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  • Leslie Juvin-Acker

The Mission - A Short Story


Since I was a little girl, spirits tell me their life stories. I used to write them down as a short stories and essays and turn them into school. Or, keep them in a journal and remember them for entertainment. I didn't realize that my imagination was where spirits met me. Spirits always bring me a lesson. They help me grow emotionally and spiritually. Their life stories contain lessons. I call them parables. They're a way for the uninitiated to learn about life's truths.

This story came from a spirit named Geraldine who told me the story of her life in North San Diego County. It's a beautiful romantic story that has a cross-cultural analysis of religion and politics. It is subject matter that I find entertaining and interesting. I decided to share this story because I thought people would find this tale beautiful.

Whether or not you believe in spirit, imagination, or intuition, you will enjoy the tale of two destined lovers.

- Leslie

The Mission

San Francisco Aerial View 1864
San Francisco 1864

Geraldine was tall and fair. You wouldn't be able to tell she was half Squamish. Her mother was from the Seattle area. Her father a former soldier who fell in love with a "native".

Geraldine lived in San Francisco. A good Christian, she dedicated herself to charitable works. A lot of people, in her mind and according to her religion, needed saving.

Reports came from California. The church was looking for missionaries. The reports said that natives and Mexicans needed converting from their miserable lives. Looking to quell the suffering, Geraldine took on the cause along with other parishioners.

women fashion 1864
The clothing Geraldine brought to San Diego would not serve her new life.

After a trip by train, the first thing that Geraldine noticed was the hot, dry, dusty weather. Her heavy layers that protected her from the misty, cold air of the northern California coast would have to be reduced to her undergarments. She fashioned a dress out of thin white linen. Her neckline went up to her chin tied with a thin piece of black velvet trim.

She and the other parishioners were assigned the task of creating stakeouts. They would eventually be provided funds to procure building supplies to build casitas. These casitas eventually became homesteads. On those homesteads grew avocados. And, when they were in season, that was all they ate.

Life on the homesteads was dull and dreary. Geraldine wondered where all of the natives and Mexicans were. They were nowhere to be found. She looked around the desert in 360 degrees and found nothing and no one that needed saving. No one needed ministering to. Geraldine was without a job.

She kept her long light brown hair bleached by the sun up and in a tight top bun. It was how she kept it clean when the dust flew by on the hot desert wind. She developed a tan that brought out her Squamish features.

Besides daily chores like getting water from the well, sweeping, and cleaning there wasn't much else to do. She entertained herself by picking succulents, cacti, and other desert plants like sage bushes and grew them within the barriers of her homestead. She shared it with another family whose number of children were growing faster than the rooms available. It felt as if the homestead was constant work; growing to keep up with the demands of a growing family. Children, chickens, goats, and pigs kept life fun and entertaining. But, Geraldine felt underwhelmed by the experience. She was passionate about helping people learn about God and saving them from the temptations of the Devil. Geraldine cared more about what people thought than the typical things people talk about.

It became clear that there was no real mission to save the spiritually starved natives and indians in the area. The indigenous tribes seemed to have no need for Western spirituality or economy. They were doing just fine on their own.

After two years, Geraldine began to realize that the homesteads that were being raised by fellow Christians and parishioners were merely a ploy for businessmen to build a market for their goods. These people will need lumber, furniture, roads and more. There is a market for building cities. And, more importantly, government leaders, she surmised, benefited from having "missionaries" build these cities as it expanded ever more the American territory. It pushed the "non-Americans" out and further and further away.

Jaded by the financial and political motivations, Geraldine felt beside herself. Nobody really cared about the mission. She was devastated by her own ignorance and the audacity of religious leaders to send hapless parishioners out on a fool's errand. Life was harder, work was never finished. She asked herself, "What was there to gain from this experience?"

Aerial view of Old Town San Diego in 1849
Old Town San Diego 1849

On a trip to Old Town to buy rugs and textiles for the homestead, Geraldine experienced the most action since leaving San Francisco. The market was a busy exchange of natives, Mexicans, and Americans buying, selling, and trading goods. Prisoners sat in the holding pen outside of the courthouse. Women sold loaves of bread under propped up tents that shaded them from the hot summer heat. Children ran around unsupervised by their parents. The sights and sounds were intoxicating and overwhelming.

There were women dressed in fine clothes. Their fresh clothing was laundered by the laundry women. Their hair was perfectly coiffed under their tightly positioned hats. It seemed these women hadn't seen the sun in ages and Geraldine wondered how their clothes stayed so neat and clean in San Diego's dry, dusty, windy heat. She noticed the haciendas where these women lived out their days. Protected by the heat and wind, it was sure these women lived like fine caged birds; their every need met and provided for.


