I took two more photographs before realizing it happened. Everyone had gone quiet, no more drum beats, no sing-song. An Eagle feather is dislodged – has fallen to earth. It lay at the feet of a Cherokee elder as he danced the circle.
Grandfather tries once, twice, three, four, a fifth time. His old bones and joints refused to let him bend that far. The man’s face shows no sign of stress, no sign of worry. But my mind races, my body shakes as I will him, “Pick it up.”
My spirit must have jumped wildly as I pressed my mind to his. Grandmother calmly clutched my elbow, whispering, “No, child.” She holds me tight, knowing I want to help the old Warrior. My muscles quiver, I’m frozen in place, aware of her instruction.
A sixth attempted made and still he could not scoop it up. Oh, how I wanted to break tradition, beg forgiveness, help. Grandfather came full circle stepping stiffly ‘round the feather. Back to where he began, taking a deep breath, a seventh try.
Grandfather succeeds, gathering up the dropped Eagle feather. Murmurings began to rise, the crowds breathing a sigh, relief. The drums beat out time again and voices raise to Great Spirit. I watch Grandfather’s dignity restore, feel Grandmother’s release.
The old warrior looks at me, winks, smiles and give a gentle nod. Somehow, someway he knows my Spirit stood with his for a time. The Cherokee elder turns, dancing left as if nothing happened. Above comes the cry of the Eagle’s voice – “All is, as it should be.”