I didn’t know for a long time that I had Native American ancestry: Delaware Indian. Yet I’ve been drawn to the culture, the music, everything about it since I can remember.
When I was about 13 my family and I went around the US by train, visiting family and famous parks/places along the way. We went to the Grand Canyon a day or two after I’d bought some Native American music in Seattle.
I turned on my tape player, put on my headphones and jumped a fence to sit on the edge of a cliff and listen to my new music collection.
At first it was just like being in an IMAX theatre with gentle theme music playing, except that it was hot, I felt the mid-day sun on my shoulders, there was no breeze and I could still kinda hear the tourists’ voices come and go.
I was too young to care about my safety. Ok, in truth, I’d probably do the same thing now, just with a more modern electronics. You can’t really experience the Canyon feel with metal railings between you and the edge.
As the music started to get stronger I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a great bird flying over the canyon.
I would have my arms out stretched and soar near the edge so that I could trace the edges of the canyon walls, letting the updrafts from the cliffs push me along. If I were a bird, I would dive down to the water to look for food and perhaps leave a mark on some whitewater rafter’s shoulder.
I started trying to match my breathing to the slow pace of the music as I pretended I was the bird.
Then I’m not sure what happened exactly but all of a sudden I had the distinct sensation of flying, of feeling wind fighting against my face, arms and chest and I almost thought for a second that I had somehow actually done it.
I felt free and overwhelmed with happiness at the sights below me. I knew I was sitting on the ground. Yet I didn’t feel like my mind was. I guess that’s the best way to explain it.
I was calm. Every fiber of my 13-year-old anxed-ridden mind and body was happy, calm and I felt a joy welling up inside me that didn’t fight to get out. It just was……
My breathing slowed more and more until the tape ran out (oh if I’d had an iPod back then it probably would have gone on for hours) and woke me from my state when the play button clicked off. The spell was broken. But I was still at peace.
Since then I’ve had the tape stolen from me. And I sooooo sometimes crave to hear those songs again, yet I wouldn’t know where to look.
But not all is lost.
What I didn’t know until we got home and developed the film that summer was that dad had taken a picture of me sitting there looking out over the canyon, listening to the music. He had lifted his right arm above his head and clicked the shutter not knowing if it would turn out.
Those who have visited my apartment know that above my TV and bookcase on the wall there hangs a blown up framed picture (larger than a poster on its side) of me in tan shorts, hair in a pony tail, wearing a soft leather vest (Native American made, in fact) over a white tank top. I’m sitting cross legged with my back to the camera and the tape player is on the rock beside me.