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Poem: "Said to the Four Winds" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Said to the Four Winds"
This poem is spillover from the October 3, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] ng_moonmoth, [personal profile] redsixwing, and [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It also fills the "nonsexual touch" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by the pool with [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Iron Horses thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: Kenzie is recovering from his injuries, getting tired of lounging around, and Blazing Grass comes back to check to on his progress. This entails some messy medical details. The tone is generally upbeat, though. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Said to the Four Winds"


Kenzie woke to an odd sensation,
and found Mick tugging playfully
at the multicolored quilt on the bed.

"Time to get up," Mick said,
giving the covers another twitch.

"Go away," Kenzie groaned.
"I'm still tired. Leave me alone."

"Up up up," Mick said, punctuating
every word with a tweak or a tap.

He drove Kenzie out of bed,
yipping and nipping at him.
"Coyote," Mick laughed.

"I hate you right now,"
Kenzie grumbled at him.

"You need to hit the bathroom,"
Mick said reasonably. "Blair and
Ben are out scouting for clothes.
If you dawdle, then there might not
be much breakfast left for you."

That got Kenzie moving. He
used the beautiful guest bathroom,
and by the time he came out, Ben and
Blair had returned with a selection
of clothes for him to consider.

It was still too soon for jeans or
anything else with a rigid waistband,
so they had brought ribbon shirts and
skirts held up with soft elastic.

Even though Kenzie wasn't
a member of the tribe, he liked
wearing native clothes. It helped
him to feel more like he fit in,
and less like an outsider.

Kenzie picked out a hot pink skirt
with a rainbow of ribbons at the hem
and two pairs of highly stylized feathers.
To go with it he chose a turquoise shirt
with a rainbow of small triangles.

"You have a good eye," Blair said
as she and Ben gently helped Kenzie
into the clothes. "Even though those
weren't made to match, they look
really good together on you."

"Thanks," Kenzie said. It was
a lot nicer than people teasing him
about his fashion sense, and not
in a nice way like Mick did.

They teamed up to do his hair,
Ben brushing one half and then Blair
braiding it as Ben finished the rest.

It was comfortable and convenient.
Kenzie thought that he might start
wearing his hair this way more often.

"Come and get breakfast," Ben said,
and Kenzie could already smell the bacon.

The dining room was really just part of
the great room, with a round table snugged
against a bench built right into the outer wall.
A library covered the inner wall shared with
the master bedroom, its built-in bookshelves
loaded with all kinds of different topics.

When Kenzie sat down at the table,
he found a platter of bacon, half of it
fried crisp and the other still flexible,
alongside a tray of sliced apples and
pitchers of milk and orange juice.

There was one other thing, too.

"Birchbark cereal?" Kenzie said,
staring at the box with a forest
of white trees on the front.

Blair laughed. "It's not
actually made from birchbark,
it's white rice striped with wild rice,"
she said. "It is sweetened with
real birch syrup, though."

"Okay," Kenzie said dubiously.
"I guess I can try some."

"If you hate it, then you can
have something else," Ida said
as she added a bowl full of berries.
"Just give it a fair chance first.
You might decide you like it."

So Kenzie poured a little
into his bowl and sampled it.

The cereal itself turned out to be
little white squares with dark streaks.
The flavor was light and slightly sweet,
with a sharp edge that seemed
almost familiar, but not quite.

"This tastes like ... root beer?"
he said, frowning over the bowl.

"That's the birch syrup," Blair said.
"Some people think that birch soda
tastes a little bit like root beer."

Kenzie tried the bacon too, which
was excellent, and some of the apples.
They helped cut the sharp, unfamiliar flavor
of the cereal down to something interesting
rather than distracting or unpalatable.

"I think I like Birchbark," he decided
in the end, "just not all by itself."

"That's good to hear," Ida said.

When everyone finished breakfast and
began clearing the table, Kenzie reached for
the dishes in the middle and then winced.

"Ow," he muttered, rubbing his back.

Ida shooed him away from the table.
"Why don't you let us clean up today,"
she said. "You can help later."

