An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
“Tell us a story about your grandfather,” said Sowi to Tuwa.
Tuwa fidgeted and looked into the fire.
“You knew Tuwa’s grandfather, didn’t you?” Sowi asked Choovio.
Choovio nodded and looked into the fire. “Sometimes he spoke like a man and sometimes he spoke like a spirit.”
“So tell us something you learned from the spirit grandfather,” said Sowi. “We can’t just stare at the fire all evening.”
Tuwa continued to stare at the fire and began speaking. “Grandfather pointed at the distant peak we could see from his circle of stones between the columns of the Twin War Gods and the hills to the left.
“He said we must travel to the hot springs at its feet, where he would soak his aching body, and that I must climb the mountain alone, without food, and return to tell him what I had seen.”
“I’ve been to those springs with my father,” said Choovio. “The old ones lie in the hot mud and the children play in the river where the springs warm the water.”
“So I took him there with Nuva, the albino woman, to look after him, and I set out to climb the peak that Grandfather called Pahu because it gives birth to all the world’s hot water.
“For three days I climbed. Pahu seemed to grow larger the higher I climbed. On the fourth day, starving and weak, I crawled up the steep ground and I finally reached the top, my knees and hands scratched and bleeding.
“The moment I arrived, the wind became calm and the last beam of light from the setting sun bathed me in orange glow and the world around me receded into gloom.
“That night, the mountain gods were angry with one another and threw lightning bolts that crashed all around me, and a cold rain soaked me. My teeth chattered and my arms and legs shook too violently to stand.
“Then the clouds opened and sucked me into the sky. I rode a bed of lightning bolts higher and higher until the world looked no larger than a grain of sand at my feet and the full moon took up the entire sky.
“The wandering stars gathered around and the long-haired stars wove a basket with the lightning bolts to hold me while the moon became a man with two eyes and a mouth but no nose.
“The Moon Man opened his mouth as if to speak, but my basket rose and tilted, spilling me into his mouth, and I struggled and fought, fearing the gnashing of his teeth.
“I slid and tumbled down the Moon Man’s throat, as rough as falling down a mountain of stones. I fell and fell and slid and tumbled until I finally landed on a bed of pine needles and soft, dry soil. Nearby, I saw the hot springs.
“Grandfather meditated over my story for an entire moon cycle. Finally, he said that I had faced the evil god of the South, Masaw, which mimics the face of the moon. And that even though Masaw consumed me, I survived, which showed that the god from the South has no power over me.”
Tuwa added nothing more to his story, and Sowi and Choovio were silent while the dying fire sighed and popped. Sowi reached his hand to Tuwa’s leg and touched it with his middle finger, then pressed the finger to his center place just beneath his sternum, a gesture of borrowing the spiritual qualities of another for oneself. Choovio quickly did likewise.
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Note: The hot springs are those at Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and the mountain here called Pahu is Pagosa Peak. The Twin War Gods is the twin spires of Chimney Rock, Colorado, pictured in the header of this blog.