Water is life.
It’s 4 a.m., and I’m brewing a pot of coffee in the Hub’s stainless steel pot. I pour the water into the reservoir, scoop coffee grounds dark as dirt into a filter, and hit brew. Back upstairs, I shower beneath hot water, letting the flow ease the stiffness from my body and revive my senses. I dress in layers to prepare for the biting cold of Gichigami — the Big Sea called Lake Superior. It’s October, and I have no plans to dip a toe in the sea, but I will be spending much of the day along her frigid fall shores. In a skirt.
Skirts feel like a foreign language to me; I’m never sure if I’m wearing one correctly. But I’m part of something sacred, and protocols state that kwe wear skirts so the earth can recognize that we are women. Fortunately, protocols also allow for pants underneath (translation for Brits in case you thought I might go commando, pants as in trousers). I’ve packed extra socks, a first-aid kit, communal drinking water in a 10-gallon cooler, snacks baked or donated by my Warrior Sisters, food for tonight’s feast in a small church basement, and the steel coffee pot.
Forty-five minutes later, I’ve avoided the deer hanging out alongside the road and drive in the pitch dark past Copper Harbor. It’s 5:30 a.m., and I park my car at Astor Shipwreck Park across the road from Fort Wilkins, which is shuttered until next spring. My car companion is going to drive a truck behind two senior citizens who will ride behind a group of women who are gathering this early morning to walk the water from Copper Harbor to Sandpoint Lighthouse in Keweenaw Bay, home of the Anishinaabe. They are meeting us here in the dark, teaching us their protocols so we might unite all peoples to do the work of the water. The Anishinaabekwe — the women — all wear traditional ribbon skirts and good walking boots or tennies.
It’s so dark, we don’t know each other and laugh as we begin to figure out voices. The air is cold, and the weather forecasters predict mixed precipitation. The Water Walkers of the tribe plan to make the 90 mile trip in three days. I’ve been helping with logistics — social media, communications, securing food and shelter. No one is in charge, but without a doubt, the Anishinaabekwe lead us. They hope to break down cultural barriers and teach us to protect the water according to their traditions. Gichigami is their Big Sea. The lands we walk across are ceded territories. To do the work of the water is to take a spiritual journey.
A small motor put-puts in the dark, heralding the arrival of two elderly women in a golf cart. People move and shift in shadows. Terri has the copper pot with Nibi (water), and another person carries the Eagle Staff. I can’t see, but I hear the pitch of excitement in her voice. The walk has begun. We are all asked to place acema (tobacco) in our left hand, the hand closest to our hearts, and say a prayer for the water as we cross over Fannie Hooe Creek and follow the kwe carrying Nibi in a copper vessel. Once the water is in motion, it cannot stop. Kwe take turns conveying the water, and any gender or non-binary can hold the staff. Several young and robust women from the Copper Harbor area will take turns with the Anishinaabekwe.
My friends are among those who have gathered — Cynthia and Laura (rodeo judges, they are, too). I set out with them at a brisk speed. It’s so dark and silent as we walk to Copper Harbor. We chatter and laugh. I start to worry that the pace is faster than I anticipated. My friend, Bon, is waiting at her house along the lake route with breakfast for the walkers. I plan to walk and catch a ride back to my car, but no one seems to know how far ahead the relay van is. So, I turn back and walk alone to my car, my thoughts on my role to support the Water Walkers. I feel like a contrary clown, walking backward.
That was October 19.
I had planned to offer snacks and water. Bon gifted me with the use of her air-pots for coffee and a recipe for omelets on the go. The ones she made for the walkers were a huge hit. I had set up the feast at Bethany Church in Mohawk. I would feed people. The next day, I might fill in where I could, but I knew another person was managing that night’s feast, and the following day, I’d touch base. The Tribal Council was in charge of that feast. I felt like the event was going smoothly, and I’d be needed less and less.
Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans? Nibi had other intentions.
Fourteen years ago, my daughter was a junior in high school. I had hoped she would attend secondary school at my alma mater — Carrol College in Montana. But she was also interested in another liberal arts college — Northland in northern Wisconsin. We made trips to both places, and the first time I saw Bayfield, Wisconsin, I fell in love with the Chequamegon Bay. For years, we had camped in northern Minnesota, and the North Shore of Lake Superior captivated me. The cliffs and waves of the North Shore are terrifying and majestic. Along Chequamegon Bay, the Apostle Islands buffer the inland sea.
