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Chaordia - A Novel of Transformation Ch. 9

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

Morning Star led the way through the tall grass in the pasture to the red ribbon marking the path through the woods. After we passed the stone wall on the hill, she stepped aside and allowed Glenn to go ahead, followed by my father and Tammy, who carried the empty basket on her arm. Before climbing, Morning Star looked back at the farm. I wondered what she was thinking, but she had the same astonished, smiling look in her eyes that Alice had when we first arrived.

"I love coming to this land," she said. "I gather apples from the trees and raspberries from over there," she pointed, "but there is something very special about this land. This must have been a beautiful farm long ago."

"That’s funny," Alice said, looking back. "When we arrived, I felt something."

"You surprised me when you said, 'awesome,'" I said. "All I saw was an old falling apart farmhouse."

"I know," Alice said. "And I remember Glenn saying his grandfather wanted him to have it and made him promise never to sell it because it was special. It was in his will."

"Interesting," Morning Star said, nodding. "It’s good that Glenn honored his grandfather’s wishes."

"He told me he was tempted to sell it a few times and ignore the will because he needed money, but he couldn’t. And then he got the idea he wanted to create his own colony here and wants my dad to design everything."

Morning Star didn’t say anything, but she closed her eyes, looked away and took a deep, sad breath as if hearing about Glenn's vision disturbed her, reminding her of the conflict. After a moment, she said, "Let's go."

We followed several steps behind her. Just before the path went around a bend in the woods, Alice looked back at the farm again and then at me. "I could live here."

"You said that before," I said. "What makes you say that?"

"Intuition. It’s just a feeling. Maybe I'm nuts."

She turned to see Morning Star further up the hill and out of sight, then stepped closer to me and put her arms around me. We kissed, our lips meeting gently.

I returned her kiss, still overwhelmed by the change in our friendship, but also by what she had said. Before I could reach to hug her, she scampered up the hill to catch up with Morning Star. I looked back at the farm. Could I live here? Something strange is going on with Alice. Everything is changing.

After a few seconds, I snapped out of my thoughts and caught up with both of them. Seeing how gracefully Morning Star walked through the woods, how comfortable she seemed made me realize how much her life had changed. I knew she had lived at the orphanage and in Boston, then remembered her saying how it felt when she began calling herself Morning Star, how she knew she had to find her roots.

We walked quietly. I enjoyed looking at the different trees, the moss on rocks and the wide variety of bushes and leaves that grew everywhere. I wished I knew the names of them, but mostly I wondered what would happen when we met White Elk and the council. I wished I could stop my busy mind and just enjoy being in the woods, but too much was going on. I even said to myself, Alex, stop thinking. Be in the present, remembering reading somewhere how important it is to be in the "now," but I couldn’t do that, no matter how hard I tried.

When we reached the top of the hill, I saw the smoke in the distance and also noticed how Glenn seemed to walk ahead of everyone like he was determined to be the leader. Tammy walked slightly behind him and then my dad a few yards behind her. At the top of the hill, Glenn glanced behind to see us following and waited until we caught up. Morning Star moved forward and stood next to him and looked in the direction of the smoke.

"Soon you will learn my grandfather’s vision," she said.

"Do you know what it is?" Glenn asked.

"No, but I do know he was upset when he learned you were on our land. No one knew we were living here. Grey Fox and the others are also upset that you are here. I don’t know what my grandfather meant when he said we must change, but I know Grey Fox will challenge him. We came here to live the old ways and don't want to be discovered."

Glenn sighed deeply. I knew he was anxious to meet then get on the road. He looked at the smoke rising, then at Morning Star, then at my dad and Tammy. "Let’s go."

Morning Star glanced at Alice and me, then walked quickly and caught up with Glenn. "Please, follow me," she said. "It's best that I take you to my grandfather. My brother will be waiting for us."

We walked along the path through the high grass and wild flowers with Morning Star in the lead. Just as we turned the bend and could see the fire, the large garden and the circle of wigwams, Morning Star stopped and pointed to two eagles high above us, gliding in a wide circle, not flapping their wings. "The eagles have returned," she said. "That is a sign."

"We saw one eagle yesterday," Tammy said, "What do you mean it’s a sign?"

"They seem to appear when there is a council meeting," she said. "But today there are two."

