Skip to main content

Bitter Winds

The television is a marvelous toy, but I’m not sure it teaches better than the old stories. My grandson was watching a man and a woman insulting each other on television. They claimed to be running for president of the United States by insulting each other.

I confess I was pleased when he turned the thing off and came in the next room to talk.

“Grandfather, tell me about the people, the ones called Tsaa...”

I had to remind him there are no Tsaa People any more.

There once were two brothers looking for medicine to help their sister, who was ill.

They travelled far and wide; going from place to place to find a way to help her and in doing so met many people. When they found people they did not know they would go to the eldest they could find.

The Grandfather would say, “You are strangers and do not belong here.”

The brothers would tell the story of how they came to be there, that they were seeking some knowledge to help their sick sister and had come this way to find what these people had to offer, to learn from them and understand the proper way of doing things.

The Grandfather said, "Do you have gifts to bring?"

They admitted they did not have much. “But we offer all that we have.”

In the distance was a rainbow and they had travelled on it and in doing so they had made a trail from the rainbow to where they stood talking to him and that trail was their life.

The rainbow was fashioned by every twist and turn they had made in their travels together. It spoke well of them.

The Grandfather looked at this and said, "You have enough, my children." And he taught them in the way they should walk, about the things his people had to offer, and then he sent them on their way.

They came across another people. These people sat in a place hollowed out by the wind, and when the brothers announced themselves the people said nothing. The people just sat there throwing red sand all over themselves.

They did not talk, or see the brothers, or listen to them, but just threw red sand all over and stirred up the dust. This was the place called Tsaa, the home of Bitter Winds, the winds that blow for no reason but to cause strife.

The bitter wind when it comes to you carries sand and if you are caught in it, it will sting your face; it will make you wonder why are you here and whether you should go on.

You say to yourself that it is too much trouble to continue. But if you hang on it will blow over and be gone. It is always there, this wind. So it is with life.

“Grandfather, why are they that way?”

“Grandson, it has always been so. You will find it all through your life there are those that are like that bitter wind. When they come to you, they bring nothing but stirred up dust and it will sting.

“It comes from a place where there are those people who do not see or hear or listen and it does not matter what you say they will not listen, but just throw red sand all over themselves and stir up the bitter winds of life.

“That’s from the Navajo Way...an old story.”

“The Bitter Winds blow red sand as they come and so it goes on, but it will pass. There will be better days than this; let this one go by.”

The boy was quiet for a long while.

“I think I understand, Grandfather, but I have just one question.”

Trying not to let my pride in him show too much, but rather just enough, I asked him about his one question.

“I thought you said there are no Tsaa People any more?”

Johnny Rustywire is Folded Rocks Clan People on his mother’s side, and born for Tsinahbiltnii, the Mountain People Clan on his father’s side. He comes from Toadlena-Two Gray Hills, New Mexico, where the mountain is cracked and the water flows. He is a father of six and grandfather of 12. He attended Indian boarding schools and grew up on the Navajo Reservation, and has been married to the same woman for 40 years, a Ute from Fort Duchesne, Utah.