“Oh Starlight,” exclaimed Falling Star, “that was so much fun! I’m exhausted but it was as if we were in some kind of battle, and then it was like we were flying over the water.” “I know, I felt it too!” replied Starlight. They talked for a while about each other’s family, and what had been going on with them, since it seemed like the people of both villages were all related one way or another to each other. Falling Star’s little sister, Raven, had fallen out of a tree and broken her arm, but Falling Star had managed to help her back to the longhouse, and had helped her aunt to set and bind the break. Starlight exclaimed in sympathy as the story unfolded.
They paddled along the waterway, admiring the broad silvery pathway that led the way through the forested banks. “Falling Star, I have some pretty big news myself. I was visited by the moon spirit three weeks ago and had my ceremonial sweat in the woman’s lodge!” “Starlight, that’s wonderful! Congratulations! That means we’re both women now!” exclaimed her friend, who had gone through the same rite of passage a few moons earlier. “I think that’s why my grannie and your auntie allowed us to go harvesting together, we are getting pretty grown up now” continued Starlight. “Yes, but you know what that means don’t you?” countered Falling Star. “No, what do you mean?” said Starlight. Falling Star continued, “Why, now they’ll want to marry us off, and I don’t know about you but all the boys around here are so, well, dull. They never do anything really exciting, like in those stories the elders tell around the fire.” “Now that you mention it” said Starlight, “I haven’t been much impressed either. Most of the boys I know are just boastful and arrogant, who push each other around and fight a lot. And they make all those disgusting noises!” “Hahaha”, laughed Falling Star. “You’ve got that right! And what about the smell!” she continued, which made them both laugh some more.
By now, they had swung around the last corner and the rapidly emptying tidal inlet spread out in front of them. Starlight shielded her eyes from the sun and saw the channel she was looking for. “Over there, Falling Star, over there” she said, pointing out the deeper water that marked the course of the creek that fed into the inlet. Eerily, the water around them continued to drop and the mud flats emerged around them. By sticking to the creek, they managed to traverse the last hundred paddle strokes and reach their destination, which was a little beach near the mouth of the creek. They ran the canoe up onto the bank and jumped out, hauling the canoe up as far as they could. Then they took the cedar plaited rope out from the bow of the canoe and fastened it to a tree. After securing the canoe they prepared their camp not too far away, making sure to cache their food high overhead. They knew they’d be tired when they finished their work so they took a few moments to gather some firewood and made sure that the slumbering coal was still glowing. Then they each took about half of the baskets they had brought, and their cutting tools, and set off on the trail that led through the fringe of trees that marked the creek, to the start of the expansive meadow they had come to harvest. The camas bloom was over but the regal purple flowers were still a sight to see, even if they were drying up in the summer heat. They fell to with the same hardworking spirit they had shown during the race with the tide. As they worked, they amused each other by making up verses to the harvesting song they were singing. After a while, the verses started to get stuck on certain male body parts, and pretending to be cutting them off like they were doing with the camas, which was funny at first but soon left them both a little embarrassed. “Gee, Falling Star, we were making fun of the boys for being as crude as they are, and now we’ve been doing the same thing pretty much.” “I know” she replied somewhat abashedly, “and we are supposed to be training to be healers. Let’s get back to work.” On and on they went, filling basket after basket with the precious morsels. Soon they had beaten a well-worn path back to the camp. As the long day finally surrendered to dusk and twilight, the girls brought in their last baskets of the day’s harvest. They took the basket with the coal over to their firepit and placed it carefully in the middle. Carefully, but with the assurance of experience they built the fire up into a cheery blaze. They shared each other’s food, and relaxed together after their long day. “That was awesome Starlight” said Falling Star, “I am tired but I had so much fun today and look at what we accomplished. All those baskets filled, all by ourselves!”
David Trudel © 2012