Chance Encounter

1975 Early July  It is the end of a long, hot day on the farm.  Wearily dragging my feet, I cross the farmyard, heading for the car.  Feeling something hard under my foot, I stop and pick the object up.

“What are you looking at?” calls Sheldon.

“Don’t really know, but it’s beautiful.  Look at this, Sheldon.”    

Late August – This summer is flying by.  We have spent very weekend on the family farm that we inherited, and my wonderful find has ridden around in the pocket of my work jacket.  Sheldon was so surprised to find an ancient relic out here.  I was not.  It is common in this area to find relics that look very old.  My parents found a stone head for a primitive axe and used it for a door stop!  It wasn’t given much thought.

Today we went to the Calgary Museum to see the resident anthropologist.  Sheldon suggested that we have an expert examine whatever it is that I stumbled on.  She knew immediately what it was – a head for a small spear, the kind used for killing small game.  It was made of chert, she said, a much prized rock not found in the area of the farm, where so many other relics turned up.  Rabbits, partridges, rodents and such could be caught at close range with such a weapon.  It was a “Duncan” spear head and these were dated from about 3,500 BC!  

We could hardly believe what we were hearing.  That meant that over 5,000 years ago, people lived here who could produce such well crafted things.  Who were they?

3500 BC  “Maybe the Gods are with us this year, Aga.  This is a good place to settle for the summer.”

“I think so too, husband.  Room for all the rock-chippers group to set up their work places.  Open enough so the light is good, and a stream nearby.”

“Where is Akycha?  That son of ours can wander off in two breaths!”

“Koda, please – don’t be so impatient.  He is only a boy.”

“He is ten years old, wife – almost a man!  I have finished a head for a small spear just his size.  I am going to send him out to get us supper.”

“Are you sure?  That head has taken you many hours to make, and you used some of our precious Spirit Rock, not ordinary stone.”

“He must grow up some time, and today is the start.  Find him and send him to me.”

So it was that an excited Akycha left on his first solo hunting trip, carrying his small spear with the precious head. 

The day wore on, and the dusk was falling when he returned empty handed – no supper and no spear.  He stood before his parents, trying not to cry and recounted his story.  Anxious to prove he was a good hunter he had acted quickly.  Seeing a land bird he rushed towards it, and threw his spear.  It found its mark but did not kill the bird.  It squawked loudly and scurried off, trailing the embedded spear as it fled.  Akycha was in hot pursuit, but lost sight of his quarry.  Frantically he spent the rest of the day searching, but to no avail.  With night approaching he had no choice but to return and face his parents.

There was silence.  Aga made a move towards the boy, but Koda waved her off, and spoke.

“My son, today two things have happened.  We lost something precious, and gained something more precious.”

Akycha stares at his father in amazement.  Koda continues, “The valuable spear head is gone.  Lost are the hours spent in forming it.  Gained is the knowledge that we have a son who tells the truth, and accepts his responsibility.  That is beyond price.  In time I will make another spearhead.  You will learn from the mistakes you made today, and be closer to being a man.”

Koda added, “I wonder if anyone will ever find that spearhead again?”

2011 – August  The day is warm and sunny.  A soft breeze is blowing.  The home quarter has been harvested, and is now an empty stubble field.  A small group of family and friends have gathered for a private ritual.  This was not possible in the cold winter weather of December, when Sheldon died.  Today we scatter his ashes on this land he dearly loved.  It is strangely comforting, somehow the right thing to do.  Looking up from my loving task I see, a stone’s throw away, the farmyard where so long ago, I stepped on something hard!  Memories . . . will they enrich what life I have left, or break my heart?  Eight months have passed since he died.  My grief is still sharp, and confusion clings to me.  Who am I?  This strange woman is alone.  After sixty-five years of marriage, I do not recognize the person I see in my mirror.

2014  Time rolls on, day by day, week by week, year by year.  I learn that the loss is always there, but I also gradually learn acceptance.  Memories move from being an aching weight to a comforting connection to the missing, and something to be cherished.  And the present?  I would not miss a day of it!

Life is good.  As always, frustrating and fulfilling, interesting and challenging.  I wake every morning wondering what the day will bring! 

I wear my spearhead on a gold chain . . .  I still marvel at the chance connection with a people who lived over 5,000 years ago.  It is so hard for me to believe that people who lived where the farm still is, could lose a spearhead and I would find it!  How I would love to tell Koda that it is safe and sound, and on a gold chain around my neck. 

It does raise the question, though: What about 5,000 years from now?  What will the world be like then?  As Koda would not be able to grasp our world or civilization if he saw it, so we are in the same situation.  We cannot glimpse the far away future.  Will the spearhead survive another 5,000 years?

20??   One of these days, my turn will come.  Quite likely there will be (on some nice warm day), another gathering on the home quarter.  Someone else will be wearing the spearhead on the gold chain.

Enjoy the gathering.  Enjoy blue sky and white clouds.  Enjoy the ritual as you scatter my ashes near Sheldon’s.  Minimize grieving, honour acceptance, and say, “She had a good run.”

