I approach the end of an enormous effort; in November 23rd the last book in my series, By the Light of the Moon, will be released. Looking back to 2018 when I started writing the series, I can’t believe I have come so far along this author journey with this body of mine that rarely does or feels the way I would like it to.
Today, I woke up tired and in pain, like every other morning, living with MS, wondering how I’m to get through the day, much less have the energy and brain power to keep up with all of my social and blog posts and my unending author chores—to say nothing of writing. Last week my husband and I took a mini vacation, and it felt good to step away and simply enjoy life. I read, relaxed, enjoyed my husband’s company and the beautiful autumn colors, and read some more. Then I came home and did some quilting, making the pumpkin block, wallhanging that’s been on my list of things to do for the last year. It was a great reprieve from the normal flow of things.
I’ve made a decision to not push myself so hard, to give myself time to relish the things I like to do, before I can’t anymore. Because there will be a time in the future when my body will fail me more than it does now. So, today I’m letting my words from my historical fiction book, Harvest Moon, speak for me. May there be something in the text that moves you past your current experience to something or somewhere new. That’s what I love about reading. It transports you.
Harvest Moon Excerpt:
Who knows? Perhaps your love will make me forget all I wish not to remember. – Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Christo
“He is bundled in tight?” I ask nimaamaa.
“He is snug.”
She fiddles with the tikinaagan strapped to my back. Niin-mawin, my son, is bundled into the cradle with furs and wool.
I have boots and snowshoes on my feet, a warm, fur coat covering my body, and waabooz-lined, wool mittens on my hands. I’ve been itching to get outside.
Papa Baptiste is beside me with his pair of snowshoes, which were Imbaabaa’s. The curved basswood frames are meshed with thin strips of leather oiled with bear grease. Snowshoeing is the only way to walk in deep snowpack. I go along with him to check his trap lines.
My stepfather smiles at me underneath his thick, graying mustache and beard. “You ready?”
“Oui.” I nod and smile back.
We plod side by side, heading up the snowbank and onto the dense pack of snow measuring mid-thigh.
The air rests around us, quiet as a sanctuary. The only sounds I hear are the plop of our snowshoes and the puff of our breath. My eyes roam the expanse of blue over the distant treetops as we head towards the woods. The sky wears the same color of blue the wood squill flowers of spring wear.
We’ve passed the ring of the village and our wigwams, lodges, and homes and now enter the trees. The snow clings to the branches of the pine and spruce like a fur coat of white ermine. We follow a path signified by the swath of cleared underbrush Gerard worked at last autumn. Our pace slows. Niin-mawin hasn’t fussed or uttered a peep yet.
But I feel the need to check on him.
“You see him. He is sleeping?” I ask Gerard.
He stops and steps closer to me. “Oui, blissfully at peace.” His eyes soften and the wrinkles deepen near his temples. “He sure is a handsome fella.”
He reaches out towards Niin-mawin but stops short of touching him. He turns and picks up his large feet and plods ahead without another word.
I follow. I try to step where he has. We don’t talk, but I wonder what Gerard really thinks of what happened to me.
Does he blame me?
He does not act like it, but he’s not said.
I wish I had never seen that red-haired man. I wish I not asked him for help. Most of all, I wish I hadn’t trusted him.
It has taught me to keep to myself. I think of the new fallen snow and the pine needles under us as he took what wasn’t his, what should have been Ignacio’s.
In the pines.
I have not been back to the grove Imbaabaa planted, which became my meeting place with Ignacio. I most likely never will. That man took more than my body; he stole my soul. My heart lived there in the white pine grove, and now I don’t know who I am anymore.
I am a mother, but also not. Niin-mawin is over four moons old. I have a few more with him, then he must be Gibba’s son. Suddenly, I have a strong urge to hold him in my arms and not on my back.
I signal and cry out to Gerard for his help. “I am stopping. I will feed Niin-mawin now.”
He plods over and assists me in getting the cradle off. Niin-mawin stirs and opens his eyes.
“My line starts just yonder.” Gerard points off to the left. “Here, you sit.” He clears a spot on a boulder for me. “I’ll be back soon.”
I nod. “We will be fine.”
When he is far enough away, I open my coat and slide my breast out of a slit in my hide dress. Niin-mawin latches on and sucks greedily. I find my thoughts leading to prayer.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .
A question crashes into my prayer. Was it God’s will for this to happen to me?
I don’t how a God of love would want that. It hurts my heart, and I wish I could talk to Ignacio about it.
My throat feels thick and coated like I’ve drunk slippery elm tea. I swallow down the feeling, but it only becomes worse until I cry. I nurse my son and rock back and forth on my stone perch, silently sobbing. Snot drips from my nose and turns crispy in the cold air. I wipe it away with my sleeve and try to calm myself.
It is the first time I have cried since Niin-mawin was born. I have tried to forget the vision of that man on top of me, how he held my arms down, and . . .
“Arrrg!” My voice is loud, and it scares my son.
Niin-mawin stops his suckling and stares at me with wide, brown eyes flecked with green. Then he starts to cry too.
“Shhh, Maamaa is sorry. Shhh.”
I rock him back and forth until we both have spent our tears. I place him against my shoulder and pat his back. He belches out a burp. I kiss his pink cheek, fit him once more into the cradle, loop my arms through, and wrap a leather strap around my waist.
I stand and prepare to go find Gerard, but I see him coming towards me holding a waagosh and waabooz—a fox and a hare—in the air.
The hunter and the hunted caught together.
A hard part of my heart still wishes the red-haired man had gotten caught. He was not. He slipped away from the account of his crime because I hid it for him until it was too late.
But who cares about a little Anishinaabe woman?
Even if I had said what he’d done, who knows if he would have been punished? Maybe he has punished himself. I remember his tears against my neck and his sorrowful eyes.
“We must forgive others, and God will forgive us.” I remember Ignacio told me.
Another part of the prayer Ignacio taught me floats in my mind. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
How do I forgive this man? The question beats at my breast.
I feel the weight of my son on my shoulders. He is a welcome burden, and I love him. Maybe this is the start of forgiveness—my love for my son.
Self-Publishing Review of Harvest Moon:
I am happy to be getting back positive reviews for Harvest Moon. This is my latest:
“Immersive and emotional. Supported brilliantly by strong secondary characters and foils that leap off the page, this novel is culturally insightful, engaging, and cleverly structured. Fiction is blended seamlessly with historical fact and nuanced detail, revealing a deep reverence for the subject matter, historical accuracy, and Native American traditions. Wielding descriptive language and unexpected imagery, this narrative transports a reader with ease. Harvest Moon is a moving, authentic, and original work of historical fiction, while this series is a testament to Knipfer’s skilled and versatile storytelling.” Self-Publishing Review