Chapter Twenty-six         Moss

Cumshewa, watercolor, c1912, 51.4 x 74.3 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, #6103. Online image source: Cybermuse.

"Raven still makes strong talk. See how his beak points upward? This is the hero totem I will paint."

Water slicked off Raven's beak in sheets, soaked the moss of his eye until it could hold no more and fell like tears. She lifted the upward swoop of the beak to make it more defiant. Her brushes and paper, her hands, the back of her neck all felt damp. Even her bones ached from dampness. Paint that dampness. Get it into the work. Paint the struggle, the bite of raw wind, the iodine tang of the sea, its briny feel on her skin. Paint the queer raven noises in purple-black nights, the dark juiciness of earth, the smell of people dying, the village abandoned, unguarded except by a regal, rotting bird as alone as God, Cumshewa's relic of remembrance.