All materials copyright 2010 by Bruce Eastman
Nantan Goshe was far above the others, although his presence was given away by his singing. He had been there for more than three days. It was night now, and those below could also see the rising embers of his fire. He had built it large, and kept it burning since his ritual had begun, no easy task for an old man.
Unlike in his youth, when he had been as strong as shash (the bear), now his body was frail. Some of those of his own tribe had looked on incredulously, as he had stated his intent, and made his preparations. But their doubts went without comment, because even if they thought him daft, none had the courage to question the affairs of a shaman.
The Corn People, among whom his people lived, had looked on amused. Some had even offered to help, as he had made his many wood hauling trips up the steep canyon walls. But he had assured them that these were trips that he needed to make himself. He had not felt the need to elaborate, but his labor was part of the ritual, showing his willingness to labor in order that his prayers might be heard.
Nantan Goshe was aware that there would be no more trips up the mountain for him. He had not known this until his last climb. He had been carrying up his wood and the pain in his breast had begun, and it continued even now as he danced.
He had seen this sickness many times in others, who had begged him to intercede with the spirits on their behalf. In the end, all he had been able to do for them was to tell them to make themselves right for their journey. As a man who cherished life, and as a healer, it had never seemed enough.
He now noted with amusement, that even as he raced his own heart toward this mission's end, all that he could say to himself was, "Old man, make yourself ready." He laughed.
He wondered if the spirits were laughing. Somehow, he thought that his moment of fatalistic levity might entertain them. He had come to believe through a long life of interacting with them, that the spirits valued irony as much as truth.
It had not been his impending death though, which had inspired his actions. He was old, and ready for death. It was the death of his favorite grandson which had driven him to seek an audience with the spirits, a grandson whom should have lived many more seasons, maybe even having grandsons of his own.
Death was no stranger among the Inde, or as the Zunis called them, Apache-the Zuni word meaning enemy. There were many battles with the Zunis. Here though, the Zunis' enemies dwelt in peace with the Corn People.
No, no battle had taken Nantan Goshe's grandson, something evil had.
He slowed, with each breath coming harder. And then, as his strength was finally exhausted, it happened.
Nantan Goshe looked up, and saw what appeared to be a veil being drawn back. It was as if he sat in a dark lodge, and someone had pulled back the hide that covered the door, revealing a light brighter than the desert sun.
He knew then that his singing had either interested or amused the spirits, and that they had come to hear him out.