Voices from the Land...
is a historical novel that tells the story of a small group of people and their incomparable ability to form a new town in the Southwest after President Lincoln freed the slaves in 1860. The story exposes the vicious hate of a lawless land juxtaposed against the generous compassion of the American people to attend to one another’s wounds. Despite the violence and mayhem in this vulnerable town, the indefatigable spirit of its inhabitants assures their survival.
Jan Marquart is a licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in family counseling. She has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the University of California/ Santa Cruz and a master’s degree in Social Work from San Jose State University. A member of the New Mexico Book Association, National Writers Union, and the National Association of Social Workers, Jan has authored eight books, two booklets, and numerous articles for newspapers and journals. Visit with the author at www.awareliving.net
In 2005, I moved to Lamy, NM and bought an adobe home that sat on five acres. I had become sick from mold and chemical poisoning and needed a place away from people in order to heal--a clean and natural environment away from toxins. The area was quite beautiful everywhere I looked. In one direction I could see the Santa Fe Mountains and in another direction I could see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Walking around the hundred-year-old pinon and juniper trees, this property exuded such a strong energy that it felt as if the trees were speaking. In all the places I’ve ever lived, this land was not only a completely different experience, but I could feel myself connecting to the oneness of the planet that I’ve heard others speak about in the past. I felt myself starting to heal and the stillness in the land allowed me to go deeper within than I’d ever thought possible.
The next year, I was explaining to an intuitive the feelings I had living amidst such high-energy land and trees, and how I thought this was what I needed for my healing. He then proceeded to tell me to sit near the trees with pen and paper because spirits living there wanted me to record their stories. I didn’t know what to think. This instruction frightened me and I don’t frighten easily when it comes to spirits, but letting spirits enter my writing was another matter.
One hot fall day in October 2008, when I was looking for something interesting to write, I decided to take the intuitive up on the task. I traipsed out to the section of hundred year old pinon and juniper trees at the end of my property with a camping chair, pen, journal and a cup of hot tea. In the Introduction to Voices From the Land, I explain the details about how the stories came through me, the energy that kept me in place even though I wanted to go into the house and the unique characters that kept moving through me until I wrote everything they needed to say. Eleven days later, I had 97 pages of stories. Together these stories made up Voices From the Land which speaks to a small town in the mid-west in 1860. These voices opened my heart. They speak to the hardships during times of great strife in our country. They tell about how people pulled together and how they had a belief in something bigger to keep them going until they conquered their needs for survival.
When I asked four friends and neighbors to review the manuscript, not one of them would return it. Each described the power the voices had in giving them inspiration and direction and they felt they had become close to the power of the voices so much so that they had to keep the manuscript. One of my friends felt so strongly about Voices that she offered to write the foreword for the book and encouraged me to get it published. I hear from many who read it that it has shifted their thinking and I just love that.
HOW THE PREACHER
CAME TO TOWN
I was born in the small town of Ohio. My father was a guide for pioneer travelers. When I was five, my mother and grandparents headed out to live farther west because my mother was hoping to see my father more often. My mother and grandmother landed out west where I was raised. All of fifty people set up their homes in this town, which is near a small wooded area close to a river and with enough land around that everyone could have a piece. I must say it was a tough survival to live out on the plains when I was a small child, but it was quite an amazing thing to have grown up there. Luckily, my father led them out west. My father was a fearless man. You couldn't keep him in one place for too long.
Story goes he met my mother at some kind of dance party. He told her he was too wild for any woman. No woman could confine him to one house, one town, even one part of the country, he said. My mother had fallen in love with him, so she had decided he could do what he wanted as long as he came back to her when his job was completed. She said she was fine with that, and he agreed.
But my mother wasn’t going to live out in the wild country alone. When she decided to live in this small town, she did so for two reasons: my father seemed to be in that neck of the woods more and her parents agreed to move with her. My grandparents were against all this, but being strong believers in the Lord, they told themselves that there must be a reason why their daughter had fallen in love with this man. Because of that line of thinking, they couldn't let their little girl, whom they loved more than anything in the world, live alone with her husband on the trails most of the year.
