Impoverished and oppressed, they'd been promised paradise on earth: a land flowing with milk and honey. But what the settlers found after a devastating sea journey was a cold South American desert where nothing could survive except tribes of nomadic Tehuelche Indians, possibly intent on massacring them. Silas James fears he has been tricked into sacrificing everything he loves for another man's impossible dream. But despite his hatred of the politically adept Edwyn Owen, and under the watchful eye of Indian shaman Yelue, a new culture takes root as an old one passes away. A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees is a lyrical and insightful evocation of the trials of the first Welsh Patagonian colonists as they battle to survive hunger, loss, and each other.
Clare gives an overview of the book:
This I know: the world belongs to Elal. Where his arrowheads touched the ocean floor so the ground rose up. Great rivers drained the water from the land and the memory of this is imprinted in the dry gorges and wide empty canyons. This was before man came. Before man became. Before Elal thought of us. He planted forest, swept out plains with his arms, drew up mountains with his fingertips, and then he thought of us: his Teheulche. He made us large and strong like himself and he gave us legs so we could wander around his great creation. I suppose he wanted an audience, animals who would talk more loudly than the choique and armadillos. So he thought of us. His people. His guardians for all that he had made rise up from the ocean. He filled us with promises and hope. He told us that when we die he would see that we would take our places in the firmament and shine as stars. Elal. A god but also a man. A giant but also small enough for us to see. It is his land, he allows us to dwell here because of his great munificence. It is important to remember this. Important to know. Important to tell those around us and to remind the children that come after us. Elal. Great one. By looking after his land so we look after ourselves.
When I saw the big swan on the ocean I knew that Elal had not sent it. Even though I know Elal is used to swans and first learnt to shoot his arrows through her feathers I could see this was not his bird, not his carriage. Of course I have heard of such things before: large birds that bring men. But I had never seen one, not in front of me, not like this, even though I am old and have seen much of the world and am wise to its ways. I watched it grow big and bigger still and then voices came to me, calling, shouting, words I didn’t understand, not even the words the Mapuche use or those whiter men from the north. I am used to their words from my father and even speak them a little, but these words were full of spit, clearings of throat and growls. Later they told me it was the tongue of heaven, but no one has ever heard the stars speak.
But even before I saw them I knew they were there. I could feel them coming. Strange creatures in the air. Their spirits and their helpers making the other world restless. Disturbing my sleep. Making the rou skittish.
By the time they came close enough to see, the sun was high: a weak sun, doing his best to warm up the air and the wind blowing his efforts away.
From the shore there was a boom, like a small thunder, and then they detached themselves from the swan. Like fleas. No, larger than fleas. Like rats. Rats disturbed from a nest. Falling into the water and crying out when the water grasped them, swimming like rats do, frantic and clumsy, their heads above the water and then one of them stepping on the land first, jumping up and yelling to the rest who were going back to the swan. Trouble, I thought and wondered if Elal knew. Trouble, I thought then and I was right and wrong. Nothing is all one thing or the other. So it was with these men and their women, especially their women.
Writer of non-fiction and fiction. My novels are: One Day the Ice will reveal its dead, 98 Reasons for Being, and Edge of Danger. A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees will be published in 2010. I am an ex-research scientist and interested in writing about science - in fiction...