Geraldine turned her head away from the elegant homes that surrounded the market and walked back to her friends waiting on the wagon. Before they loaded up and made their way back to the homestead, Geraldine asked for a few more moments to get a hot piece of bread from the Mexican ladies.

Standing next to her as she waited for her food was a tall, dark indian man. He was dressed in brown leathers and wore a cowboy hat. He seemed tough and hard, but disarming. He stood patiently, but with purpose under the tent beside her. She felt weak by his very presence.

She went to pay for her loaf, but the lady refused her money. She pointed to the dark man beside her and brightly smiled. Geraldine tried to explain in English that they weren't traveling together, but the man handed the bread lady money and walked away with a smile.

Geraldine blushed. This was her first interaction with a man since never. She didn't know what else to do besides mumble a thank you.

She walked towards her friends. The man was walking towards them, too. She didn't know what was going to happen next.

Her friend in the wagon introduced the man to Geraldine. He was a trader from a nearby tribe. He sold items from the tribe's community and brought back items they needed. Geraldine could barely breathe. She felt light by the electric connection between them. It seemed like everyone in and around the wagon noticed it, too.

The two men shook hands and everyone parted ways. Geraldine turned around in the wagon, watching the indian man talking with other traders near a booth on the street. Leaning on a wagon, he looked back at her, flashed his eyes and tipped his hat.

Geraldine turned around. She blushed. She knew - whatever this was - was just the beginning.

Old Town Layout

Weeks went by. Geraldine lived mostly in her thoughts. She went about those days idly doing her chores, barely engaging in any deep or meaningful conversation. She went through her days in a sort of daze. The children that surrounded her asked her to pay attention to them, but she feigned interest in anything other than wondering the answer to the question that repeated itself in her mind.

That question was, "Will I ever see him again?"

Geraldine wanted to know everything about this mysterious man. She wanted to know his culture, his thoughts, his beliefs, his history, and his family. Her curiosity welled inside of her.

She could hardly contain it until the perfect moment arrived.

A group of wagons arrived at the homestead. The children, chickens, and goats all seemed to migrate towards the wagons in eager anticipation of discovering who were driving them and, more importantly, what were in them.

Geraldine was not expecting wagoners. The family, on the other hand, were expecting orders of tents to house their growing children during the winter months. It seemed the family developed a rapport with the indians and found there was nothing to convert besides converting their money into much needed supplies.

Everyone joined the wagoners in unloading the wagons. Geraldine went to the back of the second wagon to lift up the tarp. Out of the back left popped out a familiar face. Geraldine jumped back. It was if she had seen a ghost. It was him. It seemed to her that she thought of him so much that it was if he appeared out of thin air. She gasped. He laughed.

"You scared me!" she said breathlessly.

He didn't speak much English.

He simply said "Hello."

The wagoners stayed for three days. During which time, Geraldine watched him from a distance. She helped serve him and the other two guests, an older husband and wife, dinner. She listened to them attempt to communicate with the family. Even the kids had questions and observations.

Geraldine had so many questions for this man, but she didn't know where to start. She wondered if he had a family, a wife, children. Or, if he was as free as the wind.

On the morning of the third day, her friend, the Mistress of the homestead, asked Geraldine how she felt about the stunning man.

With all of her thoughts swirling around her said, she couldn't muster out more than a coy smile.

With just one glance, her friend understood.

At lunch, before the wagoners were set to head home after the break of the midday heat, the Mistress asked her guests if it was ok for Geraldine to come along with them to visit their tribe. She explained that Geraldine came to preach to the natives of the area about God and hadn't had much opportunity to do that. She positioned it more as a cultural exchange rather than a converting of lost souls.

Everyone looked to the elders. The woman nodded in agreement to take on the responsibility of looking out for Geraldine during her visit. How long Geraldine stayed would be up to her. They would bring her back when she felt she was ready.

And so, that evening, Geraldine took a trunk of her belongings, kissed all of the children, hugged their parents, and went with her hosts. She thanked the Mistress for opening the door to this opportunity of ministering to the indians. It went without saying that what Geraldine really meant was, "Thank you for introducing me to this man."

And off they rode with their backs against the sunset.

It felt like months since Geraldine had seen the family and the homestead. It also felt as if Geraldine left behind the shadow of who she used to be. And, furthermore, Geraldine had no intention of returning to that person.

