This is a reflection of two girls, who influenced and changed my life forever, at around the age of twelve or so… One girl a star of literature; the other a movie serial star, both alluring in her own special way, and both living life as they chose in the realm of adventure!.
In way of a pre- explanation let me say that to me Gitche Gumee, “Big Sea Waters” has the meaning of “grand adventure” that is possible everyday! Those very words when spoken cause me to think on the question, “What IS out there?”
In checking my memory, Nokomis daughter Wenonah was the first, what a gal—granddaughter of the moon—I knew that in reality it was”Indianease” for “special” girl. Just think she lived in a wigwam on the shore of Gitche Gumee, with her Mother. In my mind t Gitche Gumeehe was a rushing river full of rapids, on the edge of a lush life supporting—jungle like— forest, not exactly Lake Superior. “By the shores of Gitche Gumee, by the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, daughter of the moon, Nokomis.” Does that not just grab your imagination? Old H.W. Longfellow really knew his stuff!
She, Wenonah, was brave and daring, yet gentle, I am sure she loved the water, the clean and shinning water, not necessarily just to bathe in, though how much more exciting that would be, than in a tub surrounding you with porcelain. The Wenonah I knew, love to look out over the water and dream her Indian girl dreams. Just as I dreamed my, well in spite of my auburn hair and multiple freckles, my Grandfather did have high cheekbones so…mine could also have been Indian girl dreams, with just a brush of the Irish, German, and Scottish etc.
Nokomis, the mother, was playing games in the sky with her girlfriends, when an evil person cut the grape vine she was swinging on , she fell to earth and gave birth to the one I long to mimic, Wenonah . I could so gracefully imitate Nokomis in that “long rolling” action across the grass of my yard. Just as she had fallen in the twilight and a miracle happened, and I too suddenly would have a child, grabbing the—not so often played with —little wooden baby doll while lying on a field of (pretend) blossoms.
This is where the likeness comes in , Wenonah and I were the first girls to be born to our Mothers. She grew like the prairie lilies, into a tall and slender maiden, with the beauty of midnight and starlight. I also was a maiden and grew in my own more down to earth way, with a good personality, you know what they say ( she is not so gorgeous… but really has a good…) We were alike in other ways too, her Mother gave her many warnings as did mine, hers to no avail, same here, though not in quiet the same way.
Things got a little foggy here for me in the story line, concerning the real meaning of the West Wind and the lilies, sounded neat to me, lying on a bed of lilies . Wooed was she; and that is where its influence on me and the resemblance ended, so did my fascination with the story from this point on for the most part,and yet, I would occasionally sneak a peek at the words that told of her the rebellion . “But she heeded not the warning, Heeded not those words of wisdom, And the West-Wind came at evening, Walking lightly o'er the prairie, Whispering to the leaves and blossoms, Bending low the flowers and grasses, found the beautiful Wenonah”. I would be left confused for this was where the story became just a bit too weird for me; so I continued her story on to suit myself. This Wenonah, this daring child of the forest, brave and beautiful was the one I could relate to due somewhat to her little frictions with her Mother, and her adventurers spirit. I re-lived her repeatedly—almost daily—and hoped her spirit would blend into mine and then I would whisper to the wind, as did everyone in those days. I knew that in my heart we were both Gitche Gumee girls.
The second girl of influence in my life and maybe the longer lasting was Nyoka! Nyoka, the jungle girl, was my all time absolute hero! She had it so over all of the men and boys, she was smart, she was fast, she went to places and did the things that someday I hoped that I would dare to go and have the chance to do. She had dangerous rivers, filled with piranha to cross, thick jungle vines on which to swing. Aha! Another, Gitche Gumee girl!