They all hoped more than anything that my father would settle down. But no man settles down because of love when something bigger inside him wants to keep him on the move. Luckily, my father had befriended many Indian from different tribes, which meant that he had friends along his passages. He learned their languages and customs. He spent time finding the right gifts for the various Indian tribes he passed on his trips. That was how he kept himself and his customers alive. One time, as one of the Indians ran toward my father to greet him, an unsuspecting customer got frightened, raced toward the Indian, and began shooting. Luckily, my father was close enough to his customer that he was able to hit the man in the head with his own rifle to distract him from shooting the Indian, who was my father’s friend. The Indian asked my father in his own language why his friend was shooting at him. My father could only say, “Stupid white man,” because he couldn't find the words fast enough to explain that the man’s fear had overtaken him after he saw the Indian racing toward him.
My father left the stunned customer sitting on his horse holding his bloody head while my father and the Indian shook hands and, in a small matter of time, caught up with all that had gone on since the last time they had seen each other. My father brought the Indian a finely made wool blanket as a gift and for the Indian’s wife, a crocheted scarf made by my grandmother.
My father had told his customer about his good relations with the Indians, but there is no figuring out what a man will do when he’s scared for his life and has a gun close by. That’s how my father made his money. Then, when he came home, he and I would sit around a fire, and from the day I was born, I heard about his wild adventures that usually kept him away for as little time as a few months to as long as a couple years.
My mother cried upon hearing the stories that my father thought would fascinate her, because she hated thinking of him facing death so many times. She feared the Indians as much as she did his encounters with bears, the weather, and his lack of food or water. Once he had been bitten by a snake. It wasn't a rattler, and although he was fine, his leg was swollen for quite a long time.
One time my father was crossing the plains and heard the pounding beat of a stampede. He quickly climbed some rocks, pulling his horse behind him. His horse, alarmed by the stampede, wanted to run to and fro, and as my father yanked on the harness, my father’s foot lodged in between two rocks, pinning his leg in place. He let go of his horse, fearful that if he tried to pull the harness harder he would break his leg but even more fearful that his horse would be lost from him and he’d die out on the rocks by himself. He had been alone on that trip because he was scouting an easier way to bring a caravan of wagon trains to California. Everyone wanted to go to California. It was as if everyone came down with a fever, thinking that California held a new and easier life free from struggles.
Every day my father was gone, my mother prayed for his safety. My grandmother and grandfather would light a candle, and before we had our stew and bread, they would ask the Lord for his protection and well-being and would ask that whatever trials and tribulations he had to face that the Lord would help him.
I knew their prayers were important, and I bowed my head and prayed too, although mostly I just listened. Sometimes it was too sad because my heart never got used to his absence even though I didn't see him too much until I got older. But I’ll get to that.
So my days were spent with my mother, preparing every minute for his unexpected return, and my grandparents did what they could to take care of us and keep my mother believing in the power of the Lord, because they said the Lord’s power would keep everything blessed.
I never knew quite how to take such a way of thinking. Should I feel calm because the Lord was going to keep my father safe or should I worry because the Lord could make things go even worst if he wanted?
I wanted hope and I wanted peace that my father was safe so we could be happy, but despite all their praying, they seemed to worry constantly.
My grandparents were getting frail even though they tried to keep helping my mother. My father had chopped enough firewood before he left, but sometimes, our food would start to run out, and we had to cut down on how much we used. A stagecoach came through town every spring bringing food, rice, potatoes, and other supplies we needed for the year. We learned to manage, and I know my grandparents missed Ohio and the people they knew there.
My mother wouldn’t hear of any complaints because she said she had enough on her mind with worrying about my father and all, so we had to cope with our fears alone. My grandfather told me to give my fears and complaints to the Lord. I tried to do that, but I didn't know how.
Once I asked who told them about the Lord. How did they learn about him? I didn't understand how they could believe in something they couldn't see.My grandmother had more patience to explain this to me than either my mother or my grandfather.
“Can you see the wind?” she asked.
“No,” I’d say, “but I can see the stuff the wind blows.”
“Can you see hope?” she asked.
“No, but I can see things you hope for,” I told her in return.
My grandfather got annoyed with me. “Don’t question the presence of the Lord, boy,” he said, scolding me. “You never know when you’ll need the Lord to be with you.” My mother and grandmother nodded.
I still didn’t understand. “You’re old enough now to believe,” said my grandfather. His way of talking to you let you know that you had no other choice but to do what he said just because he said it, even though there was no reason for it.
