Ganoga

See opening of the unpublished short novel, Ganoga (PDF). Below, a published excerpt of Ganoga – “Spring Brook” in the Tallgrass Writers Guild anthology, Earth Beneath, Sky Beyond:

 

Spring Brook

 

Spring Brook they call this place. You cannot recall having heard of it before they welcomed you here.

A six-year-old child dances flowers toward you with more grace than a ballerina – she says, Don’t cry. Please stop. You did not know you were. You suspect the little one is, once was, and always has been your best friend, but you do not know much about that either.

You nod and attempt to smile as you take the flowers and say, I’ll be right over here, and walk aimless into woods, past beech, past maple, past ash. You sit behind a hemlock tree. Its soft green evergreen needles tickle your neck and you rest on cool earth and put the entire world, sweet six-year-olds and all, most deliberately at your back.

It fills your head – this strange feeling that you have traveled through time to arrive at Spring Brook. Whether you have been transported forward or back is unclear.

Everything is different here. Even the air. Fairly froths, it does, the air, fragrant with forest.

Timeless dwellings crouch old, or supermodern – hand-mortared walls of fieldstone, wide south facing solariums glass-bubbled and crystalline perfect.

Trees tower, broad of girth, old and young.

You expect to find poverty everywhere among the rolling fields and meadows but find it nowhere. The people are rich – intellectually, spiritually, bodily, emotionally, morally, materially, ecologically – the truth strikes you like a sunbeam lasered direct in the pupil – it is so obvious, once you learn to look with non-biased, non-gluttonous, non-TV-scarred eyes.

Gardens everywhere – all shapes and sizes bursting with abundance, well cared for, yet somehow the residents are not slaves to the soil, more apprentices to leisure, lovers in work, so caught up in their projects arts hobbies various social fests in organized disorganized endeavors, quiet gatherings.

Some are fond of simply wandering off by themselves. They go for days, picking berries taking shelter beneath evergreens or in the well-stocked cabins sporadically placed, as in the forests of the Scandinavian countries.

This is not Scandinavia, this is another nook in a corner of the world – watershed after watershed of protected hidden earth, lush rugged plateau, so different from the rest of what you remember that it might as well be of another time, a place altogether alien to what has come to be known as civilization.

 

°

 

The six-year-old finds you. The child is dancing flowers, has taken up the flower dance for life. The flower dance is the child’s destiny. The little one pauses in full bloom, extends both arms, short and knobby, holding out a flower. For you, the child sings, a flower, for you.

A violet, it looks, pointed purple. You take it, stick it behind your ear. The six-year-old twirls beneath your taking, feet hopping, crude circles carved by budding limbs. You name the child Violet.

Come, Violet sings, fingers held out to yours. You hook on to the child who leads you to a path that winds from the meadow into surrounding hills and mountains, and in this moment you trust the little one to know where you are going.

You are led through maple trees, following scant trails dipping winding ascending mostly. Onwards upwards. At a crest, the ridge breaks and the plateau gapes into further valley, inhabited, forest trimmed around pockets of garden, pools of water, modest fieldstone houses.

Jubilation. The people’s laughter shakes the air. Their chatter, too, though they are too far, too far. Violet hops up and down, up and down, prancing all about. Look! Look! Look! the child sings. See! See! See! She throws up her arms and twirls. Home! Home! Home!

Home is beautiful.

Your knees melt and place you gently on a boulder. Violet clambers onto your lap and makes a nest there in the afternoon. You sit with the child, somewhere beyond the weather and time, beyond day and night, beyond summer and all seasons.

Violet falls asleep.

Dusk dims the valley. It is the hour to return, to get to where you know you will find a role in the fields and shops, the studies and centers. It does not matter that you have as yet small skill for the offering. You are drawn to the marketplace the lumberyard the cafés and salons to the camaraderie the root-picking the discussions the flesh and mind work the group animalism the mental activism everyone the limbs nerves of some larger creature joints enmeshed and moving electric – a common being.

Violet squirms and sleeps. You rise with the child. The ground is soft and warm as you walk down into valley.

Violet yawns, stretching arms beyond your careful grip – little toes jouncing from your gait.

Still half asleep the child says, I can walk.

This is fine, you reply.

Violet looks about, then sings, This is the way home.

This is the way, you echo.

And tomorrow we’ll find some more trails.

Every one, you tell her. We’ll find them all, eventually.

In time you approach a house where a person who may or may not be Violet’s parent watches your careful descent and takes the child from your arms.

You kiss the sleepy little head and the adult kisses you on the cheek and you are led inside the house where you wonder if it would be proper to so greet all those gathered.

And so it is.

