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October 17: Story Challenge in 99-words

Aanii, my Friends of Carrot Ranch! I return to this place after walking Nibi for three days, transformed.

Transformation follows its own course. Linear time loses all meaning on a Water Walk, flowing like water does. I get it now. I understand the purpose of ceremony, the physical, emotional, and mental act of becoming one heart.

We all understand the concept of like-mindedness. We recognize the comfort or joy we feel when we encounter people who think like we do. It could be career related. I always relish talking to those who “get” the writing experience or understand the basics of marketing. For others, it might be the camaraderie of community or foodies out on the town. Sometimes, we find safety and comfort in hanging out with like minds. We don’t have to explain or debate.

Becoming one heart means joining un-like minds.

People of the Heart commit to the water walk for many reasons. Some people are indeed like-minded and others couldn’t be any more different. No one agrees on how to proceed yet none of us are leaders. Although I am a founding member who welcomed the Anishinaabe back to their Ceded Territory after the devastating Father’s Day floods of 2018, I joined to learn and experience the Anishinaabe protocols. I’ve held myself back, mindful not to appropriate a culture I respect but knew was not my own.

Each year, I’ve tried to organize the way I know how, and each year I learn to back off and let it be. This year, I stepped in it, so to speak, when I petitioned Finlandia University’s justice committee to hold the feast. A church in Houghton provided the space. I wanted to involve the students and faculty. Despite my fumbling, the church was glad to work in partnership with the university. It took me stepping out of the way and letting the water flow.

Each year, the Water Walk works. We show up at pre-dawn. We lift the water in ceremony, passing the copper bucket from woman to woman, looking straight ahead, trusting the Eagle Staff carrier to be our eyes. What is there to plan? We walk. We leapfrog walkers and support vehicles ahead. We welcome whoever shows up. We keep walking when no one else does. Nibi compels us forward.

This year I became more attuned to my desire to plan, organize, and expect. I let go at each moment of recognition. I also saw others frustrated in their own ways because of the human need to control events. What if like-mindedness is the attempt to control circumstances and outcomes to meet our expectations. Isn’t that what linear time is all about? But each time I let go, I marveled at how we continued to be in ceremony.

By our last leg of the journey, gathered for our final feast, I felt such agape love for everyone involved. I felt the support of others from afar. I felt a connection with those seated at the feast table, especially my elders. I felt love oozing from my ribbon skirt that embodied the spirit of the chickadees Sue Spitulnik crafted — friendship. I was on such a love high the day after, I hardly noticed my lack of sleep. I felt love for my students so strongly.

Then it collapsed. Or maybe I collapsed inside.

Needing to cry, and feeling disconnected, I went to Gichigammi and met her at my favorite beach (McLains). Her waves rolled furiously, yet the day was oddly warm. Turns out, my friend and fellow Water Walker was also there and for the same reason. She explained that we needed time to re-enter. She listened to my feeble complaints, and she spoke of her dying dad who has recently walked on. We both cried. Becoming one heart with a diverse group of people is an intense experience.

The next day, one of my students who is First Nations from Canada, shared how his Tribe has both Warrior Chiefs and Peace Chiefs. I realized that the ceremonies to bring people into one heart also prepare people to express and resolve grievances. In this sense, Water Walkers are the Peace Chiefs. But we need our leaders, our warriors, to join us.

While I have much to unpack and ponder, and so many stories I want to tell by the campfire (like when our Two-Spirited Beauty Maker lost both his soles, or the time I left my new Grandmother for dead convinced she was sleeping — and thankfully she was — and all the jokes we made about the va-jay-jay Aboriginal material in our teacher’s skirt) I will continue to process.

I want to share with you the beautiful Ojibwe greeting of “aanii.” It means, “I see the light in you.” Isn’t that a loving way to greet someone? What if we saw the light in one another instead of passing judgment, measuring people for how like-minded they might be? Let us do the work to become one-hearted.

Write and let your light shine.

October 17, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that references “I see the light in you.” You can use the phrase or demonstrate it in a story. Who is shining and why? Who is observing or reacting? What is the setting? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 22, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.