When I first wrote Miracle of Ducks, I set it in Bayfield. I knew that Ike’s best friend, Michael Robineaux, would be from the band of Red Cliff Ojibwa. That’s how he came to me, in the way characters do.
What I didn’t know, until after the walk, is that Bayfield is ceded Anishinaabe lands. Madeline Island, where I studied the W-story structure at MISA, is a spiritual place for the tribe. It’s a sacred water place. In 2012, I seriously contemplated making it my home, the draw of the water had been so strong that summer I had lived there, writing and bobbing in the bay. Instead, I went to Idaho to be with the Hub. My eldest and her husband moved to Missoula, Montana. Our middle daughter moved out west, and we joked that our son would come next. But the water called us back. Gichigami called me home — Lady Lake Superior.
Day two of the Water Walk I learned that it is not about the walk. People peeled off, leaving a small core group. We had to strategize relaying the water, keeping it flowing forward. My focus shifted to the Grandmothers — the two in the golf cart. I felt drawn to carry Nibi and asked the Hub if he’d carry the Eagle Staff. He said no, citing his other knee, which will need surgery. That deflated me. I’ve had three back surgeries, and I’m fit to run a desk. I realized I was not one to walk the water. And I had a role to play. I was doing the work of the water, too. When the Water Walkers crossed the Houghton Bridge, more people joined. I wanted to walk across the bridge, too, but someone needed to drive the Tribal van.
Arranging for police escort was tricky. They wanted to meet the walkers at a certain point and time, but the water doesn’t stop or wear a watch. Neither does the woman carrying Nibi. I stayed in contact with our officer as another woman, and I scouted the route and where we could cross. By the time the Water Walkers caught up, the group had grown to twenty. At that point, I took over the van (“Look Native,” Kathy told me). I parked on the other side of the Keweenaw Waterway, the great canal large enough for lake freighters, and hoofed it back up to the bridge, camera in hand.
The video catches an awkward cultural miscommunication — the Water Walkers recognized me and shouted oo-waa! I did not shout back. Sometimes I’m slow to understand social cues. Later, when I learned more about this vocalization, Kathy told me she likes to go into the woods and shout. Sometimes she gets a call back. It’s the early communication system of the Anishinaabe: “I’m here, I see you, where are you.” But I knew I was seen, I was called to merge with the walkers as they passed me on the bridge followed by the flashing lights of the Hancock Police.
People asked what we were protesting. The police asked if we were carrying signs, and what did they read? One of my roles was to educate people, and I made small handouts to explain the Water Walk. Our message joins all colors, philosophies, faiths, and beliefs — no matter our differences, no matter our political standings, no matter our knowledge of science, one simple truth binds us all — Water is life. Cutting through the bike trails to avoid traffic in Houghton, our Water Walkers passed homeowners mowing lawns and raking leaves. One man dismounted his riding mower and salutes the procession with his hand on his heart. The Grandmothers teared up, touched by the simple recognition.
Our mixed group is called People of the Heart. Kathy and Terri come from the same Lodge where they practice traditional healing. Their teachings clearly state that they are for “all people.” In fact, 500 years ago, the Anishinaabe left their eastern lands to adhere to prophecy. They were to go where the food grows on the water (wild rice, manoomin) — the Northland (north Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan). There would come a time when the world would need the teachings of the Anishinaabe. The time has come for us to protect our water
Water is life.
Not oil, not money, not the latest iPhone or Unicode emoji. Kathy is not only a Water Walker, but she is also a biologist for the Tribe. For many years, she fought wildfires out west, leading a Native crew. Terri is an early childhood educator for the Tribe. The Grandmothers both serve on Tribal Council and sew. Sewing includes traditional skirts, shirts, and vests with ribbons, embroidery, and beading. The Anishinaabe traditions co-exist with the modern world, and it’s a gift packed with wisdom and experience and wonder. It’s teaching based on responsible use, respect, gratitude, and protection. Water is life, and we are to protect it not only for our generation but for the next seven.
