A black iron hook hangs like a long letter s, and swings empty in the morning wind. It used to support my red hummingbird feeder. Once the bees realized the birds were gone, they greedily sucked down the remaining nectar. Swatting at bees on my own porch is not my idea of a pleasurable walk out the back door so I removed the feeder and its buzzing crew to the garden where I know many bees live.
When the nectar is gone, I’ll reclaim the feeder, wash it and wait for hummingbirds to return next spring.
This is a transition of seasons, and migration has begun. Three days ago the pine trees twittered like a bird sanctuary. Pine siskins, cedar waxwings, sparrows. All on the move. By the time I returned with my camera, it was silent. The Hub watched a goshawk nail a migrating bird. Those wily predators know to watch the passageways we humans don’t even notice above our roads and rails and rivers.
How unlike the birds and animals are we? Migration is their season, not ours. We put away the lawn chairs, harvest the garden, split the wood and hunker down for winter. That’s if you live in the country of the northern hemisphere. Our city counterparts prepare with state fairs and back to school sales on notebooks and shoes. The southern hemisphere is awakening to pupae and blooms and concerns for dry weather conditions.
Our fires in northern Idaho are taking a pounding from the rain. Australia is anticipating its own fire season. I wonder if the Aussie and Yankee crew bosses will exchange phone numbers before the Australians go home.
There is a human resiliency to the places we’ve selected to settle down and homestead. The survivors of hardships are the ones that plow the earth and seek the water. Subsistence farming is not necessary in our modern world of grocery stores and gourmet food found on Amazon. Yet still I dig, not as deep as those who came before me, but I still grow food out of dirt and water.
The Hub and I watched a movie that showed what our homesteading farmers were made of. Grit and simple values. If you’ve not yet seen, “The Water Diviner,” do. It’s not an easy movie; it follows the lives of characters after the Battle of Gallipoli, yet it beautifully unfolds the complex relationships between Australia, Great Britain and Turkey. It’s easy to make such a story one of war or blame, but “The Water Diviner” is about seeking what is lost, and what we share across cultures.
The opening scene is that of a hardy farmer with a talent to divine water in the Australian Outback. He finds the spot and digs. And digs. And digs. At last, he strikes water that begins to fill up his well. The trouble is, he doesn’t know where his three sons are buried. Many who enlisted to fight in the Great War were killed in action at Gallipoli and ended up in unmarked graves.
“Water Diviner” is also a story about a Turkish widow who believes her husband could still be alive. She’s a modern woman, running a hotel and raising her young son with pressure from her brother-in-law to be one of his many wives. The movie follows the Australian farmer, but we see multiple perspectives from all sides impacted by war and displacement.
Maybe we aren’t so different from the birds after all. For thousands of years we have migrated. The Australian farmer was not a native of that continent; the Ottoman Empire that once conquered was in turn conquered and divided; Americans came from around the world and pushed all the way to the frontier; and today, nations grapple with the issue of migrants.
War, famine, desire to improve the life of one’s family – the same reasons birds move. Hawks pressure little birds out of areas. Wetlands go dry and birds seek new homes. Osprey show up every year in Sandpoint because of the same reason the Californians do – it’s beautiful here in summer and the houses are big and overlook vast waterways.
Have we ever truly stopped moving? How do we decide that movement is shut down just because we like where we have settled and too bad if other people have not been so lucky? What about traditional migrations, such as Mexican workers to pick California fruit before returning to Mexico? Why can’t they stay in land the US grabbed (pardon my political incorrectness, I meant to say “compromised”) from Californios in 1850?
Too complicated of questions to answer easily, but ones I ponder as I watch the cycle of migration unfold in nature and read about the plights of human migrants barred or banned from moving.
My mind shifts to what cross-cultural interaction brings us. I’m fascinated by water divining and have been told by a real diviner that I have the ability. I still have the willow witching stick he cut for me from the fork of a red willow. I know not where this tradition began but I see it has spanned time and the globe. How many other foods, books and traditions do I posses because of my own ancestors migrations and that of those I live among?
We think we are so secure in our boundaries. Like birds, we still seek wisdom in moving to a better place, and like bees we take advantage of shelter or a food source another group left behind.
