Mash-Up Winner: Claudette Young


claudette Young3Rainbow’s End


Claudette Young

Beyond winter’s threshold,

Beneath water sun’s beam,

Within fallow ground’s heart

Above pounding heart’s blood,

Lies mortal’s hope for life

Once Rainbow’s cloud prevails.


The riddle’s words echoed across her mind as Spirit Soars studied the beads. They waited on the stone for her hand to remove them, place them in precise formation, and work the magic that would bring the riddle to clarity. Never had she held such responsibility. Never had she felt such weight on her back to claim survival for her people.

She’d been only ten summers old when the riddle had revealed itself in a waking dream. With the riddle came her sealed fate. The old shaman had felt the currents of the spirit world moving; had come to investigate, and found her standing entranced. From that day she had spent her life in the shaman’s lodge.

“Powerful ones, Ancient Ones call to you, child,” old shaman Clear Waters had told her. “They give you much knowledge of what will be. You must untwist the threads of the riddle to find its meaning. You are the only one who can do this. The knowledge is bound within you.”

Spirit Soars remembered the old man’s words. No fear roused her. She recalled that first day and the strange calmness that folded itself around her.

Here, many seasons later, she sat alone in the shaman’s lodge. Clear Waters had taken his final spirit walk. She was left to care for the people and their future.

“Beyond winter’s threshold,”

Within her mind she turned her ears to the riddle’s words again. They could only mean the beginning of growing season. Spirit Soars began with a white bone bead and placed it in the outside ring of the leather’s etched spiral pattern. More white bone beads followed until they spanned her palm in length.

“Beneath water sun’s beam”

The words hummed within her thoughts. “Water sun”? She closed her eyes, the better to envision the words’ meaning. Could it mean the sky during a light rain when the sun could almost be seen, though not clearly? With her hands still, the needle cradled by her fingers, Spirit Soars relaxed into the question.

The Ancient Ones would answer if her thoughts ran true to the meaning of the words. A soft sigh rolled through her mind. Behind that sigh she felt a smile. She was correct.

Her lips twitched and accepted the affirmation. She opened her eyes. Among the scatter of stone beads, she saw ones of pale turquois, some more green than blue. One at a time, she placed the beads on the curving line of her pattern. These would run longer than that of white.

Within fallow ground’s heart

This instruction sounded simple. Her teacher’s words returned to her. “When simple is all you see, look deeper. Simple is a lie.”

Spirit Soars sent her mind on a search for answers within herself. Fallow ground could be any that was not put to crop use. She pondered the use of “fallow ground’s heart.” The heart of anything lay hidden. A man’s heart was deep within his chest, protected by the bone cage surrounding it. It was the same with the herd beasts and those of the forest.

The ground did not have a cage of bone around it. Or did it have a strong cage throughout it? This thought circled her mind as a stinging biter would on hot grazing days.

Always, massive stones hid beneath the dirt and rose above it in places, as if reaching for Sky’s attention. Stone hid secrets of the earth. One of those secrets could be the heart of the ground.

Spirit Soars paused in her thoughts and asked the Ancient Ones, “Is the heart of earth kept within a cage of stone to protect it?”

Another sigh eased through her mind, carrying a broader smile with it. Amid her beads, Spirit Soars found ones of many kinds of brown and a few black ones. She selected one after another, light to dark, and finally black, until she’d filled almost a full turning of the spiral line.

Above pounding heart’s blood,

These next words confused her utterly. She had no experience with the Mother Earth’s heart’s blood. To proclaim otherwise was folly.

She placed herself into a deep searching trance state. She never knew where such answers came from. Experience told her that if she persevered, answers would come to her. How long she waited for her answer, she could not reckon; but come it did.

She saw herself as a small child, barely past six seasons old. She sat in winter lodge. Clear Waters’ voice rose and dipped above the speech of the fire. He told of the ancestors in the long ago who roamed the vast grazing grounds during the season of heat. His voice painted a picture of peaceful lives spent among herds and crops.

In her mind, she heard his story turn with the seasons. When the grasses began to lose their green and the wind began to travel from the northwest, the ancestors moved their herds toward the hills. Within the folds of the hills was a canyon. At the head were openings that would allow man and beast to enter. The people had gathered huge bundles of grasses that were carried upon the backs of their animals.

