The wolf and the Georgia Mountains

The Cherokee believed that the sun was a young woman who lived in the East. The moon was her brother and lived in the west. Eclipses were believed to be caused by a giant frog that lived in the sky and tried to swallow the moon. The lightning and the rainbow were the dress of the sons of Thunder, who lived far in the west above the sky vault. Several different Cherokee stories exist to explain the stars. One was about a dog that stole corn meal, and once discovered, was whipped. As the dog ran howling to his home in the north, the meal scattered across the sky and made the Milky Way ~ Cherokee Myths and Legends by Lowell Kirk.

 

The lone wolf embarked on a long journey, one that would take her across the Georgia Mountains through the night. These mountains are rich with history of her native people, in particular their Trail of Tears journey. Her journey to learn more about herself, to become more than she was before she started. And the more she becomes, she believes, the more others around her would become, most importantly, the more her children would become.

She began her journey under the afternoon sun. During the day there were others around her. Other animals making their own journeys. Initially she took off a little too fast. Sun cautioned her with her heat,”you have a long journey ahead wolf, be smart” and she backed off to a more sustainable effort. She wanted to keep up with the lead pack ahead of her, but knew that was not wise. Very soon she was in the forest with single track trail before her, trees enveloping her and the sun peaking through, checking on her and keeping her in check as she went. She began to climb, swiftly and smartly. Squirrels scurried and lizards rustled leaves beside her. She remembered Cherokee legend legend of squirrels that were once much larger than humans...until the squirrel decided a human might be good to eat. The Creator got a little hacked off, and now the squirrel is small and eaten by man. The wolf ran up when she could and effort would allow, and shifted to a fast hike when running was no longer efficient.  On the first long downhill she moved well, legs with fast turnover flowing with the trail, passing other animals easily. This seemed to be her real strength. She seemed to have great comfort with the moderately technical downhill. She knew once the sun set, it would not be as easy to move fast down, so she took advantage, still paying attention to how her legs felt, knowing there would be much descending late in her journey and she would need her legs strong.

Along the next stretch, she had a bit of road running to do. Not much, 4 miles or so, but this was tough on her paws. They began to ache, her hips and left knee as well. She worried this would persist and really hinder her further on, as she was only 20 miles into her 55 mile journey. Fortunately, this all dissolved as she got her paws back on trail.

As night fell she was still moving well and feeling strong. In the dark, with less visual stimulation her attention turned to sounds. The trees rustled, encouraging her forward. Few small critters rummaging in the leaves, scattering at the sound of her paws trotting. She began climbing again, she had been solo for some time now. As she looked up, she saw a light...a headlamp she thought. She tried to figure how far ahead it was and if she was gaining on it or not. It danced between the trees, teasing her and laughing as she tried to hone in on it’s source. “It’s me, Moon!”.  “Aha, Hello there!”, wolf laughed at her error and wondered how long it had taken her to realize it was the moon she was chasing down! Moon was delighted to have so many out in the night running the trails underneath. Such rare and curious activity to see. Over 120 animals out running through the night! The trails were alive and the mountains were happy with all of the guests to share her wonders with. Wolf was no longer alone, Moon agreed to guide her and help light her way. He pointed out the wonders of the night, told her how the stars came to be and what a sight it was to see the dog spewing stars across the sky and yelping at his punishment for downing the corn meal. He spoke of his sister Sun, and how she was courted by a man who only came at night, and how she discovered his identity.

Wolf was distracted by the rustling next to her. She looked to see a possum rooting for insects. The moon laughed, “I saw you jump!”. The moon asked, “Did you know the possum used to have a big beautiful tale?”. He went on to tell the story of the possum…

 

Many years ago the possum had a big bushy tail He was so proud of it, he brushed it every morning and sang about it whenever the animals had a dance. The rabbit, who had had no tail since the bear pulled it out, became very jealous and decided to play a trick on the possum. The great council was planning a dance. It was the rabbit’s task to send the news to all the animals. He invited possum, and asked if he would be present. Possum said yes, but he would only come if he had a special seat. “I have such a handsome tail”. “I ought to sit where everyone can see me”. The rabbit promised a special seat and for someone to come and prepare his tail for the dance. The rabbit went to see cricket. The cricket was such an expert hair cutter, the Indians called him, “the barber”. The rabbit told the cricket exactly what to do.