So Kenzie sat and watched,
not very happily, as other people
did all the work of cleaning up.

Afterwards, Ida came over to him.
"You look anxious," she said.

Kenzie twined his fingers together
and tucked them between his knees.
"A little, yeah," he said. "Blazing Grass
is supposed to come back today and
tell how well I'm healing, or not."

"You are doing fine," Ida said,
patting him on the shoulder.
"If this were going badly, then
we would know it by now."

"Even the cuts that were
turning red are looking better.
That salve he gave me helped
a lot," Kenzie said. "I just ...
worry about this anyway."

"It's all right to worry, but it's not
necessary," Ida said. "Let's see if
I can help you calm down some
before Blazing Grass arrives."

She fetched a round blue bag
whose flap had white stars on it.

"Come back to your bedroom,"
Ida said. "You can lie down,
and I will play for you."

Kenzie let her coax him
back into bed. It felt good
to stretch out and relax.

From the bag, Ida took out
a frame drum and a beater.
She played a slow, soft rhythm
that made Kenzie think of
a horse ambling along.

He let himself drift with it,
and soon fell into a doze.

He roused to Ida tapping him
on the wrist and saying, "Kenzie,
wake up, Blazing Grass is here."

When he sat up, he found
not just the healer but also
Blair and Ben in the room.

"I hope you don't mind us
sitting in," Blair said. "You
might need a hand moving,
and Ben wants reassurance
that you're healing okay."

"I can shoo them out if
you don't want an audience
for this," Blazing Grass said.
"You will be losing most of
your clothes at the start."

"It's fine," Kenzie said.
"Besides, Blair is right, I still
need help with some stuff."

"Then it's good that you've
found people you're comfortable
accepting it from," Ida said.

"This will be easier if I can see and
touch the damaged skin. Would you
peel down to underwear, please?"
Blazing Grass asked Kenzie.

"Yeah," Kenzie said, sitting up.
"Ben, give me a hand with the shirt?
It still hurts to move my arms that much."

"We'll test that shortly," said Blazing Grass.

Ida picked up her drum again and began
playing a whisper-soft rhythm that soothed
Kenzie's restless nerves just a little bit.

Ben helped Kenzie undress, and then Blair
folded the clothes neatly on the bed.

"Turn," Blazing Grass said, and
Kenzie obligingly rotated for him.

"I think it's getting better?" Kenzie said.
"I don't feel as bad as I did at first."

"That's good," said Blazing Grass.
"The older cuts aren't red anymore,
and everything else looks promising.
Now, show me your range of motion.
Very carefully, stretch your arms out to
the sides, until it just starts to hurt."

Kenzie got them most of the way
before he had to stop. "Ow."

"You're making excellent progress,"
said Blazing Grass. "Can you stretch
a little farther? Don't go so far that
it really hurts, just push a bit."

Kenzie breathed out and leaned
into the pain the way that Ron had
taught him, then dropped his arms.

Blazing Grass led him through
similar exercises reaching forward
and then straight over his head.
Those were harder to do.

"All right, that's enough,"
the healer said when Kenzie
was panting and sweating
from the pain and exertion.

"Oh, good," Kenzie said.

"I'm going to put my hands on
your back and move the skin around,"
said Blazing Grass. "This will probably
feel uncomfortable, but it shouldn't hurt a lot,
so if you feel any sharp pain, let me know."

"Okay," Kenzie said. Warm hands
spread over his back beside the wounds,
gently sliding and stretching the skin.

It was fine for the first minute or so,
then turned into a sharp, unpleasant tug.
"Ow!" Kenzie yelped. "It feels like it's sticking."

"That's because it is," Blazing Grass said.
"I healed the cuts over your shoulderblades,
but there's a nasty patch of bruising here
that's starting to adhere your skin to
the underlying muscle and bone."

"I think that's where I first hit
when they threw me out of
the truck," Kenzie said.

Ben growled. Ida frowned.

Blair said something in Cree
that made Ida cluck at her.

