by B.H. Bates
Can you smell it in the air? Have you noticed folks around you smiling – for no good reason at all? They’re outside, taking walks and I’ve even seen one nut-ball wearing a t-shirt. What the hell is going on?
When in doubt: ask an Elder, I always say. They usually know what’s up from down, what’s right from wrong, but be warned, once you get them going you can’t shut them up. Another hazard, when querying an Elder, make sure you look into their eyes first – the campfire may be burning, but the tepee could be empty.
I asked few Elders: “Is spring was just around the corner and if so, what’s the first sign of spring?” Dorothy ‘Smartie-pants’ Hobbs, said: “It comes every year, doesn’t it?” Eileen Eden, said: “For myself, a sure sign of spring is that I feel like buying new things.” Her response drew a smile across my face, but, to me, it only proved she was a shop-o-holic and not a climatologist. And so, on went my search for proof that spring is just over the next mountain.
An eighty-seven year old man, Jack, was the next member of the old fart’s club, who grinned his reply to my question: “Young girls begin to shed.” After a stunned moment of contemplation – I too, grinned, and silently hoped that when I reached his age, that I too, would be as sly.
Nonna, as she’s affectionately known, said that all she knew of such things, came from her Elders. “Spring, to me, she reflected, was when the old people burned the dead grass. The smell of smoke takes me back to the days of my youth.” A look of sheer joy washed over her soft face and a satisfied grin on her lips told me that she was reliving her entire youth in that very moment. Then, in the next moment, she started to talk about other things, not even remotely related to the subject of spring! As I informed you earlier – once they get started, you can’t shut them up.
One story lead to another and so on and so on… We touched on every subject under the sun, including the sun! In the name of the Great Spirit… what an interesting lady. We not only walked down memory lane – we went around the corner and up the road of that sweet lady’s life. Please don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t want you to think she was ‘long winded,’ she was just passing along an old Native tradition: Story telling.
You see, we Natives, come from a long line of long winded … I mean to say: ‘ancestral translators of factual information.’ In other words a Native Elder, is like an elephant, they never forget and they’re full of poop – I’m only teasing, you Elders. The Great Spirit, gave us two ears and one mouth, for a good reason; if we take the time to listen to wisdom, we, as a society, can advance beyond the dreamy eyed, star struck stage of wishful scenarios and hopeful expectations.
As a young Native buck, I was as wild and unpredictable as a leaf in a wind storm; I fell in and out of love faster than a teenage quickie. Fueled by alcohol, fed by ego and powered by attitude, to me, age and knowledge, were just two words in the dictionary. My uncle Wayne, would try to give me things of great value – but, they came in the form of words like; don’t, no, think and slow down. At first, his words were just the rambling’s of an old man, only for the wise to discern. Then as time passed, I heard his words echoing in my empty head, they went from babble to brilliance in a nano second.
Nonna, must have taught me well, in the ways of an Elder – here I am, babbling on and on! Back to the subject of spring; it, evidently, comes every year around this time, it’s a time of renewal, a time to shed off the winter blues and as Nonna, pondered, springtime: “I love to get back into my garden.” And like most things that come from the mind of an Elder, there always seems to be a hidden moral within. In this case: One should reconnect to the dirt on which they stand, in other words: become more grounded, more in touch and listen to old farts!
Dear reader: Please feel free to contact, B. H. Bates at: email@example.com