How will decisions made today impact the future? Does policy or pollution threaten those seven generations from now? If we do this today, what happens tomorrow? Imagine if seven generations ago, those in power thought this way. We have become short-sighted. Doing the work of the water means taking time to contemplate its future, our future, a future we won’t live to see, but one we impact right now. Water has no voice. Corporations have personhood, but water does not. Kwe speak for the sovereignty of water, we are the life-bringers, the women with the capacity to carry a baby to term in a sac of water. Corporations have legal rights, but water is life.
Day three dawned long after I had. Three mornings in a row, I rose at 4 a.m. to fix four pots of coffee, refill the water jug, pack snacks, and fix breakfast on the go for the Water Walkers. I have relaying down by day three. Our support vehicles leap-frog ahead half a mile. My warm car is ready for walkers to take a break. We are operating lean — one kwe to carry Nibi, one person to carry the Eagle Staff. Once the sun comes up, several other women walk in support, and we continue the half-mile to a mile relay. The water moves forward, not stopping
The Grandmothers have accepted me, and they laugh and joke, waving their mugs my direction for more coffee. They take my succession of snacks, loving bologna sandwiches the best. Kathy calls it “Indian steak.” In America, it’s the comfort food of the poor. I know bologna well. When we were broke down and homeless in Gallup, we shared all the poor food I knew growing up with the Natives in New Mexico. Never had pinto beans tasted so good as when shared by others who know life’s struggles and yet still smile and give all they have to give. At feast the night before, the Grandmothers claimed me, and the Hub says the Navajo wanted me, too. Kathy says, “The Dine can not have her,” and we all laugh.
It’s a wonder to me, a moment of serendipity, that Michael Robineaux came to me as an imaginary character for a novel years before I’d come to be known to his people. When I felt the draw to Lake Superior, I was called by Gichigami to know her fully, to know all nations touching her shores. Oo-wa! I am seen. This time I understand enough to call back. Oo-wa! I see your humanity, too. We are one. The water unites us.
At dawn on the third day, I found a snowmobile bar open and willing to let us use the restrooms. By then, the whole UP had heard of the Water Walkers with news coverage. All the kwe used community connections and news media to get the word out. Somehow, an officer with the State Troopers missed all that. He pulled over Terri’s truck that drove behind the Grandmothers like an honor guard. In her absence, I slid in. The Grandmothers are all-seeing from behind. They watch the walkers, the water, the staff, the land, and the sky. They speak up when they need to and stay silent to let the younger ones experience for themselves. We need all generations in unity.
We need all peoples, all nations. Water is life.
One of the walkers asked me to walk Nibi. I didn’t think I could. But I tried. She said she’d walk with me, carrying the Eagle Staff. This kwe, whose dog was dying as we walked, focused on life, not death. This strong woman wanted all of us kwe to spend time in contemplation, carrying Nibi no matter our levels of strength. As I faced the Water Walker coming my way, I confessed my fear — it’s the same one that hits me when I submit my writing — it’s not enough, I’m not enough. Old recordings, debilitating doubt, lies we believed. I focused on the truth. Water is life. I grabbed the copper bucket, I did not look to the left, I did not look to the right, I walked forward. At my own pace.
I’m surrounded by women dancing circles around me in skirts and shawls. Why was I ever averse to skirts? They flow like water, skirts to skirts, shawls to shawls, women encircle the work, doing the work of water. I carry Nibi in me. Gitchigami rises overhead in a thick bank of clouds pushing away the storm that was supposed to hit us during the walk. Water kept us dry. Eleven eagles greeted us at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community border. We walked the Anishinaabekwe home. I walked the water. I am a Water Walker. I am kwe. This time the story caught the story-catcher.
November 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers. It does not have to be in the Anishinaabe tradition; in fact, it would be more interesting to see interpretations from across all nations and walks. It can be a title or used as a phrase. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by November 12, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.
SUBMISSIONS CLOSED. SEE OUR LATEST CHALLENGE.
Water Walkers by Charli Mills
My Nakomis shields my body with hers when they pelt us with rubber bullets. They don’t understand why we don’t die like all the others around the globe. They think we hoard a stash of stolen science. We are the Water Walkers, and we speak on behalf of the world’s poisoned water. Scientists can now alter the DNA code of entire families to survive the hydro-toxicity crisis. Only select families, though. They want to know why we aren’t altered or dead. Threatened us to give up our secret. Nakomis says we never held back. We tried to teach them.
