The girl was nine years old. She knew it was time to tell her grandfather what she’d seen. Speaking slowly in their native tongue she carefully selected words she knew would best explain all she needed him to understand. Even though she’d seen so few winters for one to be telling him what she had to, she knew he’d believe her.
“Go on.” He encouraged gently, using the Algonkian name he’d given her soon after they’d first met. The name he’d chosen that expressed one of the least startling of the many visions he’d seen during the time of the naming meditation. One that would still represent the essence of what and who he believed she would come to be, but one that would not cause extraordinary expectations toward which she would have to prematurely strive.
Watching her now, waiting for her to continue, his eyes gave as much patient and loving support as his soft voice, while he again encouraged her to speak what she evidently felt should be heard. “Go on. I will listen.”
For a child so young about to reveal something of such magnitude there was surprisingly no hesitation. “It is a vision.” She said. “One I have seen more than once.”
He nodded. Letting her know he unquestioningly accepted that she saw visions. “You have seen other visions already, little one. Creator has gifted you that way.”
“Yes.” She held his patient eyes with the sincerity and urgency of her own. “This one is bigger than the others. Much bigger.”
His face showed that he was impressed. “Then it truly must be very big.”
Her eyes told him it was. He waited in silence now for her to tell him, sensing he should not interrupt until her eyes released him.
Slowly the child described for him what she’d seen during several waking dreams.
Excerpt from Chapter eight:
“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other.
If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear.
What one fears, one destroys.”
Geswanouth Slahoot (Chief Dan George) Tsleil-waututh Nation, Salish
“Im-baa-baa.” Jennifer’s voice was the same strong whisper she’d used earlier when she’d alerted her father to the presence of the beaver. Knowing him as she did she doubted he was asleep so continued in Ojibwe with the same subdued voice, “Im-baa-baa, Animosh senses her coming.”
The moonless night sky directly above the clearing of the camp was speckled with stars of all sizes and brilliance, but apart from the area to the east covering the lake, the rest of the sky was blanketed by the darkness of the forest that surrounded them. A warm glow emanated from the coals of the fire that still smouldered several feet away but did not reach the shadows where occasional night noises rustled just beyond the edge of the small clearing.
Jennifer heard Thomas move in his tent and say, “Hey Sam, if you’re really asleep you won’t be in a couple of minutes so you may as well wake up now.”
“What’s happening?” Sam’s groggy voice was muffled by his sleeping bag.
“We’re about to have a rather interesting visitor.”
“Who? What the hell time is it?”
“It’s sometime in the middle of the night. And the visitor is No-ko-mis Ma-kwah.”
“No-ko-mis Ma-kwah. Friend of ours. But she’s not allowed to visit us. We gotta chase her away.”
“Some friend you are then.” Sam was waking up. “I’m glad I’m only a bloody relative.”
“Mahngy.” Thomas called to his daughter. “Are the girls awake?”
“With your snoring we never even got to sleep.” Ria responded from the other tent. “Yeah we’re awake.”
“Then get your backsides out here, there’s some more noise to be made.”
“Then why don’t you just carry on snoring?”
Thomas was grinning as he poked his tussled head through the tent flap. He’d been unable to sleep since going to bed so knew he hadn’t been snoring. He didn’t protest his innocence as others might for he enjoyed the teasing from Ria who he heard saying gently, “Come on Sarah. This will be interesting, but a little scary at first. Just stay close to me. Nothing to worry about.”
Jennifer was kneeling astride a growling Animosh, gently but firmly holding his head to the ground with both hands and soothing the powerful animal with her soft voice. “Be-kay-aan, n’dai Boo-ni Animosh. Be-kay-aan.” Each time she stopped speaking his top lip would curl back showing his teeth in an ugly snarl, but knowing Jennifer didn’t want him to get up he let his trust in her balance his instincts and did not yet struggle to rise. Jennifer knew that soon he would and that she would be unable to prevent him.
When Thomas had tied the laces of his boots he reached back into the tent and pulled out his leather satchel from which he withdrew a coil of braided line that he tied to Animosh’s collar to fashion a short leash which he then wrapped around his left hand and wrist several times. “I’ll hang onto him Jen’. He’s going to be a handful. Did you sleep at all?”
