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Chaordia - A Novel of Transformation Ch. 5

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

Dad sat in the front seat of Glenn’s green and white VW bus, and I sat in the back with Alice and Tammy. We had all of our sleeping bags and backpacks in the rear but no tents. Glen thought we would be able to sleep in the barn, or maybe the house, and said there was an old cabin used by apprentices we might be able to use. “We’ll figure it out,” he said. Tammy had a large blue ice chest that she said was filled with sandwiches, a jug of apple cider and enough food for the weekend. In a tan canvas bag, she had homemade whole wheat bread, granola bars, trail mix with nuts and raisins and her special recipe chocolate chip cookies. She also had a five-gallon plastic container of water.

Glenn said he's had this van since the nineties, and that he and his old friend, Jake had rebuilt the engine two years ago. It’s the second VW bus he has owned and described it as 'vintage.' He told us he had driven this van to California and back twice, and this was the third engine and that ever since he read his favorite book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he was committed to keeping the van in good shape. Then he told us how he spent a few years in a town just above San Francisco called, Bolinas and laughed when he told us there are no road signs to that town because every time the state puts up a sign, the people in the town take it down.

Glenn was glad to know my dad had read the Zen book and what a big impact it had on him when he turned thirty. He said he hated turning "the big three-o." The way they talked made me want to read the book. Glenn mentioned another book he loved called Ishmael, and my dad said he also read that book and how it gave him a new perspective on things. I enjoyed listening to them talk and could see that they would work well on this project and would be good friends.

That morning, as soon as we started out from home, Tammy asked Alice a lot of questions about her life and plans. They had a good lively conversation and made each other laugh. I was quiet, half listening to their conversation, but mostly looking out the window and thinking about everything--Elizabeth, Lou, the email we received last night from Arnold Greenberg, how pretty it was in the country, the farms, the hills, just being in another state and going on an adventure.

After driving through New York State, then into Vermont, we stopped at a cool bakery Glenn knew called Rainbow Sweets for coffee and delicious muffins and met the owner, Billy Tecosky, an old hippie Glenn knew who had moved there in the early seventies. They were old friends, and he didn't charge us anything.

About two hours later, we drove through Burlington, a really pretty town where the University of Vermont was, and Tammy said her sister, Amy graduated from that school. Tammy said she went to Bennington in the late eighties but dropped out in ninety-one with one year to go and moved to New York to be with a guy who had graduated the year before. "Big mistake," she said, closing her eyes. "But I stayed in New York."

Tammy had long straight hair that used to be blonde, parted in the middle, but was now graying and fell loosely well below her shoulders. Her skin was tan and smooth with the beginning of wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. She didn’t wear a lot of makeup, but I could tell she did something to make her eyes lashes long and stand out. She wore faded jeans and heavy blue wool turtleneck sweater with several beaded necklaces, several rings on her fingers and big round golden earrings. She said she knew Glenn when they lived in New York in the nineties, and she spent a lot of time at his studio in Soho, and I could tell, like Glenn, she looked like an older hippie. "We go way back," she said, "I broke his heart when I married my ex and we kind of lost track until he showed up at my house in Bay Shore and told me about his plan." That’s how Glenn found out about my dad.

Glenn turned around when he heard Tammy say she broke his heart. “I’m not sure who broke whose heart,” he said, smiling at her, then glanced at Alice and me. “Time heals all wounds,” he said, quickly, then turned back to look at the road ahead of him. I wasn’t sure but think I knew why she was on the trip.

Alice sat between Tammy and me, listening to music on her phone with earphones, then slept for awhile with her head on my shoulder. We didn’t talk at all about Atlantis. Tammy talked about how much she loved the house my dad had designed, how she’s been selling back electricity to the power company as we did. I learned that she was a painter and sculptor who got divorced and was able to build her house from a settlement with her ex-husband. He's a doctor, a surgeon, but they had absolutely nothing in common. When they sold their old house in Connecticut, she moved to Bay Shore five years ago to be nearer her mother. She told us about her daughter, Sarah, who went to Georgetown in Washington and wanted to be a journalist.

