Tayo is an Indian man, who is true to his family and the ways of his people. He is subjected to the horrific battles of war, which change him forever, sending his mental and physical health into a downward spiral. He has flashbacks that send his mind reeling, and make his stomach tie up in knots. At the same time he is dealing with this, the earth is at a battle to keep itself healthy. There is a lack of rain, and everything is drying up and dying off. Throughout Tayo’s journey, we come to understand that Tayo and the earth’s fates are intertwined, and they are both looking for the same ending.
Being well again. It is not a task that is easily attainable, but throughout the book, both Tayo and the Earth show perseverance, by surging forward, and never giving in to the hardships that arise. When Tayo goes off to war, the Earth is in good health, and so is Tayo; he is ready for the challenge ahead. There are huge rainstorms that are replenishing the land and Tayo is strong in mind and body. But when Tayo goes off to war, he resents the rain, because it causes him to drop his cousin when conditions get too slippery and he loses him to the Japanese, because they
think that he is too weak to carry on. “He lifted him to his knees and all the time he could hear his own voice praying against the rain. ” (Silko 12) He curses the rain, and in turn, it ceases to fall at home. His people tell him there was a drought for the six years that he is gone. It seems impossible to people who don’t believe in the connection between people and Earth that one person cursing the rain would cause it to end, but Tayo is strong to his heritage and the Indian people’s ideas and believes he has done something terrible to his homeland. Tayo sets out on a
journey when he returns home. It at first seems he is lost, wandering aimlessly throughout the world, but in the end, all the events that occur and all the people that he meets bring Tayo right to where he needs to be. Tayo and his uncle Josiah took a trip to the store one evening for some beer, and they meet a dancer by the name of Night Swan. Josiah is overcome by her flamboyancy, and later Tayo will discover he is too. Josiah visits her often, returning the same night because he has the feeling that he left something of his at the store. Tayo avoids visiting her, because he doesn’t
want to take her from his uncle, but when Josiah leaves to care for his cattle, Tayo pays her a visit, and they end up making love. Outside, it poured and poured on the barron land, just as inside Tayo was pouring out his heart to Night Swan. The land began to heal from the drought and Tayo began to heal because he spoke about his mother to her, something he had never done before. Tayo saw some qualities of his mother in the woman, and she told him he was no different, his skin color did not separate him from anyone else. She did not see him as the sick man who had just returned from war; she didn’t criticize him as the others had.
She understood. This woman also, unknowingly, sends Tayo on the journey that will bring him home. She tells Josiah of a breed of cattle that the Mexican people had that were strong and lean, and could go without having food and water for periods of time, a quality that was wonderful to have at a time like this, where the land is so dry and empty. Josiah buys these cattle, but they are known to run wildly, so when Tayo returns from the war, he decides that it is his duty to Josiah to round up the cattle for him. He thinks he can raise them and fulfill the dream that Josiah had.
The cattle are much like Tayo, in the aspect that they know where their home is, but they have to run, and see what is out there, before they realize that the best place for them is at home. They also can live on very little, just as Tayo can. Tayo goes walking through the mountains, searching for the cattle, and finds them trapped behind a fence that enclosed the mountains. He cut away the wires to free Josiah’s prized possessions. The air is cool at this time, and the sky has a hint of forming rain clouds, something that was presented as a sign of hope earlier in the story.
A mountain lion comes down and looks at Tayo, but leaves him to his business. Tayo hears some men coming, so he rides away as fast as he can to get away from them. His horse wipes out, and Tayo is caught by the men. They start to bring him in to town, to have him prosecuted, but they become distracted by the foot prints of the lion in the sand. They let him go to follow the lion, and Tayo smiles to himself, because snow has started to fall. The lion saved him by distracting the men, and now Mother Nature was not only helping Tayo by concealing his tracks, but she was protecting her
own creatures by covering the mountain lion’s path. Tayo meets a woman twice in the story who turns out to be a savior for him. She built a trap of sorts in her barn, that roaming animals are attracted to. When Tayo’s cows run down from the mountain, where Tayo freed them from the fence earlier, they run toward her ranch, and are then caught in the trap. She determines by the way Tayo talks that he would want to come back, so she keeps them there for him. Tayo, much like the cows, finds the place so appealing and comforting, that he returns. Tayo sees the last bit of destruction he needs, when his
“friends” torture Harley for not watching Tayo, and he realizes he has to go back to the woman, gather the plants she wants, and everything would be perfect. He would be home, with Josiah’s cattle, and caring for the woman’s plants for when she returned. And things are perfect. He wakes up at home to clouds with “heavy bellies. ” His so-called friends who came after him in the end were all killed. He was home to care for his family, and his land, just like he felt he should be. Silko brings one of the strongest Indian beliefs into her book, the belief that the Earth and
the people are connected and that they should both care for one another, to create vivid imagery, showing the suffering of a man, and the similar suffering of the land that he is so rooted to. She carefully points out in several different occasions in the story that they conditions of the land and the animals improves with Tayo, to show that Tayo is not alone in his journey to make it to a place where he is well and whole. The land is mourning the loss of the person that Tayo used to be, and the lose of the health and plentifulness it once had, and alongside Tayo, they both strive for their fate of wellness.