The Bow: Fiction Donn Hayden

Donn Hayden
When I was a young boy my Grandfather took me camping for the first time.  I remember that it was early in the summer, because the strawberries were still being harvested.  I thought it strange, that Grandfather had brought his bow along with him, but had not brought any arrows.  As any boy would, I had cautiously reminded him, that he had forgotten to bring the arrows, and he turned towards me and answered, “We won’t need them on this trip my son.”

We were to be gone for three days and two nights following a small brook by our village that led towards the mountains.  The air was pure and gentle as we walked, and eventually we had crossed three fourths of the grassy plains surrounding our village, perhaps four or five miles.  Grandfather paused when the wooded area was perhaps a mile away and gave me a drink or water from a gourd he untied from his waist. As I looked back at the village it was very small and insignificant.

            “Are you ready to go son?”  Grandfather said.  I agreed as we started to walk again.  After just a few steps, he paused and said “Would you like to carry the bow?”  I of course, relishing the honor, said yes and took the unstrung instrument from his time worn hand.  “Be careful not to let the nocks touch the ground” he cautioned, and I didn’t let the ends touch, carrying the instrument reverently on my shoulder as we walked the remaining distance to the wooded area.

            “Look grandfather.”  I shouted excitedly as there were beech trees around us on all sides.  “I can see where the stream comes down from the mountain.”  I guess that I forgot to tell you that my grandfather was going blind, because it wasn’t important I suppose.  He probably just saw shadows of light and dark while I could see the detail of each leaf while it waved in the breeze as if playing with the sunlight, allowing the suns beams to pass through and splash onto the ground.

            “I heard the water my son.”  Grandfather replied. “But please, tell me what you see.”

            “It is so beautiful Grandfather.”  I said as I went on describing the particular shade of green on the underside of the beech leaves as the sunlight passed through them.  You, as Grandfather did too, already know the exact shade of green that I am referring to.  So, I won’t bore you with trying to describe it again.  Anyway, it was a new experience to me, and we made our camp there and before I dropped off to sleep I turned and said “Grandfather, do you think that the sunlight passes through people as it does the leaves?”  He was already asleep.

We arose early in the morning and continued our trek up the mountain taking turns carrying the bow and the pack containing our supplies and blankets.  We had slept outside under the stars, and there was a definite chill when the sun went down because of the time of the year.  Grandfather also explained to me, as we stopped for our first break, that the higher up the mountain we went, the cooler it got.  I had already learned that at the school, but I didn’t say anything to Grandfather because my mother had taught me to respect elders.

            As we continued to climb, the water ran faster and Grandfather filled the drinking gourd with fresh cool water from a little waterfall right by a fallen tree that was very large and seemed like it might have been a hundred years old.  Our journey up the mountain was more difficult than yesterday’s trip across the plains, but it was far more interesting as every few minutes there was something new to discover.  A squirrel or a chipmunk, all kinds of different birds making beautiful songs, the little fox that I didn’t even see, but Grandfather did, made me wonder who the blind one really was.

            Before long our trip was over, not at the top of the mountains by any means, but to where we were going on this journey.  We stood there looking at a beautiful mountain lake with water so smooth that the reflection of the larger mountains would have been exactly the same if I was upside down.  In fact, I tried to bend over and look at the reflection with my head upside down.  I could still tell which was which, because the blood rushing to my head was a giveaway, but I think you know what I mean.

            We made camp and enjoyed a time of discussion that my Grandfather and I would probably never have again.  For some reason, as we were building the campfire, I asked my Grandfather how it was that people who were blessed with living in this beautifully created world were always fighting and how sad it was that this tribe hated that tribe or this man killed that one and such things as that. 

            “I will tell you a story after dinner my son.”  Grandfather said.

            As the Sun was thinking about retiring for the evening, Grandfather asked me to walk to the water’s edge with him.  He picked up the bow and we walked together.  “One time,” Grandfather said as he pointed to the painted sky with the bow, “the spirit of a great warrior was walking across the cosmos.  He was taller than the distance from Earth to the moon.”  Grandfather said, “Perhaps even the distance to the sun.”  As he looked in the direction where the sun was setting he added.  “There were armies of these colossal beings that had fought through eternity, since the beginning of time, one against the other.”

            This particular Great Spirit had walked away from the battle thinking simply ‘I shall fight no more.’  “As he walked across the vastness of deep space, with his bow still in hand, his moccasins caused the stellar dust to stir into little vortexes and they became the great galaxies spinning off from his footsteps.”

As massive in size he was, he still had the ability to become smaller and smaller as his mass was spread out so thin that He was invisible.”  Grandfather went on.  “And one day his travels brought him back to the galaxy we call the Milky Way and he decided to visit it for some reason I shall never know.”

            Bringing his Spirit together and getting smaller and smaller, the Great Spirit became the size of a sun, and then a planet and eventually the size of a mountain.  When He was the size of you and me, he came to a mountain lake right here on Earth, just like this one.  “He thought for a time about Earth, noticing that there were no people, so he took his bow and touched one of the ends of the bow to the glassy surface of the mountain lake.  Rings rippled in the water where the nock of the bow touched, reaching the shore, and people were born from the waves and walked out onto the land.  Then the Great Spirit laid his bow down by the water’s edge to speak to the people before He returned to his colossal invisible self, forgetting the bow.”

            “Take this bow my son.” Grandfather said as he handed his cherished handmade weapon to me with tears running down his cheeks.  “This is the very bow that the Great Spirit left here by the water that day.  Now go, my Son, and break off the nocks and smash it to pieces on those rocks.”