We continued on Rt. 2 through a lot of tiny towns and lots of farms and could see Lake Champlain, which was huge. One town, I forget the name, looked like the river had flooded the town because of Hurricane Irene a few years ago. There was still a lot of debris, torn down houses and a collapsed bridge over the river.

We stopped again at a big truck stop called Maplefield, where we filled up for the third time. There must have been thirty or forty big trailer trucks parked. The place had a restaurant and large convenience store that was more like a department store and supermarket and sold everything you can imagine from clothing, toys, fishing rods, groceries, radios, tents and camping gear. They even had a large section with guns and rifles. I had never seen such a large truck stop. Glenn commented that it’s just a matter of time before gas will be so high those big trucks will be out of business and food, and other stuff would be really scarce. He laughed, "Then what will Wal-mart do?"

After leaving there, while we were driving north on a narrow road with a lot of hills, we saw a sign for a town called Chimney Corner. Glenn said his farm was about ten miles north on the other side of town, not far from Canada. He said Chimney Corner was a sweet little town he remembered from when his grandfather took him there for supplies when he was a kid. He said he stopped there when he went to see the old farm a few years ago and was glad the town hadn’t changed that much, except for a McDonalds. He wondered if the town survived the big flood after Hurricane Irene destroyed a lot of Vermont towns a year or so ago. And then we found it had. The river washed away a lot of buildings and Glenn was upset when he saw that a small restaurant he liked called Martha’s Cafe was closed but had a sign in the window, "We’ll be Back."

"Damn," Glenn muttered and slammed the steering wheel when we drove past. "Doesn’t look like Martha’s made it back." He shook his head. "My grandfather told me that place was there ever since he could remember." The town looked in pretty bad shape, and I could see marks on some of the buildings that indicated how high the water was.

The road we were on was pretty hilly, and I saw sheep in a pasture and also a bunch of black and white cows, but that was the only farm I saw in the area. After a few miles, we turned left off of that road, went down a hill and through an old red wooden covered bridge that went over the river. Glenn said he was glad the bridge didn’t get washed away, or we wouldn’t have made it to the farm. Just as we got to the other side and halfway up another hill, we slowed down while Glenn looked for the road into the farm. It was hard to see because there were so many trees and large bushes, but when we saw a rotted outpost with the remnants of a sign and the faded, barely legible words,"Peak Hill Farm" we turned into a narrow dirt road, "We’re here. We made it," he said, turning to look back at us.

We drove slowly down a long, bumpy dirt road and parked. I got out of the bus and looked around at the high grass everywhere. The old farmhouse had a front porch that wrapped around the side, but what was once painted white was now mostly peeling and gray. Several of the shutters on the second floor were hanging off their hinges, and one was lying on the top of the porch roof. A big red barn built into the hillside had a big stone wall in front and a broken gate. The roof looked like it was sagging, but I noticed an old weather vane on the front of the roof that looked rusted but in good shape. In back of the barn were wooden posts that stretched up the hillside with remnants of wire, mostly dangling, and I could tell it was once the pasture. Lots of trees were growing in the tall grass inside the old fence, and Glenn said that was all open when he lived there, it was pasture halfway up the hill, and now it’s all woods.

In the distance, through the tall grass and trees, I could see a long low stonewall that Glenn said was the property line. Not too far from the farmhouse was the apple orchard with crooked trunks, wild looking branches and barely any leaves. On the ground were hundreds of apples. A small log cabin sat not far from the trees and was almost hidden by the high grass and trees surrounding it. Glenn pointed to the woods on the other side of the farm and said that’s where he remembered his grandfather getting the sap in spring to make maple syrup.

