The Lightning Way

I would often sit with my grandfather outside on the porch, watching the cloudbursts roll in from the horizon.

They would come in thick, dark inky blue clouds heavy with rain over the top of Cochiti mesa; constantly churning and building with energy, as if they sensed the ancient presence of our old village. Grandpa always told me of that village and the Old Ones that lived there. He’d tell stories of the grandmothers and grandfathers who birthed our Pueblo; how every child was brought up in the spiritual guidance of mother and father.

I’d listen intently, loosely braiding the ends of my hair in order to ignore the tightness building in my stomach. I felt the absence of my father like the bitter taste of an old pinon. I would listen to stories depicting the powerful connection of ancient fathers and daughters and resign to the fact that I would always be half without. I would subconsciously lean closer to my grandfather, the only constant father figure I ever knew, seeking in him what I believed I lacked.

“Rain gods are coming,” he’d say, “thunder beings.” We would lift our heads to catch the smell of pine pitch carried on the wind, announcing their arrival almost on cue. “One day, when I am gone,” Grandpa began, feeling my shoulder against his. “I want you to know that you are never without fathers.”

I would look to him, wondering if he could sense the bitterness in my chest, heavy with tears. His eyes were gentle, encouraging. “Look around you,” he’d say, “they are everywhere.” Lightning cracked its way across the sky and soon the deep boom of thunder rumbled from within the clouds, shaking the ground. “Listen,” Grandpa would say. “What do they say to you?”

I’d close my eyes, losing myself to the dampness of the air and the familiar crack of lightning and thunder that has only ever struck protection in me and never fear.

“Look around you,” he’d say, “they are everywhere.”

Dtooh’weh’ih’mah’ah, the word itself a rumble in the clouds. Come here, they call. See how we watch over you. How we teach you patience in waiting out our big storms where we bless the village. How we drive out fear with our bow and arrow strikes across the sky. We see ourselves in you, in the buildup of energy before your storm. See how we teach you to cry.

See how we come across the sky enveloping you in dark clouds. How we strike ourselves down to the ground to know you as Mother Earth knows you, how a father should know their children.

Come here, they say, your tears are just rain.


Image credit: mwwile, Rain in the Jemez Mountains, via Flickr


This is part of ROOT MAPPING, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring which maps might help us live with a clear sense of where we are. ROOT MAPPING is conceived and edited by Melanie Viets.


The Learned Pig


Hailey Suina

Hailey Suina is a creative writing student from the Pueblo of Cochiti and the Navajo Nation. As a child, she grew up hearing the legends and tales of her tribal community in New Mexico, which instilled in her a passion to share stories with those who have the ear to listen. She came to the Institute of American Indian Arts in the Fall of 2015 to follow her lifelong childhood dream of becoming a writer. Currently in her Senior year at IAIA, she is working towards a minor in Indigenous Liberal Studies and a major in Creative Writing with a focus on fiction. After obtaining her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing in the Spring of 2020, she plans to further her education by pursuing her master's degree in IAIA’s MFA program. Her published fiction piece “Arrow Boy & She-Who-Makes-The-Way," can be found in the 2017 edition of IAIA’s Student Anthology, Sonder. Hailey Suina strives to represent her tribal communities well and hopes that her writing brings her people strength.