Autumn Noelle Hall
Off the Reservation
Sorting through Mom's things after her funeral, Dad and I come across a tiny pair of beaded moccasins. "When you were about two," he tells me, "Your mom and I took you to the Grand Canyon. At the lodge dinner, we were treated to a performance by tribal dancers decked out in all their traditional regalia. You had these new moccasins on, and before we could stop you, you ran right up to the stage and started stomping your little feet in time to their drums. Your mom was mortified, but the dancers just smiled and smiled."
I don't remember learning to tell one people from another. Or forgetting how to dance. But the part of me that kept those shoes must have held onto what was inside them.
mile after mile
all the colors of earth
in their moccasins
A scrawny guy swaggers into the Four Directions store to show off his new bicep tattoo. Making a muscle, he boasts to the owner, "Check it out, man – I took Mountain Lion as my totem." After he leaves, the Indian turns to his brother, "Ever notice how little white guys like to pick the big predators? It's always Mountain Lion or Bear or Wolf, enit? You never see a white guy with muskrat or chipmunk for a totem, eh?"
fancy dancing the hive
to the flowers
I don't know why Mountain Lion chose to enter my dreams. Or why Raven and Porcupine followed. When there is a knock at my door, I open it. Even surprise visitors deserve welcome.
do white apologies taste
like white lies?
On the Catamount Trail, Coyote met Raven under a Ponderosa Pine. Since the day was fine and Coyote felt frisky, he challenged Raven to an 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours' contest. Raven lost. I know this is true, because the next day, I found seventeen of her sleek black feathers fanned out along that very trail.
I do not ask for feathers. But medicine is medicine, and such a gift is not to be refused. Thanking Raven, I carry her offering home to my altar.
under my shoulder blades
On their spiritual journey to what we now call Pikes Peak, a small band of Ute Indians stops to rest. They choose a young pine, bend it parallel to the ground and tie it down. Circling this tree, they offer up prayers they believe Wind will send out for the next 800 years.
how the old tree sashays
through the centuries
I do not seek these trees. Yet hike after hike, they reveal themselves to me. Revering each encounter, I add my prayers to the Utes', asking first that the families who created these trees continue to thrive and grow. I thank Spirit, who once spoke to them, for speaking now to me; and I ask for the continued wisdom to listen.
my long dark hair, silvered now
by many moons