Sun And Moon



Title Sun and Moon
Synopsis Sparrow Redhouse has a conversation with an old man of her reservation, on the day the world changed forever.
Date February 17, 2007

Deep orange rays of sunlight spill down between tall and broken rck canyons, and amidst those last few vestiges of late afternoon light, the whole of the desert seems as thought it is on fire. Across the divide, thorugh the shadowed depths of the canyon and up the steep slopes of the mesas, a single voice calls out to the sky and the sun and the land. Seated on the dusty ground, with open land at his back and a great precipice below him, a weathered old man's voice rises in a low chant to the world, singing farewell to the sun for the night to come.

Already in the sky the full moon shines down dully in the purple-blue heavens of a sunset. A thump of wood impacting the hard earth comes, and the stick draws back slowly across the dirt, tracing a mark of a single wavy line across the crimson sands. Dark skin is beaten by the sun, dark eyes narrowed to the light and head tilted back to view the golden glow as the sun dips between two high mesas, framed by them as if nature intended it that way.

"«You need not sit by yourself, Sparrow.»" His deep voice breaks at the end of the chant, calling out to the woman that stands in his long shadow. "«You are so much your mother's daughter…»" His name is Laughing Coyote, and he claims to be as old as the mountains and the rivers, even if only when he is laughing. Behind that weathered facade, the gentle wisdom of an old man is tempered by the mischevious heart of a child. And here, on the edge of the reservation she called home for so many years, Sparrow Redhouse is faced with a world torn asunder. Even this far out, the aftershocks of revelation from the months following the destruction in New York City have tangled their hands into every-day lives.

Dark and terrible, frightening and new, seemingly overnight the world has become a place of change. But here, even now, Laughing Coyote seems not a bit phased by this news. He motions, towards the dusty earth at his side and pats it with a bare hand. "Come and sit, Sparrow… I have a story to tell you."



Why is Sparrow here? Upon this hill as the sun fades away, soon framed by the mesas nearby? She isn't sure herself, but her feet have led her here where she knew Laughing Coyote would be. And when he calls to her, having not seen her, somehow knowing that she's there, she but sighs softly, "I'm not in a very good mood at the moment, Elder." The young woman says, a hand lifted to brush aside a braid that hangs at the side of her face, tucking it behind her ear.

Her gaze slides past him, to watch as the sun continues it's path downwards, to meet the land, to slumber in it's embrace. So much to think about, her mind a mess of thoughts. And yet, as he speaks again, her gaze is once more drawn to the old man, and she steps forwards, each step to bring a puff of dust to billow upwards from her bare feet stained by the color of the dirt here. "A story?" She wonders, swallowing against the memory of her mother that he brought up. She sits, however, cross legged on the ground that he patted, head bowed as she takes in another deep breath, her hand to reach for a clump of dry dirt, to hold in her hand.

Brows crease as Laughing Coyote looks side-long at Sparrow, solely for the defiant English that's lobbed his way. Somehow, though, despite the crease of wrinkled skin between his brows he manages a toothy smile. "A story," the old man says quietly, looking out to the setting sun. "An old one…" Now he's slipped into English, a lazy smile spread across his face as he draws a line across the wavy mark on the side, branching out from it, "a story you don't know you need to know, but one day may appreciate." Another two lines are drawn with the large stick, opposite of the first, "something that seeing the sun father setting today made me think."

Trapped in his ways, Laughing Coyote is on the faint end of those who are fading away into obscurity among the Zuni people, those who truly uphold the ideals of shamanism and the people's faith. He is perceived as old fashioned, but at least not uptight. "It is a story of when our people lived at Itiwana…" so it's an old story, older than Coyote.

"The Towa clan ruled with large size and great greed. They had all things they could desire, and yet were wrathful and prideful." Dark eyes peer out at the setting sun. "The Towa people were heedless of the other clans needs, of their hunger for food, and their want of land. By the Towa would take everything, they believed they were the greatest— the strongest— the chosen." Turning to look at Sparrow, Coyote smiles again and lays his stick across his lap, folding his hands atop it relaxedly. "Your mother, I told her this story when she was young too… but to you, Sparrow, these words have more important meaning."

