Spring and Truths, my Conversation with Ashkewheteasu
I’m fortunate to live in one of the prettiest places in America’s Midwest. This morning while walking my dogs, I saw the first harbingers of spring pushing their way up out of the frozen ground – my snowdrops. As the weather warms and winter transitions into spring, you can feel the restlessness in the earth. I can certainly feel it here. It’s the vibration of life. There’s even a smell to it, the fresh loamy smell of thawing. Tree buds want to open as sap begins to flow, and the young of many species will be born and hatched in the spring.
Living where I do, I’ve been privy to the fact nature wakens in precise increments of time. Abundant rabbits and rodents with their fast maturing litters will feed the slower maturing foxes and coyotes and enter the scene just as the fledgling hawks and owls start hunting for themselves. Predator and prey begin a dance of measured steps in the spring. Nature is balanced when left alone. There’s no doubt humans have great impact upon this balance. Sometimes it’s calculated and often cruelly lacking regard for other species – we drill and mine for fossil fuels or drain wetlands for development. Sometimes it’s innocent – allowing our cats and dogs out to wreak havoc on wildlife or introducing noxious plant species to areas they don’t belong.
As someone long involved in historic preservation, I feel the same way about precious ancient history. We can really mess things up, intentionally or otherwise.
Case in point: Wisconsin was once covered in ancient Native American burial and effigy mounds. Sadly most of them are gone now. Of the more than 10,000 that were once there, only a handful remains. Several years ago my husband and I stumbled upon an undiscovered (or at least unknown in our time) bird-shaped effigy mound not too far from our home. To this day, no one knows of it and we aren’t talking. As mentioned above, humans often impact treasures, whether treasure takes the form of delicate ecosystems, or irreplaceable remnants of prehistory. These 10,000+ mounds were destroyed for various reasons from artifact collecting, to field clearing for farming, to modern urban development.
There’s a fascinating self-guided driving tour across the state of Wisconsin and into Iowa that takes you to each intact mound. Captivated by the mystery of it all, I sought information and learned of Native American legends that spoke of grave guardians who assumed the form of wolves or dogs and watched over burial mounds. Curiously, some of the mounds we saw were clearly shaped like wolves walking upright. The writer I am couldn’t help but wonder what happened to these guardians when the mounds they watched over were destroyed. I found it all an amazingly introspective experience that led to my meeting Ashkewheteasu. The following is our rather candid discussion.
Rose: Hello Ash. Are you alright with me calling you Ash, or would you prefer Askewheteasu?
Ash: Boozhoo, Rose. I’ve left my older name in the past with the legends of my people. I am Ash now.
Rose: My compliments, Ash. You speak my language very well.
Ash: Migwech. Immediate understanding is a gift from the Sky Father. I know the language of every animal and bird whose skin I wear. I’ve heard your words spoken for the last one hundred and fifty years, one of many languages I’ve learned as people came and left these lands. I admit I am slow to learn to speak it. For that, I need others to converse with.
Rose: I know a little about the Middle Woodland Culture and the Effigy Mound builders. What can you tell me about your people? I mean, your old people from long ago.
Ash: Tell me what you understand and if I am able, I’ll tell you what you don’t know.
Rose: Well, I know they lived along the Wisconsin-Illinois border and their lands extended from Dubuque Iowa on the west, north into southeastern Minnesota, and across southern Wisconsin from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. I also know for the most part, the Mound Builder culture is a mystery.
He gave me a handsome smile and shook his head.
Ash: I do not know these places you speak of.
Rose: Oh, um…let me back up. The land around here has been named in the last two hundred years. It’s divided into territories called states. All the land belongs to the United States of America now.
Ash: Belongs to? Your people are unusual Rose. Does the land belong to the deer and fox? They live upon it as well. People only borrow land to live on, as other creatures do.
I really didn’t know how to respond to that. Many primitive cultures around the world once held the same belief. Some still do.