"That matches what I'm feeling,"
said Blazing Grass. "All right,
the easiest way to fix this is for
me to numb the skin, slip a scalpel
underneath, cut the adhesion free,
and then heal the damage so it
can't do the same thing again.
What do you say, Kenzie?"

"Yeah, I guess," said Kenzie.
He wasn't happy about it, but that
would be a lot less miserable than
leaving it to get even worse.

"Lie back down, we're done with
the upright part," Blazing Grass said.

Kenzie stretched out on the bed,
and Blazing Grass tucked towels
around him to catch any stray blood.

A hand pressed over the spot,
and then the sensation faded away.
"Feel anything?" Blazing Grass asked.

"Not really," Kenzie replied.

"Just relax, this won't take
very long," the healer said.

At first, Kenzie felt no more than
a faint pressure, but then there came
a bizarre wiggling sensation. "What's
that? It tickles," Kenzie said.

"I'm almost done with this,"
Blazing Grass said. "I can
turn off a few more nerves.
That's light pressure you feel."

The tickling faded out. "Yeah,
that's better," Kenzie said. "Why not
just turn off all of them, though?"

"I could, but then it tends to feel like
part of your body has disappeared,"
the healer said. "Some people find that
alarming, so usually I turn off all the nerves
for pain and most of the ones for pressure.
It should feel numb but still 'there' in a way."

"That's kind of cool," Kenzie said.

"Thank you," Blazing Grass said.
"All right, this bit's done. Let me just
clean you up a bit and then I'll check
to see how the stitches are doing."

The feeling was coming back
slowly, just enough for Kenzie
to sense something swiping
over that part of his back.

"I really hope those stitches
are healing okay," Ben said.

"They look fine, some of them
better than fine," Blazing Grass said.
"Kenzie, do you mind if I give Ben
another lesson using you as a model?
There's something going on back here
that's highly relevant to soups."

"I guess?" Kenzie said, twisting
and trying to see over his shoulder.
That made him yelp again.

"Lie still," the healer said gently,
pressing him back onto the bed.
"If you want to see, then I can ask
someone for a couple of mirrors."

"I'll get them," Blair said, hopping up.
Soon she came back with them.

Blazing Grass angled one to catch
the neat lines of thread on Kenzie's back,
then moved the second forward so that
Kenzie could see the reflection in it.

"Wow, those look a lot better
than I expected," Kenzie admitted.

"That's because you're healing faster than
average," the healer said. "It happens to
plenty of soups. This isn't Regeneration,
but it's more than what naries can do, and
that means it changes some things."

"Like what?" Kenzie asked.

"How long to leave the stitches in,"
Blazing Grass said. "Some of these
are ready to come out already."

"But it's only been a few days!"
Kenzie said. "I thought that stitches
needed to stay in for a couple of weeks."

"The standard is ten to fourteen days,"
Blazing Grass said. "Sometimes, less for
smaller wounds or more for bad ones.
Certain areas like the face heal faster,
while cuts over joints often take longer.
The important thing in this case is that if
you leave stitches too long, they can stick,
which is very unpleasant to resolve."

Kenzie cringed. "That would suck."

"Don't worry about it, you're fine,
and I'm going to show Ben what
to look for," Blazing Grass said.

"Okay, then," Kenzie said.
"I trust you, both of you.
Go ahead and do that."

Gentle fingers pressed
into Kenzie's skin, right at
the edge of the sore spot.

"See here, how the scabs are
turning white at the edges and
starting to lift away from the skin?"
Blazing Grass said. "They're not
quite ready to come off yet, but
that means the skin underneath
is knitted quite thoroughly."

"I see it," Ben said quietly.
"So when it looks like that,
it's time to pull the stitches?"

"Exactly," Blazing Grass said.
"Kenzie, we're looking at the ends
of this Y-shape." He pointed out
the relevant lines. "The injury is
shallower here, so it's healing faster."

"Yeah, that makes sense," Kenzie said.
"The tail of that Y is deeper, and it
didn't want to stop bleeding."

"It's fine now," Blazing Grass said.
"What I'd like to do is take out this row
myself, and let Ben do the other one."

