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Chaordia - A Novel of Transformation Ch. 19

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

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My dad waved at us as we came though the waist high grass in the pasture. Standing with Glenn and Dan, he held his sketchbook and pointed to some place on the other side of the orchard. Atticus straddled his father's shoulders, while Liz and Tammy knelt by the fire, preparing lunch. Alice grabbed my hand and started running towards them. I glanced back at Grace walking slowly, the branch cane over her shoulder, her eyes shielded from the late morning sun by her wide brimmed hat.

My dad stopped talking when Grace approached Glenn. "We have good news," she said. "Grey Fox was upset at first when we were visiting Shining Star. We told him about the FBI watching us and how many things have changed since the World Trade Center was attacked. He had no idea what was really happening and the danger his people were in and now wants to share the vision and work with us."

"That’s big! Wow!" Glenn turned to my dad. "Did you hear that?"

Dan listened. "It sounds like there was a lot of tension. I want to know more about how they've been living all of these years and people not knowing they were here."

"It’s no different than how many people in the Sixties and Seventies dropped out and tried going back to the land, then realized they had a lot to learn," Grace said. "White Elk and his people wanted to revive their old ways because they didn’t want them forgotten. Also they were unhappy trying to fit into the white world. They always felt like outcasts."

"And here I am bringing my idea to this old farm," Glenn said.

"It seems White Elk was dropping out of the American way just like you are," my dad said.

"Liz and I are ready to drop out too," Dan said. "We want Atticus to grow up and not be infected by the consumerism, the glitzy advertising and the brain-washing schools that Liz and I went to."

I glanced at Tammy and Liz hovering over the fire, surprised to see she was cooking in a wok, stirring something, but wasn’t sure what. Atticus played with Dan’s dreadlocks while he sat on his shoulders. My dad closed his notebook and faced Dan. "I'll show some of my plans later. I'd like your thoughts. You're going to be a big help."

Tammy lifted up a pot and banged it with a wooden spoon and called over to us. “Lunch is now being served in the main dining room. Come and get it."

We went over and sat down on the logs and rocks around the fire, while Liz placed the stir fried vegetables on plates and handed them to us.

While we were finishing lunch, an old beat up black car with a dented fender and a loud muffler came around the bend and parked next to Dan’s truck. An old man with a faded gray baseball cap over his shaggy white hair got out, walked around to the other side and helped a plump woman get out. He wore a heavy plaid flannel shirt, baggy jeans with thick black suspenders. She had short gray hair that circled her chubby face and a bulky brown coat and a long green skirt that came down to her green rubber boots..

"Now what," Alice whispered, leaning closer.

"We’ll find out." I watched them make their way through the high grass and noticed the white stubble on his narrow face.

Glenn and Grace stood up to greet them while the old man, holding his wife's elbow to steady her, walked towards us, then glanced over at the farmhouse.

When he stood by the rocks around the fire, he spoke in a gravelly voice."Ain’t been here in years. Ain’t nothin’ like how Gene kept her."

"I’m Glenn. He was my grandfather. So you knew him."

"Sure did. We were neighbors. I’m Gordon Nicholson from up the road and this here's my wife, Martha. Glad to meet you." He reached to shake Glenn’s hands.

Grace stood up and stepped towards the couple, then smiled. "I’m Grace. I grew up here."

"Is that so," Gordon said. "I knew he had a daughter and a son. Pleased to meet you."

"You look just like your mother," Martha said. "I can see it in your eyes and you have the same nose."

Before Grace could respond, Gordon spoke."So what’s this I read in the paper about you wantin' to make some kind of a colony or somethin'. Is that true?"

"Yes, it’s true," Glenn said.

"Says you’re doing somethin' with Indians. I didn’t know there were any Indians ‘round here. Thought they all died out." He scratched his cheek and looked over at the rest of us listening.

"I didn’t know there were Indians here either, but they let me know we were on their land that was stolen from them They returned to their land. That’s how we met."

"Their land? What do you mean they returned to their land? I had no idea there was Indians 'round here," he repeated. "What do you think Gene would have to say if he knew?"