Rose: It’s my understanding that archeologists believe the effigy mounds delineated territories of clan gathering areas and hunting grounds, and that most held burials.
I’d read it was estimated that 80% of the mounds that once existed held human burials, and typically the body interred in the animal-shaped mounds were placed in the head or heart area.
Ash: Yes, my people marked the ground this way. Some of the mounds we built did this. And yes, the others were graves. My wife was buried in one such grave. Her people were Water people. Her mound was an otter mound. I guarded her mound until recently.
He shook his head. I understood. Such destruction made no sense. I changed the subject.
Rose: I know you’re immortal. I can’t imagine living 3000 years alone.
Ash: It was a lonely life, Rose. I am not so lonely anymore. I have Livie and Cora, and tonight I meet John Redleaf.
Rose: You’re sure to like John. About Livie…you’re staying at Livie’s house as a wolf-mixed dog, and you’re helping her at the animal clinic as a man. I can tell she has feelings for you, and I know she loves the dog she’s been caring for. I’m aware you plan to tell her the truth of what and who you are.
Ash: Yes. But I am afraid once she knows my truth, she will turn away from me. I never thought I’d love again. I’ve grown to love her, Rose. I love her as the air I breathe.”
Dr. Rosalini hadn’t yet realized the dog she’d hit with her car and healed is a 3000 year old shaman in his shape-shifted form.
Rose: I have to wonder if she needs to know you can shape shift. I would think you’d just not do that and stay as you are.
He smiled again.
Ash: I know you understand if the dog I am disappears and Livie grows to love me as the man I am, years will pass and she will see I cannot age. She’ll know my life with her is a lie. I love her too much to leave a lie between us. And more, were I to do that, our story would end here, Rose. If it ends, Eluwilussit lives and that story is yet to be read.
He knew I’d just finished the sequel??His sentience surprised me. Those brown eyes sparkled too. Maybe he wanted me to write a happy outcome. After all, he only knew what was in his half of the tale.
Rose: How do you know that?
Ash: I know your mind. You understand he cannot be loosed upon the world. It only makes sense that you would continue the story to the end.
Rose: Whatever ending that might be.
He smiled. Good lord was he handsome. He knew I already knew.
Ash: I know you’ve already seen this. I am as much of you, as you are of me, as we are together. Gi zah gin, Rose.
I loved him too. It’s an odd thing to converse with characters born from your imagination, it’s even stranger to interview yourself and not have to think too long before you answer! He was me and I was him and together we were something else entirely. Yes, I knew how the story would end. There were dangers ahead.
What does an immortal Native American shaman do when the grave he’s sworn to watch over for all eternity disappears under urban development? His purpose of guarding his wife’s burial mound is gone, Ashkewheteasu seeks to end his immortal existence. In his despair, Ash assumes the form of a wolf and steps in front of a moving car and into the life of Dr. Olivia “Livie” Rosalini. The veterinarian saves the animal’s life, and in the process saves the man within. Livie has no idea the wolfish dog she’s taken into her home and grows to love is a magical being seeking to win her heart as a man. While Ash is learning a new world filled with new love, friendship, and happiness, an old menace makes plans to steal it all away; just as he had 3000 years before.
Available exclusively on Amazon right now.
The Roots of the Story on USA Today
Coming soon – The Witchy Wolf and the Wendigo
Book 2 Eluwilussit’s story
Book 2 Eluwilussit’s story
I love words and choose them as carefully as an artist might choose a color. My active imagination compels me to write everything from children’s stories to historical nonfiction. As a persnickety leisure reader, I especially enjoy novels that feel like they were written just for me. It's hard to explain, but if you've ever read one of those, then you know what I mean. I tend to sneak symbolism and metaphor into my writing. You might say it's a game I play with myself when I write. And I so love when readers email to say they've found something. I’d like people to feel my stories were written just for them, for that’s the truth. These hidden insights are my gift to my readers.
Main Blog: http://calliopeswritingtablet.com/
Satellite Blog: http://calliopeswritingtablet.blogspot.com/