Reflections: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 – The Writer Behind the Words

Carol A. Hand

When I began writing about my experiences and journey as a researcher, I had no intentions of telling my story. Yet as I reread the chapter about Nine-Eleven this morning, it became clear that something crucial was missing – the person behind the words. How else would those who are reading this now understand why, at the turn of the twenty-first century, I needed to start a generator to power a computer? But where do I begin the story? What do others really need to know about who I am and why I’m here? My story, too, illustrates some of the consequences of colonialism and Ojibwe child removal.

I remember the day when I first fell in love with the place in the northwoods where I was living on September 11, 2001. It was a crisp, sunny November afternoon in 1991. The golden glow of the autumn leaves and marsh grasses I viewed from the deck of a simple cabin in the woods convinced me this was where I wanted to live. I didn’t even stop to consider what it meant to live down a winding dirt road, bordered by forests and wetlands, without electricity. But I did learn thanks to the help of a partner who followed me there.

The cottage was built on land ceded by the Ojibwe in the 1800s. It was just outside the boundary of the reservation created by a series of treaties between the Ojibwe and the United States government. It’s the reservation where my mother was born and raised before and after she spent precious formative years in a Catholic Indian boarding school. It’s where I learned what it meant to live without electricity. I had no idea how I would be able to get in and out during the winter, especially with my car, but I did have my unstylish, warm winter boots (and later, snowshoes to attach to them.)

sorel boots

Living in a forest accessible only through a series of country roads, some of which were unpaved, presented both benefits and challenges. I had an opportunity to witness nature up close – the bear, deer, beaver, otters, rabbits and porcupine. I heard the powerful rhythmic pounding of eagles’ wings as they flew just over my head, the hauntingly lovely song of the loon echoing over still waters, and the howls of coyotes in the quiet winter night.

amik lake

Winter was my favorite time, even though it was often cold and snowy, and even though it meant a mile hike to my car when I had to make the trip to some distant city to go to work, attend class or travel for a speaking engagement or consulting job. The hike was easier in the winter. The path through the snow was easy to follow, even at night, and the mosquitoes, sand flies, deer flies, horse flies and ticks were nowhere to be seen as they bided their time for the spring thaw. Spring – mud season – also meant hiking. But I was younger then and used to the grueling physical labor living in the woods required.

I remember the quiet, starry winter nights, and the sanctuary where my grandson spent many of his childhood days. Those were simpler days of hiking, hauling wood, and clearing the beaver-culled trees from the road.

Now, I live in an urban neighborhood where plumes of toxic exhaust billow from factories, sometimes blocking the sunlight on the few winter days without clouds. I feel the loss of times past. Times before the tragedy of Nine-Eleven. And not just the relatively recent past, but the past of my ancestors also. Strange though it may sound, as deep as the grief of those lost times often is for me to face, it’s what motivates me to do what I can to touch people’s hearts for the sake of this wondrous earth and future generations. It’s why I undertook this research. It’s why I am writing now.

***

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Carol A. Hand

What matters are not the titles I’ve held or university degrees I earned or the size of a house or bank account. It’s really what I’ve learned from ordinary people like me whom I’ve met along the way. They taught me to live with gratitude and give thanks for each new day.
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44 Responses to Reflections: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 – The Writer Behind the Words

  1. Norman Pilon says:

    I can’t say I ever lived in a cabin in the woods off grid. But as a kid, and even now as an adult, I’ve spent a lot of times in the woods and in some fairly remote locations. It is as you describe it.
    There is a primal connection there that I feel and nowhere else. For me, however, there is no sense of ancestral belonging to a location as there might be for you although there is a sense of belonging to the earth, to nature, to the mystery of being, that I would be able to encounter anywhere at all away from suburbia and all of its noise.

    So like you, too, I feel the lost of a connection to the past, to some ancestral home, to a place that might have also anchored me to past generations. It’s there in the background, that particular absence, in the sound of the breeze steadily whispering through the crowns of the white pines, in the cry of the loon as the sun begins to touch the western horizon, in the spectacle of the stars and moon overhead. It feels like home but not quite.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. vellissima says:

    What a lovely coda. As painful as they may be, you have roots and connections. Beautifully written, of course, but more importantly, wonderfully felt. I hope you are having great progress on your book.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. For those who feel a deep connection to the land, your post reads like an anthem, Carol. For what remains and for what is lost, and perhaps can be once again appreciated, understood. Every so often, this pops into my mind: the Old Iroquois confederacy belief that every decision should be weighed for its impact on 7 generations hence, and another: “We don’t inherit the land from our parents; we borrow it from our children.” They speak to legacy, but in a much bigger way than we today often do, and they speak to the inter-connectedness of people and the land, and the decisions that we make.
    Be well, Carol. And keep writing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your kind and lovely comments, Cynthia, and for sharing powerful quotes about our connections to each other and the earth. I send my best wishes to you, too, and heartfelt congratulations on the publication and blessing ceremony for your new book! ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you again. Very kind of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. wolfegeo says:

