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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Old Woodland Cree Story


meet Flower and Snoopdog, my granddaughter's best friends. Flower looks like a cat, but he isn't really. my daughter found him years ago, a very young kitten, nearly frozen to death (he only has 1/2 his tail as a result) in a parking lot in -35 degree weather. So Snoop, being a gentle little guy, took him under his wing, so to speak, and mothered him. As a result, Flower thinks he's a dog, and they're inseparable.

Seraphine just posted a picture of a much loved, and recently deceased pet, and her usual gentle tongue in cheek commentary on the state of things, which brought to mind a story a friend told me years ago. she was working on a degree of some kind, and studying Cree traditions. most of the first nations people in this part of Canada are Cree. Woodland Cree, specifically, in northern Alberta. So in her research, she came across this story, which she told to me.

it seems that in the days before memory, dogs and cats were very good friends. they enjoyed each other's company and lived peaceably in villages alongside each other. their lodges often stood side by side. on this particular day, the dogs were having one of their clan meetings in their lodge, and the cats went about their business as usual. now, at that time, dogs were very fastidious creatures. not only did they wipe their feet before entering the lodge, keep all of the firewood well away from the fire pit for safety, and NEVER leave their bones laying about the place, but they also removed their bung holes before entering the lodge, and they hung them on a special many-branched pole that was erected just for that purpose outside the door of the lodge.

cats had a mischievous side then, just as they have now. in fact they were well known in the villages as tricksters. on this particular day, one particular cat didn't have enough to do. he'd caught a fish and eaten it, groomed his fur, and sharpened his claws, had a nap in the sun, and there was still a whole lot of day left to fill. he strolled past the lodge where the dogs were meeting, and he heard them all discussing matters of import inside. for a while he watched the patterns the smoke coming through the smoke hole in the centre of the lodge roof made against the clear, calm sky. and as he rubbed against the pole in the lodge entry, he looked up and saw the bung holes. just as he had many times before. just where they always were when the dogs were meeting. but on this particular day, those bung holes gave the cat an idea.

with a delighted flick of his tail, the cat ran to the door of the lodge. he poked his head behind the skin covering the doorway, and shrieked, "Fire, fire, the lodge is on fire!" then he darted out of the way to hear and see the fun. from inside the lodge, the dogs took up the cry of "Fire, fire!" and crashed into each other, and into the support poles of the lodge in their panic to get out of the single doorway. there were yelps and growls, yips and howls such as had never been heard in the village before. by the time the first dog's snout was thrust out the doorway, a crowd had gathered outside. as he raced to safety with others snapping at his heels, the first dog out snatched the first bung hole that came within his reach and put it on. the second dog out did likewise, until everyone was safe and accounted for.

when they realized they had been tricked, they were relieved that their lodge was not harmed, but they were not pleased. and there was a loud hue and cry to find the culprit who had so disrespectfully interrupted their important meeting. of course it was a cat, but WHICH cat? they never found out, because just when they were getting all worked up about a possible conspiracy, they realized that they'd all put on the wrong bung hole.

and they've been checking each other out ever since, in an effort to get their own back.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Frosty says "Farewell!"

he's shrinking, and his proboscis has abandoned ship. it  was actually in the act of deserting as the photo was snapped!  winter, usually an evil tempered hag by march, is suspiciously mild just now.  no doubt she's in lamb's clothing. it's an ill fit. she'll shed her unwelcome skin any day now. be assured that we'll be seeing the lion bare its fangs before april lifts her sweet face.  the streets and pathways are a sheet of ice each morning, and a torrent or a quagmire by the evening meal.   the heat of the sun on bared skin is a lover's tenderest kiss. buds of tree and shrub are pregnant with summer-to-come, in the latter, much swollen phase of gestation, where even a cautious sidewise glance brings empathetic discomfort.  winter, the deceitful harpy, isn't finished with any of them yet. she'll have one last bite at the naked skin so newly caressed, and do her best to abort the unborn green yearning for life. 

but she hasn't beat us yet.