Lily's Story
the stars themselves. Your
Mama’s body is under the earth, but the guardian gods have taken
her spirit with them. Wherever they are, she will be also. If your
eyes and ears are listening to the good gods, you will hear her
voice among theirs. In that way she will always be near you. You
must not listen to the silliness of that Millar.”
    “ How do you know the good
gods’ll speak to me?”
    “ Ah, that is easy. Because
you sing their song, and you dance, and you are happy even when
you’re sad. And you make Old Samuels happy.”
    “ I can’t dance,” said
    Old Samuels paused to light his pipe. Lil
thought he was finished talking for the day. “But you can. I hear
dancing in your voice; every day.”
    Lil did not like to be teased. For a while
she sulked and hated Old Samuels. She waited in the woods by the
gravesite for a demon to whisper something outrageous to her. The
old man took no notice. He stayed his usual time and without saying
goodbye made his way across the field towards his great-nephew at
the edge of the bush.
    One night, alone in her loft, Lil woke to
the harvest moon igniting the straw at her feet. She caught herself
    Hi diddle dum, hi diddle dare-o
    Hi diddly iddly, hi diddle air-o
    Hi diddle diddly, hi diddle um
    Soon she felt the presence of a second part
in flawless harmony with her own. She stopped. Her mother’s voice
continued, as elfin and crystal as the moon’s.
    Lil was often alone. But then she had been
as long as she could remember, even when Mama was here. She was not
lonely though. She could sit beside her father while he chopped
wood or cursed after Bert and Bessie – for hours without the need
to speak. Often she hummed, sang songs or made them up as she
watched whatever rhythmic, repetitive scenes were being played out
before her. By herself in the fields she would lie on her back and
dream the clouds into shapes of her wishing, or follow, minute by
minute, the extravagant exit of the sun as it boiled and dissolved
or tossed itself on the antlered tree-line and uttered its blood.
The few acres that demarcated her world pulsated with sights,
sounds, smells; with minute dramas of birth, struggle and demise.
And now there were the guardians and the demons to listen for, the
good gods in their hiding to be touched and revealed.
    “ This bush don’t go on
forever,” Old Samuels said that spring, sensing restlessness in the
girl. “Half a day’s walk towards the sunset and you’ll come to the
River of Light that’s been flowin’ there since the last time the
wild gods stirred the earth like a soup and started it over again.
Two days walk towards the North Star where that river begins and
there’s the Freshwater Sea of the Hurons, bigger than the lakes on
the moon. Someday you’ll get to see them. For sure.”
    I already have, thought Lil. She had been
dreaming of water ever since the first snow had widened the woods
in October. In the midst of the bush, beyond the last blazed trail,
she would suddenly see before her a stretch of blue, unrippled
water, without edges or end, clear as cadmium and silent as if
waiting for the wind to be invented or a sun to come birthing out
of it. Then a crow would caw and the snow-bound trees pop back into
view. In the early spring the bubbling of Brown Creek below the
East Field would unexpectedly become magnified as if it were a
torrent ripping out the throat of a narrows, roaring triumph and
terror until Lil stopped her ears, knowing somehow that she had
transgressed, that the demons had indeed inherited part of the
    “ You’re like Old Samuels,
little one. Sometimes you know.”
    “ I’ll ask the guardian to
bring back your eyes,” Lil said.
    “ So I can see all the
wickedness and all the silliness again? It’s not like olden times
any more. Two days walk south of here and they say you’ll come to
roads chopped through the bush, and White Mens drives his wagons on
roads made of dead trees, and
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