Wind chimes quietly dinged in harmony from their place on the porch, filling the back yard with a pleasant, random, melody. Greta walked across the soft grass, feeling the cool, green, blades on her bare feet. The spring morning was warm for a change. The sun filtered brightly through the trees, scattering splotches of light and shadow across the ground in leafy patterns.
Choosing just the right spot would be important. This was a ceremony of Greta’s own making, one she hoped would bring her peace with the hard ground beneath her. She had tried for five years to loosen the soil so that it might be productive in growing something other than the feisty variety of weeds that were inherent to the American Southwest. If this didn’t work, she would have no choice but to completely till up the hard, clay-packed sod, bring in a better quality soil, and start over with a muddy mess that would make her backyard unusable for at least a year.
Greta found a spot near the center of the yard, full in the sun, and sat down, her pot of Muri beside her on one side, the fresh strawberries on the other. She wasn’t exactly certain what manner of ritual she would yet perform, but this certainly seemed to be the best spot for whatever might come to mind.
Making her own Muri had been a treat, and Greta had trouble not eating it while it was still warm. An Indian neighbor had helped, showing Greta how to use the clay oven built into the ground. They had used wheat straw to fuel the fire to a withering heat. In one pot, her friend had placed sand. The raw rice and water were in a second pot. Both had warmed over the fire until just the right moment, when Greta poured the rice into the pot with the sand. The result had been something quite like popping popcorn when she was a child, but with the rice puffing to three and four times its original size.
“Spread the hulls across your yard,” her neighbor had instructed. “It will make the ground softer, more usable.”
“And the rest?” Greta asked.
“We would make an offering to our gods, and then eat, with fruit and milk,” came the answer.
Greta had been surprised at just how much she liked the fresh Muri. While it looked so much like the cereal with which her mother had made marshmallow treats, fresh and warm it tasted much different, more alive, and more full. Greta liked the Muri this way.
But what would make an appropriate offering to deities in which she didn’t believe in the first place? If she set a bowl out, rodents would come and devour the contents. Wasn’t that wasteful? Perhaps, if she said some kind of prayer, but then, how does one pray to something that has no form or being or even a personality with which one might interact?
Greta took the bowl and filled it with the puffed rice. She then sliced three large strawberries for the top. Pour a bit of soy milk into the bowl seemed to ignite the rice all over again, its noises resembling that of the popping it had made in the clay pot.
Suddenly, Greta knew what to she would do for her offering. Taking her clothes off, she laid back in the grass and poured the muri over her body. She listened to the rice pop. She felt the warmth of the sun. The fragrance of strawberries filled the yard. She felt at peace, tranquil.
For almost a minute.
“Yeah, this whole offering thing is just stupid,” Greta said aloud to no one other than herself. Brushing the grains and strawberries off, she sat up and poured more of the cereal into the bowl. “I’m going to eat my fill,” she thought, “and then scatter the hulls, and whatever deities are watching can go pop their own damn rice.”
The wind chimed sounded an agreeable tone and a warm breeze fluttered through her hair. The gods seemed to agree.
MODEL: [Amber Cook]