Touching account of your experience of the Water Walkers, Charli. Thanks for explaining Nibi and kwe. ~nan
Thanks for reading, Nan! I had not expected such a moving adventure to unfold. And then to connect back to a character I had developed years ago, it was a serendipitous encounter on top of it all.
<3 <3 <3
We are both in the land where food grows on the water! <3
OMG! I love this. I’ve had an insane couple of weeks. Ready to write some flash fiction for sure! <3
Maybe you can come and do an artist residency next Water Walk, Colleen! For now, let’s write! I hope your week is less crazy. <3
LOL! That would be pretty cool, Charli. It will be a busy week, but I’ll try and manage my time better. I miss writing flash fiction so much. My dr. appointments should be done. Thank goodness. 😀
That can be such a time drain, but I hope it’s a passing season.
[…] This week’s Flash Fiction challenge comes from Charli Mills. […]
Thanks, Leanne! I enjoyed the trip to the waterfall.
A moving post, this week, Charli. Literally and figuratively. You constantly amaze.
The water hasn’t stopped yet, Bill. I’ve landed in an amazing place.
A Walk amongst Watery Words
Somewhere under the earth,
in veiled aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.
Drawn from the depths,
life sustaining fluid,
purified in steps,
swallow, and we’re refueled.
And though it gives life,
quenches our parched thirst,
it also causes strife
for some, forever cursed.
Locked in arid land,
water walkers sacred soil,
poisoned rocks and sand,
blighted by extorted oil.
Fields opined, “I never drink water.
That’s the stuff that rusts pipes.”
And there was gurgled laughter
cause it takes all types.
Yet, beneath the earth
in hidden aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.
The majesty of the opening and closing stanza contrasts with those who miss the magic. Well done!
intriguing poem and the third stanza is so true
These watery words flow. The awaited birth of water-cool.
This is wonderful, Charli. Water IS life, and too many have forgotten this, never knew, or just don’t care. So frustrating and sad. I loved reading your words and seeing photos and video taken in a place I used to call home (I suppose in my heart it still is).
I’m sure Gitchigami still holds your heart! It was beautiful to slow down and experience those 90 miles.
Lovely post, Charli. I saw some of these pictures on Instagram or FB. Have a lovely weekend.
Thanks, Robbie! You have a lovely weekend, too!
[…] This was written with the prompt Water Walkers provided by the Carrot Ranch November 7 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]
I immediately thought of a horror story: https://jedigirlblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/the-water-walkers-flash-fiction/
My mind went to dystopian, so I understand, Joanne!
[…] sci-fi flash was written for the November 7th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch. Water Walkers was the theme this week, and that made me think of water strider bugs. I invented an alien that is […]
Great to see the Others’ viewpoint!
What a cool thing to do! It’s great to learn about different cultures, and this feels like a very genuine way to go about it.
Because I already feel embarrassed that I named a river “Anishinabe” in the book I’m currently writing, I chose to go a totally different route!
Have a great week!
H.R.R., it’s a gift to have access to the teachings of another culture. It forges relationships where core values and traditions can be shared with soft edges of learning and respect.
Oh, I don’t know — don’t you think it’s common across the US to have Native place names? Now, had you named your waterway Ziibi River, I’d laugh because that would translate to River River. The People River is an honorific.
Loved where you went with the Water Striders! You have a good week, too!
Re River River. I imagine there’ll be a few of those around the world. We have several hills around here that translate as Hill Hill.
I also giggle when I hear “the Navajo people” or “Anishinaabe people” because that’s saying the People people.
Hill Hill is better than all the titty-tops out west. Imagine a 12-year-old girl writing an essay about camping on Molly’s Tit for summer vacation. Lonely cartographers with mother issues? Slang of the times? People can be odd ducks.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve been guilty of People People somewhere down the line! And we have Mam Tor, which is a slightly more polite word for Tit!
The lake in our neighborhood is called Laguna Lake, but Laguna means Lake in Spanish, so the name means Lake Lake!!