“No.” Jennifer relaxed her hold on the dog once she was sure her father had him under control. “Neither did Animosh. Other things are moving out there tonight.” She motioned with her chin toward the forest just beyond the tents.
“So how do you know this is her that’s coming?”
“It’s her.” Jennifer’s tone told Thomas this statement was unequivocal.
“Good enough for me.” Thomas looked at the now standing and tense dog and in a louder voice said to the others “Looks like she’s close and coming from the north, so let’s get the musical instruments ready to welcome her.”
“What the heck are you talking about?” A much dishevelled Sam was emerging bare foot, rear-end first from the tent.
“You, young Sam, are about to be introduced to a gi-chi ma-ka-de mak-wah. An experience you may never forget.
“Sounds great.” Sam stood up, pulling his shirt, inside-out, over his head and squinting about him into the night. “What the bloody hell’s that?”
“A big black bear.” Ria translated as she crawled head first from her tent.
Excerpt from Chapter Twenty One:
“We forget so we consider ourselves superior. But we are, after all, a mere part of the creation and we must consider to understand where we are, and we stand somewhere between the mountain and the ant. Somewhere and only there as a part and parcel of the creation.”
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole [of] nature in its beauty.”
“If you’re to have your vision quest in this place then we must prepare it.” Jennifer told Sam once he was standing. “I believe this is already a sacred place and that Rufus knows that as well. We must prepare this place so that the energies it holds can help you find your vision.”
“What do we need to do Jen?” Sam’s emotions, at least outwardly, appeared to be under control, though his mind was racing, still processing at a rate too furious for words to form even within the tiniest element of time it takes to create rational thought.
“Now you understand what it’s all about, I’m going to teach you how to talk to some of the other people here who you’ll need to help you. I cannot ask their help for you. You must ask them yourself, so I’ll teach you how.” She walked toward a large maple tree and pointed to the moss on its bark. “But first, you must always know the directions. Each direction has its own medicine and you must face the direction that has the medicine you need for whatever you’re doing. It would be easier to see what I’m going to show you where the trees aren’t so dense. In these latitudes of the northern hemisphere if there’s moss on the bark of a tree it’ll be thickest on the northern side. Mostly there’ll be none at all on the southern side unless the tree is always in deep shadow. The sun never shines on the north side and moss likes to live in shade.”
“So the standing people will always tell me the directions.” Sam said, pleased that he felt he was catching on.
“No.” She said, to his chagrin. “It’s not the standing people that like to live in shade. They seek the sun which is why they grow so tall. It’s the moss people who will always tell you the directions. And they will live on rocks as well as trees, so you must respect the moss people in their own right, not just the trees, and remember to thank them each time they tell you the directions. At night you can ask the stars, if you can see the sky. I’ll show you some useful stars on the way home. And the sun and moon rising and setting or climbing to or from their zenith will show you east and west. But in the forest you don’t always see the sky clearly, so you must learn how to understand what the moss people are telling you. It’s all part of the natural language you’re starting to speak Sam.” And then with a smile she added, “And it’s easier to learn than Anish’nabemowin.”
Jennifer’s simple, almost childlike explanation sent another chain of interlinked thoughts speeding into newly opened sections of his mind. Drawn into the vacuum that now wanted to suck in every article of natural lore and wisdom it could.
It was, he realized, not just a question of understanding a deliberate message, as was the case with the look Rufus had given him. It was also as much about interpreting each subtle nuance of the language he now realized was all around him, if only he knew where and how and when to look. The moss people would tell him where north was without sending him a message, but their communication was there just as clearly. So to ask a question in this ancient realm, he reasoned, must just entail wondering what an answer to a particular question could be, and then figuring out what in the natural world could provide or confirm that answer. There, Sam reckoned, was the skill; the understanding of what could supply the answer, and how it did so. The language of nature, he now understood, was merely the application of common sense at a natural level to what was happening all about him. He surmised that such common sense could best be acquired by experience initiated by example, as Jennifer had just provided him with the moss. Therefore, he reasoned, the language would be better learned outside a classroom and without the constraints of written text. It was not a language based upon theories and constructs that could be studied and formed by academia. Its structure came from the natural laws that don’t conform to man-logic. Its syntax might vary by season, latitude, weather, topography, time, and not by tense or gender.