Back in August, when I started recounting my summer here, I was playing a little trick on myself. Since summer of 2017, I had been meaning to write something about the traditional Ojibwe fast that I went on that May. But at the time, I found it just too big a project to tackle, and I punted it. This past May, I went on another fast, and I knew that if I promised to tell about my entire summer, I would eventually force myself to write about the summer’s fast, which in turn would make me tell about my fast in 2017.
The reason this story is so long—indeed, the longest single thing I’ve ever written, not counting my journals—is that I found that in order to tell about either fast, I had to first go back even further and write what nearly amounts to a memoir. The reason I don’t write about religion very often isn’t because I don’t have many thoughts about it, it’s that my thoughts about it are so far off the beaten track and so hard to separate into individual self-contained ideas that I know if I’m going to write anything at all I’ll need to write something vast, and I usually just defer the job until later.
But now I have written about it, and a few words of orientation will probably be helpful. What I’ve written is, really, one long post. But I know no one browser tab can survive long enough in the harsh environment of the modern computer long enough for you to read an entire blog post that amounts to 101 printed pages. So I’ve broken it up into 12 smaller posts:
- Part 1: Viewers of Views
- Part 2: You Can’t Get There from Here
- Part 3: Indian Trails
- Part 4: Spirit Peeks In
- Part 5: Stranger in a Strange Enclave
- Part 6: Around the Kettles
- Part 7: Introductions
- Part 8: Shaken
- Part 9: Lost and Found
- Part 10: What the River Said
- Part 11: Back for More
- Part 12: Doing the Work
Part 11, “Back for More”, also functions as Part 3 of my “Summer 2019 Approximately-Reverse-Chronological Catchup” (Part 1: Remedial Summer, Part 2: On Anarchists, Trains, and Babies). Some of Parts 5 and 6 may seem familiar if you read the series of posts I wrote about my first sugarbush experience in 2017, “Anishinaabewaki Immigrant” (Part 1: The Language, Part 2: The Sugar, Part 3: The Spirits).
I’ve also laid this out as a printable booklet, for anyone who would rather chew sand than read a hundred pages’ worth of text on a computer screen: “Deep Island” PDF. In fact I consider the booklet the primary version of this piece.
You may possibly be interested to know that I wrote most of this longhand first, then typed it with a still unexcelled terminal-based program named Vim (written in 1991 on top of code from 1976), and while I was in the thick of writing it my desk looked like this:
The chair has since fallen apart and been burned.