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Chaordia - A Novel of Transformation Ch. 15

Because of climate change a man wants to transform an old farm into a new colony in Vermont


It was late Sunday afternoon when we arrived back at the farm a week later. We would have left on Saturday, but Glenn's friend, Edgar, needed to use the van to move some furniture and said we could borrow it the next day. We met Tim and Gabe at Charley's for pizza one night and told them what was happening. "Wow, it's like an adventure movie," Tim said, and Gabe said he wished he could go and see the Indians and the farm and that he had just finished the third book and was determined to fight the Bendula. Jean was really busy that night but asked Alice where she got that amazing necklace.

Alice called Elizabeth the night we got back from Vermont and told her that Glenn knew the FBI had been watching him but thought the whole thing about them being the Bendula from Atlantis was nuts. "They wouldn't stop me, nothing will stop me," he said, but still, Elizabeth warned, "Be careful. The Bendula are ruthless, and if they know Glenn's plan to work with the Indians and revive the old ways, we would all be in danger."

When Alice's mother found out she was going away again and missing school, they had another big fight, but Alice stormed out of the house and got her friend Janine to drive her to my house. Missing school wasn't an issue with my dad, but my mom was upset that I hadn't been able to visit her and she and my dad had an argument. They hardly ever fought, but I think she thought my missing school was a big deal and nothing I could say about how important it was that I go to the farm got heard. She dismissed what I was saying and tried to make me feel guilty when she said, she really missed me. And when I said, "I know Mom, I miss you too, but something really important is going on," I felt terrible, but knew there was no way I wouldn't go to the farm.

Glenn got a fire going with some of the wood left from the previous week while Alice and I gathered more wood. I remembered Morning Star telling how they have kept their fire going for eight years. Tammy was adding vegetables to the stew she had made earlier and would heat it up as soon as the fire was ready. Alice asked if she needed any help, but Tammy said it wasn’t necessary; then told her how much she liked the necklace Morning Star had given her and said she'd like to learn how to make one.

While my dad was sketching in his notebook, Grace waved Alice and me over to where she stood in front of the old farmhouse." It’s sad to see this empty house," she said. "This was my world when I was growing up."

The front door and all the windows were opened letting in fresh air. We hadn’t been back in it since the time we arrived the previous week. Grace pointed to the window on the second floor with a shutter hanging by one hinge and told us it was her old bedroom, how she used to climb out onto the roof of the porch and look up at the stars.

"Well, when I go into town tomorrow to find out about paying the back taxes, we’ll get cleaning supplies and start getting the house back in shape," Grace said. "I wonder if there’s a good lawyer in town that can help me get the property put in my name or Glenn’s."

"You’re really serious aren’t you?" I asked.

"Very," she said. "This is very important to me."

"But suppose the council votes against White Elk’s vision, suppose they don’t want to share the land and work with Glenn?"

"We’ll see, won’t we?" Grace said. "Still, paying the back taxes, so they’re not discovered is the right thing to do. It just feels right."

"But what about this land, they might not want Glenn to be here," I said. "They won’t care if he has a deed. They believe it’s their land. What will happen if they say he must leave?"

"I don’t know," Grace said. "But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t clean the house." She paused, looking at Alice and me. "We should think positively. Cleaning the house will bring good energy to this land."

"Maybe," I said, feeling skeptical. "I guess."

"I think you’re right," Alice said. "I agree with you."

Alice surprised me when she said that, but I didn’t say anything. I wish I could be as positive as she is and not so cynical.

"I was thinking about what a good idea it was to show everybody your cell phone and what’s possible," Grace said. "I’m not sure what they thought about that, or what they thought about Eric’s ideas of bringing solar energy here and designing shelters that will help as the climate changes here, but at least, we said what we had to offer."

"White Elk understands," Alice said.

"He’s unique," Grace said. "He’s a visionary and knows the old ways will not be enough, and we can learn from each other and be better."

"That might be so," I said, "but Morning Star said that Grey Fox thinks White Elk is a foolish, crazy old man. I hope he doesn’t get the others to vote against working together."

"Did you notice how Sun Dancer looked at my cell phone?" Alice asked. "I think he’s pretty cool. I think he sees how it could help. He’s really on our side."

"Well, he was working on a Ph.D. in English," I said. "He wanted to be a college teacher or maybe a writer."

"Is that so? I didn’t know that," Grace said. "So he must be familiar with computers and the internet. That’s interesting."

"I don’t know," I said. "He said a few of the others were also in college when they dropped out and came here with Sun Dancer. It seems like a lot of the Indians here have made big changes in their lives."

"Interesting. I know Glenn has gone through a change since he got involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement. That’s when he started thinking about this farm and what’s possible and he told me his ideas. He’s was drifting from this place to that place and seemed lost, but this is the first time I’ve seen him so fired up and focused on something."

"Now he knows it was his grandfather’s dream," I said. "That’s an amazing story."

Grace nodded and gazed up at the farmhouse as if remembering her grandfather sitting on the porch or her laying out on the roof looking at the stars. We were all quiet, thinking about Glenn and his grandfather’s dream when Tammy yelled, "Come and get it."

