the longhouse

there are people who will try to hurt you because of the good they see in you, needing that good for themselves. they’ll try to beat it out of you. when you come to know that, don’t become like those people.
–evelyn t.r. boyce

I dream of a large room, where the wind blowing indoors doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. though the room is full of people, I feel alone, lonely for a friend. my childhood home was like that, like I didn’t belong, with my mom stretching out a silence I wasn’t meant to break. the silence concerned me, mom teaching the older ones, the younger ones the dangers of me. my biggest flaw was I was too nice, too kind. not natural, my mom would say. born evil, that one. watch your back.

in dreamworld there are mirrors up above in the large room. I can see myself and each strand of my hair contains volumes of knowledge forming along the waves. the wind picks up words, like dust from my hands, my skin, my hair––swirling them into a tiny twister whose point reaches into my left eye. and rather than close my eyes, I hold them open to the harshness of those words, the blinding sting that opens a doorway to the past.

I’m reminded of a story I heard some years ago, where trickster loses her eyes after juggling them for too long––even though she’s warned this will happen––and her eyes don’t return. she starts to go around with flowers in her empty sockets, telling the people she encounters how special her eyes are and how she can see things no one else can see. person after person offers to trade one eye for one of hers, until, one day, a girl offers to trade both her eyes for these special eyes that can see things no one else can see. when the trade is made, the girl is left without sight.

but the girl knows that darkness holds stories and songs of great power, and when she recounts them in her mind, they shift her thoughts away from herself to the voices of the women who came before her.

she dreams about her grandmother. in the dream, she’s a teen and there are other kids, lots of them, maybe sisters and brothers and cousins. her grandmother has them all helping to clear out a canoe, a very, very long canoe that’s large enough for an extended family. the canoe is made from bark, not from wood. because she’s the oldest, her grandmother asks her to go out with the canoe and retrieve a medicine from the bottom of the water. the water is dark and murky. it takes several dives before the girl is able to pull up the medicine for her grandmother. she knows this is a powerful healing medicine. when she reaches the surface after her final dive and opens her eyes, she’s in a circle of women.

she goes around the circle shaking the women’s hands, introducing herself. she reaches her mother, surprised she’s there. when they shake hands, they laugh and shake hands again. her mother’s hand feels like her own hand, like she’s shaking her own hand. her mother’s talking and the girl leans down to hear what her mother is saying, her left ear to her mother’s mouth. her mother makes a joke in her ear. the girl tells a joke back. wakes herself up laughing.

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