to me often, death, like birth, natural, inevitable.

I thank the Great One for another day as I rub my arms and legs to stave-off the immediate chill, while I stand close to the burning coals, a twig or two added to encourage them to burn openly. I can hear the children better now, their mother beckoning them to break their nightly fast and prepare for the day, though food is available any time of the day. It is difficult to say which of their struggles will win out, the play or hunger, for the imagination can be powerful in games. As for me, the smell of cooking brings quick resolve, my hunger the driving force, my family waiting for me.

Outside my lodge the sky is bigger, a shade of blue, which defies description, the clouds telling me, rain will come soon; the wind confirming my prediction with a blast that tosses a cloud of dust into the air. Grandfather told me the earth would tell us what to expect if we looked and listened to her; Mother Earth speaks to us all the time, her moods and sorrows shared with all that live upon her. It is all, good; it is a good day, this day.

My grandfather would say, “It is a good day to die.” When I was young, I did not understand why he felt there was a need to die on that day, so fine. Should I not wish to see the moon and the morning sun of the next day or days to follow? Would I not wish to grow old and see every day as that one? Grandfather explained; it was a good day to die because one should not wish to die on a bad day. That did not mean there were days that were bad; Grandfather said every day was a good day to live. If one had to leave this earthly existence, surely this would be a fine day to die. Secretly, I never wished to die, though I repeated the phrase to please him, his wrinkled face turning into a smile when I did so.

As I move my eyes from the sky to everything around me, I should think ill of the day but I don’t. My house is a sad looking affair, tarpaper and boards nailed together, with one broken window covered by a piece of wood; a 1953 Chevrolet sits besides it, rusting, wheels missing, all of its windows broken. I live in this house of straight walls sometimes, my family becoming accustomed to the square building of no power. Square corners are weak, whereas the tipi, a circle, can withstand the wind, rain and snow. The circle tells us we are part of a cycle, which is never ending; perhaps this is my reason for spending time in the tipi, a continuing reminder of the past.

We have three dogs, one for each child; dog tails are wagging and anxious to feed on the leftovers. My wife’s garden grows beside the square house bringing us food and some color to our lives. She plants flowers as well as food, claims it feeds her heart. I do not know if this is true, though it makes me smile to see her joy.

We are poor; there is no mistake about that. Grandfather told me we were never poor until we saw what others had; and we wanted it. I think we want too much at times, possessions governing our lives. If a man has one knife, he can hunt and survive with it, having two to keep sharp and keep track of, worries a person for no other reason than having it. He also told me that life was not about belongings, for nothing really belonged to anyone; the earth belongs to all of us, as well as the things on it. He taught me to share what I had and give, rather than accumulate more than I need. No one in our band goes hungry; this is how we survive.

When taking in the natural things around me, I remember my grandfather and the many wise things he told me. None of the things we build or have, matter; they are impermanent, destined to dust in the wind. The sun, sky and earth, all of them are family; the intangibles, love, hope and peace make our lives whole. Yes, it is a good day to die, though perhaps, not today.

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