Rita Walker (Blog Fourteen): By Dan Watt and Taylor Norris
In 1974 Spanish pilot and marine officer Juan Pérez was the first European to discover the Haida Gwaii but bad weather stopped him from landing and claiming it for Spain. James Cook, Captain of the Royal navy was the first European known to visit the Haida Nation. Archaeology digs have determined the Haida have been living on the Haida Gwaii islands from 6000 to 8000 years ago.
As she drives home from the college the sky is dark and clear. A song she hasn’t heard in a long time comes on. Chalk Circle’s “This Mourning” gets her tapping her hands against the steering wheel. It reminds her why Kaneki needs to go back to Centre Earth.
The weeping willow string she planted is growing little nubs that she hopes will grow into tiny branches. It was wonderful that Kaylee asked her to teach a Haida language course three times a week along with her once a week Environmental Technology class. She knows she’ll be financially stable for the next three years. Her real focus though is on what she does at night. So with a cup of licorice tea she sits in front of her window in her kitchenette and concentrates on the tiny willow sapling. A quarter moon shines through her window awakening the elemental inside her. She could control its pull for her to change but tonight she wants to transform. Her eyes remain open but become unfocused.
She finds herself at Soper Park. Before her Oya is dressed ready for action.
“What do you want child?” Oya asks in an exasperated voice.
“To visit Rán.”
“This is a bad time for me child of Ailbe Rose. I must deal with Kaneki’s influence on mining for cobalt in the Congo. Think of Island and go!”
To Icelanders their home is known as Island. It’s where her grandfather wanted to return to.
When Rita was five her father took the family to Kiusta at the northern tip of Haida Gwaii. Taking her hand he led her to the shore where the ruins of a long boat rested near a group of ancient totem poles. “My father, your grandfather arrived on this boat. He was nearly dead when they brought him to a sweat lodge and your grandmother nursed him to health. He came from far far away. You and I have his eyes whereas your brother has pure Haida eyes like your mother. I would find him staring at this ruin as we worked on his new boat. I think he would have stayed if your grandmother had not died during the Tsimshian raid.”
Rita only remembers her father’s father vaguely. Tall and strong, with long brown hair and a red beard that flowed to his chest. His voice was loud sometimes but more often hushed as though his soul were broken. By the fire pit he would stare at her but with his chin turned slightly away. It made her feel as if he was watching her wearily. His Haida Gwaii words were clipped and often he added words she had never heard before. He always kept his distance from her. “There is something else in this child,” she would hear him say to both her mother and father at different times. He would shake his shaggy head afterwards and stare at her out of the corner of his eyes.
When she was four her father’s father had taken dry fish and fresh water onto his new boat with its many ribs. “Someday others like me will come,” he warned before he paddled north towards the Bering Sea. In the distance Rita remembered seeing him unfurl the strange red and white curving sail his mother had helped him sew. He was right others like him would arrive at Haida Gwaii but Rita wouldn’t learn about that until later.
Her vision becomes cloudy. As the cloud dissipates she can see Rán walking in modern clothes by a river. Rán stops and turns to her with a beaming smile. Rita realizes Kaneki has not made his presence known as much on Iceland—yet.
“What can I do for you Rita?” Rán asks in her boisterous voice.
“Do you have student named Marlo?”
“I do. When you change you can watch him by the lake near where you live. He is with you Rita that I can assure you.”
“Thank you, Rán,” Rita says as Rán fades away and she feels herself changing.