RURAL FALCON RIDGE
June 15, Friday
It was still dark when Charlie awoke the next morning. He braided his hair, then wrapped each one with strips of red cloth. His feet occupied his grandfather's beaded moccasins, deerskin wound and tied in place around his hips. Still damp from the previous day's sweat, the leather's cool touch magnified the predawn chill.
The earth paints needed for the fast were lined up on his kitchen table.
Blue. Yellow. Black. White.
A dream the night before refreshed his memory of when Eaglefeathers painted his uncle's body for his ceremonial fast on Novavose. He prayed to express gratitude for the timely reminder, an important component he'd forgotten.
The correct application of Cheyenne fasting paint demanded precision and the inclusion of many important details. Thus, he also prayed for guidance applying the symbols and colors in the proper manner.
He shook some of each color into separate bowls, added a little water, then mixed them with a tree branch until the powder dissolved.
He coated the tip of his index finger with blue, placed it on the top of his forehead, dragged it in a line to his ear, then straight down to the bottom of his chin. Repeating the same strokes on the other side created a diamond shape. The symbol that identified him as one of the Morning Star people.
With yellow he traced a circle over his heart. Wetting his finger with paint again, he placed it in the circle's center and moved outward in a spiral until the symbol on his chest was solid yellow, representing the Sun. Inviting Maheo into his heart.
Returning to blue, he drew a quarter moon on his left chest/shoulder then a blue full moon on right.
Next came black, made from burnt cottonwood. Dodging the other markings he covered his face, neck, body, and both arms, then from below his knee to his ankle. Lastly, white dots representing stars decorated his neck, body, and arms.
When finished, his body was a work of sacred art. Tied to Maheo's creations as a child of the universe. Such a declaration drew the spirits more quickly.
He rolled up the sacred red pipe and eagle bone whistle in the badger hide, draped his blanket over his bare shoulders, then set out for the sweat lodge, flashlight lighting the way.
Warmth gathered around him, followed by a voice that whispered to his mind.
Grandson, I am pleased you remember my teachings. Your labors show your heart is sincere and you are ready to walk the Red Road as a Tseteshestahese man. Continue as you were taught and you will find what you seek.
Indigenous people recognized dawn was a sacred time when the dark of night yielded to the light of day. If everyone greeted the sun in the proper spirit the earth would know peace, which was how Maheo intended for people to live.
Amasani taught him Diné traditions, such as those in the Winter Stories about the stars and how they related to finding answers in a heliacal rise. The Cheyenne greeted the dawn and beseeched Maheo for answers in a slightly different way. Having both in his heart and blood was a great blessing.
When he reached the sweat lodge he retrieved the man sage cushion from within, then sat outside between the door and fire pit facing east, though sunrise would occur toward the northeast that time of year. The ashes retained a subtle glow and hint of warmth from the day before. He spread the badger hide on the ground, then placed the pipe stem and bowl in the center, tobacco to one side.
As more and more teachings came back, he realized how fortunate he'd been to receive answers from his previous fast. His early steps returning to his roots stumbled as a toddler learning to walk. But Maheo knew his heart and still responded after he'd fasted four days. This time he would do it correctly.
Would it still require four days?
He didn't know, only that he would remain in place as long as necessary.
A breeze rustled through the leaves and whispered through the pines. He shivered as he watched the sky, awaiting first light. When a hint of pink appeared he got up, removed the blanket from his shoulders, folded it, and placed it on top of the man sage forming a comfortable seat.
He picked up the pipe stem, held it in the crook of his arm. His grandfather's words flowed as water as he attached, then loaded the bowl:
Vehoe stole our freedom, our land, and our lives. They cannot take Maheo from us. He gave us our sacred red pipe.
The Sun burst free.
He held the eagle whistle to his lips and blew.
Its piercing cry broke the stillness, announcing his presence and humble request for an audience with the grandfather spirits.
He struck the match, touched it to the tobacco.
Blessed the stem and bowl with the first breath of smoke.
Maheo is our creator. He created us to live in peace. He has opened your eyes to who you are. Your brother died that another truth be told. He was killed by evil men. You will soon know who murdered your brother. He wants the truth to be told to the people.
The impression drifted through his consciousness as feathers in the wind. Soft, yet tangible. Forceful, yet filled with love.
Sacred smoke swirled skyward, carrying the thoughts, prayers, and desires of his heart.
Forgiveness for his arrogance, from both Maheo and Eaglefeathers. Strength to conquer his weaknesses. Wisdom to see beneath the surface. Understand his life's purpose.
For his daughters, Carla and Charlene. To be a better father. Improve his home environment so they could spend more time with him.
Have the means to pay back Sara for the bail and impound money.
Learn patience, particularly with Dr. Phil. Refrain from returning in kind the hatred he felt.
Know why he stumbled onto a job that violated the Earth. What was he there to do? To learn?
Expose Bryan's killers. Help Sara find the truth of what he'd discovered, for which he died. Avenge his murder according to Maheo's will.
The high-pitched cry of a bird of prey pierced his awareness. His eyes opened. A pair of bald eagles circled the space directly above the sweat lodge complex, beckoning.
The grandfather spirits had arrived.
He reached out to join them with mind and heart. Moments later, he soared beside them. The domed structure shrank as his spirit ascended skyward. The forest stretched out below, treetops bathed in morning light. Vegetation yielded to a towering cliff.
Halfway down, a treacherous strip of road hugged its side—the blind turn overlooking Dead Horse Canyon.
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