A story by shirleytwofeathers
Buffalo Child was born on the evening of the day of a great storm. A hard rain came down in sheets, bringing earthworms up out of the soil, and sending raccoons scurrying home to their dens. The ground all around the birth mother had turned to mud, and was so deep and thick that Buffalo Child had a very hard time standing up.
Her birth mother tried to nudge her to her feet, but Buffalo Child just rolled over. She rolled over so many times that thick mud stuck to her birth damp coat, and became very heavy. Finally, with great difficulty, Buffalo Child stood up. She looked around for her birth mother, but everything was the color of brown earth. Thick mud covered Buffalo Child’s eyes, and she did not recognize anything. She could not see which of the dark shapes in front of her was her mother.
Buffalo Child moved hesitantly toward the dark shapes, and as she did, her confidence grew. Surely her mother was the tallest, most magnificent of all the shapes she saw before her. On unstable legs, she ran forward, running right into the thick brown shape she thought was her mother. But it wasn’t her mother that she was running towards. It was an old cottonwood tree, and it hit her hard between the eyes. Buffalo Child cried out, thinking that her mother had struck her. The tears washed some of the mud and dirt out of her eyes, and she saw that her mother was not the tree.
The other Buffalo Mothers were dismayed. They saw the newborn Buffalo Child run into the old cottonwood tree, they saw that she was lost and stumbling, and so they moved into a protective circle around her. Her birth mother once again nudged Buffalo Child and this time, with awkward shaky steps, she found her mother. Buffalo Child suckled sweet milk, and she felt love, and it was good.
Buffalo Child was never able to see clearly, and the thick mud that had formed around her when she was born soon hardened. It was very heavy, and caused her to grow in an unbalanced way. Her mother was patient at first, but their bond was not as strong as it might have been, and it was very hard to be the mother of a child who was half blind and unable to walk in a straight path. Buffalo Child was always bumping into rocks and tripping over thick clumps of prairie grass, and blundering into thickets of thorn bushes. The other mothers soon lost interest in this strange child; they grew tired of looking for her when she was lost. They had their own children to worry about. They had their own concerns.
And so it was, that Buffalo Child often went hungry, she had no safe place to sleep at night, no kind words were spoken, and her life grew cold and lonely. She no longer felt love, and did not often taste the sweetness of mother’s milk.
The leader of the tribe, a great White Buffalo, watched Buffalo Child those first days of her life. His heart filled with compassion as he saw how the members of the tribe, and even her own birth mother, one by one fell away, until soon Buffalo Child had no one at her side, no one to show her where the sweet grass was, no one to lead her to the quiet watering holes, no one to pick her up and dust her off after a great fall. He saw that she was alone in the world and his heart opened to her. And he took it upon himself to be her father.
He named her Star Child, and licked her clean of mud and dust. He pulled burrs and thorns out of her thick coat, and soon it was clear that she was truly his daughter. Her robe, like his, was thick and white. The White Buffalo leader was kind to Star Child, and she called him Father. He waited patiently when she stumbled and fell; he stood guard over her as she slept; he taught her to find her way. In his care, she once again felt the sweetness of love, and it was good. But although she grew healthy and strong, and the dust and mud were gone, Star Child never regained her balance, and her eyesight was not clear.
One early morning, in the spring of the year, when a family of snow geese made a V in the sky, the Father took Star Child on a long walk. They crossed a small river, and stopped to enjoy the otters at play. Soon they came to a beautiful place, a place that was very close to the rising sun. Blades of sweet grass shone with gold on their edges. Somewhere a cougar made his presence known, and for a moment all was silent.
Star Child was very tired and sleepy after the long walk, so she lay down to rest in the tall golden grass. The White Buffalo Father stood quietly over her. He made a necklace of sweet grass and placed it around her neck. He wove a very small crystal into the fur on her forehead, and then he went away.
Star Child woke up to an eerie cry. She looked around for her Father, but he was gone. She looked toward the rising sun and saw a huge shape coming towards her in the sky, it looked swift and sure. She was very afraid, so she closed her eyes, and buried her head in the grass. She hoped that she would look like a large white rock. She hoped that whatever it was that was coming would fly on by.
But it didn’t.
The Great Mother of the Golden Eagles flew out of the rising sun toward Star Child. Her eyes were sharp and bright. She picked the Star Child up in her strong talons, and carried her to her nest high in the top of a tree that grew high on the top of a mountain right on the edge of the world. The nest was large and lined with golden down. Golden Eagle Mother set Star Child down in the nest. Her eyes were sharp and bright, but they were kind, and Star Child lost her fear.
