MOTHER EARTH, FATHER SKY
rim. The suk hung past Chagak’s knees, so that when she squatted downit was long enough to touch the ground and keep her bare feet warm.She drew her hands up inside the sleeves and squinted at the gray-white line between sky and sea where the black dots of the hunters’ikyan would first come into sight.It was summer, but even in summer the skies were usually gray, theair thick and wet with moisture that rose from the sea. The wind that keptwinters warm—with rain coming as often as snow—also kept thesummers cold. And the wind blew forever; never, never stopped.Chagak opened her mouth and let the wind fill her cheeks. Did sheimagine it or was there the taste of sea lion in that mouthful of wind? Sheclosed her eyes and swallowed. Yes, some taste of sea lion, Chagak thought. And why would sea lions be here, this close to the First Men’sisland? Again she filled her mouth with the wind, again she tasted sealion. Yes, yes. And if she tasted sea lion, perhaps the hunters were coming,towing sea lions they had taken during their hunt. But Chagak did notcall her mother. Why raise hopes when perhaps it was only a trick of some spirit, making Chagak taste what was not there?Chagak watched the horizon, holding her eyes open wide, until thewind filled them with tears. She wiped the wetness from her cheeks withher sleeve, and as the softness of the cormorant feathers crossed her face,she saw the first ikyak, a thin black line on the white edge of the sea.Then another and another.Chagak called down through the square opening, both entrance andsmoke hole, that was cut through the sod roof and driftwood rafters of her father’s ulaq. “They come. They come.”As her mother emerged from the ulaq, other women climbed from thedark interiors of nearby ulas, the women blinking and shielding their eyesin the gray brightness of the day.