Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tracks, by Kathryn Magendie

The snow shows me things on my mountain. And I want to believe, if I will be pardoned by those who matter, that my great great grandmother, a full blood Blackfoot, watches over me, teaches me how life pulses and throbs on Mother Earth. I imagine my ancestors walking softly through their woods, just as the Cherokee walk these Western North Carolina Mountains I am fortunate to live within. I step upon ground that thrums with stories ancient and true. I notice how without thinking about it, I am now walking from outside my foot to inside, a rolling motion—is this my great great grandmother’s way? I say, “Show me, Kip a ta ki, (old woman). I have lived too white! My pale skin, my white ways.” I can hear her laugh, as if to say, "You are who you are meant to be. Your blood is red. Your heart beats. Your lungs take in the same air."

I tread silent, as I don’t want to break the spell. Bear tracks, kiaayo, along the road above my log house. There are feline tracks, too, and I crouch to touch one of them—a big feral house cat? Or the Bobcat, natayo, I once saw racing across my driveway and up the incline of what is my “backyard.” I step off the road, and bend again to study the larger track. It is bear. I think, if Bear and I meet, if she isn't threatened in anyway, Bear will mostly likely run away—same as Bobcat did that day (my Bobcat sighting was rare and beautiful—I feel honored). I have respect for wild things—the respect of care and distance, not of personification of human idealization.

I finally call out, “Hey, Roger. Looks like bear tracks, and these must be a big cat, too small for Bobcat.” He comes over to look. The dogs sniff eagerly. The wind blows. The snow sparkles. The mountain, miistak, gives and takes away. I am filled with thanksgiving. The gratitude of a life full of promises, both ancient and new. I am who I am. My great great grandmother breathes warmth on my cheek, prepares to leave me, “Pookaawa, sokapii (child, be good).” I answer, “Wait! Forgive me my stumbles—on the land, on the language, on life.” She makes the branches rustle, a wave. Is gone. I walk home. I am home. The mountain accepts me.


Black Bear facts
The Bobcat
NC Museum of the Cherokee
The Blackfoot

6 comments:

Barbara Quinn said...

A bobcat! How rich your mountain is, and how fascinating to read about it. Here, outside NY, I spy an elusive red fox now and then. Gorgeous to see it sitting on the hill above my bird feeder.

Nannette Croce said...

Before I read your post this morning I was planning my next post , dealing with our once rural county that has grown into a bustling ex-urb of Philadelphia complete with suburban sprawl. What's the good part in that? The animals are coming back. A family of foxes was romping about on the edge of our field the other day and a neighbor recently spotted what looked to be a coyote. Their resilience and adaptability is inspiring. If we won't help them to survive, they will figure a way to do it on their own.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Lovely thoughts on following our ancestors' footsteps.

Say hi to old moon for me! (Ko'komíki'somma) Love the way that must sound in Blackfoot.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Barb - it's beautiful here, yes. I'd love to see a fox-lovely animals...

Nan--yes, when I see the turky tracks, bear, and other tracks, I feel hope, for I fear over-development on our mountains.

Angie Old Moon was yellow-orange last night - rising up from a slender slice of evening cloud - what a sight Moon was.

Anonymous said...

ranger dan always has gratitude when he sees any wild critter tracks in the face of development.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Me, too, Ranger Dan, me too...

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