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  • Mj Pettengill

That Which is Undreamed

Boy, Lewis Hine Photo

That was somethin’ about Mamma, she always led people around. She didn’t even try. Folks just happened to follow her. When I asked her about it once, she said that it was because Nellie shared grandmother wisdom, insight passed down from the ancestors. Mamma claimed to have passed it on to me. She created me in this wisdom, teachin’ me things so very different from what was typically known beyond the fence. Most nights, followin’ our prayers and before dimmin’ the lamp, she said: Dear heart, once you have answered the call and walk with the ancestors, there’s no turnin’ back. This responsibility—a gift—is unlike any other. You will have what you need. If darkness closes in on every corner, fear not, for you will hold fast to the light. In humble gratitude, you can and will lead the way. Honor and share and leave room for that which is undreamed. Throughout eternity, may our souls not divide. Those words were her final goodnight, for me to take with me into my dreams. And then, she’d kiss me on the forehead, wrap her arms around me, and we lay coiled together until the first light of day. I didn’t fall asleep as quickly as she did. I was too much of a thinker, which wasn’t a bad thing, it was just a thing.

I do not recall a time when I did not hear or know those words. Before I had even a slight notion of their weight and meanin’, they had become me. Long after those days and now, I continue to say them in my head. But it wasn’t until that one day of fierce, great, achin’ loss, and perpetual clarity, that I got it, at least more than I had before.

It was because of Mamma and Nellie that my youthful visions were rich, laced with untamed wisdom commonly unavailable to most folks on either side of the fence, ever. And even if it was available, not everyone was able to hear it, see it, or pick it up. Simple knowin’ led the way. All of those words that fell on my ears didn’t go to waste. Some made sense, while others, ones that were meant to be remembered, would come to mind. Until then, they remained with other unborn thoughts and dreams. In time, I too would learn to trust the ancestors. So, there it was, one of those days. There musta’ been angels from every corner of Heaven because the skies raged with the pretty pinks that Mamma talked about. It was the ones who came before us, makin’ themselves known. Mamma said not to repeat it, and if I did, to be selective, because others would think me to be incurably insane.



Samuel J. Hodgdon II County Farm - June 1878



Excerpt: Down from the Tree

Etched in Granite Series: Book Three








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