"I’m not sure," Glenn said. "I think he might have liked it."

"I know he would have liked it," Grace said. "In fact, before he died he found out he had some Indian blood in him. He was part Mohegan."

"Is that a fact," Gordon said. "Gene was part Indian. Did you hear that, Martha?"

Alice glanced at me. "This is going to be interesting," she whispered.

"So, you got big plans for this place, I hear." He looked up at the house. "I spent some good nights visiting Gene. We played checkers most times, while the wives talked in the kitchen."

"Your mother was one smart woman," Martha said. "Sometimes I didn’t know what she was talking about. She read a lot, you know."

"Yes, I know," Grace said.

"Wonder what she’d think about what’s going on now," Martha said.

"I think she would have liked it," Grace said. "Both my dad and mom had a rebellious streak."

"That’s for sure," Martha said.

"You can say that again," Gordon added. "Me and Gene had some heated conversations back then. He was about fourteen, fifteen years older than me. I didn’t know where he got some of his thoughts. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, so we talked about the Red Sox. He liked baseball. We always listened to the game."

"Yes, I remember he liked to listen to the games on the radio," Grace said. "I can still see him sitting in his old chair with a book on his lap reading and listening to the game."

"Yeah, I knew he liked to read and he’d spout out ideas that made me think things I never thought about before," Gordon said, shaking his head. "Sometimes I thought he was a communist, and other times I didn’t know what he was when he’d say the government was a bunch of crooks and he didn’t want no part of it." Gordon turned to Glenn, "We got along though and had some good talks."

"They worked hard, those two," Martha said. "Your mother didn’t sit still for too long except when she was weaving or knitting. Gordon still has a hat she made him, don’t you, Gordon?"

"She made it for my forty-fifth," Gordon said. "Thirty-some years ago and it’s still good as new. I wear it every winter. "

"I like hearing that," Grace said.

Gordon nodded and looked at the barn. He rubbed his hands, then looked at Martha, then back at Glenn. "Lots of people are talkin' about what they read in the paper. You sure got people riled up."

"Is that so?" Glenn asked.

"They know this place been fallin' apart and knew he didn’t want to sell it. Some knew he left it to his grandson, but then it just sat here all these years and now they hear you showed up and they know what you’re plannin', and I have to tell you, it ain’t sittin' well with lots of people around here."

"And the Indians being here doesn’t help," Martha said.

"That’s interesting," Glenn said. "The sheriff stopped by and said people were live and let live around here and like their independence."

"Some do, some don’t," Gordon said. "But people I talked to think your idea about you makin' your own colony and breakin' away from the country is pretty darn radical for most people. I guess they don’t like crackpots."

"So they think I’m a crackpot."

"They think you’re being unpatriotic," Gordon said. "I have to admit, I sometimes thought your grandfather was a crackpot and sounded unpatriotic. Like I said, we had some hot debates."

"But you were friends, I thought," Grace interrupted. "It sounds like he upset you with his ideas and you thought he was a crackpot."

"Well, he made me think and I made him think when I argued with him," Gordon said. "But I never changed his mind and he never changed my mind. Somehow we got along. We laughed a lot too, and we were good hunting partners."

"And you both liked the Red Sox," Martha said.

"That’s for sure," Gordon said. "He didn’t have a television, but we’d listened on the radio and drink beer. He made his own beer and it was better than that piss they call beer in town."

"I didn’t know he made beer," Glenn said.

"He was a loner, your grandfather. Kept to his self, but we got along despite our differences," Gordon said. "Now I can tell you’re just like him with this crazy idea of yours."

"Sounds like you don’t approve," Glenn said. "It sounds like you think I’m a crackpot like you said he was."

"Well, I guess I don’t like it. And you’re going to find out I’m not the only one who doesn’t approve." He looked down at the ground, then looked at Martha. "You’re askin' for a heap of trouble, I’d say."

"Well, I heard from the sheriff that there are people who want Vermont to secede from the United States because of the amount of money spent on war," Glenn said. "So I don’t think I’m alone."

