She sends it as ifIt’s an ordinary grocers listPenciled on a scrap of
sketch padLettering distinctlyTeachery printingSoftened byCharcoal leadShe wanted to sayEverythingFill the pageWith decades ofBackwashed lossAndFoundThe very letters growingAnd imprint deepeningAs she finishesWithoutSayingWhat she could haveShould haveWon’tShe actsNonchalantTearing it a bit ruthlessly
from theSpiraled WiresLeaving ragged edgeSo fingers could traceAgain and againAlongScalloped edges of theHeart
Timeline- The Twenty First Century
Captain Alberto David Thomas eased his metal rimmed vessel, The Royal Endeavor, up the channel lined by enormous cedars. He had dropped the sails of her wind-driven turbine two days from the time land approached. He knew her windmill mast was easily visible for 50 kilometers or more. He wanted to see the Mystic People. He wanted adventure and to learn more about The Peoples than were offered in the 500 year old DeRamo Texts. Perhaps The Peoples also had changed some of their technology.
He could see he was being watched closely from the spruce covered hills by Native riders on ponies. Just last night, his crew had carefully fended off the Water Ghost Warriors without bloodshed and with songs of greeting. The warriors were, no doubt, befuddled by construction that could not be damaged.
He had viewed smoke from hearths and fires of villages one night ago. He was certain many People of the Nations lay in wait for his men and women sailors with sharp spears and arrows that could fly as fast as bullets. Despite body armor, death likely awaited the sailors from Europe through sabotage or illnesses of the Central Land.
Every move of this exploration had been planned for years. No animals were aboard. Only a few scientists who had been in isolation chambers before the mission had been selected. No vermin or rodents of any kind were aboard due to sonic devices on the mast. Physicians cautioned that the native peoples could be exterminated from the spread of germs long eradicated in Europe and Asia. Scientists hoped that the few white people and many horses or goats that had been allowed to exist on the Land had provided a type of vaccine against measles, smallpox, and influenza. Everyone had masks to prevent the spread of these germs but the teams had worried that the use of masks might alarm The People.
He knew the immense bay was Sacred Water. The oceanographers had been busy for weeks examining the thousands of new fishes, corals, and mammal water species. The beauty was beyond his imagination. He knew that these wise and learned People had knowledge far beyond the books in the Atlantian Library. A surprised, concerned voice came over the intercom announcing a sighting of numerous wooden crosses lining the shoreline to the south.
The mission of the Endeavor was terrifyingly simple. And must not fail. Communication between the cultures was essential without disrupting the delicate ecosystems that had been in place for eons. The harmony in which the Tribes continued to exist on land and water must be studied, analyzed and replicated onto lands destroyed by environmental damage.
Captain Thomas, with a large number of his crew, had argued that the survival of the human race hinged on implementing practices of the People. Events on the Sacred Lands must occur at a measured and deliberate pace. His crew of scientists and sociologists was prepared to wait, developing communication slowly over decades if need be.
His shore crew pulled off their clothing and boots, rinsing in the salty water to prevent contamination, singing the songs of the morning chants. They knew it was not exactly appropriate but it was unlikely that the People would attack during the Sacred Song, if the words were still correct. Carefully, they stepped along the steel plank, ready to leap back onto the ship if needed. They laid glassware, ornate china, decorative jewelry, carved titanium walking sticks, and copper kettles upon the shores. They set an immense glass tank of live lobsters next to the fiber fishing nets. As The Royal Endeavor musicologists sang Praise chants for gifts of Earth and Sea, Captain Thomas moved his boat back into deeper waters.
And the Endeavor waited.
Arriving at his sacred cave along the icy sea, Yuta began the prayers to select a proper birch tree for Deramo to continue his voyage across the Great Water. Yuta was silently contemplating, for he had to create a new type of craft and he feared to offend the Great Spirit and his Ancestors. With dread, Deramo hollowed out the canoe; he was headed again across the cruel and violent ocean.
Within the cave, Yuta created a coded message to his sons and daughters, providing them with gems and pearls gained from a lifetime of living on the sea. On a large piece of rawhide, he stringently reinforced that his sons and his daughters must continue the work of the Guardians. He had gone to the Mother Sea and had seen the Sickness of the Wigwam Canoes himself. He asked that his sons and daughters speak at the powwows for him asking that the trade of the Runner be enhanced to display the cache of Europa weaponry. The sick Ships of Silver Hats must never touch the Land of the People. All of the Spirits of Bears, Buffalo, Trees, Rivers, Lakes, Rocks, and even the Snows would leave, if the People allowed any Silver Hat Canoes.
He drew pictures of the horse and ask that Guardians search inside the White ships for a large dog like the llama of the Warm Water People. He showed that this animal should be allowed to roam among the People. He had seen the horse in his dreams and felt that it was another great power of the White Faces. He cut his long braid, wrapping it in a white deerskin for his beloved Bright Eyes. A signal that he had gone to the Ancestors and he wished her to walk with him.
