Thursday, January 9

We're Freezing Our Little Butts Off Today...

Note: We have been trying to upload this post for two days now and cannot accomplish it properly. We cannot upload pictures any longer and have not figured out what has changed. Please bear with us until we figure out why this lousy program doesn't work any longer.........
We are in the midst of the Polar vortex threatening to freeze us all today…Dangerously cold air is flowing from the Polar ice cap, down into the continental US, being drawn down to us by warm airstreams that have changed their regular routes and traveled further north than usual. Whatever the reason, it is too cold to do anything but write or read while sipping coffee and looking out the window, so I’ll write and you read. Enjoy my imagination, or anyone else who dreams and writes…  

Many Tears was desperate to find his Manitou somewhere…anywhere and soon to gain a better name for himself than Many Tears…after all, what twelve year old Indian wants to become a brave named Many Tears? He therefore embraced his uncle’s suggestion to take him into the forest, where he would remain alone until that Manitou came to him in some way. He sat for several hours, not really knowing what to expect or how his Manitou would appear to him. Seeing bees repeatedly fly by as he sat in his bower…a small depression in the earth that he chose, believing it would be comfy to sleep in that night, being filled with soft dry leaves. He got up, brushed the leaves from his legs and followed the bees to see if he could locate their hive. He found it within a dead snag of elder standing at the edge of a clearing, leaning at an angle, indicating it was about to fall over. “Hello, my brothers,” he softly spoke as he greeted the swarming bees. “Do not be afraid, for I come to ask a great favor of you. Do not sting me but allow me to take but a small portion of your honeycomb and I will sing your praises until the end of my days.” He noticed that the bees did not react violently to his words and he took this to mean acquiescence. With his fear thus abated, Many Tears slowly reached his hand toward the entrance flap of the hive. He lifted the bark slightly and it easily broke away from the rotten trunk, causing some bees to become excited as they were exposed to the morning light. A few buzzed around him but not one stung him as he calmly held the birch bark flap steadfastly over the opening. When they settled down he eased the flap away, revealing a coat of bees attached to the inner trunk, the guard surrounding the entrance to the bee lodge. At first dismayed to think he would have to destroy the nest to get at the honey; he turned the birch bark flap in his hands and noticed that underneath was a long honeycomb. A few bees still clung to it, as if asleep, and he gently blew on them until one by one they all flew off, leaving him his prize. “Thank you, brothers,” said Many Tears with great emotion, so happy and relieved was he. “I will not forget your generosity, and promise never to reveal the location of your lodge.” As he returned to his bower he wiped the sweat from his brow, smearing some of the sticky honey in his hair. At first he thought of washing it off in the stream, but then changed his mind, laughing. It was too precious to wash away, a blessing, and he reclined on the leaves, feeling very proud of himself. He did not feel his hunger, for tonight he was filled with a sense of accomplishment. He felt he would never be afraid again, and resolved that he would give the honey to his friend, Two Horns, when he returned. Yet he soon realized that he had experienced nothing that would merit a name to be proud of. Overcoming his fear of bees was not accomplishment enough for a warrior; for what name might that give him, “Not Afraid of Bees?” No, he would remain forever the laughingstock of the clan. His newfound sense of himself began to wane as the sky grew dark, and soon his head began to slump against his chest. He turned his attention to the sounds in the night, but heard only the wind in the trees and the gurgling brook. No owls hooted, no coyotes bayed at the moon that night. He forced himself to hold his head up, to keep his eyes open, but even the shadows made by the moonlight failed to stir his imagination into visions of spirits or demons, so weak and sleepy was he. He lay back on the cool leaves and once again turned his attention to the stars in the opening above him. He almost drifted off to sleep when a shooting star flashed across the sky, and for a time this excited him, and he wondered what omen it might portend. But even this event failed to stir his imagination for long and he soon curled up in his bower and fell into a deep sleep. He dreamt of being out on the big lake. It was night and he was paddling the canoe that his uncle had stolen from a northern Algonquin camp two summers before. When he reached the middle of the lake he heard the beating of wings, and there, over his head, hovered the silhouette of a giant black bat, its wings blocking out the stars and the moon. It swooped down and Many Tears tried to hide in the bottom of the boat. Then he felt its wings flapping against his forehead. Many Tears realized he was no longer dreaming as he awoke to the sensation of having his forehead licked. Just as in his dream he could not see the stars or the moon, because a large creature hovered over him. Not a giant dream bat, fearful enough, but a large bear, standing over him with its belly hair brushing his chest. Many Tears froze in fear as the strong wet tongue slurped at his hair. He closed his eyes and held his breath and hoped the bear would not eat him. Then he heard it sniff and realized it had come for the honey. It stepped over him as if he was of no more concern than a fallen log. Only then did Many Tears dare to open his eyes to see the mountainous creature beside him, slurping up the broken fragments of the honeycomb. A big yellow moon shone directly overhead, and when Many Tears turned his head he saw the great mound of fur, the largest bear he had ever seen. It was not black or brown like most bears, but yellow, like the moon, and Many Tears had to stifle the urge to sing a victory song, so glorious was the feeling of lying on the ground so close to this great magical creature, his emotions a mixture of fear and conquest. He wanted to thank the bear for granting this Manitou, this visit to him in his time of desperate need, but he held his tongue. Uncertain if it was a spirit bear or a real bear, Many Tears reached out and pinched between his fingers a thick tuft of fur on the back of the bear’s leg. But then his fear returned and prudence dictated that he remain silent and still, to let the bear, magical or not, go as it had come and not draw undue attention to himself. Finally satisfied that it had licked up all the honey, the bear ambled away, leaving Many Tears with a long tuft of fur between his fingers. Many Tears waited until he was certain the bear had left the area before he sat up and took a deep breath, thrilled to his core. A great and powerful bear had come to visit, a yellow bear at that, and had stood over him without harming him, even leaving him with a trophy of its hair. It was a great omen and a powerful Manitou. “I will watch mushrooms grow until you come for me, uncle,” he said aloud, uncaring if nothing else happened, for now he had something wonderful to tell his uncle.