The next morning, before we left for town, my dad was just about to get in the van, when Morning Star came through the pasture. They greeted each other and started talking, so he changed his mind and said he would see us later. He glanced at Alice and me and knew what we were thinking, but we didn’t say anything. Tammy asked if he wanted us to pick up anything for him in town. "No, I’m fine."

"We won’t be too long," Glenn said, starting up the van. "We should be back by noon."

"How’s your grandfather?" Grace asked.

"He's fair. My grandmother is concerned at how weak he was this morning." She then added, "The council is meeting again later this morning."

"I guess we will know something soon," Grace said, then got into the van and buckled her seat belt.

When we waved back at my dad and Morning Star, Alice turned to me. "I had a feeling something would happen with your dad and her. She’s really beautiful."

I didn’t say anything, but thought it was cool that something was developing between them, and then I thought about Alice and me and remembered how amazing it was to make love to her last night, how it felt with her head on my shoulder afterward, how warm and soft her skin felt while we talked, how she played with the hair on my chest and I kissed the top of her head, smelling the shampoo she used which I learned later was called Apple Blossom.

We drove the ten miles to Chimney Corner. Grace sat next to Glenn in the front seat. Alice sat in the middle next to Tammy while I was able to look out the window and see the Merrimack River and wondered what it must have been like when it flooded the area several yea ago. Glenn’s farm was on higher ground, so it didn’t get hit by the flood. Luckily, the old covered bridge we went over wasn’t damaged by the flood, but others were, and I wondered what would happen if that bridge got washed away in another storm. Would we be isolated?

When we parked in the supermarket parking lot, Tammy said she would go in and get some food and cleaning supplies, while we walked down to the Real Estate office to see if Peter Morgan could recommend a lawyer. He remembered us from our last visit and when Glenn said we were considering paying the back taxes on the Kirkpatrick property, he seemed surprised and said, "Is that so?" He then shuffled through some papers on his desk and showed us the notice about the auction which said "Forty-two acres for sale, no buildings."

"Do you think we could get it if we paid the back taxes?" Glenn asked.

"I don’t know. Things are pretty loose around here. Not much is selling so they might just let it go for back taxes. That would save everybody a lot of grief. On the other hand, speculators often show up at those auctions to see what they can pick up and turn around and sell."

"Do you know what the back taxes are?" Grace asked.

"I can find out." He gave Grace the notice. "Should be in the town report." He walked over to a shelf and picked up a small book, put on his glasses then thumbed through the pages. "Let’s see," he muttered, moving his fingers down the page.

Just then the phone rang and his secretary answered, "It’s Bronson," she said, holding her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone.

"Well, isn’t that something. That’s the lawyer I was going to recommend. We have a closing coming. That’s who you should talk to."

He picked up the phone on his desk and held the town report in his other hand. He listened and nodded then spoke, "No problem. Everything is ready. By the way, I have some folks here who are interested in the Kirkpatrick property, say they want to pay the back taxes. They’re looking for a lawyer. Do you have time to see them?"

I thought it was pretty amazing that the lawyer called while we were finding out about the back taxes. We stood there listening, hoping we would be able to go over to his office and find out what could be done. When he hung up, he turned to Glenn and Grace, "You’re in luck. Bronson can see you in twenty minutes. He’s just down the street on the other side."

"That’s great," Glenn said.

"So what are the back taxes?" Grace asked.

"According to this, it’s five thousand and fifty-eight dollars. Looks like they haven’t paid in six years," he said.

"Thank you," Grace said. "We’ll go and talk to your lawyer friend and see what we can work out."

"They might want to let it go to auction and see if they can make a sale. They’d get a lot more money if that happened, but you never know," he said. "Like I said, nothing is selling these days. The town council might just want to unload it and wash their hands of it."

We walked past several boarded up stores, including Martha’s Restaurant. I peeked into the dark, dusty place and saw an old counter with red leather stools and then a lot of booths along the wall and the old sign, "We’ll be back" and wondered why no one took down the sign. When we walked past the supermarket, Tammy was putting things in the back of the van, then crossed the street and caught up with us. "I got us some chili for lunch and fresh fish for dinner. I’m going to try this recipe I read. I also got lots of cleaning supplies, a broom, a mop, a bucket, bleach, you name it," she said. "We’ll make that old farm house shine."

“ Great,” Glenn said. "Now all we need is some furniture."

"I have a lot of things in storage that I didn’t want in my new house," Tammy said. "Maybe we can get a truck and bring some of it up here next trip."

Grace smiled, "First things first," she said. "Let’s see what this lawyer has to say."

I didn’t know what to expect when we walked to the office which seemed more like an old house with a front porch. A painted sign next to the front door had his name. Bronson Palmer--Attorney at Law. When we entered, we saw a room on the left that had a long shiny wooden table with cushioned chairs around it and guessed the room was used for meetings with clients. It was pretty slick looking especially when compared to the officer we entered at the end of the hall. Behind the desk with an old clunky looking computer sat a thin, gray-haired woman on the phone. She lifted her finger indicating she would be with us in a minute. I couldn’t believe how cluttered her desk was with piles of files not only on the desk but the floor next to her. I wondered how she could work in such a mess.

