Acadian Chronicles: When Ancestors Look Down

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Rendezvous – Past, Present, Future

In 2016, the Algonquian language of the Payens was spoken by 7,345 Mi’kmaq in Canada and the United States, mainly in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but also in Québec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Maine. If the language disappears, will Mi’kmaw traditions disappear too? The dialect spoken in Québec is called Restigouche (or Listuguj), hard for other Native speakers to understand. The Saqamaw in Lagona, with no one yet to replace him, fears family traditions will be lost. He refuses to let that happen. There is no word for good-bye in the Mi’kmaw language. There is only this expression Nmu’ltis app which translates into “I’ll see you again.” So what does this tell us about Edgar abandoning family traditions?

Elders are guardians of Algonquian culture. They keep alive the stories, legends, beliefs, language, history, and traditions from generation to generation. These Elders serve the community as teachers, philosophers, linguists, historians, healers, judges, counselors – all this and more. Vicky and Violette’s Maman, an Acadian Elder of sorts, does the same for Acadian culture. Likewise, Mi’kmaw Elders have been keeping alive their rich spiritual knowledge thousands of years. Their knowledge of ceremonies and rituals, of the laws and rules set down by the Creator, enable the Mi’kmaq to persevere as a Nation. But not all Elders are seniors, and not all seniors are Elders. Some Elders are young. To be an Elder requires special gifts of insight and understanding, like those already demonstrated by Vicky and Violette, as well as their having keen communication skills. Elders never hoard their knowledge. For the Saqamaw of Lagona, like all Elders before him, it’s more important to pass knowledge on, so that the Algonquian culture can continue another generation. Speaking the Algonquian language is part of that process.

Elders share their knowledge through oral traditions. These may include stories, jokes, games, like Waltes, or other social activities. When listeners hear these stories and teachings, they feel the pain, joy, victories and defeats of their people. They reach out to one another across time. Past, present and future become one. The Mi’kmaq have always been – time travelers.

The Mi’kmaq call themselves L’nu’k (the people) and their language L’nui’sin. As explained before, the word Mi’kmaq comes from their greeting nikmaq, meaning “my kin-friends.” The Mi’kmaq are frequently classified into two groups: the Neenoilno, often called by Europeans the Montagnais, meaning “mountain people” in French, being a subdivision of the Innu people of Canada or simply the Innu (Nehilaw and Ilniw – “people”), who live along the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Québec; and the less numerous Naskapi (Innu and Iyiyiw), who live farther north. It is important to note that the Innu are not Inuit. Moreover, the Innu recognize several distinctions (e.g., Mushuau Innuat, Maskuanu, Uashau Innuat) based on different regional affiliations and speakers of various dialects of the Innu language.

While rescuing Violette in the vortex, the Saqamaw discovered that he’s related to Vicky and Violette. After returning to the castle in ruins, Violette soon collapsed on the hillside, sick with worry about Vicky’s condition. At that very moment, Edgar and Annie rush to help Violette – passed out on the grass. Suddenly, over the sirens – a howl tears through the air. Violette stirs, her eyes closed, inhaling the damp earth beneath her. Disoriented, she imagines she’s crushing roly polies with her prone position, so she tries to lift herself to let them escape, but she’s unable to budge. Then her whole body begins to twitch, muscles contracting. Her eyes still closed, in a

fit, Violette can identify the howling face:

“Madame Vidocq!” she exclaims.

“Violette! Oh, Violette!” Annie cries in anguish, while the spasms subside. Annie draws Violette close to her, little arms clasping round Annie’s neck.

“My brother will take us back in time. He can save us.” Annie said over and over. Holding Violette by the hand, Annie struggles to stand up and locate her brother.

“Edgar, where are you?” Violette, holding Annie’s hand tightly, is looking for him too.