The woods around Many Tears turned to the gray shadows of evening until he could no longer see in the dark of night. Had the moon shone, he could have seen things about him, but in the new moon, it was utter darkness. Finally his imagination gave way to boredom and he drifted off to sleep, surrounded and immersed in the warm soft leaves of his bower.

When Many Tears awoke to the rising sun, there was his uncle crouched beside him, wrapped in his red blanket, building a fire. Many Tears was excited from his encounter with the bear and couldn’t wait to tell of the experience to his uncle. His uncle told him it was an important and magical event, certain to bode well for his future, and certain to help the clan mother choose a proper name for him, the name of a man.

The main trail wound back and forth through the settlement between various homes, and as they neared the center…his uncle, Looks Both Ways raised up his voice and loudly announced the return of Many Tears from his dream fast, singing his praises that told of the blessings bestowed by the Great Spirit, and causing all they passed to look up and listen. Many Tears stood proudly facing the gathering as his uncle announced in front of his lodge, “Brothers, Friends and Relatives! Hear me! There will be a council of celebration tomorrow evening, when I will relate to you all that Many Tears has been given on his dream fast.

It was the next night as the sun was dipping below the treetops when they began to gather at the council lodge, for an event long anticipated by Many Tears. “Friends and Relatives listen,” his uncle began in a firm voice. “We are gathered here tonight to observe an ancient custom handed down to us by our forefathers. Now let us listen to the dreams and visions of Many Tears.”

Many Tears was nervous as his uncle passed him the belt of white wampum. He stood up and took the time to take a deep breath and let it out slowly as his uncle had taught him. Then he began to tell the gathering of all that had happened to him on his dream fast. Once he had to begin anew as he lost his place, but as the memories flooded back to him he lost his nervousness and the story poured out. When he had told all he could remember he said, “Naho.” (I have finished) No one spoke for some time after Many Tears had finished and he began to worry that he had said or done something to offend. But then the old clan mother, “She Keeps It Straight”, said, “You will put away this name Many Tears. From this day you will be known as Yellow Bear That Comes With The Full Moon.” Yellow Bear for short… was pleased and couldn’t stop smiling….

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