|The tribe daring each other to jump in the cold snowmelt pond.|
I was in my flip-flops. My hair had gotten long enough that I could feel it on my shoulders. My shoulders were sunburned, no shirt, a pair of plaid shorts with a permanent dirt stain on the butt. JT was trotting along, trying to keep up on his short five year old legs. He'd helped us dig it out to begin with.
We had brought some more stuff that we'd found. I had an eagle feather. I knew it was an eagle feather. I went and asked the Dean if it was and he said yeah, and that it was sacred and special and that I should keep it, and that's what had started us heading over here today.
Along the way J.T. had found a rock that he said was a crystal, but it was really just a rock, but he wanted it to be as special as my eagle feather, so I let him have it. Ethan, always practical, had brought along a shovel and the little porcelain dish that he has swiped from mom's kitchen that had some of her special rocks in it, but mom was pretty cool that way, you know? She let us play with her stuff, and sometimes she'd wonder where it was and it would mysteriously reappear.
Anyway, we climbed up over the big, loose, dirt mound and when we got to the top, there was our flag,
almost just like we'd left it. It was a long tree branch that we'd pulled out of the river the summer before and tied to the top was a piece of white T-shirt. It was the best flag we'd had so far. We'd had it out on the raft last year when we'd lived up at the pond. Now we'd moved across the ranch to another cabin that also had a pond, but this pond had a big fire hose that sprayed into it all day, so didn't have a raft, so the flag has been laying by our front door for most of the summer until we found this magic spot.
I called it my peaceful place. The other kids wanted to name it something else like, you know, rad, awesome, gastro launch mech tech site, but it wasn't. It was my peaceful place and that's what we called it and they just had to deal with it or they couldn't come play there. We had set up rules for it. They were very clear. Each one of us had a treasure table. Mine was made out of a stump. Ethan and J.T. had big flat rocks that they had polished and swept off really carefully and on each treasure table we had put our most valued possessions. I had a bone from an elk that I found, a big huge femur, heavy and bleached white. I had some soft, sort of oily-feeling yellow crystals that I had found that I thought were maybe salt, and some feathers. The flag was planted right by the edge of the mossy minnow pond, marking our territory.
Ethan had a bird's nest at his treasure table. He was really good at spotting birds. He even knew why kind of bird it was that the nest belonged to. J.T. had little mounds of dirt. He didn't really get it. He was still kind of a baby, but we let him play. He would put anything on his treasure table and we were constantly trying to tell him, it's not a treasure. It has to be something special. You can't just pick something up off the ground and dump it on the table. It needs to be something, you know, it needs to be a treasure, so maybe he treasured his dirt.
But here's what happened. Today we walked up to the top of the hill that hid our peaceful place, and all of those things that we had carefully put there were under a huge pile of dirt with giant tractor marks pressed into it. The top of our flag was showing out of it, but nothing else was there. Someone had come and dumped truckload after truckload after truckload of dirt there.
Those huge, heavy machines had rolled over our most sacred spot, our campsite, our peaceful place, our treasure tables. Every single thing was buried, my bone, my feathers, the stump, the rocks, they were turned and buried. Even a little pond with minnows in it was filled in part way with ugly brown lose dirt. The flag was sticking out barely, and Ethan looked at it, still, and then walked over, put down his little bowl, picked up the shovel that was still leaning against the tree just outside of the dirt, and began to dig.
"What are you doing?" I asked, anger flooding everything. It seemed pointless, hopeless.
"I'm digging up what we can recover. Its all under here."
"Its GONE, Ethan. Those assholes dumped dirt over everything everything that meant anything to me."
Ethan didn't even look. He had the flag halfway out. "You never know, Bodhi, we might find it all if we just start digging. It won't help us find the stuff to cry about it. If you want to have your stuff back, start digging."
"You sound like mom!" I yelled at him. It wasn't his fault, but I needed to be angry at someone. "I want our SPOT BACK! I want my HOME BACK!" I screamed. And then I sat down, suddenly tired. Tired from the job ahead, moving all that dirt to find a tiny feather, tired from the anger, which was draining out of my toes, being replaced with disbelief.
It had been the perfect place, and it was out of sight, but it was close enough to the house that we could hear mom ring the bell when it was time to come home. It was across the road, so that we felt really like big kids, you know? We had been allowed to cross the road to find our spot and those fuckers, man.
I can't even believe it and I felt it coming up in me and it wasn't anger so much as just total disbelief. I felt as though that huge machine had driven over my home; that I had come home one day and that my house was flat and that this embossed mark of this huge, metal monster had left its footprints all over what was most precious to me, my sanctuary, my space.
I really didn't care whether I cried in front of the other kids or not, because I felt my heart breaking and being squeezed. It seemed impossible, it was shocking, surprising, unreal. I felt sick. I felt sad. I felt I felt robbed. I felt like I couldn't trust anybody. How could the Dean have let this happen? He's the one that taught me to find a bow, to find a soft piece of willow and bend it and split it and tie a piece of grass between it and make a bow that really works. He had taught me that I could eat the whole dandelion, including the flower.
How in the world had he let - I mean what had, had he been driving this monster? Had he been driving this machine? Tell me please that the Dean was not a part of this. I couldn't believe it. I decided not to believe it. It must have been while he was gone. His workers came and they didn't see our flag, which was clearly planted on top of this place that was very special to us.
They must not have seen (but how could they not) our careful place, the piece of the place that was mine, the log we sat in and pulled the moss off of, the place where you could cool your feet, how could they not have?
I sat down and cried. The tears spilled out of my eyes, hot and wet and angry on my cheeks. I grieved for the loss of this place that had meant so, so much to me, and was now wadded up like tissue paper. It was the first time that I ever felt loss or death or grief, and I knew then, that it wouldn't be the last.