Back from a hike one afternoon in the foothills of the Champlain Basin, where from a perch I’d seen the vast valley with is massive lake and its myriad rivers emptying into it, I came upon a message, written in the yellow pollen dust on my volvo: it read “Dream Local.”
That evening I lay down to rest on the windy lake shore, by the wide mouth of the Winooski River. The river delivered the snow-melt, creeks, and streams from the Green Mountains to the east. Consider then the old Abenaki people, for whom the seasonal dance between lake and river, valley and mountain, was a sort of cyclical, climatic tide– down to shores for a fishing summer, up mountain hollows for a hunting autumn, down valley floor for a long-house winter, up the slopes for a maple syrup spring– all backed by the nourishment the three-sisters gardens would bring.
I drifted to dream. A great being, Odzihozo to Abenaki, appeared– makes himself from nothing, but fails to give himself legs. Wanders a flat ash forest, drags himself along with tremendous hands that carve up the land. I stand on a small hill– he narrowly misses me as he rips off the side, leaves behind a u-shaped valley and a new stream– it immediately roars to life with waterfalls and fish and fowl.
A creative geographer, he crawls, gouges and scrapes, sculpts valleys and ridges, cliff- lined drainages, – I watch my homeland taking shape. Tired, he sits in the center, sinks down, the rivers rise around him…becomes a stone island in an azure lake, ringed by mountains. Eons of stillness bear witness.
He calls me. On his rocky lap I sit: watch the waves of my ancestors come carve– mountains cleared of trees, rivers dammed and wetlands drained– fracking planned and pipe-lines laid.
He turns to me, and in stone-speak says: “I am with you in the backhoe, in the shovel, in the plow– but you’ve wielded these tools too carelessly. Your destruction lacks life’s creativity. I beg of you: do better, or leave. I’ll carve again after you’re gone.”
And I awoke, at dawn, beside a set of turtle tracks in the sand. “Dream Local,” they read. I looked at my hands.