Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hike in the Wichitas

I went hiking in the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma this last summer. Trails through the hills around Lost Dog Lake. I eventually worked my way back down to a running stream cutting through a small canyon. I sat at the edge, the continuous rush nearly drowning out distant booms from artillery training at Fort Sill, an army base on the other side of this wildlife refuge.

I pulled out a pouch of chewing tobacco and sprinkled a pinch on the ground. It was an offering to the Creator, like my Delaware Indian friend Mike Watkins showed me. I then put a three-fingered plug in my mouth and settled back on the flat, seat-shaped rock where I perched. The season’s record amounts of rain kept runoff endlessly trickling down through the striations in the canyon’s wall. When I focused on certain protruding rocks, I saw faces. Strong noses with slits above resembling squinting eyes. Slits below looked like puckered mouths.

Change is slow. Anything of worth occurs over millions of years. Our 70-something years of water over these stones would barely graze them.

Before returning to the trail, I tossed my juicy wad of tobacco to the edge of the water. It betrayed a wholeness, but it was merely several shreds loosely held together by minutes in my warm cheek. The current lapped against the wad regularly every few seconds, and the whole separated into pieces easily ushered downstream. Soon there was nothing, and I lost sight of the shreds amid all the other dark brown specks in the silty streambed. But I couldn’t shake the thought that each one held part of me. Part of my DNA.

A piece of the whole became a piece of the whole.

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