"How do they know there’s going to be a council meeting?" Tammy asked.

."Some things cannot be explained," she said, "but it is our belief that they come to take our messages to our Creator and return with what we need to know."

Tammy looked up and then turned to Morning Star, "I wish I had an eagle or someone telling me what I need to know. It would save me a lot of grief."

Morning Star smiled at Tammy but didn’t respond, then continued walking towards the circle of wigwams. Glenn walked just behind Morning Star, then Tammy and my dad. We were several yards behind him. He stopped and turned to face us. "How are you two doing?" he asked when we caught up.

"Okay," I said. "Nervous, I think."

"Excited," Alice said.

"Me, too," he said, then continued walking.

Just then we were startled by the sudden sound and sight of at least eight crows flying up out of the high grass, their loud caw caws breaking the silence. We stopped to watch them fly across the field and into the trees on the other side of the field. That's strange. I wonder if they're the same crows we saw yesterday.

"Ah the crows are watching," Morning Star said.

I glanced at Alice when Morning Star said that. Neither of us said anything, but I knew she was wondering what I was wondering. What did she mean the crows are watching?

We passed the large garden where two women and a small child were on their knees. Morning Star waved and they waved back. One of the women held up a large carrot with its long green leaves. By the fire, a young kneeling woman threw sticks of wood into the flame, watching it rise higher.

"That is Rising Dawn, she is our fire keeper," Morning Star said, turning to us. "Our fire has been burning for the eight years we have been here. The coals were brought with us from Canada. She keeps it going even in winter and in storms."

"Really," my dad said. "I have read of fires that have been kept for hundreds of years."

"Yes," Morning Star said, nodding and smiling at my dad. "To be a fire keeper is a great honor. Rising Dawn’s mother was the fire keeper until she passed on two years ago and it was passed to her from her mother and great grandmother long ago."

While we walked in the direction of White Elk’s wigwam, Shining Star came out of her wigwam. She was leaning on a beautifully carved cane; her long white braided hair was halfway down her back. Her dark, deeply wrinkled skin made her look ancient. She seemed upset. She motioned for Morning Star to come to her. They spoke and Morning Star nodded but didn’t say anything before returning to us.

"My grandfather is very weak," Morning Star said, "but he is waiting for us."

When we walked to the other side of the fire, Sun Dancer came out of the wigwam to greet us. "My grandfather is not well and Grey Fox is not happy that you are here."

Glenn nodded, "I’m sorry he’s not well. Hopefully we won't be long. I know Grey Fox is disturbed by our being here."

"That's true. He's my grandfather’s half brother, and there has been a rivalry between them for many years. He's angry that he was not made Chief."

I was surprised that Sun Dancer would reveal that, but I could also tell he wanted Glenn to know there was conflict and that he was concerned there could be trouble.

"What do you think will happen?" Glenn asked.

"We will find out when we learn my grandfather’s vision," Sun Dancer said. "My grandfather has always wanted harmony. He is a man of peace, but Grey Fox can be stubborn and is bitter." He then moved the flap on the wigwam away and stepped aside, indicating we should enter. Morning Star stood next to him.

When we entered, White Elk sat with his legs crossed and looked up at us. He wore his feathered bonnet, his braided white hair falling below his shoulders. The red and green blanket lay over his shoulders and he held it close to his chest. Next to him sat Tall Tree, holding the leather pouch with the pipe on his lap. Grey Fox, Cloud and Blue Lightning sat next to him. When we sat down on the other side of the fire, they nodded a greeting but without a smile. Except for the glow of the fire, it was dark in the wigwam with the flap closed, but I could see the long scar on Grey Fox’s cheek and wondered what had happened to him.

Tall Tree picked up the red clay bowl of smoldering white sage that sat between him and White Elk. Holding it with both hands he moved it around in front of each of us, the fragrant smoke rising. He then stretched his arms and held the bowl straight out, moving it in front of him, then to the left, then to the right, then turned and moved it in back of him."May the four directions know our hearts." He closed his eyes.

White Elk hadn’t said a word, but I could tell he was having difficulty breathing. He seemed tired, but looked at each of us while Tall Tree moved the smudge bowl. He took a deep breath. "Welcome," White Elk said, in a low, gravely voice. "Thank you for coming again."

