|The Ultimate Touch
By Julian Colescott
In the center of his small, primitive camp, the man sat, with legs crossed and arms
laid gently on his thighs. His mind was far away, yet he was in touch with all around him.
A bird called, telling him to come with a weapon, for the power of evil was there.
Silently, but quickly, the man heeded.
Without making a sound, he approached the black devil and slayed it with his throwing
circle. His heart sang, his soul soared, the sun god was pleased. He celebrated the death
of evil by raising it to the sky over the flame of hell.
Born and raised under the guidance of the Great Spirit, Ely was one with the Earth. His
home was in nature, anywhere his long, slender body could be free to move. There was no
time in his world. He ate when his inner fire needed fuel, he slept when his body needed
rest. When the season was warm, he traveled barefoot, wearing only a loincloth and small
flint knife. His food, shelter and essentials for life grew and lived in abundance, no
matter which direction he traveled.
Five days earlier he had found the tracks that led him to where he now sat. For three
days he tracked the bare human footprints, learning more about their maker with every
step, until he could visualize the man as he made them. The closer he got to their end,
the more cautious he became, until finally he smelled the smoke of the small, flickering
fire. Quietly he placed himself in a position to observe the man without being noticed,
and it is there that he stayed for two full days. He was a tree stump, taking in the
wisdom that the man and all the life around him shared.
The weather had been dry and mild. The sun shone clear and bright, and not a cloud had
crossed the sky since the new moon. Every day the gentle southwest breeze caressed the
pines, filling the air with their soft and subtle scent. On the currents the hawks soared
with a scream of delight, and the little forest birds flitted from branch to branch
squabbling with any neighbor who dared trespass onto their territory.
Ely watched the small oriental man worship his god through chants, prayer, and
meditation. Except when he was doing his strange, slow exercises, he rarely moved without
a word of prayer or a deep, powerful chant. But all these actions seemed to give him
strength for the long periods of meditation. For hours the man would sit, completely
relaxed and expressionless, as if asleep in a sitting position. It looked like the man
drew all his energy into his mind, and let his physical senses relax.
A Towhee called from a near bush. Ely recognized the call as "Be aware, a predator
is near!". It was not a large predator, probably a mink or weasel bothering the bird
or its nest. Ely had heard the call several times since he had arrived, and once caught a
glimpse of a mink sniffing around an abandoned nest. But, as if reaching out and touching
the man, this particular call woke him from his meditation and set him into action. He
rose slowly, grabbed a small metal disc with points on it, and started moving toward the
predator. He moved quickly, yet without a sound disappeared into the bushes. Within
seconds, the man reemerged, carefully carrying a large, black weasel with red eyes. He
held it high over his head and sang a long chant in his unfamiliar language. He took three
long, debarked poles and tied them together at one end to make a tripod. After
ceremoniously placing the weasel on top, he stood the tripod around his fire so that the
weasel was directly over, but well above, the flames.
Ely had gone without food for the two days and nights of observing the man, and felt
that his system was now pure. Before every big hunt he would fast for several days, bathe
in a cold, clean stream, then stand in the smoke of his fire. This camouflaged his scent
and showed respect for the animal. He did this now, in a quiet spot far from the man's
camp, to prepare himself for what would come in the morning.
Touching is the ultimate. For generations his Indian ancestors had stalked dangerous
animals and members of other tribes to touch them and feel their power. The touch brought
honor and knowledge, for you do not truly know an animal until you touch it. He let the
smoke of cherry wood engulf his body, then he added sweet smelling, sacred herbs to purify
the flame. The moon was full and the calls of many Whip-poor-wills filled the night air.
"Grandfather, I am ready for my greatest test. Tomorrow I will touch a man who is one
with the spirits of a different land. It will bring me powerful medicine ... I am
ready." He went back to the place where the man swam every morning and waited.
With the coming of dawn, the sky had clouded over, and a cool, damp wind blew strongly
from the northeast. He hid in the leaves and waited. The morning birds were slow to rise,
and the forest seemed unusually quiet. "Why does cloudy weather fall on such an
important day?" he thought. "Great Spirit, what message do you bring? I have
learned of this man and the time is right. Why do you bring such bad medicine?"