"We’re here to see Mr. Palmer," Glenn said when she hung up the phone.

"Oh, was he expecting you? Do you have an appointment?"

"We were just in the real estate office down the street and we were told he would see us. So we came right over," Grace said.

"I’ll let him know you’re here," she said, but before she could buzz his office, he came out to greet us. "I’m Bronson," he said, waving us in.

I was surprised to see a tall man with white hair and a bushy white mustache. He wore faded jeans and a wrinkled white shirt opened at the collar with the sleeves rolled up over his elbows. His pot belly hung over the belt. His office was also cluttered with files piled on his desk and the floor.

He pulled over a few old wooden chairs from the wall to add to the two in front of his desk, then sat down and leaned back in his big black chair. "So, how can I help you?"

"We want to see if we can pay the back taxes on the old Kirkpatrick farm and acquire title to the land," Grace said, "Is that possible?"

"That’s the place that had a fire about twenty-some years ago. Strange how they just took off. I knew Walter Kirkpatrick," he added, shaking his head. "Strange man."

"I own the farm next door," Glenn said. "I inherited it from my grandfather."

"So you’re Gene’s grandson," he said, nodding. "I was just starting out as a lawyer when I met him. I remember him...nice man."

"He was my father," Grace said. "My brother, Derrick and I grew up there."

"Funny, he never put it on the market," Bronson said. "He could have sold it for a good penny then. People were gobbling up land for developing, but not now."

"I inherited it," Glenn said. "I’m thinking of moving back."

"Are you planning on farming, or just wanting to get away from the rat race?"

"I’ve got some plans," Glenn said. "But right now we’re interested in the old Kirkpatrick farm. That’s why we’re here. How can we acquire it?"

Bronson moved his fingers over his bushy white mustache while he thought. "Well, it depends on how much is left on the mortgage, if anything. I’ll have to check with the bank. If it’s just the taxes, the bank won’t care. If there’s still some left on the loan, they might be glad to make a deal and close the books."

"Can you find out?" Grace asked. "I want to acquire the property as soon as possible."

"I see." Bronson, said, nodding "What’s the hurry? That property isn't going anywhere."

I knew Grace didn’t want to say why and felt nervous when Bronson asked, "What’s the hurry?"

"I want to avoid having it come up for auction and get sold to some land speculator," Grace said. "Can you call the bank now and find out if there’s a mortgage?"

Without answering, Bronson picked up the phone, dialed and looked at Grace and Glenn while he waited, then smiled at Alice and me. "Hello, Dolly, it’s Bronson, can I speak to Gary."

I was impressed with how he knew the number and seemed to know everyone at the bank and how people talked to each other in this town. It wasn’t like where we lived on Long Island.

We listened to Bronson as he spoke on the phone. He held a pen and was doodling on a yellow pad while speaking, then wrote down a number. Grace glanced at Glenn, then over at Alice and me. "Thanks, Gary. I’ll be in touch. I think I can make your bottom line look better." He hung up and smiled at us.

"What did he say?" Glenn asked.

"Good news. There’s hardly anything left on the mortgage, under five thousand. They’ll probably take anything you want to offer and if you pay off the back taxes, I don’t see a problem. It could be in your name in less than a month."

"Cool," Glenn said.

"We’re out of touch on the farm," Grace said. "Our cell phones can’t get a signal and so we’ll have to come back."

"What do you want to offer?" Bronson asked. "I’ll take it to them. That will save time."

Grace thought for a moment, closed her eyes as if counting to herself. "Well, there's still the back taxes. See if they will take two thousand."

"I have a feeling they will. Right now it’s been a loss to them. Paying the taxes doesn’t help the bank, but if you pay off the mortgage in cash, you will own the property free and clear."

"Sounds good," Grace said. "What do I owe you?"

"I’ll bill you and you can pay when everything is wrapped up. Do you want the title in your name or Glenn’s name?" he asked.

"Glenn’s name," Grace said, getting up to leave. We all stood up and Bronson walked us to the door. He shook hands with Glenn and Grace, then smiled at us.

Then Alice said, "I like your office. It looks lived in."

Bronson grinned, "You mean it’s messy, don’t you?"

"Yes, it’s like my room."

"Mine, too," I said. "Thanks for being so helpful."

"That’s why I’m a lawyer," he said and turned to Glenn. "So, what are you going to do with over eighty acres of farmland?"

"You would think I’m crazy if I told you," Glenn answered.

"Really? Now you have me curious. I’d like to know."

Glenn looked at Grace and Tammy, then at Alice and me and seemed uncertain about telling him. We were standing in the doorway of his office and I noticed his secretary look up.

"I’m going to make my own colony," Glenn said, "Independent of the government."

"You’re not serious, are you?" His eyes widened, obviously bewildered. He glanced at Grace and then back at Glenn. "Your own colony, really?"