He filled his pack with simple beads, turquoise and fine shells. He took many of the cross totems after finding one for himself, made of finely carved teak. His heart burned within as he lay the cross beneath his totem. He stashed a few of the crosses. The others, he scattered into the bay as he turned to help Deramo complete the canoe.
They had argued over its construction. Deramo saw no purpose in the two sharp bottom blades nor the odd outrigging to one side. Yuta had explained that in heavy waves this stabilized the craft of warm water people. Even with the prayers, Yuta worried if it was an offense to invent new canoes?
Oh, Great Spirit
I hear your voice in the storms
your breath gives life to the fishes
hear me, I am unimportant and frail,
I need your strength and wisdom.
Bless this canoe so it may travel far
to a place beyond the red sunrise
May my hands respect all the creatures you make
make my ears sharp to hear your call.
Make me careful so that I may respect all equally
I submit this canoe as an offering to you
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every flower and grain of sand.
I Prepare a noble final song to go into clouds.
When my time comes
I am not filled with fear
for I shall return
and return to live my life again
Deramo heard the pitch and timbre change in the songs. He knew the low, odd keening of the Death Chant, he had heard it many times when disaster, death, and destruction had occurred to the People. He knew Yuta would say that this was the Way of The Spirits, but he had a new idea.
At the hot sun rest time, he pulled his bag of corn from his belt. He sorted out the colors onto a rock. “Yuta?” He showed him one yellow kernel among the many colors, swept his hands to show the breadth of the land. He named the kernel, “Deramo.” Yuta nodded. It was hard to stay awake after a full meal near the fire and Yuta was in no mood for more questions from Deramo. He was feeling old in his joints and pain in his teeth and he missed the medicines Bright Eyes administered to his shoulders.
“Yuta!” Deramo had spread corn again on a rock away from the others. All yellow kernels. Deramo lifted a beautiful multi-colored bit into the sky and with the sacred motion, he named it Yuta and placed it on a tiny canoe. He sailed the canoe through a tiny puddle and placed it with the yellow kernels. He spoke in Algonkin and signed with reverent gestures.
“Come with me over the Sea, My Beloved and Honored Adoptive Father. So that you may see Giant Dogs of my people.”
His moment of anger at Deramo’s disrespectful tone passed suddenly but the concept took some time as the men bickered over the details. This required prayer, fasting and cleansing on both their parts. Deramo smiled under his cloak. He knew Yuta wished more than anything to see horses.
Yuta took of sacred herbs and mushrooms and to hear voices of his Grandfathers. He felt the terror and the distinction of this Calling. For three days he prayed and brought the visions. While Deramo tended to the fires, smoking cod from the Bay, he worried that he had asked too much of his father. Yuta emerged looking a bit worn and worried himself and wearing an ornately carved cross of teak over his Tortoise Shell. Yuta had joined the tribe of Too Many People.
His totem had told him that his new son could not survive the trip from the Inuit Lands, find the land and ice bridges, and get the Stories to The Far Away Leaders correctly. The Land of Too Many People must hear the decrees of the Grandfathers directly.
They made heavy parkas of wolverine; shoes of layered hides filled with feathers; pemmican from ducks, gulls, berries, maize; collected fire starting materials; made simple fishing nets. They found clay smoldering pots with thick bases and old food cooking baskets from rubbish heaps. Yuta took old water bags to be filled with air to wear over their shoulders. The air bladders would keep their heads above water if… no, when the canoe capsized in heavy seas. Yuta left a handful of beautifully etched shell beads near the women’s working area as payment.
Deramo fussed, “Don’t we need more food? Do you know it takes at least two seasons to reach The Far Away Land? How we eat and should we not gather more fresh water? We need make sails and masts? How carry firewood on this tiny craft?” His nerves were rattled by the simple supplies.
Yuta was ignoring him.
I seek strength,
In other lands
I wrestle only with my worst enemy
I fight my greatest adversary
my own fears and sorrows.
Make me always ready to come to you
with unsoiled hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading summer,
my Spirit may come to you without disgrace.
He smiled, “My Son, I shall call you Ringed Squirrel for you always are gathering in fear of the cold of Winter.”
They plodded far to the north along a jagged coastline, where the trees began to thin and the ground was frozen in all seasons. Deramo wondered, did Yuta understand that one could not march all the way to Europa?
They were far into the freezing North Sea, Deramo knew by the movement of the stars. Sometimes they paddled the canoe through icing waters, other times pushed it across bumpy glaciers or light snow on the tundra. The waves were terrifying, some far worse than the hurricanes on his voyage but food was plentiful. Since they appeared to be merely one more beast swimming along the frost, fearless loons, plovers, and seals were simply snared as the two paddled past. Water was gathered from floating chunks of ice and defrosted in their water pouches. Deramo felt like an idiot instead of a learned man. The solutions were so simple.