In our Lake District ‘mere’ means lake and is part of the name of most. But people will say Lake Windermere which is Lake Winderlake!
The winding ways of words!
Water is so important, Charli, one good thing about the climate emergency is that the rest of us might come closer to the Anishinaabe respect (although the problem here right now is too much of it). I enjoyed reading about the walk and well impressed with those who managed ninety miles in three days – and it sounds almost as gruelling supporting them. I’m sure they appreciated your help.
Yes, seems weird walking in a skirt although we’re getting a bit more accustomed to it here as the Peak District National Park becomes slightly less white. Muslim women usually walk in long skirts and, while I worry they might trip on rugged footpaths, I recognise the need to feel comfortable in what they wear.
As I’ve done now and then before, I wrote my flash based on the prompt but before I read your post, curious how close I’d come to the story behind the prompt. I’ve given you water walkers rather than Water Walkers (although there’s still time for me to come back with one of those) but I have got women and long skirts – I guess I might have picked that up from the image.
My flash comes with reviews of two novels about disasters:
Shatterings from soil and sky: Aftershocks & Nightingale Point https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2019/11/shatterings-from-soil-and-sky-aftershocks-nightingale-point.html
We have too much water, too, Anne. The Great Lakes are eroding and flooding, rising more and more each year. Although Superior is pristine and Michigan’s state motto is “Pure Water” (I’m sure that angers many in Flint where their public water remains toxic), those who eat fish from the Lake risk heavy metal poisoning. Currently, locals debate a waterfront development from the viewpoint of businesses, residents, and tourists, yet no one has addressed what it means for the actual body of water. And yet, foreign entities are already bottling water from Lake Superior aquifers. Too much water brings its own set of problems.
Like the Hero’s Journey, I’m considering different attributes of skirts. Those accustomed to skirts seem to move with ease. I especially enjoyed the image your flash conjured, though such a life is not easy. I worry that our expectation of ease in modern times is recipe for disaster.
We’re lucky that at least our water is clean, although too many people still stuck on buying it in plastic bottles. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone starts importing it from Lake Superior. Because it’s bound to be superior, right?
Growing up, I carried a small tin cup that hooked onto my saddle. Bottled water where taps are clean is a pet peeve. Ha! That is exactly how the bottle is labeled — “Superior.” It adds to the false perception of safe bottled water among those who do not need it.
The Great Lakes are being solicited for water rights. Fortunately, so far, the local politicians are not agreeing to selling our water rights to others. Hopefully, it will continue to be so as there is so little fresh water, and if it is used up, we will all be paying for it…with our lives. ~nan
When I was growing up there were public water fountains around town. Bottled water sellers must have been laughing up their sleeves when they were taken out. But there’s a strong movement against plastic here now, with most cafes etc very happy to refill a water bottle.
That’s madness, Nan. wouldn’t be surprised if you import our bottled water and we import yours.
I remember public fountains as a kid. There was one in our tiny town, beautifully built with stone. Now it’s just a monument, perhaps an ode to public drinking water.
Could use that image: floodwater rising around a relic from the past, its use forgotten.
Oh, good catch! That would be a nice image.
What a fantastic experience. I added to my fiction series (though each piece can be read alone). I stuffed three prompts in 99 words here:
I walk, carrying my own water. uncomfortably, but manageable. I should have gone before I went on my Día de Muertos errand. I think am my own conversation piece – with a mutt, a crow in a basket and a kitty in my jacket pocket.
I think I’ll have one right here, a little rest by little fresh water spring that draws me closer. Dawg drinks, and looks at me; “Try this!” His eyes say. “Magic water”. Byrd caws…My eyes blink like wipers on a windshield… there is a sparkle poking out from under a rock, a diamond bracelet…
Liquidity in banking refers to the ability of a bank to meet its financial obligations as they come due. It can come from direct cash holdings in currency or on account at the Federal Reserve or other central bank.
It certainly was an experience I’ll be unpacking for a while. And preparing for the next walk!
Your series is interesting and I loved the narrator’s awareness of being “my own conversation piece.” Good use of liquidy, too. I’ve yet to find a diamond bracelet when rock hounding!
You need a metal detector for your shorelines…. 😉
I’m happy hunting rocks! 😉
You sure pack in a lot in 99 words, JP. Well done per usual.
