I have a friend that only history knows. She calls me from time to time to visit in her tepee and teach me. When I leave and come back, no one knows I'm gone. She has powers that the white man doesn't know. Her life was in 1772, a time that there where only the original people here, in a place they now call Oklahoma. She was the queen of the prairie, the wind swept, hot desert, but she could make it seem like a cool paradise. She was the most talented shaman of all the peoples. People now a days think only men did her job, but they have English culture. The mothers of old were powerful! This mother of old had a brain like none other. She calls me from my modern life. She tells me that I have talent like her. She is looking for someone to pass her knowledge to. She shares all the secrets of old with me. She was chosen as a child by an old shaman man because he saw her have compassion on another child. He saw how she understood what others didn't know. He chose her, and she has chosen me to pass the knowledge down to posterity.
Occasionally, she sweeps me from my life, maybe from my car, and suddenly, I am walking among tepees. She bids me come. She shows me all the trees. She shows me the roots, the blossoms, and the animals. She explains it all, but tells me it is a secret. I am to tell no one what I know. She wants me to be able to help people like she does. She takes me when someone needs help and shows me how she helps them. She hears the ancestors in the wind blowing through the grass. They tell her secrets like the ones she passes to me. After she shows me, I am back where I began, like driving my car, and no time has passed.
I am going to tell you about just one time. I won't give you all her secrets for now they are mine. I was teaching a class. You see, I am a professor. I was standing at the board explaining the "te" form in Japanese, and all of a sudden, I was sitting in the corner of her tepee. The weather was hot, but the tepee was cool. She had a way of sitting the leather part of her tepee up and leaving the wooden poles down, so the air could come in under the tepee and whip around and cool her home off.
She greeted me, "Oh little one! You are the joy of my heart! My secrets must not be forgotten! I have found in you a treasure!" "What do you want to teach me today, oh wise ancestor?" I replied. "There is a man sick just yonder a few tepees away, and this old squaw will make him better today" she replied. She gathered her supplies explaining each to me. She gave me a leather pouch and let me carry her supplies. I love what she is doing. I love helping people too, and she has secrets that even modern doctors don't know.
We walked out of the tepee and headed across the way. "Keep up, little one," she said, "because if we don't go, he will die." I do dawdle at times. It is a wonder to me to be pulled into this world! I walked obediently behind her. She bent and opened the flap. The man was laying there flat on his back. She whispered to me, "I saw him earlier today. He has a tick behind his ear. If I don't remove it, he will die. However, I can't tell anyone of what I will do today, save you. I will teach you the ritual of belief. If they believe, they will get better. If I take the tick off, he will get better. He needs both."
She stooped down and went through the opening in the tepee, and I followed. She was on one side of the man, and I on the other. His relatives were all standing at the of his cot, down by his feet. They were weeping and wailing thinking without this squaw, he would die. They were so happy to see her come, and one man looked at me saying, "How strange, but we need more wise women, so learn what she will teach you." The man's wife was overwhelmed with crying and began feverishly saying to my friend, "Help him! Do your magic! Use your powers, oh wise one!" My friend calmed the woman telling her to stay back and all would be well.
She motioned for me to hand her the leather pouch I was carrying for her. She pulled out some gourds that when she shook them, the made a rattling sound. She pulled out a head dress of feathers and put it on her head. She had a tom-tom in the bag and pulled it out too. She pulled out some powders in smaller pouches. She said, "You may leave or stay, but you must be quiet." Everyone consented to stay and watch, but be quiet. She began lowly singing, "hey-ya-hey-ya-hey-ay!" She just kept dancing and the singing and got louder and louder. In one hand, she was rattling the gourd. With the other, she had set the tom-tom on the cot by his head and was hitting it with a stick, and she just kept yelling, "hey-ya! hey-ya! hey-ya!" Louder and louder she yelled! She began feverishly dancing around the cot swaying. bending, and then up again, then continually bending and up again. I got out of her way. The people were all in anticipation. She began throwing her dust from her small bags that looked like big puffs of smoke screaming, "Hey-ya! hey-ya! hey-ya!" She had so much smoke in the room you couldn't see anything, and then she stopped. She put everything away, back into her bag. The people were shocked! "Are you finished?" one asked. "Yes," she replied, "He will be fine now!" The people looked relieved. She said, "Feed him well, give him lots of water, and let him rest, and in a few days, he will be walking among you again." The man.s wife smiled. She hugged my friend thanking her. My friend motioned to me, and we left.
We walked back to my friend's tepee. After we got inside, I said, "How do you know he will be fine?" She pulled the tick out of her bag that she had pulled off from behind the man's ear. She said, "This thing was sucking the life from him. I saw it earlier. I told you." "But...I didn't see you take it off.... all I saw was smoke and dust, and I heard your ceremony" I replied. "Yes," she said with a smile and a wink, "No one sees, but they all believe. He believes he will get better. His wife believes he will get better. The creature who caused the trouble is gone and will no longer suck his blood. I took it off when no one was looking. You have to make them believe. You can't tell them anything. They must believe in the power of the witch doctor. Without belief, they won't do what I say, and he won't get better, and if I don't remove that blood sucking creature, he won't get well either. You have just witnessed a ceremony you must perform for the people of your time. That is why I called you here. You must teach them to believe in the power, the power of the almighty that no one sees, and they will get better," she smiled as she waved her hand telling me goodbye.
I found myself in front of my classroom with dry erase marker in my hand writing, ”てください" (te-kudasai) which means "please do it" on the white board. I was still explaining the "te" form, and I understood that I must do what she told me to do, make people believe, and then they can live.
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This story is a wonderful juxtaposition of the old and the new. I love the old lady character and the way you have built her up, she seems so believable and real! Great read!