Eagle Rock

The towering rock formations dwarf the woman whose small figure slips and slides along the Winter’s snow-packed, icy hillside below. Wolf, her four-legged companion, sure-foots his way forward like a mountain goat before circling back to make sure she is still upright. Together they have come to belong to these hills, and to accept each season as it presents itself.

In the Spring she marvels at the desert flowers, yellow, pink and purple, scattered between the charcoal-colored lava rocks and soft green sagebrush embracing the steep hillside, its young vibrant green grasses growing inches more each day, her companion grinning in the water of the narrow hot springs channel nearby.

In the Summer the two of them endure unbearably dry heat as the sun bakes the earth into an unrelenting dustbowl whose grasses and flowers become wisps of their former selves, and whose narrow hot springs channel transmogrifies into dry, cracked mud.

In the Fall they embrace the mornings’ chilly winds and rain and tall dry grasses throwing pollen into the air to ensure next year’s Spring extravaganza, its landscape a marbling of muted mauves and ochres, its shimmering red and gold leaves falling from the distant trees to expose their black branches against the skyline.

Wolf and the woman walk through the seasons communing with each other and trusting the eternal Native spirits to provide for them and to offer healing and peace not just to those still alive in these hills but to those buried here.

Waking before dawn, bent and wrapped in a worn blanket with her grey scraggly braid down her back, she starts a small fire in a crevice within the castle-like rocks at the top of the steep hillside where each night Wolf watches over her as she sleeps. Wolf stays close to her side as she slowly climbs to the highest boulder jutting out from all the others. The townspeople have worried ever since they settled in the area that someday it will crash down and destroy everything in its path, but Wolf has assured the woman that it will instead spread its wings and disappear into the sky to join the other eagles who for decades have called out to it.

Sitting side-by-side facing the rising sun before it reaches high enough to expose their silhouettes, Wolf and the woman take a few minutes to focus on the penitentiary far below as its dim yellow coal oil lights inside the penitentiary’s cell blocks blink on. The woman shudders within her blanket not just from the cold winter air but from imagining what it must have been like for her adopted Native American-Caucasian son, who was incarcerated at age 16 and shortly thereafter was found dead in his cell.

West of the penitentiary they see the natatorium where her son was not allowed to swim with the white boys. Further along the road they see where the three of them once lived in the elegant, two-story brick mansion with her old, wealthy husband who had helped develop the new City of Boise and built many of the mansions along Warm Springs Avenue.

In the years since, she has retreated from her comfortable, affluent life to roam the hills bringing only Wolf, her son’s beloved dog whom she had been given by the Reservation along with the unwanted “half-breed” boy. The woman has become old and increasingly sickly with a persistent cough, while Wolf shows no sign of aging, remaining strong and nimble. But she still manages to climb up each morning to greet the sun and pray with Wolf, asking the eagles to bring her son back to her just long enough to touch his face and ask for his forgiveness for failing to save him from being sent to the penitentiary for something he did not do.

Roaming the hills each day, she and Wolf share memories of the time the boy was growing up with them, always quiet and withdrawn except when playing with Wolf and when the three of them would hike in these hills. Wolf taught them how to hunt, find water, and avoid being seen by others. He would describe the hot springs that flowed down from the rock formations, the highest one the ancestors called Eagle Rock, into the Valley below, and how the tribes would peacefully convene by the hot springs for spiritual healing and to bury their dead.

The woman is tormented by guilt for not being able to protect her son from the fierce bullying he suffered at school and for the anger her husband showed toward the boy who he warned would not be accepted by the townspeople. She begged her husband to help defend their son when he was falsely accused and sent to Old Pen, but he was unable to reverse the guilty verdict. It seemed to her he was relieved when the boy was gone. Not long after, heartbroken, she and Wolf disappeared into the hills.

One especially cold brilliant full-moon evening, the woman tells Wolf she wants to sleep at the top of eagle rock to be close to the stars. They both know she will not survive exposure to the night’s frigid temperature but she looks peaceful nestled next to Wolf, and gradually falls into a deep sleep, her breathing becoming more and more shallow. After Wolf sends her a dream in which her son embraces her, he climbs down from the rock turning just in time to see it sprout its eight-foot wingspread, raise its massive hooked beak and head, then push off with its powerful talons ascending into the night sky. Wolf walks into the hills never to be seen again.