One day as Nanabush laid in the tall grasses, humming and twirling a dandelion between his forefinger and thumb, he realized what day it was. It was Winona’s birthday. Only six winters had passed since his first daughter was born during the time of the splitting of the seeds. Winona, and all her little friends, deserved something unique. He thought about it as the sun crossed the sky and the shadows grew long on the land. Then he knew the answer as if the wind whispered it to him.
This excited Nanabush as he imagined Winona and all her friends gathered around hitting the piñata with a stick.
But Nanabush didn’t want candy to fall from this special gift. He knew about what magic sugar can do if it was abused.
So, Nanabush laid back down and twirled that dandelion some more.
He imagined Winona hitting the piñata and as it burst strawberries would fall at her feet. But as the wind picked up it brought a chill and he realized that it wasn’t time for strawberries to be their sweet little selves. They were just stretching out of the ground this time of year.
He imagined Winona hitting the piñata and as it burst stardust would fall in her hair and twinkle on every strand as the sunlight hit it. But, Nanabush remembered that he used all the stardust at his own birthday party to make his skin glow in the dark. That was last summer and he smiled to himself as he ran his hand up and down the length of his arm. That was a good party, he thought to himself. And when the moon was full, he still glowed, even if just faintly.
He twirled the dandelion some more until he thought of the most perfect thing to come out of the piñata.
He imagined Winona hitting the piñata and as it burst open all these butterflies would fly out and she would chase them laughing and giggling with her friends. The butterflies would land in her beautiful raven hair and be some mighty fine organic accessories.
“Perfect!” Nanabush yelled out and popped the head off the dandelion. “Ooops,” he said as he kicked it under the low-lying juniper bush.
So, Nanabush set off to find some butterflies.
He travelled far. He travelled wide. He decided to make up a song for the butterflies.
see my hand?
here it is
come and lie down
on my hands… so brown
oh my butter-fly
Nanabush’s voice was like the cooing of a mourning dove, the gentle flow of a creek. It was filled with magic.
The butterflies fluttered after Nanabush as he danced in the forest.
come with me
… and you will see
la la la la la la
Nanabush opened up the piñata and led them in. They gathered around him and swooned at his feet. Nanabush kept humming as he left them and closed the opening around them.
“Yeah, I did it! A butterfly piñata!” Nanabush tucked the piñata under his arm and went to a party.
Winona and her friends were playing tag in the forest when Nanabush came and called them all to him. As they ran to him, screaming, squealing, and wondering what he was stringing up on the big oak branch. Nanabush was grinning ear to ear. He thought he was more excited than these little girls.
“Happy birthday Winona,” Nanabush said as he passed a stick to her.
“What is this for?” she asked as she studied the feel of the stick in her hand.
Nanabush pulled out a piece of cloth and went behind her and explained, “I tie this around your eyes so you can’t see and you try to break open this very special gift for you.”
Nanabush twirled Winona round and round.
“I’m getting dizzy,” Nanabush and Winona said at the same time.
“Okay Nadonis, give it a whack.”
Winona swung the stick as she stumbled toward Nanabush and she came within a breath from whacking Nanabush on the side of the head.
“Whoa!” he said. “Go to your left Nadonis.”
Winona swung to the left. She had a good arm. The stick swung back and forth with a swish.
Nanabush was proud of her strength.
She hit the piñata a few times and it twirled from the string. Round and round.
Then with one more whack, the piñata burst open.
The butterflies fell to the ground.
The children all gasped.
And Nanabush thought, Oh oh, that’s not what I expected.
The children ran away.
Nanabush was in dismay at what happened.
He paced back and forth and thought about what he was going to do. He picked up the stick and nudged it at the little butterflies and said, “Hey! Psst! Sweet little butter-fly?!” And there was nothing.
Nanabush stood erect as the thunder clapped above him. The thunderbirds came with their massive wings and landed close to Nanabush and the butterflies.
“What?! Nothing happened. They’re… um… they’re… sleeping. Don’t make any noise! Shhhh…”
“Nanabush! What have you done this time?” The great birds flapped their wings and the thunder shook the ground.
“I didn’t mean to,” Nanabush cowered and if he had a tail it would be between his legs right now.
The thunderbirds wept as they looked down at they’re little cousins with wings just like them. The tears sparkled as they fell all about the butterflies as one of them fluttered its wings. Another yawned, and turned to its side and rested it’s head on a bent wing. Another stretched and farted, “pfft” it went in a little noise.
“So cute!” Nanabush exclaimed.
The thunderbirds flapped their wings and caused a small wind that made the butterflies wake up and when they tried to lift off they crashed back to the ground.
“Look they’re still dizzy!” Nanabush giggled.
The thunderbirds frowned down at him.
“I mean… poor little things. Tsk tsk tsk.” Nanabush looked very concerned.
When those sparkly tears felt the wind from the thunderbird’s wings it became that sacred steam and rose high into the air. As the steam rose it caught the rays of the sun and arched across the sky and turned purple like lavender, red like the setting sun, blue like the sky, green like the grass, orange like wings of the monarch butterfly and yellow like buttercups.
Winona came running with her little friends and they clapped their hands at the sight of the first rainbow.
The butterflies flew up in the air, twirling, fluttering and rejoiced.
The thunderbirds beat their massive wings once, twice and were high up in the air, over the rainbow.
And Nanabush sat down and thought that this was a good lesson, indeed. Maybe butterflies did not belong in a piñata but in the sky instead. And as he looked at the rainbow he realized something more profound than what goes inside a piñata but that the rainbow represented all life. And that all life needs to be respected. He put his hands together and said, “When the thunderbirds come, they will bring the rain and when they leave, they will leave us a gift. This rainbow will remind all those on this earth that we are one under this arch across the sky.”
Nanabush laid down on the grass, picked a dandelion and began to twirl it between his forefinger and thumb and began to dream.