Monday, February 4, 2013

Coyotes Howling

Photo of Cliff Dwelling at Montezuma Monument outside Sedona.
Cliff Dwelling

I hadn’t expected to hear coyotes howling from our perch at the Canyon Villa Bed & Breakfast Inn in the village of Oak Creek outside of Sedona when I booked there.  But, howl they did on that first night of our stay.  At first, it sounded like a woman screaming – prompting me to wonder who one would call but then the lone voice was joined by another and another as they howled at the almost full moon.  It was a haunting chorus that welcomed me on my first night in the red rocks of Sedona.

Rock Patterns
The intrepid Nancy B (aka the B) and I had arrived by car from a cold and rainy Phoenix for our five-day stay at this airy B&B perched on the outskirts of town.    We had stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument for a short walk to view the cliff dwellings that once housed the Sinagua people.   Sadly, they stopped allowing visitors to climb up to the dwellings back in 1951 but the paved path offers a nice view and towards the end you can stand within the remaining walls of a couple of rooms that were lower down on the cliff.  It’s always a bit weird to walk amongst the ghosts of civilizations past.   The Visitor’s Center at the castle is filled with artifacts and facts.  But, truth be told, we have no idea why this tribe decided to move on and the historians and archeologists among us can only make their best guess.

There is an old diorama along the trail that is a cut-a-way of the cliff dwellings as they once might have looked.  Perched atop the dwelling is a figure of an old man who is described in the legend as the watchman.  I love that idea of a keen-eyed elder being the first line of defense for this village.  There is another duo of elders in the rooms below as a man leads his blind wife through the dwelling.  Perhaps the most evocative figure is the fully clothed young woman standing off to the side waiting for the hunting party to return (or so the legend goes).  Clothed in a simple white dress, she evokes that sense of waiting that has been so much a part of women’s lives over the years.  Waiting for men to return from doing their important manly things.  Interesting to be at this spot at a time where the US military has decided that women could serve on the front lines and Hilary Clinton, arguably one of the most powerful woman (if not the most powerful) in the history of US politics, stepped down as Secretary of State.  

High Water
The coyotes howled last night as my mother sat up by the light of the full moon to finish sewing the dress that would mark my passage into young womanhood and that I would wear for my wedding at the dawn of the full moon.   I had only a few days of freedom left before my days would be filled with weaving, cooking, and cleaning and all too soon with children to nurse and teach the ways of our tribe.

Only this last day left to venture out at the side of my father who after the death of my only brother had taught me to hunt and fish.   Already I was no longer allowed to go out with the hunting parties and soon I’d no longer be able to go to the river to fish.  Fishing was man’s work – gutting, filleting, and drying the fish to sustain us over the long winter was the purview of the women in our tribe. 

Today was a special last day and I slipped out of our room at the top of cliff clothed in my mother’s handiwork to mark the passing of my freedom.  As the light kissed the top of the cliff, I felt my father at my side and we began our slow silent climb to the floor of the valley that was our home.  I could tell by the way he looked at me that he, like me, was beginning to mourn these moments that we had shared.  We walked silently through the trees to the river that flowed fast and deep in front of our castle in the sky.  We did not look back but I knew that my mother was standing watch as she so often did.  I wondered if she ever longed for the freedom I had enjoyed as a child.  I was grateful that she had given me this gift that was so outside of our traditions and so foreign to the way she had been raised.

Hanging On
The wind rustled the dry leaves that still clung to the branches of the trees that lined the river and our feet were slightly chilled by the light dusting of snow from last night’s storm.  Otherwise it was silent as we slowly approached our favorite fishing spot.  My father motioned me to go ahead of him as the rays of the sun just touched the opposite bank.  His footsteps seemed to fade away behind me as I savored the taste of the air and the feel of the snow under my feet.  I felt alone on the edge of the world and on edge about a life that was not of my choosing.

I ducked under a low hanging branch and paused at the base of the large rock that slightly overhung the water to better secure my rod before beginning the short scramble to the top.  I looked back once to see my father in the distance – he must have stopped to talk to an early riser.  He waved to me to continue on to the top of the rock and so I did.

As I rounded the last corner of the path to the top of the rock, I saw a warrior silhouetted against the morning sky.  He stood strong and tall as the sun continued its slow climb behind him.  He held out his hand to help me up onto the rock and my heart caught in my throat as I caught a glimpse of his face and recognized the man I would marry on the morrow.  Without a word, he reached for my rod and cast my line gently into the swiftly moving stream next to his.

I glanced back to see that, in the distance, my mother had joined my father.  They waved gently and I knew that I had their blessing to begin a new tradition with this boy now man that I had fished and hunted with during my unconventional childhood.   I turned back to my future just as my line jerked and my rod bent with the weight of a passing fish.  “You’re mine,” I whispered as I bent to pick up the rod and begin the slow process of bringing that fish in.  My partner stood at the ready with a basket by my side.

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