    I sense there is so much more to this story. Now I want to know why you left the cabin in the woods and moved to the city. And what is the significance of September 11. Carol, while I may not be the intended audience for your book I’m going to need to read it. It’s already proving to be a page turner.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Bernadette says:

    Carol, It is wonderful that you are sharing the person behind the words. It makes reading your post so much more intimate and compelling. Would you consider sharing this at the Senior Salon today?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Please excuse my belated thank you for your always thoughtful comments, and your invitation to participate in the Senior Salon. (It’s such a wonderful gathering place on your blog, and even when I don’t post, I do love to visit and read what others have to say.)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Carol, this is a lovely, heartfelt post, rooted firmly in the Earth and the ancestors. In these troubled times, it is so important to share your deep and abiding knowledge in its many forms.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. sojourner says:

    I was born and reared in a city, and only had excursions into the country and woods as a child. But during my college years, my parents moved out to a small community in Eastern Ohio. Their house sat on the bank of a good sized lake, and about fifty yards from their front door was a state sanctuary, a small forest.

    I lived at home during those summer months, and I would take long walks on the paths through that forest, especially on hot, humid days. I can remember the coolness and scent of the forest air, and the quiet. I always felt at peace there. I always had a sense that somewhere, deep inside of me, I knew that I had a connection with this place, even though I was a city boy.

    I had that same sense when I was in Montreux, Switzerland, a few years later.

    Your words, here, have brought both of these memories back to me; memories which seem to fade as fast as my health and hair line, these days!;-)

    I think all of us, to some extent, are tied to nature in ways we have been conditioned to forget, and for a wide range of devious reasons, which I don’t want to think about now. I want to take a few minutes and ponder these old, wonderful memories once more!

    Thank you, Carol!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. desilef says:

    How beautiful! You made me long for deep woods in winter — when I fled winter and cold weather and never think kindly of snow!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for your comments and kind words, Diane. I’m so glad to hear from you. You’ve been in my thoughts lately, as I wondered what creative projects you might be working on recently 🙂

      Like

  10. Juli Hoffman says:

    Lovely and touching post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bernadette says:

    Thanks for posting Carol. It is great to have you back.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I wish all of us had the opportunity to live so closely with nature. We might be a kinder gentler people if we had a few years listening to the call of the loon and yip of the coyote pups. This is lovely, Carol, and I hear the echo of that time in the thoughtfulness of everything you write. I think it is important that the story you are telling through your research has emotional content. That is what makes the story stick to the heart. Change happens when people care.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This really is a beautiful piece. The writing puts you right there, and leaves many questions…

    Liked by 2 people

  14. So touching and poignant and sad and yet at the same time that indefeatable spirit in you comes through loud and strong. You keep on speaking for your people and their ancient ways. It is a part of who you are and your family and your readers stand on your shoulders and gain from your wisdom. Love and hugs, N 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  15. smilecalm says:

    makes me happy finding you
    there in the woods where
    life seemed simpler
    & more connected to the source
    than where you now do
    your heart’s work, Carol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. timkeen40 says:

    Carol,
    Your post is awesome and reminds me so much of what I hold dear. I sit on my deck and, if we were in winter, I would be able to see two houses from where I sit. One of them would be the one owned by my parents. Since it is late spring and the leaves are full, I can only see one, that of my parents. The rest is farmland and woods. Turkey, dear, rabbits, and squirrels are my neighbors and friends. As long as I am healthy enough, I will not live any other way.

    Tim

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hello, Carol, thanks for sharing this bit of personal history with us, your readers. As you know from reading my little blog, my old pappy and I are mostly concerned by the horrible current state of our poor old nation, it’s people being split in two or more parts by ridiculous political parties inspired by commercial interests. Also, old pap and I are city boys who think surviving the three or four days a year that our little local market is closed is roughing it. However, old pap is an avid seeker of historical fact, and realizes that this land we now occupy, mostly without thought to its beauty, was probably much better off before that crazy Spaniard tempted the fate of sailing off the edge of the earth. Unfortunately, history cannot be reversed, and all the past ugliness of the conquest of the land by the egotistic and acquisitive colonialists is now, just that, history. In the meantime, all manner of humanity has been, if not welcomed, at least accommodated here in what we now call the good old U.S.ofA. Now, sadly, many of our current residents, unlike yourself and your ancestors, seem to have little respect for the land. Even our national parks are trashed with non-recyclable plastic, and our wonderful corporations want to further that abuse with their horrific advertising.
    It’s a sad state of affairs, beginning even before your ancestors were sent to live on “reservations!” So, hopefully, through the efforts of chroniclers such as yourself and other good souls, we can somehow come back together as human beings and learn to appreciate our land and each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comments, concerns and experiences, Buster. It’s true that we can’t change what has gone before, but just maybe, sharing an honest version of those past events can have an influence on how we envision the future. And as you point out, the present is quite a mess… Learning “to appreciate our land and each other” is certainly a worthy future goal. 🙂

      Like

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