Yuta would make short work of game, saving pelts, feathers, blubber, and bones. He stuffed the feathers into their boots and mittens, tucking the pelts along their necks and arms as the cold intensified. He used parts of the seals to waterproof their clothing and to add to their buoyancy when they were washed overboard into the subzero waters.
He built fires in the heavy clay bowls. They tended hot embers as they traveled adding fat, guano, dung, wood scraps, and bones. The embers heated round rocks that were placed into their food baskets to slow-cook stew. Sometimes, they would slide the heated volcanic rock into their mittens or boots for warmth, especially if they were drenched by waves. They rarely camped on the land as the intoxicating cooked meat scent drifted before them, alerting any human of their advance.
Sometimes they stopped for a time to rest on huge sheets of rough ice. Deramo shook his head. If only he had known these survival techniques during his long voyage. But their ability to use nature wisely is what made The People honorable.
Even on the islands of ice, Tribes lived. Yuta did not know all of the Tribe names nor their words. But gestures passed between them across the frosted waves. Greetings. Peaceful passages wished. Directions given, without a loss of a single paddle stroke. The Algonkin Tribes were not always on good relations with some of the Inuit People. Yuta wasn’t willing to meet up with a hunting group. Occasionally they were required to offer up a token for safe passage or directions. Yuta had predicted this and left precious stones or beads near shores by huts of stone and sod. He feared less for these isolated people as he hoped the bitter temperatures killed the evil spirits of plague.
Wild, icy waves rushed over the canoe and put out fires in the clay chimneys again. Yuta quickly restarted the fires with fresh tinder and flint stones. Deramo pulled his air bladders closer. If not for the odd outrigging, the canoe would have tipped all their possessions overboard.
Possessions. As if these meager supplies could be called possessions.
For what must have been the hundredth time, Deramo rubbed his forehead. What were Europeans thinking? They had no business in these places. There were no foods that they enjoyed, no houses, no clothing, no gold, no horses, no chariots. In his Queen’s viewpoint he could summarize the last year in a few words: trees, grass, ice, fish, bison, trees.
Yet, the theme of the Azteca had become his own. He believed if the vast Center Land was disturbed, a major interference might occur among the two continents. A global tree burning or mass carnage, he had imagined. Maybe burning of forests could obstruct movements of air that controlled, sea currents, fish swarms, or bird flocks. That was obvious in many countries of Europa that had denuded forests, laid waste of farmlands, and now people starved in dank, foul air, thick with the smoke of charcoal and peat.
They had time for language lessons for Yuta. Deramo coached Yuta in common phrases in fundamental Spanish, French, Italian, and Anglo. He wanted to be certain that Kings and Queens heard words regarding the Lands directly from the Native. He hoped that his logbook might reinforce the concepts. One that would not be popular in these countries.
Lepe Deramo worried as they swayed in the sickeningly rough sea; he tried to think of a place to land where Yuta would be safe and accepted. There were hostilities among the Tribes of Europa, too. He was glad that he had a few more months to ponder how to introduce Yuta. How to make him a valued member of Court? How would he be allowed to demonstrate Songs of the People and the intricate harmony of a vast realm?
The Queen had subsidized his voyage of exploration. It was to her that he owed his first allegiance, well, maybe his second. Yuta noted the frown and offered berry pemmican. “Hoo. Ringed Squirrel?” Delectable and soothing. Yuta had put a relaxation herb in the hard biscuit. Deramo smiled at him and received a coy smile in return.
“My thanks to you, father and Earth Mother.” He said it aloud in three languages. They must adjust to speaking more and use the signs as secret codes between them, just in case things went sour. Something essential hinged upon this first meeting royalty. Failure meant the end of the Sacred Lands and Her Tribes. Progress of ships across the ocean would result only in destruction and conflict. The herb calmed his nerves and agitated stomach.
He suddenly realized that he felt too warm in his wolverine parka. He panicked. Was he becoming ill? Had he caught a plague in the cold? No, God, please. He clutched at his crucifix. Not when he was so near to Europa. Yuta nudged him fully awake.
“Squirrel, now where?” With his new and somewhat disarming smile, Yuta questioned in English, French and Spanish. “I have reached the end of my knowledge of the ice lands. I am dependent on you, Son, to finish the journey.”
Shock rippled through Deramo. How was this possible? By the look of the shore and the constellations, they had arrived in Anglo Lands in less than two months. Yuta had used the icy islands as stopping points to a shortcut around the frozen top of the earth.