 

°

 

You build modest houses of fieldstone. Many new arrivals always. You make it your duty to introduce them one by one to the child who dances flowers, this sprite who frolics free with all the other children of the woods, all the other creatures who love to dance the flower dance.

You sink these moments to the root of your memory. This is what you wish to do. It is not all easy but worthwhile, and so this, you remind yourself when need be, is what you want to do. You want to live full and be the brook.

Spring Brook they call this place, the land of the brook, clear and full flowing, bright of sun and flowers and dance.

The water runs inside you now. Welcome home.

 
Unpublished excerpts of Ganoga:

V.  Arrival

One day in swamp arrived Cambria.

Swam in unannounced, old friend. Sworled in and sat there on my bunk when I returned to yurt with an afternoon bucket of blueberries clasped in hand.

A talking deer sitting on the woodstove would have surprised me less.

Bone-lipped, I felt, pre-reptilian, monster of marsh.

Long since, I had built floating blockades over the waterpath into thicket, planted dense shrubbery small trees on large rafts, handmade from logs limbs soil and rope tied in place with wooden spikes fixed beneath, hanging nearly to swamp floor, and from time to time when I wish to entirely secure my retreat I unloose the impeding rafts at jagged intervals and block the waterpath by re-fastening hidden sunken ropes and clamps, spreading foliage and debris over the edges to cover seams. I designed the waterpath and flora floats in such a way that even someone who has gone down the path a time or two might not recall the true way among the blocked maze, might not detect the irregular rafts of impenetrable vegetation camouflaged in place. No one can swim beneath the bottom-spiked floats, nor glide through to yurt. Not that anyone might try. Not until Cambria, who came through with the path open.

There she drips on my blankets having swum up the waterpath flopped upon land lurched onto steps pushed through the door finally slithering leaping onto the bed still breathing somehow mutant gills become mutant lungs.

Bucket of berries sudden amulet of safety I clasp while searching for the tell-tale marks, sea-bred slits behind her ears. Fish woman. Might have known she would fin forth and find me out.

No lamps are lit that night.

At dark I put a sleeping bag on the floor, and there Cambria sleeps foreboding while I lie awake in sable chasm and twice get up and open the door to the world to sit on steps wooden sturdy broad. Cambria sleeps moss-covered. A few days I figure a week at most then she will go, slithering out in the manner by which she must have slithered in – flip-flopping down from yurt gills pronounced and gasping. Strong leap into water, and flit away.

What if she turns me in?

High treason to escape the peopled world.

In swamp moments I rarely ponder beyond this symbiotic aquatic realm. Always was always is and ever shall be. Cambria is not of the swamp though she respires here for the moment making a good act of it – forehead glistening, face glinting, slick scales, as if she were just any old invertebrate moon-basted drifted ashore innocuous, as if she were as one with swampforest. As if she were home.

 

VII.  Dawn

Morning pierces memory, step from dream. Cambria stirs wakes. Hunger in eyes. Hunger of hunter. And I know just what the prey.

Berries of blue.

We board the canoe, wend out from thicket, the waterpath maze a tunnel-like labyrinth to the world. Water-hugged branches. Chins down, we use oars to push-pull along the winding way.

At the hidden mouth giant hemlock limbs scrape the bow our backs as the canoe glides naked upon silver swamp sun sudden. Inside out our skin turns to absorb celestial glow.

Cambria throaty scratch at soft water softer sky. A planet apart. Open seas. Clear pools black-bottomed, moss-bottomed. Dark ridges rimming and distant.

South and east at the edge of the Allegheny plateau less than a mile away land plunges then rolls and glides far below, the forest rippling on to the Susquehanna’s main stem, the winding river we drift above and some miles beside.

The world is more magical afloat, as now in canoe of thin-skinned metal, a bare layer of chill between us and clear dark water, the earth unstable beneath, forests as far as the eye can see, sun blooming low at the planet’s edge where it is extra easy to feel transported to a land beyond.

A lone heron bursts up from shore and flies east to horizon.

Climbing mist.

Indeterminate lines separate water from shore.

Bump an island, push back out.

Cambria dips an oar into water with an effective grace that signals familiarity.

We skim through faint vapors, light curls, slipping beneath nine nests, home of the blue herons, dead stalk trees. Assume permission and pass as the sun blooms, a billion bright yellows oranges pressed cataclysmic, reflecting across riffles, gold petals squeezed to their nuclear essence, igniting showering earth.

In the bushes, a coyote perhaps, or a deer, or bear, a great big eight hundred pound black bear – one of several elements in swamp against which we stand no chance if ever it decides to challenge.

I ponder mist-obscured bushes across water and feel that Cambria and I have time in infinite pools, plenty of days nights years to go crazy, come clean, live whole, love full, heal as one – time enough to learn and grow together, arcing up like twined vines to heights neither of us know we might need to attain.

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