[…] is where the Carrot Ranch November 7, 2019, prompt led. In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers. It does not have […]
Since the beginning These Ones delighted in their individual strengths but the essence of These Ones was harmony. In celebration they sought to give form to harmony by coalescing their essences. Fire would spark potential, Air would give breath, but it was formless Water that gave form to the colorful soils Earth gave for their bodies. Without Water these creations would be dust. Like the plants that gave them life, these creations could only stand when filled with Water.
Water prayed as these creations walked the Earth, breathed the Air and tended their Fires. Go in peace, Water Walkers.
For from dust were we made…
words of warning, Love and protect our water.
You picked up what I was laying down. (Or as Pepe LeGume would say, you smell what I’m stepping in)
All in harmony — that’s how the world goes round and yet some creations must have dust for brains, believing profits more necessary than elements. Well done!
[…] I wrote this for the November 7th Flash Fiction Challenge […]
Your wonderful blog about the Water Walkers, about caring for Earth, brought to mind the poetry of Joy Harjo, the current US poet laureate and the first Native American US Poet Laureate. She is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation.
Here’s the link to one of her poems
“For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet”
A beautiful poem connecting our modern lives and reconnecting the human spirit to Earth.
Thank you for sharing Joy Harjo’s moving poem. I shared it with the People of the Heart Water Walkers, too. I appreciate how she entwines modern living with honoring the human spirit.
Long before Jo Harjo became the Poet Laureate of the United States, she came to our city of Huron, Ohio at the invitation of the local Unitarian Universalist Church. They sponsored her visit, and it was a great event. Little did we know that she would rise to such prominence. ~nan
Oh, what an event that must have been, Nan.
It was, Charli. Little did we know that we had seen a future poet laureate. ~nan
fascinating story; congrats on being a water walker! I never knew what Gichigami was referring to when I heard Gordon Lightfoot sing the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. And I caught that part about you being homeless, I can’t imagine what that must have been like.
Ah, yes, Gordon Lightfoot sings:
“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee…”
The Chippewa, Ojibwa(e), Ojibway and Saulteaux are all Anishinaabe. The distinction between Ojibwa and Ojibway is that the former lives on the big sea (Gichigami) and latter inland. They are people who followed prophecy 500 years ago and avoided the first contact with Europeans until later. Many have French, Scots, Irish and Finnish heritage, too, intermarrying with the traders who first came to the territories.
I’ve learned that Carrot Ranch is headquartered in ceded territories from 1842. Anishinaabe retain the right to hunt, fish and gather from ceded territories. Thus it matters greatly to them that the water be protected. Last year they started a Water Day open to the public and it combines the research of Michigan Technical University, the work of Tribal biologists, and the guidance of Water Walkers. I attended, having no idea I would be doing the work of water! I was writing. 🙂
Living homeless makes me appreciate home. It’s also why I advocate for veterans and giving them a voice through writing. We are stable now, and I’m grateful to all in this literary community who stood by us during that difficult time. Writing helped me get through, too.
Thanks for the historical background. And it’s wonderful to hear the power of writing and the writing community. Glad to hear that you have found a place to call home.
[…] Carrot Ranch (11/07/2019): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers. It does not have to be in the Anishinaabe tradition; in fact, it would be more interesting to see interpretations from across all nations and walks. It can be a title or used as a phrase. Go where the prompt leads! […]
Here’s an attempt to touch bases with one of many life-giving attributes of water.
The days were endless, the nights not long enough. She was tired, but too well-rested. She had all she needed to restore her health, but was weary of doing the work to rejoin the world.
Yet there remained moments–lilac’s scent, chickadee’s song, soft cashmere blanket lying beneath her cooling hands–that hinted shucking her failing body, she’d become what, rather than who she was meant to be.
The child with her own smile approached from the dark corner of the room. Thirsty, she received the child’s caress, the sweet water in a simple glass, finally hers to enjoy.
[Link to Blog and Flash]
(Link also brings you to the longer, unedited version. A different story, in many ways…Nano, y’know…)
Hey, happy NaNoWriMo! I had dreams…but November came and laughed them away. I appreciate the way you balanced the details between both versions. I think you hit the sweet spot in both. Ultimately, the promise is fulfilled in that drink of water.