During the hours Yuta spent chanting, Deramo studied the pages of his book. Sometimes, he wearied before he recited his own evening prayers. He was more accustomed now, to listening to Yuta chant the evening song. He hummed softly to the tune but knew he did not have the correct status to recite the words. But he needed to know. What were the meanings of these words?
They had traveled along the Great Lakes for two moons when they arrived at a tiny cave opening. After a short ritual, Yuta slowly crawled into the cave which yawned open into a giant underground walkway. “ Come. These are pictures and designs from Ancestors of the People. They mixed colors of earth and berries to call upon Manitou.”
Using torches Yuta had prepared in advance, they walked into the darkness. Yuta kept his voice very low since every sound echoed for several heartbeats here. “Manitou.” Yuta repeated “The Great Spirit of all the Peoples who have ever been. Long ago, the People hunted the mammoth and mastodon. It was very dangerous, but the reward was great. Here, along this wall, the actual bones and tusks are inside the rocks. Shaman come to listen to Manitou speak.”
Deramo felt weak and disoriented. The ancient hunting pictures were clear. A very uncomfortable sense of time stretched before him. He reached to feel the massive bones, larger than those of mythical dragons. Yuta’s hand signal stopped him. “Only Shaman may hear the foot prints in the walls. I brought you here to show you that even the mammoth was killed by overhunting.”
Deramo was shocked, how was this possible? The bones were surrounded by rock but still clearly visible, these creatures were the size of the ship in which he had traveled. He could see the drawings, dozens of men and women throwing spears into the beasts until there were no more.
In the center of the cave, a huge stone spiral with hundreds of etchings rested. Yuta explained, “Spirits move around the circle. Within my heart, the hearts of my sons and my Ancestors is power from mammoth and lynx. We are all a part of those who were here before and those yet to be born.” Deramo’s head reeled with the concept, why did the People see time as a circle?
Deramo sketched onto his bark folio by dimming light, but worried that the stories were becoming too fanciful. If he ever arrived back in his home, people would say the long days and nights at sea had taken his mind. He needed tangible evidence, more than just pressed leaves and flowers.
As they finished the tour of the Bone Wall, Yuta sang chants with fluttering eyelids in the tone that indicated he was speaking with spirits. He repeated until Deramo followed along. The words came easier when the context was as sharp as a crystal stalactite along with ancient etchings of vibrant warriors.
Yuta could always sense the worry and reasoning of his student. He showed Deramo thick sheets of black rock, stacked neatly atop each other. He glanced sideways with a rare smile at Deramo as if he was about to tell a funny story. “We have books like yours here, too.” He swelled his chest with pride. He slid two pieces of black slate apart, and there, preserved between the slabs, sea shells and fishes imprinted in the rock. After many prayers and requests to Manitou, Yuta allowed Deramo to keep a small portion for his birch book. Deramo spent hours gazing at the dozens of spiral shells in rock, running his fingers along the surface. He found himself calling upon the Spirit of the Stones to help him understand the meaning of this sea life embedded for centuries in mineral.
It had been an arduous day of hiking over wet, rough ground. Deramo felt cross and deeply weary. His feet were still developing callouses and he had injured his knee as he tumbled from a crag in the rocks. He was overwhelmed by the diverse knowledge of the Peoples and the vastness of the Land. They knew the movement of the stars, exactly when Fall Equinox would arrive. They spoke a dozen or more languages, raised wild deer, adopted orphans, wove cloth, grew corn, beans and squash on a single mound, built every imaginable shelter from sacred kivas to bark houses.
As they sought shelter from a cold rain in a small dry cave with grey walls. The Bone Wall continued to trouble Deramo at a profound level. Before Yuta began the evening chant, Deramo pleaded, “Wise Father, what mean words of long night chant?”
Yuta laughed his slow rolling rumble. How he forgot at times that he was working with one of lesser experiences. He drew pictures on the dirt floor.
“All of the children of the Nations learn the names of their families from the time of their birth. We honor all Grandfathers from the stone circle when first they came to the Earth.” He gestured over the skies and recited Passages of Eras as best he could translate concepts from the Azteca Stone Circle. For once, Deramo immediately understood, Yuta was reciting the names of his forefathers and their titles. “How many you Grandfathers live this Land?”
As he held up his thumb, Yuta began with his father’s name and title. With a second finger, then third, Yuta launched his long evening song, arms raised to the sky in the cramped cave, eyes lowered with submission. Deramo counted. He placed his fingers in the reddish mud and put them upon the wall each time Yuta indicated an Ancestral name. The song continued until the moon moved through the clouds and the owls hooted.
Deramo scarcely slept. His entire being whirled with insight and acceptance. These were a Spirit fearing, profoundly religious, passionately intelligent, ancient Peoples. Perhaps, he thought sacrilegiously, far more than those of his own continent during the bitterly fought Crusades. As the dawn reached the cave, he stared at his own set of red handprints, each signifying ten grandfathers of Yuta’s tribe. Deramo could not count much higher, but Yuta made it clear using more hand prints and mud, he knew many, many more of his grandfathers’ names. The walls were covered.