September 2, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the interaction of a migrant culture on the place of migration. It can be the reverse, too such as a migrant picking up on local customs. The idea is to explore exchanges.
Respond by September 8, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Finding a Job in 1884 by Charli Mills
Brackish water plagued the settlement.
The stranger with a red beard pushed aside his cup of brown water. He ate boiled potatoes in silence among murmurs of Italian in the dining tent.
The foreman approached. “No jobs here. Move out after your meal.”
The stranger nodded; same greeting from camp to camp. Cheap labor in Washington Territory came from new migrants and no boss wanted a Metis from across the border.
Leaving, he paused, pulled out a forked willow and walked until the point plunged. “Dig here.”
The foreman smiled. “Wait. If there’s fresh water, you’ve got a job.”
Good topic, Charli! Here’s mine!
Conquering the North with a Pie
By Paula Moyer
Jean’s grad-school move from Oklahoma to Minnesota – three months old.
Thanksgiving was coming up. In 1975, pecan pie in Minnesota was a rarity. The trees flourished in Oklahoma; Jean’s mother sent freshly shelled pecans from her backyard tree.
Dinner invitation from a married classmate. Did she dare?
Jean bussed to the store with a list, juggled bags and pie pan on the way back. She commandeered the kitchen on her dorm room floor. Pop can for a rolling pin.
The smell of Jean’s wafted into the house before her. The kitchen-gathered friends rotated toward the aroma. Stood and applauded.
Wonderful story Paula. It wasn’t all that long ago was it that grocery items we take for granted now were still regional specialties. I showed up in ND in 1987 with a bag of California avocados. My relatives passed them around till they turned to mush. They’d never seen let alone tasted one. Kudos to Jean for “turning her hosts on” to a new gastronomic experience.
Even in Idaho I can’t get a “real” California avocado, thought they are in the store! But the Peach Man sells peaches picked ripe in near-by orchards and nothing beats their flavor. Love eating regional, locally-grown food.
Thank you, Jeanne! Great image of the ND folks feeling up the avacadoes.
Ha, ha! That is a great way to conquer and to make friends! I think food is a wonderful way to break down barriers. Love the detail of using a pop can for a rolling pin. Now is it a “pop” can because it’s a Midwestern term? Out west we’d call it a soda or coke can. What would it be in Oklahoma? And in real-life, I have sampled the famous Paula Moyer Pecan Pie, a new thing to this westerner who grew up on berry and pumpkin pies. So good! 😀
Thanks, Charli! This flash is definitely a hybrid of real-life events. I’ve never used a pop can for a rolling pin, either — just thought it sounded good. I think it’s a pop can in Oklahoma, too.
Love it! Love pecan pie, so anything goes with that. The ability of food to melt hearts and grow friendships is remarkable. You have told a story of new beginnings. I also like the image of a pop can rolling pin. There’s a wonderful marketing idea. Imaginative new designs for rolling pins. Why do they need to be plain?
Great story about bringing a piece of home into new environments. “home” means different things to everyone. I’m glad Jean was able to share what was home to her.
Thank you Sarah!
Really love the prompt this week Charli. Migration is a rich vein to tap…what shall we divine? Your movie suggestion sounds great and is now on my Netflix list. In a comment to someone recently I mentioned another movie called Sweet Land, which takes place in Minnesota farmland post World War 1. A love story between a Norwegian farmer and his mail order German bride, but also a paean to the land, the connections that form over generations, the responsibility on the current generation to sustain it. Anyway, migration…it’s the story of us all. We should remember that when we read with a distance-buffered horror what so many of our fellow human beings are suffering now. Thanks as always for provoking thoughts that lie at our deepest cores.
I will look for Sweet Land, sounds about right for the focus on connecting to both the land and our migrant roots. How easily we forget that we migrated here, too. We think others should stop because we feel settled. And we don’t always realize what we gain from migration, ours or that of others. You are so right, distance is a buffer, time or proximity. I hope we get some deep insights from the core!
My migrant-impact story, Manicured Invader ( http://goo.gl/m9AdqF ) is perhaps different than expected. Sure made an impact on my life, though!
