It had been warm for the past few days, an unpleasant echo of the city from which she’d fled, but today those welcome cloud castles were once more on the prowl. Under the shade of an ancient apple tree red cows ruminated, flopping their tails against the flies. Betsy moved quickly, but as she passed beneath the original decrepit denizens of the orchard, with their thick trunks, a childhood memory gave her pause.
Looking up, she found that she’d come beneath the same tree she’d climbed into all those long years ago. It was scarred and had lost limbs, but it still stood, much as she remembered. She thought of the terror she’d felt imagining more Indians lurking in the woods behind the potato patch, scalping knives sharp.
No more would brown half-brothers arrive from the forest to collect manhood presents. At Albany there were hardly any Indians anymore, the great tribes shriveled to almost nothing by war, white man's incursion and disease. Their cruelty and their kindness, their knowledge, their mystery—all vanishing from the land along with their totem brothers—the moose and the beaver, the bear and the wolf.
A gust of wind caught her attention. Aroused by the sight of black clouds west, Betsy lifted her arms to the sky. Her sleeves fell back and there was her own brown skin, green veins, the pulse and whisper of the new life she carried in her belly.
Had that love of place, the compulsion that always drove her home, come from an unknown ancestress, a woodland woman whose child some Dutch ancestor had brought home?
Or is just that I was born and bred here, and the food which fed me in childhood came from this earth, drunk through the roots of Papa's fields and fruit trees? This land, here by this river--it's is part of my flesh, too.
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