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Chaordia - A Novel Of Transformation Ch. 13

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

"What if we paid the back taxes before it went to auction?" Glenn asked. "That way, they wouldn’t be discovered."

"I’ve already thought of that," Grace said. "It’s a possibility and would solve one problem but not the more serious one."

Alice and I listened, surprised at Glenn’s idea and, even more, surprised that Grace had already thought about it, but I didn’t know what she meant by the more serious problem.

"You’re right," my dad said. "It might keep the sheriff and the realtors away, but it doesn’t change the fact that they believe this is their land, and they may not want us here, even if you legally own it."

"I know," Glenn said. "And I know if the sheriff discovered they were there, they could be arrested, and that would be it. They would be gone, and we would have twice as much land."

"Glenn, you’re thinking exactly how the European settlers did when they came to the land and saw that the Natives had already cleared much of the land for their settlements and gardens, and then they stole it from them. I thought you wanted to live differently."

"I do. I know what happened, but we may not have a choice."

"You always have a choice," my dad said.

"Eric’s right," Grace said. "It would be wrong to force them to leave so that you could have your dream. There has to be another way, a moral way."

When she said that I remembered the discussion we had in the van about Antigone’s Dilemma, and the play she thought we should read. She said that Glenn would be tested to see how determined he was to live a new way and not compromise his morality.

"Glenn, you know your mother is right," my dad said. "Once you compromise, you will continue compromising. It’s that slippery slope. Legally owning the land will not change anything. It will only perpetuate the American way which is to believe the Manifest Destiny notion."

"Manifest Destiny?" I asked. "I never heard of that."

My dad looked over at Alice and me and took a deep breath before speaking. "Well, Manifest Destiny is actually an ancient idea that it was God’s Will that this land had been given to the European settlers. This continent was their so called, 'promised land.' It was part of their religion and goes way back to Abraham and the idea that the Jews are the chosen people, and the land where they settled was promised to them by God. Unfortunately, the un-chosen people who were living on the same land did not accept Abraham’s arrogant notion that their land was promised to him and his people."

My dad turned back to Glenn. "I know your dream of a new way of living on this land is important to you, but don’t make the same mistake the Europeans made when they came here. If you do that, you will be building on shaky ground, and I wouldn’t want to be a part of that."

"Believe me," Grace said, "I know the root of that notion, and it's the major difference between the Judaic-Christian view of life and the way many other cultures, including the Native American view life and man’s place in the world."

"I know what you’re going to say," Glenn responded.

"I don’t," Alice said, looking at Glenn then at Grace. "What’s the difference?"

Grace turned to her son, "If you know what I’m going to say, you answer Alice’s question."

"This is hard for me," Glenn said. "I know the idea in Genesis that Adam and Eve or mankind was given dominion over everything, over nature and all the animals and that the Native Americans believe they’re part of nature and must live in harmony with nature. That’s a huge difference."

"What do you believe?" Grace asked.

"I don’t believe in Manifest Destiny," Glenn answered. "It would be easier if I did, then I could justify wishing I could kick White Elk and the others off the land and do what I want to."

"But that’s’ what you wish you could do," my dad said. "That’s your conflict."

"Right. I want to start a new colony and not have anything to do with the American way."

"So paying the taxes and maybe paying off the remaining mortgage will give you ownership of the Kirkpatrick property, but you know the Indians won’t recognize your ownership," my dad said. "And if the council doesn’t accept White Elk’s vision, what will you do?"

"I don’t know, damn it. I came here with this idea, this dream and never expected there would be damn Indians here."

"Well, they didn’t expect you would show up on this land," my dad said. "From their point of view, you're an invader. You’re occupying their land. That’s how the Palestinians felt when Israel was created in 1948, and how the Iraqis and Afghanistan people feel with our troops bombing and destroying their country and how Hamas feels pushed onto the Gaza Strip when their ancestors had lived on what is now Israel for centuries."

"Right and I know all about Vietnam," Glenn said. "You’re right, but I don’t know what to do."

Alice whispered in my ear, "Do you think I should tell Glenn about the Bendula watching him?"

I had forgotten about that until Alice whispered it. I didn’t answer, but noticed Grace looking at Alice and me and knew she wanted us to say something.