To be honest, I’m not sure what to expect from all you talented, creative, free-thinking writers! But that’s part of the fun. To see where other minds wander. Just your title reminds me of the foot-shaming I once received from a slender, soft-fingered man from Taiwan who ran a nail shop. He was so fussy over my calloused feet. If only he could see them now, after a summer of barefoot gardening! I think he’d faint. But I did learn how to scrub my heels from his tutoring. We can share so much and easily forget we even learned it from another cultural perspective.
Thoughtful prompt, Charli. I would love to write something but my mind is on the major rewrite of my third book and trying to keep up with email. Sorry I haven’t visited much – time seems to run through my fingers! The Water Diviner is on our list of movies to watch since it is now on pay per view!
I know about that sense of slipping time! Wishing you the best with your rewrite! Thanks for stopping by!
[…] http://carrotranch.com/2015/09/03/september-2-flash-fiction-challenge/ […]
Adapting to a new country could be dicey. Gregorio did
what he knew how to do and that was to hawk his services.
Through the neighborhoods of the borough of Queens,
New York. He walked his wooden wheelbarrow, sharpened
knives and fixed umbrellas – door to door. He fed his family
through the depression that way. In this strange new world
where the streets weren’t paved with gold or honey.
The newspaper thought it would make a good story.
Immigrant makes good. Grandfather did not accept handouts.
Earning the right to make a home for his growing family.
Based on fact. Honest merchants did hawk their services.
They didn’t need to knock on doors. The communities they
served knew to be ready when the wagons, pushed or horse
drawn made their circular routes throughout the neighborhoods.
Be it tinker, tradesman, or produce vendor. They didn’t have to
compete with that much automobile traffic, seventy or eighty
years ago. Skilled craftsmen and farmers with good produce
were a valuable asset and coming to your door, priceless.
Language wasn’t always necessary when you had symbols to
show what you did and posted prices that were fair or could
barter for goods. Immigration done legally within the laws of
whatever country one chooses to belong to, should be respected.
You can also visit the post here:
A great concept to do what one can do. I think this is impeded today by regulations and insurance. And I know what you mean about language not having to be understood. Communication can happen prior to that.
I really liked how you blended your own history with your flash. There is something to be noted when one uses their innate talents. I knew someone whose grandfather was (forgive me I do not remember the correct word other than a) healer. The gal believed she might possess some of that healing skill but wasn’t fully utilize her talents – maybe being brought up with too many modern attitudes? At least that’s what she thought.
There is something about these innate talents. I was just discussing with a distant cousin who is also researching the Rock Creek incident of 1862. We are both related to the man shot and killed that day, Cob Mccanles. We were discussing passion for music. Cob was a fiddle player, but something more than someone who played tunes. He was really into music as so many of his descendants are. Except me and my cousin! But we both are drawn to the same music in reference to this story and created similar itune play lists for it. It’s eerie! Modern attitudes might explain away coincidences or talents like healing or divining, yet they seem to follow the generations, acknowledged or not.
Some talents may skip a generation. Others – well if the family isn’t in ‘tune’ may stifle or shame the talent.
I had a relative who had a good eye, a sharpshooter. But I rarely touch much less own any firearms.
I’ll have to check out the Rock Creek Incident.