Tall Tree removed the long pipe from the leather bag then opened a small pouch tied to his waistband and placed several small broken pieces of brown leaves into the bowl, tapping it lightly with his thumb. While Tall Tree prepared the pipe, White Elk said, "We will smoke our sacred pipe again, and then I will tell you my vision. When we smoke we are opening our hearts to speak with honest words."

When White Elk took the pipe from Tall Tree, he placed it in his mouth, inhaled, closing his eyes and held the smoke in his mouth before exhaling, sending the smoke into the dark air. He then passed it to Glenn. We each took a puff in the silence. Finally, it was passed back to Tall Tree who inhaled it, then held the pipe straight out, lifting it above his head, then closed his eyes and again said some strange words I could not understand.

We all turned to White Elk, who closed his eyes, gathering his words. "I speak with joy and sadness. Joy because we have returned to the land of our ancestors after many years. I speak with joy for what we remember of our ways, but also sadness because so much has been lost."

He paused again and closed his eyes, then took a deep breath. "Long ago, I had a vision that has brought us to our home, the home of our ancestors where we must live the three truths--peace, righteousness and power. In everything we do we seek the three truths and ask does it preserve peace. Is it righteous? Is it morally correct? And power. Does it preserve the present and the future? How does it affect the present people? How does it affect the seven generations?"

White Elk stopped speaking and closed his eyes again and took a deep breath and seemed to be gathering his strength. When he spoke, his voice became clear and strong, and it seemed he was doing all he could to not sound tired or weak. Alice stared at White Elk and leaned forward, not wanting to miss a word. I watched him narrowing his eyes as if he was seeing something in the distance.

Then he faced Glenn. "I know you believe your land can become something new, and I can hear your sincere words, but for too long, your people have taken our land with the belief you could own it with gifts, money and a paper treaties. Your people believe in building big towns, big cities and big cars and trucks, taking oil from the ground, digging deep into our Mother Earth, destroying mountain tops. Your way of life is unsustainable. You take but you do not return."

"But I want to live a new way. I agree with you," Glenn said, interrupting, "I'm ashamed of what my country has done to your people and to the slaves we brought over from Africa, and now we are doing the same thing in Asia and Latin America. Our way of life is built on genocide, slavery and greed. I am ashamed and can’t live that way."

White Elk nodded. "You want to live a higher way, a way that does not exploit."

"Yes. And I'm also upset how we are changing the climate and making the lives of our children and grandchildren so difficult. I know what you mean about the seven generations."

White Elk nodded, glancing at Grey Fox, then at Tall Tree. He closed his eyes again and took a deep breath.

"You are right, but now we are all on a dangerous course regardless of how my people live on this land. The rivers, the oceans, the temperature, the winds are a danger to all of us. And again, my people are victims of your country’s ways."

"That’s why I came back to my grandfather’s land," Glenn said. "It has sat here for over fifteen years and with Eric’s help we can build sustainable houses, grow food, raise animals and live outside of the sick culture. It will be a new colony, a new country."

Grey Fox leaned forward, "I must speak," Grey Fox interrupted. "You came back to our land. It is not your land. It cannot be a new colony."

"I didn’t know your people were here when I came here. I was surprised when Sun Dancer and the others came and told me. It was not my intention to take your land."

Grey Fox nodded, his eyes fixed on Glenn, but he didn’t say anything.

"I think we can share the land and help each other," Glenn said.

"Why should we trust you?" Grey Fox asked.

"Because we need each other," Glenn said. "I have money from my mother’s inheritance and Eric has ideas of a new kind of shelter which is similar to your wigwams, but more modern. Perhaps we can help each other."

"The white man has said that before. No one helped us in Canada," Grey Fox said. "I don’t trust you."

"Let me speak." White Elk held up his hand. He took a deep breath as if gathering his strength. "Yesterday, a vision came to me of harmony. I heard singing and a rainbow in the distance and our people were standing on the hilltop facing what you call your grandfather’s farm. Your people were on the opposite hilltop facing our land and I heard the voice of our ancestors say, 'Find wholeness.'"

Everyone was silent when White Elk spoke. Alice's stared at him with her mouth wide open. We looked at each other, then back at White Elk.

"What are you saying, White Elk?" Grey Fox asked.

