As Far as the Sky Can See

The sun sets early in the mountains. Gathering firewood takes almost all of my time. I am wearing a fur hat and flannel pajamas at night, and drawing pictures with coloured pencils of the brass bed and the view out the window. I decide to go to South Dakota to see Wounded Knee and the Crazy Horse Monument. My neighbour Joe says he has an old friend there, she teaches. He calls her, she says I can come. Driving north through Fort Collins up to Wyoming, across the Nebraska panhandle, a stop at Scottsbluff, then on through Nebraska. I see a rainbow ten miles from Chadron, and slow down the car at the side of the road to look. The teacher is waiting for me outside of her apartment. We hug, she’s made dinner. She takes me downstairs to the bathroom, where there’s a space heater warming up the room and a hot bath prepared for my arrival. November is very cold on the plains.

We have dinner together, and she introduces me to some women she has invited over. One of the women is native. We talk and visit, then the native woman says a person who has a high vibration rarely comes through these parts, and they all need to take advantage of that. I have never heard anything of that nature said about me before, and I don’t know how to respond. She asks if I would teach yoga the next evening, they heard I was coming and have arranged a class. When I arrive, fifteen women are sitting on cushions waiting for the class to begin. The next morning we drive northbound over the border from the badlands of Nebraska to South Dakota. We stop the car to take pictures as a wild antelope herd leaps over the highway and across the hills.   

At Pine Ridge, my teacher friend lends me her car, and I visit the Crazy Horse Monument and the site of the Wounded Knee massacre. Back in the school lunchroom I ask the teachers where I can buy Indian crafts. It’s November and all the stores are closed. Children are huddled in winter coats in the schoolyard. Their surnames honour Sioux heritage, Red Cloud, Bear Killer, Yellow Bird, Kills Straight, One Feather, Jumping Eagle, White Thunder. In the hallway, I am approached quietly by a young man. I couldn’t help but overhear that you’re looking to buy crafts. There’s an elderly woman, ninety years old, she lives at the end of the road, you can tell her I sent you. I drive to her house on the reservation at the edge of town. A Lakota woman with long grey hair past her waist answers the door. I tell her who sent me, I am from Canada, can I look at your crafts?                    

Eagle paintings are on the walls, the house is small and carefully kept. She brings out a suitcase, opens up her treasures, and I pick a yellow and orange eagle hairclip, hand-painted and beaded. I have my own hand-painted tipi, I tell her. Come back in the summer, she says, there’s lots of room, you can put it up right here in the backyard. She takes me outside behind her house, where the wide open prairie stretches for miles as far as the sky could see. With my hair gathered in the eagle clip, I drive 300 miles back to Colorado through the cold winds, blizzards and tumbleweeds, leave the car in Boulder, take a bus to Nederland, and hitchhike the rest of the way to Eldora. My cabin stands at 8,800 feet. I light a fire, look up at the mountains glittering with snow miles into the distance, as far as the sky can see, as far as the sky can see.