Grandmother always weaved from the top, bringing line over line and thread through thread, starting in the heavens and descending towards Earth.
She always kept the top high up too, never turning the weaving to ease her approach.
“If I turn the weaving upside down, why, then the sky will be at the ground and the ground in the sky, and we should all fall towards the Sun, dear child.”
First she wove the sky and the sun and the clouds of the highest reaches of the light. The she moved down, and the top of the rainbow was finally seen.
That year, the hunting was good and the winds warm; my sister was born and big brother went to hunt for the first time. The rainbow was bright and strong and curved downwards in beauty and control.
As the weaving grew downwards I grew up towards. One day, we met in the middle as the highest hills in the background first showed their tops, and still the rainbow curved down.
But then the rainbow began to droop, heavy under its own weight. Grandmother too began to stoop, her movements slower, her speech more careful.
The rainbow no longer curved to the side, but grew down, down towards the ground. Towards what, I did not know.
I hunted for the first time that year. I tripped in a crag of the rock and slammed my arm into a cactus, its thorns piercing my skin and drawing blood. Grandmother added the final inches of the weaving that year: the rainbow, unable to move for weariness, coming down to meet the cacti on the ground, as they hungrily drew red color from it.
Grandmother died that winter.
The camp is surrounded by cacti and their flowers glow like flames. Today, my son was born.
Author’s Note: I was inspired by the image above, from the course textbook entry for the story I adapted, which is a Tejas legend from the book When the Storm God Rides: Tejas and Other Indian Legends. (Via the course blog.)
In the original story, the tale is told of how the Cactus flower got its color by robbing the rainbow, who, after a hard rain, was too waterlogged to maneuver to avoid its touch.
There are details I wish I could have gotten right — I had a very hard time finding details about the Tejas way of life or their language, since I have very limited knowledge in these things and the answers weren’t trivially accessible. Still, I hope the essence of the story is worth the reading.