"Yes, I'm very serious," Glenn said. "I wasn’t going to tell you because I know how news travels in small towns, but I might need your legal advice."

His secretary stopped what she was doing and listened.

"That might be out of my league," Bronson said. "Are you talking about taking your land and seceding from the United States? Is that what you’re saying?" He paused, not waiting for an answer. "I think you’re asking for trouble. I’m not even sure it’s legal."

I was stunned that Glenn said so much to the lawyer. I didn’t understand why he did that, especially when he knew the FBI was already watching him. I thought he’d want to keep everything quiet.

"Well, if you can’t help me, maybe you know a lawyer who can," Glenn said. "I know this sounds crazy, but I’m serious."

"People around here believe in live and let live and mind their own business, but this might rile some feathers," Bronson said. "I have to admit, it’s a pretty daring idea. Pretty radical."

"We should get back to the farm," Grace said, moving out of the office, urging everyone to follow her and end this conversation. "We’ll be in touch, Bronson. Nice meeting you."

When we left the office and stood silently on the front porch before going across the street for the van, we looked at one another. I couldn't believe Glenn told him his plan.

"Well, it looks like we’re going to get the Kirkpatrick farm and that will keep the Indians from being discovered," Grace said.

"Why did you say anything?" I asked. "Won’t people try to stop you?"

"I don’t want to hide," Glenn said. "It’s my land and I should have a right to do what I want with it."

"But what about the Bendula, I mean, the FBI? I told you they were watching you." Alice glanced at me and I knew she wondered why Glenn took a chance and said anything. She stared at him as if stunned, her eyes widened, her mouth hung open.

Before Glenn could respond, Grace interrupted."Right now, I’m more concerned about the council’s decision. We'll deal with everything else later. Let’s get back to the farm."

When we got back, my dad and Morning Star were sitting on the front steps of the porch. He had his sketch book and was showing it to her and pointing to a spot. They both got up and walked over to the van, while Tammy opened the rear and started taking out all the cleaning stuff, and then the groceries.

"So, how did you make out in town?" my dad asked.

"Better than I thought," Glenn said. "Looks like in a month, if all goes well, their land will be in my name," he said, then turned to Morning Star, "and no one will discover your people have been living on the land for eight years."

"Thank you," Morning Star said. "This is like a miracle. I don’t know what would have happened to us if this wasn’t happening."

"It wouldn’t have been pretty," Glenn said.

"That’s for sure," my dad said. "Someone could have bought that land and they’d find out your people were there, and I don’t want to think about what would have happened."

While I listened, I couldn’t stop thinking about people in the town finding out about Glenn’s idea, and then they’d know the Indians had been living there all this time, and if it turned out that White Elk’s and Glenn’s vision of working together became a reality, it would become a big story. I thought Glenn made a big mistake saying anything to the lawyer. I understood what he said about not wanting to hide, but I didn’t have a good feeling. I remembered Elizabeth’s warning that the Bendula was watching him and that he was in danger. I wondered what Alice thought.

"Let’s get all this cleaning stuff up to the house," Tammy said. "Then we can heat up the chili for lunch."

"What a good idea," my dad said. "I’ll get the fire going while you take things up to the house."

While everyone, including Morning Star, carried the supplies and groceries up to the house, I stayed back to help my dad with the fire. I needed to talk to him about what was happening. Even though he was making sketches and thinking about the project and seemed excited about what Glenn wanted to do, he also thought his idea of becoming an independent colony was unrealistic. "It's not that simple. There's a lot of issues to deal with," he had told me a few times.

"It’s nice that Morning Star is helping," I said, watching her carry two bags of groceries while Alice carried a mop and a broom over her shoulder like they were rifles.

While my dad knelt by the fire, he glanced at her. "I was showing Morning Star some of my sketches and she had some ideas I hadn’t thought of," he said. "She’s pretty impressive. Very intelligent."

I didn’t say anything, but knew my dad was enjoying sharing his ideas with her and that a relationship was developing, but knew I didn’t have a lot of time before the others would be back and Tammy would be heating up the chili.

"Dad, I need to tell you something. Glenn told the lawyer in town his idea about starting his own colony and not being part of the country."

"Really," my dad said, startled. "That was risky."

"Glenn said he needed legal advice on how to do it and the lawyer just looked at him like he was crazy. He even said he wasn’t sure it was legal to do that."

"It’s pretty radical," my dad said. "But maybe that’s what this country needs. Things really have to change."

"I know things have to change, but when I told Glenn about the FBI watching him and that soon people would know what he’s doing, he said he doesn’t want to hide and has a right to do what he wants to do with his land."

"Alex, Glenn is an idealist. He believes in what he's doing."

"I know and I like that story about the Phoenix rising out of the ashes and why his mother wants to call this land Chaordia, but if the FBI and the military are anything like the Bendula on Atlantis, they will do everything they can to stop him. On Atlantis they were against the old ways, they wanted the old ways forgotten."

My dad sighed and shook his head with that disturbed look in his eyes. I knew he was worried that Alice and I were taking the books we read too seriously.