"Well, they’re crackpots, too," Gordon said. "How can they want to break away from this great country...the greatest country on earth?"

Glenn closed his eyes when he heard that, then took a deep breath. "If we’re the greatest country on earth, why do we have more murders and mass shootings than any country in the world and more people in prison? Why do we have over seven hundred military bases around the world? Why are we becoming a police state?"

Gordon and Martha’s eyes and mouths widened, but before Gordon could say anything, Grace interrupted and stepped in front of Glenn."I’m sorry you think this is a crackpot idea," Grace said, glancing at Martha, "but maybe you will think differently when you see what is going to happen here."

"You mean with the Indians?" Martha asked. "The paper says you’re going to share this land with those Indians who shouldn’t be here in the first place."

"I know it sounds strange," Grace said. "But what we’re building here with the Indians will help us live with climate change. We can share our knowledge and help each other."

"Well, I don’t deny something bad is goin' on with the weather," Gordon said. "I never saw such a flood as when Irene hit and those folks in Jersey and New York really got hit with Hurricane Sandy a year or so ago."

"It’s going to get worse," Glenn said.

"That’s what they say," Gordon said, "but what does that have to do with you livin' here with Indians?"

It bothered me to hear how both Gordon and Martha talked about the Indians. I suspected they had never really seen a Native American except in the movies or in cartoons of Indians doing a war dance and holding tomahawks.

Unable to stay quiet, I went to the other side of the fire and stood next to Glenn."This was their land before Glenn’s grandfather and others came here."

I glanced back at Alice and saw by her surprised eyes she liked that I was saying anything. "They have treaties that prove this is their land, but the government won’t listen to them. That’s why they’re here. This land really belongs to them and always has."

Gordon looked stunned and he gasped. His eyes widened when he looked at me then looked at Martha.

"Their ancestors are buried here." I pointed to the hill. "They're buried near the river."

"That's crazy! This land belongs to Vermont and to America, not to the Indians. That’s crazy," Martha said. "This is your grandfather’s farm and now it’s yours."

"No, it belongs to the Abeneki Indians," Glenn said. "Even though my grandfather had his dairy farm here and my mother grew up here, this land was taken from them a long time ago, but now we're going to share it."

"I never heard such crazy talk in all my life." Gordon said. "It’s un-American."

"Well, I’m sorry you’re so upset," Glenn said. "But I have something to tell you."

"What’s that?" Gordon asked.

"The Indians are Americans, too. They're Native Americans. This was their country before Europeans came. How can sharing the land with them be un-American?"

"I don’t know. All I know is it sounds crazy making this farm a separate colony. That’s impossible. No one’s going to let you do that around here."

"We’ll see, won’t we?"

"Guess so," Gordon said.

"Well, we’ll be on our way," Martha said, turning to her husband. "I want to stop at the Walmart before we go home."

"Yes, we should be on our way," Gordon said. "We just wanted to stop by and see what you were up because of what the paper said."

Glenn nodded, "Well, stop by anytime. Maybe you’ll change your mind when you see what we’re doing."

"Maybe," Gordon repeated,"Well, we better be on our way."

They turned and walked through the high grass to their car. Gordon held Martha’s arm, then helped her into their car. He stopped to look around at the before getting into the drivers side, then waved at us before driving away.

After the car disappeared, its loud muffler growing fainter, Glenn shrugged his shoulders. "Well, Mom, now we know what we’re in for."

"We already knew what we were in for."

"Right." Glenn nodded.

Tammy reached for the empty wok and picked it up. "I don’t understand how your grandfather could be friends with those people. They seem so different," she said, shaking her head.

"I don’t know either," Glenn said.

"Because my father accepted people," Grace said. "But it was easier for him to be a loner. He was a happy man. He loved this farm. My parents had a good life here. I know their marriage had their ups and downs like all marriages, but they rode it out and did the best they could."

I listened, then noticed my dad looking at Glenn and knew by the way he was stroking his beard he had something important too say.

