As I research and learn about the history of the Indigenous People of North America, I am filled with respect for their love of the land and the reverence they hold for their ancestors. There is so much to learn.
I realize I have never fully understood or, at least, been fully educated about the history of Native American’s struggle to remain on their lands, and true story of the many treaties with governments which were made and broken. These people had faith and hope that the government meant to keep their promises. The true stories of their struggle to preserve their heritage is inspiring. The incredible lack of understanding by the European settlers who simply wanted the wealth that land acquisition could provide—at any cost—saddens me.
I do realize those were different times. We understand more as we look back at our history. We can easily say, “Well, that wasn’t right.” But the thing that eludes us even today, is how do we now begin to work together and better understand to make a right new beginning?
The Ojibwa in Northern Minnesota have been my focus for the new novel I’m writing. I hope I am respecting them as I tell the tale of fourteen-year-old Grace Memengwaa Weber. Her middle name means butterfly in Ojibwa.
Grace has the beauty of a butterfly. She also has courage, wisdom, and strength. As a fourteen-year-old she amazes me as she leads me on this journey to meet the old world while forging courageously ahead, respecting her father and forefathers, and bringing them into her world and her life today.
I’m anxious to let her tell her story and that of her family.
The Witch Tree nourishes the tale of years past and years to come.
I saw this on Twitter this morning from Anne Lamott:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” — Anne Lamott
So, please excuse the language from Ms. Lamott, but she’s right! I’ve had time to really sit down and write this week since I’m at my son’s house dog sitting. It’s pretty hard to procrastinate when there’s nothing standing between you and the computer screen in front of you on the table! Gotta do it. And I’ve been a busy bee, working away at the research and the story line.
For awhile now, nothing seemed to be coming together. I’ve written six chapters and struggled with the right line, the right word, the best character description. I’ve read and re-read. I’ve crossed out, added, deleted, and saved for a later page/chapter.
There’s another aspect. As an author/reader I tend to analyze the work of other authors. For me, the craft is not pure. It is never perfect. But it seems theirs often are near perfect. I admire the description, the word choice, the perfect line, perfect thought. I highlight them in my Kindle eBooks. I am amazed at how prolific other writers are. How are they able to put together plots, characters, and thoughts in such perfect succession? I’m sure I can never meet those standards.
My thoughts seem to be random. I’ll think of a phrase I’d like to use. Perhaps a change in the character’s appearance, even name! Should the location be different? Perhaps a different setting would help tell the story?
There’s never perfection, but then I tell myself, life isn’t perfect. Maybe other authors harbor these same insecurities. So a good story can have those imperfections, just like people’s lives. Cant’ it?
Looking into the void and facing the darkness. Is there light? It has been dark for so long, it seems. A Pandemic, in the midst of violence, hate, divisiveness, anger, frustration, and feelings of futility.
Do we dare venture deeper into the void? Should we? Would it be better to sit back, make no effort, simply waste away, allowing worry to blot out all else?
How could one know?
—Unless the fear is faced, the attempt made, the venture taken?
Exploring the unknown is what each of us has done from the moment of birth, isn’t it? For we really had no choice then but to continue, did we? Each hesitant breath marked a decision to continue. Each step, though perhaps unsteady and faltering, was a decision made to explore and accept the challenges ahead.
Over time, we’ve been conditioned to believe in the force of positivity. Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled” tells us that our choice can make all the difference.
We have sighed with satisfaction at George Bailey’s decision to return to the living in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. But it’s true George Bailey accepted a return to a life filled with worry, anger, and divisiveness. Only to discover in the end that his decision brought joy, unity, and peace. It all worked out, and like Orphan Annie, “We love ya, tomorrow!”
But what new trials will tomorrow bring? What is the cause of our worry? The cause of our fear? The cause of our frustration?…Often all of these things are simply caused by the unknown. The trials of that horrible, unknown, black void.
But…But, there’s always that glimmer of hope in the darkness. If we forge into that black hole with the cloak of Annie’s hope for Tomorrow and even add the strength of Hamilton’s declaration, “I’m not throwing away my shot!” we may indeed find that it makes all the difference.
The causes of uncertainty are many. Our world, our lives today are built upon the perceived experiences of our past. Widening our perspective, we realize the history of these United States of America has been filled with might, determination, and innovation.
But….but, it has also been filled with strife, hate, terror, and domination.
We must recognize that there is an indifference about our history. We’ve been taught about Paul Revere’s determined ride to alert Patriots of the arrival of the British ships.— But…but, he wasn’t alone. He was just part of that story made heroic by the poet Longfellow. We’ve long heard the words of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.” We weren’t taught that he opposed the ratification of the Constitution and a strong central government and that he was a slave holder.
What we learned as children and the reality are often contradictory. Today we know that history ignored the cries of those who were trampled on to secure American freedom; those on whose backs we built our fledgling nation, those others whose cries of “Set us free!” or “Give me liberty” were conveniently forgotten, as well as those First Americans whose lands were torn away leaving only a small pittance of reserved land in token, often broken treaties.
The hope of our future must lie in a determined exploration into the dark void of our past. We fear going there, but this is how we grow. This is how we learn, and hopefully change.