He might be considered old fashion by some, but to Sparrow, there would always be the respect shown to him. If her mother taught her anything, it was that much. And so, the young woman sits and actually listens to his words, not pretending attention, but giving it freely to the old man who speaks up. When he speaks of Itiwana, she turns to look at him, her gaze lifted up from the clump of dirt in her hand. "Yes?" The word is asked before she falls quiet again.

And so the story begins, and Sparrow listens, gaze to linger on the old man's craggy face. A smile shows as he once again speaks of her mother, a soft chuckle to come from her, "I can imagine her listening in fascination to your words." Yet, when he speaks the last, the smile falters a little, a quiet nod given.

"She did… and yet she did not." Coyote notes with a mischievous smile, "you are much your mother's daughter, and you share her wanderlust. She would listen, but only half her spirit was there. The other half— it was off playing in distant fields, on more distant horizons." A gentleness tempers Laughing Coyote's smile, and the old man nods his head. scratching out the strange symbol he'd carved into the sand.

"There was a man, a young man, who saw the doings of the Towa and knew it wrong. But he was the only one to stand up against them. He feared, for all our peoples." Scratching into the dirt again, Laughing Coyote scrawls that same wavy line once more, starting the whole process from before over again. "He called for the guidance of his ancestors, of his uncle who was killed by the Navajo for insight." A grim tone enters the old man's voice. "But the spirit that came, he was a vengeful one called into this world. The young Towa boy asked him for help in stopping the cruelties of his clan, setting right their wrongs, but the spirit knew only one answer."

A line is scratched from the symbol, "Th spirit left for the land of the Towa, for their elders and shamans. But the spirit was interrupted by a child on his way, and where the spirit touched the boy, the boy fell ill. His touch lingered, and the child fell dead. The Towa youth was horrified by this, at what he had let loose, but no longer was there a way to undo his mistake…"

"That does sound like mother. She didn't wish to leave New Mexico, and yet she couldn't settle too long in one place before having to move on, to see what the next valley would bring." Sparrow answers with a quiet knowledge of her mother. she might have some of the wanderlust, but not quite as badly as her mother. She crushes the dirt in her hand, thumb to play with it, brushing back and forth against the pile held in her palm.

But, as the symbol is made in the sand before her, Sparrow watches the movement of the stick back and forth, soon to listen to the words that the old man speaks as he continues the story. Whether or not it is one she's heard before, she shows the man the respect that his presence deserves, listening without question as the story unfolds.

"You changed her, a great deal." Coyote says with a wistful tone of voice, his distant eyes still watching the dot of orange and red on the horizon. "When you were born… she showed much hope and heart, and she started trying to set down roots, despite being a wandering soul. For your sake, and hers. People are afraid to talk to you of her, afraid to speak well or ill of her in your presence, because of the loss she presented." Coyote, as he so bluntly infers, will say whatever is on his mind at any one time.

But as he vacillates between past and present, so do his words. Coyote's drawl carries out the strange tale once more. "That spirit the Towa boy had called, it went from shaman to shaman, chieftain to chieftain of the Towa clan. In its wake, nothing but bodies were left behind— he was the touch of death to a clan he had seen grow so full of itself." Shaking his head slowly, Coyote once more scratches out the symbol, only to begin carving it into the sands yet again. "But the Towa boy followed, he chased the spirit as it took life after life. Soon the Towa clan heard tale of his killings, and fled to the height of a great mountain Matsaka, where they hid. For now, following the ghost, came great earthquakes that shook the land and split villages apart."

Silent for a moment, Laughing Coyote stares at his lap, and then scratches out the symbol slowly. "The world, the Towa feared, would come to an end for they had enraged the spirit of their ancestors by their selfish acts…" his dark eyes sweep the valley as the sun finally dips down beneath the horizon. "…the young Towa boy grew remorseful of this, and begged his uncle for forgiveness on his clan, despite that he knew that caused evil in his ancestors' names."