Deramo felt a sickening thud to his chest and prayed to God for forgiveness of his arrogance and that of his fellow-mankind. Yuta could recite the names of one hundred of his grandfathers as well as their titles, status and connection within the Alliances. The mathematics eluded Deramo but he used sticks, sketches in the sand, and pictures to help him. He looked up at Yuta in amazement. Yuta and all his Tribes could recite their lineage equal to the time of the Romans.
He was growing tired, but Yuta’s body swelled with pride. He saw the comprehension in his newest child. He had delivered a full grown Silver Hair infused with the complex and intricate natures of The People, their Belief systems, their ancestries, their numbers, and the delicate balance of the Earth upon the Turtles.
“Deramo, I wish to adopt you as a son of Algonkin People,” Yuta announced. Deramo was pleased as he deeply wanted to stay with Yuta and his family. He had no further interest in oceans, ships, royal courts, or idiotic gossip.
“My Teacher, I would feel great honor in accepting. I would live my life in the Way of your People for all my days.”
“Exactly.” Yuta thought. He began to build a sweat lodge of bark and mud near the lake edge. They worked together while practicing the initiation songs.
Great Spirit, Great Wisdom
We call upon you to bring
This One from your soil
Into your Being
See this one as your own
We offer our plea in humility.
The two fasted for a day, singing all the chants necessary. The swaying rhythm was hypnotic and Deramo saw himself at the Wall of Bones touching the massive spiked tusks. He felt no pain as Yuta used a small stone awl to etch a spiral shell into Deramo’s shoulder. He filled the carving with a mix of henna and marigold, for coloring and disinfectant. Deramo had expected far worse.
As they turned back to the east, Yuta spoke softly, he seemed tired or sad. “Deramo, I will help you return to your own people across the sea so that you can tell them of the Nations here. Tell them of our Ways and that the White Face is not welcome here. If they come here, the Water Ghosts will destroy their ships.”
“Father, no. No. I cannot leave my new home. How I make long journey alone without provisions? How I possibly make new tall ship and sail unaided?” He could not comprehend life without his Teacher, his Father, his spirit. He worried that his log book was insufficient to explain the details and structure of this vast and varied people. How could he describe that the Center Land must be kept unspoiled from Europeans or else all people on all the Lands could die from misuse?
Yuta was uncharacteristically distant as they strode rapidly along the water’s edge. He had gathered hemlock into a tightly sealed bag for fermentation. He hummed a chant in preparation for his final day with Deramo. He could not return to his people. He had broken every law of his trade and of the Nations; he might carry Sickness. His sons were well versed in the mission. Already, they may have lowered the sails of a Ship into the dark ocean. He did not have a purpose for living.
As they traveled deeper into the interior of the Land, Deramo saw more species of animals and plants than he could have imagined. He labored to remember their names and purposes. He created a log book of sorts, pressing leaves and flowers between birch parchment, sketching names with the end of a bird feather in ash.
Although Yuta felt this displayed a little progress, Deramo still bumbled about in the woods like a bear dizzy from wild mushrooms. It would not suffice. He must learn to race through grass, underbrush and trees as fast as a deer and quiet as the pika. This mass of leaves and flowers he carried about in his pack was weighing him down.
A game of hide and seek was called for, just like parents used with their youth. Yuta signaled, “Watch me. I will hide like a ringed squirrel. Come. Find me.”
Deramo watched as Yuta disappeared into the rocks and hickory trees. For a long, terrified time, he searched but could not find him, even though Yuta left tracks obvious enough for a child of seven winters: broken twigs, rolled rocks, imprints. Deramo feared he had committed an offense to the Spirit and abandonment was excruciating to him; near tears, he knelt to the carpeted forest floor and began the chant of apology. Yuta appeared instantly, he did not want any noise so close to the hunters. Together they retraced his steps for Deramo and they played the game again exactly. “When you walk, Deramo, put feet on hard rock, not mud. Do not place your scent on the bush or tree or big rocks so that the bear and the dog can hunt you. This Land receives the same treatment as a sacred temples of the South Tribes.”
“Now, you try to hide from me.” Yuta smeared foul mud and ash on white hands and face. Otherwise it would be too easy. “Go. Go!” It took many tries before Deramo could run, not damage any leaves, slink low under a small rock wall, hold still with his breath shallow even though his lungs burst for air, and disappear even for a few minutes.
The lesson was invaluable and both knew it. One day warriors, bears, lynx, dogs, even children might see them and chase them. Together they rested on ledges above the villages and observed the individual behaviors of the many Tribes. So many questions. Deramo wondered, why did Yuta not descend into the wigwam rings and introduce them both to his People?
