CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

August 10, 2008

RAINBOW’S END Part 1


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS
RAINBOW’S END Part 1

     Rushing Waters hobbled away from the fire, stumbling occasionally as sweat prevented his wrinkled hand from grasping a walking stick. Although he took care not to lose water from the cup he held in his other hand, sporadic droplets spilled onto the rich soil or escaped to moisten one of the many rocks cropping up from the pits of the land.

     From the fire to the oak tree roots was only twenty paces. This distance would have meant nothing to his former strong muscles, but now…now, in his fortieth spring, he wondered whether he would reach his destination. During frequent pauses he forced air deep within his lungs while staring at the oak tree, a tree so big it couldn’t be wrapped in his arms. Its leaves provided a shady canopy for several shrubs whose blanket of pink blossoms moved the depths of his soul, empowering his agonizing steps. He stopped at one plant, the shrub the Europeans called Mountain-Laurel (the name is hyphenated to indicate it’s biologic classification as a member of the heath rather than the laurel family). It was one and a-half times taller than he was. He picked a handful of leaves, which he added to his cup. He needed to take only another step or two to reach his goal.
 
     Although no human eye saw his face, its calm expression belied searing bodily pain as he lowered himself gently onto the soft spring ground where his blanket lay.

     After setting his cane neatly beside him he settled back, relishing the tree’s support before checking the contents of his cup. Sufficient liquid remained to accomplish his purpose because he’d planned a strong and overly-plentiful brew. Steadying the cup in both hands, he gazed at the floating leaf fragments. 

     He’d once compared Mountain-Laurel to a beautiful woman whom every man desired, one whose beauty surpassed that of all other women, yet whose deerskin concealed a dagger fatal to man. The springtime Mountain-Laurel shrub, shrouded in pink, was exquisite above all other plants, and a favorite of both the Lenapes, his people, and the Europeans. Yet its hundreds of tiny, delicate, cup-like blossoms deceived man by camouflaging a strong poison within the plant. Even eating honey made from its blossoms or meat taken from animals that grazed on the leaves was toxic to man. Nevertheless, medicine men like Rushing Waters understood how to bypass this toxicity while using the plant as a remedy for common ailments.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/2767214810/in/photostream/)

     Rushing Waters recalled learning about Mountain-Laurel when he was a toddler living in Pennsylvania’s upper Susquehanna. Although its blooms caught his eyes, it was the stems that intrigued and dared him. He accepted their challenge to crawl through them with the fervor of a two-year old, but soon lost interest because their entangled thickness was impenetrable even to his small body. He reached up and plucked a leaf, almost twice the length of his hand, off the plant. Its waxy, leathery dark-green surface contrasted with its light green underside. He moved it towards his mouth for a taste-test. Just as his teeth sank into it, it was grabbed it out of his hands.

     “Never, never, eat those leaves,” his grandmother scolded. “Their poison will kill you! And don’t sample the blossoms either. They’ll make you very ill!”
 
     After admonishing him to keep Mountain-Laurel out of his diet, his grandmother held him tenderly and told him his birth story. On a mid-June day in 1711 his mother experienced such a difficult labor that even the heavy rains of a raging storm barely caught her attention. The downpour abated during his delivery, and at the moment of his birth sunlight swathed the land. His mother’s spirit was renewed and freshened by miniature rainbows created by sun’s rays reflecting off the water droplets caught in the tiny blossom-bowls of a nearby Mountain-Laurel. Her strong, loudly bellowing son received the name Sun’s Rainbow, which he bore until he became an adult.

To continue reading Rainbow’s End click on: RAINBOW’S END Part 2.

ADDITIONAL READING:

THUNDER MOUNTAIN LENAPE NATION POWWOW

MOONSTONE RHYMES

KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 1

IT’S NOT THAT SMALL A WORLD

KILLED STRANGELY: A NEW ENGLAND MURDER STORY

BEAR STORIES ACROSS THE NATION 

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

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