Ben gave an entirely un-bear-like squeak.
"Me?" he said. "But I'm not a real medic!"

"No, but you're a biker," Blazing Grass said
in a dry tone. "Tell me that you've never
done this before, and I'll call you a liar."

Ben sighed. "Yeah, but that was
on myself. This is different."

"A little bit," Blazing Grass said. "People
pick out their own stitches all the time when
they don't want to come back to a doctor.
I wish they wouldn't, but they're not going
to stop. It's just not that complicated to do.
It's a learned skill, so I'd rather people learn it
if they're in situations where they may not
always have access to medical care."

"I think Blazing Grass has a point, Ben,"
said Kenzie. "We were hours away from
any other help when you found me. You
put these in, how much worse can it be
taking them back out? And what if you
need to do it again someday, maybe
for someone who heals even faster?"

"Entirely possible," the healer said.
"Even with Regeneration, messy cuts
need the edges matched. Sometimes I
tack a few places and then just take out
the stitches several hours later. It works."

"Are you sure you're okay with this,
Kenzie?" said Ben. "I'm not squeamish,
but I really don't want to hurt you."

"I'm sure," Kenzie said. "I trust you,
and besides, if anything goes wrong, then
Blazing Grass is right here to fix it. You're
not going to get a better opportunity short of
paramedic school, and that takes time."

"All right, then," Ben said to Blazing Grass.
"Show me how to do this the right way."

"It's pretty easy," the healer said. "Kenzie,
you might feel a tug or a tickle. If it hurts,
tell me and I'll turn off the nerves, okay?"

"Yeah, I'm good," Kenzie said.

"Hand Blair the mirror so you can
concentrate on staying calm and
holding still," Blazing Grass said.

"Thanks for loaning me this,"
Kenzie said as he did so.

"Any time," Blair said.

"All right, Ben, here we go,"
said Blazing Grass. "First, clean
the whole area. Lift up each stitch
and cut one end, then pull it out
from the other side. Simple."

Kenzie couldn't feel much
except a weird sliding sensation.
As promised, it didn't hurt.

The release of tension changed
something in his skin, though,
and by the time Ben was done
fussily picking out his row of
stitches, it was getting worse.

"It itches," Kenzie whined.
"Why does it itch all of sudden?"

"With the stitches gone, there's
nothing to hold the new skin slack,"
Blazing Grass explained. "It's going
to itch as it heals. Do not scratch."

"But it itches!" Kenzie said again.
"This is going to drive me nuts."

"New skin is very sensitive. So if you
scratch, you'll shred it," Blazing Grass said.
"Put on some lotion, something light and
moisturizing. Don't use anything too heavy
or nourishing, because that could fade
the scars more than you want."

It was taking all of Kenzie's willpower
to lie still and not scratch. "Like what?"

"I've got lavender and blue chamomile lotion,
but blue chamomile is healing for soups,"
Blair said. "That might not be ideal."

"Ron has some in sage and arnica --
that really light stuff that dries fast and
doesn't make oily skin get too greasy,"
Ben said. "We can ask him to share."

"That sounds good," Blazing Grass said.
"Meanwhile, let's see what I have in the kit."
Something rustled in the background. "Here,
this should do the trick. It's a healing cream
meant for tattoos and other body art. One of
my biker patients turned me on to this."

"See, we're good for something,"
Blair said with a chuckle.

Kenzie felt the cool touch as
Blazing Grass smoothed cream
over the sensitive new skin.

The itching quickly began to fade.
"Yeah, that's better," he said. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Blazing Grass said.
"Kenzie, how are you feeling in general?
Have you been in a lot of pain, or has
that been mostly manageable?"

"Better than I expected," Kenzie said.
"I only needed the pain pills for, hmm,
the first day or two, I think it was."

"Then that's definitely a good sign,"
Blazing Grass said with a smile.

"When can I do stuff again?"
Kenzie said. "Everyone keeps
telling me to rest and let them
do all the work, but I hate that."

