Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts on a couple of rocks. . .

Four days from now all of us will give at least a passing thought to the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620. To be welcomed by this land's prior residents. Whom Europeans would shortly (in historical time) displace.

I think one of my ancestors was among those getting off the Mayflower. I say I think because it was not something my family ever made a big deal of. But as I like following the grand story that is history (and just in case my family's down-played myth was true), I once paid a visit to Plymouth, just to see what this famous rock looked like.

Not much, I decided.

I was to dig up bigger rocks putting in gardens on Charlie's and my 11.5 acres of land along Buffalo Ridge in Amherst County. And it's this land I want to write about, on this, the first working day of the short working week in which we celebrate Thanksgiving.

Charlie and I bought those 11.5 acres nigh onto two decades ago. They were down a rutted logging road, surrounded by thousands of acres of logging forest; home to bears, wild turkeys, deer, and very few other people. Having very little money ourselves, we lived on that land for the next six years in a couple of trailers. The first one was an ancient repo bought at a bank auction; the second was so comparatively palatial, we nicknamed it "The Palace."

But enough about Charlie and me. It's something simple that happened the day after we bought that land I want to write about; something that made me personally experience land ownership in a more complicated--and so more accurate--way.

It was around this time of year, actually. Charlie was off from work that day, so he took a lawn chair out to sit for a while on our 11.5 acres. He wanted to get to know it, to decide exactly where we should position our ancient repo. He sat his lawn chair down on a likely spot, idly reached his hand down and picked up the first rock he touched.

It was an arrowhead.

We were, of course, by no means the first to live on those 11.5 acres; just the first in a few decades, which in the context of history is a big fat nothing. That day, when Charlie showed me the arrowhead he'd found, I realized deep in my gut for the first time how people have moved other people--and peoples--around. And that we Americans, for all our national pride, are but a sentence in the larger story of our land.

On this Monday, back when I was in elementary school, we routinely made Pilgrim hats out of construction paper and congratulated ourselves mightily for being Americans. Now I realize that back then I had no idea what "being American" meant.

Even today, as glad as I am to be one, I'm still not quite sure what being American means. Whenever I think of that arrowhead, however, I do hope it means more than being able to push people around.

1 comment:

  1. very creative post, you start a discussion from to silly rocks like a professional standard comedian.