STORYTELLER; THE 'SEASON OF SNOW'

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Arok had never been good enough when he was a boy, and as a young man the
cruelties of the village people were more than Arok could bear. They would
laugh and make fun of his body's build and yell out to him, "Hey, twig
boy!" This hurt him deeply. They would laugh at his hair, his eyes; his
smile was not even right in their eyes.

Little by little, Arok started to keep to himself. He didn't join in any of
the dances or dinners; he even hunted alone. He would come out at night
when all were asleep and, on his own by the light of the moon, go out into
the forest and hunt, gather wood, pick berries and dig for roots. Only one
in the village, a beautiful young maiden named Tika, seemed intrigued by
this strange young man.

But time and many unkind words took their toll on Arok, and he became a
bitter person. Never did he smile or speak -- even if Tika tried to stop
him to talk. She would wait until dark to try to follow him, just to talk,
but he would disappear into the forest as if the shadows consumed him.

Creator had been watching all these goings-on since Arok was a young boy.
His spirit messengers had told him of Arok's days and nights.

One evening, Arok was out alone hunting in the forest when Creator
whispered to him, "Arok, I know you are not happy. Would you help me and be
the keeper of the season of snow?"

Arok stood still. He hardly believed his ears. "Why yes. Who asks me this?"

"It is I, Creator. I know you are unhappy, but please listen. If you do
this for me, no one will ever see you except on the first snow of the
season."

Arok stood very still and answered that he would do this, for he felt he
didn't fit in among his people. "Are you sure you want me for this task? I
am ugly. Would you not want a big, strong warrior?"

Creator laughed and made the leaves dance around Arok's feet. "Ugly. I do
not know why you think that all is beautiful. Now, listen. When the winds
from the north start to blow and the snow falls, you will enter the new
world of the cold. It needs your watchful eye to help take care of the
animal people, trees, all that lives ... and even your people. You will
know what to do. I will tell you in your dreams." And the voice was gone.

Arok hunted well that night and the nights to come, for the season of snow
was almost upon him. He gathered food and much firewood for his mother and
father, for they would need it. His parents could not figure out why he was
bringing them all hides and food, wood and berries. But he never would
speak and tell them why.

That night the snow started to gently fall, and Arok knew it was time to
go. He went to his parents' tipi and hugged his mother and father. They
were very surprised, for Arok kept to himself.

As he left, a gentle breeze seemed to lift him high into the night sky.
Like the hawk, he looked down and saw all. He flew like the birds and
enjoyed his new world.

Meanwhile, Tika had seen what happened the night Arok disappeared. The
people of his village thought he had been killed during a hunt and seemed
to forget about him ... but not Tika. She still walked out into the forest
in the season of the snow, but she never saw Arok. Yet somehow, she felt
his presence.

Two seasons of snow came and went, and Arok was at home in his new world,
always trying to help and watch those who needed it. He always made sure to
watch over Tika when she would walk through the forest at night. Then, when
the season of snow of the third year was just about to come upon the small
village again, Arok remembered Creator had said he could be seen on the
first snowfall.

He had always loved Tika, but would never look upon her or talk. Maybe he
would this season. So as the first snowfall gently fell and Tika was out
walking, Arok came upon her on a gentle breeze that made her giggle. "Arok,
is that you? I know you are the winter spirit. Please show yourself to me."
And he did.

She gently touched his cheek with her hand and when she looked into his
eyes she could see the beauty that no one else could see. He was beautiful
in so many ways. The warmth from his eyes could melt the winter snow that
surrounded them.

He slowly and gently reached out to her and smiled. "Come, let us take a
walk. I mean, will you walk with me?" Her eyes smiled "Yes"; and like two
young lovers, they held hands and walked through the snow, feeling only the
warmth that the sun's rays could give.

"Tika," he asked, "would you be my bride? I know I am not handsome like the
men of our village, but the love I have for you will live forever."

"Oh Arok," she answered. "You are the most beautiful person I have ever
seen. The beauty of your heart is like none I have ever seen. You became
bitter because of words. I never said those words. I always loved you, but
you would never let me in your world." Arok was surprised to hear these
words. All he could do was smile and hug Tika and never let her go.

"Yes. Yes, I will be your bride," Tika answered.

Arok was happier than he had ever been in his life. "There is only one
problem," he said. "You will be only seen in the first snow of the season
and you will have to leave your world as you know it. I feel this is too
much to ask of you." But Tika looked into Arok's eyes and said, "Yes, I
will be the season of snow."

After that night, Tika was never seen again -- for she and Arok were
together, as the Creator knew they would. But during one season of snow,
Tika's parents were just coming back from gathering wood when the snow
started to fall ever so lightly ... and they saw Arok and Tika holding
hands and smiling at them. Their hearts weren't heavy anymore; and as
seasons came and went, they always made sure they were outside when the
first snow fell and true love shone.

It's funny how we find love, or it finds us, even when we don't know it.
It's there, like a present unopened: beauty and love can live within us and
the people we meet. Watch out for it.

Lim Lim.

Ken "Rainbow Cougar" Edwards, from the Colville Indian Reservation in
Washington, is an accomplished painter and storyteller. He is a graduate of
the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and is a longtime
cartoonist for Indian Country Today.