"It's traditional for the friends
and relatives of a Sun Dancer
to take care of him for four days,"
Blazing Grass reminded him.
"That's an honor, not a burden."

"I know, but I don't like lazing
around," Kenzie said. "I'm starting
to come down with cabin fever."

"Based on what I've seen, you
can go back to light work now,
for no more than four hours at
a time," Blazing Grass said.
"Listen to your body, and if
anything really hurts, stop it."

The drum stilled and Ida said,
"I have no end of light housework
and sit-down tasks you can do."

Kenzie winced. Sitting down wasn't
the most comfortable position, due to
the way it stretched the skin on his back.

"He might feel more comfortable standing
or lying down for a little while longer,"
Blazing Grass said. "However, it's
good to change position often."

That reminded Kenzie of how he
had handled previous beatings.

"How about short tasks, things I
can finish in ten or fifteen minutes?"
he asked, looking at Ida. "That way,
I won't spend so long in one position
that it gets really uncomfortable."

"Good idea," said Blazing Grass.
"You'll also need to be careful about
your arms until you get the rest of
your flexibility back. I recommend
gentle stretching to speed recovery.
Do it just like the tests from earlier --
go out as far as is comfortable, push
a little bit more, and then relax."

"I can do that," Kenzie agreed.
"Maybe walking? I'd like to see
more of the reservation here."

"Walking would be good for you,"
said Blazing Grass. "I suggest that
you take a spotter with you at first,
in case you wear out unexpectedly."

"Yeah, I guess," Kenzie said. He
didn't like the idea of a babysitter, but
falling over alone would be worse.

"Are you sleeping all right, or are you
having trouble?" Blazing Grass said.
"A few nightmares are normal, but if
you're waking up every night or you
can't get to sleep, that's not good."

"Actually I'm sleeping way more than
usual," Kenzie said. "I feel tired most
of the time, plus the blue chamomile
makes me drowsy. I'm tired now, and
it's barely even time for lunch!"

"We didn't do as much healing work
as the first time, but we did some, and
that takes energy," Blazing Grass said.
"Don't fall asleep before you eat, though.
Right now, your body needs fuel more than
it needs rest. Get dressed and get lunch."

Kenzie let Ben and Blair help him
back into the beautiful clothes.
He felt better when dressed.

"Ben, you're pretty much done here,"
Ida said. "Find Mick and tell him
to go kill something for supper."

"Going," Ben said as he headed out.

"You don't have to go to all that trouble,"
Kenzie said. "Regular food is fine."

"Fresh food is better," Blazing Grass said.
"Your body needs extra protein to repair itself."
Another rustle as he dipped into his kit again.
"Here, dessert." He handed Kenzie a candy bar.
"Clinical-grade chocolate speeds healing, too."

"I'll put on a pot of Three Sisters for supper,"
Ida said. "When Mick comes back with
some game, then I'll add that too."

"The beans will definitely help,"
Blazing Grass said. He reached out
to pat Kenzie gently on the shoulder.
"All done. Would you like a blessing?"

Kenzie wasn't used to that kind of offer,
but it sounded interesting, and so far
Blazing Grass had done well for him.
"Yes, I'd like to try that," he said.

Blazing Grass lifted his free hand
to cup Kenzie's shoulders between both,
then said, "We look to Mother Earth for
guidance and answers. Our prayers and
thanksgiving are said to the four winds.
Now let there be healing and peace."

The feel of it drifted over Kenzie
like a sunbeam, warm and soothing,
a sense of belonging instead of otherness.

He wasn't used to it, but he thought
that he could get there from here.

