Twilight dusts the land with uncertainty. Below this hill, in the valley, shadows confuse the green of the grass and the subtler blue of pines, their rough brown bark and the somber bases of the surrounding peaks. In the pale sky, the last stars wane.
Breathing hard from the climb, this old man wraps his blanket around him against the piercing chill and carefully lowers his body to the ground. His bones ache as he bends; his grunts break the stillness of morning.
Finally, he is seated.
Once he has controlled his breathing, he smells the Earth, his mother.
His nostrils fill with the smell of soil and the faint fragrance of wildflowers. The spice of pinecones, the sweetness of wet grass—these are here too, sharp in the clear air. The dew, too, has a smell. It wettens the grass under this old man. Many years ago it was a pleasant sensation. Now it is only cold and prickly.
A movement catches these weak eyes; a buck down in the forest. This old man smells it. Yes, he can still smell his four-legged brothers.
Robins sing through the valley, flying with a swift freedom this old man envies. In the distant east, a hawk swoops through the air.
This old man is not so free. His moccasins are wet and stained from digging into the hill, his leggings from tripping on the way up. His knees hurt, his back aches, his hands are scratched. His breath rattles painfully in his hollow chest. The earth is hard and cold underneath him, and a stiff breeze cuts through his back.
Mother Earth used to be more forgiving to this man. Before he became old.
In days past, if a warrior desired a great vision, he held a sun dance. This old man was not afraid. But the Lakota do not now dance now.
Now the trek to the top of the hill is this once-warrior's sun dance.
A good warrior protects and provides for his people; and he is respected by them. But when a warrior is too old to make any more difference to his people, he seeks comfort by imparting wisdom to his children instead.
But this old man is alone.
Many years it has been since his children fell. Their passing was quick and brutal. That is what this old man was told. He is glad he did not see it. His blood still boils (feebly) with kill-revenge at the thought, and tears still boil in these weak eyes.
The morning grows more light and dense, suffocating the stars. Soon the reverent time before Sun's reign will be passed. This old man did not labor up the hill for hindsight.
Great Creator, this old man has labored up the hill to be close to you, for a vision. He misses his children. He is old and weary and alone. Great Creator, if Thou wilt not give this old man relief, give him vision. Take him away for but a moment, and show him what Thou wilt. Give him the vision to carry on for so long as Thou choosest he shall.
This once-warrior closes his eyes and breathes deeply, inviting the Creator to enter in and empty him from all distraction, all pain, all contact with the cold, wet, physical world.
Now he is one with the rest of the Mother's children-- the hill, the rocks, the pines, the deer, the wind. His labor is rewarded. The Creator begins to whisper to him, more real than the the breath of the wind.