“There he is!” Violette points and smiles. She can see the Saqamaw’s trying to control his emotions, his head down, but like his twin sister, despite great sorrow and his advanced age, his step is quick and determined. He motions to his sister and Violette to catch up with him. Annie and Violette run toward him till all three make a tremendous jumble of arms hugging each other. Then the Saqamaw makes a grave face, bowing his head in prayer.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, the whirling tunnel – Papa, Maman and baby Max appear inside it as a faded watercolor, the trio not quite materialized. Their joy and love are so tangible that Violette feels she can touch them with her bare hands. Maman’s voice is garbled in the tunnel, but standing there breathless, her mouth gaping, Violette detects these words, “Oh, my Angels, I’m sorry we don’t have time to say good-bye properly. You see, we have to—” Then the velocity of the vortex doubles, and they’re gone.

Violette was jumping in place, laughing, clutching tightly her locket, in anticipation of squeezing her parents close to her heart, still reaching for them as the vortex dissolves into a sparkling flash:

“Where did they go?” Violette screams.

“They’re in a time warp, Violette. They’re trying to land, but the vortex was knocked off its usual coordinates with the explosion. It won’t be long. I’m working on it right now. They’ll be back.” Feeling Violette’s agony, Edgar wants to soothe her:

“I’m so proud of you, my beloved granddaughter.” Violette wasn’t sure what he meant calling her granddaughter. Just trying to be nice, right? The Saqamaw bends over to kiss her on the forehead, before twirling round toward the ruins.

“Now I must talk to Mother.” Violette sees he’s stalling. Then she notices something else:

“Look!” while pointing to the ruins. First responders are pushing a gurney into an ambulance with all kinds of tubes and machines attached. Also in view, Mme Vidocq marching through the deep, wet grass toward Violette:

“Violette, you caused all this!” Louise Payen shouts. “You ruined everything!” Annie’s voice shoots back like a sharp arrow:

“Mother, stop! Enough is enough!”

For the Saqamaw, there are two major uncertainties regarding time travel. Before addressing these, what does he have in mind? Can he restore Vicky’s well-being to her former condition, as it was before the explosion? Can the Saqamaw revive the Forest People and resuscitate Payen Hall? The first uncertainty is whether the time traveler must be present the first time an historical event happens, like the explosion, or does time traveling to the past force the universe onto another trajectory, no matter who was present the first time? The second uncertainty is the following: are there only some travelers who have the ability to change history, while others cannot?

Most people only know fictional time travelers. Among the most popular are Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, as well as the time traveler in Groundhog Day, and the travelers in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and, of course, the travelers in Back to the Future. Additionally, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban involves Doppelgänger. J.K. Rowling imagines that while a time traveler is passing through a particular point in history, a clone of the traveler already exists there preceding the time traveler, doing everything the time traveler will eventually do. Rowling’s time travel operates on the premise that the universe will always revert to the way it was before any attempted intervention. In other words, for Rowling the time traveler visiting the past won’t shift the Doppelgänger’s perception of events. In this interpretation, however, time travelers can go insane — mentally clashing with their doubles — two separate memories confronting each other at the same time. This means Rowling’s time traveler is unable to change events, unless those events were going to change anyway, with or without the time traveler’s intervention.

Louise Payen stops in her tracks, sizing up the meaning of Annie’s attack. What do Edgar and Annie know about the explosion? What had they learned that might be a real obstacle? Louise retreats to strategize. Ten minutes earlier, she had submitted a deposition to the police, identifying Violette as the arsonist. Following his mother’s sudden retreat, the Saqamaw quickens his pace, catching up with her, out of breath:

“Mother, stop…! I know the truth,… what you did years ago… murdering my wife, disinheriting our baby son, making him an orphan…. I had a son! I never knew that! Adopted by another family. Turn around! How could you?” Of course, Louise feels no regret. She’s always right, her mission matters more than the lives of others. Why? She rids the world of the weak. It’s all about survival of the fittest. But is she really the heroine she imagines herself to be or the victim of megalomania?

“You’re too soft, Son. God destroys the useless creatures of the world:

‘And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.’

Knowing it’s pointless to argue with his mother, Edgar can’t help adding:

“You think I’m a heathen, but I can quote the Bible too. In the very next verse, our Creator forgave Noah. God gave Noah and all of humanity a second chance:

‘But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.’”

“Mother, who gave you the right to play God?”

How can one person, Louise, do so much harm? It happens for sure. Then again, how can two little girls, Vicky and Violette, accomplish so much good, so young? That happens too. Thank goodness.