"Glenn, there’s something else you should know," I said, surprised at myself. I glanced at Alice.

"It’s weird," Alice said. "You’re going to really think this is strange."

"The Bendula are watching you," I said, blurting it out. "They know you’re here."

"What are you talking about?" Glenn asked, stunned, his eyes widened.

"Well, it’s hard to explain, but they’re from Atlantis," Alice said. "They control the government, the CIA, the FBI. They’re in charge of everything. They're behind everything that happens."

"Atlantis? Why do you keep bringing up Atlantis? What do you mean they’re from Atlantis?"

"It’s hard to explain, but this old woman we know, told us they’re watching you and have been ever since Occupy Wall Street, and they know you were helping with the Hurricane Sandy relief," Alice said. "You said you knew the FBI was watching you."

"Yes, I knew the FBI was watching me," Glenn said, "But who are the Bendula?" I looked over at my dad and could see his surprise, by the way, he held his mouth wide open.

"Alex, what’s all this Atlantis stuff? You told me about this woman. What’s going on with you two?"

"I can’t explain what's happening. It doesn’t make sense to us either, but since we read the Atlantis books, strange things have been happening, like meeting Elizabeth who has memories about Atlantis."

"I know about Atlantis," Grace said. "I’ve done a great deal of research, but I was surprised by what you two told me." She turned to Glenn. "If it’s true, you could be in danger."

"This is crazy. What does Atlantis have to do with what's happening here?" Glenn asked. "What do they have to do with the FBI and the CIA?'

"I know it sounds weird, but on Atlantis, the Bendula were trying to stop the Children of the One who had memories of the old ways. The Bendula wanted the old ways to be forgotten and did everything they could to change Atlantis and make it the New Atlantis. They hated the people who lived the old ways. It’s no different than what was done to the Indians on this land. The FBI and CIA are controlled by the Bendula, and they control the government."

"But you read all of that in those books," my dad said, frowning. "It was fiction."

"That’s what we thought until we heard Elizabeth say the word Bendula at the library."

"I'm baffled. This is nuts." My dad shook his head. "I don't get it."

"I’m not going to worry about the so-called Bendula or the FBI," Glenn said. "I’m not doing anything wrong. I can understand the Indians being upset, but the Bendula, or whatever they are, can kiss my ass. They can’t stop me."

"What are you going to do about White Elk?" Alice asked. "He’s going to know about the back tax problem and the auction. Sun Dancer is going to tell him."

"I want to talk to him myself," Glenn said. "I think the best policy is to be up front and lay it out on the table."

"I think we should all go," Grace said.

"It might be tough for you, Mom. It’s a steep hill and a long walk."

"I’ll be fine," Grace said. "I walk everywhere in New York. I’ll make it."

"It’s a pretty rigorous walk," Tammy said.

"It’s important that I meet White Elk and the others," Grace said. "I can make a difference. We should go first thing in the morning."

While Tammy made a big skillet of scrambled eggs, Grace found a broken branch that was thick and straight and made herself a cane that would help her walk up the steep hill. She wore dark brown wool slacks, a brown and white checkered flannel shirt, leather work boots and a wide brimmed hat that reminded me of the hat Indiana Jones wore in those movies I loved. She wore the orange poncho and her long white hair still had the wooden brooch holding it. She looked pretty rugged for a Classics professor.

"It’s been awhile since I wore this hat," she said, "but it was essential when I was on the archeological digs in Greece, and it was over a hundred degrees every day."

"I remember you going off in the summers and I stayed up here at the farm," Glenn said. "I still have all the post cards you sent me and remembered how much you could cram on them. Grandpop had to read them to me with a magnifying glass."

"That was a long time ago," she said. "I was in my thirties and forties. I went with Richard Gosfield, a brilliant archeologist from Oxford, who wanted to marry me, believe it or not, but after Glenn’s father, I vowed never to get married again. I didn’t want to become a possession, but I have to admit he was a wonderful lover."

I liked how Grace said things like that, especially in front of her son.

Later, while we were walking up the hill, Alice said, "I hope I can be like Grace when I’m her age."

I didn’t say anything, but I could imagine Alice being like Grace one day and never allow herself to become a possession. I admired that.