I stood next to my dad and watched him looking around, wondering what he was thinking. He had that look he gets, narrowing his eyes when he's trying to figure out something. Alice’s mouth was open slightly while she looked around at everything then gasped, "Awesome," which surprised me because the farm looked so dilapidated. I wondered what made her say, "awesome."

After a few minutes, Glenn walked through the high grass to the house and waved us on. The front steps were rotted, and the porch had several loose boards. The front door was unlocked and creaked. When we walked into what must have been the living room, we saw it was empty, but filled with cobwebs, dirt and smelled musty.

"I’m not sure we’ll be able to sleep in here unless we do some cleaning," Glenn said.

"I get headaches from mold," Tammy said. "It smells moldy in here."

"Maybe we should open the windows and let some fresh air in," Alice said and walked over to one of the windows and tried to open it, straining, but it wouldn’t budge.

"We’ll get them open," Glenn said.

We went into the kitchen where there was a dirty old refrigerator with the door open. One wall was lined with wooden shelves that had dishes on it, covered with dust. The counter had mouse droppings and in the sink was a decayed rat. It was pretty disgusting.

When we went to the barn, Glenn lifted the rusty latch on the gate. My dad stopped to admire the big stone wall as we walked through the barnyard. We went into the barn and could see light coming in from cracks in the roof. It was lined on one side with stalls where the cows were once milked and on the other side, small pens where Glenn said his grandfather kept the calves from the mothers so they could get more milk from the cows. It was also where the sheep were kept at night, and Glenn told us his grandfather sold a lot of the lambs around Easter to the Greeks who lived in Chimney Corner. Glenn said his grandfather also raised pigs, rabbits and was a beekeeper. You could tell how much Glenn loved his grandfather by the way he spoke.

We decided we would sleep in the barn, but then Alice wanted to check out the apprentice’s log cabin, and so I followed her through the knee-high grass, past the apple trees. When we went in, it was also filled with cobwebs but didn’t smell moldy. It had a small black potbellied stove in the corner and against the opposite wall, a wooden bunk with two beds. I was surprised that they still had old mattresses on them.

"That’s weird that there are mattresses here," I said.

Alice nodded. "That is kind of weird, but the mattresses look in pretty good shape after all of these years," she said, moving her hand to the wooden post then pressed down on the mattress. "Hey, I want to sleep in here. We could stay here, what do you think?"

"Maybe, let me think about it."

"Come on, Alex, I won’t bite you," she said. "I like this place. It could be cozy."

When we joined the others, they had already started emptying out the bus and carrying things into the barn. I got my backpack and sleeping bag and carried it up to the barn. Alice got her things, also and put them down next to mine. She started looking around the barn and went to a ladder at the other end that led up to the loft.

"Come on, Alex let’s check out the loft, maybe we can sleep up there instead of the cabin." I followed her up while Glenn and Tammy carried the blue ice chest, which looked pretty heavy. I wondered if I should go help, but they seemed to be managing.

The loft still had straw on the floor and two old bales next the wall. Alice bent down and picked up a handful of straw, brought it to her nose to smell, then threw it into the air just to play with it. She looked at me, "I never told you this, but I used to dream about living on a farm. Does that surprise you?"

"Yes, It definitely surprises me."

"Alex, sometimes I think you don’t really get me." She closed her eyes then gave me that look like I disappointed her and sighed.

It bothered me when she said that, but I covered it up by saying, "That’s because you like being mysterious."

Alice laughed, "That’s true."

From the loft, I saw my dad bring in his sleeping bag and backpack. He put it down in one of the stalls, then walked around the barn, looking at everything with his architect’s eyes, thinking about his plans, even though he still didn’t know clearly what Glenn’s project was.

I remember a few times while driving up, my dad asked Glenn what he had in mind, what his plan was, but Glenn said, "We’ll talk about it later. It’s hard to explain. You have to see the place first, but it’s beautiful and exciting. Just wait until you see it."

"Sounds mysterious," he said, but I could tell my dad was a little frustrated.

