Refuge (Robledo Mountain #2)
Copyright© 2020 by Kraken
... from the darkness emerged a thin disc, one side yellow and the other side white, appearing suspended in midair. Within the disc sat a small bearded man, Creator, the One Who Lives Above...
~Excerpt from Apache Creation Story~
The old one stooped his bent and grizzled frame, entering the sweat lodge he’d built on this spot, so many years ago. He poured water onto the hot rocks from a hollow gourd he’d filled from the small seep just outside. Sitting down as close to the fire as he could, he began to sweat as the steam enveloped him. Waiting for the steam to build, periodically pouring more water on the hot rocks, his thoughts drifted, and his face broke into a rare smile at the pleasant memories.
He and his first wife had found this place by accident shortly after they were married. He was a newly minted warrior still in training as a shaman. She was a beautiful young Lipan Apache. It was mid-fall, well past the season of raids, and they had decided to look for a suitable place to move once they started a family of their own.
They’d left their camp a week earlier, traveling south and east, when they came to this rolling land of deep arroyos and high hills. Eating an early lunch one day, they noticed a mockingbird dip down into an arroyo a few feet away. They watched intently waiting for the bird to reappear. After several minutes, they heard the mockingbird begin singing its repertoire of songs, but still there was no visible sign of the bird. Curious, they crawled the few feet to the side of the arroyo and peeked over the edge.
They were looking straight down into a large sweeping curved section of the arroyo. The arroyo wall was a completely vertical cliff, dropping down almost twenty feet to a long and wide stone shelf that dropped another ten feet to the bottom of the arroyo. They still couldn’t see the bird, but they could hear it singing.
The sound seemed to be coming from under a large rock sticking out from the side of the cliff wall, three feet above the stone shelf below them. As they watched the singing abruptly stopped. The mockingbird appeared from under the rock rapidly flapping its wings, which flung small droplets of water all around itself.
The two quickly looked at each other with smiles on their faces. A seep large enough for a bird to bathe, would provide enough water to fill their gourds, which meant saving themselves a long detour to the Robledo Mountains and the only other spring in this area they knew of.
They followed the arroyo back west for half a mile, until finding a way down to the bottom. Before descending, they built a ladder and carried it between them back east along the bottom of the arroyo. At the stone shelf, they positioned the ladder and climbed up the sheer stone. Standing on the shelf, they absently noted that it was completely smooth and level without a trace of sand, vegetation, or animal activity. More importantly, they felt a strong sense of peace, of strength, and the indefinable something that said this was home.
His wife looked at him with a serene expression. “My love, this is what the Spaniards mean when they say querencia. Do you feel it too?”
“Yes, my love, I do,” he said with a sharp nod.
The old one’s reverie was broken as he suddenly realized that he was not only chanting but that he was surrounded in darkness. He absently wondered how long he’d been chanting and when the darkness had come, but quickly forgot about it as he watched a distant point of light begin to grow, coming towards him rapidly, as though from a great distance.
In a short time, he saw that the light was a flat thin disc of white and yellow. He had seen this once before as a young man in a vision many years ago. Suddenly, Ussen, the Creator, sat before him hovering just off the floor in his disk of light.
As usual, the Creator spoke first. “It is good that you call to me, now. We have much to talk about, old friend.”
“I had hoped and prayed to talk with you once again, for there is much I would have your counsel on,” the old man replied in a weary voice.
The Creator laughed merrily, then said, “You have time yet, my friend. You have seen your favorite great granddaughter married, and you will not only see your second favorite great granddaughter married but also see them both with child. Girl-Without-Parents has requested it and so I grant it.”
The old one frowned as he asked, “I don’t understand. Why does Girl-Without-Parents have an interest in me? What would you have me learn?”
With a gentle laugh the Creator replied. “Girl-Without-Parents will answer your first question when the time is right. As for your second question; well, it is time you learn of your death.”
Ussen waved his hand and the old one fell into an even deeper trance where he watched the details of his death play out as if he were a disinterested observer a short distance away. How long the vision lasted, the old one couldn’t tell.
As soon as it was over, he fell asleep hearing the rapidly fading voice of Ussen, “Goodbye old friend, until we meet again in the Land of Ever Summer.”
Sometime later, how much later he didn’t know, the old one woke rubbing his eyes. There was just enough light seeping in around the bottom of the entrance flap that he knew it was early morning, just after dawn. The chill of an early spring morning only reinforced the fact that the fire inside the sweat lodge had long since grown cold.
Despite the chill and the hard-stone floor, he’d slept on, he felt refreshed and invigorated, in a way he hadn’t experienced in many years. Crawling out of the sweat lodge, he stood upright in the full sunlight. Rapidly blinking his eyes, he looked around the stone shelf memorizing every detail, for he knew this was the last time he would ever set eyes on it.
After a few minutes, he gingerly made his way down the ladder. Once on the arroyo floor he lifted the ladder and heaved it onto the top of the stone shelf instead of disassembling it and scattering the pieces as he’d always done before. It no longer mattered if the pieces of the ladder were readily accessible.
Without a backward look, Jaime Garcia, senior shaman of the Mescalero Apache, headed west, out of the arroyo. With one last look around he began the five mile walk back to his granddaughter’s house in Las Cruces.