Dogs roamed freely among the villagers. They stayed near families and never seemed interested in venturing off into the woods. The People seemed highly dependent on them. They were watchers, load carriers, playmates, sometimes suppers. Occasionally, the dogs howled with the cries from the deep forests; Yuta responded and imitated the call exactly. “It keeps the Others from approaching us,” Yuta rationalized but it chilled Deramo into his spine.
Yuta had questions too. “Does the Far Away Land hold many dogs, deer, bison, beaver?”
Deramo shook his head sadly. Most wildlife had already been hunted to extinction or replaced by domestic animals. “We own pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, cattle, or horses.”
Yuta was confused. He did not know these words. “Own? What does own mean? Draw, these animals, my son.”
Deramo drew pictures of the penned, domesticated animals of Europa for Yuta, explaining that they were all raised for food and clothing in confinement. Yuta smiled at him in his paternal way, artistry must be uncommon among the White Faces.
The sketches of animals troubled him. The White Faces did not hunt but restrained the beasts. The horse in particular interested him. He knew of a beast much like this with shaggy hair. “The runners from the place of the Incas say they have a big dog with much hair on which the People place their packs. Deramo, do Silver Hats carry these animals on the big ships?”
He turned to see Deramo’s blurry gape, “Yuta, the smaller animals are used on ships for food. How did you know of this? How many Dark Gho—I mean, Guardians of the Seas exist?” Yuta, looked away. He was thinking about horses.
Hiding deep in tall grass, they were observing life in an Ottawa village. Yuta wanted to show Deramo the members of this family.
“Captain Deramo, tell me about horses.”
Deramo tried in a mix of languages, signs and drawings. “Across the Waters in all the Places live many very big dogs, so big that people sit on them. Giant dog eat maize and tame like deer. Horses valuable and have been for all the years of my People. People use to carry heavy objects. They tie two or more together and use like dogs. Some pull very small house behind. My people enjoy riding races, where horses go fast to win competitions. The small carts have wheels like……”
“Yuta!” Deramo hissed softly under his teeth like the long snake as he had been taught. Among the children, Deramo clearly detected a child with long white hair, bleached bright by the sun. Her face was tanned but still white, he could see her eyes were blue-green as the sea. One of the other children tormented her, tugging at her snowy braids.
A village grandmother halted the behavior with a sharp shout, a gesture to all the children, and a thump on the miscreant’s head. He searched Yuta’s face for an answer. He wanted to run and talk his own language with her. Yuta shackled his ankle with the grip of a lion. This is the family he had wished Deramo to see but did not expect this reaction.
“No. No! The child does not know your speaking words. She knows only the words of these tipis.”
They watched and listened as the Grandmother settled the children with a long story of the creation of beasts with the older children acting out the animals. Deramo gawked at the old woman. Perhaps the life of a Native aged people rapidly, but she appeared to be 70 years, maybe older. He knew better than to ask. Yuta’s view of long periods of time was rather circular.
Yuta’s voice was nearly indiscernible from the soughing lea wind. “The child of white braids is in the lineage of the Old Mother. Do you see the common weave of their headbands to signify their relationship?” Soon, her daughters, and the granddaughters of daughters and joined her, all with a shimmer of gold like the sun in their hair.
Yuta fought salt tears from his eyes. The Old Mother could be his own; she still lived within his district and was a great Seer with high status. “Very few have long lives. The responsibilities of warriors, sentinels, hunters shorten the lives of men. Child rearing reduces the winters of women. Only a few Shamans live to the age of this Grandmother.”
Deramo was insistent on more explanations,
“How white hair child come live among People?”
Instead of the difficult concepts regarding the white children holding back the Breath of Sickness or the survival of the strongest, Yuta chose an ear of corn from his pack.
“Look, Deramo, nearly all kernels are blue, red, black, but there, in the center is a yellow kernel, all from the same ear of maize. And again, nearly, all the dogs are dark as the bear, but one is the soft color of a yarrow flower. So the Mother choses.” He placed his palm on Deramo’s chest and swept his arms to show the whole Land. Deramo agreed. Here he was a white face surviving in a Land of the People. As he flattened the dark kernels into his log book, an idea, not unlike the one Yuta once had, formed in his mind.
It was too much for Deramo. He had so many questions for which they lacked common words. He tried with mixed speech the two shared. “How many Nations? How many People? How many languages spoken? And how big this island?”
Yuta laughed deeply in his throat with a low rumble. To answer all four questions, Yuta drew two handfuls of dust and swept the grains into the wind with a wide motion onto the lake below. “The Peoples of the Nations are as many as the sands under the sea.”
Yuta attempted many lessons in the flow of moons and suns. Today he wished to show Deramo stealth in mammoth grass when hunting.
