The Fishermans Wife by Ben Ryan
A native is a man or creature or plant indigenous to a limited geographical area--a space boundaried and defined by mountains, rivers or coastline (not by latitudes, longitudes or state and county lines), with its own peculiar mixture of weeds, trees, bugs, birds, flowers, streams, hills, rocks and critters (including people), its own nuances of rain, wind and seasonal change. Native intelligence develops through an unspoken or soft-spoken relationship with these interwoven things: it evolves as the native involves himself in his region. A non-native awakes in the morning in a body in a bed in a room in a building on a street in a county in a state in a nation. A native awakes in the center of a little cosmos--or a big one, if his intelligence is vast--and he wears this cosmos like a robe, senses the barely perceptible shiftings, migrations, moods and machinations of its creatures, its growing green things, its earth and sky. Native intelligence is what Huck Finn had rafting the Mississippi, what Thoreau had by his pond, what Kerouac had in Desolation Lookout and lost entirely the instant he caught a whiff of any city. But some have it in cities--like the Artful Dodger, picking his way through a crowd of London pockets; like Mother Teresa in the Calcutta slums. Sissy Hankshaw had it on freeways, Woody Guthrie in crowds of fruit pickers, Gandhi in jails. Almost everybody has a dab of it wherever he or she feels most at home. . . But the high-grade stuff is, I think, found most often where the earth, air, fire and water have been least bamboozled by men and machines. In the scrub desert of Eastern Oregon, or along any river, Ma's got it. She may have it in coyote-raw form, but she's got it for sure: I've seen her stand and watch for an approaching flight of geese long minutes before it came within range of ear or eye; I've seen her sneak up and goose muskrats with the toe of her hipboot; she predicts storms, deaths in the family, weddings, hard winters; she guesses who'll get the next fish when the riverbank is choked with plunkers . . .
I don't think you get native intelligence just by wanting it. But maybe through long intimacy with an intelligent native, or with your native world, you begin to catch it kind of like you catch a cold. It's a cold worth catching.
~ excerpt from THE RIVER WHY - A NOVEL BY DAVID JAMES DUNCAN
After 34 years living in the Willamette Valley in Oregon some native intelligence has seeped into my cells. I understand this area where I've done the majority of my living. I have lived longer in this house with small property that Michael and I bought over 11 years ago than I lived in any other house in my life, and the same is true for him. Trees that we planted early on are now taller than the two-story house, mature enough now to accommodate a full cycle of bird life. I become expectant this time of year for the return of the Rufus Hummingbirds. In autumn I watch for the Nuthatches' month-long stopover during their migration. The hugest bumblebees spent an afternoon recently harvesting pollen from the abundant staminate on the male Weeping Pussy Willow Tree outside my kitchen window. We planted it from a cutting given me by a neighbor ten years ago. She moved from their large property after her husband died. One other neighbor has also died since we have lived here; we gave him a card on his 80th birthday. Babies have been born and favorite teens have graduated high school. Last week I had a hug given me by a neighbor girl who I remember as a little blondie shyly trying the keys on our piano during visits. She recently visited Vancouver B.C. with her middle school band.
On Tuesday, from my kitchen office window, I watched the last of a beautiful row of tall, old birch trees being limbed for the final assault. Just as the summer concerts were about to begin... One of my summer pleasures has been listening to hundreds of birds singing from where they roosted as the final rays of the sun setting over the coast range made the tops of those birches gleam. The birds always sounded so joyful, so content, so pleased about their communal safety. Many of them are using our three giant Sequoias for temporary shelter now, but evergreens aren't their preferred nesting trees. They have been chattering nervously, undoubtedly mourning the confusing loss of newly-created nests. All are welcome to stay here, try out any of our trees (they have competition on the Mountain Ash as a family of four squirrels has claimed a hollow in the trunk), feast on the increase of seeds, nuts, and corn in the feeders, sing new symphonies for the setting sun .....in other words, share some native intelligence.