Glenn led the way along the narrow path, followed by my dad. Tammy walked alongside Grace, who walked slowly, at first, using the branch, but gradually, started taking larger strides as she got comfortable. Alice and I were behind her, and she pointed to where the Kirkpatrick's farmhouse and barn was was. "Now it’s all covered up by those trees,” she said, looking and pausing. "I wonder whatever happened to Molly. She was pretty unhappy growing up."

When we turned the bend and saw the circle of wigwams, the huge garden, the women and children working there, the longhouse being made larger, Grace stopped again and looked around trying to get her bearings. "It was smart of them to make their camp over there because it’s the furthest from the old road that used to come to the house. No wonder no one knows they’re here. It’s a miracle that they found this place." She leaned on her branch and looked at Tammy, then asked, "How are you holding up?"

"I’m fine," Tammy said. "But it’s a challenge keeping up with you."

"Nonsense," Grace said. "You look in pretty good shape. Do you work out?"

"Yes, I go to the gym in town, but not as much as I should. It’s hard for me to leave my studio. Maybe you'll get to see my place, sometime. Eric designed it. He’s a brilliant architect. There’s no one like him. Glenn's lucky he's interested in this project."

I liked hearing that, but I also knew my dad was troubled by Glenn’s ideas. When we got closer to the big garden, Sun Dancer came towards us and had a concerned look on his face. He didn’t smile when he greeted us. "My grandfather is very tired and weak. He didn’t sleep well last night after we talked about the back taxes and auction. The others know nothing about it."

"Do you think he will see us," Glenn asked.

"I don’t know," Sun Dancer said. "He is disturbed by how hard the council meetings have been, and now he's afraid we will be discovered. I have never seen him so weary and frightened."

Grace stepped forward, "I’m sorry he's having a difficult time, but it’s important that I speak to him, very important. Please, take me to him."

Sun Dancer heard the urgency in her voice and could see it in her eyes, then turned. "Follow me."

While we walked, the women in the garden stood and watched us hurrying, obviously wondering who we were and why we were there so early in the morning.

Sun Dancer entered the wigwam while we waited outside. Alice took out her cell phone to check the time, then whispered, "I hope we can see him." I knew that she had tried to contact Gabe or Tim but couldn’t get a signal. I glanced at the time and saw it was eight-fifteen.

While we were waiting, Morning Star came out to greet us. "My grandfather has to rest," she said. "He knows you are here. I don’t know if he will be able to meet with you."

"I understand," Glenn said. "We can come back later."

Just then, Sun Dancer opened the entrance and waved us in, "He’s tired but wants to meet with you," Sun Dancer said, "but you must listen to my grandmother if she says it's time to stop."

When we entered, Shining Star had finished brushing White Elk’s long white hair. He was sitting up, his legs covered by a blanket, and he had a red and orange blanket draped over his shoulders. He looked tired but nodded a greeting when we entered and sat down across from him. He held a small clay cup and took a sip, then handed it to Shining Star. The fragrant smell of white sage was in the air, and a small crackling fire was in the center. Shining Star sat next to White Elk and faced us. Since they had met us, they focused on Grace, her long white hair, her wire-framed glasses, the wide-brimmed hat.

"I am happy to meet you," Grace said. "My name is Grace. Glenn is my son, and I grew up on the farm nearby, and I knew the people who lived on this land many years ago."

White Elk and Shining Star didn’t say anything. After a moment, Shining Star lifted the small clay bowl which was smoldering, then blew on it to make the fragrant smoke rise. She closed her eyes, moving her lips as if saying a prayer to herself, then moved the bowl in front of us before placing it on the ground beside her.

Grace took off her hat and placed it on her lap. Though her skin was smooth in contrast to Shining Star’s deeply wrinkled weathered face, I guessed both were close to the same age.

"The three of us are elders," Grace said, looking at Shining Star and then at White Elk. "I know all three of us love this land, and though I have not been here for over fifteen years, my father and mother loved their land and cared for it with hard work, scratching out a living. I grew up on here, and until I went away to college, this was the only home I knew. I now know your ancestors are buried here, but so are my parents. My brother and I honored their wish to be buried here, and there is a tiny burial ground in a special spot." She paused and looked at Glenn, "My son inherited the land with the promise never to sell it."

