"Onendah, I have a gift for you," Paw calls out.
"Leave it at the door. My eyes have seen much sorrow, and I wish to see no more of your face or anyone else's."
"I cannot leave it at the door."
"Someone will take it!"
There's an excited rustling in the tent before the tepee's flap flips open. A dust cloud explodes in Paw's face.
"Gifts of worth are always welcome!" Onendah squints and deepens his sagging frown. He points down. "But your sorrow must remain at the door, with your filthy moccasins."
"But I like my moccasins. The beads were done by my wife before she died."
Onendah disappears into his tent, while Paw removes his beautifully beaded leather moccasins. Then Paw ducks down and enters the open hatch. His feet touch a soft rug comprised of rabbit, mink, and bear fur. He smacks his lips and detects the strong aroma of sage. A dull fire smolders in the center of the tepee, drying meat. It offers little light. Smoke swirls and spins out of the opening in the roof.
When his eyes adjust, Paw scans the walls of the medicine man's tepee and sees elaborate paintings of animals, people, and people-animals. Other paintings of the medicine man's greatest achievements litter the walls. The largest characters are of his deceased wife. A story forms. Paw can see how they met, where they were married under a bright moon, and the sons they had. He can tell how Onendah felt from the yellow circles in his heart in the earlier drawings, where at present there is no color in his heart. Just empty black circles where sons and a wife once had a place.
Paw turns his attention to the dream catchers hanging on the wall. He traces the woven twigs with his fingertip and admires the web-like features. Some of the dream-catchers have scalps tautly fixed in them. He wonders if the medicine man's power can actually hold the evil spirits in prison or if it draws them to the village in search of what has been taken from them.
Paw pokes at a pearl that's been dipped in silver. It symbolizes an Indian's worst nightmare, eternal internment. The jewel dangles from a string as fine as a spiderweb and hovers oddly in the center.
"Do you bless all of them equally?" Paw asks, wondering if the larger dream-catchers have more power than the smaller ones.
"I give them as much power as they need."
Paw sits down by the fire and crosses his legs. He sits in peace, waiting for a moment to tell Onendah what has transpired. He studies the gray-haired man's cracked face and wonders if his own hair will turn gray and if his face will crack like the mud. Everything about this man is art. His life. His medicine. Even his curses, Paw thinks to himself.
"I have seen things I think no man has seen before," Paw begins.
"As have I. Look upon my eyes. Do you not see the color of the sky instead of the earth?"
Paw focuses on the medicine man's hazy corn-blue eyes.
"It has not always been so. I once had the earth in my eyes as you." Onendah gently presses his thumbs to Paw's closed lids. "Many winters now, the wind has swept the earth from my eyes." He pulls his thumbs back. "Now my spirit is almost free." The old man folds his arms and leans back.
"I saw a Cheyenne chief transform into a bear."
Onendah bursts into mocking laughter. "What herb do you smoke in your pipe?"
Paw holds a straight face.
"I have seen and heard much in my lifetime, but I have never heard anything such as this. Tell me now, where can I find this herb?"
YOU ARE READING
Kiowa and Anoki lock hands and stare into each other's eyes. They listen intently to Onendah, the medicine man, officiate their wedding. "Yours is a forbidden love. Because you are from a war tribe, Kiowa, your people will not let you marry this pea...