The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart

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…”

Epilogue

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

Darkness, A Fulfilling Light

By Delbert H. Rhodes

A February morning and the sunlight slowly brightens the skies. I have enjoyed sleep, yet laziness embraces me and I prefer stillness. The day disappears quickly and as much as I desire laziness I relent to responsibilities. Each morning, various instructional texts which include The Bible, a grammar bible, a mathematics edition and a book of poetry shake and sharpen my mind. At some juncture in the day and for the thrill of it, a suspenseful novel adds more twists and turns.

Occasionally, the words in the Bible impress me as worthless entrapment, counsels of which I too could write or might have written. Other times, they summon passionate suffrage even causing tears to well in my eyes. The book is filled with smaller books of taunts and tales boasting lessons for all willing to peruse the pages. The storytellers are adept at portrayals which unearth deep recesses of human thinking, feeling and even rage.

Sometimes religious teachings appall me: causing me to curse the writings; mocking them as I toss the Bible into the trash. Somehow, I retrieve it, continuing the suffrage. Jesus Christ is the Savior for some; however, I do not fully support or revere him. Moreover, I do not ‘fear’ him; and surely, he hears and feels ‘my’ wrath from time to time.

That said, and honestly, there are moments when I invoke Jesus’s name; especially during prayers learned in my childhood. The benefits of prayer are proven, and though I cannot actually account for His presence in my life, during prayer I afford Him the benefit of doubt. No one is perfect and (accordingly) Jesus Christ certainly was not.

Imperfections occur in the whole of humankind, and whether man made or not, it seems that their presences in our world account for positive or negative manifestations. The wonder is whether certain families may be (genetically) responsible for the psychological burdens borne by children early in life. Further, and possibly, prior to fetal development, what if the genetic plan could be altered.

That is to offer, if the organic materials could somehow choose the receiving host. Preposterous? Perhaps, nonetheless, before birth and in this way, the life forms later to become children would have a say in the choice of parents. After all, if we dislike whom we are is it then possible to love whom we are?

Families represent everything we are, and are the first avenues of instruction, the first hands delivering punishments, the originating sources of pride in our lives. Pride is deeply personal and each person hosts and hides his and her viewpoints of family and self. Yes, some of us dare ask questions of whom we are and wonder whether we would change outcomes before birth, if this were possible, if opportunity were ours. Would you?

Some would embrace the miracles, others would stand rigidly steeling their souls, BLASPHEMY! so sayith. “The gates of Hell will receive you.”

Of the heritages born to my family, my Seminole (Creek) ancestry is closest to my heart. I embrace the lifestyles of Native people, I feel more secure and sensible celebrating the natural elements as deities, refusing to permit others to decide how I worship; or the path I follow, force-feeding me with unsolicited versions of doctrine.

I assert a shared path to creation, a cooperative venture to man’s heart and mind. Therefore I pray to the Earth Mother, and to God and the Virgin Mother.

Additionally, I neither fully nor blindly relish Christian teachings but these and others selectively provide plausible insights quickening the pace to informed choices. On the other hand, and with man at its helm, religious towers are lighthouses staring down upon so called darkened waters, the arms of light are fishermen whose nets strip away fish scrambling to what appears as safer waters.

Wealth, Control and Power: the bases of religious zeal. Truth, Honesty, Honor and Integrity are important human traits; these are attainable and teachable without lashes of guilt, or ligatures of lies.

In my opinion, religion and politics share podiums, that is to say, in many ways they appear to be forms of mind bending, agents of dominion and control. The masses are the easiest to fool, simply construct a tale insert fear, and especially regarding women, children, loss of culture and race or finance and then SELL IT.

The wagons quickly circle by the powers of psycho-emotional suffrage; and for them eager to fight, the horizons brightly glow beneath flames of blinded vision.

There is a time to worry and a time to war and these demand undeniable truth; a truth supported by untainted facts, and regarding information presented by the Media, this information must be qualified by question. For, though the topic be religion, politics, money or power, and unless the sources are independent of Puppet Masters, the Media too and accordingly, act out of special interests…

…The soft ticking of my wristwatch offers a pleasantry to the morning. Sitting atop the bed table, the wristwatch cannot know of its powers of influence but the morning senses the effects. Somehow, the ticking provides a pulse for the melodies inside my head; the tempo for an invisible orchestra of which I am the Maestro.

