|The Bride of Lightning - An Excerpt from Hoodoo Dreams: A Meditation on Landscape and Culture|
|Written by Administrator|
|Tuesday, June 22, 2010|
by Patricia Eakins
Thor's Hammer is the most prepossessing of the hoodoos, the rock formations in Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah. A totem-pole-like spire with a large square head over a thin neck on a swelling body, it is named for Thor, the red-bearded god of thunder in Nordic paganism.
The thunder god is at home in the red landscape of the southwest. Yet Thor arrived with the whites only yesterday. Older claims tag the landscape, the claims of the Hopi, the Pueblo and the Zuni—the brown peoples native to Utah—descendants of the lost ones who lived in the southwest even before. The whites call the lost ones Anasazi, taking the Navajo name for “enemy ancestors.” The Hopi call them Hisatsinom or Moqui (“dead ones”).
Long before Thor, the dead ones worshipped all forms of life as embodiments of a single Great One, Avanyu, or Palukon, a plumed water snake denning in the Earth. From the breasts of Avanyu flow the blood of animals and the waters of the land. Flow from Avanyu’s breasts created the columns and canyons of Bryce – eons of erosion, crumb by crumb, the rock carried away from itself in water, dripping and gushing. The hoodoos are Avanyu's creation, her dance with the spirit of earth. She is about transformation—her own, yes, but she shifts the shapes of all around her—if she is indeed a she. Male or female? She shrugs. In and around her the water reflects the sky, the sky the water, and no one knows anything for sure.
If Thor came from Europe to escape embarrassing stories, he wouldn’t be the first or only settler to do so, or the first to discover that the stories had followed him—like the story about the giant stealing his hammer in the once-upon time. This enormous bully—bigger than the XXL in the Big Man's catalog—call him Quintuple-X man—drove a wagon of logs longer than telephone poles, and he pulled and pushed it himself, without draft animals. He crashed that bash-wagon right through the stone walls of Thor’s big house. While the gods were running around like ants, the giant stole Thor's hammer. Well!
Without his hammer to throw around, Thor moped and sulked and languished. He complained to his sidekick Loki, the tricky one. Now Loki was a lot like the Hisatsinom spirit Coyote, so Thor may have confided in Coyote or Loki disguised as Coyote, or Coyote wearing Loki’s mask. You never can be sure.
Thor and Coyoteloki went to Freyja, the bird spirit, and she gave Coyoteloki her bright blue feather-robe so he could fly into Sunset Ridge—a gated community for giants. There Loki, disguised as a bird, could speak to the thief without danger. Because a guy who has the stones to steal a god's hammer would never show fear of a silly blue bird that flits from shrub to shrub and hops on the ground with its head cocked, chirping. Quintuple-X-man waves his hand; let her do her little thing.
If this huge guy is like other white guys in gated communities, he is a birder. In his back pocket—even when he is bashing with his cart—he carries a guide that names the bird that wears a cloak of blue. The guidebook says she is a “Stellar’s Jay,” cocky and bold and conniving. Can you see Quintuple-X-man, who wears plaid shorts even in winter, to show off his fat-dimpled knees, smiling to himself as he writes in the blank pages at the back of his guidebook, “Stellar’s Jay,” with the date and time and place of the sighting? Later, he will enter the jay on a spread sheet, a grid with which he maintains order in his part of the world.
Quintuple-X-man could not stop laughing when the cocky bird asked him if he had stolen Thor’s hammer. Well, of course he had. “Tell Thor I'll give the hammer back if you marry me, Freyja. Some men like to lick the backs of little girls’ knees, some get their jollies from a skinny bitch zapping their balls with a cattle prod, I have always wanted to top a sassy blue bird.”
When Loki returned the feathered robe to Freyja, he told her what Quintuple-X-man wanted. She rolled her eyes. Eeeew! Quintuple-X-man could keep Thor's hammer. “Wait,” said Coyoteloki. If Thor wore Freyja’s blue-feathered robe, yes, and also her tight, shiny blue dress, he could take her place at the wedding. Petulant as he was without his hammer, he'd make a great girl.
Thor cursed and muttered and glared, but Coyoteloki and Freyja swore there was no other way to get the hammer back. Thor saw them winking and nodding behind his back, but he was desperate. And besides, Coyoteloki had borrowed a set of sleek black feathers from a ravenette who happened to be flying around there then; he had rimmed his eyes in black paint. So two conspirators would mince off in high-heeled shoes; Thor thought his secret would be safe.
At the wedding feast, the bride gobbled more food than three men. Coyoteloki saw Quintuple-X-man's brow furrow. “She was so eager to get to you,” he told Quintuple-X-man. “She walked for eight days and nights without eating.”
“But her eyes,” said Quintuple-X-man, “her eyes are on fire, like she’s some devil girl.”
“Your eyes would be red, too,” said Coyoteloki, “if you hadn’t slept for eight nights—her eyes are red with your fire, man.”
Quintuple-X-man tweaked some white chest hairs that had gotten caught in the waistband of his shorts and were pinching him. That’s right, he had his shirt off. He was ready!
“You promised,” said his bride, batting her eyelashes while pulling her blue scarf around the lower half of her face where her beard was growing back.
Quintuple-X-man frowned. “Too damned smart,” he muttered. He gestured for the hammer to be brought to his wife and dropped with a thump on her lap. Thor tore off the blue dress and swung the hammer above his head. In one impassioned whirl of thunder and lightning, he took out all the bullies in the room, just knocked them sizzling dead.
Word got around, but no one cared about Thor and his dress. Over time the bullies in other places chewed on the story and figured out they had to be cleverer than in the past, and I don’t have to tell you where that has led. Nothing is what it seems—the water reflects the sky, the sky the water. No one knows anything for sure.