I was curious, too and wondered why he was reluctant to talk more specifically about it, but figured we would find out when he was ready.

It was late afternoon and getting chilly. I looked out at the hills surrounding the farm and loved the way the orange, yellow and red leaves glistened in the setting sunlight. Glenn asked Alice and me to gather kindling and as much wood as we could find to make a fire while he and my dad found a lot of rocks to make a fire pit. Tammy emptied out the blue ice chest, and I was impressed how she had all the different ingredients for cooking measured out in plastic bags. She held up a notebook and said, "I’ve got all of our meals planned for the next two days."

Within an hour, we had a big pile of wood and a fire going. Glenn had a grill that he placed over the rocks, and it fit perfectly. My dad, Alice and I found a few fallen logs that we pulled over so we could sit around the fire.

I could see Glenn was an experienced camper, but so was my dad. We used to go camping a lot when I was younger. Mom never went and used to say, "I prefer concrete." We used also to go fishing in Long Island Sound for bluefish and mackerel with his friend, Frank, who had a small fishing boat. Frank was one of my dad’s oldest friends from elementary school, and he teaches English at Stony Brook. This is the first time we had done any camping since I was twelve.

Tammy made a big salad and sliced the whole wheat bread she made and really impressed us with barbecued chicken breasts she had already partially cooked and had them marinating in plastic baggies. We applauded her cleverness, and they were really delicious. Alice said they smelled great but only ate a salad with the bread.

It was late afternoon, and the sun was just setting over the hill in the West. It was getting chilly, but the fire felt wonderful. After dinner, Tammy poured water from the five gallon jug she brought into a big pot and heated up water for coffee or hot chocolate. My dad complimented her for being so organized. "Thanks," she said. "I’m pretty good for an artist, aren’t I?"

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but Glenn laughed and so did my dad. It was nice to sit by the blazing fire while the sun was setting. It was going to be a crisp, clear night. Alice and I had decided we would sleep in the cabin and had already dropped off our sleeping bags and some firewood for the stove. It felt a little weird that we would be sharing the same room, but it also felt natural. I remembered how it felt when we had brushed our teeth together and knew it would give us a chance to talk about what was happening with Elizabeth, Lou, and Atlantis.

While we were drinking our coffee and hot chocolate, Glenn cleared his throat and announced he wanted to talk about his project. I looked over at my dad who nodded and took a sip of coffee, "Great, thanks. I’ve been waiting for this moment all day."

"Wait until you hear this," Tammy said, and I realized she knew about the project.

Glenn stared into the fire before speaking and then looked up at us. "I can’t stand living in this country anymore. I’m ashamed. I hate how our government has been taken over by Corporate America, how banks can steal and get away with crimes that any other person would be sent to prison for. I hate that sixty percent of our taxes goes to the military, and another huge percent goes to paying interest on all the money we have borrowed from China and Japan. I'm ashamed of what we did in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. I hate that we use drones to kill innocent people in the name of national security. I hate the spying on Americans and arresting anyone who is suspected of being a terrorist for having anti-American thoughts. And now, more than ever, after seeing what Hurricane Sandy did to the Jersey shore over a year ago and what happened to all those people on Staten Island and Rockaway, who lost everything, I am out of mind with rage at what we have done to this planet, and now kids like Alex and Alice and their friends and their grandchildren will pay for what those greedy bastards have done and what we have all done in the name of progress."

Glenn stopped for a minute and looked at Alice and me, then took a deep breath before continuing.

"I hate that we keep drilling for oil and making these dangerous pipelines across the country. I hate the blowing up of mountains to get coal. I hate that anyone who wants a gun can get one and then go into a theater or a mall or a school and shoot people. We live in a sick, racist, insane society, and I can’t stand to live here anymore. And that’s why we’re on this farm."

Though he listed all of the things he was upset about, he still didn’t say what his plan was.

"I don’t get it," my dad said, "What are you talking about?"

