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The White Buffalo Woman

Alternatively titled, “Mom, please stop letting strangers into the house.”

You could say I was a timid child. Every time our woodpecker-shaped knocker hit the door or the phone rang, I went into hiding. Nobody could see the little eye peeking through the tiny round window above the door, and nobody could tell I was avoiding calls, waiting for the familiar words of my dad to crackle from the answering machine as I twirled the coiled phone cord around my marker-stained pinkie. I barely even talked to my relatives, let alone strangers. Yet, to my bewilderment, my mom kept inviting people we didn’t know into my little refuge. She clearly hadn’t seen enough movies to know that was how PEOPLE GET KILLED. She rolled down her car window to give money to beggars at stoplights, started up conversations with people in line at the grocery store, and offered block walkers a place to rest.

Slowly, though, as I came to accept that our house would just be squatting grounds for whoever passed through, I grew accustomed to retreating to my room. I went so far as to build a toll road in the hallway leading to my cave (conveniently also the only route to the bathroom--someone get me a membership card to the Young Capitalists club already). However desperately I may have tried, all the weirdness could not be kept at bay, and much of my life is filled with the people, animals, and experiences that slipped through my cardboard toll road blockade without any monetary tribute.

One day, something showed up at our doorstep that intrigued me enough to wander out. A rancher cousin left us with two orphaned goats that he hoped I would bottle feed and raise. I went starry eyed for any four-legged creature (finally, someone who wouldn't ask me how old I was and how I liked school), and the goats living in our yard became my number one friends. From them I learned that it doesn't always matter what the neighbors think (especially if they can't tell a goat from a poodle), and that joy can be found in the silliest little things-like hooves slipping down a kiddie slide.

Shortly after the goats grew up and left for greener pastures, the White Buffalo Woman showed up at our curb. I couldn’t begin to tell you why all these eccentric people are magnetized to our house; it’s highly possible that there’s some large neon sign that isn’t visible to me because I don’t have dreadlocks or do peyote. A car had been parked overnight in the shadows of our overgrown yard, and come morning when my dad went to investigate, he found a woman with snowy white hair sleeping in her beat up little two door. She was invited in (of course), and we learned that she called herself the White Buffalo Woman and had been traveling across the country on a spiritual odyssey from Canada to Chichén Itzá.

Many of the details have faded, and she's since become a mythical creature of my childhood, piquing my interest in all the crazy waiting to be discovered out there beyond my front porch steps. From the White Buffalo Woman I learned that it's okay to go about things in a peculiar way and stray from the conventional path; there's something to be said for ditching society's constraints and chasing your passions wholeheartedly. She finally cemented the idea in me that by hiding from a world full of people, I was depriving myself of countless possibilities for growth and adventure. By dead bolting our doors and only peeking through little round windows, we miss out on all the real parts of life, the parts that define us as human. The stories we tell are those that we intermingle with, and by shutting out the unfamiliar we are missing out on an entire universe of the beautiful and unique.

My doors are open now--and I want to tell the stories of all the people who walk through.

P.S. In an interesting twist of fate, I ended up finding her website years later (I promise she's real) and it turns out she's a filmmaker:

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