Life with the indians changed everything about Geraldine: her thoughts, her attitudes, and her perspective of life. Geraldine even left behind her clothes and adapted to tribal life.

In the western way, she felt as if there was always someone that people felt they needed to answer to; some authority. With the tribe, she felt that people turned to each other to find solutions and get answers. Yes, there were elders, but it didn't seem like an authoritarian regime where women and inexperienced men needed to prove themselves just to get help, attention, and love.

Their farming system was more of a cultivating system. Nothing seemed separate or broken off from each other. Everything in nature seemed to operate in a complex co-existent way, instead of fighting off pests and lack of water, the tribe worked with the conditions and even anticipated them. Harmony and intuition seemed to be the mode of living.

While the tribe cooperated peacefully, they were under no guise. They knew that the world outside of them was turmoiled. They were aware of the political battles between the Mexicans and Americans. They knew of the droughts and sufferings of the farmers who were used to plentiful rain of the Pacific Northwest. They were aware of the harm that the white man had caused himself - and the battles of the neighboring tribes who sensed the insecurity and aggression of the inundating whites.

She learned that the elders taught the tribe to not resist the progress of the people, but not to fall into their traps, either: Idle gossip, fear mongering, reports of suffering from right and left. They would move where the Earth Spirit would move them. Their logic was that as they arrived from another world, they would leave to another world. Indeed, their fundamental beliefs shifted everything inside of Geraldine. She felt at peace for the first time in her life, rather than constantly wondering what's next.

Geraldine thought she was going to fall in love with a mysterious, dark, long haired man to have an unknown future between two worlds: the native and the white man's.

Rather, she fell in love with the people and this man represented everything about their beliefs and attitudes towards the world. Simply put into a singular word: beautiful.

It took some time for Geraldine to open up to this man. It seemed that she was so eager out of curiosity to get to know him, but she had never felt so inept in her entire life. At first, she spent time with the women and children getting to know them and learning their domestic ways. But as the community began to spend more time with each other, integrating Geraldine into their lives, Geraldine and the man who captured her imagination finally began to fill the divide of unspoken tension between them.

He didn't have a family of his own. He had a mother and a father. The woman who brought her to the tribe, his aunt, introduced Geraldine to everyone has a white woman curious about their ways. They didn't know that Geraldine, too, was half native. Geraldine came to meet and understand those around her. She learned that this tribe was a blend of tribes throughout the Western United States, some family members came as far as Wyoming. The cultural heritage ran deep and focused more on the spiritual unity of the tribal members rather than ownership or ties to landholdings.

In every person exists a light that shines until the light flutters away

This man had a name. She called him Arahoe (Ah-re-hey-oh). It means bringer of the light inside you. The story of his birth was that he was prophesied to bring out the light in others. The tribe believed that in every person exists a light that shines until the light flutters away and leaves the lamp which is the body. Arahoe's family believed that he would bring out the soul's light so that its soul could do its job on earth until it decided to leave. The outside world saw him as a trader, but his tribe saw him as much more. Whenever someone in the tribe was experiencing darkness in their life, Arahoe encouraged the hesitant soul to shine brighter, to come out and stop hiding from life. Some westerner's would call this type of person a medicine man, but Arahoe didn't work with tinctures or salves. Rather, he talked directly to the soul.

Geraldine did not find it hard to transform her Biblical views of Salvation into a broader, more Universal understanding of God's nature. To her, the same God who lived in her was the light that existed in every tribal person. She kept her Bible in her trunk and turned to it often, but she knew that the truth in between the covers of her Bible, was busy and at work before her.

Geraldine fell into a deep state of love for Arahoe. The yearning tension between them developed into a warm, embering affection. She realized that this tough, strong man was a deep feeler and inuitor. He made every decision not upon the conditions of the day, but from a more authoritative source that existed within him.

Members of the tribe took a day trip to a nearby river. Off of the river were streams covered by a canopy of trees. These trees broke the heat and provided a cool breeze which allowed the men, women, and children to splash and play. Geraldine wore her linen dress for the occasion. She wanted to feel romantic.

She put her hot feet into the stream. She watched the water bugs dance on the surface of the water in the shade. She stared down into the stream and saw a reflection in the water coming from someone standing behind her. It was Arahoe.

It seemed like there was nobody around. The only thing she could hear was the deafening sound of cicadas. She stood up and leaned against the tree.

From the distance one could see Arahoe gently kiss Geraldine on the right cheek, barely missing her lips.

In that moment, Geraldine thanked herself for embarking upon her mission. For she knew, with that kiss, her mission reached its completion.

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