"I’m talking about declaring my independence and turning this farm into a colony, just like the Pilgrims in 1620."

"How can you do that?" Alice asked. "How can you say you’re starting your own colony on this farm? I don’t understand."

My dad stared into the fire after listening to Glenn, and I could tell he was trying to know how to respond. He took a deep breath. "That’s a pretty wild idea. So is that the project you want me to work on?"

"Yes, I want you to design the houses and plan out the land," Glenn said. "I know you’re the right person to do this."

"Thanks," my dad said, then asked, "But what about taxes to the county, property taxes, and other things. This is not 1620, and we’re not separated by an ocean. We're surrounded by America. I don’t see how you can just call yourself a separate colony and declare your independence."

"Well, that’s exactly what I'm going to do. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think other people who are as fed up as I am will want to come to this colony. I think if we do it right, it could be beautiful, magical, and an important model of how to live and maybe others will want to do the same thing. It would be a revolution, and it would be done without guns or killing."

"I love the idea," Tammy said. "I think it’s so cool."

Alice glanced at me and our eyes met, and then we looked back at Glenn.

"I’ve been reading about hunter food gathering cultures and how people lived before the Agricultural Revolution eight or so thousand years ago. Hunter-food gathers shared everything, and there was no poverty or wealth. They didn’t need money. Everyone got all the food they needed because everyone was important and needed for survival. I’m not talking about living exactly like they did. There’s no going back, but we have the technology and knowledge to live differently, and I think there’s a lot we can learn from how they lived. I think we can live healthier lives here if we set it up right. We can blend the past with the present and make a new future."

"That sounds like Atlantis," I said. "It sounds like the old ways."

"Right," Alice said, looking at me and then at Glenn. "That’s how they lived on Atlantis."

"Atlantis?" Glenn narrowed his eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"We just read these really cool books about Atlantis, the lost continent," Alice said. "And it describes how they had huge lush fields that grew all the vegetables and fruit they needed and they didn’t use money. Everyone was generous, and they shared everything. Greed did not exist. Selflessness was the highest virtue. For thousands of years everyone was happy, and then the Bendula took over."

"Bendula? Atlantis?" he repeated. "I don’t know anything about Atlantis or Bendula, but I think we can grow food and live in a more ecologically sound way, and everyone would share their talents, and we’d all have everything we need. We wouldn’t need money. We would live gently on the land—a small footprint." He turned to my dad. "That’s what I want you to help plan."

"I'd love the opportunity to plan and design something like this, but I don’t know about being a separate colony. It’s a little grandiose, I think."

“My mom knows about my plan and wants to leave her inheritance to me before she dies so she can be here," Glenn said. "I told you about her the other night."

"Yes, I remember. She sounds interesting," my dad said. He looked over at Alice and me, then at Tammy. "Well, I'd say this is a pretty strange, grandiose idea but it's exciting...we'll see."

It was twilight, and I’ve always liked the time between day and night. Twilight always seemed magical. It’s like being between sleeping and waking, between dreaming and reality, but that’s when we heard strange sounds coming from the woods. I was startled, what was that?

Then I saw three men walking through the high grass in the pasture towards us. It was difficult to see really who they were in the dim light until they got closer to the fire. All three had long, dark hair that fell below their shoulders and wore brightly colored bands around their foreheads. One of them wore a buckskin shirt and jeans. He had a thin feather coming from a band around his head. The other two were dressed in jeans, one with a plaid flannel shirt, the other wearing a brown wool sweater. Their skin was tan, almost bronze colored. They also wore necklaces made of what looked like bones and teeth. One of the men wore moccasins. I knew they were Indians.

Glenn stood up, but before he could say anything, the tallest man stepped forward in front of the other two. " I'm Sun Dancer. We're here to greet you, but also to ask, why are you here on our land?"

"Your land? What do you mean? This is my farm. It used to belong to my grandfather."

