Paula Gunn Allen
The thing to remember about life is it causes death. It’s about fire, truth to tell. You know, you eat and breathe to get fuel to run the body, right? And a calorie is a way of measuring the burn, which is what happens. Your body, employing oxygen just like any merry blaze does, burns the stuff you eat and drink. Over time, the oxygenation process, which you gotta have to live, causes a build up of ashes, just like the Catholics say. It’s those ashes that slowly make things break down. Now, of course, the new craze is anti-oxidant type supplements, to get a slower burn. Funny to think of carbon-based life forms as the type of cosmic dust that burns itself up. Well, it’s ecologically sound, I’ll give it that.
But, here’s the thing: some lives burn up faster than others, and while the medicos can talk about what you eat and whether you work out and all that physical stuff, how many are talking about soul-burn? It seems to me that some people have too much oxygen, and that makes them burn bright and burn out quick. A flash that dazzles, and then the dark. Of course, the dark isn’t. I mean, after the afterimage fades from your retinas, you can see that the stars are all over the sky. In time, you get just as dazzled by starlight as by lightning flash-burn. And maybe starlight-burn lasts longer.
Or maybe some people get so caught up in the winds of the times, especially when like now everything’s changing faster and faster so that the energy moves faster and hotter, and it steals all the air out of their lungs. You know, like happens in a firestorm where anything not made of metal ignites. There was this one grass fire, out on the plains in the Midwest, and a couple of kids were on the wrong side of the blaze. They tried to run through the fire and the hot air stole the breath from them. They collapsed in the middle of the blaze. You could see them trying to scream, but the heat had taken all the oxygen so they had no breath. They were burning alive, see.
I think chindi* does that to you, so you don’t want to get caught in one. It seems to me that eras are like people in that way. Like some are firestorms so hot that everything ignites, everyone who tries to run through the flames has their breath
* According to Allen, chindi is the Diné word for dust devil or whirlwind.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Reckonings: Contemporary Short Fiction by Native American Women. Contributors: Hertha D. Sweet Wong - Editor, Lauren Stuart Muller - Editor, Jana Sequoya Magdaleno - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2008. Page number: 3.
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