"The Dream Coat"
were out exploring
when they found one
that was all full of art.
So they took some extra time
just to wander around admiring it.
The buildings were covered with murals,
the parks were filled with statues, and
everyone seemed to wear jewelry.
This was fine until someone
someone pointed at Ash and
hissed, "Witch! Witch!" while
shaking a painted stick at her.
"I'm not a witch," Ash said mildly.
"I'm a computer programmer
and a quantum mechanic."
"You're wearing witchcraft!"
the man said, glaring at her.
Just then, two younger adults
ushered him away, still protesting
about the evils of witchcraft.
"I'm sorry about that,"
said an older woman.
"My husband can be
very old-fashioned, and
some people still carry
those superstitions about
the soft arts. But there's
nothing wrong with quilting!"
"What, my dream coat?"
Ash said. "I've had this
sent I went off to college.
My relatives made it for me."
It was a thing of beauty, with
a yoke of red and blue suede,
the body pieced from suede, denim,
woven cloth of coral and blue, and
pieces from her uncle's blanket that
had caught on fire a bit while camping
and only scraps could be salvaged.
There was blue suede fringe on
the front and red on the back,
and the buttons were made
from real buffalo nickels.
The pieced outside was
quilted to a solid flannel center
for warmth, and then attached to
a loose liner of smooth red cotton.
Ash's grandmothers had contributed
the blue and red suede, her mother
the multicolored cloth, her older sister
the denim, and her mother's brother
scraps of the blanket he had woven.
Her father had found the coins,
hammered them into half-rounds
and welded loops on the backs.
Then her mother had sewn
all the parts together.
Every time Ash wore
her jacket, she could her
her family saying, "I love you,"
and "May you walk in beauty."
And they did, and she did.
"Yes, women's magic still doesn't
get as much respect as men's magic,"
the woman said. "But it should."
"Well, my mother made the jacket,
but this part here --" Ash pointed
to the blanket scrap on the front.
"-- was made by my uncle."
"That's ... very progressive of him,"
the woman said, looking stunned.
Ash laughed at the idea of anyone
calling her uncle progressive. He
was a reservation Indian and
as conservative as they came.
"If you say so," she demurred.
"It's not really magic, though."
"I only know a little bit myself,
of course, but can call up the voices
from a message quilt, if you'd like
a demonstration?" the woman said.
"Sure, why not," Ash agreed.
The stranger touched her fingertips
to the quilted sleeve and murmured
something under her breath.
And the air was filled with voices.
Ash's grandmothers cackled over
bad jokes as they cut the fringe.
Her sister talked about old jeans
finding a new life in the jacket.
Her mother spoke of college, dreams,
and hope as she attached the pieces.
Her father wished her prosperity
as he hammered out the buttons.
That had certainly worked out, given
Alex's deep pockets and generosity.
Suddenly her uncle's voice sang:
"Hózhóogo naasháa doo
Shitsijí’ hózhóogo naasháa doo
Shikéédéé hózhóogo naasháa doo..."
In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk ...
"I've never heard anything
like that before," the stranger said.
"The song is so beautiful!"
"Yes," said Ash,
"that is what it means."
Well, if the jacket had
her uncle's Blessingway
woven into it, then perhaps
it was magic after all.
* * *
Ash wears a vintage Navajo jacket made from quilted fabric and suede, with Buffalo Indian Head nickel buttons. See the front, back, inside,
The Blessingway is a major Navajo ceremony used on various special occasions. Read some of the lyrics.