Attentively, I listen to the ticking; the call of its voice is soothing and hypnotic and I fall deeper into its spell. Until last week, realizing that my watch ticks escaped me.-Strange. I have owned it for about one month.

Morning evolves and its shape all things living inside the moment, the day. The dark sky shies sunlight as specs of sunshine lightly brush the clouds. In some places, the clouds appear as creating light. The brilliance emerges from within the puffy masses. In other areas and like fingers of delicate hands, intricate etchings masterfully create the canvas.

The magnitude of the heavens is vast and mysterious. Would we ever understand the worlds living above us, could we truly appreciate them?

The miracle of the day is before me and within it I am but a tiny insignificant being; nature’s plan flourishes without my input. On a day like this and in a place far from here a young woman pregnant with child broke water in her doctor’s office. On a Monday and sometime between 5:15 and 5:30 P.M. I was born, sixty-one years ago. My Mother was a seventeen year old turning eighteen in nineteen days.

Often I think of my childhood, today is no different. I think of the tiny house on Seventh Street and the Catholic school that I would later attend. I think of playing alone, at first, in my yard and later with Louis my neighbor. I think of Blackie my beautiful Black Lab and first friend. Stepping out into the street, I look yards away to Rhodes Ville; owned by Thomas (Papa Tom) Rhodes, my Mother’s paternal grandfather.

I think of the many days I enjoyed playing in the sands outside of Papa’s store. I remember Stanley and his large bulging stomach with its protrusive navel, and the few days before our meeting, when his big brother, Freddie, said, “You can’t beat ‘my’ brother.” Meeting the challenge, I asked for the whereabouts of his brother, and then upon meeting Stanley wrestled his fat belly into the dirt.

I think of the first time someone referred to me as “small” and how terrible it made me feel. Before that moment I never realized that I was tiny as a child. Afterwards, I disliked the woman who tagged me with the moniker. I reflect on the few times White people called me “Black Boy” and the one time that I was indirectly called “Nigger.”

I remember the many times White children sicked their dogs on me as I by passed on my way into town. I am saddened by the (little) boy never wanting to grow (up) and today while reading a passage from the Bible it is written that as we attain more knowledge we accrue more sorrows, I cry for the child.

I recall the few moments of happiness in my life. I feel sadness for my old friend, Stanley who, about four weeks ago, went to walk with his ancestors. His death would occur prior to his sixty-first birthday. Stanley was my nephew’s Father.

A Father is something that I have never had and would never know. Truly, I wonder about the men whom sire children to end abandoning the innocents. I hurt for the mothers; I sorrow for the children. I have no children; and therefore, upon my death would leave only life.

Among my cadre of books is a wonderful poet, Mary Oliver. Her book, “New and Selected Poems,” Volume One is a recent gift. The gift is a treasure. Miss Oliver has a style all her own and her portrayals of the world and life are spectacular. This morning I read a poem about an owl she has observed and how, in the end, this moment delivers to Miss Oliver a rethinking on death.

She (now) views death as (possibly) not a place of darkness but rather a wonderful and fulfilling light, an entity forever holding us within its sweet illumination.

While realizing that characterizations of death are different individually, culturally and throughout the world the imagery painted by Miss Oliver is splendid, indeed. Moreover, and paralleling differences, the human emotions of crying and laughter seem to share similarities.

Whenever we cry or frown, the morose characteristics in unhappiness are distinctly evident. Conversely, the radiance in laughter, smiling and joyousness of one person appears identical in another. Perhaps, and because as people we connect or share similarities during events of sorrow or moments of joy; the fulfilling light shining on Miss Oliver’s view of death is representative by an universal brilliance in life.

Miss Oliver’s poems are wonderfully expressive and per poetic license well written. Her expressions of mornings are serene and my favorites. Her mornings are filled with stillness or movements, and colors and animals, flowers and living and non-living things, her mornings are beautiful. Because I write, I am happy to have access to this great poet. She is inspirational, improving my writings and me.

I am alone on my birthday. I am always alone. My Mother is far away; I have siblings, they too are far away. Most times, I feel that our Mother is the only link connecting my siblings and me. In accordance to this thinking and whenever our Mother walks with her ancestors, metaphorically, I would be totally alone.

The solitary call of a “Coo” bird stills the cold morning. Seemingly, it too is alone; seemingly, it too walks a dark path. Shrouded by the unknown and as do I, somehow, it must find its way.

Copyright (c) 2013 Delbert H. Rhodes