We explore with uncertainty. Acknowledging our past must have a definitive effect on our future. To this, we ask, which of Frost’s roads will make all the difference?
Our lives are an endless journey into the dark void. We fill the void with our presence, our discovery, and our determination…and hopefully our learning from past mistakes in the end. Together we must be like Hamilton and take that shot!
We must travel into the void. We must!
And in these troubled times, taking that shot means we must VOTE!
It is our life to live, our future to create, and ultimately, our belief that we can affect the change.
We have been here before. We will without doubt be here again. It’s time to venture on!
As a writer, I’m not always writing. There are times I need to do speaking events, or promotional activities. And there are times I have the opportunity to share my writing by donating my books. Last week was such an occasion. As a member of Bentonville/Bella Vista Altrusa International, I work with our club to support literacy for children in schools and libraries. We have donated literally thousands of books to schools and libraries in the area. Last Saturday we visited the grand reopening of the Sulphur Springs Public Library. We have donated 1352 books to help the library reopen! I was pleased to be able to donate my books to the library to help out!
“The Witch Tree” is coming along nicely…about 6000 words in…20 pages. So much more to tell. I’m liking some of the new characters. Senior citizen Betsy has spunk, Millie, a 20-something daredevil—is perhaps in over her head, and Tammy, an African American, dependable, trustworthy, caregiver to Betsy, always has Betsy’s back and is enjoying being along for the ride. And what a ride it is!
Happy New Year, readers!
Well, I guess it’s starting. Fitting. Ready for a New Year? And a new story?
No set title yet. A glimmer of a plot. Some former Deception characters returning. Remember Jake, the Native American from the copper mines? We’ll see. Tell me what you think. Is it worth it? Is this enough to get it going? I need about a hundred responses to get ME going. Share if you wish. Get me some responses and feedback. Here we go:
THE WITCH TREE
Life is But a Dream
The truth was she didn’t always remember. She was no longer sure if her memory was real or had just been a dream.There were moments of clarity. Other moments of fog. Sometimes the fog outweighed the clarity.
This morning Maggie had wakened from a deep sleep, the fragments of a dream lingering. What was it she’d seen? The room in her dream had been shadowed with dark shapes lined against a wall. They were afraid, staring, mouths agape. She’d watched to see what was causing their fear. The room was bare…except for the thick-trunked tree rising through the floor, silent branches pushing up, stretching outward like waves reaching toward ghastly souls shrinking into the gray walls. A single stream of light lasered down from a pinhole in the ceiling above the tree. The tree began to glow. That was it. That was all she’d seen.
Maggie shuddered at the memory and settled down into the quilts. Embracing her with warmth, the blankets enveloped her creating a thick wall of comfort against the icy darkness. Struggling into wakefulness, she lay still letting the flitting dream pictures seep between dawning awareness and regretful loss of sleep.
She wasn’t ready to meet the day. Not yet. The pinkish gray of early morning light pushed at her eyelids, and she nudged it away, wishing to return to deep, hollow, nothingness and sleep. She listened to Jake’s soft breathing, regular and unbroken next to her; he had always slept soundly despite his frequent, unconscious crablike reaching for her that always brought back threads of uneasy memory from a night months ago.
What had she been dreaming? Bits of dream visions flickered, weaving in and out, disappearing then returning in a flash of recognition. A tree. Fear rising. People fading away. Then they were gone, and she was left with unsettled feelings.
Finally, she pushed the dream aside, letting it disappear. What day was it? More importantly, where was she? At that thought, she opened her eyes, and stared at the ceiling. Monday. It was Monday. She hated Mondays! And she was at Jake’s. She had spent the night with Jake. Again. She’d promised herself she wasn’t going to do this anymore.
What had she done?
Made a mess of things, that’s what she’d done. She groaned softly, and rolled herself out from under the quilts, bare feet steadied onto the cold, wood floor, and stood up. Jake rolled away, his dark hair falling over his face, pulling the quilts more tightly around his shoulders. She guessed he wasn’t ready to wake and face reality either.
I am on the board and a member of Village Lakes Writers and Poets here in Bella Vista. We recently were fortunate to acquire a lease for the historic Dug Hill Chapel as our new home and meeting place. In the picture you can see a small cemetery behind the building. Over the years, the Chapel has been a church, school and community center. It speaks to us. We will be busy refurbishing, cleaning, and renovating the little building to meet our needs. It’s the time of the year that the ghosts of the past speak out to us. We are so excited to begin this new adventure in this old building. And so I write…
Can you hear it?
Voices of ancient spirits whisper—
Speaking to the future,
Carrying songs of praise,
Prayers of anguish, struggle,
Searching with hope.
Soft scratchings of
Murmured memories rise
While the tolling bell
Calls bodies to gather:
Teens and twenties,
Settle at once together
Learn, and share
Occasional raucous laughter, and
Whispered shared secrets.
The shadowed walls speak of
Taught and learned,
Etched into hearts and minds
Richly layered with thick, slathered paint
Applied with steady hands
Year after year after year.
At last, bits peel away
Revealing pointed adjurations
Shavings of wood,
Reminders to remember.
Teaching voices from the past.
Curling tendrils of
Words and wisdom
Filled with aching, overarching hope.
The spirits speak to us.