Rock Creek is my WIP, based on the first man “Wild Bill” Hickok ever shot — my 4th-great grandmother’s brother, David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles. Anything you find online will be inaccurate. To begin with, a writer for Harper’s Weekly (think National Enquirer) interviewed James Butler Hickok after the Civil War when he came to notoriety for his pistol dual with Dave Tutt. The writer who interviewed him completely exploited the Rock Creek affair and turned Cobb into a blood-thirsty killer and leader of the McCanles Gang. After that came a bunch of historians who still couldn’t get it right. Joseph Rosa, Hickok’s contemporary biographer (and who sadly, died this last January) portrays a more accurate look at Rock Creek, but it remains the second most disputed gunfight in America (after the Ok Corral). The site has even been archeologically preserved and is a Nebraska State Park. What no one has considered are the roles of the three women involved. And that’s my WIP! The incident from their perspective with a revelation of a never before considered theory. If you are interested, there’s Episode 3 of Legends & Lies about Hickok and it’s the most recent interpretation. I spoke with one of the writers but again, the producers wanted to show Cob as a villain. It’s the only way people can make sense of the incident — Cob had to be bad. But it was more complex and surprising than that. My cousin is writing a play to be performed (he’s a theater professor and playwright) and he’s looking at the incident from the perspective of Cob’s 10-year old son who was a witness that day. Fair warning, if you want to look into the incident you might get sucked into the vortex as I have! 😉
Wow. I have goosebumps from that trailer. I’m watching it. (And anticipating many tears…)
Okay, a challenging prompt this week. I know I’ve said that before but… I’ll see what I can do. Great post and flash, as always, Charli. <3
We actually watched the movie again after it ended! And prepare for tears throughout. 10 minutes into the movie and I was already weeping. Thanks!
Great post and flash as usual Charli, but stop making me thing about stuff!
I was conceived in war. Soiled in fear and raised in hate. I lay in the dark. In the trunks of cars. The hills of Honduras. Slung over a shoulder in the stifling heat of Mexico. In your neighbor’s closet.
I speak a universal language: Violence. Money. Desolate villages in the hills. Drug lords. Gangs. Government. I know no customs. Where there is man I thrive. I skitter across borders. Between laws and under the loopholes. I even go to school.
Every day we migrate. Millions of us. Millions of dollars, pesos, lempiras. Kilos and ounces.
Millions of children.
Yep, thinking can be annoying. 😉
But then we get to learn and maybe change things.
Even one life at a time.
Looking at this again I hope it’s obvious enough, that my migrate is an assault rifle
Ach, didn’t get that on first reading, but nevertheless found it moving – it’s the tightness of the prose. Brilliant.
Ah… that helps. Humans and their weapons… Thanks.
It’s the vicious cycle of inspiration — you make me think of stuff and I return the favor! 😀
You must have thought deeply to pull this one out of the well. Your flash hits at the core of migration, especially in America.
Powerful words and images.
So often we see situations where people need to learn local customs in order to put down roots. Survival in a new environment and acceptance by those who live there may mean giving up some cultural traditions to embrace new ones.
By Ann Edall-Robson
A month with her aging Aunt who had no television, no internet, no mall and no cell service. What was she thinking?
She had arrived with none of skills necessary to survive in this woman’s lifestyle. Food, clothes and entertainment came from a store!
Now she could bake her favourite gingersnaps; and her Aunt had taught her to sew. Together, they worked on a Friendship Star quilt.
She balked at milking the cow. Her Aunt was patient and so was the cow.
The wise, gentle woman had changed her life. It would be hard to leave her newfound friend.
New customs can be as foreign as milking a cow for most these days! It makes me wonder about those who have many journeys in their migrations such as from Russia to Germany to NYC to North Dakota. Friends and customs made along the way.
Many adverse changes were part of the journey that WWII War Brides had to endure as well. Leaving the comfort of a home life and family to travel across the sea to what? Some migrated to cities, some to the bald prairie and some got back on the boat to return to their homeland.
I imagine many wanted to escape the proximity of the war and its bombs, but had no idea what life would be like in Canada.
Glad you’ve got rain at last, Charli, and loved your flash. So often the skills of migrants can be overlooked because of the need to fit into another culture.
Having addressed the tragedy of the current migration crisis in Europe in last week’s Flash, I’m chipping in with something lighter this week:
(although the review it’s paired with is of quite a serious book).
Still wondering if mine will work beyond the UK, so I hope people will let me know if it doesn’t.
Meant to add, re your interest in water divining, have you read The Diviners by Margaret Laurence?
Not yet! On my TBR list!
Rain and now snow on some of the higher elevation fires. So welcomed! You might say I was inspired by your flash and Geoff’s post last week, then we watched the Water Diviner and my mind pondered all of it as i watched the bird migration begin. I like the humor of your flash this week!
Wonderful, Anne! It made me think of the Billy Connolly skits about eating spicy food. I saw Connolly perform once in LA, and your FF made me flash on his opening to a joke.
