The human was folded. Scottish folded on Irish, on English; Apache folded on Hawaiian; country stock folded on city elite and female on male. There was no part of them you could call one thing. Still everything wanted to be one thing. From one place, of one single idea was the goal. And the ideas chased all others away, wanting to be the only thing on the plate, even if starvation ensued.
And the folds refused to merge, to become that next thing.
Dakotas carried names. They called these the black hills, and they called those the badlands. In older times, before the Europeans swept across with their heavy trudging tools and animals, making lines that crisscrossed the horizon, before then, they called it meat pack. The muscular piny ridges were filled with deer and elk, wood for winter fires, and water. It was a homeland, a place you returned to. And you called it something trusted, something loved.
But nothing named endured down in Picking Bulls belly when he thought of the land. This land he crouched on now, farther West, farther south, was larger and older than largeness and oldness. Instead, he could feel the earth pulling him to depths in his soul where words seemed a burden. Balance was all as he sat hunched in the grass, looking out on hills, invisible. In his breath and the smell of the clinging soil he kept his feet. The air around was fluid light, carrying only the responsibility of barrenness.
Jesse had laid out his weapons and his coffee in the teepee that morning, blessed blades next to brewed beans from his friends in the south, the gps node lying black and bean like next to his cup. He sat on his haunches on the buffalo blanket next to the low tray where she sat the tools, back erect and breathing. When he’d opened his eyes from meditation, she was gazing outside.
“Don’t let yourself get too cold.” She admonished. “You’re too old for cold. And the boys will need you for calving when you get back.”
He’d left her with an embrace, come to the southern edge of the hills with the smell of her hair fading too quickly.
Everything seemed beaten down here. The sun and wind had risen and fallen in twisting conflict over the rolling surface, leaving stubborn scars. There, where the hills curved up and the trees finally found purchase, there he sat waiting, the scrappy forest behind him and the plains laid out before him to the south. It was a natural demarcation that gave him some solidness, unlike the openness of the plains giving way to escarpments and wind carved arroyos farther south. He knew that was the only direction to go, either over or under the beast.
It lay across hundreds of kilometers, between mountains and river, a force fed structure of rail and highway, a giant snake. Kilometers wide and tall, sunrise to sunset, it framed the world and carried man. It’s large multi storied arches and walls leaped across the landscape, moving all types of vehicles and housing that living mass of people growing from, and supporting, it’s powerful limbs. They were apart. They were overarching, and they were lost.
And beyond them, to the south, where the lands layers thrust up in rustic colored lines from tales of eons and floods long past, there were geologic cycles that coursed and flowed as sure as his blood through his veins. The wind would call his soul out there and tell him of times past, an alluring whisper, until he could feel the earth begin to flow. Long ago he learned to yearn for this communion like nourishment.
So he would cross over into those poorer badlands. The visions would come and, in tears, he would give himself up. Whether the message they gave him to bring back imparted death or life he did not know, only that his people would follow.
When the shadows tilted east, and before he began to walk, he retied his boots and wondered whether he should clear more cactus this year. He needed to plant a larger crop of potatoes. Mouths were finding their way into his teepee.