A Cradleboard


It was Thanksgiving and for us also a time of birth. It was a night like this one when I sat up after feeling the movement of something tiny and small moving against the wall of her stomach. She was from the mountain country, having lived her life on the high plains with her people. When I met her I liked the way she laughed and she had long black hair hanging down to her waist and she could run like the wind. She was now my wife. She didn't know my land or people, her way of life was one of being raised on deer meat, pow wows and in her language they call the circle of life-Noohrahvoop.

I can remember it plainly as it were this evening. We were young, and had no money, just two rez kids starting out in life. We lived in a small apartment, we were lying in bed when she said she felt something in her stomach. it was the touch of a fleet soft flicker of life. I can remember her eyes twinkled at the feel of this child, my child moved for the first time inside her.

I looked at her, her hair hung loosely I will always remember her sitting halfway up and resting against the headboard just like that. I reached out and touched her. She was a shy person and felt awkward that I was trying to feel the movement and we laughed a little at one another. It was a cold winter night, and we were alone together, no one but us. I had never been here before, to know that his small tiny person growing was reaching out and letting us know he was there and making his presence known. This was not like any other night, this was our life growing.

What will the future hold? Where will we be years from now? How will things be as he gets older? How can such a thing be, a miracle, this young life growing?

We have to find a horse, I said. She looked at me with large brown eyes and said, Why? She said the flutter was there again. I sat up and looked at her squarely. She looked curiously at me. I told her.

When it is time for him to be born, we will have to pack you up and take you to the mountain, to the forest up there. There was a mountain outside our window. He will need to born in the old way. I will leave you there under an old tree and tie a sash belt for you to hold on to. She looked at me as if I were nuts. She said, it will be snowing in November when he is born, and what makes you think it will be a boy. I said, I always planned to have my first child be a boy. It is the way it was always supposed to be. She said. I'm sure.

I said, don't you hear it? What, she said. I looked at her and told her it is in the wind, the mountain tops are calling his name. The rustle of trees know it. She just looked at me and said, you're crazy.

I find myself this evening remembering what is to wait to hear the sound of a baby's cry, a small voice sounding out that a new century, a new life has taken root. My son who was a flicker of life is now grown. He has just had a new daughter born to him born in the past few days and my only daughter is just now waiting to hear the sound of her own child making his way into the world. Where will they go and what will they be? I am not sure, but looking back I stand with my father, and his father and his father all the way to the time we began just like a small voice, a new born held by a woman, our mothers who took great pains to care for us from then to now. It begins again and though I have not seen him yet, I know a little about him. I live a little through him, though he has no name yet, but then he is one of my children, a part of myself that will go on.

There are now six of them. How far we have come, Ke' (family tied together by a mother's womb), there is no english word for it. It binds us all the way back to when the forests, valleys, mesas and plains were our only home. Going all the way back to a time we can not remember, but lives in the stories and legends of our clans, family and people, of those who were here first. That is how it is with each new child born. Five sons and one daughter

My daughter spoke with me a little while yesterday and said she needed some bucksin and leather to make the cradleboard fit him. It is done in this way, You take a little soft rain and rainbow and lay it across the top mixed with dawn you place it just so. Then there is zig zag lightning wrapped around it to cover him from his feet to his head, which will be protected by a rainbow and shaded from the sun. The long boards come from a cedar tree, not too far from where we have always lived. This young woman, my daughter now grown sat at the feet of my own father as a child. He sat there with a Navajo cradleboard and told her how it came to be. I remember them talking and he told her the story of how the cradle board is made and how the child is wrapped. She was just a kid back then.

She learned from her grandmother that from pain comes life, that in a woven red sash belt is needed to hold on to that this tie represents much more than just something to hold on to, that its red color represents her blood and the tie between a mother and child.This is what it means it is a binding tie.when worn represents that when all was done, that the child would be protected and blessed by the Twin Heros, that such is the way it has been and will always be.

I can see him, my father as he took her small hands and showed her how it was done when she was just a child. Now she came to me and said tell me again how it is with such things. I brought out the cradleboard and told her about the tree how it sets up partway up the hill that under that tree our fathers were born long ago in the old way. It is from the branches of this bent cedar tree the long back boards come from. Then we talked of rainbows lightning, rolling thunder and other things that come from this. We talked a little bit and now it was my turn to talk about cradleboards. It is the way, Hozhoji,

I could here myself repeat my father's words; she knew them already. My daughter is no longer a child, but will be a mother, and she will sing, and dance in the house of her mother, and know the places of her father. He does not have a name yet, but he carries the stories of many lives in his blood, my wife's people and those of my own. His cry will carry to the valley and to mountain top. It will not be loud and we will wait to roll him in the snow and celebrate his first laugh with a giveaway. He is the past and future tied together.

I remember I took a walk and looked around at the earth around me and see the stars haven't changed their place, we will go on from this day and we will continue on. How strange it is to know that for all the struggles, cares and woes that have come to us, we continue to survive, to go on and to hope for long summer days, the taste of cool water and to hear the laughter of children playing not too far off. So I wait to see what the dawn will bring.

rustywire@yahoo.com rustywire

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