He told the mostly-Californian audience that he was going to talk about fine Scottish cuisine: curry. He looked a bit baffled when there were only scattered laughs (a loud one from me and my spouse, of course).
He had to pull out a reference to haggis to get the audience going.
I don’t think I’ve seen that Billy Connolly piece but he’s absolutely right that chicken tikka masala originated in Scotland (probably Glasgow but I’d needed to check that one) – and though I am not carnivore myself I don’t know where we’d be without it. Another joke about Scottish cuisine is the deep-fried Mars bar – not something I’m keen to try either.
Great topic! I can’t help but think of the refugee migration in Europe, a migration of people. Maybe when I can think more clearly I’ll write about that. My story today comes much closer to home, though, to the change that can come with a phone call. (Hopefully soon I’ll be able to reveal more about the phone call, but I’m not quite ready to share just yet.)
I hope this topic does continue to prompt us all to think about the many ways migration impacts us. It’s not “their” story, but ours. Look forward to learning more from you on this phone call when you are ready!
Oh, that’s tantalising, Sarah – hoping this leads to a positive migration.
[…] week’s Carrot Ranch Prompt is about migration. With a topic like that, I can’t help but think of the terrible ordeals […]
Charli, your beautiful posts always provide so much to ponder, and inspire our imaginations as we consider the beauty of your words and your heart. Your ability to draw on the lessons of nature and find firm fixings for them in humankind is remarkable.
I have watched the “Water Diviner” and thoroughly enjoyed it. Seeing the connections made between those from “opposing” sides was heartwarming; but it made me wonder why these sides must exist. I read a beautify quote about being connected this week that I will probably share in my response.
The story in your flash tells of the hardship of dislocation and difference. I hope he finds fresh water! I feel the hope, nay certainty, in your words.
I wonder will you try divining water with your willow stick. You are an expert word diviner with your writing stick!
I found the same thing heart-warming about the movie — the connections and ability of the movie to show humanity on all sides. I suppose we feel the need to have sides in the first place to justify actions. I also see this week where many altruistic people or companies are donating huge sums to European migrants as if to say we are all on one side. I think the Metis character will find water…and you’ve given me a terrific idea! I’m going to use two pencils to divine a list of agents! It’s strange to divine water where I live because there’s a huge underground lake 100 feet down and the twig quivers. I’d like to try it someplace drier!
i was so pleased to read the end of your sentence about the altruistic people. I thought you were going to say that what was being done was insufficient (it always will be anyway) or for the wrong reasons. I felt heartened by your positivity.
I love your newfound technique for divining divine agents! I hope it’s a successful one.
I’m sure there are plenty of dry places around to make your willow quiver!
I’m looking forward to hearing what springs from the well of your divinations. 🙂
Hello everyone. Another great post and challenge. For my contribution, I took the angle of migrants picking up on (and embracing!) local customs:
Hi Larry! I’m amazed at how easily you slip Ed and Edna into any prompt. They are resilient characters!
In Australia, grits are called something else! If only I could recall…I once hosted a bus tour, a group of farmers from Australia. They wanted to see the organic farms in the American Upper Midwest and the places that sold their products. My co-op catered a reception in our store and then a breakfast buffet the next morning. After I gave a presentation that first evening, an older gentlemen, a bit of a curmudgeon, wanted something with his breakfast that he was so frustrated he couldn’t find in America. After much rounds of guessing, I finally figured out he meant “grits”. I had to laugh and told him we have it; he was just in the wrong part of the US for it!
I have to admit that although I’ve come across grits before, I had to look it up. For me, it would hang on how sloppy it was, though I’ve eaten polenta and sadza in Southern Africa.
It was polenta that the farmer saw on our shelves and he said, like this but for breakfast!
[…] Flash Fiction Challenge for this week at Carrot Ranch. […]
Here you go Charlie. Missed the last couple of challenges; busy in the waning days of summer. The Water Diviner sounds like a great film. Here’s my attempt…
Those last days of summer really slip by fast! I was watering almost every day, and now I need a sweatshirt and my rain hat to check on the garden.
Another fun time at the Ranch. I enjoyed this week’s prompt Charli!
