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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

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Coastal Salish

Lady Fireweed

If you’re a writer (and most everyone who follows this blog is, indeed, a writer.), you should check out https://carrotranch.com for a supportive community and some incredible weekly prompts. You need to tell the tale in exactly 99 words. Are you up for the challenge?

This is my response to this week’s 99 word challenge:

Lady Fireweed

My SpukWu’say cast herself like the seed of the willow herb on an Alaskan breeze, blowing where fate might have her alight. I don’t think she cared if she ever landed. She wanted to experience freedom and, since she’d been nurtured and knew her worth, she felt no fear. She drifted until she found a prairie and a community she admired. There she set down roots. She stretched her abilities like tender greens, practiced healing and aided all. When at last she bloomed, her talents lit her world like translucent fairy dances until all tried to imitate Lady Fireweed.

fireweed4-174x300*Coastal Salish people mixed the abundant, cotton-like seeds of this plant with wool to make warm blankets. The greenery is nutritious, and the plant is used medicinally, especially to aid digestion.

Singing in the Spring

Singing in the Spring

A retelling of a Coastal Salish legend by Kerry E.B. Black

 

Winter’s grasp tightened, choking life from the land and People. Frozen ground yielded no nourishment. Ice hardened lakes trapped fishes. Caught in a world of unending sleep, the People mourned the sun and prayed for deliverance.

Frog blinked her moss-green eyes and listened to their laments. She stretched and chirped until her voice warmed. Her song echoed off the icicles and bounced off snow drifts taller than hills. Frog sang on, her trembling body perched along the shore, until, moved by her devotion, the Sun smiled.

The People tilted their heads and caught the scent of Spring on a breeze. “Thank you, Frog.” They carved Frog’s image and painted her likeness as thanks.

The elders sang along, throaty imitations of Frog’s brilliant tune. Like sap in the nearby trees, hope quickened within every heart. Animals nosed from their frosty abodes, and tribal mothers nodded to one another, putting aside Pot Latching and winter things. All creation breathed rain-moist air as winter melted into memory.20160721_163016

Non-living Tribe

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Non-Living Tribe

*A retelling of a Coastal Salish tale

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

Everyone wondered why Little Annie married a dead man, but her tribe attended the ceremony and waved good bye to the girl none-the-less. Her brother Harry gave her a blanket woven with hummingbirds as a gift. “It might be cold where you’re going.”

After he kissed her goodbye, Harry’s stomach churned with worry. Every hummingbird reminded him of his Little Annie, a girl known for her quick efficiency and industrious ways.

“I’m going to visit her,” he told the winds. He walked toward the splendor of the setting sun until he reached the vast river between the land of light and the land of darkness. The waters lapped the rocks beneath his feet as stars peeped from overhead.

He cupped his hands and whistled. “Little Annie, it’s your brother. Please, I want to visit you.”

An owl hooted from a tree nearby, and unseen creatures scampered through the underbrush. Gentle winds brushed his hair from his face, and weariness weighted his limbs. As he waited, he wearied, and he yawned.

“Please, Annie.”

A dark-stained boat washed ashore. Despite a hole in the hull, it stayed afloat. In the bow, a pile of bones glowed ghostly white in the moon’s rays. “Ugh!” He kicked them into the water and prayed the boat would not sink as he paddled to the distant shore.

Little Annie waited with crossed arms and thumping foot. Her braids glistened like waterfalls over her shoulders. While she steadied him, she tutted. “So, Harry, why’d you try to drown my husband?”

Harry stiffened in her embrace. “I didn’t.”

Stars reflected in her dark eyes. “Things appear differently here when you don’t belong.” She thrust out her chin and led the way through a decrepit village to a shack. “This is my home. Welcome.” Hinges creaked as she pushed through the door. Dust and cobwebs rained into their hair. She pointed to a broken chair. “Sit. I’ll get a treat.”

His mouth fell open at the sight before his eyes. His beautiful sister lived in a hovel. He shuddered as he pushed a dog’s bones from the chair. They cracked as they hit the dirty floor, raising a cloud.

She rushed into the room and knelt to gather the bones to her chest. “Harry, you must be careful. You hurt my pet.”

Harry chewed his lip. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

She stood and dusted her hands on her skirt. “I know you don’t. My dear, you don’t belong here.” She pulled him into an embrace. Her hair smelled of almond, and her tears cooled on his cheek. With a shaking hand she dried her eyes. She handed Harry a basket. “Don’t open this until you reach the land of the living. Do you understand?”

He shook his head.

“I miss you.”

“Me, too.”

They embraced.

“I love you. Tell all our relations I wish them the best. But Harry, please don’t forget. Do not open the basket.”

The boat swayed like a cradle as it conveyed Harry across the dark waterway. The rising sun stained the sky with springtime pinks and yellows. Harry’s stomach grumbled, and he licked his lips. Ripe fruits perfumed the air, and Harry peeked inside the basket, anticipating his sister’s treat.

A swarm of bees rushed the opening. Stings assaulted, burning as though he fell into a lodge fire. He leapt to his feet, swatting without effect as the buzzing reached a crescendo. He stumbled as the boat lurched, and he fell into frigid waters. His throat constricted with swelling, and no air entered his lungs. His skin felt lumpy and scorched, and darkness pulled him deeper into the water.

A man’s muscled arm grasped Harry and pulled him into a golden canoe. Harry sputtered, but his skin no longer burned.

“Brother,” the man in the boat said. “You did not listen to your sister. Now you must come home with me.”

Harry marveled at the beading on the man’s clothing.

The man smiled. “Your sister is very talented.” He led Harry through a well-appointed town to a cheerful lodge. Bright paintings graced the walls, and thick rugs covered spotless floors. A fire crackled, and home cooking wafted through the air.

A dog barked a greeting from a carved wood chair, and Little Annie shook her head, sending earrings clinking. Her voice sounded heavy, and tears glistened over her cheeks. “You opened the basket before you reached the land of the living.” She sighed and opened her arms, welcoming him into an embrace. “At least now you can see our home as it truly is now that you’re a part of this land.”

“You mean, I’m dead?”

The man who paddled the canoe kissed Annie atop her head and wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders.

Harry gulped. “You’re my sister’s husband?”

The man laughed. “Yes. And this is our home. Looks different when you’re a part of the non-living tribe, doesn’t it?”

Harry took in the opulent surroundings and nodded, acclimating to his new existence.

Tziquaw

Tziquaw

I’m going to relate a legend told to all Cowichan children, a legend as old as the skies and as vast as the waters.

The People relied on the tremendous bounty provided by the Rivers Cowichan and Koksilah, but once, long ago, the salmon stopped swimming and the waters ran quiet and still. The wise People sent up prayers and walked along the banks to see what caused the Rivers distress. At the mouth of the Cowichan River, they found the culprit. A mammoth Killer Whale took up residence there and ate all the fish before they entered the Rivers’ waters.

Although the brave People mounted an attack from their war canoes, the beast remained. Medicine People organized the People, and they prayed for four days and four nights until the Tziquaw (or Thunderbird) heard their pleas. With a clap of its mighty wings and bloody battle, the Tziquaw dislodged the Killer Whale and banished it to the sea. The fish returned to the rivers, for which the People thank the Tziquaw.

coastal salish thunderbird

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