You walked to the front of the sanctuary to pick up your award—a Snoopy bank.  The pastor thanked you for recruiting the most friends to attend Vacation Bible School, a week of stories and songs about Jesus interspersed with games of Red Rover and Duck, Duck, Goose.  Which part thrilled you?  Was it a) winning because you really loved winning; or b) the prize because you really loved Snoopy; or c) all those souls you saved because you really loved your friends and didn’t want them to go to hell, which is where Gramma said they would go before you told your neighbors they were going to hell for smoking cigarettes after which Mom told Gramma to stop filling your head with damn nonsense.  You can’t remember your five-year-old motivation but you can remember the robin’s egg blue color of the car Mom drove to pick up children who crawled their small bodies into the back of the station wagon because that’s how people moved kids in the days before car seats and seat belt laws.  Now, you call it rez driving because that’s how your family drives on the reservation, taking seats where there’s a spot, loading into beds of pick-up trucks.  Religion became confusing when you learned at age thirty that Mom’s birthfather was Northern Cheyenne, which meant according to white Gramma that all your American Indian ancestors were going to hell because they didn’t believe.  After a medicine man pointed you in the four directions during your naming ceremony, you tried going to Christian church even though you had your doubts about angel impregnation and curing blindness with mud but when the preacher described missions to convert savages, you got up in the middle of the sermon, walked down the aisle past the filled pews and out the exit door.  Though Evangelicals may call you heathen, you appreciate good metaphors, understand the purpose of those stories about Jesus breaking a few loaves of bread and fish to feed thousands, know it’s about sharing abundance, not about food service miracles.  You watched in horror when crowds who call themselves Christian laughed at a President who called a porn star names, wondering if they would still laugh if he called Mary Magdalene a “horseface.”  You pull out Bible verses now and then, recently hung one on your bulletin board.  Below St. Francis’ Peace Prayer and above the handmade card emblazoned with the Native proverb, “Creation is Ongoing ,” you posted a verse from 1 Corinthians 13.  “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  Sometimes you ask your spirit grandfathers for guidance, and sometimes you ask God for help accepting the things you cannot change, and sometimes you use sage, but mostly you close your eyes then fold into a pose of supplication while asking for courage to change the things you can because creation is ongoing and you’re not just one thing but a mix, and men may distort what Jesus said but you read the Bible and some of those beliefs still live inside you, and those who use religion to divide are living in their ego not in faith, and you don’t need to believe in lies but you need to believe in something so you bow your head—and ask for wisdom to know the difference.    

Given the name Many Trails Many Roads Woman by the medicine man of her Northern Cheyenne tribe, Sheree Winslow embraces a life of wonder and wander. She’s the 2018 recipient of a Pushcart Prize nomination, the Submittable Eliza So fellowship, and contest honors in Midway Journal’s flash prose contest and Beecher’s nonfiction contest. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Passages NorthAWP Writer’s Notebook, The Sun’s “Reader’s Write,” Storm CellarMemoir Magazine, and Mom Egg Review, among many others. Sheree lives in Southern California where she’s finishing a memoir about recovery from food addiction and a collection of travel reflections. She received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

Photo by Elizabeth Fackler