In the morning the cricket went to possum’s house, “I have come to get you ready for the dance”. The cricket began to work on possum’s hair. First combing it, then cutting it...close to the root! As he clipped, he wrapped red ribbon around his tail to hold the loose hair in place.

When night fell possum arrived at the dance and found his special seat. When possum’s turn to dance came, he stepped in the middle of the floor, grinning ear to ear. The drummers began to drum and possum sang. “See my beautiful tail”. Everyone shouted, and this pleased possum, so he danced around the circle again and sang, “See what a fine color my tail is”. Everyone shouted again, and possum danced the circle once more, “See how my tail sweeps the ground!”. The animals shouted louder than before. The possum was delighted. Now to really show off his fur he untied the ribbon around his tail, singing, “See how fine the fur is around my tail!”

Suddenly everyone was laughing. They laughed so long, he looked around trying to figure out what they were laughing at. He looked back at his tail and saw there was not a hair left on it! It was as bare as the tail of a lizard! He was so surprised and embarrassed he did not say a word. He dropped to the ground, rolled over, and played dead, just as he does today when taken by surprise.  ~ Iteration compliments of Native American Legends, www.firstpeople.us

 

Wolf enjoyed the story told by moon and enjoyed the brief distraction from the rocky and rooty trail before her. Wolf continued to climb and descend finding rhythm and peace in her work. At around 35 miles she began to suffer some nausea and a very steep climb. She whimpered a bit as she looked up and saw how far up she would have to climb. She felt as though she were walking slowly in place. The moon encouraged her, “come along, let my light lead you”. The leaves rustled encouraging her to persist with her effort and not stop. The wind blew behind her to lift her spirits. Before long she crested the top and the moon shone bright. Now to work her way down. She was now well into the “Dragon Spine” section of the mountains, a 15 mile stretch of extremely rugged, overgrown, rocky, rooty trail. She tried to flow down and find a rhythm as she had done on the previous descents, but she found herself slipping on large limestone rocks that were moist from the recent rain/mist that enveloped the ridges intermittently earlier. Everything seemed to silence. For a while she no longer heard the sounds of the forest. As she descended she could not see the moon. She felt very alone. She missed a turn and went further down into the gap. She finally realized her mistake and turned around. Greeted by a steep climb and a foreign creature with a funny accent. She too had made the same mistake. We climbed back up together. Her journey would be far longer than mine, 100 miles, and therefore her pace slower. Once wolf was sure they were both on the right trail again she picked up her pace. Within minutes the trail disappeared again and she was off in the forest with no trail. With only her small lamp she searched and backtracked trying to find the trail again. She suddenly felt the forest enclose around her as if it just swallowed her in. For a moment she panicked, turning in circles trying to see a path. “listen”,the trees rustled, “Just go back the direction you came”.  Fortunately, she was back on the trail within just a few minutes. She was rattled though. With 10-15 miles to go and having made 2 mistakes in very rapid succession, she was fearful. She determined to ease up a little and really focus on her path. No more room for these kinds of errors, she thought.

She hit another climb which slowed her down and made it easier to focus on the trail ahead and see where she was going, not just keeping an eye on each footstep. The moon reappeared, “Got a little lost, eh?”, “It’s easy to do up here, trust yourself, you have made it many miles”. The frogs started singing their songs and the wolf was moving well again. She came across several larged downed trees, “hello” their voices boomed as she came upon them. Several times she had to climb over, hoisting herself up on the tree before getting over the other side. The trees found great amusement in this. As she crested what she knew would be the final steep climb she thanked the moon and the mountain for sharing their wonder and helping her on her journey. She had found confidence in her movement and her path. She was tired, but strong. She had become more than she was before starting her journey, and was anxious to share that with her pack that awaited just a few miles more ahead.

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Comment by Robert Burpee on May 24, 2014 at 4:16am

Fantastic Lori, you have a gift for writting and we are the beneficiaries of your gift, thank you so much.

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