The tall man nodded, listening. "I'm sorry, but this is Abeneki land. It has been ours for centuries."

"No, I own this land," Glenn said. "It used to be my grandfather’s farm. I have a deed."

"I understand you may have a deed, but this is Abeneki land and was taken from us by your grandfather and others before him, and now, it has been returned to us. This has always been our land to care for." He looked directly into Glenn's eyes and spoke in a calm, firm voice but did not sound angry. He spoke as if stating a fact.

Glenn and Sun Dancer looked at each other, but neither spoke. We were all silent. Alice and I stared at the man. Tammy’s mouth opened wide, startled. My dad didn't budge as he listened. The flames from the fire created an eerie glow.

Finally, Glenn spoke. "This is impossible. My grandfather farmed here for over forty years. He built that house, the barn, planted the apple trees, and raised his family here. I came here when I was a kid."

"Yes, on my people’s land," he said, "and worse, close to our burial ground."

"Burial ground?" Glenn's eyes widened.

"Yes, our ancestors are here and have been for many centuries. Long before your colonies and your towns and cities."

Glenn nodded. "I’m not aware of burial grounds on this farm."

"We did not live here for many years and could not bury our dead, but now that we returned to this land eight years ago, we have held our ceremonies on the hill overlooking the river and continue to bury our dead in the place we once did."

"What do you mean you have returned to this land?" Glenn asked. "I own this land. I don’t understand."

"Of course, you don’t," he said. "You believe land is a commodity to be bought and sold, but land is sacred and a gift that has been given to us to be cared for and passed onto the people who live on it." He paused. "That’s what sacred means. Even though your grandfather took our land for his farm, it has always remained ours."

While they were talking, Tammy opened her canvas bag, then pulled out a plastic bag, "Excuse me," she said and stood up. "I have something I think you will like." She moved to the other side of the fire where Glenn and the Indian were speaking. "I think you will love this cookie," she said and handed it to him. She took out two more and handed it to the men standing behind him.

The Indian looked at the cookie being handed to him. I couldn’t believe that she did that, but the surprised Indian smiled at her and took the cookie. "Thank you," he said, the expression on his face softened.

"I think we could all use a cookie," she said and walked around the circle holding out her plastic bag, letting each of us select a cookie. Again, Tammy impressed me with her actions, first the way she prepared all of our food and now, interrupting a tense moment by giving everyone a chocolate chip cookie.

The Indian took a bite of the cookie and nodded then smiled. "This is very delicious. Thank you."

"I know this is confusing," she said. "You’re wondering why we’re here on your land, and we’re wondering what you mean this land has been returned to you."

We listened, chewing our cookies, stunned by the way she changed the tense mood. We all looked at Tammy standing in front of Glenn and the Indian. "Aren’t these good cookies? Wait until you taste my brownies. Do you like chocolate?"

It was the oddest thing to see how our conversation changed from talking about sacred ground, and the land being returned to them, and Glenn trying not to be upset at being told his grandfather’s farm belonged to the Abeneki Indians while Tammy talked about cookies and chocolate.

"I do like chocolate, but it has been many years since I have had such a delicious cookie." He took another bite and turned to the two Indians behind him.

Glenn chewed his cookie. We were all silent, waiting for someone to say something, and then Alice surprised me and broke the silence. She stepped around the fire and stood in front of him. "I’m Alice. We really didn’t know we were on your land. We didn’t mean to offend you."

He faced Alice and held his cookie away from his mouth. "I understand, but we saw your fire, and that is why we came to talk to you. We are peaceful people." He paused. "I am now Sun Dancer," he said, "but I was called Charles when I went to school."

I was surprised that he told us his name, but it seemed like he wanted to be friendly, even though at first, he seemed disturbed that we were there.

"It was in graduate school that I changed my name back. I told people I was now Sun Dancer and no longer Charles."

"Oh, you went to college?" Alice said, her eyes widening like they always did when she was surprised.