I was surprised to learn that Glenn’s grandparents were buried on their farm just as the ancestors of the Abeneki people were buried here many years ago. White Elk and Shining Star listened with no expressions on their stone-like faces. Glenn, my dad and Tammy listened to Grace. Sun Dancer nodded as he listened, his eyes focused on Grace’s eyes. Morning Star glanced at her grandparents, then looked back at Grace. I wondered what she was thinking.

"I am a scholar of Classical Literature in New York. I’ve traveled to several countries, studying ancient sites and learning their history. I have seen old cites buried under more modern cities. I’ve seen the results of earthquakes, volcano eruptions, floods, mudslides where thousands of people lost their homes and lives in a few minutes. Everything gone and how new towns and cities were built over them. I have read many ancient documents that describe the horror that people have suffered time and time again from wars and nature. Life has always been both beautiful and brutal and precarious."

Still, White Elk listened with no expression on his wrinkled face, his dark eyes focused on Grace. Shining Star also listened, closing her eyes, nodding as if imagining what Grace was describing.

"I cannot prove what I am about to say," Grace said, pausing, looking down at her hands before continuing. "But I believe we are on this land for the same reason."

White Elk nodded as if understanding what she was saying. He glanced at Shining Star and took a deep breath, coughing slightly. "And what do you think the reason is that we are both on this land, your people and my people."

"To evolve," Grace said. "To grow beyond what has been and become something new, something more because of the danger we are all in. Whether you know it or not, we share a vision."

No one budged when Grace said that. The only sound was the crackle from the fire. White Elk was silent, then nodded, "You are right," he said in a low voice, then repeated it, "Yes, I know you are right." He looked at Shining Star, and then at Sun Dancer and Morning Star. He took a deep breath and coughed again, "But there are those who are bitter and are disturbed by what I see."

"I understand. My son has told me," Grace said. "But they don't know about the back taxes and that your existence here is in danger."

"That is true," he said, nodding. "I don’t know what will happen if the land is sold and we are discovered here. They will not understand that this is our land and has always been."

"Listen to me," Grace said. "I have money from many years of teaching, and I have always lived simply and frugally. I have been thinking of paying the taxes and finding out what is left on the mortgage so that I own the land, and I would give it to you."

No one spoke when Grace said that. Sun Dancer swallowed, and his eyes widened, stunned. Morning Star scrunched her eyebrows, uncertain of what she was hearing. Shining Star stared at Grace, trying to comprehend what she had heard. Alice took my hand. My dad stiffened, and his mouth hung open, astonished.

"That is generous of you," White Elk said.

"No, it’s not," Grace said. "It’s not generous. It’s selfish."

"What do you mean, it’s selfish?" Morning Star asked. "How can giving us this land be selfish? It’s such a generous gift."

"Because it’s the only way our visions can become reality," Grace said. "I have promised to give my son my inheritance because I understand his vision for my father’s farm and why it was given to him. That’s why it’s selfish. I’m also doing it for my father, even though he's no longer here. My father was much more than a farmer, and I’m going to say something that Glenn doesn't know."

"What don’t I know?" Glenn asked, bewildered.

"My father’s grandmother was part Mohegan Indian. She was my great-grand mother. I don’t know very much about her, but my father remembers when she was very old. He was five or six when she died."

“ What are you saying?” Glenn asked.

"It means you and I are part Mohegan," she said.

"We are? Are you serious? Why didn’t I ever know that?"

"Let me explain," Grace said, then looked at White Elk. "This will take a minute, but it’s important to understand why this land is important to me."

White Elk nodded.

"My great-grandmother married a Mohegan Indian when she lived in Connecticut and had two children, a boy and a girl. This was in the eighteen eighties or nineties. Anyway, her husband left her when the children were young. Her daughter was named Abigail and was half Mohegan, but grew up like other children outside of New Haven. This was in the early part of the twentieth century before women had a vote. She knew she was half Indian, but it didn’t mean very much to her because she didn’t know her father and because she wanted to fit in. She became a teacher, then married your great grandfather, but her Mohegan heritage was never talked about until my father started asking questions about his ancestors. That’s when he found out he was part Mohegan. His grandmother didn’t want to talk about it, but as you know, your grandfather was persistent and kept asking questions until she told him, then he began doing research to learn more about his heritage. This was when he was much older, a year or so before he died."

