About me and this blog

I was born on a native reserve in Ontario, grew up on the west coast of Vancouver Island (as far west as you can go without running out of Canada), came of age in Mexico City. Between times, I lived in the Fraser Valley, Texas, Seattle, Oklahoma, Bella Coola, on the BC north coast, and the Fraser River Delta, just south of Vancouver. For now, I'm "settled" in Campbell River, on Vancouver Island.

I have a boatload of stories to tell. These are some of them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nusatsum: A parable

Many years ago, when the world was young, or at least I was, I moved into a cabin in a long valley in the north country. The back of the cabin looked over a meadow to green foothills and, towering over them, snow-capped even in August, the mountain our end of the valley was named for. Nusatsum, the natives called it.

The old-timers told me there were legends about the mountain; a lonely chieftain, a sleeping maiden. "You can see him waiting up there, in the snow," someone said. I couldn't. Nothing there but massive rocks and eye-blinding white.

In the evenings we sat with our coffee on the back porch, looking at the mountain. I tried and tried to make out a figure, a face, even a facial feature. Visitors pointed him out to me: "Look near the top on the right; you should be able to see his eye." No.

Suddenly, one night, the shadows acquired meaning: there he was. A long nose, a deeply shadowed eye, a mournful mouth. He was the mountain, or rather, the mountain was him. He sat, half reclining, facing east. The setting sun tinted his head pink, as if he wore an exotic feather headdress.

"I see him!" I told my companion. "See; that sharp line at the top, it's his forehead, plain as day!"

She stared, tilted her head to one side, then the other. "I don't see him." She sat back, sipping her coffee. She looked at the mountain again. "Wait! I see what you mean! There he is!"

We watched, entranced, as the sunlight faded and died, leaving only a glowing brightness up there where the sky brushed Nusatsum's cheek. Our coffee chilled in the cups.

"I am glad he's facing East," I said. "He'll be watching the sun come up."

"East? He's facing West!"

"No, that's East," I said, pointing.

"Wait a minute! What are you seeing? The face I see looks West! That way!"

In the dark of the porch I couldn't see my friend's face, just her arm thrust out, her hand gesturing in the moonlight. "That way!" she repeated.

I felt betrayed, somehow.

My friend never knew Nusatsum as I knew him. It's a pity. Weekday evenings, driving up valley after yet another weary day, I kept my eyes on his brilliant face and was comforted. So pure he was, so regal, so serene. So patient.

It was long ago when I was young, but still he sits unchanging, forever watching the morning.

Stories of Bella Coola
© Susannah Anderson, 1999


Clytie said...

I love this story. We all see things differently. Yet the same. I'm glad you were comforted by Nusatsum's presence. I'm sure whoever lives there now is comforted as well.

Beth Niquette said...

Sissy and I often take pictures of the same thing--but we have a different perspective.

I love this story--it is beautiful. I want to visit there and see Nasatsum.