"Yes, and so did my friends," he said turning around. "This is Strong Eagle and Wolf. We have all graduated from college. I went to Brown in Providence and have a Masters degree in English Literature."

The two men nodded but did not smile. Both held their cookies in their hand after taking a bite and looked at Alice. I was trying to make sense of what Sun Dancer told us. How did they come to live on this land? What is going on? This is weird.

Glenn had been silent, then interrupted. "Excuse me, but I would like to know why you think this is your land. I still don’t get it."

"Because this is where my people made their home long ago before we were forced to move away to Canada. We were not given a reservation like some tribes there. We are too small, but some of my people are here trying to keep our traditions alive, and we returned here eight years ago from Canada to live the old ways. Long ago, we lived on the banks of the nearby river and the lake, but now we have been learning to live the way our ancestors lived. We have built wigwams, and we have a long house and a sweat lodge. Our women and girls still garden the old ways, and the men hunt deer and rabbits and wild turkeys. We fish in the river. We once shopped in your stores but now as little as possible."

"Would you like some hot chocolate or coffee?" Tammy asked. "Why don’t you sit and tell us more. This is intriguing," she said, returning to the log where she had been sitting.

Sun Dancer nodded and turned to his companions behind him. "Would you like to have coffee or hot chocolate?"

They didn't speak but nodded, yes.

When Sun Dancer sat down, the two men sat next to him on the log. Glenn sat back down on the turned over stump he had been sitting on before. I sat down next to Alice. We glanced at each other, our eyes saying, this is amazing.

"Coffee or hot chocolate?" Tammy asked.

"Coffee," all three answered. "It has been a long time since I have had coffee," Sun Dancer said.

Tammy poured the coffee from the pot on the grill and handed each of them a paper cup.

"Thank you," Sun Dancer said, "This is a treat. In college, I lived on coffee."

"What made you decide to change your name and come back to your tribe?" my dad asked.

"It’s a tragic crime what has happened to our people and to our land and way of life," Sun Dancer said. "When I was Charles growing up in school and college, I tried to accept that this is the way it had to be. A lot of my Native American friends joined the army and forgot their roots. They hated the reservations and felt they had to make something of themselves and be like other Americans, but most of them didn’t become anything but drunks and dope addicts. Believe me, I know how hard it is to be an Indian in this country. Some people appreciate our ways and feel horrible at what has been done to our culture, but the government throws us a bone. It’s dishonest and in reality, Indians are considered a pain in the ass. Every treaty has been broken. To most people in this country, we don’t exist." He paused. "But some of us are finding our way to our roots."

He turned to Glenn."Why are you here on this abandoned farm?"

"I told you it was my grandfather’s farm, and he wanted me to have it when he died. He said this was a special place and never wanted to sell it. I used to come here when I was a kid and until two years ago I hadn’t been here in over fifteen years. I almost put it on the market but couldn’t. I wanted to honor my grandfather’s wishes never to sell it, but I never understood what he meant it was special, until recently."

Sun Dancer nodded and narrowed his eyes. "It’s good that you want to honor your grandfather’s wishes," he said. "What changed your mind and made you come here today?"

Glenn looked down at the ground, then at Tammy, then at my father before speaking. "I was telling everyone why just before you came."

Before Glenn could answer, Strong Eagle put up his hand. "Wait! It doesn’t matter why you came here today," he said. "This is our land, the land of our people. You don’t belong here."

Sun Dancer turned to him. "Be patient, I want to hear what he has to say. Please, be patient, Strong Eagle."

His bitter words made the tension return. A shiver went up my back. Alice stiffened and was stunned by the sudden change.

"Why are you here on our land?" Sun Dancer asked, "Please, tell us."

"I’m here to create a colony and be independent of America," Glenn said.

"A colony? Independent of America?" Sun Dancer repeated. "I don't understand."

