We were awake through the last night of Muriel’s flower dance. Caps and necklaces on, mock orange sticks in hand, we lined up and entered the circular door backwards. I thought, “Don’t bring shame to your family because it’s your first flower dance and you’ve almost crossed the finish line without too many faux-pas.” I stood up straight for my mother and I sang for Muriel.
In the morning when this week long endeavor was complete, Muriel, who had been shrouded in the dance pit, emerged with her parents in full dress and beaming. Maybe it was because I was exhausted and it was the first time I was to see this woman, but I thought my heart would explode. My eyes began to well with tears and I kept telling myself “composure, composure.” We stood in line to greet her and I knew that the abalone necklace I had made and worn at her ceremony needed to be with her. The strands of abalone pieces would rustle against beads, and shells, and her body and make a beautiful song.
Denise McKenzie (Tolowa, Yurok) is a traditional basket weaver, regalia maker and knitter. She lives in Northern California.
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