Friday, August 19, 2016

The Medicine Wheel

Summer had a dream that night.
            Pudge stood in front of her, a round figure, shorter at eight years, even than her own six. It was July. The sun had fried the grass to ochre and the glare from the suburban sidewalk made her squint. But she saw the spider there clearly, motionless in Pudge’s outstretched hand.
            “Go on, Injun. He likes you.” The boy’s teeth hid behind a narrow smile.
            The young girl looked at the large tarantula, which nearly covered Pudge’s palm. It’s furry knees were red.
            She wanted to get away, wanted to run in reverse, so as not to turn her back to the unpredictable Pudge. If she reacted quickly enough, she could pick up speed and escape, fast and far. Inexplicably, though, her feet stood riveted, though her heart was beating wildly.
            Pudge thrust his hand at her again, this time chin high. The black hairs and glistening eyes of the spider now were close enough that she had to refocus to take in the dark countenance, just inches from her face.
            “Take him!” Pudge ordered.
            The child of Summer’s dream knew it was too late for retreat. If she tried to run, surely Pudge would throw the spider onto her bare neck, which was well exposed in the thin, cotton shirt. In fact, if she moved at all, the spider likely would startle and leap to her skin.
            The girl felt a wave of panic and the beginning of tears swelling painfully in her throat. The volcanic summer air burned around her feet and she felt faint. Trees in the distance, houses, cars parked along the street—all grew light. Even Pudge’s sweating face misted out of the girl’s vision. Only the spider remained, as close as a part of her own being.
            In the dream, Summer heard her grandmother’s voice, whispering. “Each person must travel around the medicine wheel, Summer. Each must learn the way the world looks from each direction.”
            It was hopeless, then. A moment with this fearsome animal —a moment with fear itself— was upon her.
            The child of Summer’s dream made strong fibers from her heart, as grandmother had taught her. She sent the strong reeds on her voice, beckoning to the wind spirit. “I welcome you,” she said softly.
            Her tormentor’s voice cracked through the spitfire. “Did you say welcome, Injun?”
            But, though she heard, the girl no longer cared. Instead, she gazed into the eyes of the spider, which reflected her face in multitude through its eight orbs. Her image floated free within the spider’s spirit, like the points of a twirling medicine wheel. Together, their fears blended into nothingness.
            Before Pudge could stop what was happening, the girl extended her wrist next to the shocked boy’s palm. She invited the spider to move at once onto the back of her hand. The animal’s feet were soft and grateful.
            Without turning back, the young girl carried the spider with her, in the summer dampness, down to the rocks and crevices of the creek. There, among the small lizards and tree frogs and beetles, she set him free.


            When Summer stirred from the dream, Precious was perched on the pillow, green eyes looking intently into Summer’s face. Summer drew back a bit and took stock of the watchful cat.
            “Yes, Precious,” she sighed finally. “Something is coming—coming along my medicine wheel.” 


In her dream, Grandmother Harmony was floating on a log through the tunnel. Grandmother stood firmly on the circling tree trunk, well-balanced despite the current which carried her along. Smoke (or was it mist?) settled all around the old woman and the night air was damp. Grandmother sailed farther into the distance.

            “Wait!” the child cried. “Wait. I can’t keep up.”
            “It’s not time for you to come, Little One. You need to wait awhile yet.”
            “But I can’t stay here alone, Grandmother.”
            “You never are alone.”
            “I’m afraid without you.”
            “Remember to pay attention, Summer. Remember to walk into and through your fear.”
            The child tasted tears on her mouth. “Why are you going away, Grandmother Harmony? Don’t you love me anymore?”
            “My child, you only notice the change now. But it always has been so.”
            Straining her eyes through the tears and the mist, the child could barely see Grandmother Harmony’s visage.“I don’t like you changing.”
            “Hear me in your song, then, as I have taught you. And use your vision well.”
            Summer tried to reach inside for the passion joy. Only heartache greeted her. “My song will not come, Grandmother, will not come without you beside me.”
             But her words drifted away aimlessly into the night sky, along with Grandmother Harmony.

            When Summer woke up, her face was soaked. A dull ache was spreading throughout her center pathway. In the dark room she couldn’t read the clock, but she knew the date already was June 21, summer solstice, her seventh birthday.

            She threw the covers aside, pressing her barefeet to the floor. “Grandmother, grandmother,” she whispered, running down the hallway.

            The door to Harmony’s room was shut and the metal of the large black door handle felt icy as it twisted open in Summer’s small hand.

            Grandmother wouldn’t mind her coming in like this. Many of their best talks happened when Summer padded down the hallway at night, fearful from a dream or maybe just sleepless with a wondering about something. Grandmother was always sitting up when Summer entered her room. Without saying a word, she’d reach out and enclose Summer in the lavender fragrance of her spirit. They’d laugh and whisper secrets until the child fell peacefully back to sleep.

            Tonight though, Grandmother Harmony lay perfectly still. Her hands were folded across her heart and her black hair streamed along the moonlit pillowcase. It was true, then. The movement had come in the night, while Summer slept.  

            Realization of the change was more than the child could bear. She sobbed and fled her safe harbor.

            In the days that followed, Summer opened her galaxy and sent the passion joy flowing out in monstrous waves. In the flood of change, her vision too was swept away. She did not allow the gift of sight to return for many years, though all the while Harmony and the Old Ones patiently watched over her and waited.