Saturday, June 5, 2010

How does a book start?

Start here.

End there.

I closed the front door and started my walk. I needed fresh air and a stretch to clear my thoughts. I believed I walked alone. I was mistaken.

I arrived at the National Historic Reserve and discovered a young girl paced with me. Her emotions flared and she fought for control. She had adopted a steady, proud pace and walked boldly into her future, into a family she didn’t know, toward a man she didn’t love.

Her travel companions had tried to slow her pace and had said, “We don’t need to go fast, we need to go far.” Was it that they could not keep up, or something else that made them want to linger in the trail? I paused, sent my questions out and waited with my dream catcher.

Images flickered, focused and spun away.

I allowed my eyes to wander over the reserve. I saw an Indian tribe watch the young girl come down the path to their village. Tools dropped as the men watched her approach, women halted and stared, small children ran circles around her, tugged on her clothes and made fun of her dress. It was foreign and trail worn. She stopped and let them tug. When their teasing brought no response from her they disappeared.

She had fortitude, smarts and survival skills.

As I walked I heard her inner thoughts, her need to grasp what she believed belonged to her and the scheme she crafted to cheat the person who had cheated her father.

Then a brother cheated a cousin, and a man who doesn’t love her, but wants her because she is smart, rejects the woman he was destined to marry. It rips the family apart.

And that is how a book starts.

It is already there. It exists and waits for writers to peel away the pieces and work to get the broken shards to make sense. The difficulty for this story is that it occurred in the past. Only the writer’s pen exists today. The context, the scenes, the music must be drawn from history and I struggle.

In order to move my stymied efforts forward, I took another trail that led to the Cathlapotle Plankhouse in Ridgefield, Washington. I spoke with two Chinook men. They had no context to understand my plight or need to ask question after question in search of seeing the house of this young girl with clarity, or of sharing the voices of the family.

The Chinook have had visitors before. Television shows that take enough footage and cut and cut and redraw until what they produce is so romanticized it is unrecognizable as a representation of their tribe.

Who am I to tell this story?

I am not sure. But the pen has been passed and a Native American family waits to be heard.

Whose story is waiting for you?



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