Sparrow bites her bottom lip as he speaks of how people might have reacted, and she sighs, "I would rather hear stories of my mother, no matter what they might be." The quiet words are given as her hand closes upon the dirt, squeezing it tightly in her fist. When she opens, the dirt is compacted, held together by more than what might happen normally. And yet, with the brush of her thumb, it shifts subtly to her desires.

Still, when the story resumes, the young woman is again quiet, but not completely still. Her fingers continue to move upon the dirt, a show of concentration made upon the subtle changes worked upon it. Still, she /is/ listening to the story, to the death that followed the spirit, and the young Towa's misery at knowing what he unleashed upon the earth.

"Our people wear their hearts close to their chests, tucked away and hard to see. The world… especially now, has made them guarded and jaded, fearful and resentful." Laughing Coyote's head shakes slowly, and his dark eyes move to take in Sparrow's appearance now that the sun has set. "You, most of all, represent to them the memory of your mother… it is a memory they are hard pressed to face and reconcile. Perhaps it is why they have a difficult time speaking with you." Shaking his head slowly, Coyote looks to the dirt held in Sparrow's hand, a warm smile spreading across his lips. Something in his eyes says he wishes to comment, but the words go unsaid.

Instead, he turns back to the older story, Coyote's voice taking on that rough and sandpapery quality again. "The Towa boy eventually fled from his own uncle, unable to bear witness to his death-dealing. He fled from the earthquakes and tribulations that came in his wake, fled to the height of Matsaka with his own people. Huddled together and fearful, they watched as the vengeful spirit of he who was killed by the Navajo ascended the mountain for their last shaman."

The wind picks up, blowing loose sand up into the air and off the cliff, out into the valley below. "But the spirit stopped befre the mountain peak as the sun finally rose from behind it. He was confronted by the young boy who called him into this world, and touched him as he had so many others. But unlike the shaman and elders, the boy did not die. Instead, he became host for the apparition, it lived within him and called out to the people of Towa. It told them that for their evil and for their greed, they would drown in all the world's waters."

Wringing his hands together, Coyote shakes his head again. "The last elder, a Grandmother to many children, approached the spirit and pleaded for time for the children of her tribe to arrive from the edges of the land. The spirit agreed, and took the old woman's life so that others might live and descended down the mountain to the land below where he awaited the coming waters."

"I do not understand why they would have a hard time, Elder." Sparrow says, brows to furrow for a moment as he speaks of her mother and the way she might be seen. The dirt in her hand has taken shape, slowly does it move from a mere clump of packed earth, to something more, a figure of an animal, her mother's favorite - beside the sparrow, of course. She doesn't even realize she's doing it, this play as she speaks with him there upon the mesa. "sometimes, I think she will walk in the door. At other times, I am almost glad she is not around to see what is going on these days." The words are almost whispered as if ashamed for the very thought.

Again, the story gains her attention, her quiet respect, and as it continues, she turns to him to watch as he speaks of the Towa's request, and that of the Grandmother who gives her life to save the children.

"Because they loved your mother," Laughing Coyote says heavily, "because they felt deeply for her loss. They love you just as much, though it troubles them to be reminded of the woman that has passed from their lives so quickly. Your mother, she was special… and special to all our kin. They do not realize, or perhaps they fail to consider, that the way they avert her name around you hurts both equally." There's a momentary hesitance, and Laughing Coyote reaches down to grab a handful of the loose dirt atop the mesa, lifting it up in an open palm into the air, and letting thin streams of it fall from between his fingers. "Much in the way sand flows in the wind, so too at times must you flow like the sand— move on and find a place."

Much as sand moves and shifts, so too does Coyote's words. He changes back to the story, bringing it to its close. "So the waters came, great and mighty, and washed over the land to flood all the canyons and valleys deep. The water washed away the apparition, swallowed him whole. For her sacrifice, the Grandmother was changed and transformed, to live on in those great depths as Kolowisi the serpent," one of the mythic figures of Zuni folklore, "and so did the oldest of the surviving priests of the Towa tell this story."