The time that Star Child lived in the nest was a healing time. No one laughed at her, or made fun of her for falling down, or bumping into things. She didn’t get lost. It was easy to stay in the nest because the sides were tall and strong, made of sturdy sticks and branches. It was a secure place at the top of the world. And Star Child could look over the edge, and out into the world whenever she wanted.
Golden Eagle fed Star Child healing herbs. She brought fresh, mountain water. In the night, under the bright stars, Star Child nestled, contentedly under Golden Eagle’s strong wings, and listened to the rhythm of her strong heart. She thought of her as Mother. It was a safe and sacred time.
Soon, because of the healing herbs, and because of the love of the Golden Eagle Mother, Star Child began to see more clearly. She began to see more than just colors and shapes when she looked out into the world. She began to see green grass, and red hawks feasting on the mice that lived in the grass. She saw rivers, and ponds, and the lodges of beavers. She saw forests and trees, and the deer people who lived amongst the trees.
At first it was fun to be seeing so clearly. But after a time, Star Child began to miss the feeling of soft grass and the earth under her feet. She wanted to bury her nose in flowers just like the hummingbirds she saw from her high perch at the edge of the world. She wanted to walk with fireflies in the evening time, and listen to owls in the night.
She looked toward the northern plains, and she saw the White Father, and she saw his gentle eyes, and knew his love. She saw her Birth Mother, and how it was with her, and the other Buffalo Mothers, their children, and the great Buffalo Tribe, and her heart was filled with an aching sadness. But she knew that in this great high place she was loved, that the Golden Eagle Mother loved her deeply and fiercely, and she herself had great love for the Mother of Eagles. So Star Child decided to forget about her sadness, she made a gift out of her precious necklace of sweet grass and gave it to the Mother. She decided to try to be happy.
The Golden Eagle Mother was pleased with the gift, but she was not fooled. She was ancient and wise in the way of children. And she knew what was best for Star Child. So one day, when the sun stood tall in the center of the sky, she took Star Child out of the nest and flew with her down to a place where the grass was thick and lush, where fat gray rabbits lived in warrens under the ground; a place of rivers filled with salmon; and where families of wolves hunted and sang in the night.
She gently set Star Child down in the soft green grass. And she said, “I love you, and I will watch over you always. My light will shine on you, no matter where you go, no matter where you are.” And with that, she flew back to her nest by the place where the sun rises.
Star Child was alone. She was a little bit scared, and a little bit sad. Star Child was alone. She was a little bit scared, and a little bit sad, but she was also excited and happy to be in this new place. Rabbits peeked out of their holes, curious about this stranger whose white robe was now tipped with gold. They were very impressed.
As soon as Star Child saw their little rabbit faces peeking out of the ground, she scrambled quickly to her feet. She was eager to make new friends. But even though her vision was good, her balance was still very bad, she was still unable to walk a straight path, and the first thing she did was run into a large rock and fall down. The rabbits laughed and laughed. They rolled on the ground laughing. Star Child saw that their laughter was filled with joy and fun, and she started laughing too.
Coyote heard the laughter and immediately came to investigate. And what he saw filled him with amazement. In front of him was a buffalo calf, with gold tipped white fur, rolling on the ground, with rabbits, laughing. He watched quietly. Soon the laughter stopped, the rabbits went back to their rabbit business, and Star Child stood up. She was hungry and began to munch on the grass.
Coyote noticed that the buffalo calf walked in a strange sideways, stumbling fashion. She seemed to know where she was going, but she was unable to walk a straight path, and sometimes she fell down. He began to follow Star Child around. He did everything she did. When she crashed into a tree, he crashed into a tree. He became her shadow. It was great fun.
And Star Child was very comforted to find that she had a shadow companion. Soon they became friends. Star Child told Coyote her story, and Coyote showed Star Child the way of the world. They had many adventures. Star Child discovered that if she followed Coyote as like a shadow, that it was OK to fall down, and that sometimes it was a great and wonderful joke. Sometimes they both fell down on purpose just to have a good laugh.
From Coyote, Star Child learned how to get out of a tight spot, how to talk her self out of big trouble, how to enjoy the surprises of life, and that there is bitter and sweet in every experience. Coyote taught Star Child the language of flickers, how to get the Grandfather of the Fishes to guide you out of deep water and back to dry land, and how brown bears find honey. It was a powerful time, a time of companionship and trust. Star Child called Coyote brother, and they were friends.