"Yes, I’m ashamed of this country and want nothing to do with it. I can’t pledge allegiance to the flag anymore. I want to be independent and find a new way of living that will help us survive what’s coming. It’s already happening--more storms, more heat waves, more droughts, and fires. I have this project in mind. I’m not sure if it will work, but I have to try. I believe we have to learn to live differently, and that’s why I'm here."

"But now you want to live differently on my people’s land?" Sun Dancer said. "Your people are ignorant of how to live on this land. You have trashed the land, brought disease to this land, made drunks of our people when you made treaties, practically exterminated a race of people who have lived on this continent for thousands of years before your people came from Europe."

"You’re right," Glenn said. "And we’re doing the same thing to other races--the Muslims, Latinos, Asians in Bangladesh and other places with our sweat shops. We destroyed Iraq with a stupid war that should never have been fought. I don’t blame you for being upset," Glenn said and turned to Wolf and Strong Eagle. "That’s why I want to take my grandfather’s farm and start over."

"Right you want to start over on land that doesn’t belong to you," Wolf said, leaning forward. "You’re just like the people who came here and settled on our shores four centuries ago. We won’t let you do it again."

"What do you mean you won’t let us do it again," Glenn said. "I didn’t do anything to you?"

"Not yet, but you want to. You’re on our people’s land," Wolf said. "You want to take our land again, but this time, we won’t let you."

The way Wolf spoke frightened me. He was much more aggressive than Sun Dancer, who was firm but did not seem so angry.

Sun Dancer turned to Wolf and put up his hand to stop him from speaking, "Please, listen and keep our conversation peaceful," he said, then turned to face Glenn. "Please, continue."

"I understand how you feel that this is your land, and I know what happened when people came from Europe and made colonies here, but this is different,"

"It’s not different," Wolf said.

"Wait a minute." My father interrupted and looked at Wolf. "It’s true, our people made a huge mistake when they came here hundreds of years ago. I remember hearing an interview on television with a Native American Chief in 1976 during the Bi-centennial. He was talking to Walter Cronkite. He said, 'The biggest mistake the settlers made was not to learn how to live on this land from us.' That’s what he said."

"He was right," Glenn said. "That was a big mistake, but this is different. This is now, and what’s happening now with climate change will affect you also, not just us. We’re in this together."

Sun Dancer didn’t say anything. He stood up and looked at the other two Indians, who also stood up, and then he faced Glenn. "I understand what you're saying and what you want, but I must tell you this. Please, do not start your colony here. Let’s avoid trouble."

Just as he started to walk away, Alice stepped around the fire and stood in front of Sun Dancer. "You said something before about the old ways. What did you mean? What are the old ways? I want to know what you mean."

Even though the other two continued walking, Sun Dancer stopped and narrowed his eyes when he looked at Alice. He cocked his head to the side and seemed surprised by her question.

"The old ways mean living as if everyone is one family. Even nature--the rocks and trees are our relatives, the earth and the sky, the stars, we are all relatives."

"Have you ever heard of Atlantis?"

"Why did you ask me about Atlantis?"

"Alex and I read these books that described the old ways on Atlantis, and then we recently met someone, an old woman, who remembers Atlantis. And you mentioned the old ways."

Sun Dancer looked puzzled but didn’t speak. He glanced at me sitting on a log by the fire. "Interesting," he said, his manner softening again. "My grandfather told me a story he learned from his grandfather that had been passed on about a place that disappeared in the sea thousands of years ago. He said some of his ancestors have ancient memories of a place where his people learned how to live on this land. He called it the old ways."

"Really, you heard stories?" Alice asked.

"Let’s go," Wolf said to Sun Dancer and continued walking towards the overgrown pasture.

"I must go," Sun Dancer said, smiling at Alice, then caught up with the others. He looked at Glenn again, "Please listen to me. Do not start your colony here."

It was dark now, but the full moon was bright. I watched the three men walk away through the high grass, up the hill, and into the woods until they disappeared in the darkness.

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