One of the men thanked the crowd for attending the performance and then announced that “We will leave now.” Of Native heritage, the three men beautifully portrayed the Nations through moving, haunting, and memorable melodies. The harmonics delicately although deeply touched the heart, mind and soul. Musically, the histories were spoken through various instruments such as, the whistle, shakers, flutes, and mouth harps accompanied by incredible background music; and then, from time to time, smoky words realized illusions.
With exception to the whistle, which was tin, every instrument consisted of a wooden, or, bone construction. Including one mouth harp, extending the entire body of its performer. Obviously, everyone enjoyed the performances. Powerful.
On that day and in addition to the pleasantry, the wonder, the kinship that I experienced, for, I, in part, am of Native heritage, always, something has lived with me.
A child of about three years old walked over to the group; the men busied by breaking down the equipment. Standing near the performer who thanked the crowd, the girl’s face glowed. “Hello,” she said, looking up at the big man. Turning to see her, “Hello, ‘Little One,’” the big man returning a smile. “I love you,” she said, beaming with a light that almost dulled the sunny day. Greatly pleased and surprised, he said, “You do?” Shaking her head “Yes” the girl walked closer to the man, while reaching out her tiny hand. Accepting the child’s soft, gentle hand, he searched the crowd, asking, “Where are your parents, Little One?”
Slightly turning and pointing, “My Mommy is right there,” she said. Meeting her mother’s glance, the man smiled, rocking his head hello. Mommy returns the gesture. Bending toward the child, the man asked, “And what is your name?” “Nina.” “Tell me, Nina, what is your favorite thing about outside?” Looking upward, she points, saying, “The sky.” The glow inside Nina’s eyes and the smile on her pretty face increase, and the performer, says, “I am going to write a song that has your name in it, and it will be about all things living inside the sky, OK?” “OK,” she grins.
Mommy at Nina’s side: The man asks, “Mommy, may I contact you whenever the song is ready?” the man asks. Welcoming the consideration, and then smiling while extending her hand, “Thank you; and I am Laura.” Hello, Laura, I am Little Bear.”
Weeks later, as he sits thinking, Nina’s sweet face touches Bear. The grassy hillside feels soft and the man sometimes retires here, overnight. The river rushes with clean, clear water, and from time to time a big one leaps from the water and into the air. The trees seem to whisper old secrets; about lovers, tragedy and dreamers of long ago. Above him: The Sky Mother; watching, protecting and securing all things. Little Bear loves this spot, this place and this town; and he has lived here for his entire life. Both the his promise to and the child stay with Bear and this moment his face fills with light.
Slowly, a melody stirs him and he feels it. All in nature speak to the big man, and of course, inside his heart lives the sky. The melody for this theme is one of great joy; although embraced by a pleasant sadness. A melancholy blend but Bear knows this concoction well, too well. This type of melody mothers him, holds him, closely, and to its breasts.
After three days the lyrics are ready, but for the music Bear seeks the help of his fellow group members. The men produce a work that surprises even him, and then staring deeply into the pages, he utters, “This one is special.” Recalling that Nina had said that the sky lives inside her heart; this, Bear thinks, has a good feel to it. “The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart.” The men agree on the song title and then begin studio productions of the work.
One day, Nina’s Mommy receives a telephone call from Little Bear; and he invites her and Nina to the performance. “Nina and you will be up front, close to us and me, Ok?” “Great!” says Laura. “I’ll tell her, she’ll be sooo happy!” Oh, thank you, so much, Bear!” “We’ll be there, can’t wait!”
Nina and her Mommy attend, and as promised are close to the performers, except and even to Mommy’s surprise, Little Bear introduces Nina to the crowd; telling it that she inspired the song. “The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart,” he says, “is forever dedicated to this special child.” Holding Nina in his arms, Bear says, “I love you, ‘Little One.’” With a big hug, “I love you too.”
