One Desk, Three Women, Three Eras, One Earth
FROM ELIZA: 1870
I grew up cradled in the branches of Grandmother Oak on the bank of the St. Joseph River in Michigan, but in my heart, I knew that California was my destiny. I would return from long afternoons curled up in the crook of grandmother oak’s four large arms, comforted, yet disturbed by visions of the future that contradicted everything I was taught was true.
In that terrible storm when Grandmother Oak shattered to the ground, I saved out the strongest pieces of her heartwood and made a desk that I could carry in my wagon to California.
Married to an old family friend, I arrived in that golden state in 1870, but it was too late: men were already claiming and taming California: Rivers were dammed and diverted, Tule swamps drained, natives run off their ancient lands, birds, and animals disappearing fast. Seems the only voice of reason was feminine.
I started out as a simple farm woman, but when I wrote on my little desk, I found courage and power to gather women throughout California to stand up and hold the earth in our hands.
From Harmony: 1980
The Sierra was filled with us back-to-the-landers, all going to save the world through our self-sufficient homesteads. Along with our Luna Valley neighbors, we built our homes, raised our children, grew and preserved our food, all in a perpetual state of bliss.
Rachel Carson raised the first red flag that chemical companies were poisoning our environment. Then along came the internet screaming daily about ecological disasters. “Outrage! We can’t let this happen, Sign this petition.” I took up every cause, wrote emails, donated money, hit “share” a zillion times. But wondered how much of it made a difference?
My sister brought me the old family desk warning that it must always stay in the family. I buried the desk under boxes and files of environmental activism. Only when faced with the reality that a proposed dam would submerge all that we’d worked for and I would lose everything – my husband, homestead, and community – did I uncover that little desk and began to listen to the silence.
From Amisha: 2075
Here in San Francisco, I live in a world shaped by the actions and inactions of generations before me. The sea encroaches daily, immigrants swarm in from the Pacific, fires scorch the land, the earth trembles. I work as a pediatric doctor, but few babies are born – and the few that live have flesh so infused with nano-plastics and endocrine systems so topsy-turvey that they can hardly eat what we call food or breathe what remains of the air.
Recently, beneath the constant chattering of news and directions from the Nib implanted behind my ear, I’m hearing whispers of another voice – like something’s calling me to “come home and find me.”
Contrary to what we’ve been told, when I gouge out my Nib’s bio-circuitry, I don’t die. I flee San Francisco, make a tortuous journey through the desiccated valley into the Sierra, in search of the old family homestead – that – and great-grandma’s desk.
I’m surprised by what I find here in Luna Valley. As I learn to listen, really listen to the earth, I feel more strongly that is the women who will do what must be done for the earth to survive.
Eliza was inspired by my Great-Grandmother Emily Hoppin and the scrapbook filled with her writings, speeches, and news accounts.
Harmony evolved from my own experience returning to the Sierra with the wave of back-to-the-landers in the 1970’s and our battle to save our community from being flooded by a proposed dam.
Amisha, a latecomer to the story, appeared one night like an apparition of my great-granddaughter from the future and announced that we are all creating her future world. From these three women and the fable of Shima’a, an ancient seer who foretold the future, Heartwood was conceived.
Heartwood speaks of women’s collective power to protect the earth they love, and of three generations of women who reach through time to support each other in doing what must be done.
A historical, speculative, feminist, eco-fiction, novel touched with magical realism.