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The Solstice: A Time For Remembering The Storytellers

Elder Lois Red Elk shares a new poem about the start of winter

Seven Teepees set up in the night to honor those who have passed on and shared their stories. Photo by Jade Snell. To see more of Jade's work go to
Seven Teepees set up in the night to honor those who have passed on and shared their stories. Photo by Jade Snell. To see more of Jade's work go to

By Lois Red Elk

Hello all MoJo friends,

During this moon we approach the season of storytelling. Time to quiet our spirits along with Earth and all other beings. I am reminded of my grandmothers who were the greatest story tellers. They told stories anything they wanted—while cooking, during meals, while sitting at the window or walking in the woods. I share this story today and encourage stories everywhere to everyone.

Winter Count

Now the days are dim, flakes drift down in
place of light. A chill passes over my
shoulders, sends me to find the knowledge of
foxes asleep in quiet places where dried
sweetgrass and sage lie hidden in dreams,
keeping spirit alive throughout the long night.

My solitude is seen as a single stream of
breath in morning air, the sole sign of my
existence. Only the morning star has mercy,
understands this need to reflect from a space
so distant. Tonight I'll drape my body with
star quilts in honor of our endurance.

I watch that old fire journey lower across
earth; listen to their whispers—secrets of
retreat and renewal, their celestial bond.
I assign myself to a pace of spirit and mind
that surpasses the counted risings and settings,
then put envy to sleep with my longing for flame.

As the ancient one settles, dress of swirling
fog, breath of crystalized vapor and spreads his
northern robe, my heart makes peace with resting,
I'll recall the nigh of foxes and stars, my eager
reach for warmth, then watch for new grass rising
through melting snow. This my winter count.

 ©Lois Red Elk

EDITOR'S NOTE: Around the world, no matter where one lives, fragile elders have been hardest hit by the ongoing Covid pandemic. In Indian Country, elders are carrying forward language, culture and ceremony under the most trying of times, and they, in turn, share the stories of  their elders going back centuries. If you can, please remember your indigenous neighbors who are in urgent need of PPE and other critical  supplies. One way to immediately offer support is reaching out to Bozeman-based Hopa Mountain which works with  indigenous community leaders throughout the Rockies and High Plains. Click here to reach Hopa Mountain. A donation goes a long way.

Not long ago, the Crow (Apsáalooke) hiphop artist Supaman shared the photo at top taken by Jade Snell along with the following message poignant for the official start of winter:: "Seven Teepees were put up on the rims in Billings, Montana by the Pretty Shield Foundation and Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council as a symbol of hope and a memorial to all those who have passed on in 2020. In the Apsáalooke way the teepee is our second mother who takes care of us and all who enter are blessed with good fortune and feeling! Prayer and comfort to all who have lost somebody this year."

Finally, looking for a great holiday gift? Consider a volume of poetry by MoJo's poet in residence Lois Red Elk. If possible, ask for them at your local bookseller. You can click here to see a list of recent books.

Lois Red Elk-Reed
About Lois Red Elk-Reed

Lois Red Elk-Reed is a poet who calls the high plains home. She is Mountain Journal's poet in residence.
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