"Glenn, you can’t be completely independent. We’ve talked about this before. Even the separate colonies four hundred years ago worked together. They shared resources and did business with each other."

"I know," Glenn said. "You’re right, but I want to try to be as independent as possible. We cannot continue to live the 'American way.' We have to learn a new way."

"If your friend, Richard Whitehouse, the computer guy, comes here, the internet involves a lot of people. Some of them are corporations. We will be using the satellites," my dad said. "And where do you think the computers come from?" he added. "They're built in China and Indonesia and other places. And we’re going to need shovels and other tools. You know the John Donne line, 'No man is an island,' don’t you?"

"Yes, I know that line," Glenn said. "I understand. I just don’t want to be complicit in things that I’m ashamed of."

"I understand," my dad said. "I don’t either."

"It’s about cooperation, not competition," Grace said, "And making choices. The other thing to realize is what we do here might not change anything."

I couldn't believe my ears when she said that."What do you mean we might not change anything?" I asked, startled by what she said. My whole body stiffened.

Grace could see by my reaction I was disturbed by what she said. She glanced at Glenn and my father. She took a deep breath before speaking. "A poet friend of mine has a line I've never forgotten. Listen to this. 'Even in escape, there’s no escape.'"

I repeated the line to myself. My heart beat quickened. "Then why do anything? I don’t get it."

"Because it’s important to try," Grace said, "And it’s important to follow your dream, no matter what."

"Well, I think it’s important to clean this pan and straighten up the kitchen," Tammy said and started walking towards the house. "I’ll see you philosophers later."

Liz picked up the empty pot and followed Tammy into the kitchen with Atticus following, carrying a toy truck.

Glenn was silent. My dad stared at Grace, then looked down at his notebook. "I'm going to keep working on these plans."

"You should," Grace said.

It was early afternoon. The sun was warm. A breeze made the bright orange and red autumn leaves of the trees surrounding the farm sway. I looked around at how beautiful the farm was, even with the high grass everywhere, the dilapidated farmhouse and barn. Alice was quiet and I knew she was thinking about the line Grace had just quoted. I repeated it to myself. Even in escape there's no escape.

While my dad, Glenn, Dan and Grace were talking, Gabe and Tim came over to Alice and me.

"What do you think about what Grace said?" Tim asked.

"I don't know," I shrugged, still confused and bewildered.

"Do you guys remember what Solomon told Damian and Jason in 'Twins of Atlantis. He said, 'Few things happen by chance.'"

"I remember that," Gabe said.

"Does it mean it’s not an accident that we’re here on this farm in Vermont and Glenn met my dad, and it happens that Indians are here, and Grace wants to help Glenn make his dream come true?"

"It’s pretty weird," Tim said. "And then you met Elizabeth because she happened to be sitting in front of you at the library. It seems like that was supposed to happen."

"It’s all so mysterious," I said. "It doesn’t make sense."

"I agree with Grace," Alice said. "It’s possible that nothing we do will make a difference, but you do what your heart tells you to do. You just follow what feels right and do the best you can and hope it all works out."

I looked around. Glenn, Grace, my dad and Dan were talking. We were all standing near the fire trying to make sense of what was happening, when Sun Dancer, Morning Star and Grey Fox came through the tall grass in the pasture. Grey Fox was limping. When they got closer, I saw he had a guitar strapped to his back.

"Welcome, I’m glad you came," Glenn said to Grey Fox when they shook hands. "Thank you for coming," Grace said, shaking his hand.

"I wanted to come. I have been here many times but not under these circumstances."

"My mother told me that you feel better about White Elk’s vision and mine," Glenn said.

"Yes. I got the message. I didn't realize our danger."

Gabe and Tim stared and listened.

"I didn’t know you played the guitar," Alice said.

"Yes, I learned when I was on the reservation. I also wrote songs, but then I stopped when I went to Vietnam. Now, I play as much as I can."

Tim came over. "I’m a musician. I’m a drummer and I also play the tuba."

"The tuba? I don’t think I ever met anyone who played the tuba."

