like walking into something sacred

by waaseyaa'sin christine sy

imagine you head to the woods as a form of medicine for a grumpy bear whose had too many days off from ekinomaagegamig because of holidays for racist presidents. imagine how you know that this medicine always works for grumpy bears even if they are this side of being a teenager fixated to social media and pop culture and adamate they will not go to the woods, get fresh air and sunlight and they will definitely not be putting on snowshoes. imagine chuckling at them, reminding them that being on the land is always a good thing for them and how they always get giddy from it. imagine a grunt or two and frown because they’ve been told no more social media or technology until fresh air, moving body, sunlight. and then imagine how you’re not even to the woods yet, you’re just this side of the busy city where you live, and the energy shifts. immediately. it’s like your whole car starts to float. by the time you’re parked and out of the car…well, imagine a bear in snowshoes, of their own accord and inspiration.

it’s like walking into something sacred but not really because this is just common sense for people: the land rejuvenates us. anishinaabeg know this. many people who allow themselves to be connected to the land know this.

all this and then imagine you go this way and that way, baa baa baa’in around. bee boppin’ around the forest in your snowshoes checking this out and that. lots of achidimo tracks and thwacks of thin, flexible branches between big trees; pellets of waaboose poo here and there and you see where they all nom-nom-nom; a woodpecker; catch a few tag alongs; the bright red of two sumac buds catch your eye—a shot of colour on a monotone yet gratifying landscape—and a few bunches of black coloured berries hang from trees and you smile knowing the birds don’t even have to say please. then you see a wee ravine and on the way down you look around, notice the action, lots of tracks on the top of hard crusted snow, and deep below this layer, too. other snowshoe-ers? skiers? an elaborate community of squirrels and rabbits?

you go, you go, you go. you notice the tips of horse’s tail are all eaten off—looking around and yes, this area is filled with horse’s tail—and the snow has melted down enough for the tops of them to emerge. you go, you go, you go and then you stop dead. there before you, two oval-shaped depressions in the snow—a big one and a little one—with ice on the bottom. you look around quickly and see a few more close by and say to that bear,

“Oh, hey! I think waawaashekshiwag were bedding down here.” and that bear says without skipping a beat,

“Yep. That’s them, mom. See the poo? They do that. They poo and then they lay down on it before they go to sleep.”

hmmm. sure enough. yes. waawaashkeshi poo. all over. you look around some more and there were other fresh markings of where they bedded down. seven in total with a few older ones covered in a light dusting of snow. all over, the tips of horsetail nipped off.

it was like walking into something sacred. seeing where mama and her young one laid beside each other and another two, close together but not far from them. there in that peaceful dip in the land, that gentle, quiet clearing. safe to eat and rest and rejuvenate. i thought if it were another time and place, i would come, with my gun. among many things, i miss learning to hunt, making, smelling, and eating venison stew but that’s another kind of sacred for another time. this place is here and now and there will be no hunting in regulated nature parks. no. none of that kind of living. i looked around again. what a beautiful place. especially for city folk. (being hungry and all changes a person’s perspective on things.)

what a beautiful, clear, quiet, crisp place.

i wondered what the curves of their bodies look like as sleeping silhouettes in the nighttime light of aanshin giizis, makwa giizis. the rhythmic, slight rise and fall of breath, in and out. does their warm breath make steam, rising up at bidaaban? do their eyelashes collect frost or do they curl their face into their bodies for warmth. i wondered what they dream about.

we snowshoed into something sacred, the place where deer nibble on plants and bed down for the night close to each other. i hoped our brief presence didn’t leave remnants that would deter others from doing the same. i wonder if there are any there now, sleeping.