The Story I will tell My Children
By: Brad Cole

The wind sounded like raven wings as it cut across the telephone wires. It was like the sound of a rope whirling in circles, slicing through the dense air. I turned around to see the village of Emmonak, from which I had walked, disappear behind a white wall of wind. Looking in the other direction the line of telephone poles vanished in the blizzard near the airport. The snow was stinging like sand blasting against my face, so I was glad to have brought my sunglasses.

Over the years of teaching I have always found these after-work walks to be relaxing and cleansing. It was a way to unwind from the days frustrations and re-connect to what was important in life: a sense of self that borders on the sacred.

The spirited wind continued its low pitched howl in an ocean of air that was tossing and whipping it way across the dancing willows. I saw a small flock of ravens floating in the sky above the river bank; enjoying the feeling of flying without having to flap their wings.

Feeling the weight of the stormy weather pressing against me, thoughts of past walks came to mind. I had gone on so many walks that my soul has been filled with this cold artic environment. So much of what I feel and see comes from this haunted landscape, even my prayers are like the wind in the willows.

These walks have grown more meditative over the years. The older I have grown the more deeply I reflect on my connection to nature and the meaning of love. The deeper one loves the more they become consumed by the self-sacrificing nature of love, because to love is to give. I would journey far through a strange land, all alone and deep into the maddening darkness, just to touch and feel the spirit of love. But in the end what would this make of me; what does life really want from us?

The village of Emmonak was still lying invisible behind a wall of white wind; it was a wind that sounded like wild waves rushing into a deep rocky sea cave. Perhaps there is a wind-filled cave that lies beneath the outer landscape of our lives, I thought. It would be the soul of our world.

I thought of the students at school and their lack of connection to landscape. In the old days the Elders taught them about their place in nature and this helped to build character and vision and from this came the stories that built native culture. Now that this is gone the children must search painfully for someone to believe in. They will have to search for someone to help tell them the story of their lives.

Nearing sunset, I could feel a strong, dark wind descending from the evening sky, tearing away the daylight from the earth, turning the landscape gray. Looking upriver and seeing the snow blow across the icy, mile wide Yukon River, I sensed that the wind had a powerful spirit like the salmon, but with stars for its eyes.

A feeling of fondness came to me while thinking about the star shaped crystals of snow, forming countless drifts across the frozen land. For some reason I loved winter. It was so pure and free in its wind blown white blankets that cover a sleeping landscape. It has a purity and freedom of spirit that is possessed only by the smallest of children.

Having reached the airport, the mid-point of my walk, I turned around. Still hearing the sky tumbling and whistling across the vast willow forest I thought again of what would become of a person who loves too much? A voice from my heart sounded like a melancholy prayer, “I would run away with the wild wind, traveling far across the dark owl-filled tundra, and stopping only when and where the wind calms. Wanting nothing more than to rest peacefully there while touching and feeling a loving, starry sky - I will become a tree.”

And this is the story I will tell my children.