In reality, mankind is deluded about its relationship to Nature, every human being so fragile, always at risk. For example, Nature has more power than anything mankind can produce. The energy released over the course of a few days by a single hurricane is equivalent to that used by the entire world economy in a year. And we’re talking about one storm. Yes, it’s true, mankind’s ecological footprint is devastating rainforests and polluting the rivers, altering geochemical cycles that regulate Earth’s climate and the chemistry of our atmosphere. Likewise, Louise’s crusades damage the social fabric and well-being of her family. But let’s not forget that Nature acts on a scale that dwarfs human activities.

Louise is her own victim. A fragile creature herself, she’s powerful enough to undermine future generations. In undermining the Payen family, she’s the unwitting victim of her own success. She will go down with the family she’s destroying. If the Payen clan’s going to survive yet another generation – and even thrive for generations – then the Saqamaw needs to turn to examples in Nature for the answers. Mankind was never capable of becoming the steward of Nature. No human being will ever know enough to understand fully how Nature works. As the Mi’kmaq have always acknowledged, natural systems operate in the background of everything on the planet. Mankind often thinks of Nature as passive, but it’s never passive. Those silent processes of renewal and regeneration are everywhere. Nature regenerates our landscapes constantly and maintains all essential processes on which mankind depends – from photosynthesis to pollination. Man’s survival? Monsanto cannot end world hunger, only Nature can feed the world!

In short, Nature’s ability to recover is a powerful engine on which mankind must depend, and if mankind wants to act wisely, it must learn to rely on Nature for real solutions. The intervention of time travelers to the rescue might be a huge mistake! Too many unknowns. This thought has crossed Edgar’s mind many times since the explosion at the manor. For example, between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 23 nuclear bombs on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, as part of a weapons-testing program. The local coral reefs were annihilated, and the islands were too contaminated for displaced residents to be resettled there. In 2017, when scientists returned to scuba dive at the Bravo Crater – left behind by a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated by the U.S. – they discovered a coral community teeming with marine life. In some places, living coral covered 80% of the seafloor, and scientists saw branching corals up to 25 feet tall. There were fewer species than prior to the nuclear tests, but that visit was proof of the resiliency of Nature.

The Saqamaw will do everything in his power to regenerate the clan and its traditions. How will he accomplish this? All Elders, like Edgar and Marguerite, know people are part of flawed, unstable social systems, where injustice and constant warfare wreak havoc. Edgar will need Nature to intervene. He, like the rest of humanity, must accept a new era, the chance to face a new dawn. To enjoy this new dawn, our survival will depend on our ability to call Nature to our aid. That means we must swallow our pride and leave the glorious Age of Man to enter the humble Age of Nature, or, more correctly, we must return where we always belonged -- to the Age of Nature.

Three weeks after the explosion, Vicky’s still at the hospital, drifting in and out of a coma, but her prognosis is excellent. In a coma, she recalls the blast, but all she can remember, and that vaguely, is the blinding glare and Huritt’s desperate cry – “Nuttah, Nuttah!” At the hospital, Violette and Maman spend all day at Vicky’s bedside, watching over her, telling her new details about developments at home, how the whole family will be living together at the castle, as if Vicky were able to follow every word they say. Violette and Maman also sing to their Sleeping Beauty – Acadian and Mi’kmaw lullabies, with tears welling in their eyes. Whenever Violette sings, she won’t let go of Vicky’s hand – her new devoted bodyguard.

Vicky knows nothing yet about the fate of the 20 Forest People who perished during the holocaust or the loss of Huritt. Their tiny bodies just couldn’t take it – being more vulnerable to the scorching heat. Of course, Annie and the Saqamaw, whom Vicky still doesn’t know is her great-grandfather, also visit her every day, but they don’t stay, returning quickly to the castle to tidy up and equip a sterile room for Vicky’s anticipated return. Annie chauffeurs everyone back and forth each trip. For the rest of the family, Grandpa Edgar has begun setting up comfortable, temporary living quarters, wigwams, during the reconstruction of the manor. Grandpa Edgar will rebuild Payen Hall – but on a more modest scale – nothing as grandiose as before, though the underground garden will be upgraded, and, of course, a smaller ballroom will be resurrected for musical pleasures of dance and fiddling.

