Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sacagawea means "boat launcher".

The one who aids a journey. But she was also once known as "Bird woman", according to the French Canadian trapper who bought her. Charbonneau the trapper.

"Bird woman" was her name in the Hidatsa language, and looked like this- Tsakaka-wias. And yet she is more popularly called Sacagawea today. Boat launcher.

The one who aids a journey.

For that is what she did. Read more about this woman here, but for now it suffices to say that without her, the two explorers Lewis and Clark would not have found their way across, over and into the American north-west as easily as they did. With her baby son on her back-- her son who was born five days after me many years before, her son who was born on the trail-- this woman travelled with them, interpreting directions and their needs, though she was only one of the wives of Charbonneau, the actual hired guide.

This college prides itself on the spirit of discovery on which it was founded, and there are bits all over college about these two men and their team who went about charting the pacific north west.

One such bit is a statue of Sacagawea, a weathered bronzed face, with a baby on a straight back, the little face also peering with his mother's towards the horizon. Or as it is, towards the manor house, away from my dorm, away from the chapel near by.

The dorm is red brick, with automatic doors, a glass-walled lounge with a tv, dvd and a pinao missing 3 black keys, and our rooms with flags of different nations painted on each door.

My door has a defunct Angola painted thereon. It misses a sickle, so now looks a simple gothic work, on which I hope to stencil a dragon: Ich Will, sig heil, and such.

The chapel is built like a native American woman's hat, with a suspended pipe organ which goes perfectly well with my dragon idea, really. Think phantom of the opera. And that vertical perspective. Lovely. Outside the chapel, there are four granite totem carvings, meant to represent each of the four elders.

But Sacagawea's gaze goes further. I find myself walking by her often. Wondering, often, at this woman, who was bought and sold, who had a white man lift her son from out between her legs, who saw once again her land, who did not drown, who told stories of her life, who accompanied Lewis and Clark, who finally gave her son into their care for his education and upbringing, who has lakes and creeks and mountains named after her.

This college is beautiful, you know. Everything has been planned out, the only things that grows according to their own 'ich will' are the trees. Youngly ancient connifers--only a couple of hundred years old-- that stretch their bushy eyebrows up into the clouds. A lot of these trees grow in the ravine, on the edge of which stands Sacagawea.

Everything is planned out. From the oldest building on campus, the manor house, you can see the reflecting pool that shows you the icy coldness of the calm sky here, with dancing sunlight across the noses of those clouds, and the stretching, mumbling trees. Further, looking as the woman with the baby on her back does, you can see a snowy peak on a clear day.

From down by the pool, further down by the rose garden, I can see the path to take to leave the cold behind and enter my dorm. It goes by her, and the ravine.

Around me, there are bushes and portly trees, some holding their blossoms close like old ladies playing bridge, some letting them drop like sighs into silk-shorn grass, damp with rain below, silent, because the little creatures live elsewhere where the grass is not cut daily.

The flowers that drop silent are not alien. There are those in madras that fall on early summer mornings and shadowed evenings with a sweetness that makes you stop transfixed by the exquisite pain that comes from the waste of such beauty beneath feet that pass.

I picked the pretty ones that had fallen, up from the ground- much like the old lady who wrapped her sari around her tight did, bending carefully, holding gently. Only those that had fallen. Never from a branch. Never one that was not ready to go. Looking straight ahead, there was the well-planned, picturesque path back.

Feet over and into the grass, a handful of pale purple and white and berry-pink gentle softnesses in my hand.... a blossom here is as soft and moist as a mouthful of rasberry low fat yoghurt, as gentle as a woman's first kiss.

Evening came down as winds spoke and greeted through the eyebrows of the senior trees. One of whom had a lonely face on its bark.

Much has been said by me and others of land, and language. Dont blame nostalgia. It was something about this woman, Sacagawea, who was ready to go.

A blossom, made of toughest bark and root and stone, that went where the wind and water carried her. Some blossoms refuse to ever fall. They prefer being tightly held till upon a green branch one evening, they close their eyes and fall into themselves.

Some choose to fall while alive, and no matter whether they travel or not, for any way the wind blows.

I took the handful of those that chose, and left them at Sacagawea's feet. The wind blew sudden, eyes closed and lights came on in the city below.

Now I am not afraid to walk alone and unguided in nights which are cold and where the sidewalk lights are far away- Here, amidst old trees, and by a murmuring pool.