"I’d love to hear you play sometime," Alice said.

"That's why I brought my guitar," Grey Fox said. "After we met earlier, I was inspired to compose a song. Normally, I would not bring my guitar to play for someone, but that's why I came here with Sun Dancer and Morning Star."

I couldn’t believe the difference in how Grey Fox spoke to us. He seemed lighter as if a dark cloud had passed and let the sunlight shine on his face. The bitterness in his voice was gone. His grim, angry eyes seemed brighter and it was the first time I had seen him smile.

"Let’s go to the house," Grace said. "We can make some tea or have apple cider and you can play us your song."

When we walked into the farmhouse, Tammy and Liz were in the kitchen and Atticus was at the table drawing with crayons. He looked up at us, then went back to drawing. Liz and Tammy greeted us and suddenly the small living room was crowded.

"Oh my goodness," Tammy said, seeing Grey Fox with his guitar, "Looks like we’re going to have a party."

"This is the first time I have been in a house like this in many years," Sun Dancer said, looking around, then glanced at Atticus drawing at the table.

"I like how this feels now with furniture," Morning Star said. "It reminds me of my Auntie Betsy’s house in Gloucester."

"Take a seat," Glenn said, though there were only five chairs at the table and the green couch along the wall.

"I have an idea," Grace said. "Lets move the table aside and we can make a circle. How does that sound?"

Glenn and Dan moved the table into the corner. Liz picked up Atticus and Gabe and I moved the chairs aside, Tammy went into the kitchen and got the jug of apple cider, a few mugs and paper cups and placed them on the table.

"This is such a nice surprise. Help yourself to the cider. I wish I had chocolate chip cookies...maybe I'll make some."

"Chocolate Chip cookies?" Grey Fox said. "I haven't had a cookie since I left Montreal."

"They were delicious when you gave us some when we first met," Sun Dancer said.

"I'll make some later and bring them to you....I'd love to do that."

"Play your song," Alice said.

Gabe and Tim poured themselves cider.

Grace asked Grey Fox if he would like a mug of cider.

"Thank you," he said, nodding, then sat on one of the chairs and started tuning his guitar, plucking the strings, listening, and then started strumming making sure it was in tune.

"I haven't written words, but this is the music that came to me."

Grace handed him the cider and he took a sip and placed the mug on the floor by his feet.

He started drumming on the wood with his hands just below the strings, closing his eyes, beating out a rhythm, nodding his head. It looked like he was going into a trance, and then he started striking the strings with one hand, slow at first, then gradually getting faster. He played strange sounding chords, not the kind I was used to hearing. His eyes were closed as he strummed and played the strange chords. The sounds and the concentration of his face expressed dark emotions like thunder, and then would shift to softer, gentler, music like the storm had passed and he was bathing in sunlight. His fingers moved up and down the frets, plucking one string, then another, then a chord. His playing got faster and louder and his head moved up and down as he struck the strings with more intensity. At one point, he leaned over the guitar, his face close to the strings, his long hair falling over his eyes, his hands strumming so fast they were almost a blur. Then he looked up at the ceiling with his eyes closed as if the music was coming into him from somewhere else. The music slowed down and again became soft and tender.

We were silent, mesmerized, and no one budged. Alice's stared at Grey Fox with her mouth open as if awed by what she was hearing.

While he played the hypnotic music, a blue Subaru drove up. I didn’t want to stop listening, but turned and wondered, Who could that be? I held the cup of apple cider on my lap and watched Grey Fox’s fast moving fingers, then glanced over at Tim who seemed fascinated by what he was hearing, but noticed Glenn turn to see who had driven up.

The car door slammed and a few moments later, Bronson Palmer stood in the open doorway, holding a brown leather brief case. Grace looked up at him.

Grey Fox played his final chords and sat back in his chair with his eyes closed. We applauded and Grey Fox looked around and smiled, then looked up at Bronson in the doorway.

"Sorry to intrude," Bronson said. "I wanted to bring the papers from the bank for you to sign and save you a trip."

