A Different Blue
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Her name was Sapana, a beautiful girl who loved the birds of the forest. One day, Sapana was out collecting firewood when she had saw a hawk laying at the base of a tree. A large porcupine quill stuck out of his breast. The girl soothed the bird and pulled the quill out, freeing the bird to fly away. Then the girl saw a large porcupine sitting by the trunk of a tall cottonwood tree. “It was you, you wicked thing! You hurt that poor bird.” She wanted to catch the evil porcupine and take his quills so he wouldn't hurt another bird.
Sapana chased after him, but the porcupine was very quick and he climbed the tree. The girl climbed after him but could never seem to catch up to him. Higher and higher the porcupine climbed, and the tree just kept extending itself higher and higher into the sky. Suddenly, Sapana saw a flat, smooth surface over her head. It was shining, and as she reached out to touch it she realized it was the sky. Suddenly, she found herself standing in a circle of teepees. The tree had disapeared and the porcupine had transformed himself into an ugly old man. Sapana was afraid and tried to escape, but she didn't know how to get home. The porcupine man said, “I have been watching you. You are very beautiful and you work very hard. We work very hard in the the Sky world. You will be my wife.” Sapana did not want to be the wife of porcupine man, but she did not know what else to do. She was trapped.
Sapana missed the green and browns of the forest and longed to return to her family. Each day the old man brought her buffalo hides to scrape and stretch and sew into robes. When there were no hides to stretch, she would dig turnips. The porcupine man told her not to dig too deep, but one day the girl was daydreaming about her home in the forest and paid little attention to the depth she was digging. When she pulled the large turnip from the ground, she saw light shining up through the hole. When she looked into the hole, she could see patches of the green earth far below. Now she knew how to get home! She rolled the huge turnip back into the hole so the porcupine man would not see what she had discovered.
Each day Sapana would take the leftover sinews from the buffalo hides and tie them together. Eventually, she had a very long rope she could use to lower herself back to the earth. She tied the rope to a nearby tree and rolled the turnip from the ground. She lowered herself down through the clouds, and the patches of green grew closer and closer, but she was still high in the sky. Suddenly, Sapana felt a yanking on her rope and looked up to see the porcupine man peering down at her from the hole in the sky. “Climb back up or I will untie the rope from the tree and you will fall!” he roared. But Sapana would not climb back up. Suddenly, the rope loosened, and she was falling through the air. Then something flew up beneath her, and she settled onto the back of a large hawk. It was the hawk Sapana had helped in the forest the day she had chased the porcupine. He flew to the earth with her on his back. Sapana's family was so happy to see her. From then on, they left bits of buffalo meat for the hawk and other birds of prey as a symbol of their gratitude for Sapana's protection and return.
“You are like the hawk that saved Sapana!” I had squealed, delighted by the story. “I wish my name was Sapana! Then I would be Sapana Echohawk!”
Jimmy had smiled at me. But he seemed sad, and he muttered, “Sometimes I feel more like the porcupine man than the hawk.”
I didn't understand what he meant and laughed uproariously at his joke. “Icas is the porcupine man!” I said, pointing at the lazy dog with the shaggy coat. Icas raised his head and looked at me, as if he knew what we were talking about. He ruffed and turned away, as if offended by the comparison. Jimmy and I had both laughed then, and the conversation was forgotten.
“Once upon a time there was a little blackbird who was pushed from the nest, unwanted. Discarded. Then a Hawk found her and swooped her up and carried her away, giving her a home in his nest, teaching her to fly. But one day the Hawk didn't come home, and the little bird was alone again, unwanted. She wanted to fly away. But as she rose to the edge of the nest and looked out across the sky, she noticed how small her wings were, how weak. She was trapped. She could fly away, but where would she go? She was afraid . . . because she knew she wasn't a hawk.”
The trailer was dark around me, and I listened to see if I could hear the sounds that Jimmy was still sleeping. Rain was pushing down on us from what felt like all sides, the little trailer rocking slightly from the water and wind.
“Jimmy?” I said it louder.
“Hmmm?” His reply was immediate this time, like he too lay listening in the dark.
“Did my mother look like me?”
Jimmy didn't answer right away, and I wondered if he was going to entertain this conversation in the middle of the night.
“She had dark hair like you,” he responded quietly. “And she reminded me of someone I used to know.”
He said no more, and I waited in the silence, hoping for crumbs.
“Is that all?” I said finally, impatiently.
“She didn't really look like you,” he sighed. “She looked more like me.”
“Huh?” I hadn't anticipated that response at all.
“She was Native, like me,” he grunted. “Her eyes and hair were black, and her skin was much browner than yours.”