Joseph Boyden, The Orenda

5 Feb

“We had magic before the crows came. Before the rise of the great villages they so roughly carved on the shores of our inland sea and named with words plucked from our tongues – Chicago, Toronto, Milwaukee, Ottawa – we had our own great villages on these same shores. And we understood our magic. We understood what the orenda implied.

“But who is at fault when that recedes? It’s tempting to place blame, though loss should never be weighed in this manner. Who, then, to blame for what we now witness, our children cutting their bodies to pieces or strangling themselves i the dark recesses of their homes or gulping your stinking drink until their bodies fail? But we get ahead of ourselves. This, on the surface, is  the story of our past.

“Once those crows flew over the great water from their old world to perch tired and frightened in the branches of ours, they saw that we had the orenda. We believed. Oh, did we believe. This is why the crows, at first, thought of us as little more than animals. We lived in a physical world that frightened them and hunted beasts they’d only had nightmares of, and we consumed the mystery that the crows were bred to fear. We breathed what they feared. But they watched intently, as crows are prone to do.

“And when they cawed that our magic was unclean, we laughed, took a little offence, even killed a few of them and pulled their feathers for our hair. We lived on. But that word, unclean, that word, somehow, like an illness, like its own magic, it began to grow. Very few of us saw that coming. So maybe this is the story of those few.”

-Introduction to The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

His writing makes me swoon. He’s so sparing with words, presenting the most natural-reading stories. You feel swept through them. This quote is written poetically, and therefore less simply, but these words embody magic that incites me.

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