The inspiration for this story came from a local museum. There was a Native American art exhibit that caught my interest. Some of the art was done by a non-Native who was obsessed with Native American culture. Seeing some of his work inspired this story. I do not know how fully accurate some of the information is, most of my knowledge of events in the story was gathered from a religion class taken last spring.
Pale and Different
It felt like someone had dropped a stone into my stomach. My palms were sweating, and I was almost positive my legs were going to give out from shaking. My mom, Dena, stroked my hair lovingly while the Chief began the ceremony.
I was just about to celebrate my 13th year, and that meant it was time for me to go on my Spirit Journey to discover who my guardian would be. In the village I lived in, you Spirit Guide determined what you did in the village. I had spent months praying to the Great Spirit for a strong Guide. If I got one that allowed me to be a warrior, I would finally be accepted among my people.
Unlike everyone else in the village, I was not born here. In fact, I was not born to any village of my people. My mom told me that the Great Spirit gave me to her when I was just a baby, floating down the river in a basket. Just the day before she had lost her own child, a son named Lonato, to a hunting accident. She said that the spirits knew she was grieving, so they gave me to her. She said that with one look at me she knew what my name was going to be, Lise.
From a young age I knew I was different. My hair was not black, rather like the color of sand. My skin was pale like moonlight, which contrasted to my forest colored eyes. The other boys in the village often teased me, saying that the river I was found in washed all the color from my skin. They told me that I would never be a hunter, or a warrior. In the minds of the other boys, I was a basket weaver at best.
I was the youngest of all the boys born my year, so I was the last to go on my Spirit Journey. So far, the boys who teased me all got strong Spirits, the bear, the wolf, the bull, and others like it. A few were given Spirits that gave them wisdom such as the crane or cougar. For many days I wondered what my Guide would be. It had to be something strong, if not, then I would never be accepted amongst the others in my village.
The chief finished his prayer to the Great Spirit, signaling that it was time for me to leave. With a final glance to my mom and the elders, I left the tent and made my way out of the village. Some of the others nodded in my direction. I hoped that in their heads they were offering up prayers to the Great Spirit for my protection.
For my Spirit Journey I had to go into the heart of the woods and wait for a vision. No one could help me in any way. I had to find my own food, shelter, and protect myself. It was a hard task, but I had spent my entire life getting ready for it. And now, the time had come.
I wondered through the forest trails, looking for signs of the animals. From what others had said, before they received their vision they caught glimpses of the animal that would become their Spirit Guide. I wasn't sure if that was true or not, but it was worth keeping an eye open. I had to do everything I could to stay focused. As the custom went, I was not allowed to return to the village until I had my vision. The more distracted I was, the harder it would be for me to have my vision.
When the sun began to set, I made myself a camp for the night. There was a dry spot under the branches of an elm tree. The weather was warm and dry, and I thanked the Great Spirit for allowing me to make my journey in the summer. I did not bother to make a campfire, because it was believed that the spirits were afraid of the flames. The last thing I wanted to do was to scare them away.
When the light from the sun was gone I sat and listened to the sounds of the forest. All around me there was life. So much of it got up when the sun went down. The forest was an entirely different world at night. I fell asleep listening to the creatures around me.
The next day I made my way to the river. I had woken up from a dream in which I was standing at the river. I wasn't sure if it was a sign, but I had to try anyways. Before I reached the river I could hear the sound of the running water. It was peaceful and calm. The people in my village looked to the river for support and life. We could tell so many things by the river, and those that lived in it. The fish and other animals acted differently when a storm was coming.
I sat down on the bank and watched the current. Thirteen years ago the river brought me to this very place, and now I was back at it on my Spirit Journey. A circle had been completed. It was sign of some sort, but I did not know what it meant yet.
As I watched the river I began thinking about why I was brought to this place. Further upriver there was a split were another river began, so why did I end up in this place? As I sat and thought, my vision became clouded. It was like a fog had settled in my eyes, making it hard to see. Seconds passed and the fog was replaced by a beautiful light. It drove the fog away to reveal that I was still sitting on the riverbank.
I turned my head to see someone standing at the edge. A woman that looked familiar to me. As I studied her, I recognized her as someone I had known my entire life. My mother. But, it didn't look just like her. She looked younger somehow, and sadder. Sadder than I had ever seen her before in my life. I wasn't sure why she was there. She knew that I wasn't supposed to have contact with anyone else. I called out to her, thinking that perhaps she hadn't seen me. When I opened my mouth though, no words came out. My voice was entirely gone.
My mom still hadn't noticed me though. She stood on the edge of the bank peering into the water. She glanced behind her as if she was looking for someone to follow her. She then slipped her shoes off and looked to the sky. "Give my spirit rest, Great One," she whispered softly. I reached forward, trying to stop her. My mom was about to jump into the river. She would drown.
Just as she was about to step into the water, a cry filled the air. Further up river I could see a basket floating towards my mom. She stopped and studied the basket as it floated towards her. The basket passed beside her and she clutched the edge of it, pulling it close. Inside the basket was a small creature wrapped in a blanket. As my mom held it close, I could catch a glimpse of sandy brown hair peeking out from the top of the blanket. I understood then. It was me. This was when my mom found me floating down the river. She cradled the infant me in her arms, and walked up the trail towards the village. The basket remained lying on the side of the river in the mud.
After my mom was long gone from the riverbank I noticed a second presence near me. Something was swimming across the river towards the basket. As the creature crawled out from the water I noted its long, low body covered in white fur. The creature looked around before scurrying over to the basket. With one sweeping glance it looked at me, beady eyes peering at me. The otter crawled into the basket and continued to stare at me. The red eyes bore into my own as if it was trying to speak to me.
It was as if this otter understood. It knew why I was here and what I was seeing. The look it gave me also told me that it knew what I was feeling, because it felt the same way. This beautiful little creature did not fit in with others like it because of the color of its fur. Just as I did not fit in with the tribe.
The otter climbed out of the basket and waddled towards me. I knelt on the ground and it climbed into my lap. Its fur felt soft like new spring grass under my fingers. Rubbing its face against my arm, the otter snuggled deeper into my lap. Never before had I felt such a strong connection to anything. As I absent mindedly stroked my new little friend the fog returned to my vision. The otter's head shot up and its eyes darted around the area. It took one final look at me before scampering away and back into the water. I reached out my hand to call it back, but it was too late. He was gone. The fog was once again replaced by the bright light. When I opened my eyes again, I was still on the riverbank. The basket, and the otter, was gone.
I knew what had happened. It was my vision. By returning to the place I was found, I met my Spirit Guide. Even though for so long I had hoped to receive guidance from a warrior animal, having this pale otter to guide me through my life made me feel content. I knew that I would probably be teased for a while for getting a Spirit Guide that represented playfulness, but it was something I could live with. I had finally accepted being different.