After the difficult return of Maman, Papa, and Max, the Saqamaw announced that the vortex would be off limits to the Payen clan, though it would remain a time-honored option for the visiting Forest People from New Brunswick, since they’re old masters at it. Grandpa Edgar explained that wormholes were too risky for Acadians. All travel for the Payens would be limited for the moment to old-school science – like jet and rocket propulsion. Everyone laughed, and no one protested. The Saqamaw insisted on the family’s commitment to the Age of Nature. Again, no protests, since Grandpa Edgar explained this era would be the family’s new beginning – their New Dawn.

For similar reasons, the Saqamaw had refused to travel to the past to rescue Vicky. It might have spared her a long convalescence, but he understood how the Age of Nature requires sacrifices from everyone and no quick fixes. Everyone needs to respect the restorative powers of Nature, and whenever possible to use these natural methods to heal the body. Vicky’s on the mend now – without quick fixes. That’s the good news.

Violette worries that Vicky will be scarred, so she asks Annie if that’s likely the case. Annie says she isn’t sure, but Annie promises to prepare all the healing herbs and plants in her garden to help, if need be. Relieved, Violette then suddenly tilts her head, rethinking what really counts:

“Vicky’s scars could be called her badges of courage!”

Whatever happened to Louise Payen?

Was she arrested? No. Did she escape? Maybe. It’s still not clear. She was standing where the vortex touched down in a flash on the grass, delivering a shaken Maman, Papa, and baby Max. Violette was the only eyewitness. Of course, the Saqamaw considers Violette’s account trustworthy. However, Violette describes it so glibly, comparing the accident to Dorothy’s house smashing the Wicked Witch of the East. Unhappy to lose her, the Saqamaw mourned his mother, the person Violette could never stand, calling her – always behind the Saqamaw’s back --Ki’kwesu, the muskrat.

If Louise did escape through the vortex, then Edgar trusts that the Forest People who patrol the tunnel will run into her, since Louise wouldn’t know up from down, right from left in a spinning vortex. If Louise is found there, then the Forest People will escort her to their council of Elders in New Brunswick, and that assembly will deal with her more humanely than any U.S. court of law. But what if Louise escaped in Lagona? Yikes!

On the bright side for the moment, Annie’s homemade cookies won the heart of Max. What path later will the Martian Cookie Monster take? Growing up with so many seers, fiddlers and dreamers, Max will likely look up at the stars and crave new beginnings in space – so why not Mars? Besides, scientists are serious about Mars. Max wouldn’t be alone in his quest. Scientists claim that 4 billion years ago Mars was a watery planet, before it dried up, capable for millions of years of sustaining various life forms before it mysteriously dried up and rusted – turning red. Who or what caused Martian climate change? Maybe Martian Ancestors from millions of years ago know the answer. Are Earthlings today making the same mistakes?

Several space programs around the world are planning to colonize Mars sooner than later. Could the rusty planet be “terraformed,” that is, by releasing carbon dioxide gas trapped in the Martian surface, could terrestrial colonists manipulate and thicken its atmosphere, resulting in the red planet’s temperature rising, helping regenerate living conditions? Maybe Max will be among those pioneers who will put back enough carbon dioxide into the Martian atmosphere to transform the inhospitable, dead planet into a life-sustaining planet. But wouldn’t that be grossly interfering with natural cycles of life and death? Wouldn’t that work against the Age of Nature across space? Will Max dare terraform Mars, resurrecting a zombie planet, the way Dr. Frankenstein resurrected his monster from the grave?

If Max does help transform the rusty planet to make a new home for himself and other colonists, what would Max like to name this Martian settlement? Remember, in the vortex, Violette saw into the future, and there on Mars, Max wanted to show her his home. No doubt, if he listens to the same Ancestors as do his sisters, he’ll be true to family traditions and call the Martian settlement – New Acadia! But how many crossings will it take to promote once again Champlain’s Dream on Mars? More than twenty-nine voyages, no doubt.

Only time will tell.

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