A Feather in the Net
By: Brad Cole

It was a windy, rainy Saturday afternoon as I was walking along the bank of the Yukon, downriver from Emmonak looking for a place to possibly set up a camp. It may come in handy during the winter months when I was blackfish trapping, or snaring beavers and rabbits, I thought.

The sky was a deep wooly blue and a light to sometimes heavy rain was falling into the darkness of the surrounding willows. The air felt cool and fresh against my face, while the walking was wet, it still was enjoyable. Thoughts about the unexpected passing away of my mother earlier in the summer darted through my mind like fish inside a windy river, but the rain seemed to soften this feeling of loss.

After walking about half an hour I arrived at and began to look over a piece of land that the tribe thought might suit me and it really did seem nice. Its low sloping bank had a lot of mud and grass, but in winter this would not matter. Standing there and looking at the willows and the river, they all seemed to blend together in the rain soaked light of the late summer afternoon. Facing the cool breeze, it would be a peaceful place, I felt. The four-wheeler trail that I followed from the village was good. It may encourage kids and vandalism, but I was not planning on storing anything of real value there.

Seeing a silver smokehouse in the tall grass, a little farther downriver, I walked over to it. The metal building had a loose sheet of aluminum flapping and banging in the moist wind. A large fishnet was blowing like a silk curtain clinging to a log shelter and a couple of dry fish were still hanging inside, leftovers from the summer’s harvest.

Then I saw a small bird caught in the net. Though it was not a robin, it had the colors of one. It was deeply entangled in the thick green netting and sensing my presence it became frantic with fear and started flapping ferociously about.

I started to untangle it, but seeing how it fought my every move and feeling frustrated about how horribly stuck it was, I thought maybe of killing it – to put it out of its misery. There were feathers clinging to the rain soaked net, having been pulled out from its long struggle. But deciding I had plenty of time and I should do what I could to help the poor bird. Despite it poking and trying to bite my fingers, I wrestled with the netting, struggling to pull it off. Just as the bird was nearly free it flapped its wings wildly and flew back into the net, getting caught up again.

Finally, I got it loose and holding carefully in both hands so it would not fly back into the net, I released it and the bird flew straight, disappearing into the thick wet willows.

On the way back thoughts of my mother’s death once again darted through my mind. Then I thought about the bird in the net, of how it quickly vanished into the willows. It must have been so happy to have escaped the dreadful net. I wondered if my mother found a similar sense of release, of becoming free from this dark and windy world in which we live. For Heaven is among the stars, right? Perhaps, someday my soul will learn how to become free from physical, worldly bonds and fly away to be at one with the loving spirit of my mother. Only my body will be left behind, like a feather in the net.