“Dde Rramoo! Our moccasins move quietly on the Mother Earth.” Yuta dramatized motions of moving extra quietly as if he was hunting. Or being hunted. “We must ask permission to step on flowers and use the trees, for the spirits of Ancestors live within them.” Deramo stared. He didn’t catch one single bit of that tutorial.
Yuta offered the lesson in a giant stand of grass that stretched in all directions. It was impossible to see over the top of the grass as high as two persons.
“The mammoth once lived on this land. The huge beasts were the rulers of all this land and their numbers were many.” He drew pictures of a giant beast next to a deer, displaying the immense curved tusks. He carried the tip of such an animal tusk in his canoe, as a way to carry fire embers and as a prying tool to tear foreign ships apart. Deramo shook his head and rubbed his growing beard. He could not comprehend, though he had heard of and seen drawings of elephants. Perhaps it was one of Yuta’s spirit stories. Yuta was getting discouraged and left off with the lesson. He would show Deramo a Wall of Bones on their journey.
The opportunity for teaching by example was afforded Yuta at every turn. Late in this day, they came across an immense field of ripening black berries. Deramo laughed loudly with joy and fell greedily onto the fruits, stuffing his face like an infant. A single glare stopped him mid mouthful.
Yuta’s face was stern and near anger.
“No. This is incorrect conduct. Here is your berry pouch. Only a few berries are picked from each stem, the others left. Then, One moves on to the next bush.”
“What?” Still weak with the hunger of his ocean trip. Deramo found the concept intoleratable. His brush with starvation and extreme scurvy made him insatiable for fruits.
“No. Me all eat. Bad hurt hunger.” He continued to consume every ripe berry.
Yuta sat on his haunches, thinking. This was the characteristic of the Silvers most feared by the Elders. White Faces lacked self-control. When they hunted, Deramo wanted three rabbits. When they chopped down a tree for shelter or fire, Deramo tried to take two, side by side.
Yuta knew it was time to give the warning that he wished Deramo to take back to Land with Too Many Peoples.
“It is the way of our People,” he tirelessly explained, “we take only one. One for the People, one is left for Brother Bear, one for Brother Beaver, one for our son’s sons. If we take all, there will be none left for those behind us.” He drew pictures. He gestured. He signed. He spoke their common words. Deramo failed to comprehend even the basics.
“Who eat? Place of no people here. We lone here big island.”
Yuta was feeling tension that he had not experienced before. His children and those in the village were compliant with Elders. If he could not make this white man see the simple rules, he would have to abandon him to the Forest Spirits.
The opportunity always presented itself in Nature’s way. For the first time, the two encountered a group. They came upon a small tribal group of women walking into a forested area. Yuta motioned to his mouth then the hunting sign: Stop. Silence. Do not move any part of your body. Yuta showed Deramo how to breathe without noise.
Deramo could barely breathe from the shock as he saw the first women and children of Turtle Island slowly emerge from the tall grass. In silence, the men sat motionless. Women appeared to dig small holes with a stick, pick up clumps while children placed them in sacks. Then, using a long tool, they cleaned up all the needles from an area of the forest floor. As sunset came on, the group began a familiar song as they walked toward their tipis.
Our thanks, our thanks
To the forest for this food
We hope we have been
Kind to all the spirits of trees
Our thanks, our thanks
Over a cold supper, Yuta tried again. “These were Ottawa from the East. When you look where the women have been, the forest is not disturbed. Only one sick tree was taken to allow more sun through the trees. Needles and pine cones were removed from the forest floor, dead limbs were taken from spruce, scrub oak was removed. Seeds of the strongest trees were placed into the soil as an offering. We take one or two, not three or four.” Yuta would say the phrase over and over in all the languages they came to share.
Deramo was still recovering from seeing more People. “People of you blood? Why no greet?” he stumbled along in a mix of Micmac and Spanish. “Why no take trees more?” He felt in his heart it was a foolish way to utilize the bountiful resources.
As a cooling sunset sparkled reds across a pristine pond and a few brown trout jumped from icy water, the answer arrived. A small herd of deer grazed in the tended forest. Deramo peeked over at his Teacher. Yuta had fully expected the herd and had made no fire.
Almost as quietly as autumn breezes, Yuta murmured, “The herd follows the women, knowing that they provide a soft carpet of green grass by raking it clean of needles.”
Deramo deciphered about every sixth word. The wild deer had been tamed! If one was hungry, one could simply reach out and grab them all. Deramo drew in air to ask questions. Yuta spoke with his hands.
Three hunters crawled low behind the deer. Deramo could read their signals. With effort so small that other deer were scarcely aware, men snared and silenced two that loitered near the back of the herd. As quietly as they came, the men disappeared sharing the weight of two deer.
“One or two, not three or four.”
