What Is the Best You Can Imagine?

Carol A. Hand

I remember being challenged by a faculty member about one of the topics I wanted to study when I was attending a university. I didn’t sense any intentions on his part to discredit my proposal. Rather, I saw his question as a query designed to encourage critical thought. I wanted to know what Ojibwe community members would like to see their communities be in the future. “What is the best you can imagine for children, families, and the community as a whole in the future?” The question was intentionally vague in order to allow people to respond according to their own values and perspectives, rather than mine.

The faculty member’s challenge did make me stop and think about stories community members had already shared with me. It made me realize how important the very first interview of my study really was. An elder, Uncle Raymond (not his real name), shared a story of a somewhat romanticized account of his Ojibwe community in the past.

When I was a boy, there were only about twenty-eight families that lived in the village here. All of the families were poor, but we hunted and shared what we gathered. Deer were divided among all of the families, and my friend and I snared rabbits as young boys and would share what we caught with everyone. [Laughing] I remember one time when I was a young boy, it was winter time, and all of us were really cold: we didn’t have any fire wood. So I had gone off to find some wood, and there was little to be seen. It was cold, and it was getting dark when I came up to a white farmer’s fenced in land. I thought “those fence posts would burn nicely.” So, I cut them and brought them home. We had a fire that night. The farmer was really mad when he saw that his posts were gone and wanted to have the thief arrested. [Ogema ] found out about it and figured out who had taken the posts. He came to wake me up early the next morning, and he took me out to the woods to gather cedar trees and he taught me how to make posts. When we were finished, we brought the posts to the farmer and helped him repair the fence. I apologized for taking the posts. [Ogema] persuaded the farmer not to report me since I realized what I had done was wrong and worked hard to make up for my mistake. The farmer agreed. After that, [Ogema] knew families in the village were cold, so from then on he made sure that the community worked together so there was enough wood for everyone in the village (Uncle Raymond, August 28, 2001). 

Like Uncle Raymond, I find myself also romanticizing some of the past eras of my life. As I shared Uncle Raymond’s story with the faculty member who posed the question about future visions, I pointed out that romanticized versions of the past can tell us a lot about the future we would like to see. Thankfully, he agreed.

This morning, when I saw the sunshine for the first time in what seems like eternity, I remembered the importance of having a vision of the best we can imagine. And I thought of Richie Havens’ version of the Beatle’s song “Here Comes the Sunand Joni Michell’s song,Woodstock.”

sun and rosePhoto Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art 

Woodstock (by Joni Mitchell)

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

(Lyrics submitted by mrrubery
“Woodstock” as written by Joni Mitchell
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Joni Mitchell/Crazy Crow Music/Siquomb Music
Lyrics powered by LyricFind)

I realize I’m both an Ojibwe romantic and an aging Hippie. Yet I believe that imagining a better future for all is healthy – a necessary foundation to continue the work ahead. I wish you all a new year of light that brings smiles to all the faces and helps us all remember that we are made of stardust, we’re golden, and we’re part of a wondrous, mysterious universe.

Note: Ogema is not the name of the person described in the account. Ogema, which means leader in the Ojibwe language, is used in place of a name to maintain the confidentiality of individuals and to mask the specific location of the community.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

20 thoughts on “What Is the Best You Can Imagine?

  1. Carol, you filled me with such hope as I read this post! Thank you for staying positive and freely sharing that philosophy with your readers. Including “Woodstock” was a perfect complement. Being able to read your work is such a blessing. May 2015 be a joyful year for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is wonderful, Carol. From the image of the delightful smiling face stopping to smell the roses, to your positive message of stardust and light. One can only believe 2015 will be good! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the Woodstock moment reminder, Carol.
    In tribute I watched it again this week.
    There’s Joe Cocker exclaiming, with full conviction
    the need for “a little help from my friends”, at Woodstock.

    Influenced by my years of living on Hopi
    & the manifesting their prophesies
    I imagine that when this 4th world ends
    that the humans who emerge in the 5th world
    live with the wisdom of non-discrimination,
    in harmony with nature, and all their sisters and brothers
    of all species.
    Of course,
    it would be nice it that happened
    here in the forth world 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha, Carol, so fun to be an aging hippie…and to be a romantic member of a community. I like to define it as sharing possibility and hope, and that is the only way we can ever create change, by dreaming first, and then sharing what we hope for. Happy New Year to you, Carol.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank for this story that illustrates so well that awakening and change are possible. And for these two beautiful old favorite hymns of the earth. Touching the heart in this manner is essential for our humanity, like breathing and logic. It brings together the imagining… the first step leading towards building a new world , one of love and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing the words of Woodstock, I often don’t hear all of the words in songs. I keep returning to the phrase “The Age of Aquarius” that this is that time. Yes, we have so much still to be done. Always will be. But the light is always shining – it blazes behind the clouds and it can blaze from our hearts to the world – as your words do. Have a Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the key point in your story is the recollection of being poor and sharing – in my experience, that builds the strong community all of us crave. Seeking riches never satisfies that craving – it just leaves people seeking more riches to fill that emptiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your sharing your crucial insights about craving a sense of community, Stuart. Recognizing that was are all inter-related – that our own well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others and the earth – is so simple and clear yet so little understood. Riches can’t fill the void of disconnectedness from meaningful relationships with others and the earth… People who lack material wealth often recognize that survival depends on mutual support networks.


  8. Never was a young hippie. Kind of regret it, but happy and proud to have spent those youthful years as I did. Grew slowly more “hip” over the decades. Your lovely post makes me wistful for not being able to walk all the valuable paths.

    Liked by 1 person

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