o' Brother, where art thou?
When my brother's wife slept with the electrician he hopped a Greyhound bus to Yosemite. With a backpack full of supplies, he carried the heavy load...and he hiked. He hiked the ridges and the valleys, the long stretches of green and tan.
My brother is no stranger to the wild country. He is the mountains and the mountains are him. The canyons and the rivers know his name.
Kin living in the higher parts, he set out for Tahoe.
The sun rose and beat upon his back...dust underfoot, miles blurred into miles...the crisp air of dusk...then the darkness and the stars.
When we were kids we were told an Indian folk tale of how the stars came to be...
Long ago, before there was man, all the animals were. They lived in balance and peace. The eagle soared, the fish swam. Fresh springs of water spilled from the earth and plants grew rich and fortified in the edenic light. The animals had everything they needed. But they grew bored and restless and greedy. "This is my sky!" the eagle told the hawk. "This is my land" the buffalo told the deer.
This made God angry with the animals and so he covered the earth with a heavy and dark blanket.
In the darkness, the waters turned sour and the plants began to rot. The animals became sick, many died and so the eagle gathered the animals. "I am strong, I will fly to the blanket and push it off."
"I will help you." said the hawk.
They spread their wings and flew to the top of the sky but the weight of the blanket was too much to bare and both the eagle and the hawk fell to the earth, exhausted.
"There is no use, the weight is too great."
"I will try" said the hummingbird.
"But you are too small" the animals told the hummingbird.
"But I will try." the hummingbird insisted.
And up he flew, tiny lightning wings, nose towards the sky... and as he reached the top...he poked a small hole in the blanket... and the light shone through.
The animals cheered.
And he did it again and again and again... until thousands of twinkling holes brightened the dark sky.
God was well pleased that the animals had worked together. So he said he would remove the blanket each morning but replace it at night so that the animals would always remember how important it is to be helpful and kind.
My brother pressed on through the night, the hummingbird's holes lighting his path. He told me he was so angry that he just kept on walking, hard walking... as the ache swelled in his chest.
Until finally one morning he came upon a warm valley with tall pines and wildflowers and a river flowing down the center...and it's there he collapsed to the earth, both feet fractured, broken by the long journey.
Kindness came by way of a stranger who found him, took him in, let him bathe and eat and rest. (Mountain folk...they remember the hummingbird.) The next day he boarded a bus to Grandma's house in Tahoe.
Years later he'd say to me, "Thing is sis, I made it pretty far...all the way up to that valley, darnest thing..." he says to me, "you'll never guess the name of that valley... Hope Valley!", he says, "Two broken feet and I end up in Hope Valley. It's the God-honest truth."