The animals, with their bundles, entered one opening. Most of the ancestors entered another opening. All carried crop goods as well as personal possessions. The children carried what they could or rode in packs worn on their mothers’ backs, if they were very young.  Torchbearers walked among the lines.

The openings led to caverns. Some were large enough for the people to spread out. Others were small spaces where food supplies were stored. Each clan group took a different rock dwelling that dotted the caverns. Tunnels ran in all directions from the main caverns. The stone was warm and would keep the people warm throughout the long cold.

The shaman explained about the moving golden-red water, thick and sparking, which ran deep within the earth. He pointed toward the central fire saying, “The earth burns a giant fire at her heart. Its flames run through the ground and do not rise into the sky.”

Spirit Soars opened her eyes. She knew the where. Her teacher had answered this question before she had had her vision.

Among her choice of beads were many that fit the colors needed. Some were red or yellow jasper. Others sparked with a light of their own and more were darker red, like true blood. She placed these in their positions a hand span beyond the earth’s beads on her pattern.

Lies mortal’s hope for life

She understood now what those beads colored as a striped dove’s wing represented. They belonged to the caverns where her people had once lived. She took up those beads and added them. This much had come clear.

Once Rainbow’s cloud prevails.

The last of the riddle stared at her from inside her mind. She knew what a rainbow was. Her heart told that the riddle wasn’t speaking of Father Sky’s smile.

Again Spirit Soars looked inward, seeking the answer that she would place into bead form. As she took flight in her mind, searching for that which would take her to Rainbow, she saw others moving with her. Raven rode the high winds with Eagle. Hummingbird saved strength by riding those warm winds which kept her aloft. Beside her flew Crow, smirking at her as she searched for Rainbow.

“What do you seek?” asked Crow, beak agape.

“I seek Rainbow,” Spirit Soars said in her hushed spirit voice.

Crow laughed. “You come without eyes to see, young shaman.” When his beak closed, he shifted his wings and spiraled toward the glistening ground below.

Spirit Soars kept Crow’s words in mind as she went on her way. Soon a nagging doubt crept into her seeking. What had Crow meant? Was Rainbow easily seen if only she could use the correct vision?

As her spirit glided on the winds, she allowed her mind to open up to see all that was possible to see. When her spirit eyes opened, the sky was filled with shapes all making journeys of their hearts. She focused her eyes with her own heart to see the place where Rainbow prevailed.

There! To the side of her heart hand a bright ribbon of color shot straight up from the ground into the sky. Heavy cloud swallowed the colored ribbon, spreading the different colors throughout so that the whole sky above it gleamed with the colors. This was her journey’s end.

Spirit Soars turned toward Rainbow’s position. When she arrived, she looked down and saw herself sitting inside her lodge, a large crow at her side. Her spirit-self burst into laughter.

She’d traveled so far to find herself and to learn Crow’s lesson, for she could see the Rainbow shining as the firelight reflected from his feathers. Sudden insight flashed knowledge of her medicine, her true power, and who would lead her people to the safety that was needed in the future. Her true journey would begin now as she took on the purpose to which she’d been called.

When she came out of trance, Crow remained beside her, twisting her head this way and that, the better to focus an eye on her. Spirit Soars put out her heart hand to stroke his night-colored feathers.

“I will take up my journey, Crow. Will you guide me to the one I must meet?”

As the powerful messenger’s winged body straightened, his voice echoed inside her mind. “I will take you to the Guardians, who guard the secrets to the people’s past and future.”

Spirit Soars smiled. “You honor me, Great One. I am ready.”

Crow’s beak gaped and his flamboyant “Caw!” erupted from his sleek throat. “None are ready for the coming trial. Your courage and strength will be tested. Your eagerness will find its own test.”

A tremor ran through Spirit Soars body. She could hear the almost silent laughter coming from Crow and couldn’t decide if he was laughing at her or at something coming in the trial.

Her chin lifted. Her brow puckered. “I will protect my people, Revered One. Have no doubt.”

Three raucous “Caws!” answered her proclamation. “We will see your strength, young shaman,” was Crow’s only reply, aside from another mental chuckle.

Spirit Soars doused her fire with a few scoops of loose dirt and rose. A deep breath, her hands checking to insure that she had her belt pouch and a nod to her guide. The riddle waited to be fulfilled. Her heart lightened. Her choices and actions had led her to this moment. Her life was coming to its purpose. She could ask for no more.

Congratulations, Claudette!

Leave a Reply