Thanks for your weekly cups of the good stuff, Charli!
Erie Kai Water Walker
This Water Walker was a member of a tribe who left during the war that was being waged by the British, Canadians, and Americans. While they left, she stayed to protect her home and family. Her bones were discovered later near the shoreline of the lake. She was called Old Woman (Minehonto), and the stream bears her name still.
Even now, Old Woman Creek forms a natural estuary with the lake her tribe called the Wildcat, Lake Erie. Just as she protected her territory long ago, the locals of the Estuary Research Center protect the creek and the lake.
~Nancy Brady, 2019
Nan, that connection between the Water Walker and the modern research center is exactly the balance today’s tribe’s are striving for. Your story is a beautiful expression of that ongoing chain of protection. I did not know this story of Lake Erie!
I don’t think too many people do, but because I live nearby and volunteer at Old Woman Creek, I have spent enough time there to have delved into some of the history of the area. More than that, the fact that Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Center is one of two sites that are freshwater estuary systems is a point of pride. The other is up on Lake Superior in Wisconsin.
Without preaching to the choir, we need the Great Lakes (read: fresh water) for safe drinking water, etc. Water is, after all, life. ~nan
Is the other at Bad River, Nan? You are doing the work of water, too.
Charlie, it is St. Louis River in Superior, Wisconsin. It has been a NERRA site since 2010; OWC has been designated a NERRA site for 37-38 years. Most of the NERRA sites are along the two coasts, and the newest site is in Hawaii. You can tell I spend way too much time there volunteering and serving on the Friends of OWC board, too. All of the sites are into research to improve our water and environment.
[…] Written for Carrot Ranch. […]
Thank you for sharing the story of Grandma Josephine!
So much to comment on and applaud, I don’t know where to start. What a wonderful purposeful tradition. We could all do with respecting our reserves of fresh water. Bottled water is so unnecessary in most of the places we inhabit. What a wonderful way for someone to make money for nothing – not! They’ll be bottling air soon. (In fact, I think they already do.) If I could bottle one thing, it would be kid’s energy.
What struck me most, behind the tradition, was the consideration of seven generations. That’s such a long time to see into the future. Most of us are lucky to see three, some see four. Seven is twice that. But see and prepare we must. I fear we’re not doing such a good job of it at the moment. Awakening others through celebrations such as this Water Walk is a great beginning and shows respect for those who came before.
I also fear the DNA manipulation you write about might be essential for survival in the future – an interesting hypothesis.
Norah, if you ever do bottle a kid’s energy, I’ll buy some! But yes, it is unnecessary in most cases and such a great polluter of water, ironically. Bottled water is not allowed on our walk. We all have canteens or mason jars and I hauled a 10-gallon jug for refilling.
Seven generations is a long time out but is foresight for the future. Imagine if we thought in such terms. It slows the impetus to make quick decisions without regard. It also impinges profits for the immediate generation who only think of themselves and wealth for their children. Wealth or water? It seems ridiculous to choose fancy cars and shoes over life.
Over the last weekend, I saw some great films at 41 Film Fest. One was about the use of CRSPR to manipulate DNA. It’s already happening! It can do wonders such as remove pain receptors. Imagine the comfort of dying from a painful ailment without the fog of pain-meds. But then, imagine the super-soldiers that can be inacted. The technology is not evil; it’s the intent of humans, and frankly, I don’t trust those who want all the power and wealth for themselves to make just and humane decisions with such technology. I tried to convey a hint of that mistrust in reverse — the powerful not trusting those in harmony with the natural world.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments!
I choose life. Bottling water in our countries which have sufficient fresh for most is ridiculous. Not only a waste of resources, it contributes greatly to plastic pollution.
I think your hint was strong enough to be heard. We need many more who are in tune with the natural world now.
[…] The Last Laugh Source: Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: Write a story that includes Water Walkers. Word count: 99 […]
I admit it–extra points for being clever!
“Ya mean fer the prompt?”
“This’s a tough one, Pal, talkin ‘bout water. I’m comin’ up dry.”
“Kid, yer all wet. It ain’t ‘bout talkin’ ‘bout water. More ‘bout listenin’ ta water. Lookit Shorty there, walkin’ the talk.”
