I love this legend. This was the reason why I started bringing in the flower books to the hospital when Dad was so sick. I was trying to remember the story but was falling (very) short. I felt so badly for dad who had gone to so much work to put together all of these treasures so that we could remember what he taught us forever. So now this story to me is more than just a beautiful legend, but a treasured memory of time with my dad.
Blackfoot legend retold by Annora Brown, photos by John Ramsay.
When I was a little girl, Dad used to take me and my sister out looking at the plethora of wildflowers that surrounded us here on the ranch. I never would have imagined that most of them would have disappeared in recent years, and this makes me appreciate the beauty and the bounty we enjoyed back in the day. Dad knew all of the names of all of the flowers, and he usually knew a little story to go along with them too. It wasn’t until I was much older that I appreciated how much work he put into his wildflower knowledge. Even if he’d known all of the flowers that surrounded him growing up in northern Ontario (and i think he did know most of them), he still had to learn all of Alberta’s wildflowers. This kind of became his thing, and after years of showing the flowers to me and my sister, he took friends on walks in Kananaskis, learned to photograph the flowers with an amazing talent, and later on took his grandkids on flower walks – each kid with the same wildflower book we had as kids, with spots in the book to write where each flower was spotted.
Dad put together a wildflower book for us, complete with his own photographs and the stories that he wanted us to know that go along with them. I remember when Dad was in the hospital, near the end, and I’d either take in old photo albums, or these flower books and go through them with him, sharing memories or often him just listening to me read. I had to put them away after he died because it was so painful – but I rediscovered them and thought it would be fun to share!
The other day the girl and I had quite a disturbing experience as we were nearly mowed down crossing a small road in a parking lot in Cochrane. We were halfway across the street in front of Pet Valu heading towards Save On, walking in the cross walk, when a lady came flying down that road that cuts between the stores. It took me a second or so to realize that she wasn’t stopping or slowing down and was heading right towards us. Worse, the girl was the one who was going to be the “buffer” between me and the car when it hit us.
I screamed the girl’s name and grabbed her arm while we both looked towards the car with horrified expressions on our faces. Both our bodies tensed up like we were going to run, and at the same instant realized that we wouldn’t have time to make it.
As I was accepting that this would be how we would die, suddenly I felt the girl’s hand slip into mine. One small movement that in regular times wouldn’t perhaps mean much (although it’s been years since she’s wanted to hold my hand), but in this moment it meant the world. If that was when I was going to die, somehow the thought of holding her hand felt quite comforting.
At the last second the woman veered around us (didn’t slow down though) and threw her car in the parking spot that clearly had captured her attention making her unable to see anything besides that coveted spot.
Scary as crap, but what has stuck with me was that feeling of that little hand in mine as we stood there terrified. It was both her grown up hand, and the hand of the little girl who used to want to hold onto me every second of every day.
I remember when dad was dying, all he wanted was to spend time with us, his family, his loved ones. Nothing that he had accomplished or accumulated seemed to matter, all that did was the love he had in his life. That hand in mine reminded me how important it is to treasure and cherish my loved ones (well and to make sure that people in cars see us when we are crossing the road).