An old man wakes to find a strange woman seated near his bedside. His liver and he are dying. Something about the woman feels familiar, but Little Bear says nothing. Touching his hands, she says, “Hello, it has been a long time, Bear, do you remember me?” Nina was a teenager the last time they spoke, however, her eyes and voice, now, brighten his face. In a weakened voice, “‘Little One?’”
Leaning in and wrapping her arms around the dying man, “Yes.” “I am sorry…” Tears wetting her face. Bear feels her sadness and then, momentarily, joy energizes him. “You are a strange one, my child, for I have known no other sharing sadness and joy as I do but you.”
Something inside Nina’s eyes speaks to him; and the old man has known these feelings since she was a child, since they first met. As she aged: Bear began to see him in the child; however, and although he wanted to know, could never intrude in such a way. Inside him, believably, Nina is his daughter. His love for her could never exceed the love he knew from the fist day, none is greater. “My final moments smile because you are with me, “My” Daughter.” (Nina tears.)
Embracing tightly, closely, they share the song and as the melody warms them, Bear becomes cold. Singing, Nina buries her face inside his chest and then cries in a way only he could share.
Four years after Little Bear’s death, Nina’s Mom dies; and as a sorrowful daughter attends the hurtful tasks of inspecting and cleaning, she finds a document. Reading it, the startled woman learns that her Mom used an agency to assist with pregnancy; this is puzzling and the gasping woman sits, to catch her breath.
“Why?” she thinks, “would Mom do something like this, why?” The street address is local and the agency continues to operate. A few short rings and a woman answers the telephone. After a series of questions, finally, and although unusual, the person agrees to help with identification of the sperm donor. Within the week Nina receives a Certified Letter.
The sperm donor is a Mr. Nigel Clayton Leaks. Naturally, the name means nothing to Nina, after all, and all her life, she has known nothing of her true father. The document includes miscellaneous information, such as Race, Tribe, and Tribal Name. With big eyes and racing heart: Nina is incredulous of what she reads. The man is identified as Blackfeet and his tribal name is “Little Bear.”
“What?” “Little Bear?” Mom never told me…(Laura never knew the donor, the law restricted this information.) Of course, it could be any Little Bear but something inside her assures Nina of her thinking. She has things that Bear gave her and his DNA has to be on them. She would have the test done. Within the month proof arrives and (in fact) Little Bear was her biological father. Nina, although sad, feels elated because she loved Bear and who else would better be her Daddy. “Joy, sometimes, arrives in bundles of sadness.” Anxiously: She would change her surname.
Six months later: Nina drives to a town about ten miles south of her residence and then finds a quiet spot to relax, think. The news about Bear significantly changed her life; knowing the truth of whom she is and the totality of her ancestry, pleases her; her Mom always told Nina of their Seminole heritage and now she has more, much more. Spotting a good place to relax Nina safely parks the car, inside an elbow, and off the road. As the weary woman strolls across the highway, something about this place feels familiar.
Here: The rushing river, with clear and clean water, the whispering trees and above her, the Sky Mother; oh, and look, from time to time, a big one leaps out the water and into the air. Reclining, right there, on the soft grassy hillside, Nina thinks of Little Bear-“Daddy.” Sadly smiling, she hums “The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart.” Tired, worn and missing Mom and now, too, her Dad, she feels everything surrounding her. The affects of inspiration swelling her chest: briefly, the old woman energizes; and as the trees tickle her with tales of long ago, happily, and for the last time, Nina closes her eyes…incoherently, “My final moments smile… because… you are with me, my Father…”
The powers in Nature, truly, mystify: Without knowing: A father and daughter are united although for the while, truth remained hidden from them; yet, and before her death, a newly found truth connects a woman to her entire heritage.
This joy delivered by sadness is genetically and eternally shared with a Mom who the woman has ever known and a Dad found and then lost before she could know him; although, and for most of her life, she (has known and) loved him.
This tale forever lives as told to me by my mother; the melodies Nina heard that day and the song written for her wake, walk with and then lull me, to sleep. Nina died more than ten years ago; and proudly, I say, she was my grandmother.
(c) 2017 Delbert H. Rhodes