"I know you don’t believe me, but that old woman we met at the library said the Bendula are still here, and they will try to stop Glenn. They’re the ones who made sure the FBI and the police were at the Occupy Wall Street and that’s why the police broke it up. The banks and the oil companies and others don’t want anything to change. It’s just like on Atlantis. I know it sounds nuts," I said, noticing the others walking back to the fire, "but the Bendula are real, and they’re going to try to stop him. I think Glenn is in danger."

"I don’t know what to say." My dad stared at me, then shrugged.

While Tammy carried the big pot of chili towards us and the others were following, I saw Sun Dancer rushing through the high grass in the pasture. His head was down as he pushed the waist high grass aside.

"I wonder if the council made a decision about White Elk’s vision," I said.

"I guess we’ll find out," my dad responded, watching him.

As he walked past the stone wall in front of the barn, Morning Star ran over to her brother. He said a few words to her, and they continued walking towards us. I couldn’t tell by the expression on their faces if they had good news or bad news, but knew in a few minutes we would find out.

As Sun Dancer and Morning Star got closer to the circle of rocks, Grace and Glenn rushed over to them, while Alice and Tammy continued towards my dad and me. When Tammy put the pot down on the grating over the fire, Alice stood next to me. They were close enough for us to hear what was being said.

"It was a hard council meeting and Grey Fox is not happy, but they decided to try White Elk's idea for a short time, a trial period. That was the compromise."

"What’s a short time?" Glenn asked.

"No decision was made. White Elk was too tired to continue," Sun Dancer said.

"I think we should be part of that decision," Grace said.

"When will the council be meeting again?" Glenn asked.

"When White Elk is strong enough," Sun Dancer said. "He's not well. My grandmother insists that he rests. It could be a while."

Tammy stepped towards them, "Do you want to stay for lunch? There’s plenty of chili," she interrupted.

"Just one minute." Sun Dancer lifted his finger then continued speaking to Glenn and Grace. "You must earn our trust."

"Trust takes time," Grace said, "and is very fragile. I’m sure White Elk understands that."

"It’s Grey Fox who doesn’t trust you, not White Elk," Sun Dancer said. “If you do what you say and you're respectful of our ways, we will be respectful of your ways and in time trust will grow."

"That’s right," Grace said. "It’s like a relationship with a person, a friend, a lover, a spouse," Grace continued, glancing at Morning Star, then back at Sun Dancer, "but trust takes time and that’s why I want to know what Grey Fox means by a short time."

Sun Dancer nodded. "I have nothing else to say."

"So will you join us for lunch," Tammy asked.

"I would like to,” Morning Star said, then glanced at my dad. “That’s very kind of you.”

“I haven’t had chili since I was at Brown," Sun Dancer said.

I was glad they accepted Tammy’s invitation.

"Alice told me you were in the doctoral program," Grace said. "Now look at you," she laughed, glancing at his necklace of bones and beads, and the feather rising from the red band around his forehead.

"Yes, I was a graduate assistant and was able to teach and work on my thesis."

"Oh, what was your thesis?" Grace asked. "I’m curious."

"It was over eight years ago. I’ve put all of that behind me. Closed the chapter," he said, then chuckled. “My thesis was focused on the importance of Native American folklore.”

"Interesting," Grace responded.

"And that’s when I left and found my grandfather," Sun Dancer said.

"And me," Morning Star added.

"Those stories and traditions woke something deep in me. It had been growing for a few years, but I kept shoving it aside, and then I realized I was fooling myself and not happy," he said. "I was drinking and partying and felt empty. I didn’t feel authentic. Studying those stories made me want to know more about my heritage and who I was and I realized I was on the wrong path. That’s when I walked away. I stopped being Charles and became Sun Dancer. I found my sister in Boston, and then we found my grandfather in Canada."

I was fascinated by what Sun Dancer was saying and could see Glenn listening, nodding, his eyes fixed on him. I wondered if he was thinking about the change he was going through since Occupy Wall Street.

"My grandfather was already having gatherings with other natives and talking about identity and holding onto their heritage and roots and talking about moving to this land. He talked about the broken treaty and where his ancestors lived before they moved to Canada many years before. He was strong and spoke with great power. He was determined and inspiring and told how the sacred pipe of his ancestors was given to him and how he became the pipe keeper."

"I remember the first time I heard him speak when we returned," Morning Star said. "I couldn’t believe it was my grandfather who I hadn’t seen since I was five."

I was glad Sun Dancer and Morning Star were sharing this part of their lives and could tell by the way Alice was listening, she was also fascinated. I knew a little about their transition, but now they were filling in a lot.

"My grandfather said many times to the others, 'We must find our way home. It is the only way our people can survive.’ He'd close his eyes when he spoke as if he saw it. One man there played the flute. His name was Hawk. He played old melodies he had been taught by his father, but mostly he improvised. When he played, I closed my eyes and listened to the haunting sound and knew I would never be the same. My grandmother had already told me my name, and I knew I would go with my grandparents and my brother to this land. That was over eight years ago."

