Bob knew the path from the house up through the woods by heart. He could take it at a full run in pitch dark by feel without ever stumbling or hitting a snag.At the top of the hill, in a clear swath that ran the width of the woods, were the sandstone places. Just there by where he made his fires he would often find one of the great horned owls sitting up in an oak that was part of the last “virgin woods” in the county. He liked it here. Quieter, safer, than back in town.
Bob never quite fit in back in town. In grade school he was the little guy with Clark Kent glasses, nose always in a book, didn’t even try at sports. Just too perfect a target to resist for some. Kind of kid had to take a different door out of school, a different route home every day, for fear he’d get beat up. Then that one day in gym he just lost it. Dove on the bigger kid, had him by the throat, purple and gasping on the floor before the other guys pulled Bob off. They mostly left him alone after that. But Bob was still angry.
Now days he did much of the same stuff his few high school friends did. He drove around in his V-Dub, listening to Rock N Roll, laughing and shouting, drinking and smoking, singing along to The Who and not quite getting it all and knowing he wasn’t. And he worried about everything and nothing. And he was still angry.
As much as he loved this place, these woods, he felt like he didn’t quite belong here either. It seemed that he hadn’t quite passed some test. Bob wondered if he would ever belong anywhere, indeed sometimes wondered if there was much point in bothering with any of it. And Bob was still angry.
Something seemed different today. There was an extra quiet to the woods, not just the normal thing. Something was missing, and something else was there. Most days during the hot Kansas summer the woods had their own sounds. Small animals coming and going, the breeze through the black jacks. Amazing how much noise a turtle could make trundling through the dead leaves.
Sitting by his fire, he tried to follow the old pipe way, praying with the pipe to the East, the West, the North, and the South. No one here to teach him those ways now. He’d have to muddle through as best he could on his own. He felt the smoke take him then. And he felt The Other too.
Bob had tried to put the fears, troubles, and the anger all out of his mind. Those kinds of feelings weren’t compatible with the smoke. He knew bad thoughts or bad feelings could let bad things in between the big spaces. He hoped that instead the smoke would give him some relief, let him forget, to just stare at the stars later on.
He saw that the fire had burnt low, didn’t bother to add to it. It was after all mid summer, the evening just a little cool up here on this low hill. As dark came on fully, he smoked the pipe again, this time with just a nod to the four directions. The smoke came on stronger now.
Bob felt the wind not just in the trees, but inside his head. He heard the calling of the owls, the singing of the coyotes. And then, something coming. Something BIG coming, and still coming … and then, stopping. Bob felt it there, just out of the light, watching and listening. He could feel its strength, feared its power. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew it could snuff him out in a second, if it chose.
All of his fears, all of his anger slammed down on him like a mighty wind, unstoppable and unrelenting. He lay back on the sandstone, not quite giving up hope, but no longer resisting. He let loose the feelings, let the thing take him where and how it would.
Gi lo Sa quo hi rode his pony slowly up the hill from the south. It had been another long day of traveling on his family’s annual excursion up north to trade. Late, it had already gone full dark. Ten days each direction it took, and the way grew wearisome some times. Lately, he had found himself feeling as though time were running out somehow. He had heard rumors about the new people coming from the east. So far away it was, but their conquest was mighty it was told. He had heard they were crazy, that they destroyed the land wherever they went. He wondered what would become of this place, if any would honor it later.
Coming to the top of the hill, just up from the living spring, he knew something was changed. Drawn by some new sense he broke off from the others and walked the pony a ways to the west. There, just this side of the trees he could see the glow of a camp fire it seemed. Cautious now, he got down, leaving his pony to knicker gently in question as he crept forward to see a figure there asleep by the fire. Closer still, this young man, no older than his own sons, was not of The People. The boy’s skin was too light, his clothes entirely strange, of no hide or weave he knew. This must be one of the new people. But why was he here all alone, no weapons, no pony, no food, not even a blanket. Gi lo Sa quo hi moved closer still, leaned down, drew back. He was not to touch, only to see, to know, and perhaps to offer some comfort to a lost spirit, adrift far from its rightful home. Reaching in his pouch, he drew out one feather, beaded along its quill, the story pattern of Great Horned Owl. He laid it down next to the strange apparition of things to come, made solid in this place of The Rock and The Spring, for him to see and know.
Awake now, Little Head Bob turned and looked around, stopped as he caught the light on the shiny beads on the ground below. He couldn’t think why they mattered. His brothers and sisters there on the branch roused and hooted softly, as his father flew in through the woods, breakfast in his strong talons. And he heard the wind in the trees.
Pink Floyd - Learning to Fly
note: Gi lo Sa quo hi is actually Cherokee for "Someone".