May 22

[Darkling Light]

Tomorrow I have to leave and already I am challenged by the wave of tears determined to engulf me. Such sadness never penetrated my youth, not even regarding Moondog. For many years we only saw each other in winter, and as adolescents for merely a few short weeks in summer. But the season of our lives had slowly, steadily changed to autumn. Gobetween had come like the bounty of a great harvest and I began to look at them with the sobriety of heart that speaks to the possibility of never seeing them again. It is admittedly foolish; I have commitments as do they and we will be intermittently rejoined as summer cycles around. And I am making this journey with my steadfast companion, Dancing Grass.

I have spent a significant portion of my life with him. He had had such a devastating childhood, one not survivable by most accounts that he was handed over to the Bards before he was ten. Most have the opportunity to cultivate their lives before circumstances triangulate so uniquely that Bardic tradition claims them as their own. Dancing Grass is unique, as wide-eyed and innocent as a child but in the vicinity of my own age. He is peculiar, naïve, and wholly brilliant. His are the senses of ancestral spirits, capable of comprehending the nuances of the human condition. He can detect subtlety in word, disposition, or stance utterly invisible to all else. Dancing Grass can read an entire life in the simplest gesture. He is the quintessential sign reader of the soul and indispensable to me. I rely on him heavily to understand any task required to resolve dismay.  Placed at my side as our earliest apprenticeships were drawn to a close we have been together for twenty-five years, perhaps longer.

And yet somehow Dancing Grass manages a separate life as well. We never discuss it, or my life with Moondog and Gobetween. Dancing Grass simply disappears, showing up again as soon as I am conscripted to a new purpose. It is uncanny. I have no idea where he goes and never once sent out a call for his return. One morning he will just be sitting there waiting for me. Like Moondog, Dancing Grass is the dearest of friends. They know each other well even though they have never spent anything more than early morning moments together before Dancing Grass and I depart again.

He is a tall man much like Longbow, thin but powerfully built. In the winter when I embody Clan Female, Dancing Grass defers to me, hauling my gear, building our fires, and pulling down our camps when we are on the move. But summer is different, the world of virility when I braid my hair, wear leggings and a loincloth, and relish the tests of bow and arrow along with power packed endurance. Although much shorter than Dancing Grass I have a distinctly male structure; I am strong, all traits and behaviors concealed by women’s clothing in the winter. Then my bones and muscles scream for exertion inappropriate and generally impossible for women’s diminutive frames. I relish the physicality of summer and pull my own weight with Dancing Grass.

Conversely Moondog and Gobetween excel in winter. Cold and snow are the elements in which they thrive. They revel in the leanness and the contrast of the frigid gorge and the fire of the Little Twin. Then their awareness is as honed as Burnt Knife’s black glass blades. And although never mentioned I sense during the languishing days of summer their longing to return to the Winter Wait. The season at hand is a blessing for them, pressed to prepare for the greatest ceremony we have rather than daydream about the dreamtime.

Moondog and Gobetween have built a magnificent and ingenious summer lodge for themselves. Although round, the roof descends like the roof of a lean-to. Without curving sides the wickerwork can be left open to combat the warmth of summer that they find so debilitating while the flat, downward sloping roof runs off the rain. The vertical circle of wicker could be sealed off for winter but it is likely that the lodge will be pulled down after the ritual. The accommodations inside are luxurious with a platform on which they pitch their dreamlodge and a beautiful firepit constructed of river stones. They have hauled enough rock to create a beautiful cobble floor. Here and there are stacks of baskets that contain their fancy clothes.

Gobetween intrigues me and I watch her intently. She continues to don the attire of an antelope buck in my behalf and she has a fine body. I find her intensely provocative. Moondog does as well. She is as much Bardic as anyone I have ever known, at ease in any setting as far as I can determine, and dressed comfortably in any style no matter how outlandish.

So I watch her, I watch her a lot. And she watches Moondog with a focus of attention that seems too intimate to be permitted in public. I watch him too, so savage no appetite for him could ever be satisfied. When the wild ones show up I watch her as she watches them. There is no shame in that; they present a magnificent display of muscle and sweat that pushes itself to the limit. And Moondog, as scantily clad as the rest, works just as hard beside them capturing every moment to instruct artistic excellence and the spirit of pulling a lodge out of the dirt. As my eyes shift from the ambitious group to Gobetween and back again I can see her eyes fixated first on Moondog’s glorious physique to the young ones stealing glances at the same iconic wonder. I can see them drawn to the tapestry cut into his back, visibly amazed and speculating, trying to grasp what shape a life would have to take to be both rawly physical and entirely transcended. They steal glances at his legendary Gobetween too, struggling to believe the assertions that she is nothing more than a phantom, made even more confounding should she touch them for some casual reason. The scene is a thing to behold.

On top of that is the accomplishment of the work itself. In one day a firepit is dug, a floor goes down, poles are sunk into the ground and lashed together in the crown, side supports are tied in, and wicker is woven. The lodge is then covered in evergreen boughs, smudged out with prayers, and sealed off before sunset. Moondog’s village will be built in a moon.

[Darkling Light]

Dawn remains yet a promise and we are moving down the river road. I feel like a child that has been wrenched from its mother’s arms. Moondog and Gobetween are still standing there, watching us make our way. I keep glancing back against all good judgement until they are finally out of sight.

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