Category Archives: WWoB

War’s Hidden Wound

Statement of a Nez Perce Warrior
On War’s Hidden Wound

They said that I would be changed in my body. I would move through the physical world in a different manner. I would hold myself in a different posture. I would have pains where there was no blood. I would react to sights, sounds, movement and touch in a crazy way, as though I were back in War.

They said I would be wounded in my thoughts. I would forget how to trust and think that others were trying to harm me. I would see danger in the kindness and concern of my relatives and others. Most of all, I would not be able to think in a reasonable manner and it would seem that everyone else was crazy. They told me that it would appear to me that I was alone and lost even in the midst of the people, that there was no one else like me.

They warned me that it would be as though my emotions were locked up and that I would be cold in my heart and not remember the ways of caring for others. While I might give soft meat or blankets to the elders or food to the children, I would be unable to feel the goodness of these actions. I would do these things out of habit and not from caring. They predicted that I would be ruled by dark anger and that I might do harm to others without plan or intention.

They knew that my Spirit would be wounded. They said I would be lonely and that I would find no comfort in family, friends, elders or spirits. I would be cut off from both beauty and pain. My dreams and visions would be dark and frightening. My days and nights would be filled with searching and not finding. I would be unable to find the connections between myself and the rest of creation. I would look forward to an early death. And, I would need Healing in all of these things.

Alpenglow

From the story When Murray Met Helen

The green tea did not silence Helen’s headache, though it did at least dull the irritation settling into her throat.

Just before the sun set, the low clouds dissipated just enough to create a seam in the southwestern part of the sky. A shaft of light seeped through. With a glance toward her bedroom window she could see a pink-orangish glow outside.

Alpenglow? In Milwaukee?

It was one of those things you had to see to believe. But there it was, the peach light reflecting off the snow on the ground, the branches, and the quilt of dry flakes that had piled up on the awnings, inching over the sides.

From her window Helen looked into what used to be Murray’s backyard and noticed the snow-blanketed outlines of the picnic table where so much laughter and banter and wisdom had passed between them. The snow on top sparkled. It sparkled mango, and then plum, and then bluish-purple, as the turning earth fleetingly captured what was left of the sun. It was a sight so tranquil and ethereal, and then in a matter of seconds it was gone. It left her wondering if anybody would believe her description of it.

At that very picnic table, now a dull form in the gloaming, she once asked Murray if he thought she would make a good mother.

“Do you want to be a mother?” he’d replied.

“Some days,” she’d said.

“And what days would those be?” he asked.

“Not Mondays,” she replied with a laugh. “Especially not Mondays.”

“Oh, I think you’d make a very good mother,” Murray said softly, after thinking hard on it for a few moments.

“I’ll probably need a man then,” she said. “Don’t you think?”

“Possibly,” Murray said. “But I wouldn’t fret over that too much now. You gotta get this Monday thing straightened out first.”

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Echinacea

From the story When Murray Met Helen

Helen was so moved by the faded photograph of Murray and Claire, and Claire’s resemblance to Helen in her childhood, that she could go no further into the collection. After staring at the picture for another half-minute she gently placed the album on top of the weathered leather jacket in the crate, pulled the string to turn out the light, and left the room.

The cold she was fighting had moved more deeply into her sinuses and though it had the effect of quieting her brain and dulling her senses, she was also keenly aware that the revelation of this softly kept secret in her relationship with Murray was colored with poignancy and grace. It was also a bit mind-reeling.

She walked upstairs, set water on the stove to make tea, and then leaned against the sink, staring at the cinnamon tiles on her kitchen floor. It had started to snow again, the late afternoon sky a grayish-yellow. But she only noticed the dull pallor of the light coming in the window behind her.

Before the kettle whistled, the phone rang. She could see by the caller ID that it was Rick. She thought for two rings about not answering it, but she missed him just enough to change her mind.

“Hello?”

“Helen?”

“Hi Rick.”

“How you doin’?”

“Gotta cold.”

“Wasn’t me.”

“How do you know?” she asked.

“‘Cause I’m fit as a fiddle.”

“Well, maybe you’re a carrier.”

“Naw, that couldn’t be it.”

“That’s right,” she suddenly agreed. “I didn’t let you get close enough to kiss me the other night.”

“Eh.” he said, “lucky me.”

“What’s up?”

“Was wondering if I could”—and here he changed inflections, to pose the last two words in the form of a question–“come over?”

The kettle whistled. Saved by the bell, she thought. But the moments it took to remove it from the burner had given her enough time to think.

“Well,” she said. “Three things.”

“Just three?” he asked, playfully.

“Well, at least three,” she continued. “First, you’re a dear and I’m sorry about what happened the other night. Second, I’m not feeling very attractive right now and when I’m not feeling pretty, I get a little bitchy. And, third, I think I really need to sleep.”

Rick was speechless for a few moments as he absorbed this direct and unusual declination.

“Yeah, well, I really don’t want to see you if you’re not feeling pretty,” he deadpanned.

She giggled.

“Thank you for making me laugh,” she said.

“What are you taking?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Green tea and echinacea.”

“Oooooh,” Rick replied, “I was just reading in Time where the new studies show echinacea’s a canard.”

Helen let that sit for a second, as she decided what club she’d use to smack him with.

“It works for me,” she said, in a tone that was purposefully ambiguous as to whether she was being playful, or just sending the message that this was not the time to trifle with Helen.

“Ah,” Rick said, wisely seizing the latter interpretation. “Now that’s a good data point.”

“The tea works too,” she added, as she tried, on her end, to make sure he didn’t hear her giggle.branch in water footer

Threads

From the story When Murray Met Helen

Helen stared briefly at the faded ivory-colored cover of the album wondering if she should even open it. This was a man and a family now gone, she realized, and who knew what threads of what stories were preserved within the pages.  

Can you measure a life by what’s left behind? She was curious about the answer, but she also felt oddly protective, not of anything she could hold in her hand, but of what she held in her memory of her friend and neighbor. Part of her didn’t want to know anything that would cast Murray in a different light, or begin to displace or shift her dearest impressions of the man she’d known, if not perfectly, certainly well enough to enrich her life.

On the first page of the album was a handsome black & white wedding photo of Murray’s parents taken in the doorway of a church. His mom, with her tightly curled dark hair, had a smile that brought to mind Amelia Earhart. She was a good six inches shorter than Murray’s father, who was well-appointed in a tuxedo; thinning hair, terse smile, solid chin.

Helen turned the page to find the two of them standing together, still a young couple, in a garden, with Murray’s mother playfully holding a butternut squash in one hand and an ear of corn in the other. Murray’s father, his face now tanned and with a smile so wide you could see most of his teeth, had one arm around his wife and one arm wrapped around a long shovel, with the blade nearly touching his cheek.

Then there was an article and pictures about the Minocqua fire of 1912, a small disaster made worse by a hare-brained and panicked attempt to blow the fire out with dynamite.

On page 6 was the yellowed birth announcement of their son, Murray, from January 1924. And then on the next page, the birth announcement, from 1926, of a daughter, named Claire Louise.

Murray never mentioned he’d had a sister.

Three pages later was the photograph that knocked Helen back on her heels. It was of Murray and Claire together, sitting arm and arm, their legs dangling over a dock on Butternut Lake. It would be hard to picture two happier children. Although they were separated by a half century in age, it was also clear from the photo that Claire Louise, at eight years old, could easily have been mistaken for an eight-year-old Helen. And vice-versa.

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