Tammy was dishing out chili into paper bowls she got at the market but had regular forks she pulled from her canvas bag. She handed everyone a full bowl, then sat down next to Glenn. Morning Star sat next to my dad. Sun Dancer sat with Grace across from Alice and me. All of us were quiet, eating, thinking.

Morning Star broke the silence, "Eric, please show my brother your plans or talk about them. I think he should know what you’re thinking."

"I’d like to know your ideas, also," Grace said.

My dad glanced at Morning Star and seemed surprised. He then faced Sun Dancer and Grace across from him. "Well, I still have a lot to work out, but I’ve been studying permaculture and wanted to incorporate some of those principles here."

"Permaculture?" Sun Dancer asked. "I've never heard of that, what do you mean?”

"Well, it’s watching how nature works and trying to use the land in a way that is closer to nature than conventional landscaping. It’s a way of designing where everything works together organically--plants, shelters, livestock, water and energy. It takes several years to develop, but I can see using this land in a way that is productive, sustainable and beautiful and where everything functions together."

"We don’t call how we live permaculture," Sun Dancer said, "but that is how we live."

"That’s true," my dad said, looking at Sun Dancer. "I want to build on how you live and come up with new ways we can live on this land that is both simple and yet helps us adapt to climate change. We all have to change how we are living."

Sun Dancer nodded, listening. "I understand. We are seeing many changes that concern us," he said. "It isn’t easy to live the way our ancestors did. We have had to learn a lot. So much has been lost."

"I wish I knew how to make leather clothing like I'm wearing," Morning Star said, "My grandmother gave me this buckskin dress and some other clothing that was handed down to her from other generations."

"Many of us wear jeans and shirts like everyone else," Sun Dancer said. "And some have been able to make clothing from skins or have hand me downs from grandparents, but it is how we live, not what we wear that counts."

"It must have been hard for you living in both worlds," Grace said, "Academia, mainstream America, and the American Dream."

"It was and still is," Sun Dancer said. "There are things I miss, but this is where I belong."

"Me too," Morning Star added. "But tell us more about your plan."

"We have to divide the land into zones that function separately but are integrated into the whole," my dad said, pointing to the orchard. "Where the apple trees are is one zone and we could develop the orchard with many other fruit trees, but next to that, we might have strawberries, raspberries, grapes growing next to each other. We might have several garden zones with various vegetables close together complementing each other, not in long rows like you see in conventional gardens. When you look at how things grow in nature, nothing is in long rows. It's artificial and not natural."

"Tell him about the houses," Morning Star said.

"We would have zones for the shelters, building in clusters with several houses, but making a circle around the fire where we will gather for meetings and sharing. Everything will be joined with paths, beautiful paths lined with flowers. I like the way your wigwams are in a circle and I was impressed with how the dried bark on the roof keeps the inside dry and warm, but recently I’ve been fascinated by Cob houses that are made from mud, clay and straw and are similar to adobe houses used out west. They are also made from natural materials like your structures but would be stronger. My plan is to have green roofs with various plants growing similar to the sod roofs people built out west. That was a method used in Scandinavia. These shelters would be small, off the grid with solar panels for electricity. Each shelter would have its own garden, but everyone would work in the large common gardens and orchards. We would also have a larger building similar to your Long House that would be our Common House where we can eat together, have meetings and entertainment, also a sauna nearby and a place for showers."

Sun Dancer nodded, listening. "It would be good if we could have solar electricity also," he said, turning to Alice. "I understood what you meant when you showed us your cell phone. I used the internet for research when I was at Brown and began connecting with other Native Americans when I was making my transition. We were learning from each other."

"Right now, I can’t get a signal, but it would be good if we could connect to the internet here," Alice said.

"I do too," my dad said. "I know Glenn wants to be an independent colony, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be connecting with other like minded people. The internet can be a powerful tool for learning what others are doing to adapt to climate change."

"I agree with you," Glenn said. "I’m realizing we can’t escape on this farm and forget the rest of the world. That would be foolish. People have to work together and share ideas."

"I’m glad to hear you say that," my dad responded. "I understand wanting to live as independently and as self-sufficiently as possible, but we should be connected to others around the world who may be doing similar things. We have to live cooperatively not competitively. Our changing how we live here is not enough."

"White Elk understands that too," Morning Star said. "He knows we are all in danger and must learn from each other and work together."

“Perhaps, Grey Fox will learn that also," Grace said. "I know he doesn’t trust us, but hopefully, he will."

"Let me say a few more things about my plan," my dad said, looking at Morning Star. "By the way, your sister had some good ideas when I showed her my plans earlier."

"Thank you," she said, smiling at my dad. "I liked the idea of zones and remembered the creek that goes through this land and our land. It flows into the river nearby, but I thought we could make a big pond for bathing and swimming and pumping water in case of a fire and irrigation."

"Also, if we do it right, we could raise fish in the pond," my dad said. "Aquaculture is another interest of mine and the pond would be another zone, but I think we should have livestock and raise a cow, lots of chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, rabbits, perhaps a few goats. They provide manure for the gardens. If we have over eighty acres by combining both farms, we could have a zone for raising hay as well as having several pastures and another zone for wheat or other grains. I have it all sketched on my plan." My dad held up his notebook with different colors representing different zones.

