“In your head, they are dying.”
My father raised me off the rez in my mother’s white, European immigrant America. He didn’t want me trapped (mentally or physically) in a place that the country had abandoned. He wanted to be one of those dudes who watches NFL and Clint Eastwood westerns, buys Ford pickups, and chases their dreams. He wanted his boy to be an American.
When I was small, my father and his brother would take me and my cousins into the Olympic mountains to hunt deer and elk. I can still taste the morning mist on my tongue. If I close my eyes, I can still smell those ancient firs and cedars. I can hear the light crunch of the forest floor under my feet — a world dying and regenerating. The flutter of a raven. The slow, ominous creak of tree limbs older than the United States itself.
To this day, I can feel the chill of that mountain air in my bones.