  1. Powerful, Charli. I can only imagine the feelings you experienced. I think reading The Firekeeper’s Daughter has made me more aware, making me wish to experience a Water Walk. Whether or not I ever do, thanks for writing about this year’s walk. ~nan

    • Charli Mills says:

      This year, Nan, several people showed up along our walk and joined for a short stretch. Others came to our feasts. Now we have the entire Western UP local foods organization involved, more churches showing up or granting us space, and the both universities creating more awareness. The momentum grows. Anyone from our Carrot Ranch community is welcome, and I’d encourage you to find the nearest Tribe, and maybe reach out to Indigenous colleges or libraries (these are typically on reservations) to inquire about local Water Walks. It is indeed an experience. I’m so glad you have read FKD. Each semester I teach it, I gain more understanding. It’s supposed to be a Netflix limited series, too.

      • Thanks, Charli, for responding and giving me (and others) lots to consider. I’d love to participate some time; whether I ever will that remains to be seen. I’m thrilled to know that FKD is getting more exposure (in your classes as well as on Netflix). I learned so much by reading it. I recommend the book wholeheartedly, and maybe, if there are enough copies in our library system, it will become a book group read next year. ~nan

        PS. for whatever reason, I can’t get “like” to respond…here and elsewhere. I’ll eventually figure it out, but know that I am reading and appreciating everyone’s comments.

      • Charli Mills says:

        FKD is a great book to read as a group. I’d love to read it with other writers, too because it’s so rich with themes, plot threads, rounded characters, and the kind of meaning that sticks with readers long after the book ends.

        I’ve had similar issues with “likes” because WP logs me out of my devices at random times. D. has a good suggestion too, from her experiences.

    • Nan, I had issues like your like issue. Had to switch up servers, Safari wasn’t getting along with WP, then I had to make sure I was logged in to WP through Google or something like that.

  2. Leanne says:

    Wow! I’ve missed a lot! Very powerful and enlightening post! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I hope I remember to return for stories you decide to share.

  3. What a lovely greeting… just like Namaste: “honors the sacredness of all.” These rituals are transformational. I’m glad you took some time to come back to this world. It’s so emotional. ❤️

    • Anne Goodwin says:

      Yes, like Namaste.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes, Colleen, like Namaste! I feel like I’ve grown into “aanii” through the work that leads to being of one heart. Namaste likely has a similar intent. I had never thought about it in terms of recognizing the light in each of us despite our presentation of differences in perception, cultural beliefs, traditions, language, etc until this last walk.

      • I love how we all continue to grow from the light. It really puts our lives in perspective, doesn’t it? I loved this so much, Charli. 💜

      • Charli Mills says:

        I love that light growth, too Colleen. I’m reading “Yoke, My Yoga Self-Acceptance” by Jessamyn Stanley. She speaks about how we yoke what we learn on the mat about ourselves to the difficulties of daily living. We yoke the light to the dark. We link the good and the bad. This is how we gain self-acceptance to then be able to see the light in others even when it is yoked to their shadow selves. <3

  4. Shifty Shinola

    “This too shall pass, this too shall pass…”
    “Now what Kid? What’re ya mumblin about?”
    “Druther not talk bout it Pal.”
    “Reckon yer whinin bout the prompt, as yer wont ta do.”
    “Wont? I want ya ta jist leave me be Pal.”
    “Reckon ya’ve still got yer tail tween yer legs cause ya come up dry last week. Ya have read the latest, ain’tcha Kid?”
    “Read most of it. Was readin Shorty’s post last night in ma bunk holdin ma mini flashlight in ma mouth.”
    “Whyn’t ya finished?”
    “Curly bumped me. Caused me ta swallow the flashlight.”
    “I see.”

  5. Jules says:


    When we do good and are praised, we often don’t know what to do with all the good we feel.
    Sometimes we think we don’t deserve it – but seeing light… I like that. Light dispells darkness…
    May you continue to shine from the inside out. (((Hugs)))

  6. Norah says:

    I see I’m not the only one who chose the word ‘powerful’ to describe this post. Events of many different kinds can transform us. Sometimes the transformation weighs us down and we need to work our way through to the light on the other side. I’m impressed by your teaching and your students’ responses.

    • Charli Mills says:

      You’re right, Norah — transformation can weigh us down but it also prods us to see the light in such darkness. The two are intertwined. My students certainly shine their lights despite working through the compost of growth.

  7. Jennie says:

    Such a beautiful and powerful experience!

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