"That’s why I’m concerned about Grey Fox wanting to give us a short trial period," Grace said. "What Eric is saying takes time. It won’t happen overnight and will take a lot of hard work with people working together."

"I understand," Sun Dancer said. "But I think Grey Fox wants your people to go away. He's bitter and doesn’t trust."

While we were talking, I heard a car driving up the lane and couldn’t imagine who was coming here. Everyone heard it and stopped talking. "Who could that be?" Glenn asked, turning towards the sound.

We heard the wheels squeaking on the bumpy lane. As it got closer, a green pickup truck drove into the opening and parked behind Glenn’s van. When the engine turned off, Glenn stood up. Grace did, too. Sun Dancer turned to look but didn't move and Morning Star’s eyes widened. Alice stared at the truck, then glanced at me.

A tall man wearing a heavy tan sweater, a gray jacket, jeans and a green baseball cap walked towards us. He had a camera hanging from his shoulder.

Alice leaned closer and whispered. "I wonder who he is."

I didn’t respond, but the word Bendula popped into my mind.

"What can I do for you?" Glenn asked as the man approached.

"I’m Jeremy Zelnick from the Weekly Packet, the newspaper in town. I just heard about your plans. Thought I’d come up and see what you’re up to."

"The newspaper?" Glenn stiffened and glared at him. "How the hell did you know I was here?"

I couldn’t believe that a few hours after Glenn told the lawyer what he had in mind for his grandfather’s farm, a newspaper man would show up and know about Glenn's plan. This is what I was afraid of and knew if the story got out, the Bendula would know where we were.

"I’m here because someone called my editor," Jeremy said, looking around at us and narrowed his eyes when he saw Morning Star and Sun Dancer.

"Was it Bronson Palmer who called your editor," Grace asked. "He’s the only one who knew."

"No, it wasn’t Bronson," Jeremy said. "My editor said it was a woman who called."

"A woman?" Glenn repeated. "We didn’t tell anyone but Bronson."

Again, Jeremy glanced at Sun Dancer and Morning Star. "Did you come here with these folks or what? I mean, I didn’t expect to see Indians here."

Both Sun Dancer and Morning Star were silent while Jeremy waited for an answer. The silence was awkward and tense. He bit his lower lip and scrunched his eyebrows.

"No, they didn’t come with me," Glenn said, breaking the silence. "Listen, we want to be left alone."

Jeremy nodded. "I hear you’re starting your own colony here and you’re buying the old Fitzgerald Farm, that’s what I was told."

"It’s nobody’s business. What I do on my land is nobody’s damn business."

"I understand," Jeremy said, nodding. "It’s pretty much live and let live around here. A lot of independent minded people live in these parts, but they like to know what’s going on just in case. Do you know what I mean?"

Jeremy again looked at Sun Dancer and Morning Star. "So if you two didn’t come here with these folks, how did you get here? I don’t see any other vehicles other than the van."

Sun Dancer didn’t respond. Morning Star glanced at Glenn and Grace.

The reporter's eyes narrowed as if he knew something was strange but didn't say anything. He turned back to Glenn and Grace. "Your idea is interesting and you'd have a lot of people on your side," he said. "There are people in Burlington and Montpelier and a few other places that have been talking about seceding from the United States, being independent. Mostly it’s because they don’t want their taxes going for the Military Industrial Complex. I’ve covered some of their meetings."

"Really," Glenn said. "I didn’t know about that."

"It’s radical and there a lot of people who think they’re crackpots and think it's nuts. There’s no way that will happen," Jeremy said. "Listen, you should let me do a story on your plan. Rattle people’s cages, if you know what I mean."

"I heard something about that movement," my dad said. "They’ve been around for several years, I think."

"That’s true. They started during the first Gulf War, and then it petered out. They’ve also been trying to get the nuclear plant closed because it’s been operating for over forty years and that’s what it was built for, and then it was supposed to be closed, but now Washington is going to renew their license, despite the people around here voting to shut it down," Jeremy paused. "There have been a lot of protests. Even the Governor wants it shut down."

"I knew about that," my dad said. "That plant is a disaster waiting to happen."

Jeremy nodded, then continued. "They really got going again when we attacked Afghanistan after 9/11, and then a year later we went to war with Iraq based on a lie about weapons of mass destruction. There’s a big peace movement in Vermont, and, like I said, there’s that group that wants to break away from the Federal Government, but I doubt it will ever happen," he repeated. "Now, you’re here."

Everyone listened to Jeremy, nodding while he again looked at Sun Dancer and Morning Star. "Are you two from around here?”

Neither answered.

"Are you part of this plan to start a colony?" he asked.

"How do you think a story would help us?" Grace asked, distracting him.

"I’ll tell you why," Jeremy said, "I might write for a small town newspaper, but I’m a journalist, not just a reporter, and when I see a good story, I want to tell it in as compelling a way as I can. Maybe some bigger newspaper will see it. If what is going on here is what I think, my writing could help. Who knows I might even get it in the New York Times…that’s my dream."