* * *

Notes:

"In early days we were close to nature. We judged time, weather conditions, and many things by the elements--the good earth, the blue sky, the flying of geese, and the changing winds. We looked to these for guidance and answers. Our prayers and thanksgiving were said to the four winds--to the East, from whence the new day was born; to the South, which sent the warm breeze which gave a feeling of comfort; to the West, which ended the day and brought rest; and to the North, the Mother of winter whose sharp air awakened a time of preparation for the long days ahead. We lived by God's hand through nature and evaluated the changing winds to tell us or warn us of what was ahead.
Today we are again evaluating the changing winds. May we be strong in spirit and equal to our Fathers of another day in reading the signs accurately and interpreting them wisely. May Wah-Kon-Tah, the Great Spirit, look down upon us, guide us, inspire us, and give us courage and wisdom. Above all, may He look down upon us and be pleased."
-- Unknown Speaker addressing the National Congress of American Indians in the mid 1960's

The Starblanket family roundhouse is made of cob with a grass roof. It has three bedrooms and a den/playroom. In this floor plan, the main entrance comes through the laundry room. In a traditional home, the place of honor was opposite the entrance, in this case roughly the great room and the master bedroom. The kitchen occupies the central area where the hearth once resided. The back side of the kitchen facing the master bedroom has altar niches. The library runs along the wall beside the back door and wraps around to the door of the master bedroom. The dining table tucks against a bench along the outer wall. The living room has a built-in couch and a woodstove. The sitting room has a built-in couch, chairs, and bookcases. The den / playroom has a fireplace, a built-in couch, and several pieces of loose furniture. There is also a niche with a desk and chair behind the fireplace. Toys are kept in baskets or shelves inset into the walls. The laundry room has a sink and cabinets in addition to the washer and dryer. The kitchen includes a refrigerator, chest freezer, stove, and sink. The back side of the kitchen facing the master bedroom has altar niches. The master bedroom has a queen-size bed. The master bathroom is decorated with tile mosaics of sea creatures. It has a wooden shelf unit attached to the wall. The guest bedroom has a full-size bed with a desk and chair behind the headboard. A huge planter lines the wall above the window, above which hangs a ceiling fan with grow lights. The planter and nearby shelves hold a variety of succulents, other houseplants, and even a banana tree. The bunkroom holds one pair of twin-size bunks along with a windowseat. The guest bathroom is decorated with turquoise tiles and small planters full of water-loving flowers. This is the porch of the Starblanket family roundhouse.

See Kenzie's turquoise ribbon shirt and pink two-spirit ribbon skirt.

In Terramagne, Miijim Manufacturing is a Chippewa Cree food manufacturer on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Their cold cereals include Amazing Maple Flake, Berry Maze, Birchbark, and Maize Munch.

miijim ni RG
food
miijim sg; miijiman pl; Stem: /miijim-/
-- Ojibwe (Cree) Dictionary

Birchbark is a cold cereal made from white rice and wild rice baked into squares that are pale with dark streaks, and sweetened with real birch syrup.

Drums play a vital role in Native American culture. It is common for tribal folks to play drums for healing purposes, as Ida does here. They come in various styles, such as handheld frame drums. This is Ida Starblanket's drum bag.

Soft tissue injuries to skin and muscle require gentle stretching for recovery. Stretch very carefully at first. Discomfort or a little stretchy, achy pain is okay; a lot of pain or sharp pain means trouble and you should back off. It is important to lean into the pain rather than dissociating from it, because you need to know what your body is doing and feeling. Start slow and do a little more each day until you get back to normal for you. To reduce scarring, use stretching and massage after the wounds are healing well and while the new tissue is still malleable. Here are some exercises for upper-body scar management. Physical therapy can be uncomfortable and exhausting, especially at first, but it tends to produce better results than just ignoring an injury as it heals.

Removing stitches is fairly straightforward. Most people prefer to have a medic do this, but it can be done at home if necessary. The most common issues with stitches are tearing them by moving too vigorously while the injury is fresh, which can break it open again; popping one shortly before they're removed; or waiting too long to remove them, in which case they stick to the surrounding skin.

Healing skin often itches, especially after stitches come out, and it really is imperative not to scratch to avoid reinjuring delicate new tissue. The body modification subculture has learned all how to how stop itching. A light lotion such as Turquoise Sage Mountain Arnica Body Lotion can help.

Healing foods for wound recovery include those high in protein and other nutrients.

The Three Sisters appear throughout much of Native American cuisine. A stew can be made including meat.

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