I woke up to the sound of grandfather’s eagle crying for food. Her cries leave echoes in your ears, worse than a baby. Today is my wedding day, my last day of living with my family. I leave to go live with Taalay and his family in a village miles away from mine. Our parents have decided this when we were matched.
After my morning tea mother helps me put on my robe and my jewelry. My aunts unbraided my forty braids and braided it into two, signifying that I am a married woman. “How do you feel?” asked mother. “I don’t know yet”, I replied. “You should be excited! You’re starting a new life, a family.” What I should feel was not what I was feeling. To be honest, I was scared and I already felt homesick. I don’t want to be wed. I want to be free.
Before the ceremony father comes in the yurta. “Anara, we’re ready for you-” Suddenly the expression on his face changed, an expression I have never seen before. “You look just like your mother on our wedding day.” I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t want to go through with it, I don’t want to disappoint him. “I’m ready,” I say nervously. Through those doors awaits my new life. Everything will change from now on. As father walks me over to the ceremony, Taalay seems like a stranger. He looks as if he is thinking the same thing too.
Grandfather begins the ceremony with a prayer to the ancestors and a drum song. “I call to the ancestors to join these two together as one. To bring health to their children and to their families.” Almost as a response, dark clouds appear in the sky and the ground begins to shake. Out of the clouds comes a lightning bolt splitting the ground between Taalay and I! “It’s a sign from ancestors!” my mother cries. “Calm yourselves everyone!” grandfather commands. “Shaman, what does this mean!” everyone asked my grandfather. “I don’t know, we’ll have to postpone the wedding to tomorrow.”
At dusk everything was still. The whispering of the wind is what kept the night moving, but the wind wasn’t the only essence. I always felt when grandfather was convening the spirits; it feels like there is a gathering happening outside of the village. He was on top of the mountain that he captured his eagle from when she was a baby. The only time he ever goes on that mountain is when there is a bad storm, he had an unsuccessful hunt, or when someone dies. And somehow this felt like it is all of the above.
I put on my boots and my fox coat slowly, trying not the alert anyone. As I try to put the saddle on my horse, she fusses and lets out a loud neigh. “Shhh! Quiet!” No one seems to notice so I head off.
I follow the sound of drums and fire crackling up the mountain. When I approach the light of the fire grandfather sees me. “Come child!” He beckons. I go to sit next to him hoping for an answer as to why the ground split between Taalay and I. “There is another path the spirits want you to take. One that does not include Taalay.” I feel relieved, but also confused. “Grandfather, what is my path?” He throws red dust into the fire and an eagle figure appears in the smoke. Its screams sound like grandfather’s eagle, it seemed real. Then a mountain appeared. It was the mountain I used to climb when I was little. “This is where you will get your eaglet, but first you will learn with my eagle.” he says so informally.
“My eaglet? Grandfather what do you mean?” I think he has inhaled too much smoke because he isn't making any sense.
“Anara this is your destiny. To be an eagle hunter.” Those words sound so dreamy, my heart felt warm with excitement. “Well, huntress.” He says with a smile. “But, I thought only men could hunt.” I questioned. “That's what men say. Hunting with the eagle is more than a hunt. You don't choose it, it has to be in your blood. And my child, it is in yours.”
For a whole eighteen years I believed that my blood was just something that flowed within me like a stream. But now I know that it is what I live for. The spirit of the eagle.