"Would you like some cider?" Tammy asked.

"No thank you," he said. "I can’t stay, but we can wrap up the sale of the Fitzpatrick place and that will be it."

"I liked what I heard of your playing," he said to Grey Fox as he walked to the table, then took a folder out of his brown leather briefcase.

Grace and Glenn came over to him at the table. We remained in the circle and watched. Sun Dancer looked at me and Alice. The mood of the room had been shattered by the intrusion. Bronson laid the papers out and pointed to where they should sign.

"Good, the property is in Glenn's name," Grace said, after glancing at the document.

While Glenn signed the papers, Bronson looked at Grey Fox, holding his guitar. He glanced over at Morning Star sitting next to my dad.

"So, I understand you have been living here for a number of years," he said to Sun Dancer. "That's pretty amazing and no one knew."

Sun Dancer nodded but didn’t speak. Grey Fox held his guitar to his chest. His eyes darkened and the grim expression returned. I wondered what he was thinking. He glanced at Sun Dancer and Morning Star.

When Grace and Glenn finished signing, Bronson gathered up the papers into two piles and handed one set to Glenn and put the other in his brief case. "It will take a few weeks and the Title for the land will be ready. You can pick it up at my office and my secretary will give them to you and that will be it, or I could drop them off."

"We’ll be leaving tomorrow and I'm not certain when I’ll be back," Glenn said.

"I see," Bronson nodded. "Well, the title will be at the office all safe and sound when you want it."

He shook Glenn's hand and then Grace's. "Congratulations on getting the Fitzpatrick farm. I'll be on my way."

Sun Dancer and Grey Fox listened but I saw no reaction. I wondered if it felt strange hearing their land called the Fitzpatrick property and that Grace and Glenn were now the owners.

Bronson looked at Sun Dancer and Morning Star, and then at Grey Fox. "Nice meeting you. Good luck with your plans."

At the door, Glenn stopped. "We had a visit from some neighbors up the road. They said people are upset about what they read in the paper and the sheriff was here and said the FBI gave him orders to keep his eye on us. Do you know anything about that?"

Bronson moved his fingers over his bushy white mustache. "I’ve heard plenty. I’ve heard both sides. Some people are rooting for you and think it’s about time someone did something to wake up people around here, and others think you’re insane and want you to go away." He looked at Sun Dancer. "Some are shocked that Indians have been living here all this time and think they should be arrested for trespassing."

We were all silent when he said that. Sun Dancer's face revealed no emotion, but his fingers became a fist.

"Well, time will tell," Glenn finally said. "Nothing is going to stop us."

"Like I said, good luck. I’ll be on my way, but if you need a lawyer, you know where you can find me."

When he left, Glenn stood at the door with his arms folded over his chest and watched Bronson walk to his car. Grace stood next to him. The excitement of listening to Grey Fox’s music was now replaced with the news we had just heard.

Grace returned to her seat and sat next to Grey Fox, "I loved your music."

"I did too," Liz said, sitting next to Grace.

“ Yes, it was great, really great," Dan said, holding Atticus on his lap.

Glenn went to the table and picking up the papers, held them up in front of Sun Dancer. "As far as I’m concerned these papers mean nothing. I feel like tearing them up and throwing them in the fire."

Sun Dancer looked at Glenn, then at Grey Fox. "We trust you," Sun Dancer said. "We will be brothers."

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that. Tears swelled in me. Alice took a deep breath and closed her eyes, then smiled at me. Morning Star took my dad’s hand and they looked at each other with a slight smile on their lips. It was a special moment.

Sun Dancer, Grey Fox and Morning Star stood up and said they had to go. I watched Grey Fox strap his guitar to his back. My dad walked out onto to the porch with Morning Star. Glenn shook Sun Dancer’s hand and then they embraced each other.

Alice stood next to me at the door with Grace behind us watching them walk towards the pasture. A moment later, Grace placed her hand on my shoulder, then leaned over and whispered, "I need to talk to you two. It’s important."

Written by Sisyphus
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