Carol A. Hand
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein
As I child, I remember that the winter holiday season was filled with moments of beauty and wonder and magic in the air. Certainly there was suffering and hardship, but what I remember were the miracles. In the hope I could leave a sense of this for my grandchildren, I transcribed the following real event for my grandson, Aadi. It sounds fictive, I know, but you never can tell when a miracle will occur. I hope that those who read it here remember times that were magical.
When Aadi was four years old, Ahma (his grandmother) came to visit him when he lived with his mother on the shore of beautiful Lake Superior. Aadi’s mother and Ahma decided it was a good time to visit Madeline Island, an island in Lake Superior that was once the home and central gathering place for the Anishinaabe people, also known as the Ojibwe or the Chippewa. The Anishinaabe arrived on the island from their old home on the Atlantic Ocean long before French explorers came to what is now North America. The island has a special place in the history of the Anishinaabe, and a special place in their hearts today.
Photo Credit: Wisconsin Department of Tourism
On a sunny morning in June, Aadi and Ahma loaded into a van with Aadi’s Mom and a friend of Aadi’s mother, Samuel (not his real name). Samuel was a nice young man who was willing to drive and wanted to see the island for the first time in his life. He was a young man who was searching for his path and trying to figure out how to become a grown up man. Because he was raised by people who taught him that men always need to have the right answers, he was trying to live up to what he thought it meant to be all grownup.
Samuel drove for miles and miles, and was beginning to get tired of the ride, when he finally arrived at the dock where he could catch a ferry boat. Samuel drove his van onto the ferry, and Aadi, Ahma, Mom, and Samuel enjoyed the bumpy, windy ride across the waters of beautiful Lake Superior.
When the ferry reached the island, Samuel drove off the ferry boat and they all stopped to eat lunch. And when they were done eating, the adventure began. Aadi, Ahma, Aadi’s Mom, and Samuel got into the van and drove to the very middle of the island, not really trying to go to any special place.
But they found a special place, anyway, in the middle of the island. It was a farm with the most amazing bird in a fenced-in yard. Samuel stopped the van. Samuel and Aadi’s Mom were sitting in the front seat and could easily look out of the front window at the amazing bird. They were trying to figure out what type of bird it was.
Because Samuel was trying to be grownup, he felt he needed to be right, so he was arguing with Aadi’s Mom. Aadi’s Mom was a beautiful, diminutive woman who was very smart, spoke three languages, and was a gifted dancer and artist. Even though she didn’t often realize all of these amazing gifts she had, she was still unwilling to let anyone else tell what to do or how to think.
So, when Samuel said authoritatively, “It’s an ostrich,” Aadi’s Mom didn’t agree.
Photo Credit: WORD Clip Art Image – Ostrich
She said, “No, I think it’s an emu.”
Photo Credit: WORD Clip Art image – emu
Then Samuel said, “But look at that tail. It must be a peacock.”
Photo Credit: WORD Clip Art image – peacock
Aadi’s Mom said, “No. Now I think it looks like a turkey.”
Photo Credit: WORD Clip Art image – turkey
They kept changing what they thought the bird could be, but never agreeing, and Samuel started speaking louder and louder, trying to make it clear that he was right.
Ahma, who was sitting in the backseat with Aadi, leaned over to Aadi and quietly said, “I think it’s a magical bird. I think it’s an epeaturstrich. It’s part emu, part peacock, part turkey, and part ostrich. Because it is magical, it appears in different shapes to people. But you need to be at peace with yourself to really see it as magical, to see that it can be whatever you want it to be. What do you think it is Aadi?” Aadi laughed. He said “What a funny name! I think it’s what you said, but can you tell me how to say it again?” “Ahma answered, “Eee as in emu, pea as in peacock, tur as in turkey, and strich as in ostrich. E-pea-tur-strich.” Aadi and Ahma laughed again as he tried to say it. Ahma nodded and said, “It is a hard work to say, perhaps because it’s magical.”
Samuel and Aadi’s Mom grew quiet and stopped arguing. Samuel decided it was time to leave. He drove back to the ferry boat landing, onto the ferry, and back to Aadi’s home by the beautiful shore of Lake Superior. They never went back to the island all together to see if the epeaturstrich was still in the middle of the island that is special to the Anishinaabe.
Photo Credit: d.umn.edu
Maybe the magical bird only appeared to teach them all a lesson, the importance of looking at the world with wonder. To teach them that it is not the names of things that are important, or how we classify the things we see. It is the beauty, joy, and laughter life experiences can bring into our lives if we take the time to really see.
Photo Credit: WORD Clip Art image – bird
Now that Aadi is becoming a young man himself, his Ahma worries that he may not be able to see the magic of the epeaturstich. She wants him to remember that there is magic in the world if you are quiet and at peace with yourself, if you look at the world not only with your eyes, but also with your heart.
My heart is so heavy when I see the cruelty and injustice in the world. Yet I still believe in miracles because of the many people I have met through blogging who share their hopes and vision with such clarity, beauty, and passion. Miigwetch! (Ojibwe thank you.)