I crouched beside the dark spruce tree digging for the wild root, wishing the midnight sun would come quickly to my aide. It would have given me a chance had it been the season of my favour, but no, it was chilling to the bone.
Again the figure shadowed me, hovering over like a buzzard, ready to pounce at will.
I scratched and clawed at it, hoping it would just go away, but it didn’t. Instead it took me into its clutches, changing me forever.
“Di`nah, wake up!”
I squinted at my mother; sweat dripping from my forehead as I lay in bed. “You are dreaming again. I will get the elders together.”
“No!” I complained, afraid they would make a big deal out of it. I had this dream for many months and still it didn’t make sense to me. They would call it a vision, but I didn’t believe in the traditional cultures of my people. It was the God of the south that I longed for, the Jesus I met when I traveled there for a youth conference.
But I could never tell them that.
As my mother stomped out of the room, I peered into the corner as I always did after my dream. My spruce root basket was incomplete. I hadn’t touched it since the dream started. It sickened me when I fingered it, when I tried to wrap the coiled roots around the bottom.
Basket weaving was a lost art of my people, a forgotten craft that died out in the 19 century, but Colville Lake was not your usual Dene village. It was historical, and with it came the obligation to maintain a historical way of life.
My brothers were forced to learn of trap lines and dog-teams, and hunting and fishing as a way of life. It didn’t matter if they had other dreams. When they complained, Grandfather would always scold them saying, “De` T`a Hoti Ts` eeda. We live securely by the land.”
No one could question that.
But the spruce root baskets were making me sick. I couldn’t even physically touch them anymore without running to the bathroom and bringing up my breakfast. This morning was no exception; only this time a pain stabbed my back as well.
The cool September wind bit my face as I left for school, shutting the door behind me as I exited the tiny log cabin we called our home. A nauseating woodstove smell lingered as I walked the long trail past the spruce forest of my dream. The long green branches reached out, threatening me with gangly arms. Only the morning sun and its brightness held my feet in place.
“Jesus!” I cried out into the darkness. “I am afraid.”
Nothing but breath fogged over in front of me as I squeezed my eyes to the pain that jabbed my back once again. It alarmed me, sent my body into spasms, and told me something was very wrong.
By the time I got to my classroom, I was late, tired, and very pale. My classmates giggled as I entered the warmth…. but then they always giggled at the fat girl.
“Di` nah,” my teacher called. “You better sit down.”
As the room started spinning, I felt my body plummet to the floor. In the dark of my mind I began to see Jesus.
“Do not fear for I am with you,” He told me.
Then I found myself back in the spruce trees again. This time I was finishing my basket but it was larger than it should be. I twisted the coils in a completely different way but I couldn’t see what it was.
Grandmother brought me a babiche bag and showed me how to tie it around my back but I shook my head and told her it wasn’t necessary. What did a fourteen-year-old kid need with such a thing?
Suddenly, I came too at the sound of a crying baby. It had been ripped from my own belly, unaware of the violation by which it was conceived.
Gently, I rolled over and I wasn’t afraid anymore. I looked in the corner of my room as I always did after my dream and this time I saw my spruce root basket crafted into a cradle.
The elders were there, calling it a sign from mother earth, a vision for the people. But I knew what it really was.
The grace of God!
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