"So you're part Mohegan," Sun Dancer said to Glenn.

"I guess. This is the first I’ve heard about this."

"It was near the end of his life that he wanted to know more. I was teaching at the University. He was on his deathbed. That is when I found I was part Mohegan and that you were," she said looking at Glenn.

"Why didn’t you ever tell me?" Glenn asked. "I had no idea."

Grace nodded and looked at White Elk and Shining Star, then turned to Glenn, "I will tell you why later. We shouldn’t stay much longer, but I want everyone to know that what I am doing is selfish and not generous. I’m doing it because it would have made my father happy to know that this land was being returned to nature, and he said something that at the time I didn’t understand and now do." Grace paused and glanced at Alice and me before continuing. "He wanted me to come home and help Glenn learn the old ways."

"He really said that," Alice said. "He said the old ways."

"Yes, that’s exactly what he said," Grace responded, then turned to White Elk and Shining Star. "And that’s why I'm not being generous but selfish. I want to honor why my father left the farm to Glenn."

"I understand," White Elk said, then took a deep breath and closed his eyes. It may be selfish, but it is also love."

Grace smiled and nodded, their eyes meeting, but she didn't speak.

White Elk took a deep, weary breath and closed his eyes. Shining Star looked at him then turned to Grace. "Thank you for sharing with us your story, but now he must rest."

"Thank you for your time," Grace said to White Elk and Shining Star.

Glenn stood up and reached for his mother’s arm to help her up. She picked up her branch and pulled herself to her feet and put on her hat. Alice and I stood up and noticed my dad not moving. He stared into the fire with that look he gets when he's thinking. Like me, he was trying to absorb what he had just heard.

Sun Dancer knelt in front of White Elk and pulled the blanket around his shoulders."You must rest," he said. "Everything will work out."

Morning Star stood up and smiled at Alice. Their eyes met, but they didn’t say anything. When my father stood up, Morning Star looked at him, her eyes lingering for a few seconds, but then she turned to Shining Star and took her hand.

When we left the warm, dark wigwam and stepped into the bright sunlight, I had to squint at first at the sudden glare. We stood together, not sure what to do. Alice turned to me, "That’s amazing," she said. “I can’t believe Glenn’s grandfather was part Indian and spoke about the old ways."

When Sun Dancer and Morning Star came out of the wigwam, he told us that White Elk wants us to return later this afternoon for the council meeting. He said, "It is important that you do."

Just as he said that, Grey Fox was limping towards us. Behind him was Blue Lightning, Wolf, Strong Eagle and a few others we hadn’t met before.

"My grandfather wants the others to meet Grace," Sun Dancer said, watching Grey Fox get closer. "But it looks like we already have some angry people coming to greet you."

"So I see," Grace said, watching them approach.

"Why are you meeting with White Elk?" Grey Fox asked, staring at Glenn and then at Grace.

"I had something important to tell him," Grace said.

"What was so important?" Grey Fox asked. "I'd like to know."

"You will find out later. We must go now, but we are returning for the council meeting later this afternoon. Then you will find out what is important."

Grey Fox nodded and glanced at Sun Dancer and Morning Star, then faced Glenn, but did not speak.

"I know you don’t trust us and are upset at White Elk’s vision," Grace said.

"You're right. I don’t trust you and my brother’s vision is foolish and dangerous."

I stared at Grey Fox, and the others standing behind him and could feel his anger and distrust by the way he spoke, then wondered how he got the deep scar on his cheek. What happened to him?

"We will see you later, Grey Fox," Glenn said and started to walk away. We followed him and took several steps in the direction of the field leading to the woods when Grace stopped and looked back at Grey Fox. "I'm sorry you’re so bitter," she said. "I know you have had a hard life."

Grey Fox did not react to her words, but took a deep breath, then limped away towards the long house with the others following him.

We continued past the garden and through the high grass and wild flowers to the hills and woods. Just as we turned the bend and could no longer see the circle of wigwams, Grace stopped and spoke to Alice and me. Glenn, Tammy and my dad were several yards ahead of us.

"Grey Fox is not our enemy," she said. "It's those you call the Bendula. They’re the enemy."

I remembered what Elizabeth said. "What do you think will happen?" I asked.

"I don’t know," Grace said. "I don’t know."

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