Pictures: both bridges- also the trees at the end of the gallery
Lucy Brightstar walked for miles through the snow, crossing bridges and fields, until at last she stood at the edge of a forest clearing, staring at the pine tree. She had seen it in the summer, and noticed how it seemed to have faces, one above the other amazingly like a totem pole. Now, covered in snow, the faces stood out clearly. First, from the bottom up, were three old man faces, shaggy beards and mustaches, mouths not quite smiling. The middle one’s eyes seemed to twinkle, and they all looked like someone’s favourite grandfather, the one you would be willing tell all of your secrets, and know they would be safe.
Above them was an angel, wings spread and drooping slightly, a scarf or something like it wrapped around the head and tied under the chin, hands folded in prayer and above that, at the top of the tree, another older seeming angel, with a slightly triangular face topped by a headdress like a tall hat. This one had double wings, uplifted, on each side; ‘Hmm – cherubim and seraphim?’ Lucy murmured, as she slowly approached.
‘I do hope I am correct and this is a naturally formed Totem Tree. If it is, then making an offering and praying here should bring an answer to her problem. She settled down cross- legged on the ground and opened her backpack. She carefully lifted out two pine cones, several feathers and a bottle of sugar water. This she sprinkled at the roots of the tree, and settled back in contemplation.
“Grandfather Tree, I am in need of your wisdom. My father wishes me to marry in the spring, and has chosen two young men. They are David Running Deer and Tom Red Fox. He believes they are honest men and great hunters, but I know they are not. They were partly responsible for my brother’s death. They were all our hunting, and I had quietly followed them. They were chasing a big stag and my brother John Grey Wolf was ahead of them. The stag turned at bay, and both of them shot. The stag bellowed, and charged, goring John in the abdomen and the chest. David and Tom just stood there staring, then picked him up and carried him home.
“I was eight years old, and I tried to tell father what had happened, but he believed their story. They said he had shot and ran forward thinking he’d given the stag a fatal wound, but it gored him and escaped.
“Grandfather Tree, I have lived with this knowledge for ten years. I do not want to wed yet; I want to go to university and study ancient history and medicine. If John had had modern care, he might have lived, and I want to bring that kind of care to my people on the reservation. Please tell me, what should I do? I know I am supposed to obey my father, but to be tied for life to one who is a liar and helped to cause a death! I just can’t do it!”
Lucy stopped talking and sat, head bent, tears running down her cheeks. All was silent except for the breeze sighing through the branches. The faces moved, nodding, and seemed to be talking. Gradually she became aware of the sound of soft footsteps behind her. She turned, and jumped to her feet; it was her father, with his dog. She waited for the scolding she was sure he would give her, his face was so stiff and serious.
“Father…” she didn’t know what to say, and stopped, looking into his eyes and waiting.
“Daughter” he said softly, “I have followed you over the bridges, and across the fields; your mother told me you had run away, rather than obey me and wed. Then she proceeded to bend my ear for half an hour about what a stubborn fool I am, that I would believe others but not my own child. Now I have heard your prayer to the Grandfather Totem Tree, and I realize how wrong and unfair I have been. I have acted most un-chiefly, and toward my own kin. Come home with me now, Lucy. Forgive me if you can. And if you really wish to go to university, I will see that you do. I have a saving account that I set up years ago to pay for your wedding. You may have that for your education instead. I don’t know if it will cover everything for all the years you will spend becoming a healer for the tribe, but I will do all I can to add to it as time goes by.” He held out one hand beseechingly.
“Oh, father!” Lucy ran into his arms. “Oh, thank you, thank you! I love you, and it made me so sad to go against your wishes, but I just couldn’t accept David or Tom.” His arms closed around her and he buried his face on her hair. “Thank you, daughter, for your love and trust; I’m not sure I deserve it, but I accept it. Now” he stepped back and took her hand. “Let’s go home and make plans.” Lucy nodded, turned to pick up her backpack, and paused. “Thank you, Grandfather Tree; you have given me the perfect answer to my prayer.” She bowed her head, then turned, took her father’s hand and walked into her future with him.