My appreciation for the interest and support of those who encouraged me to write this story: Annette Evers, who suggested a fictional account of the ancient people who made the spearhead; the Writing Class, which sat through several revisions and made suggestions; and Isabel Gibson, my editor, who helped bring the essay to its final state.  Marjorie Gibson


Filed under This & That

26 Responses to Chance Encounter

  1. Linda LeDrew

    Marjorie, thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I love the wonder and awe that you expressed so well.

    • Marjorie

      Linda – I can scarcely believe it myself – finding a spear head made 5,000 years ago. Every time I put my necklace on, I wonder about those ancient people.

  2. Morag Dornian

    Marjorie, this is beautiful, touching and enjoyable.

    • Marjorie

      Morag – I am so pleased that you liked this. In addition, what a pleasure to be in touch with old friends again.

  3. Eveline

    Well there we have it-the continuity of life. Thanks dear heart. Be well.


    • Marjorie

      Yes, Eveline – that is what I think of every time I put that necklace on. The names I chose for the fictitious family are Inuit. One theory is that those ancient people were the ancestors of our Inuit. Someday I will pursue that just for my own curiosity.

  4. You have woven a lovely story around an exceptional event; it belongs in a school reader with splendid illustrations! Your online writing has inspired me to do something similar; thank you for continuing to share your adventures. It is a privilege to receive these vistas into your experience and wisdom.

  5. Ralph

    Wonderful. I think your essay itself will prove to be a kind of “spear point” and I thank you for that.

    • Marjorie

      Ralph – Delighted that you enjoyed it. It was both satisfying and difficult to write. The end, being personal, “cuts close to the bone”. However, there is not much sense discussing death if you don’t say what you believe.

  6. Eleanor Jackson

    What a beautiful story, Marjorie! I feel quite honored to be a recipient of it, as I’m a relatively new friend. My love and blessings. Don’t leave us too soon.

    • Marjorie

      Eleanor – Don’t worry, my friend! When death catches up with me I’ll be as surprised as the rest of you! There is a lovely old saying, I believe to be Irish: “May you have a long life, and may you live until you die”.

  7. Jim Robertson

    Wonderful, touching story (I feel somewhat uncomfortable calling it a”story”).

    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Marjorie

      Jim – There is nothing more rewarding for anyone who tries to write, than to have that writing resonate with readers. This makes it all worth while. I understand your problem with “pigeon-holing” it. I did too. A mixture of fact and fiction and ideas. Very glad you enjoyed it.

  8. Dorothy

    An interesting juxtaposition of memoir, fiction and foretelling. Your writing always inspires me. I love the image of the circle(s) of life that continue to shape our world. ( As well as that of Sheldon taking you to the anthropology department to find out the origins of the spear head. It brings him back to me so clearly.) I echo Eleanor’s words – don’t leave us too soon!

    • Marjorie

      Dorothy – My memories now have moved to the place where they keep me anchored. So glad they reminded you of Sheldon too. What I did not say in the story, was that all summer he teased me and said that it must have been made in China, because it was so perfect! (Knowing full well that that was nonsense!) Then, of course, he was the one to think of an anthropologist, and we got the almost unbelievable answer.

  9. Ian

    Thank you, Mrs. G., for this reflective and thoughtful story. The timing is perfect for me.

    • Marjorie

      Ian – So nice to hear from you. Thank you for your comment on my story, and I am pleased you found something that “fit”. Hope all goes well with you, as it does with me.

  10. Doreen

    So good to hear the stories that you write. I always enjoy them. The latest was so great. Take care of yourself as I think of you always.

    • Marjorie

      Glad you still approve, Doreen. It encourages me to continue writing. I am keeping well; thanks for asking.

  11. Alison Uhrbach

    I love when you say “the present, I would not miss a day of it” What a wonderful philosophy to have about life! We can all learn from you – I know I have. Take care. Alison

    • Marjorie

      I’m fortunate, Alison, and it makes a difference. The things that make life rich and worthwhile are mine – strong and loving family relations, friends, a nice place to live, and all sorts of mental stimulation. Add to that financial security, and what more could one ask for? Everyone here has the problems of old age, but problems are part of any age. Life is good, even if the going is rough – for people who are as fortunate as I am. Good to hear from you, Alison.

  12. Norma Wheeler

    What a lovely story. I am so proud and honoured to be a part of your extended family. I am glad also to hear that you are doing well. I hope and pray all continues to go well with you for many more “present days”. Love Norma

    • Marjorie

      Norma – what a pleasant surprise! It is nice to know you read my blog, especially that you enjoyed this one. I expect to get many more days, and will believe so until proved wrong! Thank you for your good wishes. My best to all.

  13. Joyce Schuman

    Once again you’ve written a beautiful story. I have forwarded this to my son who is very interested in the family history. He was here a few days ago reading the book you compiled about the Davis family. We are blessed to have you in our family tree!

    • Marjorie

      Joyce – How nice to hear from you, and glad you enjoyed “Chance Encounter”. It still amazes me that I picked the spearhead up on the farm driveway, and then discovered it was so very old. I wear it often. Wish I knew more about those ancient people – and wonder if through the blog someone in that field of academic studies – might enlighten me! Take care, and keep in touch.