Milk and Blood

When I was a child, the Giantess lived in the woods beside our house for a while. She was raising her own girl at that time, and they were on a learning circuit from the north in the Queen Charlottes down the rocky coast in the Chief’s wolf-prowed canoe.

They had visited the Makah, the Queets, the Quilute, the Puyallaps and had heard of our small, displaced clan of Wenatchees in suburban Seattle. My parents were both Skagits, and our family life together as Wenatchees was still ahead of us, but the Dzonoquas are time travelers, and she knew who we were before we did.

The thicket by our house was small as the black tip of a Sitka deer’s tail, so they couldn’t stay long, but the little Giantess-in-training found me. She jumped out from behind a cedar stump and grabbed me. I screamed as children scream in play as she ran through my familiar woodland with me bouncing in her little burden basket.

I was not afraid until the old mother appeared, tall and dark-furred, her eyes upside down moons of leathery brown, those sunken cheeks and enormous hanging dugs. I was still in the basket when the girl was put to the breast. As she sucked, drops of milk flew about from her vigor, and I, being a hungry child myself, did not hesitate to put my finger in the frothy cream to taste.

The milk, bitter as nettles, sweet as roasted camas bulbs, moved through my body like a swooning narcotic. The big mother watched me closely through the sleepy slits of her eyes. She knew who I was, that her daughter had claimed me for her own. I was, as I said, only five or six years old at the time, but I remember clearly even now in my middling age, the twin streams of the familiar and the strange that flowed with the Giantess’s milk into my veins:

The landscapes, more ancient by far, but I knew them already, the coasts, rivers, mountains, forests of my Northwest home. I knew the spirit of the longhouse, the heart of the giveaway, but strange indeed was the land of myth where Dzonoqua and all her kind and kin live in a dreamscape. I saw how they traveled through time, how they moved between worlds by the power of the story, the mask, the dance, and the song.

In disorderly chaos it has taken me decades to sort, I saw the dancer leap with his strong legs in the firelight, the booming drum, the great lifted beaks of the beautiful Cannibal birds. I saw into the future then, as now I dream the past by the power of the milk of the Giantess.

Her daughter is the Old One now, and we are milk sisters through the peculiar interweavings of time, which is like the pattern of oak leaves in the canopy overhead—laced and layered, living, dying, green, gold, yellow, brown; shadowed by day; starry dark by night and swept by the owl’s wing; called again to day by the dawn whistle of Dzonoqua, the mythological Giantess, Wild Woman of the Woods, Guardian of the Chief’s Wealth, my red cedar blood and milk.