"I’d still like to know how your editor found out about us," Glenn said.

"You’ll probably find out," Jeremy answered, then paused and glanced back at Sun Dancer and Morning Star. "And you’ll also find out that there will be people around here who will want to stop you. They hate change and believe, if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it. They’re real patriotic."

When the reporter said there were people who would try to stop him, I couldn’t help but think about the FBI, who were watching Glenn. The idea of a big story sounded dangerous. What would happen if they found out the Indians had been living here for over eight years? I glanced at Alice and could see she was staring at Jeremy and wondered what she was thinking. We hadn’t had a chance to talk to each other for a while.

"I think I want to keep this out of the papers," Glenn said. "I know you want to make a big story out of this, but I want to be left alone."

"It’s too late," Jeremy said. "Our town doesn’t really need a newspaper, that’s how fast news travels, but it's seldom accurate. People add their own two cents and whatever was true at the beginning is a lie by the time it gets to the last person. Once that happens, it’s hard to get back to what is real."

"I don’t know. It’s not a simple story," Glenn said, glancing at Sun Dancer and Morning Star. "It’s a lot more than making an independent colony on this land."

"Well, you have a choice," Jeremy said, noticing how Glenn looked at Sun Dancer. "You can tell me what’s going on and I will get the truth out, or you can let gossip and rumors circulate. Then you'll see what happens."

"It might not make a difference," Grace said.

"What do you mean. Rumors and misinformation can do a lot of damage."

Grace nodded, "That may be true; however in Oedipus Rex, Sophocles has the blind prophet, Teiresias say, 'If the truth will do no good, it is better to remain silent.''

"So do you think the truth will make a mess if I write about what’s happening here?"

"Yes, but I think either way, there will be trouble," Grace said. "It will be controversial for a lot of reasons, but I’d rather have the trouble be based on truth and not gossip."

"What are you saying?" Glenn asked. "Do you think we should let what’s happening, get out?"

"It already is," Grace said. "You told Bronson what you’re doing and now we know a women told the editor and that’s why this reporter is here. Now, there’s no place to hide and maybe that’s good."

"I was surprised to find out you told the lawyer," my dad said. "Why did you do that, if you didn’t want people to know?"

"I was too," I said. "And I told you the Bendula are watching you. I mean, the FBI," I added, then wished I hadn’t said anything.

"Bendula? FBI?" Jeremy asked. "Who are the Bendula and why is the FBI watching you?"

"I don’t know anything about the Bendula. I never heard of them before," Glenn said. "And the FBI have been watching me and others because I was part of the Occupy Wall Street and helping after Hurricane Sandy."

"Why would the FBI care what you’re doing on this old farm," Jeremy asked. "Do they think you’re a terrorist or something?"

"That’s a good question," Glenn answered. "They’re watching anyone who they suspect might be a threat. The Occupy movement is considered dangerous by Wall Street and the banks. They’re pretty worried about this movement, but we’re not terrorists."

"We used to have Occupy Wall Street people out on the bridge in town every Saturday," Jeremy said. "They would stand there with their 99% signs and people honked, but I doubt there’s any FBI watching them...or Bendula—whatever that is," he added, glancing at me and I knew he was wondering what I meant by Bendula.

"I think you should do a story," Grace said to Jeremy, then turned to Glenn. "What you're doing here is brave and special and people should know about it. Don’t hide. Trust the truth. Maybe it will inspire others."

Glenn took a deep breath but didn’t speak. He looked at me because of what I had said about the FBI and the Bendula, then at Sun Dancer and Morning Star and knew they were worried about being discovered. He looked at my dad, then at Grace, then faced Jeremy. "I don’t want to hide. Okay, let's do this story and see what happens."

Jeremy took out a small tape recorder from his jacket pocket. He also had a notebook. "Where can we talk?"

Grace pointed to the farmhouse. "We could go down there and sit on the steps."

Just before they started walking towards the house, Jeremy looked at all of us. "I’ll want to interview all of you," he said, then looked at Sun Dancer and Morning Star before continuing toward the farmhouse.

"This is going to get interesting," my dad whispered to me.

"This is not good," Sun Dancer said.

"I’m feeling strange," Morning Star added. "I think we should go."

While Grace, Glenn, and the reporter walked towards the house, Sun Dancer and Morning Star started to walk towards the pasture and woods.

"He’ll see where you’re going," my dad said.

"I know," Sun Dancer said. "Grace is right. There’s no place to hide. He will find we are here eventually. It’s an important part of the story."

I was surprised to hear Sun Dancer say that. Alice took hold of my hand and squeezed it, and I knew she was as frightened as I was.

"Let’s go," Sun Dancer said to Morning Star.

When they left, Sun Dancer glanced over at the reporter, then walked with large strides through the pasture. Morning Star followed, but looked at Alice and my dad, waved goodbye, then continued walking, a few steps behind her brother. I glanced over at the farmhouse and felt a shiver go through me when I saw Jeremy’s curious eyes watching Sun Dancer and Morning Star walking through the high grass toward the woods.

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