It’s like magic to see language confusion crumble into conversation, but lots of effort on the part of the teacher!
This is a tough topic. Definitely gave me a lot to think about. I’ll be posting my flash tomorrow.
I watched that movie this summer and I thoroughly enjoyed it, in spite of the fact that I’m not a fan of Russell Crowe.
P.S. – my flash will be out of this world 😉
Looking forward to the space odyssey in 99 words!
So I must say I had a lot of difficulty in this one. It was tough to leave what is currently happening behind, so I decided to leave Earth. Hope you enjoy the ride:
It turned into a sort of almost poem.
Also, I just realized my last flash for Carrot Ranch was in July. Shame on me. I’m back to posting regularly now. I have missed the Ranch and all of you.
I wonder if that is at the core of our draw to travel frontiers — to just leave what we know behind; a fresh start? July is when I fell apart, and I’m still trying to pick up my own pieces. Your post with your declarations of what you are re-committing to inspired me this weekend. I pondered all weekend then used the holiday yesterday to create my own weekly list meant to get me back on track and balance my weeks in a productive way. So, thank you for helping me! No shame at all. Rough Writers need their down time, too and all writers go through these cycles, trying to feed the inspiration, coax the output and make it through the day. I’m grateful we have a collective space where we can write (or not). 🙂
Glad to be able to inspire. The post was more for me than anything else. I had been meaning to get back to a regular schedule for a while and I just couldn’t so I thought a public declaration will get the job done. I feel back on schedule. Sometimes just a snap is enough, you know.
I think travel, as with pretty much anything, is fuelled by our innate curiosity and need to know. Now that we know much more about the world and other places, we want to experience them for ourselves. We want to learn about other people, other cultures. We’re curious to know what life is like in other places. And then when we experience that, we want to know more.
Thank you, Charli, for being here. It means a lot.
Yes, we do want to experience it! Although far too many want to stay how and not see past their own borders. Thank you for several inspirations here!
[…] In response to Charli’s prompt: […]
Migration is certainly a rich topic and we are all migrants if Maternal Eve was an African. Certainly for us in the colonies we had a more recent migration not always impacting on the land and indigenous people well. I look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts particularly as migration has taken over the airwaves at the moment.
You’re flash shows us that if the migrant offers something positive to those already resident the welcome will be perhaps a little more welcoming.
Somehow, I think we will always be migrants. I often envy the birds their flights, wanting to travel too. Where does that yearning come from? We want to see and experience other places. And that’s without the added pressures of climate change, food shortages or war.
I think the more we travel the greater is our understanding of the world and how the people in it all have the same needs and desires. I think this world view opens our minds so it is a good thing that we like to travel.
Travel is the way to learn the world. To welcome travelers, too.
[…] I have drawn upon the ideas discussed above for my flash fiction response to this week’s challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the interaction of a migrant culture on the … […]
Hi Charli, I’m adding mine to the mix again. Thanks for providing such wonderful opportunities for learning. Mine, of course, occurs in the playground! http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-y3
Thanks for joining the mix! You always share what you learn and it becomes our own cultural exchange. 😀
I love it when your prompts speak as much to what I know as what I don’t know and send me off on a trail of discovery and investigation. Learning is exciting. 🙂
Learning is always an adventure! It keeps me interested in life, big and small things.
[…] This flash fiction is in response to Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. […]
[…] The Carrot Ranch Challenge for this week, and news stories about Germany welcoming refugees, bring to mind my first days in Germany. I was so sure I knew where I was going, and I navigated the train system without a problem. I never felt alone until I reached my destination. […]
Will you take one more? Another one that’s more autobiographical than fiction. Your prompt is bringing more real-life stories than fiction to my mind!
Always! And BOTS are a common source of material. Anyhow, readers often think anything a writers pens is autobiographical!
[…] Charli Mills’ prompt this week is […]
http://geofflepard.com/2015/09/08/across-cultures/ A lovely post, Charli and a very potent topic.
You and Anne led me to what our US media was not initially picking up, sad to say. They are now, but migration has become a hot-button political issue. It shouldn’t be about politics at all.