III. Fog and Dreams

The dreams also resonated with the strange whispers that came to Achistak (1) , Zalan’s tree-enshrined ruwat (village) and home through the harvest and winter.  The people of Achistak lived in redwood-bark conical houses, instead of the tule round-houses more popular with the people along the coast and lowlands. With more than a hundred inhabitants it was a still a small village in comparison with those of the coast. The Achistacas held proudly to their gulch, their section of the river, and the surrounding mountaintops.

The mountains were a dark retreat, heavily wooded and steep–a place the Spaniards were not desirous to penetrate.  Fog was a frequent visitor. The giant red-barked guardians of Santa Cruz Mountains fed on it, bathed in it, and relied on its steady supply, especially through the summer months. At times it grew so thick that the greenery of the forest would be absorbed or erased by the mist, and only timid hints of the forest were left to remind you that you had not been carried off into the clouds. Sometimes it waited after dark, when everyone was asleep, and moved in slowly like a thief, working its way into all the ruwas, up everyone’s nostrils, seemingly intent on making the people’s mountain existence a troublesome one. Soon everything would be dampened, bright coals snuffed to dust, as if a giant slug had moved through the narrow valleys. Grain, stores, blankets and people’s sprits would become musty and soggy, but only for a time, until warmer airs dried out everything, and until the next fog’s arrival.

  1. Achistak, or Achistaca,  This was the name given to the Mission fathers, at the moment of baptism, by a group of Indians from a region deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, now determined to be the upper San Lorenzo River drainage. But Achistak was more than a village, or group of settlements, or even the name given to a “tribe”.  Achistak could be here this winter, there next summer, and somewhere else entirely the following winter. It wasn’t exclusively a “village” or a clan, or a triblet, as they are sometimes known. Nor do today’s historians know of its precise location. It was simply a name given, by a similar group of people at the moment of Baptism and recorded in a Libro de Bautizos, by the padres.

~ by Francisco Nieto on June 24, 2009.

One Response to “III. Fog and Dreams”

  1. […] III. Fog and Dreams […]

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