His eyes avert down to the falling sand where it hits the mesa. "The priest told his people, that the great spirits has grown angry because of their lack of brotherhood, because of their lack of heart. So he told to his people, that people of the same clan should be as brother and sister. When one suffers, all should help to shoulder the burden. Man and woman should work together, for the better of the clan and the land and the honor of those who had come before." His eyes close, feeling the cool breeze on his face as the temperature begins to drop with the sun gone. "And so they were, like brother and sister. Only through their great calamity, through great loss of life, would they learn to live together in harmony."

And so, in a way, Laughing Coyote's story finds a moral to it. One ever so relevant, in its own meandering way.

"I know they loved her as I did, and still do." Sparrow murmurs quietly, "I would tell them to not hold back speaking of her, but I find myself not wishing to cause them unease." And so the cycle continues, perhaps. As he picks up the sand, she watches as it spills from his fingers, to be thrown to the wind to be carried off in a puff of dust, while that which is held in her own hand, has found new life as a small jackrabbit that now huddles in her palm.

Turning as he continues to speak, she listens and nods her head hear and there, though as it comes full circle, she wonders, "Do you believe that it is happening again? " Laying the rabbit aside, she leans forwards, hands to be pressed against the dirt as she murmurs, "The world is changing. I'm not sure what I should do. Do I leave here? Leave all of you unprotected? Or do I stay, as my mother would have wished me too? " She wonders, soon to turn towards the elder, "There is so much going on out there… things will not be as they were before."

"Nothing is ever as it was before, Sparrow." Turning his hand to the side, Laughing Coyote allows the last few grains of sand to spill from his weathered palm. "Everything changes, such is the way of life. Your mother felt that change, deep down in her heart," his dark eyes lift up to her, creased at the edges and below with such heavy signs of age, "just as you feel it too." A tired smile crosses the old man's face, and he reaches out to lay one heavy hand down on the young woman's shoulder, squeezing it gently. "You must find your own path, not what others would want for you, but what is true to yourself."

As the hand moves away, Laughing Coyote stares across the divide and a distant expression. "Everyone goes on a journey, when it is their time. Everyone finds their way, when the spirits come calling for them." He turns to look up to the sky, stars now visible in pinpricks of white against the dark canvas. "Do what your heart tells you is right, and nothing more, nothing less. And you will be true to yourself." He smiles, wryly, "It is what your mother did, and she chose well."

"I do not wish to leave.." Sparrow offers, only to take a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment as his hand comes to rest on her shoulder, "This is home.. and where I feel closest to mother." Such an admission is made quietly as the darkness blankets the land around them, the moon and stars to give light to the two seated there in such serious conversation. turning finally, she once again looks to the elder as he offers a squeeze to her shoulder. "If I do that, then I will be called to leave soon.. I have a feeling on that."

But soon, as his hand is moved, and he continues, she sighs and nods quietly, "I will try my best to follow my heart, even when it seems undecided at times. Or wars with my head on what I should do. My feet aren't ready to leave here yet." That she is certain on, if nothing else. Laughing, she draws her feet up, knees to her chest, and arms to circle around them. Toes curl in the dirt, feeling the warmth of the sun that lingers there in the earth now that the moon has come up.

"Neither are mine…" Laughing Coyote says in a hushed tone of voice. There's a smile, hesitant, on his lips as he looks at the moonlight and dips his head down into a nod as Sparrow looks up. "Stay here, for now, and watch the stars with me, young Sparrow. Take your time and learn to pull up your roots, for when the world tells you it is time to move, you may not have time to pick up your feet before it is urging you to run." Words spoken out of sympathy, in a way, and also regret.

"We will watch the stars together, play with the moon." Knowing then what she does now, Sparrow might have lingered longer and listened to one more story from Laughing Coyote. Nearly three years since then, everything gets put into a different perspective, read by a different light. But the signs were all there, in that conversation had in the twilight of the day, before a long and dark night.

Laughing Coyote died the next day.

Sometimes, when the call to move comes. You answer; ready or not.

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