The two men sat in a booth in a small cafe in Shiprock, New Mexico. They had ordered breakfast, and sat drinking coffee. They stayed up half the night talking, and were still hyped over the sparrows. “You know growing up around Cyrus I often observed how birds of prey always seemed to find him no matter where he might be. There were eagles, falcons, hawks, sometimes an owl here and there, and many ravens too. But I can never recall him ever having sparrows land on him like they did you,” Dwayne said.
“That makes two of us,”
Sonny Ray replied, smiling.
“Okay boys who ordered the scrambled eggs with a steak well done?” Dwayne raised his hand.
The motherly waitress with the salt and pepper braided hair had poured the men more coffee. After giving the men their breakfast, the two men began to feast. “So after we go see Daniel then what?” Sonny Ray asked with a mouthful of steak. “Well, Cyrus asked me to return him to the area where we camped near Shiprock mountain. He wants his ashes placed in a small pile. He asked me not to spread them. He also asked me before he died to give you a portion of his ashes with a special request.” Sonny Ray looked up at Dwayne. He put his fork down. “What might that be Dwayne?”
“He originally wanted all of his ashes spread at Shiprock, but after he met you, he wanted you to take the rest of his remains back to the big island when you and your family move home. Cyrus said he wanted you to take him to Kohala. Cyrus spoke of a hidden forest that he said you had been to when you were four years old,” Dwayne said. “I was five years old, not four,” Sonny Ray said, with a faraway look in his eyes.
Both men shut down gradually.
A peaceful quiet melded into the conversation. “When we get back to Antelope Springs Cyrus left you a letter, and a few personal effects he wanted you to have.”
“Okay,” was all Sonny Ray could manage. The two men finished breakfast quietly, bracing for the day in their own way. After thanking the waitress for her hospitality they paid for breakfast, and in no time at all found themselves in the dirt parking lot of Daniel Falls. Dwayne turned off the ignition. “Can I ask you a question?” Sonny Ray said. “Sure, what is it?” Dwayne looked at Sonny Ray in earnest. “Why did Cyrus want to be cremated, and left on the ground?” Sonny Ray asked. “The way he explained it to me, was that if he was buried and not cremated the black eagle would not leave the area where he was buried. Sonny Ray raised an eyebrow in the direction of Dwayne. “Cyrus told me a story many years ago. It was during World War II. Cyrus met a man, named Altair Ali, in the jungles of North Africa. He told me what he knew about this man, and how he came to be in an unlikely pairing with this storied black eagle. Altair who was from Morocco, told Cyrus about his grandfather, and the long history of the black eagle dream, and their family. After his grandfather died, the family noticed the black eagle sat perched near where the old man was buried. They became concerned because the black eagle had not eaten or drank in days. Altair began to have dreams. Dreams about his grandfather, and the black eagle. He dreamed of a hungry fire. After telling the older men of his village about his dreams, they came to the consensus that they should dig up his grandfather and cremate him. They built a funeral pyre and cremated his grandfather right away.” “Dwayne that’s some crazy shit right there.” Dwayne nodded in the affirmative. “Cyrus said after Altair and his family cremated his grandfather the black eagle not only took food, but became the constant companion of Altair. Before dying, Altair told Cyrus he did not want the black eagle dream to die with him. Cyrus built a small scaffolding in the tiger trap. After wrapping Altair’s body in a large colorful scarf he had found in the dead man’s pack, he placed his lifeless body upon the bamboo scaffold. Cyrus piled the remaining sharpened bamboo stakes underneath Altair’s funeral pyre.
He performed a simple ceremony, singing a mele, for the fallen warrior with an impressive winged creature of unverified origin. After the smoldering dry leaves began to burn, the stakes began to be consumed. Cyrus climbed out of the tiger trap.
From that day onward Cyrus and the black eagle were inseparable.
A few months ago Cyrus called me from Hawaii and requested that after dying he wanted me to have him cremated. He too did not want the black eagle dream to die with him. By carrying out your father’s second to last request, we honor him, and you will now become the constant companion of the black eagle, and it you.” Dwayne shut the door of the suburban. “Did you want to go inside?” Dwayne asked.
“If it’s all the same to you I’ll wait,” Sonny Ray replied. “No problem cousin, I should only be a few minutes.” Dwayne went inside to retrieve Cyrus’ remains. Sonny Ray decided to step down, and stretch his legs for a few moments. Sonny Ray could see the smoke from the forest fires in the distance. It was all over the news. It seemed like the state of Arizona was on fire. New Mexico as well as other portions of the west were burning. Out of the corner of his eye the large silent black eagle came into view. Sonny Ray was surprised to see the large predator. He reached for the large leather glove on the front seat of the suburban. He slowly walked out to a field across the way. Sonny Ray attempted to call to the black eagle. It was not sounding so pretty, but he was slowly improving. The black eagle continued to circle. Sonny Ray did his best not to move around unnecessarily. His arm shook slightly as he held his arm high to give the black eagle a spot to land. The black eagle circled a few more times, and without notice swiftly landed upon the outstretched glove. As a few trucks drove by, people began to slow down to see what all the commotion was about. Sonny Ray could hear his heart pounding. If he smiled any harder he might have broken his face. The black eagle stared intently at Sonny Ray.