One day, late in the summer, Coyote took Star Child on the road toward the place of the setting sun. Towards evening, they came to a cave. Star Child curled up in a comfortable corner of the cave and went to sleep. While she slept, Coyote kept watch. He built a small fire and burned some sage. He sang to the stars, and the stars sang back. Then Coyote left a bundle of sage next to his friend and left.
When Star Child woke up it was very dark and cold. The fire had gone out a long time before. She was alone and very afraid. She called out to Brother Coyote, but he did not reply. She called out to the Mother of the Eagles, and to the Father of the Buffalo, and still there was no reply. The cave was dark, and cold, and silent. She picked up the bundle of sage, and held it to her heart. It did not speak to her either.
She wandered around in the dark for a very long time. Sometimes she bumped into walls; sometimes she fell over rocks. Nothing was funny, and she got very lost. Finally, Star Child sat down and cried. She let the tears flow. She cried for her lost tribe, for the Father, Mother, and Brother who were lost to her. She cried for herself because she was lost, and alone, and afraid. After a while, she ran out of tears. She was tired and exhausted from the wandering, the falling, and the crying, so she did not know what to do.
Suddenly she heard a loud rumbling noise. It sounded like thunder. Star Child stood up, her legs were shaking so much that she almost fell down. But she clutched the bundle of sage that Coyote had left for her. There in the middle of the cave was a huge brown mound of fur. The fur was thick and dark and shot thru with the gray hairs of age. One eye opened, and then the other.
Grandmother Grizzly looked right into Star Child’s heart. She looked past the fear, she looked past the stumbling and the fumbling, and she saw a sweetness and a light. She saw the sweetness of tall prairie grass, the light of golden sunshine, and she saw a story, and a friendship, and fun.
Star Child looked back. She forgot that she was frightened. She saw a Grizzly Bear, and she also saw wisdom, depth of feeling, and a heart as big as the world. “Hello Grandmother,” she said.
“Hello Little One.”
Star Child gave Grandmother the bundle of sage that she had in her hand. The gift was accepted with a smile. Grandmother invited Star Child to sit down. Star Child was very tired after wandering around for so long in the dark, and from the falling, and the crying, and soon she was curled up next to Grandmother Grizzly. There, in that safe warm place, Star Child fell very deeply asleep. She dreamed many dreams. Star Child dreamed of things she had never seen, of the great Whale Tribe that lives deep in the ocean. She saw visions, and she explored the dark time realm. Sometimes she would wake up, and wander through the cave. She talked to the shy mice that nested in hidden places, and to the ants that occasionally visited. If she found water or food, she shared it with them and with Grandmother.
Always when she slept she had dreams, and when the dreams frightened her, she moved closer to Grandmother for comfort, solace, and strength. It was a dark and quiet time. The depth of love was great.
And then, one day, Grandmother woke up. She thanked Star Child for spending time with her, for bringing her food and water through the long sleep. “Now you must go home,“ she said. “I will go with you in your dreams. I will be with you as you sleep, and beside you when you wander in the dark.”
Grandmother Grizzly stretched and growled. She stood up tall and strong, and she pushed hard on the side of the cave. The rock wall gave way with a shout and a roar. Sunlight streamed in.
For a time, Star Child was blinded and disoriented. She walked out into the world, and her vision cleared. It was the fall season; the air was crisp. Ravens spoke to her from the trees, and a snake slipped under the dry leaves into his safe hole in the ground. She looked back to say goodbye to Grandmother, but the cave was gone. She looked around, in the distance Star Child saw a herd of Elk, and beyond the snow covered hills, she saw sweet grass, and yes… Buffalo grazing.
Star Child made her way toward the Tribe. She noticed as she went, that she was able to walk a straight and narrow path, that she was not running into trees, or stumbling into bushes, or getting lost in thickets of brambles and weeds. Quietly and surely, she made her way toward the place where the Buffalo stood grazing, toward her birth mother, her birth brothers and sisters.
In the distance she heard Coyote laughing, so she stopped and waited for him to catch up. As she waited, she looked toward the east and saw the Great Mother of Eagles, and the Sun to touched her face. She heard dolphins singing. She walked toward the north, toward the White Buffalo Father, who smiled to see her again.
And so Star Child came home. But no one recognized her. Her robe had turned to a deep rich brown during her time in the cave; her eyes were clear and gold in color; there was a white star on her forehead; and the scent of sage followed her like a shadow. They called her Buffalo Woman. She lived quietly among her people. Sometimes she told stories, sometimes she fell down just for fun, and always she took care of the children.