Martha Nance is a physician in Minnesota who mostly enjoys nature photography, but occasionally takes fingers to keyboard. She has lived on the bluffs of the Minnesota River for over 30 years and has watched the area change as the city oozes out in her direction. This story is fiction, but not really. The events described have occurred everywhere in our country as towns morph into cities and cities ooze beyond their original boundaries.
I have sat here on the bluff for ten thousand years, watching. I arrived with the April
floods on what used to be a curve in the glacially-swollen Minnesota River, before
she slowed into a wide mudstream wiggling in a broad wetland valley. The sun and
moon have an unimpeded view of me as I rest on the south-facing bank of the valley,
and I have twinkled and winked at millions of ephemeral sunsets and thousands of
Mine was first a grassy bluff, dotted with many boulders like me, bits of gravel
dropped off as our mother-glacier scoured the land. But crows planted red cedars,
and the incessant late-summer winds brought maple keys, and we became dotted
also with trees. After a while, squirrels came up from the tree-lined river and
planted the first of our famous Burr Oaks.
It was a paradise; deer hoofed a zig-zag path down to the river just to my east, also
used by antelope and wolves. Slinking foxes chased rabbits that the eagles, nesting
in their oaktop penthouse just down the way, might have missed. Fish, frogs,
mosquitoes, dragonflies, migrating buffalo, and all sorts of rodents thrived here.
Humans arrived a thousand years ago, also drawn to the abundance and beauty.
They, too, could feel and resonate with the rhythms of the water and the sky and the
earth: summer heat alternating with storms, the bright cooling time of harvest and
storage, the dark stillness of winter, and the wet gentle lullaby of spring that would,
often as not, be overwhelmed by an adolescent torrent of floods, until Father Sun
and Mother Moon could calm the land and re-establish balance. They called my
place Asinikaa, and, as the largest boulder on the bluff, I was simply Asin, The Rock,
a meeting place visible for miles.
Three hundred years ago, the first destroyers came. Like the melting glacier that
brought me to this place, they appeared first in a trickle, then a raging torrent,
scraping away everything in their way. They cut down trees, burned the fields, and
plowed the well-worn deer path into a road for their horses and carts. They
harvested many of my fellow boulders and cut them into blocks for their houses.
They killed birds, wolves, deer, rabbits, everything in their midst.
More recently, their roads, cars, houses, and businesses filled Asinikaa with strange
sights, noises, and smells—and their pulse recognizes no seasons, no storms, just an
incessant monotonous daily beat. They poured asphalt over the fields to the east,
and airplanes now fill the air that eagles and hawks once ruled. They knocked down
all but one of the huge oaks, the great-great-grandchildren of my companions over
the millennia, to plant a hundred identical houses in a settlement they call Burr Oak
Today, I am to be removed and cut into pieces. They are building a concrete strip of
buildings that will include Burr’s Pizza, Caribou Coffee, a yoga studio, and a gas
– Flash Fiction by Martha Nance