"I am saying we are facing danger if we do not take all that we know and pass it on, but we must learn what others know. It is time to grow as one people and find harmony. It is time to forgive and live with compassion. Our ways are in danger unless we find wholeness."

Grey Fox glared at White Elk. "But we must agree. We must all say what we believe."

"I am surprised at your vision," Glenn said.

"I cannot accept your vision," Grey Fox said. "It is foolish and we will be forced to leave this land. It has happened many times before and will happen again."

"I have a deed on the land which says I own it," Glenn said. "But I do not care about owning land. I will tear up the deed and go to the town hall and remove my name from the town records. I will share all I have with you and hope you will share all you have with me and who ever I bring here."

"Are you serious?" my dad asked, his eyes widening. "Are you sure you want to do that? How can you throw away the deed?"

"Don’t be fooled," Grey Fox said.

"I am not being fooled," White Elk said. "I trust my vision. We are in a time of great upheaval. We are entering a new time and nothing will be the same."

"That’s why we are here," Glenn said.

"So you have a vision, also," White Elk asked.

"Yes, I do. I want to find a new way to live, and I think we can learn from each other."

White Elk nodded. "We shall see," he said, looking deeply into Glenn's eyes, then took a deep, weary breath. He swallowed and seemed to have difficulty breathing, then swallowed, slumped and placed his hand on his heart. "But I must rest," he said, turning to Sun Dancer. "Take our neighbors back to the other side of the hill. We will meet again."

"We will be heading home," Glenn said.

"We will continue our council meeting when White Elk is rested," Tall Tree said. "We have much to talk about."

White Elk nodded. "Yes, we will meet again. I must rest," he said in a weak, trembling, breathless voice.

Sun Dancer stood up and looked at us sitting opposite White Elk. "Come, I will take you to the hill."

Morning Star reached over and took her grandfather’s hand. "I will bring you Nettles soup then you can sleep."

When we left the wigwam, Grey Fox, Cloud and Blue Lightning followed. We stood in a small circle outside. "Our council will meet later," Grey Fox said. "When will you return?"

"As soon as we can," Glenn said. "I’m not certain." He paused. "I know you don't trust me, but you will see that I want what White Elk wants...wholeness and harmony."

"I know you believe that," Grey Fox said, "but you're right, I don't trust you and White Elk is just one voice." He glanced at each of us, then walked away, limping, leading the other two men. We watched them walking toward the long house, then Sun Dancer turned to us.

"Let’s go," he said. "I don’t know what will happen, but Grey Fox is not happy and will be an obstacle."

"I can tell," Alice said.

We walked behind Sun Dancer through the high grass. I looked up into the blue, cloudless sky, wondering if I would see the eagles, but they weren't there. No one spoke and I could tell we were all thinking about the meeting and White Elk’s vision. I couldn't believe that Glenn said he would tear up the deed and share his land with the Abeneki people. I was impressed with how serious and dedicated Glenn was to his vision and how he was changing.

When we reached the path at the bottom of the hill, Sun Dancer looked at Glenn and at my dad. They turned and faced the circle of wigwams, the smoke rising. Alice and I looked back, also. “It’s very beautiful here,” she said.

Glenn shook Sun Dancer’s hand. "We will be back next Saturday, if all goes well."

"I hope all goes well at the council meeting later," Sun Dancer said. "You will learn what happened when you return."

We walked quietly up the hill, following the narrow, twisting path. No one spoke. Glenn was in the lead, followed by Tammy and my dad. Alice and I were several steps behind in the rear. When we got to the top of the hill, Alice took my hand and held it as we turned to look back at the meadow of high grass and watched the smoke rising above the trees.

"What do you think is going to happen?" I asked.

"I don’t know. Grey Fox is angry and White Elk is so weak," Alice said. "I wish we could stay here and not leave."

"I doubt that will happen," I said. "We’re all out of supplies. We have to go back."

"We could get more supplies in town," Alice said. "I think we should stay here."

"That’s nuts. We can’t stay." I said. "We have school."

Alice laughed. "Since when do you care about school? Sometimes I don’t get you." She paused. "If we stay, it will save ourselves a long trip."

I know but there's no way we can stay here for a week. I'm sure we will leave in the morning.”

"We’ll find out," Alice said and continued up the hill.

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