“Nights in our desert were clear and cold,” Aaron can hear elder Katherine’s weathered voice whisper in his ear. They would stand on this humble knoll outside Thermal, CA, looking out over the valley towards the horizon for hours, drawing meager jackets in close to their chests to fend off the bitter wind swirling around them.
As his grandmother imparted love and ancestral ways to the next generation, his heart denied that someday he would be the one to carry on the pride of their history with only the memory of her voice left as a marker.
She never stood in the way when he was bound for yet another reckless decision and was there to give the most crushing embrace when he had returned from learning his lesson, whether it was a scraped knee or a broken heart. And no one messed with his grandmother, she held everyone’s respect both inside and outside their dwindling tribe.
Perched on this hill her eyes would stare out across the terrain, recalling the endless desert of her childhood where her people roamed untethered. Her memories would float and dance in the brisk air, the stars shining above in the clear night sky. But that was all before the reservations, boarding schools and colonization that devastated the indigenous tribes of these lands.
Today it is just Aaron braced against the cold, standing in silence as his chest heaves with both sorrow and joy. Imagining the desert of his grandmother’s childhood just has she had done, her spirit now free once again to float and dance across its sand.
The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.-Maya Angelou