I like what I do.Other people have the right to enjoy my country as much as I do.
"There's this dove that visits my house," he said. "She molts all the time, especially in late summer. I pick up the feathers on the ground and keep them. It's--" He stopped, considering himself, but went on. "Doves are among the only birds that produce milk for their young. So they're...they represent mothers.”
We were walking back to the grotto, his arm wrapped low around my hips, when Rafael pointed out a little animal rummaging in the bushes for food.
"It's a coywolf pup," he said. "They get along with humans, like coyotes do, but they live and hunt in packs, like wolves. The young aren't supposed to hunt on their own. His mom must not be far.
Sitting on the promontory, in some ways, felt like sitting on top of the world.Probably to be expected when we were so impossibly high above the rest of the landscape.I noticed something else, too, that I hadn't before: As the sun trailed slowly west, the clouds hanging low in the sky crept closer to the canyons and the cliffs.The air all around us was misty and cool.I wondered if Heaven was like that, the clouds all around you, your best friend at your side.
The sky tinged slowly blue-black with dawn, Rafael looking alert.The first sign of sunlight appeared above the horizon, dim, the color of saffron.It spread like wildfire into the night and lit the walls of drifting clouds, previously invisible, with a fiery haze. The sun was soon to follow, rosy when it peeked shyly above the distant cliffs and crags, white-gold when it caught up with its own aura. Now the sky was gritty and blue, like ocean slate--like Rafael's eyes.The fiery clouds cooled to opal, milky and mute-white. And the blue flowers all unraveled their folded petals and opened at the same time.
"Blue stars," Rafael said quietly. His voice was very close to my ear. I realized his chin was on my shoulder. "They open at dawn and close at dusk.”
Rafael's silence gave me the opportunity to admire the visiting tribes and the attractions they had brought with them.The Hopi were solemn and intimidating in dark, heavy regalia, their intricate hairstyles bordering on alien. I wasn't at all sure how they managed to move around while wearing all those layers; I bet they were sweating bullets underneath their clothes.The Pawnee were by far the simplest dressed, their lightweight summer skins without color or embellishment. Some of them, I noticed, had even come in t-shirts and jeans. On the other end of the spectrum were the Navajo, who couldn't have looked showier unless they had dunked their heads in buckets of paint. They were flashy and foreign in the brightest of clothes, soft silk and shining taffeta, feathered head dresses and beaded headbands and great big mantles hanging from their shoulders like tumbling wings. I thought they looked mythical, and certainly poetic.
Her face lit up. "Oh, it's wonderful!" she told me. "Every season we get together with the other tribes for a big celebration. The summer pauwau's always in Nettlebush. We all put on our regalia and show off our different styles--dancing and music and sweets--for some, it's quite competitive. But, she added, and I saw an impetuous twinkle of mischief in her eyes, "for others, it's the perfect time to start feeling...amorous.”
I watched Annie spinning beneath the stars, a shawl the color of briar rose tossing about her shoulders and arms, and she was a seismic whirlwind, quick and burning, to rival the strongest of fires.I watched Joseph dance in light, sprightly steps around his sisters, arms aloft, and the brilliant blue fringe hanging from his elbows and knees tumbled like grass in the spring air. For a moment, I thought he could hear the music he was dancing to.
“Didn't your father ever tell you about the two-spirit?"
I shook my head. I shifted, so that I faced her similarly.
"I think the practice phased out with the advent of Christianity, but before that, it was quite common for a Plains widow to marry another woman, or for a widower to marry another man. In the old days, marriage wasn't about love, just creating and raising children, so the stipulation was that the widow or widower already had children from the former marriage. Men and women who the former marriage. Men and women who fulfilled the roles of both genders--we called them two-spirit."
Dad definitely hadn't told me about that. Then again, there was a lot Dad had never told me about his heritage.Our heritage.
I think I'm just one-spirit, I signed. I don't feel like a girl. Sorry.
Annie rolled her eyes good-naturedly and slapped my arm.
“Now listen to me," Annie said. "I meant it when I said it's none of my business. I know what the western world's like. I had a very unfortunate pen pal once, a Maria Giaballi, her mom served in the army with mine. She had the nerve to ask me whether I was a virgin! Nothing's private in the western world, but Shoshone aren't like that. We're very private people. We don't want to know what you're up to behind closed doors, and we'll never ask. Skylar, nobody's going to persecute you because you're gay.”