Yuta’s choice of displaying Turtle Island to a Silver Hat had begun before he had a chance to bring it before the Council. He wanted to show this man-child the Ways and send him back to his own place across the water with a message, a moral, and a warning. The Central Land was full of potent, resilient Peoples with close relationships to the Spirits of the animals, rocks, leaves. They would walk the Great Lakes unto the muddy giant river which bounded the flat lands.
Over two days, Deramo gradually gained strength and a few words of Yuta’s language. He followed him as a child, mimicking his movements. Yuta was accustomed to such shadowing from his children but they seemed to have learned faster, kept up better, and identified toxic plants sooner. The White One didn’t even respond to his own name.
“Use caution! That is poison oak, not firewood oak!” Yuta heard his voice nearing a shout. Perhaps, he should switch to shorter phrases and more general words, as if this was a new child. It would not do at all to be discovered.
Deramo leapt backwards at the sound of Yuta’s voice echoing across the rock rimmed bay. He couldn’t see what he had done wrong now. He always seemed to be stepping too close to one tiny plant or another. He realized he had not formulated a plan for communication with any natives. The Court astrologers and cartographers had agreed with Her Royal Majesty the Queen, the big center island was lined with gold but held no humans.
Yuta sat on the soft carpet grass. “Reamo, look, bad plant. Sickness.” He was moving his hands very slowly. Gently, he took Deramo’s hands and repeated the motion.
Deramo stared at him, asking, “Are you saying this plant is poison and causes pain?”
Yuta nodded agreement. He knew many foreign words of the Far Away Land. “Yah, bad. Sick.” He held his own stomach.
Now on to wild strawberries. “Good. Eat.” Yuta felt ridiculous. This was a woman’s task, usually the village Old Mothers.
Deramo warily nibbled a strawberry, “Delicious! Excellent!”
Yuta repeated “Yah. Bird berry good food.” He used signals with words. Deramo reached for a second helping. Yuta stopped his grasp gently, showing that he wished to hear the words repeated.
As they strolled, Yuta concentrated on his prayers, begging the Spirits to help him teach this new child. Deramo warmed to the rhythm of the chants and how they fit into the day. But he was acutely aware of the condition of his clothing and the pains from sharp rocks on his tender feet. He was embarrassed but lacked any capacity to discuss it.
Yuta easily read the nature of the problems. He had examined the lad’s feet as he lay in the canoe. They looked like the feet of an infant. He had mistakenly thought the boy’s pelt was sufficient for warmth and sun protection. He decided to just keep talking, inserting White Face words as he worked.
“This is the cleansing ritual before I hunt.” Taking Deramo’s hands, he guided the motions, drew pictures, pointed to their feet, repeated the words in Micmac dialect, and what he hoped was Deramo’s white language.
He swept fragrant lemon grass along their limbs to hide human scent and purify the mind. “This is sweet sour grass. The small deer cannot detect us now.” He hoped with intensity only the rocks were watching him. He sang:
Spirit of the small deer.
One of your brothers
Is in need.
I give your spirit to the wind
Help us that we might
One day give back to you.
He sighed a little. That was the chant of a child of five summers. He hoped the Spirit was not offended and wished he could take back his rash actions. Deramo moved to the atonal tune. It seemed to lack a melody but he was learning some syllables. He could hum along and utter a few words by the third repetition.
By nightfall, Deramo was wearing a simple skin robe with matching insulated foot coverings and eating fresh roasted meat. He felt the power of the deer muscles entering his weak body and he attempted the universal signs and local tongue. He was certain he sounded like a child but Yuta was making attempts to teach him, he wanted to try.
“Hunt. Meat. Feet. No pain. Strong.”
Yuta made the necessary corrections. Then he, in turn, attempted the simple words in the tongue of Silver Hats. He knew these words well. Shock registered along Deramo’s face. Who was this Person? How was it that he was now conversing in two languages with the Man who tried to kill him? The realization of his personal needs worried Deramo, too. Was this Native a mind reader? How could he tell that clothing and fresh meat were needed?
Although he was accustomed to this mispronunciation of his name, it bothered him each time. He was feeling braver now since his rescue had been a week or two ago, enough to make a slight correction to his benefactor. He bowed his eyes in honor. Tapped his chest.
Yuta’s face filled with hot blood. This was no ship creature or child. He had offended the lineage of a man by not saying the family name correctly. He lowered his eyes in shame and then anger, why did not the Other tell him immediately? He reminded himself, this was a mere youth in a strange and perhaps frightening land.
The letters were difficult to put together but he practiced many times, checking the white man’s face for clarification.
“derro? ddrammo? de rrrramo?”
Both men were elated. They had corrected a misunderstanding between them without conflict. They had an argument and simply agreed to further their educations. Yuta held both his hands along Deramo’s arms.
“This is how we show peace and cooperation among the Nations.”
“Friendship.” De Ramo agreed. And he smiled his best European toothy grin.