I ran into my quirky neighbor today, the one who lives two doors down from me. I was getting my mail from downstairs and discovered one of her letters had been tucked in with my mail. Rather than go all the way back downstairs, I knocked on her door.
“Why Cole, how nice to see you,” Felicia said, opening the door.
“Yes, nice to see you too. Uh, this letter got in my mail by mistake, I thought I’d drop it by.”
“Thanks! Say, I just put on some tea, would you like to come in for a cup?”
“Sure,” I said. “That’s very nice of you.”
I’d never been inside Felicia’s place before, and sweet heavy odors hung in the air. It seemed like a mixture of candles, incense and potpourri. I wheeled over to the kitchen table where she was preparing some teacups and saucers.
“I usually use coffee cups,” she said. “I so seldom have company anymore. But I do like these teacups. People don’t use them enough, you know?”
I smiled. She was right. I don’t think I even own a saucer, let alone a teacup. She poured the hot tea into the cups and proffered some sugar.
As I sipped my tea, I glanced around the apartment. Her tastes were eclectic – mostly antiques mixed with some shabby furniture. On the walls were some paintings of animals, Indians and other Indian artwork. She followed my gaze to a web-like circle.
“That’s a dream catcher,” she said. “It is believed that if you hang one over your bed, you’ll have good dreams. Some say the bad dreams are caught in the webbing, while the good dreams and visions pass through the hole in the center, others say the good dreams are collected in the webbing and the bad dreams pass through the center.”
I smiled at her. “And do you have good dreams?”
“Yes, I do,” she said, smiling back. She stood up and removed the dream catcher from the wall, and handed it to me.
“This particular one was made by an old woman named Maria that I met in New Mexico.
She was selling them at an Indian jewelry shop. I had already purchased several items but she insisted on giving it to me.”
I ran my hands across the suede webbing and beads. The feathers were soft, as if it had come off a bird yesterday.
“Are you part Indian?” I asked her.
“My Mother was one-quarter Cherokee,” she said. I nodded.
I wheeled closer to the wall so I could hang the dream catcher up again, but she stopped me.
“Wait,” she said. “That’s yours now. I have other dream catchers. This one is yours.”
“But, I couldn’t….” I started to say. Part of me wanted to take it home. It was, after all, beautiful. “I mean, it was a gift, that woman gave it to you.”
“No, you must. I realize now that the woman in New Mexico wasn’t giving it to me at all. I was but a courier. It’s yours. Besides, I have others.”
“Well, if you put it that way, I guess I couldn’t possibly turn it down.”
Felicia smiled and nodded, looking satisfied.
I looked at the circle in my hand as I finished my tea. So simple, a hoop with interwoven suede straps, some beadwork, feathers. Yet so beautiful. And within it the power of a belief it represented.
I thanked her again and returned to my apartment. I haven’t chosen where to hang the dream catcher yet, I am waiting for it to tell me where it wishes to be.
I’ve never had any native artwork before, but this incident reminds me that we live in a country so free that differing beliefs can live in harmony. As I think of all the people that fought for those rights and all the people that will fight for such freedoms in the future, it makes my small battle for a wheelchair ramp seem a little less important.