Time is our sacred connection to the past. The Authors Collection.

Liard Wood Bison, Near Coal River, British Columbia

NPR was playing on my car radio, a rarity in itself as I prefer the car quiet, yet what a stroke of fortune that I did tune in that day. Not one, but two different bits of programming that fascinated me were broadcast in the short time it took to deliver photos to some of our clients.

Christina Carson
Christina Carson

The woman’s voice that caught my attention initially was that of a native from Fort Peck Reservation in northwestern Montana, home to two Indian Nations, Assiniboine and Sioux. She was being interviewed about their receiving 68 head of pure strain buffalo from Yellowstone National Park, the only pure strain existent in this country. After a six year struggle to obtain them, the buffalo were coming to Fort Peck. Big deal may have been most listeners next thought, until she spoke, that is. Her words clutched at me, goosed bumped my arms and caused a shiver to run through me.

With quiet intensity, she spoke in a hushed tone explaining how these were the same buffalo through lineage that felt the sting of her great, great, great, great grandfather’s arrow, trod down the same grass that cushioned her elders moccasins and  shared their muscle, blood, bone and spirit with her people. They lived under the same sky as her elders, breathed the same air. In this unbroken line to the past, the past moved forward as if it were present. That is as sacred as a connection can get for people who still carry in their hearts awareness that all is One.

For those of us not native, the arrival of the buffalo to this native nation might be akin to going up to the attic and finding a trunk you’d not noticed before, opening it and not only discovering old photo albums and artifacts from your past, but also momentarily becoming embedded in that history not intellectually but viscerally, feeling it as your blood and bone.

And then, there it was, as I always feel it, that tug that makes me feel like I just came to know something but can’t yet put it in words. Yet it is as real as that of an attention-seeking child’s pull on my sleeve. What’s that all about ? I wondered, only to be distracted as Garrison Keillor came on next.

Ogallala Aquifier
Ogallala Aquifier

He began introducing Lincoln, Nebraska where his show was coming from. One of the local references he mentioned was the Ogallala Aquifer from which the present- day residents of the area get their drinking water. It is a huge aquifer, one of the world’s largest, and it underlies an area of approximately 174,000 mi² (450,000 km²) in portions of eight states: (South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas). The Ogallala, like most aquifers, if it does refresh itself at all, does so so slowly that it is safe to say the drinking water Garrison was referring to could have touched the lips of a saber toothed tiger roaming through the vast grasslands of the Pleistocene Epoch, a time before the last glaciation when the world was a vast savanna (even the Mediterranean Sea was a grassland) and huge mammals roamed various continents. I’m not saying the tiger drank from the same aquifer. I am saying that the water that dripped off his chin could be in your glass. That the Pleistocene we relegate to past history is still present in this strange way, and who knows how many such threads of the past punch through into our present.

Then came that tug again, an unsettling but captivating pull on my gut, as I sensed a mystery around me that made what I thought I knew about past and present something to be examined all over again. So says Jorge Luis Borges:

Time is the substance from which I am made.

Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river;

it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger;

it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.

Time is the wonder that inflames us all.

DyingToKnowFinal (3) with Bleed SpacePlease click the book cover image to read more about Christina Carson and her novels.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    I had never really thought about it in those terms, Christina, but we are all connected by time and space and history. I remember walking up the stairs at Mount Vernon, placing my hand on the railing and thinking, two hundred or more years ago, George Washington placed his hand on the same railing. I walked on the floor of the Alamo where Davy Crockett walked. I’ve walked across the same terrain where dinosaurs roamed. Their bones were found there. Everything we do or everywhere we go links us to the past, and that is our inheritance.

  • On top of my file cabinet sits a piece of polished sandstone we picked up when visiting the Grand Canyon area – beautiful swirls of rock from sedimentary processes that took eons. I have a fossil fish that my husband gave me as a birthday present long ago, split out from rock. And I tell my children how, through my mother, they are descended from Don Antonio de Mendoza, first Spanish Viceroy in Mexico.

    Thanks for reminding me of all the connections.

  • Darlene Jones

    My hsband volunteered for many years as an interpreter on 1885 street in Fort Edmonton Historical Park. Every time I went there, a frission rode my spine as I time-traveled from our modern life to the past. I loved those visits.

  • Christina Carson

    We all feel it, that strange sensation within us, just seeming out of reach that we sense something profound, something that matters to us deeply but can’t always be put into words. Those lines of connection are both a mystery and a thrill.

    • Floria Vu

      Thank you so much for putting this into words! I have been experiencing the “strange sensation” lately but was unsure of what it was. I have been searching for an answer from time to time, until now I have come across your message. What did you do with the “strange sensation” that you have? Did you try to discover it?

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