Creek Running North

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December 08, 2004


The sun is on your right, and the rock in your hand is slippery with sweat. The rickety frame beneath you seems almost ready to give out, and you would tumble forty feet to the ground if it did. Bit by bit you carve away the desert varnish, the dark patina baked onto the rock by sun and time.

What is in your heart as you carve? Inspiration? Illumination? Tedium? Are you looking over your shoulder for Mastamho the fish eagle, son of the Great Spirit, who stuck a willow wand into the desert and drew out the great river, and whose house this is? Does a glimpse of osprey down-canyon cause your heart to race? He is down by the great river hunting fish.

And what does it mean to you, the square-toothed wave you so patiently tap from the rock? Fifteen centuries hence, bighorn sheep and Joshua trees, corn and hunters will leap from the rock to dance before dull-eyed visitors. The geometrics will remain opaque. Though dissertations will be wrung from the rock, most of what survives the centuries of sun is your diligence, your patience. Perhaps that is sufficient.

Above you the sky, blazing a terrible blue. North and south, the baking canyon walls; eastward the great river flows a dozen miles away. From the west a spring-fed creek flows almost to your feet, disappears in a pool of reeds. Below, your fathers' and grandfathers' artwork stretches down into the sand, fifty feet deep. Flood and flood have buried them, thousands upon thousands of years of tapping.

Time will fall away. Others will come to take your gardens, dry up your springs, post interpretive signs on your art. Your descendants will die wasting, coughing; their grandchildren kept in small houses along the river. Their grandchildren will serve drinks to compulsive gamblers at a casino named for your nation.

But you are lucky: you will see your people increase.

Mastamho, striking the ground three times with his staff, struck once more and the great river flowed. He gathered the Macav to himself, asked you to live near him in this hot place along the river. He brought seeds of yucca, prickly pear, blackbrush and creosote, to furnish the hills and feed you. He made his house here at Avikwame. With him, you howled out the day, the moon and sun.

In time he walked into the desert — north and south, west and east — but the desert would not take him. He dug into the ground, but the ground would not have him. He spread his arms in frustration. Feathers grew on them. The sky accepted him, and he flew off.

This is the seventh in a series of ten photo-prompted posts.

Posted at December 8, 2004 04:32 PM | TrackBack


Nice. Second-person is hard to do, but this is very elegant.

Posted by: Jarrett at December 8, 2004 10:37 PM

i love the imagery chris! the heat is palpable.

Posted by: Anne at December 9, 2004 08:44 AM

...and this too?

Posted by: Anne at December 9, 2004 02:16 PM

It was an osprey Mastamho turned into, then? I'd sort of assumed "fish eagle" meant bald eagle, but now that you mention it...

Posted by: Dave at December 9, 2004 04:23 PM

You write that you are a cynic, but when I read some of your writing, such as “Going With It Anyway”, it reflects your joy and appreciation for the delicate, the quiet, and the beautiful in life. Seems like “cynic” is too harsh a word for the Creek Running North man.

Posted by: Raven S at December 9, 2004 04:47 PM