“Yeah, Shorty’s walkin’ tall. Thet’s somethin’, the leader of Buckaroo Nation carryin’ on with the Anishinaabe.”
“Yep, carryin’ Nibi. Shorty took her chuck wagon on the road an’ ended up bein’ a Water Walker.”
“Oo-waa! It’s good work. Was that sacred water Pal?”
“Course, Kid. All water is sacred; water is life.”
Oo-wa! All is water is sacred! Pal and Kid always figure it out. 🙂
[…] This was written for Charli’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. […]
Please find here my flash fiction:
Well done! From the mouths of babes come the powers of courage and hope.
The mother failed but the granddaughter succeeded. Glad you liked it, Liz. Thank You.
I like where this one took you!
Thanks so much, Charli. I didn’t get any ideas over the weekend. Then I came across an article on someone finding a fish with a human face in China. Thought of writing on that topic. Finally, I decided to go with this…xo
That would be a starting find!
[…] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge: 2019.11.07 – No Water, No Walk in Life […]
What a touching story your shared, Charli. I only get up 4:00 a.m. no more than ten time in ten years. I found a story about Josephine Mandamin and included in this post.
I still wear skirts once in a while, but pants are more comfortable. I think one of the First Lady started the pant-suit culture for business women.
Here’s the post (I forgot to enter the title then edited it, so the link doesn’t show the title).
No Water, No Walk in Life
“Dad, what is the most powerful of the five elements of nature? Metal, wood, water, fire or earth?”
“If you were deserted in an island, or a drifting boat in an ocean, what is one thing you need to survive?”
“You made a point. I guess it’s water.”
“A human can be without food for more than three weeks, but he can only go without water for a week.”
“Lost at sea could drink seawater.”
“Seawater contains salt higher than human can process and makes us thirstier.”
“Only fresh water helps us survive then.”
“You got it, Son.”
I’m not typically up at 4 am either, Miriam! Thank you for finding and sharing a story about Grandma Josephine. I never met her but I walk with those who walked with her. I like the lesson the Dad imparts to his son.
You’re welcome, Charli. I learned so much about Lake Superior. Thank you for the inspiration for the flash challenge this week.
There are many more words (than 99) that come to mind when I think of this gift from Mother Nature.
I Am Water
By Ann Edall-Robson
I remember the rumble of the rocks and the quiver of the earth below. The same memory that took me into darkness; but it did not stop me from breathing. Hope in my heart moved me onward beneath the lifeless blanket. A continual hunt for an escape route. Always in search of new orifices to travel. The rocks are on the move, again. A pinhole of light encourages me to push, gushing upward. Released. Victorious! A breeze dances across my soul. Carefree and unchecked I tumble over rocks that once were my jailer. I am water. I am life.
Lovely prose poem!
This was lovely.
You are a gift-catcher, Ann. You will never run out of words and their beautiful arrangements to express all the gifts you see and find. I love the power statement in your prose.
Thank you for your kind words, Charli.
I really enjoyed this!
Charli, What an experience and honor to walk with the Water Walkers. Thank you for telling us about their dedication and beliefs. I’m having trouble picturing the 4:00 am start in the dark. My Vets group said a final farewell to one of our loved WWII Vets this past week. I am sad, and hence my story…
Happy to Serve
I am an American. I raised my right hand and affirmed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against any who oppose it. I agreed to follow the orders of the President and all others ranked above me. I have been to war and done things I believe are morally wrong, but would do them again to protect my country. Like my friend’s grandmother, a Water Walker who fights to protect water because it is life, I will fight whenever and wherever I am told because Freedom isn’t free and I’m willing to pay the price.
Sue, my vet community sends their condolences to your vet community’s loss. We honor his service with you.
Your story is the balance our water walks need — warriors to walk at our side as we do the work for the water and they sacrifice for the cost of freedom. Next year, we will have warriors and veterans carrying the Eagle Staff, too.
May your Vets memories be for blessings…
Thanks, Jules, Kurt and I had a special bond because he knew and could talk about my father with me.
[…] Anishinaabe and Josephine Mandamin by Susan Zutautas […]
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience, Charli. 🙂 I am truly amazed.