odemin giizis Nokomis
by waaseyaa'sin christine sy
it’s cold enough for a hot cup of tea tonight. nodin, which picked up around here mid-day, cleared the humidity and now, as Nokomis climbs the southeast sky, has brought some cold air.
closed the windows and turned up the heat. cardigan and mukluks; cold nose and toes.
we wanted to ceremony her, us women. we wanted to and we will in our own way. the wind here in the city is too strong, the fire pit too open. do something later in the coming days.
coming days falling away too soon. this will be the last time i witness her glow fall full through my bedroom window. i’ve enjoyed her for five years here. going to miss her gaze through the tree limbs of all seasons.
i wanted to ceremony her anyway, despite the strong wind and no ishkode. went to look for her in the driveway. saw her reflection in the night sky over the tops of apartment buildings. circled around back; cloud coverage, despite nodin. i came back inside to warmth. still wanted to lay eyes on her and i wanted to and wanted to raise up my words and thanks and asemaa.
went back out looking again.
walked to the road, the edge of the fence line, beyond our buildings and the neighbouring buildings. i knew she was up and out from behind clouds: the sky above the apartment roofs and treetops was glowing, just glowing all vast.
i walked to the road, the edge of the fence line and there, there she was. looked and my neighbour was there, in the yard, taking care of her puppy. Come here. Did you see the moon?
us. there. so beautiful.
primordial blanket, comfort. a prayer. there she was, Sky Woman manifested as a celestial being. three billion years old or so and there she was, still.
i went to get my girl. Bizhaan. Let’s go see her. Get your tobacco.
we walked to the road, the edge of the fence line and there, there she was behind a thick wall of cloud. She won’t be out anytime soon.
Let’s put our asemaa down anyways. We know she’s there.
Ahaaw. Chi amiigawech nokomis gaa miizhyaang bimaadiziwin, minobimaadiziwin.
walking across the lawn, worry races through my mind about what the world will be like for my girl as an adult woman. i rush to tell her to never forget Nokomis. she is always there. she’s been there for us for so long. we returned to the warmth on this night in odemin giizis. brrrr.
so very brrrrr.
i thought of Basil Johnston’s words about Nokomis. recalled how important that part of the story was to me when i first read it. comforted and assured. i thought of his words and wanted to retrieve and share:
Many years later when the first Anishnaabeg had grown up and spirit woman [Sky Woman] was certain of their survival, she called her children to her. She told them that she was returning to the Land of Peace, to her proper place of abode. She also told them that when they had lived out their term of life and had done sufficient good in life, they too would leave their bodies in the Land of the Living and go to the Land of Peace as soul-spirits, and live there in another way.
Then the spirit woman ascended into the sky to return to her home. Thereafter the Anishinabeg remembered the first of Mothers, Nokomis (Grandmother) whenever the moon gave light. At the same time, they remembered the primacy of women, who bore the unique gift of life, for it was through woman that the cycle – creation, destruction, re-creation – was completed. For her special gift of giving life and being, woman had a special place in the order of existence….*
She’s been there for us for so long. Since almost the beginning. It is everything.
* Basil Johnston, Ojibway Heritage (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [originally published Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976]): 16-17.