A man on a bicycle stopped by the campsite today. He was enamored with the simplicity of the Teardrop.
In the hour he spent visiting, he told many stories about his life: from being pierced through the neck with bamboo, to navigating a 55’ boat during a storm while the Captain retreated to the cabin to sob, to how to trap a rabbit or bird with no tools.
He came to the campground searching for someone he met recently, but found us. He had a bag of fresh Red Cedar shavings that smelled amazing. We didn’t have to ask a lot of questions. Put the cedar under your pillow, he told us.
“If you’re sleeping on the ground here, you want something between you and our ancestors who were killed here.”
He told stories about his daughter, his grandson, war, travels to China, and trying to become invisible.
“Man’s world is over; it needs to be a woman’s world now.”
He was adorned with shiny silver cuffs and rings, things he made and carved himself. His bicycle had a rear rack that was made out of cedar branches that was perfect: light weight and held together with strips of copper and rope.
This man has been around. He referred to his bicycle as his horse. He is a true nomad, a true American, the original American. He was a Marine who received a Purple Heart. He went to war for a country that stole from him and every Native American.
He thought his grandson would love a Teardrop and asked about the thickness of the aluminum skin. He said he would want to etch the entire Teardrop if he had one. He pulled a small knife from his wrist cuff and as he carved a feather onto the side of our Teardrop, he told the story of each stroke. I don’t remember the exact words, but what I got out of it was: the whole, the part, the journey, the heart, the soul, the struggle. The outline of the feather was the line representing our life and death. And when he finished he said, “You realize it is one feather you have lost, but you have many, many more feathers.”
Now if someone came up to the Teardrop and starting carving it, we would normally read them the riot act. But this was a moment to shut up and listen and be.
I am tactile, and I immediately touched the feather when he has done. He smiled and said, “Thank you, that is what you should do.” He also told me to rub the red fruit of a cactus onto the etching to make it pop out. “Eat the cactus fruit and seeds, too,” he said and then “deposit the seeds the next day in the woods so that a new cactus grows.” When I asked what do you call that kind of cactus, he said, “you don’t call it, let it call you.”
“The sky is about to open”, he said as a rain cloud approached. He gave us the bag of cedar shavings, hopped on his bike and rode off.
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