"He's one with the dragonfly," a scientist says of his young companion. "He knows how to almost predict dragonfly flight." In this issue's opening story, "Dragonfly Paradise," a teenager joins his dad and other adult volunteers in pursuit of rare aquatic insects in remote northern bogs. The 14-year-old proves to be the most keen-eyed and agile dragonfly catcher.
Generations gather in summer—a wide-open, luxurious time of year. Daylight arrives in the wee hours and stretches long into the evening. Time to chase dragonflies, walk in the woods, go to the lake, tend a garden. Daydream …
"A Late Summer Walk" captures the pleasure of slowing down and wandering with—and like—a child. This essay follows a father and his 4-year-old daughter as they meander along a stream. Bob White, the dad and narrator, colors the scene like a painter, which he is. He sees "long ultramarine shadows … rolling ochre fields … and hazy cobalt hills." Watching brook trout in spawning colors, he explains to the reader—but waits for his daughter to discover—the trick of looking through reflections on the water surface and focusing on the depths.
Adult and child converse in "Cabin Talk," mulling over the meaning of cabin. Essayist Mike Lein brings in voices of legendary cabin owners Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Sigurd Olson. From Thoreau's Walden, he quotes: "Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?" Lein concludes, "What matters most to these icons of American nature writing is the natural world surrounding the cabin."
While the writers initiated these three stories, "Dream of Wild Health" developed another way. For Earth Day 2015, I heard Diane Wilson speak about the nonprofit community farm she directs. Intrigued, I volunteered to help with spring planting. One day last May, I put on my garden gloves and joined the crew in planting long rows of basil and tomatoes. As we worked our way across the field with hoes, rakes, spades, and watering cans, each person told me something about the dreams being realized through labor on this land. In quiet conversation they talked about rebuilding the soil, restoring native plants, bringing fresh produce to Native American communities, and nurturing youth in the summer program. Though they thanked me for my help, the day was their gift to me. So I asked Wilson to tell the story to MCV readers.
"Dream of Wild Health" centers around a circle of elders and teenagers, drawn together by their Native heritage and quest for a healthy life. They share the work of planting food crops and native prairie grasses and forbs for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Young gardeners learn "cultural teachings and shared values that help them slowly rebuild a relationship with the earth," say Wilson and co-author Alayna Rhodes. "This is the deeper work of cultural recovery, of reclaiming knowledge displaced by boarding schools, relocation programs, and the loss of Native homelands."
In her book Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past, Wilson chronicles her own search to reconnect past and present. She writes, "These long weeks in South Dakota had taught me that there was more to research than history books and genealogy charts. I had become a hunter, silent and still, stalking the family myths hidden in the hills."
Her family story is part of our larger cultural history of displacement. "Dream of Wild Health" notes that today the farm grows Cherokee corn from seeds saved by women on the Trail of Tears, the 1838–39 forced march of 15,000 Cherokees from their homelands east of the Mississippi to Oklahoma territory.
Spirit Car follows the story of Wilson's great-great-grandmother during the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862, the 150-mile march of Dakota people from Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling, and their exile to places outside Minnesota. Wilson asks, "What if knowing the truth about the past would change the way we live in the present?"
These long days are a time to tend the earth and build relationships across cultures and generations.
Kathleen Weflen, editor