Toward the camp a Bluejay scolded.
He crouched low, watching for glimpses of a face or arm through the bushes. The man
seemed to be walking slower than usual, and took special care to be quiet. Ely moved
forward to intercept. Never before had he moved so quietly or felt so calm; he was a
shadow slipping through the bushes, stepping only when the man stepped, and stopping when
he stopped. One thick bush separated the two when the man stopped. His unfocused eyes saw
nothing, yet everything. His head was cocked slightly, and his mouth hung open showing
deep concentration. A hint of a smile came across his lips, then he lowered his head, and
without a sound was out of sight.
A cold gust of wind brushed Ely's long, black hair across his face. He felt defensive.
He wanted to leave, but his pride wouldn't let him. With all his senses searching, slowly
he came around the bush and examined the tracks for a clue about the man's disappearance.
There was nothing! The tracks just ended! He backtracked to see if the man had walked
backward in his tracks, but he didn't. How could he have known I was here? I know he
didn't see or hear me." Giving up on touching the man, Ely stalked the small camp
hoping just to find him. The camp was gone! Not a trace remained except the tripod with
the weasel on it and a cedar sprig where the fire had been. A scattering of leaves and
wind blown grasses had replaced the man's shelter, and covered the area where he had sat
for hours of meditation.
Ely felt the splat of a large, cold raindrop on top of his head. The wind blew fiercely
and the temperature had dropped. A nauseous tension gripped his insides. A stick from a
tree fell behind him. He whirled around expecting to see the man, but saw only the tripod
with the black weasel's red eye staring coldly down at him. A flash of lightning exploded
a tree twenty feet away and showered him with splinters. Without thinking, he ran as fast
as his legs would take him. The rain poured out of the clouds trying to push him into the
ground, but he kept going. Each flash of lightning burst more speed out of his body. Like
a frightened deer, he ran, jumping over and crashing through the bushes, until his lungs
couldn't take any more. When the rain let up, he seemed miles from the man's camp. The sky
lightened, releasing some of the tension, but he kept stumbling on toward a land more
familiar to him.
It took two full days, at a fast pace, to finally cross a river bringing him back into
home territory. It was too dark to travel at night, and sleep was out of the question, so
he spent the hours of darkness praying to the Great Spirit for forgiveness. The weather,
the stillness of the air and animals had all warned him not to do it, but he tried anyway.
"What a fool! I could tell that the man was in touch with the spirits and that they
were watching over him, yet I tried to interrupt. I should have waited until he was
through worshipping. Great Spirit, forgive me for my thoughtlessness."
The long trip and the relief of being far from the man gave him time to feel the
emptiness of his stomach. He gathered cattail roots and shoots, wintercress buds, wild
parsnip, and chickweed, and cooked them in a steam pit with violet flowers and
strawberries for sweetening. Having a full stomach helped to regain his confidence and
helped untie the knots in his belly. The sky was clear and reddened by the setting sun. He
made a bed of leaves to lay in near his fire, and before the first night bird called, was
A mouse ran across his face, waking him with a start. The sun was already high in the
sky, and the birds were singing joyfully. He went to a small, grassy clearing and absorbed
the warmth of the sun. A gentle, southwest breeze rustled the bright green leaves, sending
flickers of sun in every direction. "Oh, Great Spirit. I feel fortunate to live in
such a bountiful land, guided through life by one as proud and respectful as you. I know I
did not please you by watching and stalking the man, but I have learned a great lesson,
and for this I thank you, too."
Slowly, he got up to bathe and drink from a small, nearby river. He felt a coolness as
a cloud moved in front of the sun. It was a big, dark cloud that brought back a tense
feeling - it had come from nowhere. With the sensation of eyes staring at him, he stopped
to check what was around him. A tingle went up his spine, and as a strong gust of wind
blew through the woods, goosebumps gathered on his skin. Something was right behind him.
He listened ... nothing. Slowly he turned and scanned with his eyes ... still nothing! The
wind gust grew stronger and the cloud darker. He turned, and like a flash of lightning, a
hand thumped him between the eyes! With a yelp, he jumped backwards, lost his balance, and
fell to the ground, his eyes straining to see the man. But he was gone.