He did not yet have the courage to even touch the large predator. As his breathing returned to normal Sonny Ray felt a great sadness come over him. He occurred to him that in order for this magnificent eagle to rest on his hand, Cyrus would have to be absent. Sonny Ray stood alone. The sound of a door opening and closing could be heard. Dwayne walked out of the door. He walked down the steps carefully with the urn. He saw Sonny Ray in the field. The closer he came to Sonny Ray the black eagle appeared to become agitated. Dwayne, who had spent some time with the black eagle, wisely stopped short. A small crowd began to gather near to where the men stood. Sonny Ray whispered something to the black eagle. He pushed his gloved hand upward, causing the black eagle to take flight. They stood watching the large eagle until it disappeared from their sight. Sonny Ray walked over to Dwayne. Dwayne stood holding the urn. He had such a pitiful look on his face. “Hey, listen it’s gonna be alright bro,” Sonny Ray said. Dwayne nodded, finally looking up at Sonny Ray. “Thanks for coming on this trip with me, I…. I would not have wanted to do this by myself,” Dwayne said.
“I’m glad to have come along, thanks for asking me to,” Sonny Ray said, breaking eye contact with Dwayne. They loaded up and headed back to town. Dwayne wanted a few snacks, and water before heading back to Shiprock mountain. He needed to fill up on gas as well. “Hey Sonny Ray remind me to call my friend Nadia before we leave okay?” “Sure. So who is this Nadia, your girlfriend?” Dwayne stiffened slightly. “No, not exactly, I mean I do like her, but I haven’t asked her out or anything.” Sonny Ray smiled at his now uneasy friend. “Hey, don’t sweat that dude, things happen in their own good time.” The two men traveled down the road together, forging their friendship one mile at a time. Later that day the two men located the narrow dirt road that ran adjacent to Shiprock Dike.
After a slow dusty journey they located their campsite. Dwayne parked, and the two men stepped down. Dwayne handed the urn to Sonny Ray. They hiked a short distance from their camp, near the end of the Dike, closest to Shiprock peak.
They came to a small dirt trail that lead through a small out cropping of rocks, and boulders. They began the short hike upward. Both men struggled. They wore cowboy boots, so it was a little slippery, but they managed. Dwayne finally reached the top of the dike.
Sonny Ray handed the urn to Dwayne. They stood listening to the wind blow. It was a warm but pleasant day. The sky was blue with a few whispered white clouds passing thru. They stood gazing at the monument that was, ‘the rock with wings.’
They stood together, each man offering his own ceremony of condolence, offering up their prayers like the sweet smell of sage, in the blue skies of an older man’s younger days.
After a few moments, the men proceeded with Cyrus’ last request. Dwayne took the top of the urn and placed it on a small boulder. He slowly poured a goodly amount of the ashes into a small pile. It was beautifully sad. They stepped back to take in the entire moment.
The view was panoramic.
After some time, the two men thought it would be good to take their leave. They started down the narrow trail. After a few minutes the men realized they had left the top of the urn. Returning to the top of the small plateau, neither man could envision what would happen next. As Dwayne walked toward Cyrus’ remains to retrieve the top of the urn, the large black eagle approached flying low from the other side of the dike. It landed directly on what was left of his old friend Cyrus.
It startled Dwayne and Sonny Ray. The black eagle was highly agitated. With it’s pinions spread wide, the black eagle screeched in a high pitch. The remains of Cyrus covered the legs, and the lower part of the black eagle. It stood it’s ground in this sacred place, preparing to take Cyrus to a place to that; which the two men were not able. The eyes of the black eagle seemed filled with fury. It continued to cry out, as the two men made no attempt to come any closer. Without warning, the black eagle flew right at them. As it flew over them the ashes of Cyrus dispersed as a fine ashy mist.
The black eagle banked hard left in the direction of
The large predator continued to climb the sky, higher and higher it went. The two great rock wings seemed to be it’s destination.
As both men continued to watch, the black eagle flew right through the middle of the ancient wings. For a moment it appeared that it had continued on. However, in a short time, the black eagle reappeared. It landed upon one of the rock wings.
Both men spontaneously raised a clenched fist. Dwayne and Sonny Ray stood for a long time, watching, reflecting. Now it was time to leave. With hearts both heavy yet satisfied, the two men headed back down the narrow trail. The hushed winds of the desert began to swirl. Dwayne left the dirt road, and started down the highway. Sonny Ray looked back to where they had left Cyrus. He watched until he could watch no more, as the landscape faded into another. The music of the winds continued to swirl in an ancient melody known only
to the lonely;
the forgotten ones.
Little dust devils whirled around
on the earth, that was Navajo country. In time, a large desert tornado came, and took Cyrus Keali’iwahamana; away to the four corners of the earth.
He would rest now.