I could hear my mother beating our wool rug that she and grandmother had thrown over the fence my father built just before he left. A colt was born last week, and Mama showed me how to help until Jeremiah Samuel came down the road to help. I have never seen a colt actually being born before. Usually I got to see the colt the next day. But this time, I saw it being born. I was leaning down, helping the horse we called Lily, when I looked up to see my grandmother.
“Thank the Lord,” she said.
The colt tried to stand right away. My knees became just as wobbly after watching such an event, and for a minute, the colt got to its feet faster than I did to mine. My heart felt so warm watching this new life stand and breathe. I looked at Grandmother. My face still showed the sense of wonder coming up from my heart.
“If that doesn’t make you believe in the Lord, boy, I don’t know what will. The creation of life only looks like our doing,” she said, shaking her head with humility.
As soon as she was sure the colt was okay, she left to attend my grandfather, who was sitting on our small porch shivering. It was early fall and not as cold as he made out to be. It was in that moment that I realized how sick Grandfather was. Each night, Grandfather ate in bed because he got too sick to sit at the table. Mama and I could hear Grandmother and Grandfather praying together before he fell asleep. Sometimes I’d have to head down to the creek for some fresh water because his fever was getting worst and Mama didn't know what to do.
Some of the families came to help, but none of them was a doc, so they only knew to put a cold rag on his head and feed him broth from some of the bones left over from their dinner. He couldn't keep any food in his stomach, so we watched him get thinner until one Saturday morning, the last week of November, we buried him out under an oak tree. An Indian friend of my father’s came to check on us and told Grandmother that Grandfather should be buried near the tree so the tree’s spirit could keep his spirit strong. At first, the Indian told us to burn the body so his soul could be sent to be with the Great Spirit, but we were horrified to think of Grandfather on fire. One night, I awoke screaming until Mama and Grandmother assured me they would not set grandfather on fire.
Mama and Grandmother sat me down before dinner. “You’re the man now. We need you to help more around here,” my grandmother said.
I wanted to please her because I knew she knew the Lord was powerful, and I thought I needed him as my friend. Grandmother believed more than anyone that the Lord was good, and yet, I still wasn't sure how there could be a Lord if he took Grandfather when we needed him so much.
“You can’t question the Lord,” my grandmother told me. “I keep telling you the good Lord has his reasons.”
My mother never spoke her mind about the Lord, but Grandmother spoke of him daily. After my father asked him to, the Indian who visited us—we called Wind Eagle—said he talked to the Lord too, but he called it the Great Spirit. It made me more confused than ever. I think I was twelve by then, although Mama said she was sorry she lost count of the years. In her worry for my father, she had forgotten to count. Mama and Grandmother knew how to read because they had been taught, and read the Bible every night before going to sleep. Then they would pray for Father, for food, and for good health, and then would give thanks for another day of surviving with blessings.
Grandmother said that just because the Lord took someone you loved didn't mean he was mad at you. At Grandfather’s funeral, everyone said a prayer aloud for Grandfather. Some took no time at all. Others took forever. I was restless, but Mama told me that it was okay, that I should really learn about the Lord through everyone’s faith, and that the Lord did right by Grandfather, taking him when he did because Grandfather didn't like getting sick and not being able to carry his weight.
I cried when Grandmother spoke of how much she was going to miss her husband, who so loved his family, and of how he gave of himself to let his family know how much he loved them. The Indian, Wind Eagle, made a huge wooden cross for Grandfather’s grave, knowing that a cross was what Grandmother wanted. He put a string of beads around it and added an eagle feather, saying that the eagle feather would allow his spirit to be free now.
I asked Mama if the Great Spirit was the same as the Lord, and she said yes. She said that it was a different name, that’s all, and then began cutting up some potatoes to add to the buffalo meat Wind Eagle had brought us as a gift. I wanted Father to come home, but Mama always got tears in her eyes when Father was mentioned, so I kept my feelings to myself. Thank goodness Grandmother was in good health because I couldn't help Mama with all the chores myself...
Wind Eagle brought us buffalo meat every time his tribe killed one. For that we were all grateful. It was a cold winter, and I think Father should have been home by now. One night, after they thought I was asleep, I heard Mother and Grandmother talking about how they had expected Father by now. They were sad that he hadn't gotten to say good-bye to Grandfather, but what could they do?
In the snow, I’d visit the river and watch the water flow downstream while wondering where it came from. The bears were nowhere to be seen once it got cold. For that I was grateful because I could get water without fearing for my life...